PZ Myers is such a LIAR!

In my review of the embryology of Jonathan Wells in PIGDID, I made a specific example of the abuse of a quote from Bill Ballard; I pointed out that he selectively edited the quote to completely distort Ballard’s point in the cited paper, and used that to show how dishonest all of Wells’ work was.

Now Tim McGrew of Kalamazoo wants to accuse me of intentionally distorting Wells’ words. I didn’t just selectively edit, he thinks I actively changed Wells’ words to make my point.

Let me rephrase that: Myers has changed Wells’s wording and then has the temerity to accuse Wells of misleading the reader at the very point where Myers himself has made the change in Wells’s words.

Let me put that more bluntly: Myers is lying through his teeth. Literally. He is actually that dishonest. And not a single commentator on Panda’s Thumb for the past two months could be bothered to check Myers’s quotation against Wells’s actual words to see whether Myers was telling the truth.

Sal Cordova, sycophant of the ID movement, has of course leapt upon this claim at Uncommon Descent as well. Let’s see how accurate McGrew and Cordova are.

Here’s the piece I quoted from Wells’ book:

It is “only by semantic tricks and subjective selection of evidence,” by “bending the facts of nature,” that one can argue that the early embryo stages of vertebrates” are more alike than their adults.”

McGrew claims this is not in the book, and that he cross-checked it. He even notes that I’d specifically said this was on page 35.

The least interesting of the discrepancies is that Myers has apparently slipped in the page references to Wells: the quotation he finds objectionable appears on pp. 30-31, not on “pp. 35.”

Hmmm. Not on page 35? Let’s look. Everyone, open your copy of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design to page 35…oh, you don’t have one? I don’t blame you. It sucks. Here’s a scan of the page for you.


Oh, wait. Maybe you’re a creationist. Maybe your initials are S.A.L. C.O.R.D.O.V.A., and you’ve got the perspicacity of a twig. Here, the red arrows will help you find what I’m talking about.



My critics apparently looked at that page and didn’t notice the big gray box dominating the lower right quadrant of the page—you know, the one with the great big font headline, the ugly graphic (of a lectern, I think), and the bold attribution of the quote to William Ballard. The publishers seem to have done everything they could to make that text pop out to the reader, and in the case of Tim McGrew and Sal Cordova, they failed. I saw it, no problem, and even thought this must be a particularly important point Wells was making. I don’t know what the difference between us could be. Maybe it’s that I’m not blind.

Let me help you out even more. Let’s zoom in on that box.


Here’s how I quoted those words:

It is “only by semantic tricks and subjective selection of evidence,” by “bending the facts of nature,” that one can argue that the early embryo stages of vertebrates “are more alike than their adults.”

Uh, maybe I am blind, because I’m looking at those two paragraphs, and I can’t see a speck of difference in their content. Is there a typo somewhere?

I’m afraid my quote was accurate. Wells did distort the quote to suit his ends. He quotes Ballard elsewhere in the article, too, but it’s more of the same: he’s trying to twist Ballard’s words into some kind of refutation of the facts, to lie about what a distinguished dead (and therefore unable to rebut him) biologist had to say about the similarities of embryos. The point of Ballard’s paper was to argue for the diversity of gastrulation mechanisms, but right there in the paper, in the paragraph above the one Wells’ selectively quoted, he affirms that “the pharyngula stage…is remarkably uniform throughout the subphylum.”

So who is the liar?

Let’s watch Uncommon Descent to see how low they can sink. Someone posted a comment there pointing out that I’d rebutted their claim—they deleted it! People noticed the deletion, and here’s a comment that came after that:


How long will that comment survive, I wonder?

Now I’m being accused by the loons at Uncommon Descent of “cherry-picking” the quotes. I mean, seriously, look at the scanned page: the quote I used is given enormous space. It’s just bizarre to be told that I was supposed to ignore that and use something else in the text.

I’ve addressed this in the comments, but yes, there is another use of the quotation from Ballard on pages 30-31, and also from Elinson and Sedgwick. I could have used that one, too, as an example of a slippery elision by Wells.

The previous paragraph quotes Sedgwick (1894) saying that “…a species is distinct and distinguishable from its allies from the very earliest stages all through the development.” Then Wells says, “Modern embryologists confirm this,” and uses the Bill Ballard quote. Bill Ballard did not confirm that at all. Ballard coined the term “pharyngula”, and in that paper he specifically affirms his acceptance of the idea of great similarity at the pharyngula stage, as I quoted above.

I could have written the same castigation of Wells twice, I suppose, using both of Wells’ different manglings of Ballard’s words, but it didn’t seem economical, so I went with the version that was most prominently highlighted in the chapter.

I suspect that if I’d used his misrepresentation of Ballard from pages 30-31, I’d now be hearing that I misquoted Wells maliciously, and they’d be pointing out the big bold box on page 35 and telling me I lied, and that I was blind as a bat, too, and gee, don’t you think pulling it out for special attention meant I should have used that one?

All of this is a distraction. Wells misrepresents biology and reports on the scientific research inaccurately throughout PIGDIG. Now his pals are just trying to throw that same accusation at his critics, and doing so as incompetently and falsely as Wells does science.

OK, I see some people are still in doubt, and are demanding that I post pages 30-31. Here they are.


Satisfied yet? I’m beginning to feel a bit like Hartigan at the end of Sin City, hammering that yellow bastard into a slimy pulp.


  1. #1 Ichthyic
    November 3, 2006

    bless his little heart, Todd is trying *so* hard to fit this all into his cramped little worldview.

  2. #2 Ichthyic
    November 3, 2006

    Sal Cordova is a true Christian.

    you forgot to put the ™ after that, Ted.

  3. #3 Ichthyic
    November 3, 2006

    Disclaimer: I think Moonie religious claims are batty. However, I won’t discard my belief the ocean is wet because a Moonie also says so, lest I be guilty of genetic fallacy in my reasoning.

    …and so, by inference, you think PZ discarded Wells’ argument because he was a Mooney?

    where, in any of the rebuttals to Wells’ drivel, did you see an argument of rejection based on Mooneyism?

    bad Todd! bad!


    since you seem to like to post definitions of logical argument (genetic fallacy), can you tell us what logical fallacy you are using now?

  4. #4 Todd
    November 3, 2006

    Ichthyic, I was responding to the esteemed scholar Mr Hanky, er, GWW, not PZ Myers.

  5. #5 Ichthyic
    November 3, 2006

    that’s right Todd!

    belt it out loud and proud:



  6. #6 Ichthyic
    November 3, 2006

    that’s right, Todd, you of course will characterize the entire nature of all posters on pharyngula by those who blow raspberries at you.

    btw, that’s rather dishonest of you.

    pretty pathetic, too.

    why don’t you twist your panties a little tighter there?

  7. #7 Todd
    November 3, 2006


    I don’t believe I did, though I see how you could take it that way. Again, I don’t like the moderation policy at UD, but I can understand, considering the warm welcome I’ve received here, simply asking questions for clarification and trying to understand what all the fuss is about…

  8. #8 Ichthyic
    November 3, 2006

    but if these two booger eaters’ comments are what passes for ‘debate’ around here,

    right, so you say this already knowing the answer was false, and deliberately try to beg the question?

    either way, it’s a clear attempt at trolling for a response from the general gallery.

    your attempts at playing “honest debater” are quite transparent.

    again, pathetic.

    your lack of points have been presented and repeatedly refuted.

    there is nothing left but tossing rotten eggs at you.

    as long as you continue to sit there in the dunking booth, why shouldn’t they?

  9. #9 Ichthyic
    November 3, 2006

    Kristin is on deck.

    use the spitball, Todd!

    we want a pitcher, not a belly itcher.

    oh wait, you’re both.

  10. #10 Ichthyic
    November 4, 2006

    I do not think anyone here has adequately shown Wells quote to be inaccurate, so I choose a)

    Baaalll 2!

    I told you to try the spitball, not the same pitch you threw before.

    (maybe you should switch the the fastball, if you have one?)

    …and they say umpires are blind.

  11. #11 Ichthyic
    November 4, 2006

    Indeed, this is why I find the mod policy at UD somewhat distasteful.

    irrelevant to your misinterpretations HERE.

    baaaaallll 3!

    hmm, maybe a sinker?

  12. #12 Ichthyic
    November 4, 2006

    as i said, and many others already have as well, your contentions were dealt with early on. your own ridiculous inaninity apparently disallows you to see that you are simply, wrong. Hence, the baseball analogy works, as you already stuck out, and now you’re just pitching balls.

    everything since your initial contention that PZ was wrong has been you sitting in a dunking tank, waiting for the next person in line to dunk you.

    i know you can’t see how pathetic your arguments were, are how wrong you ended up being, or that you haven’t the slightest clue what you are talking about wrt developmental biology, but for us, it’s all good.

    just keep sitting in that tank, thinking you’re not waiting to get dunked again.

    funny as hell.

  13. #13 Stephen Erickson
    November 4, 2006

    Ichthyic has devolved to sound and fury, signifying nothing. I don’t even know what side he’s arguing.

  14. #14 Todd
    November 4, 2006

    Ichthyic, I do believe you addressed not one thing I wrote. Congratulations, you are too clever by half!

    Doc Bill, I dunno, are you a hostile athiest? My answer to your question is identical to your answer to my question.

    Christian, am I to take you at your solemn word without any supporting argument? Are you like, all Zen and whatnot? Grasp the pebble, grasshopper.

  15. #15 Ichthyic
    November 4, 2006

    gee todd, so when i say, your contentions regarding PZ and Wells have ALREADY been addressed, what part of that didn’t you grasp?

    it was addressed by sotiris, and several others.

    you refused to acknowledge you were wrong:

    I do not think anyone here has adequately shown Wells quote to be inaccurate, so I choose a).

    which of course is absolute denial on your part, because you were shown to be incorrect at least 3 times, if you simply go back through the thread.

    like i said, and i couldn’t give a shit what others think who don’t know anything about developmental biology, you’re simply sitting in a dunking tank, and refuse to admit it to yourself.

    it’s still funny, though, so please, continue.

  16. #16 Todd
    November 4, 2006

    argystokes, Wells’ acknowledged the hourglass was all I was getting at there (if I understand you correctly)

    Kristine, Sigh. I’m disappointed. To think I had such hopes for our future… :(
    I want you to know that I really and truly want to move on to Ballard, but I just first want to discuss the original claim of dishonesty, which accused Wells of conflating gastrula and pharyngula, which he did not as pp.30-31 make clear. Whether he mistreated the point of Ballard’s paper is a seperate issue, wouldn’t you agree?

    Doc Bill, hurl away mowgli.

    Ichthyic, see my comments to Kristine above (but don’t get your hopes up, wink, wink, nudge, nudge) Please, for the love of all that is wholly…rational and scientific…don’t make me multi-task…with so many voices…keep it to the first point, then we can address the second. Why is it so difficult to address those points?

  17. #17 truth machine
    November 4, 2006

    So shall I then assume Ichtyic’s response is ‘typical’ evolutionist bilge which does not address the contents of my post?

    “evolutionist bilge”, eh? It took awhile for you to announce yourself, but you guys always do eventually. As Richard Dawkins accurately noted, “It is absolutely safe to say that if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I’d rather not consider that).” So which is it, Todd? There’s no use challenging Dawkins’s statement because, as he also accurately noted, “we are here talking about the fact of evolution itself, a fact that is proved utterly beyond reasonable doubt”, and there are many people here who can point you to volumes of evidence for that fact if you’re silly enough to doubt it.

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