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Apr 27 2014

Furious at a breach of ethical behavior…by an evolutionist

I thought it was simple plagiarism, but it turned out to be so much worse. Commenter A. Noyd discovered that anti-creationist arguments posted here were being regularly parroted elsewhere, on a site called debate.org, without attribution. Jon Milne was in a debate with a creationist named Iredia, and he was getting handy rebuttals straight from me and various other regular commenters here, including Nerd of Redhead, Amphiox, a_ray_in_dilbert_space, and David Marjanović, which he’d simply copy and paste straight from here into comments there, under his name.

That’s disgraceful. I was shocked to hear of it: we often accuse creationists of this game, of simply pasting together quotes without understanding them, and here was someone acting as a debater for evolution doing the same thing. It was patent plagiarism, and ethically wrong.

But then it turned into something else altogether, something even more contemptible. From his confession, it turns out that he’d been doing something truly dishonest. He had a second account here. When a creationist gave him an argument on another site, he would copy it, word for word, come over to Pharyngula, pose as a creationist (“biasevolution”), and paste it into a comment, to trigger a response from us.

He was plagiarizing creationists.

He then used a sockpuppet account to parrot their words.

He would then plagiarize us in his replies on this other site.

He was simply shuttling arguments from one site to another, providing no creative input of his own other than to carefully remove any evidence of the origin of arguments. Why? I don’t know. Maybe he wanted to look really clever. But all I know is that his every argument on debate.org is now tainted, and he’s managed to discredit a lot of people with seriously damaging behavior that reflects poorly on the science side of these arguments.

He has been banned, along with his “biasevolution” creationist sockpuppet. And I’m really pissed off.


Aaargh. Stephanie tells me he’s been doing this for a good long while.

He’s been plagiarizing for a couple of years, too. His email address brings up a short-lived LJ account where he bragged about bringing the “epic smackdown” on a creationist.

His material? Lifted from Rational Wiki.

And the Iron Chariots Wiki.

And Rational Wiki again.

Yeah? This is my angry Viking face.

angryviking

125 comments

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  1. 1
    Inaji

    Seemed to me, from quite a while back, that Milne was desperate to come across as a highly knowledgeable person when it came to debating creationism and other religious matters. (He brings two email correspondents to the table in that thread).

    When he was pressed on his last visit to have those he was arguing come here, he said they wouldn’t. I asked more than once for him to provide a link to the discussion, but no go.

  2. 2
    Marcus Ranum

    This is my angry Viking face.

    I don’t understand why they got that other guy to play Thor. Seriously.

  3. 3
    Inaji

    PZ:

    This is my angry Viking face.

    Good face.

  4. 4
    PZ Myers

    Because real Vikings don’t emote much. They’re all phlegmatic and stuff, and then…BERSERKERGANG. It’s not so much that we lack range, it’s just that we’re missing all that stuff between the extremes.

  5. 5
    PZ Myers

    Oh, and I guess for that role that they expected muscles. And pretty.

    I’m disqualified on all counts.

  6. 6
    anuran

    PZ, your kill face isn’t as good as Master Ken’s

    /Note for the humor-impaired: Enter the Dojo is comedy
    //Note for martial artists: Watch every episode. It’s hilarious. We’ve all met Master Ken a few times

  7. 7
    Inaji

    And pretty.

    He was too pretty to play Thor.

  8. 8
    David Marjanović

    For years? Wow.

    Latest page of the discussion at debate.org.

    Oh, and I guess for that role that they expected muscles. And pretty.

    They expected someone younger and blond-bearded.

    You should have been Óðinn. You’d have looked very, very convincing.

  9. 9
    Marcus Ranum

    it’s just that we’re missing all that stuff between the extremes.

    It’s the creamy filling. Vikings are missing the creamy filling between the extremes.
    (The other thing I enjoy about my Norwegian ancestry is that I can honestly say “my people come from just south of Hell.”)

  10. 10
    anuran

    David, you want PZ should poke out one of his eyes and hang from a tree?

  11. 11
    The Mellow Monkey

    This is just so baffling to me. It’s on par with bad sitcom plots, where someone goes on two separate dates at the same time or tries to fake an accent throughout a new internship or something equally silly. Surely no one would actually be this unethically, egotistically absurd and yet…yes, apparently someone is. Trying to look knowledgeable by plagiarizing posts and comments and impersonating creationists. Geez.

  12. 12
    David Marjanović

    Heh. anuran, thanks for the killface. :-)

  13. 13
    samihawkins

    He was plagiarizing creationists.

    He then used a sockpuppet account to parrot their words.

    He would then plagiarize us in his replies on this other site.

    That just seems needlessly complicated. If he wanted the commenters here to argue for him all he had to do was go into any old lounge/thunderdome, say “Hey I’m arguing with this idiot, can someone give me a hand?”, and he’d be flooded by commenters wanting to help him smack down a fool.

    No need for deception.

  14. 14
    PZ Myers

    If I could get the Wisdom of the Ages, it would be a fair trade.

  15. 15
    David Marjanović

    David, you want PZ should poke out one of his eyes and hang from a tree?

    How much worse can that be than all the grading he does?

    Trying to look knowledgeable by plagiarizing

    Oh, several top politicians in Germany and Austria did exactly that to get their doctorates.

  16. 16
    Inaji

    samihawkins:

    “Hey I’m arguing with this idiot, can someone give me a hand?”, and he’d be flooded by commenters wanting to help him smack down a fool.

    Milne did that, for around two years. What he didn’t want was anyone doing his work for him finding out where the actual argument was taking place, and arguing firsthand.

  17. 17
    David Marjanović

    If he wanted the commenters here to argue for him all he had to do was go into any old lounge/thunderdome, say “Hey I’m arguing with this idiot, can someone give me a hand?”

    Oh no, he did that a lot back in December and January. We asked him instead, several times, to bring the other person here. They never came.

  18. 18
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    I don’t understand why someone who isn’t a debater (at least not on this topic) would be so intent on going to a debate site. It’s not as though everyone is good at the same things. Different people have different skills and talents to offer, and I’d expect they would be happiest utilizing those skills. It’s like when Chris Stedman talked about his book noting that he didn’t have a particularly good memory for events in his life and might have a tendency to invent stories and think they really happened. Why would he choose to write a memoir? Why would someone who recognizes that he can’t put forward the arguments – to the extent that he dishonestly gets them from others – go out of his way to participate in a debate? I’m perplexed.

  19. 19
    LykeX

    samihawkins #13

    He did that, several times. It was only after people got tired of it that he shifted to this strategy. Anything to avoid doing the work himself, I guess.

  20. 20
    anthrosciguy

    That’s one sad sack. I’m not saying don’t be mad, just that anyone who does what this person did is a sorry sad little person with no sense of self worth.

  21. 21
    David Marjanović

    Oh yeah. Several people asked him for a link to the discussion. Nopenope.

  22. 22
    mikeyb

    For some reason it reminds me of the Searle’s silly Chinese room objection to strong AI. He parroted and shuffled arguments back and forth without understanding either side.

  23. 23
    Hank_Says

    Ugh, what a waste of spacetime. Not Milne himself, just what he was doing. What the fuck would ever possess a person to socktroll both fucking sides of an argument?

    Sigh. And just when I thought the creationist entertainment at this blog was getting back to pre-MRA levels.

  24. 24
    twas brillig (stevem)

    Why so angry [/snark] I’m sure he was doing a Goodthing, shuttling arguments from our side to confound the other side, then from their side to ours to get a good response to fling back at them. He NEEDED the sock puppets to be covert, not to deceive us, but to keep us unbiased (hence ‘biasevolution’). His BIG mistake was taking all the credit and not declaring his shuttling activity. Plagiarism never works out the way the plagiarist wants it to. At least quote, dammit; e.g; say, “In response to that, I just read this: quote, which seems to address your statement pretty thoroughly.” Same in the other direction, just say you’re quoting some nasty creationist and ask for everyone’s response. Don’t just parrot them and let us think you are un-rational.
    And me so sad: I used to think we were all above using ‘under-handed’ tactics, that we are all ‘much better than that’. But what he did is irredeemable. I am disappoint :-(

  25. 25
    carlie

    One thing I’ll say, at least when he got caught plagiarizing other people’s statements he admitted it right away, unlike some commenters we’ve known.

  26. 26
    David Marjanović

    Sigh. And just when I thought the creationist entertainment at this blog was getting back to pre-MRA levels.

    Yeah. :-(

    Same in the other direction, just say you’re quoting some nasty creationist and ask for everyone’s response.

    Did that for a long time. Then we got bored with doing his work for him.

  27. 27
    David Marjanović

    unlike some commenters we’ve known

    …Did ‘Tis Himself try to go into denial???

  28. 28
    AJ Milne

    Ummm… I’d just like to come in to say ‘No relation’…

    Except that, well, honestly, I’ve no idea. And, obviously, we pretty much have to be related, somehow. Unless one of us turns out to be an alien imposter from some entirely independently arising biology…

    So I’ll just go with ‘Precise relation unknown’, I guess.

    (/Also, yeah, awesome Viking face.)

  29. 29
    nich

    SC@18

    I don’t understand why someone who isn’t a debater (at least not on this topic) would be so intent on going to a debate site.

    Believe it or not, but I think you regulars here are seen as kinda, sorta cool in your own nerdy way. I’m sure I’m not the only one who comes here for the comments as much as for the content (sorry, PZ). People see how you take down creationists and MRAs and other putzes with seeming ease and they kind of want to be able to do that, too. I wouldn’t be surprised if this person wanted to take a stab at beating up on a creationist, and not being familiar with their tactics, got in over his (assuming jon is male) head quick, enlisted some help, but found it was just easier to copy and paste wholesale vice putting rebuttals into his own words. He enjoyed the feeling that knocking creationist heads about gave him and so just kept doing it. I also wouldn’t be surprised if he enjoyed the fraud a little, too.

    That seems to be the source of a lot of fraud, really, from the relatively harmless fraud we all just witnessed all the way up to the massive frauds perpetrated by Wall Street. People see somebody doing something cool, want to do it themselves, find that they can’t do it, but rather than accept that, they come up with a scheme to do it dishonestly and then get greedy.

    (The above is an explanation not a defense. You’re still a douche, jonmilne.)

  30. 30
    Marcus Ranum

    What the fuck would ever possess a person to socktroll both fucking sides of an argument?

    I have a friend who got in a flamewar with himself on a particular subtle academic topic as a way of making sure nobody else was interested enough in it, because that was what he wanted to write his thesis on.

  31. 31
    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

    AJ Milne @ 28

    Thanks for that, since I don’t really know the backstory yet. I was all, “Wait, no way it’s…”

    David Marjanović @ 27

    …Did ‘Tis Himself try to go into denial???

    Wait, what? I guess maybe I was away too long. And maybe I don’t even want to know.

  32. 32
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    nich @ #29 – That makes a lot of sense.

  33. 33
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    And maybe I don’t even want to know.

    You don’t.

  34. 34
    carlie

    David – he just completely disappeared, unless I missed something.

  35. 35
    AJ Milne

    F/#31: yeah, not real happy, here, about that being a potential confusion.

    Thanks, weirdo plagiarist dude. Thanks a whole hell of a lot.

    And yeah, I thought Tis just disappeared, too. But obviously, could also have missed stuff.

  36. 36
    irisvanderpluym

    Are you unscrupulous, deceitful and incapable of generating a single original thought? We’ve got great news: it’s not just for creationists any more!

    Sorry PZ, but your face always makes me happy. I no haz a scared.

  37. 37
    dannicoy

    That might not be a bad way of learning the ins and outs of a contested area, and might be quicker than what I do (read up a claim, figure out the search terms, then attempt an Internet search to find out who disagrees with those claims and why).

    But then why remove the attribution?

  38. 38
    annie55

    Okay, please put my transgression down to ignorance and inexperience…I can think of several times when I have copied and pasted razor sharp posts from commenters here without crediting the poster on my FB page during a heated discussion about rape and its excusers. I always prefaced the comment with “From Pharyngula”…w/o attribution. The discussion got so ugly that I eventually deleted it.

    The last thing I wanted to do was send a bevy of assholes over here to target specific posters, but I inderstand now that I have breached etiquette. More, people may have thought that I was quoting PZ himself, and not one of the horde.

    I do apologize, and it will not happen again…unless maybe…I ask for and get get permission? There are folks here who just say it so well.

  39. 39
    Inaji

    dannicoy:

    That might not be a bad way of learning the ins and outs of a contested area, and might be quicker than what I do (read up a claim, figure out the search terms, then attempt an Internet search to find out who disagrees with those claims and why).

    The thing about Jon Milne is that he never was interested in learning, he simply wanted others to do all the work. Given the sheer quantity of responses he’s received over the last couple of years, if he had been interesting in learning, there would have been no need to plagiarize.

  40. 40
    Inaji

    if he had been interesting

    Interested. :sigh:

  41. 41
    Inaji

    annie55, you weren’t trying to misrepresent yourself. If you ever ask my permission, you’ll have it.

  42. 42
    Dean Calahan

    I am ever flabbergasted by plagiarism on the internet – which essentially means all plagiarism these days – does the offender actually think they won’t be found out?

  43. 43
    NelC

    Maybe it’s because I’ve just been listening to some PG Wodehouse on the radio (well, iPlayer, actually), but I don’t think I can take this as seriously as perhaps I should. This Milne character certainly sounds like he needs a Jeeves to help extract him from this self-inflicted mess.

  44. 44
    carlie

    annie55 – what you’ve done got to the most important part, which is declare that it’s not your words you’re using. And you got the next most important part, which is give someone enough information to track down the original source. As for drawing assholes, that’s going to happen regardless. If you let us know in advance it might happen, that would give us time to brace for it.

  45. 45
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    As for drawing assholes, that’s going to happen regardless. If you let us know in advance it might happen, that would give us time to brace for it.

    Or sharpen our titanium fang…

  46. 46
    Hank_Says

    annie55: do what everyone else does when they want to use an argument they find compelling and attractive: learn it, internalise it, then express it in your own words. Once you begin to be able to express the ideas of others via the lens of your own understanding you’ll soon be able to build on those arguments yourself and create new ones. Really, that’s what most people do – hell, being able to enfold the knowledge gained by others into your own mind and then employ/express your understanding of it is a basic & vital human skill.

    Pasting other peoples’ arguments & points of view verbatim in order to win debates or score points (a) is a classic creationist tactic; don’t do it, (b) makes you look lazy (see (a)), (c) makes you look like you don’t understand what you’re pasting (see (a)) and (c) is a reliable indicator that you should probably not be engaged with (see (a)).

    Not all the awesome arguments you’ll see here are made from whole cloth by the commenter; they’re very often made not just as a result of understanding a particular avenue of inquiry, but also as a result of a particular mindset that places high value on skepticism, reason & evidence. If you can understand and then adopt that sort of mindset and apply it to science, religion etc., you’ll be able to (a) spot a shitty, unfounded argument when you see one and (b) produce your own decent counter-arguments.

    Last but not least, if you really want to enter an argument where you’re not knowledgeable about the subject, perhaps hang back or defer to someone else. Ask for help if you like (many people here love a good scrap) but if you don’t want to involve others directly, use quotes sparingly, attribute properly and link to their source.

  47. 47
    Amphiox

  48. 48
    annie55

    Thanks guys. The reason I did the C&P was that the conversation was moving so fast, I was so angry, and I wanted to slice and dice, to inflict some sense of shame when all of my reasoned responses were shrugged off, or simply ignored. And frankly, I’m not good at slicing and dicing.

    You guys may not know this, but rape apologists do not consider the opinions and experiences of women to be valid or remotely interesting.

    Seriously though, thanks again. I’ll know what to do if it ever happens again.

  49. 49
    Anne C. Hanna

    (Delurking.)

    I’m just amazed by this, since after jonmilne did this to me back in August 2012, I *specifically* warned him that simply copy-pastaing was (a) disturbing to me as the source of his material and (b) a bad rhetorical strategy — he got himself into a pretty deep hole in an argument I was trying to help him with by copying something I wrote rather than treating it (as intended) as advice on how to construct his own argument.

    He managed to climb back out of the hole pretty well after I pointed out how he’d screwed himself, but apparently he didn’t actually learn anything from the experience. I wonder if things will be different this time, or if he’ll just find a new pseudonym and go right back to it.

  50. 50
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    You guys may not know this, but rape apologists do not consider the opinions and experiences of women to be valid or remotely interesting.

    Most of us here are well aware of that. Which is why I dismiss their views until they actually listen to women. They hate having their views dismissed….

  51. 51
    ck

    I don’t think you necessarily need to be shy about sending assholes here. The regulars need to keep their coats bright and sniny somehow. The really odious idiots usually can’t help but get themselves banned, and the rest are usually scared off after they realize that they can’t win here.

  52. 52
    David Marjanović

    as a way of making sure nobody else was interested enough in it, because that was what he wanted to write his thesis on

    o_O

    Did it backfire, BTW, by attracting attention to the topic?

  53. 53
    chimera

    I don’t see what’s bad about this guy’s behavior at all. He was debating creationism, that’s good, using other people’s words, so what? The extent to which he went, sock-puppets and plagiarism may be a bit strange, but we all use other peoples’ ideas and words all the time.

  54. 54
    David Marjanović

    using other people’s words, so what?

    He pretended they were all his. He didn’t cite his sources. He tried to come off as some kind of genius; that’s the only explanation for why he systematically removed all references to his sources, as documented here.

  55. 55
    Hank_Says

    @53, Bicarbonate is back:

    We do use other peoples’ ideas (everybody does), but as I said in #46 the whole point of using others’ knowledge is to understand it, incorporate it into your own body of knowledge and express it using your own words. There’s a reason teachers and lecturers mark you down or fail you if you don’t at least paraphrase someone else’s argument: it doesn’t indicate that you understand it.

    Excusing and dismissing plagiarism by saying “Ah, everyone does it” betrays a gross lack of comprehension of what’s happened here.

    Also, I don’t know if you missed the part where Milne was trolling Pharyngula commenters via sockpuppet with terrible creationist arguments – plagiarised from a real creationist – so he could then plagiarise the ensuing counterarguments, wholesale, against said real creationist. Going to such convoluted lengths to score points against some idiot in a thread is more than “a bit strange”.

  56. 56
    NelC

    Bicarb @53, regardless of the plagiarism, it’s a pretty weak way to argue. If you can’t internalise the ideas you’re copying, then you’re learning nothing, and won’t understand what’s wrong with the arguments being put to you in reply. Mess up the copying and pasting like Anne @49′s friend, and you lose whatever fragile reputation you’ve built up for yourself and made the people whose ideas you’re copying look like idiots by extension. I don’t mind if creationists look like idiots, but I’d rather the good guys didn’t.

    And what’s the point? If you’re no good at arguing, practice and get better at it, or do something else. Fishing is a nice quiet hobby, I hear.

  57. 57
    mikeyb

    @53 Yes it’s OK to paraphrase things or restate them into our own terms at least for general arguments though it’s still in much better taste to refer to sources if these refer to specific arguments (in blogs/public forums but not published papers of course), but why would you copy and paste them word for word, and why would you want to pretend to be a creationist???

  58. 58
    atheistblog

    What the F was that ? So scary looking bogey grandpa!

  59. 59
    chigau (違う)

    I had a nice day cleaning up the garden.
    sheesh

  60. 60
    NelC

    I wonder where atheistblog gets his arguments? Dumpster-diving?

  61. 61
    Anne C. Hanna

    Bicarbonate is back @53,

    Speaking from my own experience with jonmilne, here’s what I think is bad about what he did:

    1) I made the comments he plagiarized as a communication to him. They’re not what I would have said if I was talking directly to the person he was debating. It was weird and disturbing to see my words used for other than their intended purpose, like I was being quotemined, even if jonmilne intended it as a compliment.

    2) I was trying to help and educate him, and instead of using my words to improve his own understanding and skills, he just tried to turn them into some kind of cargo cult talisman against his enemy. It made me feel like I’d completely wasted my time.

    3) To the extent that I said anything in a particularly clever or elegant fashion (not that I’m claiming I did) he took credit for that cleverness/elegance himself rather than giving me my due.

    4) But even worse than depriving me of credit for the things that I said well (which I don’t really care about that much in the case of a few internet comments), he actually *made my arguments look pretty bad* by appropriating them *poorly*, and using them in a way I never would have.

    Unlike PZ, I’m not angry, I’m just sorta disgusted and sad that I tried to help this guy out and it seems to have been for naught. That said, maybe he’ll learn something from this and do better next time. I get how it’s possible to get sucked into making ethical “compromises” under stress without recognizing how bad they are until somebody calls you out on it. The important question is whether you let that shock wake you up to what you were doing and then work hard to avoid doing it in the future, or you just slink away to a new social circle and only work harder at avoiding *getting caught*.

  62. 62
    mikeyb

    I just hope he learns his lesson. Plagiarize on public forum = banned. Plagiarize as a mainstream journalist/scientist = end of career (unless it is Faux News).

  63. 63
    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    @NelC and, generally, everyone on the thread interested in my deranged misreadings:

    Fishing is a nice quiet hobby, I hear.

    Um, reading pharyngula while trying to make dinner is a great way to misread the word “fishing” as another word entirely…and one that seems very odd to call “a nice quiet hobby…”

  64. 64
    Rey Fox

    Clearly this person needs a hobby. Might I suggest knitting?

  65. 65
    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

    Crip Dyke:

    Heh, you do that too? I get a lot of amusement mileage for myself out of misreading, but more by far in mishearing things. I rather suspect that it has gotten to the point that it is frequently done with intent at some level, although I’m aware that misperception is involved. And I admit that, on occasion, I have had to ask for someone to repeat what they said because I couldn’t re-process the correct original words, even though the person had spoken quite clearly.

  66. 66
    yazikus

    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden,

    and one that seems very odd to call “a nice quiet hobby…”

    Thanks for making me tee-hee on a somewhat stressful evening.
    -
    NelC

    I wonder where atheistblog gets his arguments? Dumpster-diving?

    That is insulting to all of the great stuff you might find in dumpster. For reals.

  67. 67
    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

    yazikus – it depends on the dumpster. Heavily. But that is a good point.

  68. 68
    yazikus

    F [i'm not here, i'm gone],

    I get a lot of amusement mileage for myself out of misreading, but more by far in mishearing things.

    This reminds me of the unfortunate alternative, where you hear something, think you must be hearing something else, but that is indeed what is being said. Just a few weeks ago, on a particularly stressful day at work (April 15th) a rather unpleasant coworker decided to take out a little verbal rage on me. Considering they are quite rude normally while I consistently strive to be pleasant to them, I was truly confused. After the gendered-slur laden speech was over my brain was still spinning. All I was able to get out was a confused, “You are kidding, right?”. I much prefer the amusing kind.

  69. 69
    yazikus

    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

    it depends on the dumpster. Heavily.

    Very true, very true. There is a set of dumpsters near a local prestigious liberal arts school that is known to be full of pretty sweet electronics come summer break where I live. The ones outside my office? Not so much.

  70. 70
    robro

    mikeyb @#62 — While plagiarizing as a politician = successful political career.

    Some examples from Wikipedia: Joe Biden, Vladimir Putin, Rand Paul, and even Martin Luther King, Jr.

    Biden, Putin, and King plagiarized in their dissertations…Putin’s seems particularly egregious. Both Biden and Paul have been accused of plagiarism in speeches. Paul plagiarized a movie. Biden was forced out of the 1988 presidential campaign because of plagiarism but you know where he is now.

    Plagiarism is always unnecessary, but plagiarizing blog posts and comments seems useless to the point that’s it’s difficult to understand the psychological motivation to do so, but then I’m almost always baffled by human behavior, mostly my own.

  71. 71
    mikeyb

    @70 robro.

    Very interesting thanks. The Book of Mormon may also be plagiarized, but in a way who cares, since it’s fiction, very bad racist fiction at that, “Chloroform in print,” as Mark Twain put it.

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

  72. 72
    The Very Reverend Battleaxe of Knowledge

    Robro @ #70:

    You’re repeating deliberate lies from the Lee Atwater slime machine. Biden forgot to attribute a quote to Neil Kinnock once out of hundreds of times he’d used it, and the RWNM immediately started baying “ZOMG! Plagiarism!” and forced him out of the race.

    This is my angry Viking face.

    Needz M0ar Hornz!

  73. 73
    cathynewman

    At least Tom Johnson came up with his own words for each of his thousand sockpuppets…

  74. 74
    frankb

    I don’t consider myself a good debater at all but regularly reading the comments at FTB gives me an arsenal of responses to idiots of all sorts. So I can do a fair job in short debates at such places as the creationist section of Facebook. Copying and pasting wouldn’t work at all for me since I wouldn’t write anything I don’t understand and if I understand I will use my own words. Ego is a obviously a factor. If I comment here I want people to say “What a clever comment frankb just made!”* But over at the debate I want to make points that others aren’t making and hopefully change minds. I don’t want idiots to remember me, just my arguments.

    *My comments are very seldom clever enough.

  75. 75
    sigurd jorsalfar

    Maybe he got the idea from Derren Brown.

  76. 76
    dukeofomnium

    For all the outrage, the basis for which I understand, the whole story is also pretty sad. That’s an awful lot of work (or at least effort) in order to appear clever to complete strangers.

  77. 77
    mikeyb

    Wonder if PZ shows the angry viking face if mid-terms or finals don’t go so well. That angry face might inspire an all nighter just to avoid that look of wrath.

  78. 78
    Maureen Brian

    bicarbonate is back,

    I think you need to pop over to that debate site. Those people seem to be telling us they are planning careers as scientists or in other professions. Well, it’s possible that they are all delusional.

    If any of them are telling the truth then they run the risk that every time they write a paper, every time they try to patent an invention, every time they step into the box as an expert witness they run the risk that someone will ask, “Hey, aren’t you the guy who plagiarised PZ Myers and his mates?”

    Reputation shot! Which is why, even in quite ordinary jobs, your reputation has a value and the loss of it matters.

    If it’s a single adolescent stunt then they’ll probably get away with it. If it’s a pattern of obsessive behaviour then it can be difficult to break. That may the case with jonmilne as – see Anne C Hanna above – being found doing it has no effect at all on his willingness to do it again.

  79. 79
    saganite

    I have to admit that I don’t get it.

    I “debate” on a forum as well and I’m probably not the best at it, but I do it for the fun of it and to hear different opinions. If a debate seems unwinnable because the other outright states they don’t care about evidence or similar things, I may back out of the debate. If somebody annoys the hell out of me, I may – in rare, particular cases – block them on my interface. But I don’t really run off to fish for arguments on another site, especially not to quote them verbatim.

    Obviously you might want to ask about an issue to get a good counterargument, but just posting it like that, copied, won’t really help you improve. Even when copying arguments, you need to understand them, learn them and then use them yourself, not just move them.

    Maybe it’s just about “winning” to him, but that was never why I wanted to debate.

  80. 80
    ChasCPeterson

    Fuck plagiarists. That shit makes me spit.

    Furious at a breach of ethical behavior…by an evolutionist

    *gasp!* So accepting biological evolution as the explanation for life’s unity and diversity does not automatically induce ethical behavior? Who could have guessed?
    Fortunately, we still have the progressive and humane influence of atheism to count on.

  81. 81
    David Chapman

    61
    Anne C. Hanna

    4) But even worse than depriving me of credit for the things that I said well (which I don’t really care about that much in the case of a few internet comments), he actually *made my arguments look pretty bad* by appropriating them *poorly*, and using them in a way I never would have.

    And that was well said. That’s why this whole thing is so rotten. Creationists are quite good enough at garbling and misunderstanding important arguments without this clown helping them with it by copying and pasting stuff he doesn’t even understand properly. It’s the sort of thing that helps Creationists, people who have an internal need to believe that science is not really science persuade themselves that they and their buddies are right.

  82. 82
    Nick Gotts

    Did ‘Tis Himself try to go into denial??? – David Marjanović@27

    He went so deep, I believe he was eventually eaten by a crocodile.

  83. 83
    Anne C. Hanna

    David Chapman @81,

    Agreed.

    It makes me wonder — maybe all jonmilne learned from his experience in asking for help honestly is that it didn’t give him very good copypasta. The resulting advice on how to argue would have required actual work, and a certain amount of intellectual boldness, to convert into an effective argument of his own. If he didn’t do that work, using it just made him look stupid, as in the case I observed.

    But when he switched to trolling his unwitting sources with the material he wanted to respond to, they straight-up wrote the arguments for him and he could hide behind those and have no worries about maintaining a facade of reasonable competence in front of his opponent. Win-win, at least, until he got caught.

  84. 84
    azhael

    He even plagiarized me…i´m not even a native speaker, that´s just bad strategy xD
    Anyway, i knew it was a waste to argue with him. I was just very wrong about the reasons why.

    Oh, and I guess for that role that they expected muscles. And pretty.

    I’m disqualified on all counts.

    Well, you have heaps of cuddliness and you can´t tell me that Odin didn´t do cuddliness because you don´t fucking know!
    Plus, the Thor guy isn´t that pretty…and he looks like he doesn´t know where lightning comes from…

  85. 85
    rorschach

    Wow, that’s a new one, brownie points for effort I guess! As to the title, is “evolutionist” a word now? And what does ethical behaviour have to do with realising that evolution happens, or that gravity is a thing, for that matter? Normal people can be assholes too.

  86. 86
    carlie

    I think that pointing out that he’s an evolutionist is more about being clear that such behavior will be attacked if done by someone on “our side” as much as it is when done by someone on “theirs”, not because there’s anything special about being an evolutionist.

  87. 87
    rorschach

    I’m not convinced. And I hate this “-ist” or “-ism” crap. I’m not a gravityist or relativityist either. It’s language used by those opposing the proposition, framing everyone normal as an “-ist”, thereby suggesting some kind of blind activism, when holding the proposition is merely common sense.

  88. 88
    David Marjanović

    Biden, Putin, and King plagiarized in their dissertations…

    …I didn’t even know they had ever submitted a dissertation. Obviously I know that King is very often referred to as “Dr.”, but I thought that was just the weird American “Doctor of Divinity” thing that is often just a misguided way of respectful address rather than an academic title.

    Maybe it’s just about “winning” to him, but that was never why I wanted to debate.

    It’s a debate site called debate.org. It hosts debates about everything and anything. The admins who open new topics use courtroom metaphors, in this case:

    In response to Theta’s “Evolution on Trial” thread, in the spirit of fairness, I’m willing to switch roles and let evolutionists go on the attack against creation. Creation and ID are the defendants, and evolutionists/atheists can act as the prosecutors.

    Court is now in session.

    That’s by medic0506, known here for having argued there for the creationist side.

    I’m not at all sure the people there care about the topics at all. They’re more likely just there to hone their debate skills or because they like winning.

    Debate is whatcha put on de hook to catch de fish.

    He even plagiarized me…i´m not even a native speaker, that´s just bad strategy xD

    Your English isn’t so bad that it would necessarily show in a short comment or couldn’t be attributed to typos (like leaving a word out). But you haven’t found the apostrophe key on your keyboard. o_O Stupid jonmilne. Stupid.

    (It’s probably next to the 0 key.)

  89. 89
    Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened

    So he’s having an argument, didn’t have an answer, so copied the argument he couldn’t answer to a blog where he knew commenters would have an answer (i.e. here), and then copied their answer back to the original argument so he could pretend he was all smart and stuff.

    Wow. My first instinct is to call him lazy, but on reflection that’s actually a lot of effort to go to… intellectually lazy? I think that’s a fair way to put it.

  90. 90
    NelC

    Rorschach @87, “relativism” is totally a word, even if they don’t spell it the way you do. Eh, it’s just language doing what language does, spawning zillions of combinations of grammatical genes in the hope that a few will catch on. It’s perfectly cromulent.

    Crip Dyke @63, if it’s the misreading I think it is, well, the association with sock-puppets is clear….

  91. 91
    rorschach

    “relativism” is totally a word, even if they don’t spell it the way you do. Eh, it’s just language doing what language does, spawning zillions of combinations of grammatical genes in the hope that a few will catch on. It’s perfectly cromulent.

    good thing then I wasnt talking about relativism.

  92. 92
    azhael

    But you haven’t found the apostrophe key on your keyboard.

    Argh…i’ve been trying. It’s very difficult to break the muscular memory.

  93. 93
    Holms

    Agreeing with Rorschach re: the entire point behind the word ‘evolutionism’ was to make appear to be just as religious (and therefore equally viable as a theory) as creationism. I for one avoid the word like the plague, as it buys into that idea.

  94. 94
    Karl Mann

    I know I am going to take some crap for this, but this thread pretty much proves the creationist stereotype of atheists, that they are basically pseudo intellectuals and bullies. It’s not like this guy was using your comments to the write a dissertation or even a thesis, and piling on is pretty pathetic.

  95. 95
    Celtic_Evolution

    Anne C. Hanna #61

    I get how it’s possible to get sucked into making ethical “compromises” under stress without recognizing how bad they are until somebody calls you out on it.

    Sure… and that can and does happen, and while still wrong it can be more or less innocently enough intended. However the lengths jonmilne went to here, and the apparent long history of it, go waaayyy beyond simple mis-characterization or heat-of-the-moment lack of thought. This is a pattern of strange behavior and makes me think there is an underlying psychological component.

    I will admit to knowing people that seem to get a thrill from playing both sides of an argument. I have a friend who re-posts FB posts from both the ultra-liberal and ultra-conservative viewpoints just to get a rise out of the reaction it creates. He seems to feed off of it. I play volleyball with him regularly and he’ll talk about it openly about doing it during warm-ups with a creepy smile on his face. It makes me really uncomfortable. And what really puts me off is that around me he purports to be of a fairly liberal mindset (since I do), but I’ve heard him come across as staunchly conservative around people I know to hold that worldview. Needless to say I keep my distance from him whenever possible. But I have to say I really don’t understand the psychology behind his behavior.

  96. 96
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    Incidentally, in December Ophelia linked to this article about fundamentalist homeschooling and child abuse. One aspect of which I had been unaware was the strategy of creating (male) debaters for Jesus:

    Growing up in California and Oregon, Stollar wasn’t abused, but he met many other homeschoolers who were. His parents led state homeschooling associations and started a debate club in San Jose. The emphasis on debate in fundamentalist homeschooling was the brainchild of Michael Farris, the founder of Patrick Henry College, and his daughter Christy Shipe. Farris believed debate competitions would create a new generation of culture warriors with the skills to “engage the culture for Christ.” “You teach the kids what to think, you keep them isolated from everyone else, you give them the right answers, and you keep them pure,” Stollar explains. “And now you train them how to argue and speak publicly, so they can go out to do what they’re supposed to do”—spread the faith and promote God’s patriarchy.

    As a teenager, Stollar toured the national homeschool debate circuit with a group called Communicators for Christ, sharpening his rhetorical skills and giving speech tutorials….

    I read this and thought “Hmmmm. Not sure if that’s the best idea for the fundamentalists’ purposes.” Sure enough:

    …For Ryan Stollar and many other ex-homeschoolers, debate club changed everything. The lessons in critical thinking, he says, undermined Farris’s dream of creating thousands of eloquent new advocates for the homeschooling cause. “You can’t do debate unless you teach people how to look at different sides of an issue, to research all the different arguments that could be made for and against something,” Stollar says. “And so all of a sudden, debate as a way to create culture-war soldiers backfires. They go into this being well trained, they start questioning something neutral like energy policy, but it doesn’t stop there. They start questioning everything.”

  97. 97
    Celtic_Evolution

    Also, I’ve been more or less away for a while, and the reference to “Tis Himself within the confines of this discussion has piqued my curiosity… what’d I miss?

    I can’t imagine the comment was made because he simply disappeared for a while… as I (and many other regulars from time to time) fall into the same category.

  98. 98
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    I know I am going to take some crap for this, but this thread pretty much proves the creationist stereotype of atheists, that they are basically pseudo intellectuals and bullies. It’s not like this guy was using your comments to the write a dissertation or even a thesis, and piling on is pretty pathetic.

    You seem to have trouble with concept of honesty and integrity, which is required to be a good scientist. You appear to have none, saying somebody who doesn’t shouldn’t be dogpiled.

  99. 99
    Celtic_Evolution

    I know I am going to take some crap for this

    Yes… I believe you are.

    And you’re going to deserve it.

    It’s not like this guy was using your comments to the write a dissertation or even a thesis, and piling on is pretty pathetic.

    And it’s not as if being banned from Pharyngula is like being sent to prison… so while you’re needlessly making arguments about proportional response, try to maintain some perspective yourself. He acted in a way that was an affront to every thoughtful, rational, creative and intelligent contributor on this site. And in doing so damaged the integrity of the site by knowingly committing one of the slimy acts we all consider a cardinal sin of creationists. He deserves the condemnation and ridicule of every contributor on this site, and if that’s all he gets I still would consider it getting off pretty easy.

  100. 100
    LykeX

    Karl Mann #94

    His behavior was dishonest and it violated the rules of this community. He reinforced the perception of theists that atheists are dishonest and untrustworthy. Finally, it was just plain disrespectful to the people here.

    Why do you think it’s unreasonable to get annoyed with this?

  101. 101
    opposablethumbs

    It’s very difficult to break the muscular memory.

    This, very much this. I can not type on an azerty keyboard without going horribly wrong almost every other letter; can’t break the habits, and the fingers get there before you do. (“muscle memory”. (I wish my written Spanish were even a tenth as good as your English, azhael))
    .
    I … think I kind of loathe the whole practice of debate for debate’s sake. I get it that these can be very useful skills, but I hate the fact that it’s not actually about truth or the usefulness of ideas or any desire to actually discuss or share or understand somebody else’s views. It’s just about winning a game, so that anything you do to win – whether it’s bringing facts to the table or lying convincingly or just making your “opponent” feel physically uncomfortable by shouting louder – is equally valid. Which is counterproductive, if you’re actually interested in the subject matter!

  102. 102
    Rey Fox

    I’m starting to wonder if there’s anything that us atheists could do that wouldn’t confirm some stereotype or another. I should probably shut up because I’m a perpetually single, post-graduate degree-holding male.

  103. 103
    Kagehi

    I have to admit that I have sometimes “attributed” only in the sense of saying, “Someone on another blog put it like this…”, sometimes, purely because one of the purest, sure fired, ways to get some people to flat out ignore a good quote is to say, “It came from Pharyngula.”, or any one of the other places they already ignore as sources of sound information. I have seen it often enough, the smarmy, ‘Oh, right, but it was someone over ‘there’ that said it. Hah, that is just, according to the voices in my head, such an echo chamber.”, and the like that.. its tempting to either restate an argument, or quote something, without putting in an actual link to it, or a name they can track it down to, while never the less extending it with my own commentary. But… to outright copy an pasting the thing, without adding anything of your own, or explaining why you think its good argument against something…. What is this guy, a sort of advanced Alicebot?

  104. 104
    john

    Come on PZ the Vikings have a perfectly good way to know the gods minds!!! “Pepparkakor (Swedish Spice Cookies)” Put one cookie in the palm of your hand ask our question to the gods and press down on the cookie if it breaks into 3 parts the answer is “yes’” all other number of parts mean “no”.

  105. 105
    carlie

    So as to cut off the ‘Tis sidetrack: go here for the beginnings of it, specifically this comment to get right at the meat of it.

  106. 106
    jrfdeux, mode d'emploi

    Years ago I was of the opinion that internet comments were throwaway and attribution was unimportant. I’ve since learned otherwise, all the more reinforced by the many discussions on plagiarism here. While I was reading the details of what Jon Milne did I was wincing. At one point in the past I probably thought a lot like he did, which is hard for me to face. I guess my ethics were a lot more, erm, “flexible” in the past. I’m happy to say I’ve gotten better.

  107. 107
    Kamaka

    Thanks Carlie, I was out of the loop on that one.

  108. 108
    Karl Mann

    Lykex # 100

    I think creating a blog post on a well read blog, and generating hundreds of angry comments goes beyond expressing “annoyance”. Especially in a case like this where with a little work the person could probably be identified.

  109. 109
    LykeX

    Karl Mann #108
    Okay, but what’s wrong with it? What’s wrong with a blog owner writing a post about something rather unusual and problematic that happened on his blog? What’s wrong with the readers, many of them directly involved in the events, commenting on it?

    And what’s this about JonMilne possibly being identifiable? Who cares? PZ isn’t advocating that anyone go rough him up, nor is anyone else. Are we supposed to give JonMilne special privileges to help him avoid the consequences of his own bad behavior?

    If your point is solely that you wouldn’t have done it, then good for you. However, I get the sense that you’re talking about more than that (e.g. the “bullies” comment), so maybe you should back it up a little more. What precisely is the problem with this?

  110. 110
    azhael

    @101 opposablethumbs

    muscular

    Ah fuck…
    Thanks for the kind words and the correction :D

  111. 111
    left0ver1under

    In chess, it’s called move replication. You have two simultaneous opponents, and use one player’s moves against the other. Effectively, your two opponents are actually playing each other. You’re guaranteed to win one game and lose the other.

    In chess tournaments, such cheaters are also severely punished and/or banned.

  112. 112
    David Marjanović

    I know I am going to take some crap for this, but this thread pretty much proves the creationist stereotype of atheists, that they are basically pseudo intellectuals and bullies. It’s not like this guy was using your comments to the write a dissertation or even a thesis, and piling on is pretty pathetic.

    You misunderstand. We’re not faking anything – we really are that outraged.

    It’s not like this guy was using your comments to the write a dissertation or even a thesis

    Why is plagiarizing in a thesis bad in the first place?

    Because it means lying about yourself and others by means of lying about who wrote what you’re presenting in the thesis.

    Do you seriously expect science-minded people not to get outraged about a clusterfuck of lies???

    I have to admit that I have sometimes “attributed” only in the sense of saying, “Someone on another blog put it like this…”

    This doesn’t entail any lies.

  113. 113
    Karl Mann

    Lykex #109

    Just like sarah palin didn’t do anything wrong when she put bulls eyes over pictures of certain people in congress. It’s sad that you see yourself as a victim here

  114. 114
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    It’s sad that you see yourself as a victim here

    What is sad is that you don’t have the honesty and integrity to say that the ‘nym jonmilne lied and bullshitted by using other peoples words as his own, and lied to us by pretending to be a creationist. Dishonesty both here and there. If they aren’t your words, and you aren’t just lying and bullshitting folks, you attribute the words in some fashion. If I do a blockquote from Wiki, I attribute it to Wiki. Jonmilne should have done the same for the folks he did a copypasta on.

  115. 115
    opposablethumbs

    You’re welcome azhael (it’s what I’d want someone to do for me if this site were in Spanish, salvo que si lo fuera no sería capaz de escribir ni una frase coherente ;-) )

  116. 116
    throwaway, never proofreads, every post a gamble

    Karl Mann @ 113

    Lykex #109

    Just like sarah palin didn’t do anything wrong when she put bulls eyes over pictures of certain people in congress. It’s sad that you see yourself as a victim here

    So we’re not even going to pretend like there’s a non-extremist reason for calling out the playing of two sides against each other for whatever own personal gratification one would get, just slide right into the worst of all possible outcomes, outcomes which are not established by the history of those involved nor advocated for in pretty much any case of plagiarism. Just curious, how many murders have occurred due to plagiarism directly? I mean, some kind of statistic significance would lend your bullshit argument a shovel. As it stands right now, though, you’re up to your eyeballs in it.

  117. 117
    LykeX

    Karl Mann #113
    Are you fucking kidding me? Criticizing people for unethical behavior is not remotely comparable to painting bull’s eyes on their pictures. A bull’s eye is an implied threat to life and limb. Show me where anyone here has said anything that remotely qualifies for that.

    Fuck me, you can’t actually be this goddamn stupid, can you?

  118. 118
    throwaway, never proofreads, every post a gamble

    Besides, crosshairs have a pretty direct and concrete meaning to them which are an equivocation of “destroy this thing (politically.). A blog post… not so much a crosshair. Unless you read between the lines which are in between the lines… I’m still dizzy from the ignorant spin you tried to put on this Karl Mann.

  119. 119
    Celtic_Evolution

    I tried to ask Karl Mann to maintain some perspective in my post #99… and in what I should have seen as predictable, he instead doubled down and lost perspective completely.

    Stands to reason it’s not likely to improve from here…

  120. 120
    Seize

    I came to rubberneck at the train wreck of kooky behavior, but I stayed for the jokes about…fishing.

  121. 121
    anteprepro

    I remember Jon. Constantly asking for help debating creationists. It is sad that he never actually learned from what he was told, and was probably just trying to find some crap to cut and paste the whole time. Which probably explains why he decided to play sockpuppet: if we are directly debating the exact words of the creationist he is debating, then he could steal the exact words we used to argue against those words. Instead of needing to bother restructuring debate advice into a counter-argument. Yay for desperation and laziness!

  122. 122
    throwaway, never proofreads, every post a gamble

    I don’t know the motivation for Jon to do this, but if I had to choose I would say it was fervency of belief in his own rightness and a need to be validated either through winning by proxy or being the catalyst for someone’s catharsis. Then again, I may just be projecting some of my own motives upon him. Not that I would go so far as to plagiarize. My desire to be right doesn’t extend that far.

  123. 123
    FossilFishy (NOBODY, and proud of it!)

    I think there’s an overlooked motivation for Jon’s deception: Debate.org keeps score. Users have public win/lose stats as well as percentile and something called an Elo ranking. A quest to achieve status via a high ranking regardless of means is not an unheard of thing.

    Jon’s stats can be seen here.

  124. 124
    a_ray_in_dilbert_space

    I’m waiting for Karl Mann to go all Godwin on us.

    The problem I have with Jon’s appropriation of peoples’ thoughts here is that it was mere parroting devoid of understanding. Had he taken time to understand the responses, synthesize the viewpoints of different commenters and perhaps even improved on what we had written on the spur of the moment, I’d have no problem with him using my ideas, with or without attribution. However, mere parroting of words, taken out of the context of the discussion that occurred here actually diminishes the information content. It’s like the creobots who can only quote what they find on AIG. Copy pasta is just leftovers that you haven’t even bothered to reheat.

  125. 125
    David Marjanović

    Debate.org keeps score.

    *headdesk*

    See my contempt in comment 88? Turns out it’s all justified. Argh.

    something called an Elo ranking

    Like in chess.

    The problem I have with Jon’s appropriation of peoples’ thoughts here is that it was mere parroting devoid of understanding. [...] Copy pasta is just leftovers that you haven’t even bothered to reheat.

    QFT.

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