6 June 2019 – Source Material? What Source Material?

Let’s imagine we started a website calling out the lies of a once prominent atheist and skeptic.

Sounds far fetched, we know, but stay with us on this.

If we tried to call out PZ Myers on his lies without, you know, actually quoting his lies, we would expect precisely no one to take us seriously. But this is exactly how PZ frames one of his arguments today. Consider:

PZ Myers Lie:

“The Industrial Revolution was not a product of British Imperial measurements, it was just the system they were historically using while they went through that period.”

https://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2019/06/06/that-creepy-inelegant-metric-system/

 Facts:

PZ wants to rail against Tucker Carlson and a guest who appeared on the show, but even though a transcript of the show is available online (we found it in 2 seconds) PZ doesn’t quote from it. He quotes from a Newsweek article about the show instead.

Had PZ actually watched the show or read the transcript, he would have found this sentence, spoken by Carlson’s guest, which makes the same point:

…we should stand tall on our own two feet, I say, because it was customary measures that measured out the Industrial Revolution…

https://www.foxnews.com/transcript/can-the-us-continue-to-stand-alone-against-the-metric-system

The guest doesn’t imply causation. He doesn’t say the Industrial Revolution was a “product” of customary measures. He just said those measures were in use at the time, which is exactly the same point PZ makes and why we’ve labeled it PZ’s first lie of the day.

Analysis:

Warning bells went off in our heads when we noticed PZ wasn’t quoting the show itself. If he wants to criticize or lie about someone or something, but doesn’t want to engage with the actual person or issue itself, he’ll often use a third party as a foil. Here the interlocutor is Newsweek’s description of Tucker Carlson’s show, not the show itself, so it’s inevitable that lies like this will occur. PZ would probably give a failing grade to a student who tried to pull this crap, but for him it’s a feature, not a bug, of his argumentative style.

PZ Myers Lie #2:

“[Making money has] always been the goal of the companies that dominate social media. They aren’t altruistic in the slightest. However, the decision to support only combative content isn’t the only way to make money, it’s just the easiest, least mindful way.”

https://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2019/06/06/welcome-to-the-new-wasteland-same-as-the-old-wasteland/

 Facts:

It would be tempting to claim there are two lies in this quote. The claim that social media companies are in no way altruistic feels like a lie, because they often do things for altruistic reasons, but it is true that the primary objective of not only social media companies but nearly every company on the planet is to make money. This seems to us so self evident as to be laughable – if a company didn’t make money they would cease to exist.

But we digress.

The lie here is that social media companies “support only combative content.” This is self-evidently wrong. We just finished up a 30-day yoga challenge and watched dozens of hours of peaceful, non-combative yoga content on YouTube – the specific social media company PZ screeches against in this post. There is uplifting, supportive, dare we say altruistic content galore on all social media platforms, all supported by the platforms themselves.

Which makes this yet another PZ Myers Lie.

Analysis:

Various versions of Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’ have over 150 million views, and that’s pure 80’s gold. We know just reading the name of the song put the tune into your head, and we’re not going to pretend to apologize for that.

But, if Steve Perry and Neal Schon aren’t your thing, you can search YouTube and probably find every song that’s ever been played anywhere on earth at any time during it’s four and a half billion years in existence.

And if that’s a lie, it’s not by much.

Our point is, social media companies like YouTube are revolutionizing how we communicate with each other, connect, and share content. It’s not just Journey, you can also watch (and we have) a series of physics lectures by Leonard Susskind. Want something in between those two extremes?

You’ll find it. The average person today has so much more access to online content than we did just a decade ago, it’s almost too astounding to think about. We think it’s a great example of emergent order – where norms emerge out of a complex substructure of chaotic, sometimes combative, elements. All of which is something PZ doesn’t really care about at all, he just wants to use this topic to bash people he doesn’t like, in this case a media personality who has the temerity to come down on the right side of the political spectrum.

A final point. We’d never heard of Steven Crowder or Carlos Maza before reading PZ’s post, but we do know other media personalities, like Howard Stern, who have mastered the art of using conflict – often manufactured out of thin air – to boost ratings. Our cynical side suspects this is a tactic both Crowder and Maza are attempting to use, and only time will tell if they’re successful.

Usually, you have to have talent in order to keep people listening after the initial controversy has died down, but the Kardashians are still around so we’ll admit we might not know as much as we think we do about all this.

Final Tally:

Today: 1 science-related post (another anticipatory post about his spider project) and 2 other posts that we discuss above with one lie in each.

Since 30 May 19: 5 science-related posts, 27 non-science posts.

We think we have enough data now to start assigning a percentage to the amount of science content appearing on Pharyngula. In just over a week, 15.6% of the posts have been about science. We’ll update this percentage regularly moving forward.

Today: 2 PZ Myers Lies

Since 30 May 19: 14 PZ Myers Lies

Over to you, PZ. Until tomorrow.