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Dec 01 2011

Hamza Tzortzis on the Intellectual Dishonesty of Professor Myers SHOCKING!

That’s what he titles his latest youtube video, anyway. I laughed, just like I laughed when Eric Hovind called to complain about the misinformation on my website. He also claims I “accept defeat”

Myers accepts defeat see below:

Myers changes his stance from Ireland, In Ireland Myers says the ‘Quran is Wrong’. After reviewing the iERA Research Paper he now believes its the Quran has ‘ very little opportunity for disproof, and they can be made to fit just about any reasonable observation.’

I am surprised to learn that I accepted defeat. Doesn’t he know I’m indomitable? Anyway, here’s the video where Tzortzis crushes me.

I will give him credit — he does link to my article debunking Islamic embryology, which is more than most creationists would do. But still, he’s got it all wrong.

During our encounter in Ireland, I pointed out that their specific claim of a discrete sequence of development in the embryo, from bones to muscles being added to bones, was false. In the article I wrote on Tzortzis’s strained exegesis of two verses from the Quran, I explained that you can’t make concrete claims about embryology from such a vague, cursory, and intentionally poetic source, such as those two verses. These are not incompatible arguments. The second point is not a softening of the views made in the first point.

If anything, Tzortzis has backed down. In Ireland, he and his friends were trying desperately to argue that Mohammed knew things that no man in his position could possibly have known without a divine source of information; my argument was that no, what’s in the Quran is very much in line with the knowledge of his day, derived from Aristotle and Galen. No miracles were required to write those two verses.

Now Tzortzis’s claim is greatly reduced; it is that the Quran does not “negate reality”, or does not make claims that contradict known science. That’s fine; as I said, it’s the most minuscule of verses saying the wobbliest things, and it’s derived from observations of embryos made by Greek and Roman predecessors, so it’s not surprising that it can be retrofitted to fit modern science by playing enough word games.

Tzortzis relies on what he calls “lexical analysis”, but it’s little more than compiling the equivalent of thesaurus entries for words in the verses, and then picking and choosing the ones that fit the point he’s trying to make. That’s not analysis, it’s cherry-picking.

Amusingly, he does the same thing to modern developmental biology. He’s gone rifling through legitimate embryology texts, trying to prove that I don’t know what I’m talking about, and he found one sentence in a textbook — “after the cartilaginous models of the bone have been established, the myogenic cells, which have now become myoblasts, aggregate to form the muscle masses” — that he thinks shows I was wrong and that his interpretation of the Quran phrase — “bones were clothed with flesh” — is correct.

Wrong. See, this is the problem with his “lexical analysis” approach — it means he tries to conform what he reads to what he already thinks he knows. I know what a developing limb looks like; mesodermal masses condense gradually into organized clusters of cells that differentiate in parallel. Centers of what will become bones aggregate and form cartilage (not bone, notice) as centers of what will become muscle (the myogenic cells in that description) aggregate and begin differentiation into myoblasts and myotubes and eventually muscle fibers.

Here’s what we actually see in the developing limb: branching patterns of cell fate decisions by tissue precursors, and parallel differentiation of the cellular components of those tissues.

The simplistic and discrete idea of “bones, then flesh” doesn’t even recognize that “bones” and “flesh” aren’t simple binaries, and the sequence isn’t a simple temporal switch. What you had instead was the early segregation of cells into differing mucopolysaccharide matrices, within which cells began complex sequences of shifting patterns of gene expression and differentiation into mesodermally-derived tissues.

Or more poetically, bones and flesh congealed together out of balls of snot. There are sequences within that pattern, but chondrocytes aren’t bones and myoblasts are not muscles. Tzortzis is trying too hard to fit the Quran to science, because he can’t appreciate that it’s just a book written by men trying to make sense of the world, and also unfortunately trying to add extra weight to their opinions by claiming the authority of a god behind them. A sad state of affairs that I’m afraid their modern descendants continue to perpetrate.

(Also on Sb)

36 comments

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  1. 1
    ashleybell

    “That’s not analysis, it’s cherry-picking.”

    That’s cherry picking from a cherry tree planted from the pits of previously picked cherries!

  2. 2
    Zeno

    Once again Hamza lies dismembered on the ground while loudly claiming victory over those who took him apart. When his opponents tire of the carnage and decide they have better things to do, Hamza calls out abuse after them. It’s just a little exasperating, isn’t it, when the flat-out loser sings out “Ha, ha, ha! I win! I win! I win!” Falsely claiming victory is quite a strategy. I remember it well from kindergarten.

  3. 3
    captainoblivious

    It sucks that these asshats can waste your time throwing incomprehensible gobbledygook up and then stand there expectantly waiting for you to respond. You have spent your life doing the hard work of understanding these things, but you have to expend energy shooting down inanities from fools.

    I don’t know how you do it.

  4. 4
    Gregory Greenwood

    Tzortzis relies on what he calls “lexical analysis”, but it’s little more than compiling the equivalent of thesaurus entries for words in the verses, and then picking and choosing the ones that fit the point he’s trying to make. That’s not analysis, it’s cherry-picking.

    So, Tzortzis is another one of those theist kooks who tries to claim that words mean exactly what he wants them to mean from one moment to the next? That whatever meaning props up his house, not of cards, but rather of lies and obscurantist drivel is suddenly the ‘correct’ interpretation?

    Shocking

  5. 5
    Kevin, 友好火猫 (Friendly Fire Cat)

    @zenoferox:

    Hamza Tzortzis is the Black Knight?

  6. 6
    matthewmcleod

    I chuckled when he said “we havent claimed the quran is a scientific miracle.” What the hell would be a scientific miracle? What a funny nonsense term.

  7. 7
    matthewmcleod

    I say, give a student with no knowledge of embryology a science book. Give another student with no knowledge of embryology those 2 sentences of the Quran, even a thesaurus to be fair. See who knows more.

  8. 8
    Zeno

    Upon reflection, I feel I must acknowledge that Hamza is an expert on intellectual dishonesty.

  9. 9
    Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human.

    Katherine @ #5:

    You beat me to it.

    In high school, in English class, we had a public speaking segment. Which included a short debate. I tossed out the age of the dinosaurs and quickly had an opponent. We had three days to prepare, and I had information on geology, radiometric dating, the tree of life (didn’t know about cladistics back in the early 80s) and thought I was well prepared.

    I spoke for five minutes, I think quite eloquently and informatively. Then my adversary held up a copy of the bible and proceeded to read excerpts from Genesis. When the debating part came, I asked him about the evidence I had presented. He pointed at the bible. I explained that multiple avenues of investigation had all pointed to dinosaurs being around from about 200 mya to 65 mya and he pointed at the bible. We went on like this for ten minutes. Then he finally said that the bible mentions dragons, and since people two millenia in the past had different names for animals, the dragons must have been dinosaurs and there is a human footprint and a dinosaur footprint from Texas that proves humans and dinosaurs lived at the same time. And then time was up.

    The teacher gave me an A-minus and my adversary a C-minus (because, rather than actually answering my questions verbally, he just kept pointing at the bible).

    The class, save for two others, thought that I had been destroyed, humiliated, embarrassed, and made to look like a gullible fool. And, through the school, that is the meme that was actively promulgated. Those who were not there told me I looked and sounded like a fool.

    So, spouting gibberish and claiming victory has been working for years. Hamza Tzortzis and his cohorts have a long history of being assholes. They are good at it.

  10. 10
    holytape

    His video response can be shorten to “We did not claim what we claimed because what we claimed was shown to be false, and since whatever we claim must be right, we must not have claimed what we claimed. However, let me make some more claims, and if these claims which we claim turn out to be false we did not claim these claims as per previously stated all our claims are true, and thus any claims shown to be false in the future, means that they were not claimed in the past.”

    The only scientifically accurate God

  11. 11
    Sastra

    These are not incompatible arguments. The second point is not a softening of the views made in the first point.

    I see Tzortis’ tactic as paralleling the common tactic used by apologists for the existence of God: science proves God and/or God doesn’t conflict with science. It’s one, the other, or both. The first approach insists that if you examine the discoveries of modern science you will then see evidence of divine intervention or spiritual existence. Look at all these statistics and take quantum woo seriously. God has met the modern age.

    But, if these arguments are not convincing, then suddenly science can say nothing at all about God one way or the other. Gnu atheists like Dawkins are guilty of scientism because “God” simply isn’t the sort of concept which is supposed to be analyzed with any rigor. It’s not supposed to be discovered by scientific methods so when it isn’t then it’s not a concern.

    Heads I win, tails you lose. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Back and forth they go, adopting the strategy that protects faith best at the moment.

    It all comes down I think to how clear they are when it comes to God — or the supernatural in general. If they get specific and make any sort of testable claim or assertion which can be checked against the model of reality, then they are wrong. If they instead take refuge in aimless handwaving and vague metaphorical comparisons, then they’re not even wrong.

    As you point out, they can be both. And usually are, because they really care too much about the impact God has on them and the world to continuously continue saying and believing only in the “wobbliest things” when it comes to God. Sooner or later they start sneaking in the specifics — and then we’ve got them.

  12. 12
    Sastra

    Father Ogvorbis, OM #9 wrote:

    The class, save for two others, thought that I had been destroyed, humiliated, embarrassed, and made to look like a gullible fool. And, through the school, that is the meme that was actively promulgated. Those who were not there told me I looked and sounded like a fool.

    My sympathies.

    I think this sort of thing is one of the main reasons we atheists are “so angry.” It doesn’t matter if they’re young earth creationists or into newage spirituality: believers all think atheists are just soooo foolish. They believe in — as Ophelia Benson puts it — “implausible things for epistemically dubious reasons” — and yet WE are suddenly the simple, naive, unsophisticated ones who can’t see or understand what’s so obvious to everyone else. Atheism is … well, just silly. Heheheh.

    That smug smirk is just as enraging — if not more — than an outright condemnation. Makes me want to punch things. Best to do it with words, though.

  13. 13
    ianharvey

    Was this the guy who started out claiming that the Quran very firmly gave the order of development and when you pointed out that in fact the true order was the opposite decided that the Quran was right cos if you chose other meanings for the words they said the exact opposite? I think the youtube was you and Aron Ra in Glasgow. (He asked sarcastically at one point if you were an embryologist as was shocked at the answer)
    Ian

  14. 14
    Ichthyic

    Then he finally said that the bible mentions dragons

    actually, that entirely depends on the version.

    some versions also mention unicorns.

    However, neither is in the the original Hebrew.

  15. 15
    Ichthyic

    …or the greek, or most of the other versions, for that matter.

  16. 16
    Rey Fox

    Amusingly, he does the same thing to modern developmental biology. He’s gone rifling through legitimate embryology texts, trying to prove that I don’t know what I’m talking about, and he found one sentence in a textbook — “after the cartilaginous models of the bone have been established, the myogenic cells, which have now become myoblasts, aggregate to form the muscle masses” — that he thinks shows I was wrong and that his interpretation of the Quran phrase — “bones were clothed with flesh” — is correct.

    Gads, what a fucking waste of time. What a waste of everything.

  17. 17
    Ichthyic

    Gads, what a fucking waste of time.

    I have often wondered if this is really the point.

    That people like Hammy just do this shit out of pure spite; just to waste the time and energy of other people.

    meh, I tend to doubt that in the end though; I think he’s more like David Mabus; a personality disorder looking for a cause.

  18. 18
    DLC

    Liars for Allah are little different from Liars for Jesus.

  19. 19
    raven

    Hamza Tzortzis:

    “We as Muslims reject the idea of freedom of speech, and even the idea of freedom. We see under the Khilafa (caliphate), when people used to engage in a positive way, this idea of freedom was redundant,
    it was unnecessary, because the society understood under the education system of the Khilafa state, and under the political framework of Islam, that people must engage with each other in a positive and productive way to produce results, as the Qur’an says, to get to know one another.” – Hamza Andreas Tzortzis

    Tzortzis is a Moslem extremist who wants to overthrow the secular democracies and set up an Islamic theocratic state.

    Even a lot of Moslems think that is cuckoo.

    I really wish these crackpots would walk their talk and find a theocracy and join it rather than trying to tear down our societies. Right now Hamza T. could be living in the Moslem paradices of Somalia, Iran, or Saudi Arabia.

  20. 20
    carlie

    Even this part: “the Quran has ‘ very little opportunity for disproof, and they can be made to fit just about any reasonable observation.’” is not a statement of defeat. It’s a statement that the Quran is full of bullshit.

  21. 21
    Fleegman

    You know, I look at that diagram of what happens in a developing limb, and I can’t comprehend how it all evolved to work that way over millions of years.

    I just can’t wrap my head around it. And don’t even talk to me about the eye.

    It seems absurd in the highest degree.

  22. 22
    EvoMonkey

    Anyway, here’s the video where Tzortzis crushes me.

    Oh, snap, Hamza!!! That video was epic!!! You pwn PZ!!!

    Now lexically analyze this, Tzortzis, “Fuck off!!!”

  23. 23
    raven

    dumb troll:

    You know, I look at that diagram of what happens in a developing limb, and I can’t comprehend how it all evolved to work that way over millions of years.

    Most of us have no trouble understanding this at all.

    It just means you are exceptionally stupid, ignorant, and too lazy to learn rudimentary science.

    BTW, it wasn’t “millions of years”. It was billions of years. You don’t even know how old the earth and life are, something I learned in the first grade.

  24. 24
    Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human.

    Fleegman:

    Odd. I’m a frikkin’ history major and even I understand it.

    By the way, argument of the gaps? You are doing it wrong. You forgot the part where you say, “And since I cannot understand it, it can only be the wonders of gods.”

  25. 25
    markr1957

    This must be the beauty of being the one-eyed man in the land of the blind. When your audience is so ignorant you can tell them anything, and they’ll believe it as long as you get your story told first how can you lose? Troof first, reality a distant second, with honesty having no place in the mind of the churchie people. So much smarter sounding if you claim goddidit than admit that you just don’t know because you’re just as dumb and ignorant as your listeners.

  26. 26
    anteprepro

    Fleegman doesn’t understand how it works, therefore evolution is wrong. Fuck you, biologists who actually do understand it! Fleegman’s incredulity has spoken!

  27. 27
    Fleegman

    Dear Raven, & Father Ogvorbis,

    I was trying – and clearly failing – to express my wonder at the whole thing, and how that diagram really hammered it home to me. You know, in a similar way Darwin himself, when he expressed how insuperable the idea was?

    FFS I even went to the trouble of paraphrasing his words in order to tip you off to the exact nature of my post. Maybe I should have put a big old winkyface at the end; would that have helped?

    Also, if you find the concept of such miniscule changes over millions, sorry billions of years so easy to wrap your head around, well, good for you. If that is the case, however, I think you’re probably short-changing the majesty of it all.

    Your pal,

    Fleegman

  28. 28
    mferrari

    Don’t feel bad Fleegman, I got what you were doing there :) I think we can be a little hypersensitive to trolls around here at times.

  29. 29
    mferrari

    Unless… it was a clever counter troll by Raven and Father Ogvorbis… oh my we may have been duped Fleegman!

  30. 30
    Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human.

    Fleegman:

    Sorry. I am notoriously tone deaf in meatspace. And far worse in netspace. I tend to take words at face value as I am wrong less often that way. Good to know I was wrong this time.

  31. 31
    anteprepro

    Fleegman: Poe’s Law. Be more careful: expressing awe as you did sounds very much like expressing confounded doubt, one of the more popular stupid tacts that creationist take when trying to deny evolution. Especially the “it seems absurd to the highest degree” bit, which would’ve been the “evolution is false because it don’t make sense to me” finisher of the argument, if you had been a creationist. The fact that you were mimicking some of Darwin’s own words is hard to detect, since most of us don’t use our pocket “Anthology of Charles Darwin’s Written Works (with additional index of popular quotations)” handy to try to see whether someone who seems like a troll in every other respect might be sending us a coded message. And though I can’t speak for most of the regulars, I have a decent understanding of evolution but know of only snippets of Darwin’s actual works. Memorizing Origin of Species wasn’t big in our biology cirriculum, as much as knowing the actual theory and how evolution is supported and supposed to actually work.

  32. 32
    imthegenieicandoanything

    He’s nothing but a flea. Either crush him or return him to the wilds where he can suck the blood of some other creature to sustain his own illness.

  33. 33
    Fleegman

    No worries. The swift and brutal treatment of suspected trolls is one of the reasons I like this place.

    I’ll happily shoulder part of the blame. I mean, I did paraphrase probably the most popular bit of quote mining in the creationist camp, so it’s an understandable reaction.

  34. 34
    wcorvi

    Wait a minute. I though cartilege was bone. I mean, I think cartilege is bone. I mean, they are almost the same thing. So, one starts with c and the other with b, which are next to each other in the alphabet. And the next letters (o and a) are both vowels. and one has 4 letters, the other 9 – both perfect squares. They are the same.

    Aren’t they?

  35. 35
    bcskeptic

    I don’t know how Tzortzis can even live with his dishonesty and downright intellectual malice. No amount of rapid-fire bullshit and twisting of words is going convince anyone other than ignorant religious followers that the Koran has any amount of real science in it.

    Liar, liar, pants on fire! There, that should make him stop with the never-ending idiocy…

  36. 36
    Wishful Thinking Rules All

    In a parallel universe, would Hamza Tzortzis be clean shaven? He certainly wouldn’t have a goatee like my double would.

    Anyway, this guy is full of shit.

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