When we first read PZ Myers’s post on evolution today, we thought to ourselves, “He’s back, doing what he does best!” We didn’t even read the piece by Barbara Kay that PZ tears apart because we didn’t think we needed to. Why should we? These subjects – evolution and biology – are right in his wheelhouse and there’s no need for him to misrepresent Kay’s argument. He can just naturally run rings around her.
But, we did click on the link and read her piece because, unlike PZ, we had heard of her before and were interested to see what she had to say. Turns out it wasn’t at all what PZ represented it to be.
He lied about it. Weird, right? There’s no reason to do that.
We do understand the motivation for the second lie we cover today:
‘Nuff said. This one is retroactive, from a post PZ wrote on the 30th of August. We flagged it as a possible lie at the time, but were waiting for more information.
Today, we got it. More on that below.
PZ Myers Lie [in bold]:
One example is Barbara Kay, who I’ve never heard of before, pontificating in the National Post that “there’s one mystery we still can’t explain”. Only one? I can think of lots. But the fact that there are still questions in the world does not mean that all the answers we have are wrong…Sixth and biggest, most common error in creationists: the failure of their imaginations and ignorance of the evidence does not support their claim that the science is wrong.https://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2019/09/03/i-dont-understand-it-therefore-nobody-does/
PZ makes a version of the bolded claim above several more times throughout the post. He used it so often, we were confused after reading Kay’s column the first time – we were waiting for the part where she denounced biology and science altogether. She never did.
Some context is in order. PZ quotes the following paragraph from Kay (and only the following paragraph) before attempting to tear it apart:
The human brain and the power of speech put humans way beyond the boundaries of Darwin’s own three critical criteria for natural selection, which; i) may expand an animal’s power only to a point where it has survival advantage — and no further; ii) cannot produce changes that are “injurious” to the animal; and iii) cannot produce a “specially developed organ” that is useless to an animal at the time it develops. If a Neanderthal brain three times the size of any primate’s and a unique capacity for speech do not constitute “specially developed organs,” what does?https://nationalpost.com/opinion/barbara-kay-160-years-into-darwinism-theres-one-mystery-we-still-cant-explain
However, this isn’t really the thrust of Kay’s column. Her point appears to be: evolution accounts for the little things, but the big things – brain size and speech being the biggest – remain unexplained. She never claims “the science is wrong.” Indeed, central to her most important claim is that the science is right. She calls fossil science “sophisticated and objective” and she cites approvingly, in her climactic paragraph, a 2016 paper written by ” eight prominent academics, including the world’s most famous linguist, Noam Chomsky.” And don’t take her word for the mystery of the evolution of speech, here is a direct quote from that paper:
Based on the current state of evidence, we submit that the most fundamental questions about the origins and evolution of our linguistic capacity remain as mysterious as ever, with considerable uncertainty about the discovery of either relevant or conclusive evidence that can adjudicate among the many open hypotheses.https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00401/full
PZ tries to deal with Kay’s contention that the evolution of speech is a mystery in the following way:
It seems to me that the initiation of speech with grunts and crude vocalizations could only be improved, and improved continuously, by natural selection. Speech that enabled better hunting could lead to speech that is used for love poetry, or describing geography, or telling scary stories around the campfire, or expressing philosophical thoughts. She has not demonstrated any barrier which would impede the action of natural selection.https://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2019/09/03/i-dont-understand-it-therefore-nobody-does/
Sure, all of those things could have happened. But do we have any evidence that those things did happen? According to some of the top experts in the field, the answer is: we don’t know.
This is Kay’s gambit: trying to sow doubt about specific major evolutionary advances in brain size and speech to open the door just a little bit for intelligent design. PZ wants to slam that door shut again, and had he stuck to her actual argument, instead of lying about it, he might have done a better job.
It’s weird. We’d be interested to hear PZ’s thoughts about the Chomsky paper Kay cites – it’s really her primary piece of evidence – but PZ ignores it. We’d also like to see him address her actual strategy – focus on an anomaly and use that to try to shoehorn in your own theory. Why he doesn’t do that, and goes off instead on something she doesn’t even say, is a mystery.
PZ Myers Lie #2 [in bold]:
Andy Ngo has been quietly let go from Quillette — they say it’s so he can pursue other projects, but we all know it’s really because of this article, where an undercover investigator discovered that he was actively collaborating with Patriot Prayer to bias his reporting... Bye, Andy. We knew you weren’t a journalist all along, and you have to be pretty blatant when even Quillette finds you toxic.https://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2019/08/28/some-news-of-progress/
We saw this news story pop up the day before PZ wrote about it. But, our spidey senses told us there was more to the story and on the day we didn’t have time to wade into the debate because it would have required us to watch the entire 18-minute video produced as evidence of the claims.
Thankfully, Robby Soave at Reason watched it for us, five times, and concludes the following [emphasis added]:
In any case, the message coming from left-of-center media was clear: Patriot Prayer planned the Cider Riot attack, Ngo was tacitly involved, and Ben’s video proves it.https://reason.com/2019/09/03/andy-ngo-video-antifa-patriot-prayer-attack-media/
The problem, of course, is that the video—which mostly depicts a small group of people standing around, discussing which side of the street they should walk on when and if they approach antifa, and conversing with the undercover Ben—proves no such thing. I have watched it from start to finish at least five times, and it does not even establish that the group of right-wing agitators planned an attack—let alone that Ngo was aware of such a plot.
Soave did what PZ Myers would never dream of doing – actually contacted Ngo and asked him questions about the event:
“The people are milling around for like probably an hour,” he said. “I was just like, nothing was happening. I wasn’t paying attention to what was being said because there’s just a whole bunch of different random conversations. I didn’t see any evidence of a violent conspiracy to launch an attack.”https://reason.com/2019/09/03/andy-ngo-video-antifa-patriot-prayer-attack-media/
One could make the argument that Reason and Robby Soave are sympathetic to Ngo and treated him with kid gloves, and that may just be true, but the video doesn’t lie. It doesn’t say what PZ Myers and others claimed it was saying.
This is another lie PZ will never, ever correct. The idea that Andy Ngo is a fascist is too central to his worldview, and his views on antifa, that no matter what evidence is produced he would likely reject it out of hand. The narrative of Ngo – that he actively collaborates with fascists and Nazis – is set. Nothing, least of all the actual truth, will change that in PZ’s mind.
An old cliche says that a lie travels around the world before truth can even tie its shoes. This lie will be etched in stone in the Pharyngula universe while the truth is swept away with the rest of the shavings.
Remember, this is a scientist we’re talking about, someone who is supposed to be swayed by facts and reason. It is fascinating that he isn’t.
Today: 2 science-related posts, 1 post on other stuff
Since 30 May 19: 96 science-related posts, 309 non-science posts.
24% of the posts on a “science blog” are about science.
Today: 2 PZ Myers Lies
Since 30 May 19: 108 PZ Myers Lies
Over to you, PZ. Until tomorrow.