22 Oct – Six Lies! And PZ Invents a War Out Of Thin Air

One of the good things about this (unpaid, volunteer) job is we’re never quite sure what we’re going to write about when we get up each morning. Every day is quite literally a new day and we often find ourselves researching things we’d never heard of before.

This is exactly what happened today. In the course of commenting on the new HBO series Watchmen, PZ mentions something called the Kirk-Holden War, which took place in North Carolina. Our ears perked up at the mention of the state – we lived there for years and never heard anything about a war with the KKK, especially not a war the KKK had won.

Because PZ Myers included no links or references to substantiate his description of the events, we did our own sleuthing.

What did we find?

PZ fabricated the entire thing. Almost nothing he wrote about the Kirk-Holden War – save the name – is correct. We could find no justification for most of his claims. He appears to have simply made them up.

Even by PZ’s standards, this is pretty outlandish.

PZ Myers Lie 1-5 [in bold]:

I had never heard of the Kirk-Holden War before. This was a real war in North Carolina, in which the Ku Klux Klan declared war against the state, the army was called in, and the KKK won, dictating terms to the government…terms that included allowing no Northern intervention in how they “regulated” elections, where “regulation” included murdering black elected officials. One outcome of that kind of action was that the victors celebrated by erecting Confederate monuments all over the place. Our country supported the oppression of a democratic majority! It still is.

https://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2019/10/22/hbo-does-good/

Facts:

Where to begin…

The Kirk-Holden War was, first and foremost, not a war. There may or may not have been a gun battle at one point between the militia called into service by Republican Governor William Holden and a small faction of one KKK group active in central North Carolina at the time, the historical record is unclear on this point. But, what is clear is the following:

The term Kirk-Holden War is intentionally misleading. The Conservative press created the term to vilify Holden and destroy the Republican Party. Governor Holden’s militia campaign was in no way a war. There were no opposing armies, no battles, and no causalities…The name Kirk-Holden War is akin to two other deeply political terms: the “War of Northern Aggression” and the “War Between the States,” terminology that purposely misrepresents and distorts historical events and has served and continues to serve political and ideological ends.

http://dl.uncw.edu/Etd/2010-3/brissonj/jimbrisson.pdf

Did the KKK “declare war” against the state of North Carolina? Not in any formal sense, as far as we can tell. Klan groups in the state did commit hundreds of violent acts in the years immediately after the Civil War, and it was this violence that Governor Holden was reacting to when he authorized George Kirk, a former Union Officer, to raise and lead a militia to arrest the perpetrators.

Did that militia lose the Kirk-Holden War, as PZ claimed? Not even close.

Kirk’s militia “arrested over one hundred men suspected of having ties to the Klan, and under orders from Holden, Kirk held these men for several weeks, ignoring writs of habeas corpus issued by North Carolina judges.”

It was this legal wrangling which would prove to be the militia’s, and Holden’s, undoing [emphasis added]:

Governor Holden instructed Colonel Kirk to ignore the orders of the North Carolina Supreme Court, a critical political mistake. The matter was taken to federal court in Salisbury, where a federal judge ordered most of the prisoners released. The few not immediately released were never tried.

http://sites.rootsweb.com/~ncccha/memoranda/kirkholdenwar.html

Did the KKK “dictate terms” to the government of North Carolina? No, not unless “dictating terms” means following the Constitution and the laws of the State, then using the results of a democratic election to oust Governor Holden from office:

The militia campaign proved to be a political disaster for Holden and the Republican Party in North Carolina. Members of his own party in Washington abandoned the governor, and President Grant failed to support Holden’s suspension of habeas corpus because Grant’s attorney general advised him that Holden’s legal position on the issue was unsustainable. By late August, with no support from Washington and no legal grounds to sustain his position, Holden released the prisoners. The Conservatives used the now-named “Kirk-Holden War” as a rallying cry and swept to victory in the election of 1870, winning a heavy majority in the General Assembly. By December, Conservatives began impeachment proceedings against Holden. In March 1871, Holden became the first governor in United States history to be removed from office.

http://dl.uncw.edu/Etd/2010-3/brissonj/jimbrisson.pdf

What about PZ’s claims about “allowing no Northern intervention in how [North Carolina] ‘regulated’ elections, where ‘regulation’ included murdering black elected officials”? We have no idea. We could find no reference to this in any of the literature. PZ appears to have just made it up, along with the claim that “the victors celebrated by erecting Confederate monuments all over the place.”

Analysis:

Our normal procedure, when PZ packs multiple lies into a small amount of text, is to count them all as a single lie. But, because this case is so egregious – he made up an entire historical narrative out of whole-cloth – we’ll charge him with a total of five.

Why does PZ Myers feel the need to invent a horrific story about the KKK in North Carolina after the Civil War? Your guess is as good as ours. He begins the blog post talking about the Tulsa race riot, which is about as horrific as it gets. Apparently that wasn’t good enough.

PZ Myers Lie #6 [in bold]:

Lack of access to health care does lifelong harm…And it was treatable, especially if it could have been caught early. This is precisely why health care ought to be a human right.

https://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2019/10/22/lack-of-access-to-health-care-does-lifelong-harm/

Facts:

Please don’t click on the link below if you have a queasy stomach or have just eaten. We include it only to provide context for the lie PZ tells above.

A 43 year-old male from Panama presented to the emergency department with fever, tachycardia, and increasing swelling and drainage from his scrotum. His medical history was limited. He had not sought medical care in many years. 

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2214442019302694?via%3Dihub

Panama, in case you were wondering, has plenty of low-cost access to health care.

The problem in this case was not access. This man – for some reason we cannot fathom – simply refused to go see a doctor. All the access in the world won’t fix anything if someone refuses to walk into the doctor’s office to begin with.

Analysis:

We won’t put too much effort into analyzing this lie. The only reason for the post was to provide another “data point” supporting PZ’s opinion that health care should be a universal human right.

Only it can’t be a “data point” if it’s a lie, can it?

He doesn’t care. End of story.

Final Tally:

Today: 0 science-related posts, 5 posts on other stuff

Since 30 May 19: 121 science-related posts, 504 non-science posts.

19% of the posts on a “science blog” are about science. 

Today: 6 PZ Myers Lies

Since 30 May 19: 162 PZ Myers Lies

Over to you, PZ. Until tomorrow.

21 Oct – How Does Truth Emerge At Pharyngula?

Apologies in advance to those Pharyngula readers who came here looking for an actual answer to the question we pose in the title of this post – we don’t really have one.

We do have a good idea how the “approved wisdom” emerges, however, which is a much different thing. The truth has boundaries. It may be hard sometimes to distinguish truth from lies, but there is a mechanism for going about it – one that we follow here at PZWatch. But “approved wisdom” is much more amorphous. It emerges, seemingly out of nowhere, like fog on a cool autumn’s morning, and is just as impossible to displace.

We see this effect – in microcosm – in the case of Tulsi Gabbard. A relatively new politician on the national scene, she has had the fortune – or misfortune – of being mentioned on Pharyngula only thrice. In the first mention, in February of this year, PZ says this:

I shall consider each candidate, be they Bernie, Kamala, Amy, Kirsten, Pete, Cory, Julian, Elizabeth, yea, even Tulsi, on the merits of their policies as presented in the primary campaign,

https://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2019/02/19/be-it-resolved/

In the second mention, PZ defends Tulsi, saying this:

The final article is about how Tulsi Gabbard is bad because she wants is to reduce military aid to to Israel and withdraw from Middle East hotspots, and that under it all she’s just another far left Democrat like Bernie Sanders. [SATIRE!] He almost convinces me to support her!

https://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2019/10/07/a-new-edition-of-morriss-own-north-star/

(We’ll ignore, for the moment, the fact that PZ and crew actually want more US involvement in the Middle East now that Trump has decided to pull back trooops.)

In the third and final mention, PZ lies about her:

PZ Myers Lie [in bold]:

She was never a serious challenger, she’s got a bizarre homophobic/racist background, she only seems to be supported by right-wingers, and yes, recently she had a freaky meltdown about being indirectly accused of being a Russian agent. Don’t care. She’s done. She was never going to get the Democratic nomination. All the attention being paid to this irrelevant distraction is meaningless, except as a tool to get you to ignore the slimeball-in-chief.
In every election, there is always an assortment of fringe kooks who make noise for a while, get the backing of some other fringies with money, and then melt away as the campaigning gets serious. She’s one of them. Move on.

https://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2019/10/21/could-everyone-just-stop-about-tulsi-gabbard/

Facts:

Sounds ominous, doesn’t it? Tulsi has a background as a racist and homophobe. Are there any facts to support this charge?

Not at Pharyngula, and PZ provides no links to support his claim that Gabbard has this type of background. A little internet searching leads us to this Huffington Post piece:

[Gabbard’s past] returned in the form of homophobic remarks the congresswoman made over a decade ago. At least twice the Hawaii Democrat publicly called the LGBTQ community and supporters of same-sex marriage “homosexual extremists.”

https://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/entry/tulsi-gabbard-homophobic-remarks_n_5c3a6030e4b01c93e00a5952?ri18n=true

Gabbard was testifying, as a 22-year-old state representative, against a bill that would legalize same-sex civil unions.

Or, in other words, she held a similar position on gay marriage to Barack Obama at the same time in 2004. It’s not exactly “woke,” but it would be a lie to call it homophobic.

As for the racist charge – your guess is as good as ours. We don’t have a clue. The closest thing we could find is this Washington Examiner article basically wondering the same thing.

The final claim PZ makes is perhaps the most interesting. He claims Gabbard had a meltdown after being “indirectly accused of being a Russian agent.”

If you haven’t seen this news, get ready for a shock. Gabbard wasn’t indirectly accused of anything – Hillary Clinton, the former Democratic nominee for President, directly claimed Gabbard and Jill Stein are “Russian assets.”

That makes three different lies in this single snippet. But, giving PZ the benefit of the doubt, we’re only going to count it as one.

Analysis:

Pay careful attention to the language PZ uses. Gabbard is “bizzare.” She had a “freaky” meltdown. He’s “othering” her, signalling to the lemmings in the comments section that she can no longer be considered an acceptable alternative to Trump. Not for any policy reasons – not even when he explicitly said he would consider her policy positions – but because someone had spoken. It may have been Hillary, it may have been someone else. At this point it doesn’t matter. Like the fog that rolled in while you were asleep, there’s no use questioning how it got there in the first place. It just is.

And so it goes in PZ Myers’s world. Things just are. No explanation needed. No facts necessary. No truth required. Your agreement with this new accepted wisdom, however is mandatory.

PZ Myers Lie #2 [in bold]:

I did quickly discover that the author was a “nutty” science denialist who rejects the evidence for climate change and misrepresents the positions of those lobbying government to address climate concerns. OK, way to put your credibility worst foot forward, guy.

https://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2019/10/21/thats-quite-the-hatchet-job-on-emily-grossmanshe-should-be-proud/

Facts:

This lie is about a freelance journalist who writes under the pen name Lance Welton for the website vdare.com. Welton wrote a piece titled “Extinction Rebellion’s Emily Grossman Is A Type—As Nutty As You Would Expect.” Immediately after the lie above, PZ quotes Welton saying this:

These “rebels”—motto: “Rebel for Life,” because, they claim, based on falsified climate science data, that a “mass extinction” will begin in twelve years—have vowed to continue their insurrection until their demands are met.

https://vdare.com/articles/extinction-rebellion-s-emily-grossman-is-a-type-as-nutty-as-you-would-expect

PZ claims this is a misrepresentation of the group’s position. Is that true?

If we’re asking, you already know the answer. Welton is right and PZ is lying. This is from the Extinction Rebellion’s own website:

Extinction Rebellion is a movement made up of people from all walks of life. It started in response to the IPCC report that we only have 12 years to stop catastrophic climate change and our understanding that we have entered the 6th mass extinction event. 

https://rebellion.earth/the-truth/faqs/

If anything Welton understates the position of Extinction Rebellion, who say we’ve already entered the 6th mass extinction. Welton quotes them as saying we have 12 years.

Also, there’s no support for PZ’s claim that Welton is a “science denialist who rejects the evidence for climate change.” The only thing Welton rejects is the idea that a mass extinction event either will occur or is occurring.

Analysis:

This is a weird one. We would think a biologist, under normal circumstances, would be all over the claim that the earth is presently experiencing a mass extinction event. What are the claims? What are the facts? Where does PZ fall on this debate? We don’t know, because he simply ignores the claim altogether. That leads us to believe the Extinction Rebellion doesn’t really have all the facts on their side, because if they did, PZ would do a thousand words on it.

PZ Myers Lie #3 [in bold]:

I guess he hasn’t considered yet that many people choose their partners on the basis of love, and kindness, and mutual interests, rather than the grasping calculus of capitalism. But that wouldn’t fit with his thesis, that rich Jews are acting to destroy society.

https://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2019/10/21/thats-quite-the-hatchet-job-on-emily-grossmanshe-should-be-proud/

Facts:

There’s not much to say about this. It is plainly not Welton’s thesis that rich Jews are acting to destroy society. This is simply an unsubstantiated smear by PZ.

Analysis:

One of the benefits of having a well-cultivated, adoring readership is never having to answer questions about a smear like this. Like the received wisdom of the day about Tulsi Gabbard, Welton is an anti-semite because PZ Myers says he is.

No evidence required.

Final Tally:

Today: 0 science-related posts, 3 posts on other stuff

Since 30 May 19: 121 science-related posts, 499 non-science posts.

20% of the posts on a “science blog” are about science. 

Today: 3 PZ Myers Lies

Since 30 May 19: 156 PZ Myers Lies

Over to you, PZ. Until tomorrow.

20 Oct – Two Days Without a Lie

We saw a muted PZ Myers today. He let other people do his lying for him, but never crossed that threshold himself.

Final Tally:

Today: 0 science-related posts, 5 posts on other stuff

Since 30 May 19: 121 science-related posts, 496 non-science posts.

20% of the posts on a “science blog” are about science. 

Today: 0 PZ Myers Lies

Since 30 May 19: 153 PZ Myers Lies

Over to you, PZ. Until tomorrow.

19 Oct – No Lies!

What is your major malfunction numbnuts?

Final Tally:

Today: 0 science-related posts, 2 posts on other stuff

Since 30 May 19: 121 science-related posts, 491 non-science posts.

20% of the posts on a “science blog” are about science. 

Today: 0 PZ Myers Lies

Since 30 May 19: 153 PZ Myers Lies

Over to you, PZ. Until tomorrow.

18 Oct – Two More PZ Myers Lies, And Why We Count Some Lies But Not Others

We’re sometimes asked what, exactly, constitutes a PZ Myers lie. Our answer always goes something like this: we document PZ’s verifiable falsehood, we don’t fact-check his opinions. Things like blatant hypocrisy, while interesting to us, don’t count as a lie.

PZ gave us a really good example today of something we don’t count as a lie when he wrote about Trump’s Syria policy – which amounts to pulling US troops back, out of the conflict zone – saying this:

[Trump] sold out the Kurds to protect his Turkish hotel interests, turning a good chunk of the Middle East policy into chaotic shambles and causing the deaths of thousands.

https://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2019/10/18/why-arent-we-marching-on-washington-because-we-deserve-this-evil-clown/

Reading that quote, in isolation, might give you the impression that PZ Myers comes down more on the interventionist side of foreign policy debates. He sounds like he wants to see a more muscular US military throwing its weight around the Middle East. Except he doesn’t.

Killing civilians, or anyone for that matter, with nerve gas is a crime against humanity, and something should be done…I just don’t know what, except that wrecking a country with a hail of missiles doesn’t seem to be a very practical way to protect “beautiful babies”. It’s also not just Trump — Obama seems to have killed a lot of civilians with drone strikes, and clearly both parties are blithe about murdering foreigners.

https://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2017/04/07/another-day-another-war/

PZ’s only common foreign policy denominator appears to be a hatred for Trump. His affinity for interventionist foreign policy solutions appears to stem from which political party – and leader – is doing the intervening. That’s hypocrisy on a massive scale, but it’s not a lie.

This, however, is:

PZ Myers Lie [in bold]:

It’s astonishing that the governor essentially banned a scientific conclusion from any discussion, especially when the fact of climate change is going to hit the state so hard.

https://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2019/10/18/too-little-too-late-too-florida/

Facts:

The governor in question here is Rick Scott, former governor of Florida and now a US Senator. PZ is claiming here that, as governor, Scott banned anyone in his administration from discussing climate change.

That seems like a weird charge, and a weird thing to do in general, but it has some reporting to back it up:

DEP officials have been ordered not to use the term “climate change” or “global warming” in any official communications, emails, or reports, according to former DEP employees, consultants, volunteers and records obtained by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting.

https://www.miamiherald.com/news/state/florida/article12983720.html

Note the source – “former DEP employees.” That turns out to be important. This claim, made initially in 2015, four years after Scott became governor, was widely reported and investigated at the time. Turns out it’s bogus:

[The] investigation involves relying on the claims of former employees, most prominently one who was fired. And, well, it turns out the department says it doesn’t have such a policy. Two different employees denied the claims of the policy. 

Molly Hemingway, the author of the linked piece above, goes on to document how often the terms “climate change” and “global warming” are used on the DEP’s own website:

A search of the Florida DEP web site for the term “global warming” yields, according to the site, 244 results. And, according to the site, another 1,640 for “climate change.”

https://thefederalist.com/2015/03/09/no-florida-state-government-did-not-ban-the-term-climate-change/

In other words, there was no ban. PZ repeated a lie that’s been simmering on the internet for four years.

Analysis:

This is the kind of lie PZ will always repeat and will never, ever try to correct. It appeals directly to his biases against Republicans and their climate-science-denying ways. He once against violates Feynman’s First Principle: “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself — and you are the easiest person to fool.”

When it comes to Republicans and politics, PZ Myers will always violate that principle.

PZ Myers Lie #2 [in bold]:

[Trump] is so tone deaf that he tried to stage a reality-show style confrontation between grieving parents and their son’s killer. 

Facts:

The “reality-show style confrontation” is pure hyperbole. Not even the family’s statement suggests that this was their impression of the meeting. In fact, the family says:

President Trump hinted at the end of the meeting, having heard Charlotte’s appeal, that he may look at approaching the problem from a different angle. Notwithstanding the nature of the meeting yesterday, the family would welcome any such further intervention so that this nightmare scenario can be brought to an end. They look forward forward to engaging with the President again as soon as possible.

https://www.gofundme.com/f/Justice4harry

The real lie here is the claim that Trump was so tone deaf that he “tried to stage” the event in the first place. First of all, he didn’t bring the woman who accidentally killed Harry Dunn in a vehicle accident into the room, he simply asked the family if they’d like to meet her. And when asked about the meeting, Trump claimed it was done at the behest of the UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson. Johnson has apparently denied the claim, but the idea that Trump tried to “stage a reality-show style confrontation” is a lie.

Analysis:

A story like this could be an opportunity for PZ to bash Boris Johnson – another politician he hates – but this post was all about Trump. And as a result, the person most forgotten in this whole episode has perhaps been Anne Sacoolas.

At the scene of the accident, Sacoolas, whose 12-year-old son was reportedly a passenger in the Volvo, was hysterical over what she had done. The car had diplomatic plates, but witnesses who rushed to the crash site told Northamptonshire police that Sacoolas immediately took the blame and gave all her details, including her British and American cellphone numbers…When police went to the Croughton base the next day to tell Sacoolas that Dunn had died, she was understandably upset and assured them she had no plans to leave the country. When they came back a second time to get more information, she was lawyered up and assisted by officials from the U.S. Embassy to the U.K..

https://www.thedailybeast.com/anne-sacoolas-american-diplomat-wife-fled-england-after-killing-19-year-old-harry-dunn-with-her-car

This was a bad, bad accident all around. It’s bad for the Harry Dunn and the Dunn family. It’s bad for Anne Sacoolas and her family.

But, the only kind of bad PZ Myers cares about is the kind that makes Donald Trump look bad.

Final Tally:

Today: 1 science-related post, 4 posts on other stuff

Since 30 May 19: 121 science-related posts, 489 non-science posts.

20% of the posts on a “science blog” are about science. 

Today: 2 PZ Myers Lies

Since 30 May 19: 153 PZ Myers Lies

Over to you, PZ. Until tomorrow.

17 Oct – No Lies

Vote Kraftwerk for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Final Tally:

Today: 0 science-related posts, 3 posts on other stuff

Since 30 May 19: 120 science-related posts, 485 non-science posts.

20% of the posts on a “science blog” are about science. 

Today: 0 PZ Myers Lies

Since 30 May 19: 151 PZ Myers Lies

Over to you, PZ. Until tomorrow.

16 Oct – What Master Taught PZ Myers To Lie?

Media Matters, perhaps?

PZ glommed on to a highly dishonest video they released comparing the words of Tucker Carlson with those of white supremacist Jared Taylor. The only problem? Carson didn’t actually say anything racist, so they had to keep cutting back and forth in order to make you think he did.

It’s exactly the sort of technique a sceptical mind should ferret out in an instant. But, as we know very well by now, PZ Myers does not have a sceptical mind.

PZ’s title for the post in question today is “Tucker Carlson has learned at the feet of his master.” Our question – to which master does PZ Myers bow?

PZ Myers Lie [in bold]:

Translation: I don’t like [Jared Taylor] very much. But you know who does? Tucker Carlson! He’s been taking racism lessons from him. Like two worm-infested, slimy, moldy peas in a pod. I’d say that Carlson was in the business of white-washing the statements of more loudly racist folk except that he’s just as filthy as they are.

https://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2019/10/16/tucker-carlson-has-learned-at-the-feet-of-his-master/

Facts:

PZ links to the Media Matters video as his only evidence for these claims, but the video does not make the case. The eight sentences the video quotes Carlson as saying are pasted below without the misleading context:

1. Happy Columbus Day anyway, enjoy it while you can. Your grandchildren won’t even know it existed.
2. In LA the City Council just voted to rename Columbus Day, Indigenous Peoples Day.
3. But it seems to have spread to — again normal places like Columbus, Ohio, which is a great town actually, filled with normal people. How did it get to Columbus?
4. What does it mean? You don’t have a right to be here and neither did your ancestors. We hate you. You get the point.
5. I mean they turned it into America, which to this day is a beacon of hope for this world. That’s why everyone wants to come here. So you’re trying to delegitimize that.
6. Christopher Columbus, his crime? Violating the sovereignty of the people who lived here already. Plus, he had the wrong ethnicity. Now try making that argument about any other immigrant to America and see how long you keep your job.
7. Things are in fact better on this continent than they were 700 years ago, in case democracy and penicillin and the internal combustion engine didn’t make that obvious. Far less human sacrifice and cannibalism.
8. So when they come for the Columbus statue in your town, it’s worth fighting back because it’s not about the statute, it’s about something much deeper.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UjWraet5WZ0

Confused? You’re meant to be. Media Matters are professionals. They want you to think Carlson is a racist so they intersperse his statements with actual racist things Jared Taylor said which happen to use some of the same words. It’s the opposite of truth. It’s propaganda. And for PZ to repeat and amplify their propaganda is a lie.

Analysis:

We’d never heard point #6 Carlson makes above, but it is interesting to juxtapose the current immigration debate with the debate about Columbus. PZ is all for open borders. He wants anyone and everyone to come to America. But, isn’t that what Christopher Columbus did? Wasn’t he just practicing his own open borders policy?

These are the types of questions a sceptic might ask – but don’t expect that sort of analysis from PZ Myers. He has his ideology and he’s sticking to it, truth be damned.

Final Tally:

Today: 1 science-related post, 5 posts on other stuff

Since 30 May 19: 120 science-related posts, 482 non-science posts.

20% of the posts on a “science blog” are about science. 

Today: 1 PZ Myers Lie

Since 30 May 19: 151 PZ Myers Lies

Over to you, PZ. Until tomorrow.

15 Oct – Rich People Get Bilked! A Story PZ Myers Should Love

We’ve had the misfortune of documenting PZ’s economic incoherence many times in the past. We’ve even described it in formulaic terms: PZ Myers + Economics = Lie. It seems to be a fundamental law of sorts in the Pharyngula universe, and it was validated again today.

PZ spent a lot of time commenting on Theranos, an infamous start-up that went bankrupt when its technology turned out not to be what the company and its investors thought it was. The end result?

In May 2018 John Carreyrou reported that American business and government leaders lost more than $600 million by privately investing in Theranos. Major investments had been made by the Walton family ($150 million), Rupert Murdoch ($121 million), Betsy DeVos ($100 million), and the Cox family (of Cox Media Group) ($100 million). The final liquidation of the company in September 2018 rendered these investments completely worthless.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theranos#Valuation

Rich billionaires losing incredible amounts of money when a company goes under? You’d think PZ Myers would be all over that, especially when some of them – like Rupert Murdoch and Betsy DeVos – are conservative bête noires.

So when there is a choice between writing about conservative rich people getting screwed or bashing capitalism writ large, which does he go with?

Trick question. With PZ Myers, there is always a third option. Lie.

PZ Myers Lie [in bold]:

Holmes was trying to build a medical device that she imagined in the absence of actual knowledge about how it would work. I would like to imagine a perpetual motion machine. That does not mean that my enthusiasm makes it a good idea.

https://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2019/10/15/the-capitalist-fantasy-world/

Facts:

This is a neat, tidy little story, if true. Elizabeth Holmes simply imagined a novel new medical device and then used her extraordinary talent for persuasion to bilk rich people out of hundreds of millions of dollars. The only thing wrong with it: it’s a fantasy.

From its incorporation in 2003 until 2018, Holmes was the company’s chief executive officer. She recruited Channing Robertson, a chemical-engineering professor at Stanford, to be a technical advisor and the company’s first board member during its early years.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theranos#Management

Who is Channing Robertson?

Robertson taught Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes when she was a student at Stanford, and he went on to become the company’s first board member. He convinced Ian Gibbons to work for Theranos in 2005. In 2017, Theranos named him the co-leader of their technology advisory board. Even as Theranos was coming under growing scrutiny, as of May 2018, Robertson still believed the company was successful in developing novel blood testing technology. 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Channing_Robertson

Ok, cool. Who is Ian Gibbons?

Gibbons was British and held a PhD in biochemistry from the University of Cambridge. He spent 30 years working on diagnostic and therapeutic products at various technology companies including Biotrack Laboratories. At Biotrack, he worked with Channing Robertson, who later recommended him as the first experienced scientist hired by Theranos. Gibbons, Robertson and others invented and patented a mechanism at Biotrack to dilute and mix liquid samples, abilities which would become key in Theranos processes

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ian_Gibbons_(biochemist)

Is the picture starting to come together? Holmes didn’t just conjure a medial device out of thin air and then convince people to invest in it, she had real, actual, experienced scientists working for and with her developing this technology. It didn’t work as expected/advertised, but to call it a fantasy, as PZ has done, is a lie.

Analysis:

PZ’s just getting started. Hold on, we’ll wrap it all up at the end.

PZ Myers Lie #2 [in bold]:

But Margaret Thatcher’s (and Ronald Reagan’s) fiscal policies were disastrous! They led to our current mess and only benefited the rich…oh. I guess from the author’s perspective that wasn’t disastrous at all.

https://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2019/10/15/the-capitalist-fantasy-world/

Facts:

Once again, PZ has to invert the truth in order to make the point he wants to make. There is so much disinformation in the first two sentences it’s hard to know where to start, so let’s begin with this.

What “current mess”?? The economy is expanding under Trump at a greater rate than it did under Obama. Unemployment is lower than it’s been since we’ve been alive. The inflation rate is a modest 1.7%. Consumer confidence is high, as are retail sales. And that’s just a small sampling of the good economic news we could cite to demolish the idea that we’re in any sort of mess today whatsoever.

Second, were Thatcher and Reagan’s fiscal policies disastrous? We’ll only deal with the claim about Reagan here, we’re not well versed in UK economic history.

The conventional wisdom is that after a recession in the early years of the 1980s, the US economy expanded at a fast clip throughout the rest of the decade in part due to lower taxes and the deregulation of many industries. But, did that actually happen?

Turns out the answer is yes.

The Great Expansion

But, PZ might say, none of that matters. Sure, the economy grew, but at the expense of the poor and for the benefit of the rich.

If that were the case, we should see a sharp uptick in poverty.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poverty_in_the_United_States#Two_official_measures_of_poverty

Instead what we see are poverty rates that are relatively stable from 1975 onward.

Analysis:

Wait for it – we have one more lie to go.

PZ Myers Lie #3 [in bold]:

This guy is a dangerous idiot. He goes on to argue that real business leaders just need enthusiasm and confidence to persuade investors to pour money into your dream so you can just keep on chasing it. If you’re not confident, the investors will abandon you, and Holmes was great because she was so confident.

https://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2019/10/13/if-we-must-have-celebrities-can-they-at-least-have-some-principles/

Facts:

It should come as no surprise to PZWatch readers that John Tamny, the author of the piece PZ critiques here, never says real business leaders only need enthusiasm and confidence. While he does argue that a “lack of confidence in front of investors is the path to investor flight,” and that one element of Holmes’s success stemmed from her confidence, in no way, shape, or form does he argue that confidence alone is what makes her – or business leaders in general – great.

Analysis:

PZ Myers has to make construct a very specific type of strawman out of this story in order to knock it down the way he does. He wants to denegrate capitalism, not academia, so he has to keep his focus on Holmes and not the academics and scientists who worked with her at Theranos. He wants to make the case that capitalism is worse for people than socialism, so free market policies – like those enacted during the Reagan years – have to be disastrous, despite what the actual numbers show. And by the same token, we currently have to be in an economic “mess” even though almost every indicator seems to tell a different story. And this is so important – discrediting capitalism is a big, big deal – that he can’t even bring himself to mention the rich, stooopid Republicans who invested the equivalent of a small nation’s GDP in Theranos and lost it all.

We’re always amazed at the sheer quantity of misinformation a creationist has to believe in order to validate their ideology. PZ Myers has to believe at least that much to validate his own.

Final Tally:

Today: 1 science-related post, 5 posts on other stuff

Since 30 May 19: 119 science-related posts, 477 non-science posts

20% of the posts on a “science blog” are about science

Today: 3 PZ Myers Lies

Since 30 May 19: 150 PZ Myers Lies

Over to you, PZ. Until tomorrow.

14 Oct – Perhaps The Biggest Lie PZ Myers Has Ever Told

A couple weeks ago, we identified what might be our favorite PZ Myers lie of all time. Today, we think we’ve identified the biggest lie he’s ever told.

In a post discussing epistemic humility, testing assumptions and how we “know” what we know, PZ dropped this bomb on his readers:

PZ Myers Lie [in bold]:

I’m a fan of testing my assumptions, mostly. We have this scientific method we use that allows us — even encourages us! — to examine and verify the stuff we don’t know, even if, to be perfectly honest, we can’t possibly examine everything. A scientist or a philosopher is going to inspect key assumptions now and then, and try to build better models of the world as they go, sometimes throwing out perfectly serviceable models, like religion, for others that get some, but never all, of the details better. 

https://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2019/10/13/if-we-must-have-celebrities-can-they-at-least-have-some-principles/

Facts:

Wow.

We have 147 examples – and counting – of lies PZ Myers has told since May 30th of this year. Many of those result from his continued refusal to examine and verify the gaping hole in his political knowledge: what his ideological enemies actually believe. He doesn’t know, not even a little bit, and shows no inclination to ever find out.

We have never, ever seen him inspect his key political assumptions and/or throw out his evangelical progressive ideological view of a subject because it does not get the details right. Consider economics. He is almost incapable of writing honestly about economics because it does not tell a doom-and-gloom story about capitalism. His key assumption is: socialism works better. And he wants a revolution to make socialism a reality. But, he refuses to throw out or reconsider his model of the world even when the other model gets more of the details right.

That’s just one example. We document four other examples below – and that’s just today! PZ’s lie here is staggering in it’s scope.

Analysis:

There’s two possibilities here. Either PZ is one of the least self-aware people on the planet, or he has so effectively insulated himself from facts and opinions that don’t comport with his ideology – which is consistent with his banning all those opinions from his blog and social media feeds – that he actually does think he is telling the truth.

Either way, the implications are astounding. He is, apparently with a straight face, telling us he inspects his assumptions in the hope of building a better model of the world, when the evidence we’ve collected in the last few months indicates that he’s doing the opposite. He’s holding on to false assumptions – lies – and building a worse model of the world.

Of all the lies he’s told over the years, including the ones we’ll cover below, this might be the biggest.

PZ Myers Lie #2 [in bold]:

Trump thinks he’s above the law. McConnell thinks he’s above the law. Cops think they’re above the law. Rich people think they’re above the law. So far I haven’t seen any evidence to the contrary. It’s pretty clear that there are some comfortable delusions we all hide behind.

https://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2019/10/14/nobody-is-above-the-law/

Facts:

PZ makes five claims here, all of which are lies. And here’s the key thing – he knows they’re lies. These are blatantly partisan statements meant to advance a political agenda. They are assumptions about the world that he refuses to test because it is in his political interest not to do so.

There is no evidence Trump thinks he’s above the law. He heads the Department of Justice – an Executive Agency branch – and has many, many lawyers in his employ. Presidents have certain powers, and PZ and the media have a field day when Trump decides to use those powers, but suspending the laws of the United States is not one of them.

Senator McConnell has, as far as we know, never broken the law. In fact, he’s the Majority Leader of one of the institutions in the US Government charged with making laws. If he thought he was above the law, he wouldn’t have to worry about petty things like passing laws, would he?

There may be a tiny percentage of cops who think they are above the law, but do take note of this: they always hide their actions. Someone who truly thinks they are above the law should feel no urge to hide their actions. Why should they?

Ditto for “rich people.” And if PZ hasn’t seen any evidence to the contrary, it’s because he’s willfully blind.

Analysis:

In keeping with today’s theme of epistemic humility, we hereby formally request PZ Myers examine each of these assumptions about how the world works. Maybe there’s a better model, like maybe Trump’s an ass, but he really didn’t collude with Russia to steal an election from Clinton. Or, maybe McConnell isn’t doing anything Harry Reid didn’t do during his tenure as Majority Leader. Or, maybe cops do a lot more good than bad.

Maybe there is evidence out there that might give PZ a better model of how the world works.

If only he’d look.

PZ Myers Lie #3 [in bold]:

Thier little hate signs have gotten attention from Newsweek. That’s all they really wanted, was to be outrageous and stupid enough that they’d get written up and win their 15 seconds of fame.
One catch: the College Republicans are eager to disavow the flyers, while speaking out in favor of what the flyers said. So maybe some aren’t so thrilled at being in the spotlight over their regressive views.

https://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2019/10/13/if-we-must-have-celebrities-can-they-at-least-have-some-principles/

Facts:

There’s an interesting omission in the first sentence of this lie. Newsweek did, indeed, pick up on the story we covered here about the flyers in the corridors of UMM, but not before a Twin Cities newspaper, the Star Tribune, did.

Why would PZ ignore the local article in favor of the national one? Two reasons. First, it helps make his point that all the College Republicans wanted was a little attention (not true). Second, the Star Tribune story exposes PZ’s lie. He wants to say the Morris College Republicans spoke out in favor of what the flyers said, but the exact opposite is true. Here’s the Star Tribune:

In a statement Friday, Lehmann said that Campus Republicans didn’t condone “the content of the poster.” But he added that free speech was “being attacked” on campus, and that “those who hold conservative religious beliefs are seen to be ‘inciting violence.’ ”

http://www.startribune.com/rape-joke-flyer-on-university-of-minnesota-morris-campus-gets-attention-of-president-gabel/562872952/?refresh=true

Analysis:

This is another absolutely amazing phenomenon. You would think a tenured college biology professor could engage with a group of college-aged Republicans without lying about them, but PZ seems incapable of doing that. Every post, every mention, has to include something he knows to be untrue. Who was it that said, if you’re catching flak, you must be over the target? The UMM College Republicans are catching a lot of flak from Professor Myers.

Final Tally:

Today: 1 science-related post, 7 posts on other stuff

Since 30 May 19: 118 science-related posts, 472 non-science posts

20% of the posts on a “science blog” are about science

Today: 3 PZ Myers Lies

Since 30 May 19: 147 PZ Myers Lies

Over to you, PZ. Until tomorrow.

13 Oct – Where is PZ’s List of Things He Got Wrong?

He doesn’t have one. We’ve had to create it for him.

PZ rips off multiple lies today about Neil deGrasse Tyson and Ben Shapiro in a blog post bemoaning the fact that celebrities don’t have principles. This left us wondering, what are Myers’s principles?

Social justice (however he defines that term today): Check.

And…what else?

Definitely not truth.

In a bonus irony moment, it turns out that Shapiro, a man PZ has called a liar on multiple occasions (pot, meet kettle) keeps a list of things he’s gotten wrong over the years. Who does that?? Definitely not one Paul Zachary Myers.

PZ Myers Lie [in bold]:

I don’t expect much of a Kardashian, at least they’re just in the business of marketing themselves for money. I didn’t even expect much of Ellen Degeneres — she’s always just been a happy clappy talk show host, so I’m not surprised when she admits to her friendliness with corrupt mass-murderer George W. Bush.

https://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2019/10/13/if-we-must-have-celebrities-can-they-at-least-have-some-principles/

Facts:

PZ offers no evidence to support his claim that the former President is a “mass-murderer,” but we assume he’s referencing the decision to invade Iraq and the subsequent counterinsurgency campaign waged in the country for years following the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

Reasonable people can disagree about the invasion decision itself. We don’t personally think Saddam’s actions warranted the overthrow of his brutal, totalitarian regime, but we certainly understand those who look at the same facts and come to a different conclusion. PZ Myers, somehow, looks at those facts and sees “mass-murderer” when there is no evidence pointing to that conclusion. George W. Bush, to our knowledge, did not give any special instructions to the military to kill unarmed men, women, or children. He did not, to our knowledge, authorize unusual Rules of Engagement instructing the military to execute a disproportionately violent response to hostile acts on the part of Iraqi soldiers. He did not, to our knowledge, authorize the summary execution of prisoners or non-combatants. As far as we can tell, the former President ordered a military operation to be conducted against another organized and armed military force, and when that force was defeated and replaced with various plain-clothed insurgent groups, he authorized the military to respond.

Bush’s initial order was authorized by a large, bi-partisan margin in Congress and every subsequent request for supplemental funds to pay for the ongoing Operation Iraqi Freedom was also approved. Congress could have exercised its power at any time to withdraw authorization or funding from the Executive Branch, but chose not to do so. Additionally, allies from around the globe voluntarily participated in military and peacekeeping actions in Iraq in various forms. All of this constitutes a proper, legal military action.

None of it constitutes “mass-murder,” but it does constitute a great big lie from PZ Myers.

Analysis:

PZ’s son is a United States Army officer. We wonder sometimes what they talk about over the Thanksgiving dinner table. Do the words “baby killer” ever escape PZ’s lips? Or is that different because…well, we don’t know why that would be different.

PZ Myers Lie #2 [in bold]:

I never watched [Ellen’s] show anyway, and I will just continue to do the same. But jesus fuck, Neil deGrasse Tyson, I expected more of you than that you’d laughingly share a microphone with climate-change-denying, gay- and trans-hating, apologist-for-racists Ben Shapiro.

https://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2019/10/13/if-we-must-have-celebrities-can-they-at-least-have-some-principles/

Facts:

PZ makes four claims here, all of which are lies. Let’s tackle them in order:

1. Climate change denier. Nope. Shapiro believes the climate is changing, he just disagrees with PZ Myers on what to do about it. Here’s Shapiro [some punctuation added to the Google transcript]:

So my perspective on climate change is: number one I’m not a climatologist, but accepting the IPCC reports, you have to take into account the fact that modelling has been wrong for 20 to 30 years. It’s always been overestimating the amount of climate change that’s actually taking place. But, virtually every reputable scientist including folks who are who are called Skeptics believe that the climate is warming. There’s an argument about as to how much. And that over 50 percent of that warming is probably attributable to human activity.  Now, that raises other questions, which is OK…so let’s say the Earth is warming. What kind of damage is that actually going do? And this is a serious question. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wRk1p8Lzwvo

2. Gay Hater. Swing and a miss. Find evidence of gay hatred in this interview with Dave Rubin (a gay man) and we’ll change our minds.

3. Trans Hater. PZ is in the ballpark here, but we don’t think anything he’s said could reasonably seen as “hatred” towards trans people. Here’s Shapiro again:

I haven’t been unclear about this. Transgenderism is a mental condition. It is not about societal construction of gender identity or social disapproval of those who don’t “act like us.” If you are a biological man and you believe you are a woman, you suffer from a mental disorder. What I said in this video is factually correct. None of this is an argument for mistreatment of people who suffer from this mental disorder. Far from it. But pretending that male and female are completely malleable categories is a total and absolute, anti-scientific lie.

https://www.dailywire.com/news/so-heres-giant-list-all-dumb-stuff-ive-ever-done-ben-shapiro

4. Apologist for racists. No idea what PZ is talking about here, and he offers no evidence for the claim.

Analysis:

Take a look at the title of this piece up on Shapiro’s website: “So, Here’s A Giant List Of All The Dumb Stuff I’ve Ever Done (Don’t Worry, I’ll Keep Updating It).” He goes out of his way to point out the things he’s gotten wrong in the past.

We don’t ask that much of PZ Myers, but it would be nice if occasionally acknowledged an error or two.

PZ Myers Lie #3 [in bold]:

Furthermore, Tyson is touring accompanied by his own shadow, the harassment (and worse) accusations against him, which have been quietly buried.

https://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2019/10/13/if-we-must-have-celebrities-can-they-at-least-have-some-principles/

Facts:

The quite public accusations against Tyson, which surfaced last November, were investigated not once but twice by his employers.

Fox Broadcasting and National Geographic investigated the allegations in early 2019 and subsequently cleared Tyson to return to his previous position.

New York’s American Museum of Natural History did the same in July of this year.

Analysis:

By “buried,” PZ means the investigators didn’t find what PZ wanted them to find. Like most of the people PZ Myers targets at Pharyngula, Tyson is much more accomplished and popular than him. That brings out the envy in PZ.

Also interesting is this – PZ has a sexual assault allegation of his own that may or may not have been “quietly buried.” We wonder if PZ sees his own shadow every time he talks about this subject.

Final Tally:

Today: 0 science-related posts, 4 posts on other stuff

Since 30 May 19: 117 science-related posts, 465 non-science posts

20% of the posts on a “science blog” are about science

Today: 3 PZ Myers Lies

Since 30 May 19: 144 PZ Myers Lies

Over to you, PZ. Until tomorrow.