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.