My name is not Ernst Haeckel

It’s also not “Meyers”. As promised, Kent Hovind has uploaded his “Whack An Atheist – PZ Meyers” video to YouTube, and I’m so disappointed, since he didn’t whack me at all. He spends the whole time ranting and raving about Ernst Haeckel’s Biogenetic Law, insisting that any mention of pharyngeal structures in embryos is a lie, and that embryology does not support evolution. There are more than a few problems with his argument.

  • I am not Ernst Haeckel. He died before I was born.
  • I do not accept the Biogenetic Law, and no biologists do anymore.
  • The only way I teach the Biogenetic Law is as an example of theory that was shown to be wrong. I try to get them to understand that labeling something “theory” does not mean it’s infallible.
  • Conflating “gill slits”, a colloquial term for the non-respiratory pharyngeal structures of the embryo, with “gills”, is Hovind’s error, not that of any biologist. I’ll agree that “gill slit” is confusing term, but I haven’t seen it used in the scientific literature lately, so who cares.
  • That Haeckel’s explanatory theory is wrong does not invalidate the embryological observations of homologous structure in the pharynx of embryos. They’re there. Accept it.
  • The similarities in embryos are real, and constantly having to deal with creationists who think that they aren’t because one 19th century embryologist exaggerated and misinterpreted them is tiresome.
  • The similarities do constitute evidence in support of evolution. Again, interpreting them to imply a sequential, linear pattern of progressive change is erroneous. That would be a creationist flavor of historical change, rather than an evolutionary one.

Throughout, Hovind repeatedly challenges me and others to a debate. There’s a reason I’m not going to do that: Hovind relies entirely on strawmanning me, and I’d have to spend most of the “debate” trying to explain how he doesn’t understand evolution, embryology, or me.

Also, charmer that he is, references the fact that evolutionary biology is taught at Kent State, says “we all know what happened there”, and explains it away as thanks to the students being taught that “they were animals”. That would be the moment in any debate where I’d have to dither, trying to decide between walking off the stage or kicking Hovind in the balls first, then walking off the stage. It’s the eternal dilemma when engaging someone as vile as Hovind.

If he wants to debate anyone, apparently he really wants to engage Ernst Haeckel. Go to Jena, Germany, where he died in 1919. Bring a shovel.

Ho-hum, Comma again

I leave town for a few days, and crackpots start dunning the university’s lawyers for petty information. Comma has been at it again. This email went to the university board of regents and general counsel.

Demand For Administrative Investigation Into Willful Refusal To Comply With MGDPA Over PZ Meyers Data, Fraudulent Bills, And Informed Consent Form Of Nemmers’ Subject Data

David J. McMillan, Chair U of M Board of Regents (612) 625-6300 & Douglas R. Peterson, U of M General Counsel (612) 624-7569:

Chapter 13 data request – Please email/file share me the following readily available, free, electronic, public data in its original searchable pdf format pursuant to 13.03 Subd 3(e):

1. I am demanding an administrative investigation into the University of Minnesota’s willful refusal to comply with my Chapter 13 data requests. I’ve attached the UM’s fraudulent bills (UM_Fraudulent_Bills.pdf) for readily available readily available, free, electronic, public data. I have reason to suspect the motive is to prevent your Class of 1985 UMM graduate from receiving damning facts about the corrupt UM and the corrupt UMM and their corrupt personnel. The fraudulent bill is for a tape of the University of Minnesota-Morris police during interviews in regard to the vandalism and the theft Northstar newspapers. First of all, I never requested an audio tape but the original DSS file. I have reason to suspect that the audio files have been tampered with prior to being placed onto the audio tape. Second, I’ve attached a March 22, 2011 bill for the UMM’s contract with Stevens County Sheriff for Law Enforcement Technology Group Computer Aided Dispatch and Electronic Records Management software which allows for the electronic transfer of DSS files but not audio cassettes. Second, the data that I received was not in the required searchablable format but had been maliciously converted to scanned pdf format. Third, I’ve included to BCA’s software deployment report that indicates that your corrupt UMM Police have been electronically transmitting DSS audio files since 2011.

[This is a bone he won’t drop: I was accused of stealing newspapers, with no evidence. The police asked me if I’d done it, I said no. That’s as far as it can go.]

2. I’m also making a data request for all my subject data from 06-24-2014 until today’s date. See attached signed informed consent form.

3. I’ve attached my 03-12-17 Chapter 13 data request entitled: “Chapter 13 data request – personnel data – grants for The Aurora Center.” This data is currently being illegally withheld from your Class of 1985 UMM graduate.

[I have no idea what any of that is about.]

4. Chapter 13.43 Personnel Data for Paul Myers Associate Professor Ph.D., University of Oregon B.S., University of Washington, Seattle Expertise Developmental Biology Neurobiology Email: Phone: +1 3205896343 Campus Location: Science 2390 Please email me University of Minnesota, Morris Associate Professor Paul “Logical Fallacy” Myers’ (Myers is an inciter Of Violence & Freethoughtblogs CEO, isn’t he?) current employment contract, actual gross salary for year 2017-2018; Educational Background, Professional Certifications, Teaching Areas, Health Care Interests, Research Interests, Current Projects, Publications, Awards, Curriculum Vitae, and work-related continuing education for the years 2008-2018. Why am I asking for that data? I want to know if PZ “Logical Fallacy” Myers received a degree to diagnose, don’t I? Why? Didn’t you know that PZ “diagnosed” me as a ‘kook,’ ‘local loon,’ ‘wacky,’ and last but not least a ‘demented Sovereign Citizen’? Has PZ deluded himself into thinking that he’s a licensed doctor or did he just pull a fake sheep-skin out of a box of Cracker Jacks? Hmm? Inquiring minds want to know, don’t they?

[Comma is such a nosy fellow. He can write to the University of Washington and the University of Oregon if he wants confirmation of my degrees…but, you know, when I was hired here the university required that I give them verifiable evidence of my degrees. I think they’re confident my degree didn’t come out of a box of Cracker Jacks.]

5. Since the statute of limitations has run out on my Chapter 13 data request for the 13.82 Subd. 7. Criminal investigative data for the theft and vandalism of the UMM Northstar’s newspaper I am making a brand-spanking new request. Email me the incident reports in searchable pdf format, handwriting samples, audio files in original DSS format and corresponding transcripts, Digital images of crimes scene and vandalized newspapers, and the signed letter declining prosecution.

[That’s nice.]

Terry Dean, Nemmers (320) 283-5713

P.S. Hey did you know that I helped cost PZ’s corrupt buddy Steven County Attorney/Morris City Attorney Aaron Jordan not one but two judge jobs? Did you know that the Committee for Judicial Selection doesn’t like to receive clear, precise and unquestionable evidence of their candidates willfully refusing to comply with the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act?

[I never heard of Aaron Jordan.]

P.S.S. You want to listen to my audio recorded conversations with your corrupt UM cops and your corrupt UMM cops?


In case you’re curious about how the general counsel replied, it was with a terse suggestion that he visit the Data Request Center and fill out a form…which anyone can do, you know.

I’m getting tired of dealing with loons. I’m sure they are, too.

Rebecca Watson tells it like it is

Here we go again.

She’s exactly right on this, and her account of the Buzzfeed article matches mine: they researched that thing for months, and there was a point in the middle where I was expecting it to come out at any time that the reporter contacted me and told me it was on hold a little longer while they nail down a few more points. This was not some quick hatchet job.

It’s telling, too, that the critics of the article keep circling around the same ad hominems.

I keep seeing the same thing over and over again. We’re not supposed to believe the article because Rebecca Watson is cited in it (as is this mysterious awful person, PZ Meyers). A lot of people also jump on the fact that Melody Hensley is in it.

That really pisses me off — it’s a circular argument. Shitlords on the internet grabbed a picture of Melody from the internet, slapped the words “TRIGGERED” on it, and then used that meme to argue that she has no credibility. I’ve also seen them cite the odious Thunderf00t’s terrible video on her — which really was a cheap hatchet job — that implied that only soldiers ever get PTSD (wrong!) to say that her diagnosis of PTSD was a lie. And now, because she was harassed right off the internet and out of her job, they claim that she experienced no trauma at all, which makes no sense. It’s a contemptible argument.

It also makes me wonder what they think motivates Rebecca Watson and Melody Hensley. Neither of them have gained a thing from speaking out about harassment, other than more harassment, hate mail, death threats, and reputations smeared by assholes, all while the skeptic/atheist movements sail merrily along, changing nothing, pretending that all is well.

Oh, and here’s another comment that confirms what the women have been saying all along. It’s some of the conference organizers who are a significant part of the problem.

I had to point out to this guy that maybe the reason he doesn’t see any criticisms is that his bias is shining out brightly, and it’s quite likely that the women know better than to talk to him — he’ll just deny, deny, deny, and then turn around and call them a Crazy Woman. So he doubled down.

A True Skeptic, that. I guess I’m not who I think I am. And once again, the fact that a mob of jerks hounded Melody into a stressed-out retirement from the movement is used to discredit Melody, rather than the mob.

I’ll also mention that this conference organizer, who had not heard any complaints about his speakers in 7 years, then turned around and claimed that he’d heard from dozens of women that I’d sexually harassed them when I spoke at his conference. That’s the level of dishonesty we’re dealing with here — that’s the amount of disrespect atheist conference organizers deal out to the women attendees. And then they wonder why women and minorities show less interest in organized atheism.

I guess it’ll be another IMDB credit for me

I was informed yesterday that I am the ☆STAR☆ of yet another movie, a movie that I was not told about and just sort of stumbled into. I’m losing all respect for movie celebrities, though: apparently, the way a movie star works is to have some guy with a camera record you talking for a bit, and then they all go away, and you don’t even think about it for five years, and then suddenly this thing is available online and you see it and say “Oh crap, I was in that piece of shit?” and you never get paid. I’m beginning to wonder how those other movie stars can afford their beach houses in Malibu.

So here, you can watch my fabulous movie, Origins of the Universe: The Great Debate on Amazon Prime.

Oh, yeah, they also misspell my name, because of course they always do.

You don’t really want to watch it.

As I was watching it, I remembered the circumstances. I think it was a conference in Winnipeg; this guy asked me nicely if I’d answer some questions on camera, and I said sure, so I end up in this oddly lit hotel room with a stranger (I hate how that happens) and he starts firing questions at me, for about an hour. I had no idea it was a debate, but I guess that after the fact, it was. And then I literally went away and completely forgot about it.

The interviewer, Todd Cantelon, then spliced me in with other footage of such luminaries as Ken Ham and Terry Mortenson and David Menton and Jason Lisle and Georgia Purdom and PZ Meyers (oh, wait, that was me). It’s weird to be retroactively ganged up on, but I’m unconcerned, they were all idiots.

There’s also a woman named Mary P. Winsor who was interviewed, so I wasn’t alone on my side. She’s a historian of biology, and has written criticisms of Mayr’s claims about pre-Darwinian essentialism. I don’t know much about her work, but if she’s been opposing some of the ahistorical BS that Ernst Mayr spent a long lifetime injecting into the discourse, she and I are on the same side.

Anyway, it’s a long boring set of spliced-together clips of me saying a sentence or two, then Ken Ham babbling out his fallacious canned spiel about “observational science” and then more creationists talking, then another sentence or two by me or Mary Winsor followed by more nonsense from creationists.

Also, to spice it up, the creationists were recorded at the Creation “Museum” in some place where dinosaur roars and honks occasionally drown them out. Todd Cantelon pretends to be a moderator, but all of his segments were filmed in some spectacular red rock canyon somewhere. It’s kind of unfair that all I got was a grey Winnipeg hotel room.

I’m sure there’s a connection between Trump and fossilized soft tissue

I went down the rabbit hole for a little while this morning. It started here: I was sent a link by Trey Smith about the TRUMP: the COMING LANDSLIDE. ~Ancient Prophecy Documentary of Donald Trump. With a click-bait title like that, I had to start watching the video. And then Trey Smith is mesmerizingly weird: his technique is to stick half his face right into the camera, and make lots of hand gestures with a computer screen in the background. It was effective at first just because his tics and odd movements and emphatic phrasing were engrossing, but I didn’t last long, because there’s no substance there. He seems to think Trump is destined to be president, but his main argument is numerology and ‘because the Bible’ with lots of finger stabbing at the video screen behind him.

So I switched to some of his other videos, and of course he’s a Young Earth Creationist, and he’s very impressed by something that has become a veritable obsession with YECs in the last decade or so: preserved soft tissue in fossil dinosaur bones. And that led him to Mark Armitage.

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Can you die of an irony overdose?

That’s an important question to ask if you’re about to watch a David Barton video.

Something I’ve noticed about progressives and liberals is how careless they are when throwing false claims around.

Question answered. I’m dead. Will have to continue blogging from beyond the veil, using my spirit form. He killed me with his very first sentence.

This is David Barton, god-emperor of the fabricated historical quotation, claiming that progressives make stuff up. I just…I just…sorry, can’t comment. Got an ectoplasm clog right now.

What is the “false claim” that has him riled up?

For example, I was recently on a national television network where I was introduced as having a doctorate. A progressive instantly ran stories claiming that I don’t have a doctorate. That false claim is amusing on so many levels.

Oh. It’s false? Then what I expect is that he’s about to provide some verifiable evidence that he does in fact have an earned doctorate. That’s easy to do, you know.

But no, he’s going to explain that he doesn’t have to.

First, things like health information, and tax information, and college education information are fully protected by privacy laws, so they don’t know whether I have a doctorate or not, and I’ve always chosen not to talk about it.

Uh, no. Your educational records, stuff like grades and classes attended, are protected by FERPA. But obviously, stuff like whether you graduated from a specific institution are not: if someone puts “Ph.D., Harvard” on their CV, you can contact the registrar at Harvard and ask for a degree verification, and they’ll tell you whether that was earned or not. They have to be able to do that, otherwise people like me might start slappin’ the names of prestigious bible colleges on their CVs to look fancy.

So this is just a bogus dodge.

But what does he do immediately after declaring his degree status a private matter?

Second, just for the record, I do have an earned doctorate. There it is. <waves at a couple of framed pieces of paper in the background>

Third, not only do I have an earned doctorate, I have two honorary doctorates.

No. Your degree is not a piece of paper. It’s a record of academic work. I don’t even know where my version of that certificate I got 31 years ago is located — probably buried in a box somewhere. I certainly don’t have it framed, and putting it in a frame does not add extra weight to its importance.

Here’s how you do it, David Barton: you simply state the name of the institution, and the year you got it. It’s that easy. Then anyone can verify it. For instance, I got a Ph.D. from the University of Oregon in 1985. There’s even a service, National Student Clearinghouse, where you can get verification for $12.50. To do that, though, you need to provide the name of the institution. It would also be nice to state what field you got those degrees in. It should also be an accredited college, because those fly-by-night goofy diploma mills probably don’t submit degree information to national databases.

Good thing I’m already dead, because claiming to give us information while not giving us information is classic Barton.

Isn’t Barton devious? He says he doesn’t need to tell you about his degrees (he’s so modest!), but then he deigns to tell you anyway, except that he doesn’t give you the information he pretends to be giving you.

Some people scrutinized those blurry images, though, and got a little tentative information.

As we and others pointed out, Barton’s assertion seemed a little odd since he never actually stated where or when he “earned” his supposed doctorate and the documents in the background to which he pointed were difficult to read, though one clearly came from Pensacola Christian College, from which Barton received an honorary doctorate. The other two documents appear to have come from Ecclesia College and Life Christian University, an unaccredited Christian university that has also awarded Ph.D.s in theology to televangelists like Joyce Meyers and Benny Hinn.

Somebody needs to tell Barton that Ph.D.s from unaccredited diploma mills don’t count as “earned”.

But, like everything David Barton does, he stands by his words. Which is why Barton has taken down that video. I guess he didn’t make the framed diplomas blurry enough.

And now my spirit is going to have to spend some time finding a new corpse to reanimate. I knew there was a reason we bought a house so close to a cemetery.

Nothing but us big fat chickens around here


There are two kinds of people in this world: those who are deeply suspicious of twin studies, and those who welcome their confirmation that that their identity is fixed and heritable. I’m in the first group. I always have been. Maybe it’s something in my genes.

I first encountered the popular accounts of the Minnesota twin studies when I was a teenager, seeing the scientist and some of the twins doing the rounds of the afternoon talk shows — I think I saw them on the Mike Douglas Show (I’ve dated myself now). I remember them going on and on about the amazing similarities between the twins who had been raised apart. They both married women with the same name! They drank the same brand of beer! They were both volunteer firemen! They gave their dogs the same name! But while there were some recognizable similarities in the pairs, at the same time the obsession with superficial trivia wrecked the credibility of the stories. What? You’re trying to argue that my pet’s names are somehow encoded in my genome? It seemed to me that what we were seeing is echoes of similar culture in their upbringing (later confirmed: most of the twins weren’t really ‘separated’, but were raised by different relatives).

I also saw psychological tropes that ought to have been recognized. These were people who were rewarded for finding coincidences, and they avidly complied, and the scientists were readily accepting of coincidences as evidence of fundamental causal similarity. I was exposed to this pop genetics at the same time I was reading Fate magazine with a critical eye, and the stories were similar. I’d see stories that claimed to confirm the fact of reincarnation, for instance, by compiling lists of similarities between the contemporary claimant and their past life incarnation. They have the same birthday! Note the resemblances in this old-timey photograph! He lived in the Civil War era, now he is a Civil War re-enactor! He died in a fire, and now he’s afraid of fire!

It was exactly the same. That bugged me. And to this day I still see people touting the old twin studies as conclusively demonstrating the genetic basis of personality and intelligence, declaring that it has been positively confirmed that the heritability (a word they often don’t understand — genetically, it has a very narrow and precise meaning that isn’t exactly what they think it is) of intelligence is exactly 50%, meaning that half your IQ is determined by your genes (again, that’s not what it means), and therefore we should be more concerned with breeding intelligent people than teaching people. I also see this fandom coupled with other ugly associations — racists love it, as do Libertarians and simple-minded techno-fetishists. There are definitely genetic contributions to brain development and behavior, but human twin studies are deeply flawed and prone to exaggeration.

Stephen Hsu is a member of the gullible second group. He has posted a reply to my criticisms of his claim that we can readily ramp up human intelligence to reach an IQ of 1000 because hey, intelligence is obviously heritable. The twin studies say so.

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Another day, another creationist

My conversation with Perry Marshall about “evolution 2.0” is now online on the radio show Unbelievable.

Marshall is sales and marketing guy who has written a book titled Evolution 2.0: Breaking the Deadlock Between Darwin and Design, in which he claims to have worked out a reconciliation between science and religion based on arguments he had with his missionary/theologian brother, that hints at the quality of the science you’ll find in it. He has a superficial view of a few biological processes, like DNA error repair and transposition, and has shoehorned them into his religious belief that these are the tools used by some kind of engineering force that makes them purposeful.

He has a challenge with a $100,000 prize. All you have to do is show an example of Information that doesn’t come from a mind. Basically he’s making the clueless argument that there are no processes in genetics that produce novel information. I think Jeffrey Shallit ought to step up and claim it. Actually, he might have to fight through a mob of information theorists to get his money (if it exists, and if the judging wasn’t rigged).

Just doing my part

A clinic in Virginia took a pro-active stance against the anti-choicers preaching and sermonizing outside: they tried to drown them out with a recording over a loudspeaker. I don’t actually approve of that tactic — the first consideration ought to be welcoming patients, and compounding cacophony isn’t helpful. Interestingly, though, their choice of a recording was the audiobook of The Happy Atheist, as read by the resonant Aron Ra.

“We are apes and the descendants of apes,” the recording of Meyers’ book “The Happy Atheist” declared. “We’re the descendents of rat-like primates, who were the children of reptiles, who were the spawn of amphibians, who were the terrestrial progeny of fish, who came from worms, who were assembled from single-cell microorganisms, who were the products of chemistry.”

“Your daddy was a film of chemical slime on a Hadean rock and he didn’t care about you—he was only obeying the laws of thermodynamics,” it continued. “You aren’t here because of grand design, but because of chance, contingency and selection.”

Not only was Aron Ra given no credit, they also…misspelled my name. I guess I should learn to expect that. When I got married, I suggested that I adopt my wife’s name instead, but she squelched that. No one would ever misspell “Gjerness”, would they?

But actually, much as I appreciate the attention and the anger of Christians, don’t blare my words at women just looking for care. It’s not appropriate and is counterproductive.