5 Oct – PZ Lies About Sam Harris, Again

Sam Harris is a successful atheist, firmly on the political left, and a hater of all things Trumpian. In other words, you’d think he be someone with whom PZ Myers could find a lot in common. And maybe he does, but mostly what appears on the pages of Pharyngula are baseless smears and lies.

You see, like Bill Maher and Peter Boghossian and many, many others who have run afoul of PZ, Harris makes the mistake of holding insufficiently doctrinaire opinions on certain subjects, which has resulted in being kicked off PZ Island.

One of those opinions certain to draw the attention – and lies – of PZ Myers is believing IQ is a thing that’s measurable, predictive, and heritable. If you think that, watch out!

PZ Myers Lie [in bold]:

I often get brought up short when someone tells me that intelligence, for instance, is 80% determined by your genetics. I’m held up because that someone clearly doesn’t understand the magic word “heritability”, which every geneticist understands but every layman seems to consciously misunderstand, preferring to play games with folk etymology than actually understand the math, or the concept. So here’s a nice video that explains the background clearly, and as a bonus, show that Sam Harris doesn’t know diddly squat about the science behind the racism he endorses.

https://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2019/10/05/what-heritability-actually-means/

Facts:

The video PZ cites is here, and it quotes Harris at length, saying the following:

People don’t want to hear the intelligence is a real thing, and that some people have more of it than others. They don’t want to hear that IQ tests really measure it. They don’t want to hear that differences in IQ matter because they’re highly predictive of differential success in life, and not just for things like educational attainment and wealth but for things like out of wedlock birth and mortality. People don’t want to hear that a person’s intelligence is in large measure due to his or her genes, and that there seems to be very little we can do environmentally to increase a person’s intelligence (even in childhood). It’s not that environment doesn’t matter, but genes appear to be 50-80% of the story. People don’t want to hear this. And they certainly don’t want to hear that average IQ differs across races and ethnic groups.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2FcpNZ2BEgY

We’re not going to wade into the IQ debate here. We’re not claiming PZ lied when he said Harris “doesn’t know diddly squat about the science.” The lie here is claiming Harris endorses racism, which is nowhere to be found in the quote above, or quite frankly anything else we’ve ever heard Sam Harris say. For PZ, simply believing IQ is a thing which differs across races and ethnic groups is racist.

There are certainly race hustlers who use this argument to buttress their despicable claims – although those arguments, as well as PZ’s arguments, by the way, tend to ignore the relatively high IQ of ethnic Asians, something Harvard has recently run into with respect to its admissions policies. But Sam Harris is not a race hustler. He’s driven by facts and science, meaning that calling him a racist is another patented PZ Myers lie.

Analysis:

We often see PZ Myers complain about people he deems to be “unqualified” to speak in a certain area because they lack the requisite degrees or training. Yet, he seems perfectly comfortable opining on the subject of IQ even though it’s not his field. He accuses Harris of not knowing the science, but outsources the job of criticizing Harris to someone else. PZ doesn’t demonstrate in this post that he has any understanding of the science. The only thing he demonstrates is that he can lie about Sam Harris being a racist with the best of them.

Final Tally:

Today: 1 science-related post, 3 posts on other stuff

Since 30 May 19: 115 science-related posts, 436 non-science posts.

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

Today: 1 PZ Myers Lie

Since 30 May 19: 134 PZ Myers Lies

Over to you, PZ. Until tomorrow.

11 Sep – Three Lies, Two About Sam Harris

There are some days that cause us to wonder if PZ Myers is actually starting to get it. He’s been good the past three days, posting about science and spiders and pictures of his family. His political posts have been relatively subdued, and his criticism has generally been of the value judgement variety. Even his incoherent sentences, like this:

Sure, it’s an easy target to reveal that the manifestation of evil in Republican politics is pure evil.

https://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2019/09/10/concentrated-comeuppance/

haven’t been outright lies (we stared at this sentence for much longer than we should have trying to figure it out).

One of the conditions we set for ourselves when we started this site was that there would be a way for it to end. IF PZ Myers tells the truth, and nothing but the truth, for 30 days straight, we’re done. We’ll quit our (volunteer, unpaid) job and move on to something else.

But, even though we know he reads our site, and we’re pretty sure he’s aware of the conditions of our experiment, we’re confident he won’t be able to do it, so central are these lies to his worldview.

We have three great examples of this today. PZ lies about a Republican and twice about Sam Harris, constituting two subjects about which he is constitutionally unable to tell the truth.

PZ Myers Lie [in bold]:

The kind of conservativism he thinks would “save America” can only thrive in ignorance, so getting rid of education would lead to fewer liberals and progressives, fewer ideas, less progress, more stupidity. If that’s what you want, his formula would actually work!

https://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2019/09/11/cheese-it-theyre-on-to-us/

Facts:

PZ is writing about a story which quotes a Tennessee state GOP lawmaker saying some nasty things about higher education. It’s always fascinating to see what stories PZ links to, because they don’t always tell the whole story. In this case, we found another story from The Hill, which says this:

State Sen. Kerry Roberts made the remarks while speaking on his conservative talk radio show last week…Roberts argued that an activist’s public testimony in favor of abortion rights was a “product of higher education,” adding that abolishing the system would “save America.”
“If there’s one thing that we can do to save America today, it’s to get rid of our institutions of higher education right now and cut the liberal breeding ground off,” he said, before questioning why public colleges were funded by tax dollars…Roberts dismissed the backlash his comments engendered, saying in a Facebook post that his “listeners clearly understood the humor and hyperbole.”
“Hyperbole: exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally. Especially common on talk radio shows,” he said in a separate statement shared on Twitter.

https://thehill.com/homenews/state-watch/460632-tennessee-state-gop-lawmaker-says-getting-rid-of-higher-education-would

The hyperbole Roberts engaged in is fairly common on the right and has roots in a conservative critique of higher education we’ve talked about before. Some conservatives believe progressive college professors are indoctrinating their students in their leftist worldview (PZ Myers is doing all he can to help them make that case).

PZ’s lie here is twofold. First, he knowingly mistakes Roberts’s hyperbole as an actual, substantive argument, and then he proceeds to make a claim that conservatism as a whole “can only thrive in ignorance.” As conservatism has a long history with deep intellectual roots, it’s quite easy for us to call this the first lie of the day.

Analysis:

This is standard fare for PZ Myers. Republicans are stoopid and anti-science and Christian fundamentalist kooks, even though survey data shows Democrats have their own conspiracy theories and anti-science views and are only a few points behind Republicans when asked if they believe in God. Again, it doesn’t matter what the actual data shows. Data isn’t relevant to PZ’s views on politics. It is all about his tribe – progressives – gaining and maintaining power.

PZ Myers Lie #2 and #3 [in bold]:

[Sam] Harris, on the other hand, is still in there, obstinately slugging away, sinking deeper and deeper into the quicksand of the alt right, and representing the failure of his ideology loudly and persistently… Don’t be so quick to excuse his racism! This is like the argument that you can’t be a racist unless you join the KKK and participate in a lynching — nope, we white people have a lot of easy ways to be racist, and Harris is happy to exercise all of them.

https://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2019/09/11/so-what-is-or-rather-who-is-the-problem-with-new-atheism/

Facts:

We would normally give PZ the benefit of the doubt in and count both these lies as one, but each is so egregious we feel compelled to separate them.

The idea that Sam Harris is in any way enamored by, or attracted to, the political philosophy of the alt-right (however that is defined) is perhaps as big of a lie as PZ Myers has ever told. We can’t say we’ve listened to or read everything Harris has ever done, but one thing is perfectly clear – he is not alt-right. We’ve seen no one try to argue in favor of that claim, and PZ certainly cites no evidence to support it.

Additionally, the idea that Harris is racist in way is ludicrous. The idea that he is racist in every way possible short of lynching someone is pure slander. We think PZ is referencing Harris’s views on Islam (a religion which does not constitute a race, by the way), except we’ve heard him speak with Maajid Nawaz about the book they wrote together, and nothing either of them says could be interpreted as even mildly racist. Indeed, the stated purpose of the book is to have “difficult conversations about Islam without ‘devolving into bigotry or caricature.'”

Analysis:

Bigotry and caricature are PZ’s go-to moves. We wonder sometimes what he would do if he was somehow forced to talk about his political enemies honestly. We imagine his face would scrunch up like a kid whose parents tried to force-feed them peas.

The only thing PZ has going for him here is Sam Harris has probably long since forgotten about him. Otherwise, we imagine Harris would be contemplating legal action. There is no defense for what PZ writes about him.

PZ quite often addresses the charge that he is envious of people like Harris who are more popular in atheist circles. He claims that it’s hogwash and that he never had any desire to be one of the “four horsemen.” But, he does seem at times obsessed with their status and fame and the amount of money they make, so we think there is something there.

Perhaps – and we’re just spitballing here – if he stopped lying and started to think deeply about these issues and maybe ask questions of people with which he disagrees, maybe more people would start to read his work.

Like the Vikings winning the Super Bowl, there’s no chance of that.

Final Tally:

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

Since 30 May 19: 102 science-related posts, 340 non-science posts.

23% of the posts on a “science blog” are about science. 

Today: 3 PZ Myers Lies

Since 30 May 19: 117 PZ Myers Lies

Over to you, PZ. Until tomorrow.