You be the judge. I welcome commentary and contrary accounts as the comment by McGrew has not been independently confirmed. Here is what professor Tim McGrew had to say:
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.
This can be found in the comment section of My Denver Post Review of Two New Books on Darwinism and Intelligent Design by Douglas Groothuis.
Let’s start with Myers’s commentary leading up to what he presents as a quotation in which Wells quotes — according to Myers, misleadingly — the developmental biologist William Ballard. Myers’s own words are in italics.
This is the heart of WellsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s strategy: pick comments by developmental biologists referring to different stages, which say very different things about the similarity of embryos, and conflate them. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s easy to make it sound like scientists are willfully lying about the state of our knowledge when you can pluck out a statement about the diversity at the gastrula stage, omit the word Ã¢â‚¬Å“gastrulaÃ¢â‚¬Â, and pretend it applies to the pharyngula stage.
Literally. He is actually that dishonest.
Now this is a very serious charge. If Wells is deliberately misleading his readers about Ballard’s meaning, then his credibility is definitely severely damaged.
HereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s how Wells quotes William Ballard (a well known elder developmental biologist, who has done a lot of work on fish and is therefore familiar to me):
Myers then gives the following statement in a quote box, which I will reproduce here in bold:
It is Ã¢â‚¬Å“only by semantic tricks and subjective selection of evidence,Ã¢â‚¬Â by Ã¢â‚¬Å“bending the facts of nature,Ã¢â‚¬Â that one can argue that the early embryo stages of vertebrates Ã¢â‚¬Å“are more alike than their adults.Ã¢â‚¬Â (pp. 35)
Myers goes on, after the box:
Always be suspicious when you see partial phrases quoted and strung together by a creationist. Little alarm bells should be going off like mad in your head.
This is from a paper in which Ballard is advocating greater appreciation of the morphogenetic diversity of the gastrula stageÃ¢â‚¬â€that is, a very early event, one that is at the base of that hourglass, where developmental biologists have been saying for years that there is a great deal of phylogenetic diversity. HereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s what Ballard actually said:
Now we get another quote box, and again I’ll put the contents in bold:
Before the pharyngula stage we can only say that the embryos of different species within a single taxonomic class are more alike than their parents. Only by semantic tricks and subjective selection of evidence can we claim that Ã¢â‚¬Å“gastrulasÃ¢â‚¬Â of shark, salmon, frog, and bird are more alike than their adults. (Ballard WW (1976))
Myers winds up his complaint:
See what I mean? He has lifted a quote from a famous scientist that applies to the gastrula stage, stripped out the specific referents, and made it sound as if it applies to the pharyngula stage. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a simple game, one he repeats over and over in this chapter.
What is much more significant is that Myers has misquoted Wells — not simply selectively quoted him, but out and out misquoted him, attributing to him in direct quotation something that is critically different from what Wells actually said.
Here, for comparison, is what Myers says Wells says, and what Wells actually says:
Attributed to Wells by Myers:
It is Ã¢â‚¬Å“only by semantic tricks and subjective selection of evidence,Ã¢â‚¬Â by Ã¢â‚¬Å“bending the facts of nature,Ã¢â‚¬Â that one can argue that the early embryo stages of vertebrates Ã¢â‚¬Å“are more alike than their adults.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Wells’s actual words:
Dartmouth College biologist William Ballard wrote in 1976 that it is “only by semantic tricks and subjective selection of evidence,” by “bending the facts of nature,” that one can argue that the cleavage and gastrulation stages of vertebrates “are more alike than their adults.”
Wells’s actual wording supplies the very detail — that Ballard is referring to the cleavage and gastrulation stages — that Myers silently edits out of his quotation from Wells. Wells isn’t talking about the pharyngula stage. He never was. That is entirely Myers’s fabrication.
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.
This sort of thing just frosts me. John and others who frequent PT and Pharyngula should be warned that they cannot take what they see there at face value.
(HT: DonaldM at teleological.org)
(Update: the words “I welcome commentary and contrary accounts as the comment by McGrew has not been independently confirmed” were added 11/6/06 in deference to objections suggesting this posting was like a newspaper article. To clarify, weblogs are opportunities for competing accounts to be discussed.)