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,


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!


(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.



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.”


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.


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.



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.


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. 


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.


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.



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.


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.

30 Sep – 2 Oct – No, We Haven’t Quit, And Neither Has PZ

The good part about taking a few days off is getting away from it all and relaxing. The bad part is the work still manages to pile up while you’re away. This is one of several project we’re working on currently, and because it is volunteer, unpaid work, it gets pushed to the back burner when there are more important – paid! – things to be done.

We don’t think we can stress this enough to our readers, few though you may be. We fact-check PZ Myers on our free time. It’s not hard, and it’s certainly not a full time job. Finding and documenting his lies is relatively easy. It’s also a little sad, but that just means we should probably re-evaluate our life choices at some point.

Not today, however. We have 3 lies to cover. Onward!

PZ Myers Lie [in bold]:

O’Fallon has obsessions about Marxism, about the Holy Mother Church, about George Soros (call that what it is: anti-semitism), about post-modernism, about retaining the privileges of class and race.



PZ is writing here about Michael O’Fallon, who founded an organization PZ doesn’t like. O’Fallon is clearly a conservative, and has views that are clearly at odds with those of George Soros, but is O’Fallon or his organization anti-semetic?


As evidenced by the stories posted to the Sovereign Nations website PZ references, neither O’Fallon nor his organization are at all anti-semetic. To the contrary, with titles like, ” It is Not Surprising to See an Increase in Jew-Hatred in Western Europe,” and ” Why Postmodern Intersectionality Imperils Israel & Jews,” they appear to be allied with Jewish interests.


It must be so freeing to be PZ Myers. You can throw around claims like this without any evidence whatsoever, knowing that no one who reads your website will say word one about it.

PZ Myers Lie #2 [in bold]:

Furthermore, this is a “conference” with just 3 speakers, Boghossian, Lindsay, and Pluckrose, who have a deplorable reputation as bad scholars who make up shit in their crusade against post-modernism, just like Peterson, while not having the vaguest notion of what it is.



Boghossian, Lindsay and Pluckrose are the people behind the “Sokal Squared Hoax.” Their purpose was to “make up shit” and submit it to respected, peer-reviewed journals for publication. Here are their results:

By the time of the reveal, four of their 20 papers had been published, three had been accepted but not yet published, six had been rejected, and seven were still under review. One of the published papers had won special recognition.


PZ infers that “making shit up” contributed to the perception that the three were bad scholars, but in fact it was integral to the execution of the hoax. How else to expose a faulty peer-review process than to submit made-up papers? What was their alternative, to submit real research? What point would that have proven?

Additionally, PZ intimates that the trio has no knowledge of post-modernism, but that is belied by the success of their hoax. They were able to fully integrate the language of post-modernism into their papers, enabling them to not only be published but to win an award!


This may be our favorite PZ Myers lie of all time. We literally fell off our chair when we read what he had written. Before this, we would have thought a lie this brazen, this comically bad, would never have made it through whatever malfunctioning lie-detector circuits he has in his brain.

We resolve to never again be surprised by anything this man writes. It’s a truly stunning sight to behold.

PZ Myers Lie #3 [in bold]:

Jeffrey Epstein loved evolutionary psychology because it was used to justify rapey behavior and abuse of women — it’s good for the species, don’t you know, rich abusers wouldn’t exist if they didn’t have an adaptive advantage. So Epstein threw money at helpful apologists like Robert Trivers and Martin Nowak (boy, did he throw a lot of money at him), and they obliged by rationalizing the worst activities of men. Meanwhile, other hangers-on [Steven Pinker] who did not even like, let alone get paid by him, were still well-pleased by the chauvinism of EP [evolutionary psychology], and heaped praise upon it without even requiring any quid pro quo. I don’t know which is worse.



There are two lies in this snippet. First, the idea that Steven Pinker was a “hanger-on” of Jeffrey Epstein is simply untrue, and PZ knows it. After the most recent allegations against Epstein came to light, Pinker offered a defense/explanation of his relationship with Epstein in light of pictures that were circulating around social media. The short version is, there was no relationship. Their paths intersected on occasion, but he never took any money from Epstein and certainly never tried to cultivate a relationship with him.

Second, the idea that Pinker is “well pleased by the chauvinism of EP” is absurd. PZ offers no support for that claim, and we highly doubt he could produce any quotations from Pinker’s published works or speeches or podcasts supporting it. Here is a more likely explanation for PZ’s dislike of EP, and a more thoughtful and nuanced explanation of Pinker’s thoughts on it.


At the Why Evolution Is True website, Jerry Coyne has this to say about opponents of EP: “Second, it’s pretty clear that the opposition to evolutionary psychology from these quarters is ideologically rather than scientifically motivated. “

That is PZ Myers in a nutshell. Anything he writes about, apart from the science of his particular field (and we’re not even sure about that, to be completely honest) is more ideologically than scientifically motivated. That is why PZWatch exists. And it’s why we find it fascinating that a man so seemingly devoted to rationality and the truth lies with such regularity.

Final Tally:

30 Sep – 2 Oct: 1 science-related posts, 18 posts on other stuff

Since 30 May 19: 113 science-related posts, 424 non-science posts.

21% of the posts on a “science blog” are about science. 

30 Sep – 2 Oct: 3 PZ Myers Lies

Since 30 May 19: 130 PZ Myers Lies

Over to you, PZ. Until tomorrow.