After interacting with Nick Matzke on several different topics over the last few days, I feel like I know how Peter Venkman felt here (starting at 0:40).
Let me explain:
1. In this post Matzke accused of me of being “incompetent or dishonest” and “ignorantly, uncomprehendingly” quote mining Niles Eldredge for the proposition that “change in the manner Darwin expected is just not found in the fossil record.”
I proceeded to show that I quoted Eldredge accurately and in context exactly for the proposition I was advancing and requested Matzke to apologize for his boorish accusations. Instead of doing the right thing, Nick went into full Darwinist spin mode. He evaded and tried to change the subject. He never owned up to, much less apologized for, his false accusation.
2. In this post I quoted Matzke himself for the proposition that “phylogenetic methods as they exist now can only rigorously detect sister-group relationships, not direct ancestry.”
I then noted David Berlinski had shown as a matter of pure logic that calling species “sisters” is meaningless if cladistic analysis cannot show they were related through a common ancestor. Therefore, according to Berlinski, “to the extent that the theory of evolution relies on phylogenetic systematics, the disciplines resemble two biologists dropped from a great height and clutching at one another in mid-air. Tight fit, major fail.”
Almost immediately Nick jumped in with one of his famous literature bluffs and asked why Berlinski had failed to refute the papers he cited. I responded by pointing out to Nick that he did not seem to understand the argument Berlinski was making that followed logically from Matzke’s own statement, which was this:
Major Premise: In order to support common descent, a method of investigation would need to be capable of detecting direct ancestry.
Minor Premise: The minor premise is Nick’s own assertion: “Phylogenetic methods as they exist now can only rigorously detect sister-group relationships, not direct ancestry.”
Conclusion: Phylogenetic methods as they exist now do not support common descent in any rigorous way.
Then I asked Nick this question: “Do any of those papers purport to suspend the basic laws of logic? If so, please give me a summary of how they do that.”
Once again, Matzke went into full Darwinist spin mode. He tried to change the subject and, tellingly, said that he would refuse to respond further unless I engaged with him on the new subject instead of the one posed in the OP.
3. Finally, in this post I took TSK and antievolution.org to task for their false accusation that I had fabricated the Eldredge quote discussed above. Of course I did not fabricate the quote as even they were later forced to admit.
Incredibly, Matzke gratuitously jumped in and tried to defend their antics. So I asked Nick this question: If, as you say, what was done to me was OK, does that mean it is OK for me to go around the Internet doing it to you? If the answer is “yes” I will proceed to do so. If the answer is “no” then why the hell are you trying to defend it boy?
I asked a form of this question for the first time on Friday evening and I have asked it again and again since then. Since Friday evening Nick has posted eight more comments in the combox, but he has steadfastly refused to answer my simple question. Once again, he has gone into full Darwinist spin mode and tried to change the subject.
In summary, on three separate occasions in the last several days I have beaten Matzke like a rented mule. And each time Nick has responded by trying to be slippery, but instead of slippery he has come off as merely slimy.
Why do I highlight Matzke’s antics? For this reason. Nick takes great delight in lording his expertise in the nuts and bolts of biology over the rest of us, and I will be the first to admit that Nick’s expertise in that field far exceeds my lay understanding. I am not a biologist. I am, however, a lawyer, and when it comes to argument that has its advantages. As Phillip Johnson has noted, a lawyer is trained to detect logical fallacies, bad arguments, empty rhetoric disguised as evidence and other “spin” tactics and expose them for what they are.
I can expose Matzke when he uses circular reasoning. I can expose Matzke when he makes appeals to irrelevant authority (i.e., the “literature bluff,” perhaps Nick’s favorite tactic). I can expose Matzke when he evades, spins, distracts and distorts.
Why is it important to expose Matzke’s tactics on issues that are arguably beside the point with respect to the Darwinism/ID debate? Because a leopard does not, we are reliably informed, change his spots. And if Matzke engages in these tactics on these side issues, you can be sure he does so on the main issues as well.
If Matzke is among the best and brightest on the other side, I am going to sleep well tonight.