My connection to Jeffrey Epstein

Blake Stacey had to remind me.

It’s kind of a wacky roundabout connection, but there it is. I was sued by a crackpot name Stuart Pivar for $15 million (It happens. I’m getting more than a little tired of the bullshit) because I’d pointed out that this guy’s self-published pseudoscientific book, Lifecode, was complete garbage. He didn’t like that, and he had lots of money — he was some kind of rich septic tank magnate — so he blustered and threatened and threw lawsuits at me, which he eventually dropped at the last minute when I didn’t back down. It was unfortunate, too, because I’d just done a couple of interviews with major newspapers when he withdrew, taking with him all interest by the press in the story.

Now Mother Jones interviewed Pivar about Epstein, in one very strange rambling conversation (at the end he threatens to sue over the interview if it is at all misleading, so I suspect MJ decided to go with a literal, complete transcript of everything Pivar said). And there’s my name! Yikes!

Some evidence of the tension between Pivar and Epstein is lying in public view. In August 2007, Pivar sued a science blogger named P.Z. Myers and Seed Media Group, which hosted his blog, alleging defamation. Myers had lit into Pivar’s work, calling him “a classic crackpot.” In his complaint, Pivar made a point of mentioning by name two prominent members of SMG’s board: Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell. The lawsuit was later dropped.

I should have known — Seed Media Group was based in NY, was tightly focused on connecting science and media, and of course Epstein and his crony, Maxwell, would have been attracted to it, and it could well have been the recipient of Epstein money. So yeah, some of those blogging fees I was paid back then could have been stained with the Epstein taint, although I knew nothing about him at the time, never met him, and darn, never got invited to fly on the Lolita Express or visit his private island for sexy times. So while you might be able to draw a connection between us, my name would be in tiny print with only a thin red thread to tie us together.

Of course, when you read the Pivar interview, you have to take into account the fact that he really is a delusional kook. He says this, for instance, which is kind of nuts.

I’m a scientist, and I saw all the incredible, wonderful things he did for science, which nobody’s managed to have the intellect to understand.

In Pivar’s case, no, we did understand his “science”, and it was trash.

By the way, one additional thing I have to bring up is that lately a number of the scientific associates linked to Epstein have been slinging a bit of mud as a distraction. In particular, they’ve tried to accuse the late Stephen Jay Gould of also being guilty of playing around with Epstein. Unfortunately for them, and the New York Times’ reputation for fact checking, Gould has a rock solid alibi.

That’s really dirty pool, NYT. You should be ashamed.

An additional fact: Seed definitely got some funding from Epstein!

Now have to go wash my hands.


  1. PaulBC says

    Just had to highlight this part:

    In his complaint, Pivar made a point of mentioning by name two prominent members of SMG’s board: Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell.

    Was Jared Fogle on the board too?

    Umm, Stephen Jay Gould died in 2002, so I’m pretty sure he wasn’t partying with Epstein in 2008.

    Not voluntarily anyway.

  2. hemidactylus says

    You managed to connect two very far flung things I love— Always Sunny (yeah I’m warped) and SJG (peace be upon him).

  3. hemidactylus says

    Oh and from:

    Me saying very protectively and admittedly with anger in my heart:

    “I was taken aback by the mere mention of one of my heroes, Gould:

    “Mr. Epstein attracted a glittering array of prominent scientists. They included the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Murray Gell-Mann, who discovered the quark; the theoretical physicist and best-selling author Stephen Hawking; the paleontologist and evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould; Oliver Sacks, the neurologist and best-selling author; George M. Church, a molecular engineer who has worked to identify genes that could be altered to create superior humans; and the M.I.T. theoretical physicist Frank Wilczek, a Nobel laureate.”

    Which calls for some sanity when connecting names, given Gould died in 2002, so what could he know. When I see the photo including Dennett I also have no besmirching judgement to make. I do still take issue with his optimistic take on memetics. But I still like the guy.”

    And Dennett’s treatment of Gould in DDI.

  4. Akira MacKenzie says


    Now, because I comment on this blog, I’M NOW CONNECTED TO JEFFERY EPSTEIN!

    Thanks a heap, PZ!


  5. Ed Seedhouse says

    I am so ashamed to have been connected to Epstein by having lived on the same continental shelf as him. If by “so” we mean “not at all”. I think PZ should be as about upset about it as I am.

    Apropos of nothing, I am always bothered by the construction “X is dead” because it seems to me that once we die we are no more and can’t be in a negative state anymore than we can then be in a positive state.

  6. Owlmirror says


    MJ describes Pivar as “a controversial scientist”.

    Absolutely not. I saw the damn balloon animal schematic of development. I still have the sample images somewhere, because I thought they actually looked cool, like something from out of the Codex Seraphinianus or something.

    But imaginative visual art with no connection to actual cellular behavior and gene expression is fucking well not science.

  7. chris says

    Oh, crud. Now I am connected to Epstein for approaching Pinker at a talk he gave promoting his book The Language Instinct (early 1990s). I had a five year old who had a severe speech disorder, but was smart enough to learn 70 words of sign language in one summer just before turning three years old. I went to several local lectures on speech, education and children in those days.

    A couple years before I went to a lecture at the local Children’s Hospital given by David Elkind about his book The Hurried Child. I asked him if it was okay for my kid to be in special ed. preschool because he could not speak. Dr. Elkind did tell me that early intervention was important, my child was an outlier. (My younger kids benefited from his advice, I learned childhood was a journey of adventure and not a race)

    Pinker, um not so much. He was baffled that I had a kid with a speech disorder but was not constantly drooling.. or whatever he though super low intelligence was. He refused to believe that there was such a diagnosis as dyspraxia/apraxia or or even dysphasia (latter is what younger kid got, fixed with a couple of years of language therapy).

    (or and with hindsight, someone with autism level 2 under DSM V… the young man would prefer Asperger’s, but being nonverbal at age three is not allowed for that label, hence its removal from the latest DSM).

    Since then, I have never respected him nor his ideas.

    So Pinker may have had “reason” (early 1990s, apparently the thought was that kids who could not do something as “simple as talk” belonged in institutions, cue “Mr. Holland’s Opus”). But I don’t think it was enough to disbelieve me. It did not help that few years later I caught him debating online with speech/language pathologists that the disorders they were working on did not exist. (this was phone modem days)

  8. says

    Hey, you think that’s bad, I am a cyclist and wear lycra, apparently that’s a Koch Bros product. Tainted underwear.

  9. Alt-X says

    That interview haha, that guy is a nut! He contradicts him self at every turn- that poor girl!… Shes a trollop!… If he did it to one girl no one would care!… He did horrible things!… the trollops were willing!… I stopped seeing him when i found out about how horrible he was!… Its not his fault he traffics in underage girls, he has nimfomania!

    He basically called Jeff an idiot on the scientific subjects, then in the next breath calls him an amazing genius. Why are so many rich people the fu-king worst?

  10. Owlmirror says

    FWIW, a little digging shows that the Seed Media Group Board ¹ started out as Adam Bly, Joseph Gantz, James M. Gould, & R. Neil Raymond. James D. Watson was the Advisory Board. ²

    But skipping forward a bit, I see that it grew a bit: ³

      • Adam Bly, Chairman
      • James Gould, Director
      • Jamie Macintosh, Director
      • Frederic Mayerson, Director
      • Ghislaine Maxwell, Director
      • Neil Raymond, Director & Secretary
      • James Watson, Adviser ²

    So while G. Maxwell is on there, Jeffrey Epstein was not. And I see she disappeared from the Board of Directors at some time after April 2008 (the date of the snapshot before the one linked). What happened in 2008, again? Oh…
    WikiP: “On June 30, 2008, after Epstein pleaded guilty to a state charge (one of two) of procuring for prostitution a girl below age 18 […]”

    So the classic crackpot was half right about that one point.

    1: If you want to see a bletcherous example of marketdroid-speak, you could read this page about Leonardos.

    2: This was criticised on Scienceblogs itself, and the criticism is still online. Hm!

    3: The management team is also there.

      • Adam Bly, Founder & CEO
      • Dean Daniels, COO
      • Fabien Savenay, Senior Vice President
      • Irina Golub, Vice President, Finance
      • Anna Herceg, Vice President, Advertising & Business Development
      • Tim Murtaugh, Director of Technology
      • Michael Tive, Vice President, Marketing
      • Claudia Valentino, Managing Editor, Content Labs
      • Ari Wallach, Vice President, Corporate Development

  11. says

    Yikes! My blog used to be on your blog list in those ScienceBlogs days. So now I’m besmirched with the Epstein stain, as well! Thanks, PZ!

  12. robro says

    I see he made his fortune as an “inventor” of plastic containers and at 89 still seems to be the board chair at Chem-Tainer Industries. Perhaps he could claim to be the inspiration for Mr. McGuire’s advise to Ben Braddock.

  13. Owlmirror says

    Long-ago dirt on Pivar vs Epstein: (from Peter Irons, the lawyer who aided PZ back then)

    Matt Snyders’ report in City Lights confirms what I suspected from the outset, that PZ was simply a convenient target for Pivar’s animus toward Seed. Snyders quotes Pivar: “‘The real issue got sidelined,’ he said, explaining that his biggest beef is with Seed Media Group, the organization that oversees Myers’s blog.”

    That explains why Pivar’s complaint (falsely and irrelevanty) named Jeffrey Epstein as a Seed director. I had an interesting talk the other day with a writer for Vanity Fair, who’s working on a big story about Epstein, focusing on the under-age sex changes pending against him. The Vanity Fair writer told me that Epstein put up a big wad of cash to set up Seed, and that Pivar and Epstein (formerly friends) had a falling out. My own guess (speculation at this point) is that someone at the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics at Harvard, which Epstein initially funded with $6.5 million, turned down Pivar’s request to endorse his Lifecode book. The sex charges just added fuel to Pivar’s effort to “get” Epstein, with PZ’s “crackpot” comment giving Pivar a convenient hook.

    So the “real issue” was never PZ, who simply got caught in the Pivar-Epstein crossfire. This is speculation, as I said, but it makes more sense to me of why a rich bully would pick on a poor (but rich in guts) professor.

  14. lumipuna says

    Oh, the times! June 2009 was when I found Pharyngula, my very first community in English-speaking internet. Now I saw a mention of Pivar’s name and it did ring a distant bell. I was binge-reading Pharyngula archive back to 2006.

  15. Owlmirror says

    @jack16: Alt-X is pretty obviously reacting to Stuart Pivar’s statements in the linked interview.

  16. Owlmirror says

    So the classic crackpot was half right about that one point.

    Since I followed some links to the original complaint, I see (on page 6) that he named not only Epstein and Maxwell, but also James Watson, as being on the board of Seed Media Group.

    So he got that two-thirds right.


    Pivar’s sloppiness/dishonesty also shows in that the complaint states that PZ blogged at Well, no. In all of 2007, that website was just a redirect page stating that the blog had moved to scienceblogs. There were no blog postings on about Pivar