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Darwin’s man Nick Matzke attacked Darwin’s Doubt without reading it?

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Evolution News and Views

Darwin's DoubtKnock us over with a paper clip.

Over at Evolution News & Views, Casey Luskin asks, could Nick Matzke even possibly have read Steve Meyer’s Darwin’s Doubt before writing a long essay trashing it?:

Now, Darwin’s Doubt runs to 413 pages, excluding endnotes and bibliography. Neither the book’s publisher, HarperOne, nor its author sent Matzke a prepublication review copy. Did Matzke in fact read its 400+ pages and then write his 9400+ word response — roughly 30 double-spaced pages — in little more than a day?

Perhaps, but a more likely hypothesis is that he wrote the lion’s share of the review before the book was released based upon what he presumed it would say. A reviewer who did receive a prepublication copy, University of Pittsburgh physicist David Snoke, writes:

A caution: this is a tome that took me two weeks to go through in evening reading, and I am familiar with the field. Like the classic tome Gödel, Escher, Bach, it simply can’t be gone through quickly. I was struck that the week it was released, within one day of shipping, there were already hostile reviews up on Amazon. Simply impossible that they could have read this book in one night.

Even if Snoke is wrong, and Matzke possesses a preternatural capacity to read and write at blinding speed, Matzke in his haste has made some significant errors — of commission and omission — in his representation and assessment of Meyer’s work.

Matzke misrepresents what Meyer actually says, going so far as to attribute quotes and arguments to him that nowhere appear in the book. More.

So? Darwinists have a special exemption from dealing in the actual arguments against their position.

Thus, noviewing, at a level that would disgrace an academic in any other field, is their unquestioned right.

See also: Good and bad reasons for rejecting ID

Calling Nick Matzke’s bluff

Note: An earlier version of this post incorrectly identified P.Z. Myers. Apologies for inadvertent misinformation.

Comments
It’s awesome to learn of his superhuman reading powers to read a 400 page book in one about 8 hours and write a review on top of it. I suppose it’s doable at 1 page a minute (60 pages an hour).
It is really not that remarkable given that it is a subject on which he is an expert. * Average reading speeds are about 250 words a minute. As a highly educated person reading a book in an area he is familiar with we can assume that Nick's rate is significantly higher. * Looking at the book on Amazon the full printed pages run to about 400 words but there are many pages that contain photographs and diagrams. * So the book contains significantly less than 410 times 400 words i.e. less than 164,000 words. * Divide 164,000 by 250 and you get 11 hours. Divide it by 300 and you get 9 hours. We are in the right ball park as it were. I can't think why I wasted time doing that research! But I am not going to waste it now.Mark Frank
June 27, 2013
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I found this part of Mr. Matzke's entry pretty interesting: "I got the book around lunchtime last Tuesday when it came out. I read it during lunch, then again for snippets of the afternoon (we computational biologists often have bits of downtime while we wait for programs to run), and then most of the rest of it that night and the next morning. The book was not impressive, and I resolved to not bother with a review, and to work on stuff I should be doing. However, when I got into work on Wednesday, I started seeing the fawning, so-innocent-of-the-problems-and-the-science-it-was-almost-cute positive reviews of the book coming out from ID creationists, and I realized that the best way to stop getting distracted would be to bang out a review. I spent most of Wednesday on it and put the review up that night. I felt quite guilty, really, putting even that much time into it, considering everything else I should be doing, but like I said, it was much easier to focus afterwards. Let's think that through. 1. He gets the book on tuesday and reads it over lunch, "snippets" of that afternoon while at work, and then "most (not all) of the rest of it" that evening and the following morning before going into the office. 2. When he gets to work on wednesday morning he reads wrong headed reviews of the book (presumably online reviews). 3. He becomes profoundly and repeatedly distracted by these reviews. 4. His solution to this is to write a review. He spends "most of wednesday on it". 5. Afterwards, he's able to refocus on whatever he's paid to do. First, I need to find a gig as a computational biologist. Those are some awful long bits of downtime Mr. Matzke benefited from. Second, wouldn't it have been far easier to stop goofing off on the internet and simply get back to work? Third, in his defense it's possible he really did read "all" of Meyer's book. Mr. Matzke also wrote this: "Unlike most scientists, I am deeply familiar with the ID arguments, their weird vague question-begging definitions of crucial terms and premises in their argument (“information”, “fundamentally new” whatevers, etc.), and so I don’t have to spend a lot of time mentally unravelling the multiple levels of confusion and misunderstanding and wishful thinking that are going on whenever Meyer rehashes some oft-used, previously refuted ID talking point. I can focus on what little is new and unique to the book in question – in the case of Meyer’s book, this is basically the stuff about the Cambrian and phylogenetics." Perhaps Mr. Matzke skimmed over Meyer's "rehashed" arguments focusing instead on chapters dealing with those two subjects.lpadron
June 27, 2013
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Matzke sure knows how to bluff, sigh..Andre
June 27, 2013
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Matzke also attacked God, because he thinks He's mean and nasty, without listening to the lessons in theodicy given by William Lane Craig and/or John Lennox, in video-clips of debates, on YouTube, for example.Axel
June 27, 2013
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Matzke's False Attributions While I personally tend to suspect he didn't, in the end it doesn't matter whether Matzke read Darwin's Doubt before writing the bulk of his review, or whether he wrote it before the book was out based on presuppositions and then glanced through the page once he had it in hand. Either way, his misrepresentations in matters large and small are inexcusable. - See more at: http://www.evolutionnews.org/2013/06/rush_to_judgmen073791.html#sthash.3lPKoQaG.dpufbornagain77
June 27, 2013
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Thanks Lizzie for contacting Nick! It's awesome to learn of his superhuman reading powers to read a 400 page book in one about 8 hours and write a review on top of it. I suppose it's doable at 1 page a minute (60 pages an hour). Thanks to Nick for responding.scordova
June 27, 2013
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From Nick Matzke:
Well, here’s the reality. I did not have an advance copy or pre-write a review or anything. I got the book around lunchtime last Tuesday when it came out. I read it during lunch, then again for snippets of the afternoon (we computational biologists often have bits of downtime while we wait for programs to run), and then most of the rest of it that night and the next morning. The book was not impressive, and I resolved to not bother with a review, and to work on stuff I should be doing. However, when I got into work on Wednesday, I started seeing the fawning, so-innocent-of-the-problems-and-the-science-it-was-almost-cute positive reviews of the book coming out from ID creationists, and I realized that the best way to stop getting distracted would be to bang out a review. I spent most of Wednesday on it and put the review up that night. I felt quite guilty, really, putting even that much time into it, considering everything else I should be doing, but like I said, it was much easier to focus afterwards.
The piece also responds to many of Luskin's other comments.Elizabeth B Liddle
June 27, 2013
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It bears pointing out that Luskin actually acknowledges an error in Darwin's Doubt that Matzke (in all his fervor) missed:
Now in checking out Matzke's claim, we discovered that there is an actual error in Darwin's Doubt regarding Anomalocaris, though it isn't anything that Matzke caught. On page 53 Meyer says that Anomalocaris has an exoskeleton -- when it would have been more accurate to state things as he did on page 60, where he said it "had hard exoskeletons or body parts." The jaw of Anomalocaris is commonly preserved as a fossil, probably because it is a hard part, which was used to hunt hard-shelled organisms. So Anomalocaris probably did have "hard parts," but it did not have an exoskeleton. Meyer will correct the oversight in a future edition and note it on his website.
I think this argues strongly in favor of integrity of both Luskin and Meyer, that they would own up to a mistake and make corrections. Will Matzke do the same for his criticisms about classification, especially his statement that lobopods aren't considered a phylum?Optimus
June 26, 2013
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EL @ 8, 17 It's hard not to get the impression that your defense of Matzke is due to your reflexive tendency to reject whatever ID proponents may say (even if you do so nicely with lots of smiley faces). Factual questions aside, how can anyone justify the sheer vitriol and mean-spirited quality of Matzke's writing? In almost every appearance that he makes here at UD, he is disrespectful, dismissive, and steadfastly refuses to answer even simple questions that are put to him. How can you say with a straight face that he can be considered a credible source to review a book whose premise he disagrees with? Luskin's article was an excellent rebuttal to a careless hatchet job.Optimus
June 26, 2013
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scordova: I agree with your set of questions as in 30. I am not inclined to accept the conjectures or surmises of Elizabeth Liddle regarding this subject. I would be surprised if Matzke answered the questions straightforwardly. It would nice if, while he's at it, he answered the questions about his own religious commitments, questions which he has always ducked here. Since he makes liberal use in public debate of his knowledge of ID proponents' religious commitments in order to argue or imply that their science is tainted or biased by those commitments, intellectual decency requires that he state his own religious commitments, so that people can view his own science in light of religious factors that may affect it. But I expect he will "pull an Ayala" and take the coward's way out, continuing to needle ID proponents about their religious motivations while acting as if his own religious motivations could not possibly be relevant.Timaeus
June 26, 2013
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Oh and as a side note, I'm stopped wasting time trying to engage Nick directly a long time ago. He has never, and I mean never answered a direct question that challenges his worldview. He's hit and run all the way!DonaldM
June 26, 2013
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Maybe Matzke is a liar, maybe he's just confused. I really don't care. What I do care about is that he deliberately misrepresents the actual arguments of those either promoting ID or being critical of evolution and instead sets up straw man versions of them, or he simply bluffs by citing or referring to vast numbers of articles and or charts and diagrams thinking that most won't take the time to verify their relevance to whatever argument he's trying to make. When some of us actually do that, his bluffs become immediately evident. Matzke to this day hasn't got a clue what the actual arguments of intelligent design are because I'm quite sure he's never done more than a cursory reading of any of the books or articles that are out there. He only cares about making himself look like he's the smartest guy in the room, when in reality he's one of the least informed!DonaldM
June 26, 2013
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Dr. Liddle, Please let me know if Nick answers.Collin
June 26, 2013
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Lizzie is a darwinist... ;)Joe
June 26, 2013
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@Mapou While it may be true (one could argue that every human is a liar) I don't think it goes any way to promoting healthy discussion. All too frequently I am put off every discussing matters of origins and evolution by the feelings of anger I detect in forums and blogs. From both sides as well! There are plenty of smart and reasonable darwinists, iders, creationists and skeptics but harsh words will serve nothing to open up a constructive dialog.bw
June 26, 2013
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Mapou
All Darwinists are liars, not just Nick Matzke.
This is not true.Elizabeth B Liddle
June 26, 2013
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Mapou, I think that is uncalled for.Collin
June 26, 2013
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All Darwinists are liars, not just Nick Matzke. This is what the elitism of religion does to you. What is important is to defend the religion at all costs, truth be damned.Mapou
June 26, 2013
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I've posted Eric's and Sal's questions at PTElizabeth B Liddle
June 26, 2013
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You might be interested to know, lifepsy, that Dennis Noble read my comments on his paper at Cornelius's blog, and wrote to me to say I had a good understanding of his position, and that the people arguing against me had misunderstood (or not read) the paper. He congratulated me on my patience in trying to explain it. heh. Not sure if you were one of the people arguing against me on that thread.:) He later sent me that link to the Answers page. You should read it.
Maybe evos should stop bluffing and pretending they understand the origins of life. Would save everyone a lot of trouble.
Nobody yet understands the origins of life. We may never understand it.Elizabeth B Liddle
June 26, 2013
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On Dennis Noble comments: Yes, now it's time for the evolutionists to start playing the "It's great that science can admit when it's wrong, that's how we make progress!" And watch them backpedal to a safety position of "Evolution is just heritable variation" ... now that the fundamental claims of RM+NS they've been screaming for decades as 'irrefutable fact' have been jettisoned. (As if they were ever supported by evidence to begin with) Maybe evos should stop bluffing and pretending they understand the origins of life. Would save everyone a lot of trouble.lifepsy
June 26, 2013
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keiths from the page I linked.
As I just posted on WEIT, there are two separate questions here: (1). Did I in fact ‘play the Nazi card’? (2). Would I have been right to do so if I had? It is absolutely clear that the answer to (1) is no. In other words, Matzke is a liar. But he seems to think he can wriggle out of it by arguing that some people on this thread give a ‘yes’ answer to (2). He has inanely gone about counting ‘votes’ for (2), scoring them as though they somehow justify his lie about (1). It should be clear to anyone of the smallest intelligence that (1) and (2) are completely separate questions, that (2), though interesting in its own right, is irrelevant to the question of whether I “played the Nazi card”, and that Nick Matzke is a liar. Is it really so difficult to do the decent thing and simply apologise? Richard
Andre
June 26, 2013
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keiths from Richard Dawkins own response
Andre
June 26, 2013
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@Liz Thanks for the link from Noble, I think this is a good paragraph: The question whether neo-darwinism has been proven wrong therefore depends on what exactly is being questioned. The dogmatic claims (a) that the inheritance of acquired characteristics is impossible, (b) that all evolutionary change is incremental accumulation of ‘random’ mutations, (c) that the tree of life does not include lateral transfer to form a network of life, have quite clearly been disproven by experimental work. I can’t understand why neodarwinists cannot accept this. But we must also avoid the reverse dogma: the neo-darwinist view of evolutionary mechanisms has not been disproven. It has simply become one of several mechanisms of evolutionary change. A good summary of his standpoint.bw
June 26, 2013
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The way to go about this is to ask Nick. Ask Nick: 1. When did he write the review 2. When did he read Meyer's book, did he read 10%,20%, etc. 3. Did he start writing the review before he read Meyer's book 4. How did Nick get a copy of the book and go from there. I will point out this innocent question causes critics to squirm. I pulled this off at ARN years ago when I asked if the critics at ARN read Design Inference. Jack Krebs could not volunteer a simple yes or no since it showed he was criticizing Dembki's works without even reading them.scordova
June 26, 2013
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OK, Sal, thanks.Elizabeth B Liddle
June 26, 2013
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Doesn’t this qualify somehow as “backstabbing”?
No, probably more like kicking him in the... And more from Dawkins on Matzke:
Thank you, Larry, for confirming my suspicion that Roger Stanyard, like Nick Matzke, makes stuff up to suit his agenda. Richard Dawkins Comment: A Bright Spot
scordova
June 26, 2013
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Mike Gene came to Nick's defense. It shows the whole episode reflects poorly on both Dawkins and Matzke: http://telicthoughts.com/speech-vs-religion-and-culture/#comment-267289scordova
June 26, 2013
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Sal, I just read your comment from Mach 2012. Your last sentences, addressed to Nick Matzke, were:
Nick, You’re welcome to hang out with us here Nick. We may argue, but we won’t treat you like those “friends” of yours who stabbed you in the back publicly. Thanks for visiting. I mean that.
How does this square with repeating Richard Dawkins's comment (from 2011 or earlier) without any context in this section? Doesn't this qualify somehow as "backstabbing"?DiEb
June 26, 2013
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Elizabeth, Dawkins said those words in the thread: http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2011/04/22/nazis-everywhere/ I don't know if the comment section is still alive. I couldn't get through anymore, but I recorded the comments here at UD 2 years ago since the Dawkins vs. Matzke battle was big news, and it was documented in several places. The juicy quote was from Nazi's Everywhere:
Nick Matzke is a deliberate, intentional, unrepentant liar. Richard Dawkins
https://uncommondescent.com/culture/matzke-is-a-liar/#comment-378315 But there is no question Dawkins called Matzke a liar, it is recorded on Coyne's website and Richard Dawkins website. Last but not least, you can ask Nick yourself if Dawkins said those things. :-)
[Matzke is] a nasty piece of work … Matzke has apparently made stuff up Jerry Coyne Another Tom Johnson
From Jerry Coyne's Website Dawkins says: http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2011/04/21/another-tom-johnson-did-dawkins-call-religious-people-nazis/#comment-95122
Nick Matzke is a liar.
Supposing Matzke isn't a liar, it really puts Dawkins Coyne and PZ Myers in bad light. Supposing Matzke is a liar, well... In either case, we have scientists behaving in intemperate ways and evidencing they are as fallible as everyone else. Another famous brawl at Panda's Thumb is documented here: Triumph of Reason over Rhetoric :-)scordova
June 26, 2013
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