Intelligent Design

More antics from PZ Myers?

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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.

excerpt:

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 Wells’s strategy: pick comments by developmental biologists referring to different stages, which say very different things about the similarity of embryos, and conflate them. It’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 “gastrula”, 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.

Myers continues:

Here’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 “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.” (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 stage—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. Here’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 “gastrulas” 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. It’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 “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.”

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.)

74 Replies to “More antics from PZ Myers?

  1. 1
    jwrennie says:

    Is it really a surprise ? I wonder if PZ actually thinks what he is doing is reasonable ?

  2. 2
    jpark320 says:

    Gosh, that can’t help anybody. I’d hate to admit, but I do like reading and listening to the opposition, b/c it strengthens and challenges own beliefs. But if they are using mere fabrications, no good, no good.

  3. 3
    shaner74 says:

    If I were forced to live on a desert island with either P.Z. Myers or Richard Dawkins, I would choose Dawkins in a heartbeat. Everything I’ve seen or read by P.Z. has been suspect at best, and at worst vulgar, mean spirited, bigoted, and outright contemptuous – certainly not the type of character that befits a scientist in the public arena. I would expect him to be lying.

  4. 4
    Joseph says:

    Even evolved liars are still liars.

  5. 5
    Doug says:

    “Is it really a surprise ? I wonder if PZ actually thinks what he is doing is reasonable ? ”

    Good point. But, it’s frustrating to see the minions at Phar & PT that back everything PZ says; and will defend with tooth and nail his honor and credibility. Then they have the nerve to call anyone, even in slight dissent, irrational.

  6. 6
    DonaldM says:

    Doug

    Good point. But, it’s frustrating to see the minions at Phar & PT that back everything PZ says; and will defend with tooth and nail his honor and credibility. Then they have the nerve to call anyone, even in slight dissent, irrational.

    You have to understand the rules of the game, Doug. Rule #1 among Darwinists, especially those at PT, is: never, ever concede a point, no matter how valid, to someone deemed a ‘creationist'(whatever the definition du jour of that term might be). Thus, PZ or any of the others can misquote, misrepresent to their hearts content knowing full well that none of their own will ever call them on it. But let a Darwin doubter even commit a typo and their all over it like a pack of jackals, whooping and hollerin’ “see what dishonest liars these creationists or IDers are!! See, we told ya, we told ya!!” Then, when someone painstakingly takes the time to point the obvious errors in their characterization of some IDP’s actual argument, they resort to the usual argumentum ad hominem, and never, ever admit error or misunderstanding, because rule #2 is: only’creationists’ and IDP’s are capable of error and misunderstanding an argument.

    The Panda’s Thumb should be re-named “The Straw Man”, (or maybe “The Straw Panda?”) because, in the end, that is mostly what it is.

  7. 7
    todd says:

    I’m kind of fond of “The Panda’s Dung”…

  8. 8
    Smidlee says:

    This says a lot of Wells’ book where the opposition has to make stuff up in order to attack his book.

  9. 9
    todd says:

    Smidlee, they pull it out of their … see #6

  10. 10
    HodorH says:

    Sal, why was the comment linking to Myers’s response deleted? It seems the best way to get to the truth of the matter would be to get all the information. If links to foul-mouthed christian haters are not allowed no matter what the situation, I think it would at least be appropriate to note that the accusation that Myers “changed Wells’s wording” isn’t exactly accurate.

  11. 11

    Apparently the comment linking to Myers’s response was deleted because it was “inconvenient” – in other words, it showed that McGraw’s allegations are entirely without merit, and that Myers’s original statements were, in fact, exactly as he represented them.
    Why is it so difficult to admit this?

  12. 12
    Patrick says:

    Sal, you should have double-checked Tim McGrew:

    Oops

  13. 13
    scordova says:

    Patrick,

    I posted it for discussion, I want the readers to decide and argue amonst themselves and provide data and links or whatever.

    What is at issue is not what Ballard said, but Myers quotaion of Wells.

    Sal

  14. 14
    todd says:

    Well, I stand rebuked and chagrined. PZ Myers defends himself on his website well, I look to the original blog to see the author’s response and see nothing as of yet.

    I wonder though, given the quoted text from pp30-31 if Myers, rather than lying, is just guilty of miscontextualizing the standout graphic. If the quote box from pp.35 is meant to highlight what was already presented on pp.30-31, then Myers is wrong that Wells lied and McGraw is wrong that Myers lied. He simply missed that the quote was reviewing material covered a few pages earlier.

  15. 15
    scordova says:

    Apparently the comment linking to Myers’s response was deleted because it was “inconvenient” – in other words, it showed that McGraw’s allegations are entirely without merit,

    Allen,

    That is not accurate, my post was at 3am, Myers is at 10am. How the heck can I post a link to something that didn’t exist yet?

    But for what it’s worth:

    PZ Myers is such a LIAR!

    Sal

  16. 16
    todd says:

    Your link is garbled, sal.

  17. 17

    Sal, what Myers did was to point out, with page references and quotations, exactly how Wells had distorted Ballard’s quotation. Anyone looking at the page from Wells’s book (pg. 35) can see that Myers’s version of the quote is right there in plain sight. And anyone reading the text can see that Wells’s distorted the meaning of Ballard’s quote for his own purposes.

    I think it would be better if, rather than trying to distort the published writings of evolutionary biologists, Wells published the results of his own research. That’s where real science happens: in the field and the lab, with real data and statistical analysis that anyone can review and criticize. Distortion of the works of others, no matter who does it, isn’t science, it’s politics, pure and simple.

  18. 18
    franky172 says:

    I was the person that posted the original link to PZ’s comments. It now appears as though Im out on the street as far as UD goes. That’s unfortunate. I always appreciated the conversations I’ve had here, and I don’t think I was ever out of line.

    bye.

  19. 19
    Patrick says:

    Yes, apparently Tim McGrew was focusing on the text contained within page 31 (I don’t own the book myself so I’m going on people’s word that it’s actually there in page 31). I would imagine that the editor of the book “probably” shortened the quotation in order to fit into the highlight box. So in this case Myers is simply “making a mountain out of a molehill”.

  20. 20
    todd says:

    I’d like to see screen caps of pp.30-31

  21. 21
    scordova says:

    Allen,

    See my corrected post in response to you above. There is no way I deleted myers response, since, well it wasn’t even posted until after I made this entry.

    Or if Hodor was referring to the original PT post, the readers can access it easily by following McGrew’s links.

    What is at issue is page 30-31, not page 35. Myers is omitting the fact he ignored what Wells actually wrote on page 31 as McGrew pointed out.

    The issue is whether Myers misrepresented the clear intent of what Wells was writing by omitting what Wells wrote on page 31.

  22. 22
    DaveScot says:

    It appears that Myers was quote mining a quote mining.

    If this is an accurate scan

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyn.....gdig35.gif

    of page 35 (and I presume it is) Myers evidently cherry picked this box quote and ignored the text on pp. 30-31 where Wells included the gastrula stage clarification that Myers objects to as being left out.

    Clearly Wells wasn’t trying to hide anything as the gastrula is explicitely mentioned in the text of the book. The box quote uses “early embryo stages of vertebrates” instead of “the cleavage and gastrulation stages of vertebrates” as is used in the text.

    So now we need to look at whether or not “early embryo stage” is a fair phrase to use in describing cleavage and gastrulation stages.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gastrulation

    Gastrulation is a phase early in the development of animal embryos

    The answer: yes it is entirely accurate to refer to gastrulation as an early embyro phase.

    So now we ask ourselves why the big box quote might use a different phrase.

    Everyone raise their hand who doesn’t have to rush to a biology textbook to have a clue what an “early embryo stage” is.

    Now everyone raise their hand who immediately knows what “cleavage and gastrulation” is.

    Wells simply used a fair and more widely understood phrase in a big bold text box to highlight an important point and he put the more obscure but clinically accurate biology language in the text.

    Myers probably shouldn’t be a teacher if doesn’t get that. Of course we all knew that already.

  23. 23
    HodorH says:

    No, I was referring to a comment by someone named Franky, I think. Perhaps he can verify that he posted a link to Myers’s response. Maybe it was a different moderator that deleted his comment.

  24. 24
    rrf says:

    The editor of the book shortened the quote in order to make it fit? That seems to be a fairly weak explanation or the hallmark of a poor editor since it managed to completely distort the meaning of the quote.

  25. 25
    Patrick says:

    I’ve been deleting snarky comments ever since this page was posted but I don’t remember zapping anything by franky172 (I even let in his latest comment; see #18).

    Sal, I forget, do you even have mod capabilities?

  26. 26
    DaveScot says:

    I pulled the link Franky left to Myers’ response, not Sal, and then temporarily banned Franky while I sorted the mess out. Franky’s on the moderation list not the banned list and is free to comment here subject to moderator approval. Myers won’t let me put links to our blog on his so it’s only fair that I snuff his here. I made an exception just to get the page scan from Wells’ book and left out all Myers’ vile diatribe that went with it.

  27. 27
    franky172 says:

    Obviously I didn’t know the politics of the Pharyngula/UD link situation – if I had, I wouldn’t have posted the link in the first place.

    Apologies.

  28. 28
    steveh says:

    Apparently the comment linking to Myers’s response was deleted because it was “inconvenient” – in other words, it showed that McGraw’s allegations are entirely without merit,

    Allen,

    That is not accurate, I cut and pasted things, links die in the process. Any of the readers and commenters can post links to amend the situation.

    He’s refering to comment 9 by franky172 which has been removed.

    9. franky172 // Nov 3rd 2006 at 10:38 am

    PZ has a different take on the issue. Ignoring his foul language, it does seem he has a valid point…

    http://sc… (link removed in keeping with daveScot’s policy)

    Comment by franky172 — November 3, 2006 @ 10:38 am

    Incidentally franky172, can you point out where PZ Myers uses “foul language” in that link?

    Then, when someone painstakingly takes the time to point the obvious errors in their characterization of some IDP’s actual argument, they resort to the usual argumentum ad hominem, and never, ever admit error or misunderstanding, because rule #2 is: only’creationists’ and IDP’s are capable of error and misunderstanding an argument.

    It will be interesting to see if anyone can admit the mistake without accompanying snipes at PZ.

  29. 29
    Patrick says:

    It will be interesting to see if anyone can admit the mistake without accompanying snipes at PZ.

    I thought I did just that, picture and all…

  30. 30
    steveh says:

    Oops, my attempt at nested block quotes did not work. Everything up to “He’s referring” is quoted from Sal.

  31. 31
    steveh says:

    Patrick, you are right. I apologise.

  32. 32
    scordova says:

    Apparently there was some question about links or whatever being deleted.

    I did not realize a link or post had been deleted by another mod. I think DaveScot explained.

    For the record, I officially accused Myers of nothing. I merely reported on an analysis by a professor and invited readers to decide the accuracy of the analysis. I was curious to see what would transpire.

    If Myers accuses me of this or that, well, I was just reporting what someone else said. The comment section is to help us discuss and figure out and decide for ourselves the accuracy of the analysis.

  33. 33
    DaveScot says:

    I did also take into consideration Franky’s saying the link included foul language. Foul language isn’t allowed on this blog and that would include links to foul language. I didn’t fisk Myers’ post for it but knowing Myers I figured it was probably true.

  34. 34
    Chris Hyland says:

    You can argue whether or not Wells changing the quote to say early stages is a problem, or whether criticism of the change is fair. But the quoted post claims that Myers deliberately altered a quote from Wells’ book, which is false. It doesn’t take Myers to task for only quoting page 35 and leaving page 31, it actually says he altered the quote from page 31 to make it look like Wells is lying.

    “The answer, yes it is entirely accurate to refer to gastrulation as an early embyro phase.”

    I agree, but it is not accurate the refer to gastrulation as ”the early embryo stages”. Depending on what you define as early stages, you can argue about the amount of difference, but Ballard is specifically referring to the gastrula stage.

  35. 35
    todd says:

    It seems many on both sides here jumped the gun. How ironic today is Cliche Day!

  36. 36
    DaveScot says:

    Hey Allen,

    Did you bone up on astrobiology yet? Maybe we can have a rational conversation about the definition of living things from an astrobiology POV if you did. Let me know when you catch up with me.

  37. 37
    Patrick says:

    “The answer, yes it is entirely accurate to refer to gastrulation as an early embyro phase.”

    I agree, but it is not accurate the refer to gastrulation as ‘’the early embryo stages”.

    I just find it funny that argument has now come down to arguing over the usage of “stage” or “phase”. Both words are right next to each other in the Thesaurus… 🙂

  38. 38
    HodorH says:

    Patrick, I think the quibble is the usage of “an early” vs. “the early.”

  39. 39
    DaveScot says:

    Chris

    Ballard was actually referring to the cleavage and gastrulation stages. Both are early embyro stages so the plural is still correct.

  40. 40
    franky172 says:

    steveh
    Incidentally franky172, can you point out where PZ Myers uses “foul language” in that link?

    On second reading there isn’t much foul language in this post of PZ Meyer’s. I was under the impression that the comments at the bottom were fouler than a second reading indicates as well.

    My real reason for including the “foul language” claim was to prevent people from UD from unsuspectingly running into bad language at another blog. I personally swear like it’s going out of style when I’m not on UD, but I thought a pre-emptive warning might be good for the sensibilities of some here.

  41. 41
    scordova says:

    Allen and HodorH,

    I think DaveScot cleared up some of the confusion regarding the deleted link. I provided it again in one of my posts, but if he chooses to delete it again, I respect his reasons. I was unware of the evolution the very thread I started, and I’m sorry to have added to the confusion. I hope DaveScot’s remarks clarify what actually happened.

    Regarding, page 30-31, in my autographed copy of Well’s book:

    page 30:

    According to British embryologist Lewis Wolpert, “it is not birth, marriage, or death, but gastrulation which is truly ‘ the important event in your life’.”

    Yet only after cleavage and gastrulation does a vertebrate embryo reach the stage that Haeckel labeled the “first”. If it were true (as Darwin and Haeckel claimed) that vertebrates are most similar in their earliest stages, then the various classes would be most similar during cleavage and gastrulation….

    Modern embryologists confirm this. 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 adults”.

    (bolding mne)

    this seems consistent with McGrew’s quote as far as I can see.

  42. 42
    scordova says:

    The charge by Myers is :

    It’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 “gastrula”, and pretend it applies to the pharyngula stage.

    (bolding mine)

    That charge is hard to sustain at least for pages 30-31. The word, gastrulation is used at least 3 times, that hardly constitutes an omission. Why then does Myers accuse Wells of omitting the word “gastrula” and then not quote the very pages wells uses the word, gastrula?

    PZ, if you’re reading this, you are invited to explain. Of course “gastrulation” is not exactly the same as the word “gastrula” but it points to the same concept presume.

  43. 43
    Smidlee says:

    The most powerful lies are those made by true statements. In scriptures, satan often use this type of lying.
    In the box it also states “When the evidence is againest you, find a Darwinist for a lawyer.” But I really don’t think this book is suggesting when someone needs a real lawyer then get someone like Myers.
    The question still remains did Wells’ try to deceive by making true statements as well did Myers himself tried the same. Tim Mcgrew did show where Wells honestly point out exactly what William Balled meant which leaves Myers (including Tim)quote misleading. Of course Both Myers and Mcgrew could have incidentally overlook some statements in the book.

    This is what makes “lying” by making true statement so clever. Like buying a car from a used car salemen where you really don’t know if he lying or just doesn’t know the car was a lemon.

  44. 44
    scordova says:

    Allen wrote:

    Sal, what Myers did was to point out, with page references and quotations, exactly how Wells had distorted Ballard’s quotation.

    Allen, I’m not sure that squares with what Wells wrote on pages 30-31. Myers asserts:

    It’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 “gastrula”, and pretend it applies to the pharyngula stage.

    I find the charge hard to accept that Wells pretends a quote is about the pharyngula stage when Wells uses the word “gastrulation” 3 times. In fact, I find it hard to accept Myers claim that Wells omits the word (or really concept tied to) “gastrula”, when Wells uses “gastrulation” 3 times.

    By the way, I am appreciative of your visits here. I welcome your criticisms of whatever I write.

  45. 45
    DonaldM says:

    The bottom line is that PZ got caught red-handed and instead of fessin’ up and making an apology, he exacerbates the situation with more mis-representation. See Rule #1 in post #6 above.
    It applies every time!!

  46. 46
    scordova says:

    I think PZ did a nice misdirection in his response to this thread. It fooled a lot of people, imho. He framed the issue as one thing, with lots of page scans and ranting, when in fact the real issue was his claim:

    It’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 “gastrula”, and pretend it applies to the pharyngula stage.

    I haven’t seen him address the real issue.

    🙂

  47. 47
    scordova says:

    In the interest of fair reporting, I would like to quote PZ himself from the title of his response to me:

    PZ Myers is such a LIAR!

    –PZ Myers

    I can neither confirm nor deny the veracity of PZ’s title. I merely report what he said.

  48. 48
    franky172 says:

    Sal wrote:

    I think PZ did a nice misdirection in his response to this thread.

    I disagree. Regardless of whether or not PZ was correct in his assessment of Wells’ claims, the article under consideration states:

    Myers is lying through his teeth. Literally. He is actually that dishonest.

    and

    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.

    The author goes on:
    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. (emphasis added).

    The claim, then, is that the quote as PZ Meyers presented it is not in Wells’ text. In fact, we agree that the quote in question appears in a bolded box and is taken directly from the text of the book.

    In fact, McGrew goes on to tacitly admit that the quote in question as presented in Meyer’s critique is “critically different” from a good reading of the book:

    “attributing to him in direct quotation something that is critically different from what Wells actually said”

    Whether the quote says what either McGrew or Meyer’s believes it to say, in or out of context, seems immaterial to the charge that Meyer’s *deliberately falsified a quote from the book*. Which appears to be the charge levied by McGrew.

  49. 49
    Scott says:

    @ #46 …in the end it seems to me that PZ committed a classic Straw Man. Some sleight of hand on his part.

  50. 50
    DonaldM says:

    Sal:

    I haven’t seen him address the real issue.

    And you won’t because of rule #2 in post #6 above.
    Rule #3 (for Darwinists)is: If you’re caught in an error or misrepresentation of fact, rant, rave and call your opponents all sorts of names, and toss out a red-herring or two.

  51. 51
    todd says:

    Problems of gastrulation: real and verbal,” BioScience 26 (1976), William W. Ballard. Subscription may be needed.

  52. 52
    Jehu says:

    Myers whole point was the Wells was trying to mislead people into thinking there was no morphological similarities between embryos at the pharyngula stage. I believe this is a completely false and fabricated premise.
    In fact, correct me if I am wrong, doesn’t Wells use the same “hour glass” graphic in his Icons of Evolution that Myers uses on PT? I gave away my copy of Icons of Evolution so I can’t check it but if anybody has it could you confirm that?

  53. 53
    scordova says:

    PZ still hasn’t answered my question on his website, and I posed it there.

    How can he claim Wells is pretending the quote by Ballard is about the pharyngula stage when the Wells used the word gastrulation. PZ has ignored the question already once.

    I remind the readers and PZ what PZ accuses Wells of doing. What Wells did according to PZ was to:

    pluck out a statement about the diversity at the gastrula stage, omit the word “gastrula”, and pretend it applies to the pharyngula stage.

    So my question again to PZ. How can someone use the word gastrulation 3 times and still be accused of omitting the word gastrula and pretend it is “pharyngula”?

    🙂

  54. 54
    scordova says:

    For the readers benefit, Myers has posted the relevant pages on his website including parts of 30-31, with the hourglass picture.

    The issue remains, how can he accuse Wells of omitting the word “gastrula” (or the concept thereof) when Wells uses the word “gastrulation” 3 times and not pharyngula????

  55. 55
    Jehu says:

    Allan McNeil,

    Sal, what Myers did was to point out, with page references and quotations, exactly how Wells had distorted Ballard’s quotation. Anyone looking at the page from Wells’s book (pg. 35) can see that Myers’s version of the quote is right there in plain sight. And anyone reading the text can see that Wells’s distorted the meaning of Ballard’s quote for his own purposes.

    That is false. Myers’ allegation was that Wells was trying to mislead readers into believing that the quote from Ballard refers to the pharyngula stage and not the gastrula stage. Wells never claimed the Ballard quote referred to the pharyngula stage, on page 31 Wells specifically states that it refers to the gastrula stage, which is in fact “an early embryo stage.”

    Modern embryologists confirm this. 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 adults”.

  56. 56
    todd says:

    From the paper I just linked (emphasis mine):

    “Thus, the energy of investigators and particularly students is diverted into the essentially fruitless 19th century activity of bending the facts of nature to support second-rate generalities of no predictive value. Though enthusiasm for Haeckel’s (1900) recapitulation ‘law’ died out, unfortunately the popularity of Von Baer’s ‘laws’ of 1828 was renewed. In order to defend the latter’s descriptive statements that general characters appear before special characters as an egg develops and that the less general and finally the specific characters trail along later, we have to decide intuitively that certain characters are of ‘morphological significance’ and others are not. When referring to vertebrates, we have to use words like blastula and gastrula in such a way as to imply that things that are vastly different from each other are really very much the same.

    In fact, the most obvious structural characteristics of either the eggs or the cleavage stages of a shark, a salmon, a frog, a bird, or a mammal are unique each to its own class, not generally shared. We would not consider them very much alike unless we had been taught so at a very early age. Very few vertebrates pass through a stage which can strictly be called a blastula. The embryo in its period of most active morphogenetic movements is usually called a gastrula, but as all agree this word has no morphologic meaning anymore. Each class of vertebrates (in mammals we might almost say each particular order) develops and then loses its own set of temporary structures – like the parade ground ‘formations of maneuver’ – during this period. The plain fact is that evolutionary divergence has taken place at every stage in the life history, the earliest no less than the latest. To bolster the partial truths in Von Baer’s generalities by insisting that the eggs of vertebrates are more like one another than their ‘blastulas,’ the blastulas more like one another than their ‘gastrulas,’ and to homologize all theoretical ‘functional blastopores’ where ‘invagination’ is taking place would be running the risk of assuming what is not yet demonstrate – that the genetic physiologic, and cell-behavior processes going on are the same in time and nature.”

  57. 57
    scordova says:

    Can someone cut an paste and provide a link to Myers explanation of how he can accusse Wells of omitting the word “gastrula” (or the concept thereof) when Wells uses the word gastrulation 3 times and not pharyngula?

    I’m having a hard time finding where Myers explains this. He’s an honest guy after all, so it must be that I just missed his honest explanation. Will someone please help me exonerate Myers from suspicion, please. I want him to be upheld for the good upstanding citizen that he is, and it pains me that there is this cloud hanging over him. So help me out.

  58. 58
    Jehu says:

    PZ Myers’ obfuscation and distortion is stunning. His defense is becoming more twisted and confused. Wells never denies the similarities of the pharyngula stage. Here is what Wells writes on page 31

    So vertebrate embryos start out looking very different, then they become somewhat similar midway through development (though not as similar as Haeckel made them out to be) before diverging again. Embryologists call this pattern the “developmental hourglass”

    Wells is not trying to hide the pharyngula stage, and if you think about what is going on, there is no reason to. The apparent similarities of the pharyngula stage are not probative to the issue of evolution. Yet evolutionists like Myers hang their hat on the pharyngula stage, claiming that because embryos at that stage show some similarity, Wells’ point that early stage embryos are radically different is not valid? Myers is wrong and his accusations are without merit.

  59. 59
    Jehu says:

    Sal,

    Can someone cut an paste and provide a link to Myers explanation of how he can accusse Wells of omitting the word “gastrula” (or the concept thereof) when Wells uses the word gastrulation 3 times and not pharyngula?

    Well, this is as close as it gets. http://scienceblogs.com/pharyn.....r.php#more

    PZ just ignores the fact that the quote on page 35 is accurate because the gastrula stage is in fact an “early embryo stage.” Wells never tries to make it look like he is refering to the pharyngula stage.

  60. 60
    scordova says:

    Jehu thank you.

    It is a apparent Myers fails to connect with what Wells wrote 4 pages earlier on pages 30 and 31 where Wells was more elaborate in saying the discussion was of the gastrula stage.

    The fact that reference to “gastrula” was not repeated was used by Myers to accuse Wells of omission, when in fact, Wells was simply being non-redundant since he had already used the word “gastrulation” 3 times on pages 30-31 in connection with the Ballard’s work.

    Myers is misguided then to think Wells was talking of the Pharyngula stage since it is clear Wells was talking about the Gastrula stage.

    Thus I think, Myers misinterprets the situation. Myer’s is not dishonest after all, just had a moment of clouded distorted sloppy biased thinking.

    PZ opines:

    It’s a classic quote mine. Wells has edited the quote to suit his ends, and has also utterly ignored the sense of the paper, which directly contradicts his claims, to produce a grand lie and tie it to the reputation of a distinguished senior scientist.

    I could stop here. With that one example, Wells is exposed as a disreputable scoundrel, a sloppy ideologue whose “scholarship” is untrustworthy and willfully distorted. You simply cannot believe one word he says. I will go on a little further, though, and try to explain some of the ideas he has treated so shabbily.

    Hey, PZ, Wells was talking gastrula stage not pharyngula. Wells has described with material accuracy what Ballard was saying. Wells did afterall use the word “gastrulation” 3 times, not pharyngula.

    What PZ pointed out was Ballard’s full quote:

    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 “gastrulas” of shark, salmon, frog, and bird are more alike than their adults.

    Within “a single taxonomic class” they are more alike. The suggestion is beyond the same single taxonomic class they are not in general alike. I think Wells has accurately portrayed what Ballard wrote. Myers has not accurately portrayed what Wells wrote.

  61. 61
    Jehu says:

    Another PZ Myers lie?

    To add to what Sal just posted. Here is what PZ says on his blog, discussing Wells’ book:

    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.

    Really? Ballard does not support Sedgwicks statement? Well, from the quote of Ballard’s paper that Todd posted, this is what Ballard says,

    In fact, the most obvious structural characteristics of either the eggs or the cleavage stages of a shark, a salmon, a frog, a bird, or a mammal are unique each to its own class, not generally shared. We would not consider them very much alike unless we had been taught so at a very early age. Very few vertebrates pass through a stage which can strictly be called a blastula. The embryo in its period of most active morphogenetic movements is usually called a gastrula, but as all agree this word has no morphologic meaning anymore. Each class of vertebrates (in mammals we might almost say each particular order) develops and then loses its own set of temporary structures – like the parade ground ‘formations of maneuver’ – during this period. The plain fact is that evolutionary divergence has taken place at every stage in the life history, the earliest no less than the latest. To bolster the partial truths in Von Baer’s generalities by insisting that the eggs of vertebrates are more like one another than their ‘blastulas,’ the blastulas more like one another than their ‘gastrulas,’ and to homologize all theoretical ‘functional blastopores’ where ‘invagination’ is taking place would be running the risk of assuming what is not yet demonstrate – that the genetic physiologic, and cell-behavior processes going on are the same in time and nature.”

    Notice how PZ doesn’t actually quote from the Ballard article, he just rambles on about the pharyngula stage.

  62. 62
    scordova says:

    To assit the reader in seeing what’s going on here are the stages, for example, here are zebra fish development stagesZebrafish development. [I believe “h” stands for the number of hours]

    Cleavage Period (0.7- 2.2 h)

    Blastula Period (2 1/4 – 5 1/4 h)

    Gastrula Period (5 1/4 – 10 h)

    Segmentation Period (10-24 h)

    Pharyngula Period (24-48 h)

    Hatching Period (48-72 h)

    Early Larval Period

    PZ wrote in his PIG response:

    to me, for instance, anything before the pharyngula stage is early

    –PZ Myers

    Well the gastrula stage is before the pharyngula stage. So let’s revist Well’s rendering of Ballard:

    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.”

    Wells gives a plain English way of remembering the more technical rendering by Ballard

    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 “gastrulas” of shark, salmon, frog, and bird are more alike than their adults.

    So, PZ admists “before the pharyngula stage” = “early”

    Wells uses the phrase the early embryo stages. What’s the problem? PZ mischaracterizes what Wells said. Obfuscation and distortion.

  63. 63
    DonaldM says:

    Ironically, Myers writes in the original post at PT that is the source of this brouhaha, just after he accuses Wells of deliberate deception:

    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

    Methinks he dost protest too much!

  64. 64
    Jehu says:

    My mistake, PZ does quote from Ballard, but it is so short that if you blink you miss it.

    “the pharyngula stage…is remarkably uniform throughout the subphylum.”

    Well, here is another quote about the pharyngula stage from Ballard’s Comparative Anatomy and Embryology (1964, p. 69)

    Some of these actual pharyngulas have a tailfin and some do not. Those which are tetrapods have lung buds, the fish pharyngulas lack them. They all have a liver, to mention an organ at random, but the livers of fishes, birds and mammals are interestingly different in detail even at the pharyngula stage. Arteries can be compared easily but there is little uniformity in the veins. Most conspicuously, the circumstances and needs for respiration, nutrition, and excretion at this stage have been met by a good many structures of a temporary nature, aptly referred to as scaffolding tissues, which are in bold contrast in the different classes of vertebrates.

  65. 65
    scordova says:

    So the question remains regarding Myers claim:

    pluck out a statement about the diversity at the gastrula stage, omit the word “gastrula”, and pretend it applies to the pharyngula stage.

    How in the heck did Wells pretend that what was being discussed was the pharyngula stage? He used the phrase “early embryo stage” and on pages 30-31 we know Wells was referring to the gastrula stage as one of the early stages. Myers is not accurately representing Wells.

    Myers then takes this misrepresentation and uses it to claim Wells lied.

    Myers could of course clear things up and explain how it is that Wells is pretending Ballard’s comments about diversity apply to the pharyngula stage.

  66. 66
    todd says:

    Here is the entire ballard paper

    Page 1, Page 2, Page 3, Page 4

  67. 67
    todd says:

    Here is the entire ballard paper

    Page 1, Page 2, Page 3, Page 4

    You have to remove the UD URL to get to the images.

  68. 68
  69. 69
    todd says:

    s89651507.onlinehome.us/Ballard1.gif
    s89651507.onlinehome.us/Ballard2.gif
    s89651507.onlinehome.us/Ballard3.gif
    s89651507.onlinehome.us/Ballard4.gif

  70. 70
    Jehu says:

    And what about the pharyngula stage?

    Are embryos really that similar at that stage?

    Is there a highly conserved developmental stage across the subphyla?

    Whether there is or isn’t Wells doesn’t worry about it because he knows it is not material, he shows the same hourglass figure in his book that PZ uses on PT. But Wells may giving too much credit to this hourglass idea. As PZ himself points out:

    There is a fair amount of debate in the evo-devo community about the reality of the developmental hourglass, … serious embryology (none of which seems to be done by “intelligent design” proponents) demonstrates that there is a significant amount of variation within the phylotypic period.

    So for all the yelling about the pharyngula stage, it is all smoke and mirrors.

  71. 71
    scordova says:

    Todd,

    Thank you so much for you help in linking to the papers for our scholarly study.

    Hey, what did you think of PZ weblog. Aren’t they the most congenial people in the world (note the sarcasm)?

    Sal

  72. 72
    scordova says:

    in the interest of fair reporting, Tim McGrew had this to say:

    The “well-he-is-still-misusing-Ballard” charge is a separate one, and we can consider that independently. But it wasn’t the original charge Myers made. And the original charge was false and arose from careless reading of the call-outs without looking at the text, just as my original charge of outright fabrication was careless and arose from my reading of the text actually written by Wells rather than of the callouts written by some editor. Both charges, it now appears, were simply false. I’ve apologized to PZ. But PZ needs to apologize to Wells.

    Sooooo….how about it PZ, are you going to apologize to Dr. Wells or will you maintain the following misrepresentation where you Claim what Wells did to Ballard statement was to:

    pretend it applies to the pharyngula stage.

    I see little to no evidence to support that claim, in fact, quite the opposite since Wells used the word “gastrulation” 3 times on pages 30-31. Given you used that misrepresentation to call Wells a liar, I think a retraction on your part with an apology is in order.

  73. 73
    todd says:

    Sal, thanks for your support. Is it true you have a blender just for puppies? The howlers over at PZ’s place said so…

  74. 74
    DonaldM says:

    Speaking of “howlers”, Nick Matzke, the Minister of Disinformation over at the National Coaliation for the Saving of Evolution, has weighed in at “The Panda’s Thumb” with this version of today’s events:

    This morning, the ID guys were embarrassed – once again – when it was revealed that they didn’t know what they were talking about when they accused PZ Myers of lying by misquoting Wells in PIGDID. PZ dealt with this pretty darn convincingly over here.

    There you have it, folks, PZ has “convincingly” dealt with all of us silly “creationists” once again.

    Geesh! What a joke. This is even beneath Matzke’s usual standards of misinformation!!

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