Shortly after my two
part expose on the blogger known as “Avicenna Last”, his web of lies came unraveled. A user on twitter (@boxofbudgies) posted an example of blatant plagiarism in one of Avicenna’s blog articles. After the initial find, several members of the Slymepit forum uncovered numerous other examples of plagiarism, and the depth of the plagiarism appeared to far exceed that of notorious cases like CJ Werleman. On January 3rd, popular blogger Hemant Mehta posted a piece outlining numerous examples of plagiarism uncovered by the Slymepit, as well as mentioning my documentation of instances where he appeared to have copypasted hatemail to himself. Shortly thereafter, Ed Brayton, owner of Freethoughtblogs, removed Avicenna from freethoughtblogs. Ed Brayton and most of the members of the FTB network immediately condemned Avicenna’s plagiarism, and their reactions were completely appropriate. Two FTB bloggers, PZ Myers and Jason Thibeault, has a very different reaction to this scandal. Their reactions, and what those reactions reveal, will be the subject discussed in this article.
PZ Myers defends the indefensible, attempts to smear me as a racist
On January 2nd, PZ Myers posted this article, entitled “In Defense of Avicenna”, as a response to my blog posts documenting Avicenna’s dishonesty. This was posted after the initial allegations of plagiarism were posted on Twitter and the Slymepit, but prior to when the plagiarism allegations became widely publicized through Hemant Mehta’s blog.
In the above snippet, PZ is accusing me of “making up stories” about Avicenna. Despite the numerous instances of dishonesty and fabulism that I documented in my two part article, PZ only addresses the very first section, where I documented the instances where Avicenna copy-pasted articles from the internet and falsely claimed that it was “hate-mail” sent to him. It is extremely dishonest of PZ to only address a small part of the evidence that I presented and to pretend that that was the only type of dishonesty that was documented from Avicenna.
I didn’t just post one or two examples. I posted twelve separate examples of Avicenna doing this. As I mentioned in my article, there were far more examples of this behavior in his blog. I stopped simply because I did not have time to document each and every instance of him doing this. I selected examples that clearly weren’t chain e-mails that were floating around the internet. In fact, I selected examples that would make no sense for someone to copypaste and send to an obscure British blogger living in India. In one of the examples that I used, Avicenna himself posted the same piece on his blog several months prior, and properly attributed it. There are far, far too many instances of this behavior to attribute it to coincidence.
In the above snippet, PZ attempts to smear me as a racist for daring to question Avicenna’s claims. I take claims like this very seriously. In fact, the reason I wrote my two part expose of Avicenna was because he falsely accused me of using racist slurs on twitter, and falsely accused me of being a racist on his blog. (I cannot link to these posts because Avicenna has deleted his entire internet presence). If PZ Myers has any integrity, he should either provide evidence of racist comments by me (he won’t find any), or retract and apologize. His false accusation of racism reveals that he has no rational argument –all he has left is character assassination. This also reveals that PZ read part 2, which was where I discussed the impossibility of Avicenna’s fabulist claims. It is notable that PZ never addressed any of my claims from part 2, and simply tried to smear me with a racism allegation.
The above section of his post is telling. PZ states that, “on the record”, he is vouching for Avicenna’s credibility. He is willing to do this with just the knowledge of his real name and having met him once in person-certainly not enough knowledge to substantiate the fabulist claims that Avicenna made in his blog. The very next day, Avicenna was exposed as a serial plagiarist. PZ bet his credibility on Avicenna, and he lost big.
The next day, on January 3rd, PZ posted this article entitled”Farewell, Avicenna.”
Despite the fact that Avicenna has been completely discredited as a plagiarist, PZ still claims that “almost all” accusations made against Avicenna were lies. PZ never even attempted to address any of the numerous accusations except for the copypasting of his hate-mail. With the confirmation of his plagiarism, the copypasting of his hatemail falls into an already proven pattern of behavior, and PZ’s defense of this crumbles. PZ gives absolutely no reason why anyone should find the claims against Avicenna baseless. All we have here is PZ telling his reader’s to ignore all of the other accusations because he says so.
Gere he finally admits that Avicenna was busted for plagiarism. He still mentions “spurious accusations” without actually proving anything to be spurious. At this point, when Avicenna has been busted for plagiarism (and been caught lying to try to explain it), why would Avicenna’s word be credible at all?
So according to PZ even though Avicenna was caught plagiarizing, he still should be trusted about everything else. PZ still gives no refutation to any of the claims made in my blogposts. PZ is just decreeing that his readers should not believe any of the other claims about Avicenna.
The credulity of Jason Thibeault
On January 3rd, blogger Jason Thibeault (aka Lousy Canuck) posted this article entitled “On Avicenna, plagiarism, and thanking those who regularly cry wolf while flailing us raw.” In this post, Thibeault appears even more desperate than PZ to cover up the extent of Avicenna’s lies.
At the beginning of the post, Thibeault states that Avicenna, through the extent of his plagiarism, has violated his trust, and that everything that he has written should be questioned unless there is direct evidence to corroborate it. Furthermore, Thibeault adds that he believes Avicenna is “more or less self-aggrandizingly fabulist.” I completely agree with this, and Thibeault’s words echo the conclusions of my articles about Avicenna.
To clarify, while I am a member of the Slymepit, I would at best be considered a peripheral member there. At the time of writing this, my post count is less than 20. The person who initially exposed Avicenna’s plagiarism is also a Slymepit member with very few posts, just like me. The claim that we exposed Avicenna as part of some organized “Slymepit conspiracy” is completely false. Thibeault also claims that we have “mythologized” about Avicenna and implies that we slandered him, but presents no evidence of slander or false claims.
The above portion is most telling. The ridiculous and completely unbelievable “rape accusation” claim was discussed in part 2 of my expose. That claim strongly appears to be yet another fabricated and false claim made by Avicenna. At the beginning of this very piece, Thibeault declares that he thinks Avicenna is a liar and a fabulist, and states that none of what he wrote can be believed without corroboration. Yet he then insists that this one highly dubious claim should be believed, despite Avicenna’s history of lying and lack of integrity. Why is there the change in thinking when it comes to this one claim? It is obvious that despite all of the evidence destroying Avicenna’s credibility, Thibeault accepts some claims as true solely based upon whether or not they support his preferred narrative. It is also notable that Richard Sanderson, who Thibeault dishonestly describes as a “slime pit lion”, does not even have an account on the Slymepit forum.
Thibeault is being dishonest yet again. The allegation was not that he “plagiarized a piece of hate mail.” My article provided twelve separate examples where Avicenna copied material from other sources on the internet and claimed that it was “hate mail” that he received. In one of the examples, Avicenna himself had responded to the copypasted article several months earlier, and had correctly attributed the source. Thibeault’s insistence that we ignore Avicenna’s track-record of plagiarism is absurd. Avicenna’s copypasting of the “e-mails” to himself clearly fits with his established pattern of behavior of plagiarism. Yet despite all of the evidence, along with our knowledge that Avicenna is an admitted plagiarist, Thibeault still wants to reject the claim that Avicenna falsified the e-mails. Thibeault appears to be evaluating the claim based upon nothing more than group loyalties. As to Thibeault’s criticism of Mehta: I read the article too, and it seemed pretty clear to me what Mehta was referring to regarding PZ’s comments. I did not find anything misleading at all in Mehta’s article. I would suggest that readers look at the article themselves and evaluate.
So, just like PZ, Thibeault is asking his readers to suspend critical thinking and to not believe certain claims regardless of evidence. He also dishonestly minimizes the evidence against Avicenna, and falsely implies that I had made numerous false ethics allegations against other FTB bloggers in the past (he failed to provide even one example). His dishonesty is even more apparent than PZ’s though-after telling his readers that he believes that Avicenna is a liar and a fabulist, he tells them just a few paragraphs later to believe Avicenna, simply because it suits his narrative.
The polar opposite of skepticism
In their reactions to the Avicenna scandal, both Myers and Thibeault have demonstrated a complete abandonment of the skeptical mindset. In their eyes, the validity of a claim has nothing to do with evidence, but rather the validity of a claim is solely determined by group affiliation. They have shown their willingness to smear their ideological enemies and dishonestly represent the claims made and evidence presented by others. They have both succumbed to a form of the ad-hominem fallacy; arguments and evidence can simply be dismissed with a simple accusation that they came from somebody associated with the “Slymepit.” They have both shown their credulity when it comes to believing their own “side”, and this credulity has utterly destroyed their credibility. PZ, just one day before booting Avicenna from his blog network for being a lying plagiarist, told his readers that he could verify that Avicenna was telling the truth. Either PZ is willing to lie to his readers to help advance his agenda, or he is a credulous, gullible fool and a poor judge of character. Neither conclusion reflects well upon PZ. A for Thibeault, he was willing to tell his readers that he believed Avicenna to be a liar and fabulist, yet a few paragraphs later was willing to unconditionally accept one of Avicenna’s most fantastic and ridiculous claims. Just like Myers, Thibeault has revealed himself as either extremely dishonest, or extremely credulous.
Why this matters
Avicenna is gone from FTB, and he appears to have erased his entire internet presence. At the end of this debacle, however, Avicenna is not the only person leaving with their credibility destroyed. Since the infamous “elevatorgate” incident and ensuing atheist “schism”, PZ has chosen a side, and he has changed the focus of his blog from discussing biology and debating creationists, to ranting about politics and attacking ideological enemies, especially other atheists. He has released the name and employer info of someone who made a joke about him on a forum, then encouraged his readers to call her employer. He has misrepresented the statements of prominent atheists like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris in order to smear them and make strawman arguments against them. He has used his blog to promote a completely discredited sexual harassment claim against Ben Radford. He also has used his blog to publicize a very dubious rape allegation against Michael Shermer (an allegation that he initially admitted that he heard secondhand). When someone slings as much shit from their blog as PZ Myers, their credibility matters. As far as credibility goes, PZ has none.
When it comes to internet drama, PZ has demonstrated that he doesn’t judge claims based upon facts. He judges claims based upon the group affiliations of the parties involved, and upon how well the claim advances his ideological agenda. He has also shown his willingness to distort the facts of a situation and to mislead his readers to advance his agenda. This lack of integrity should call many of his smears is into question. Why should anyone believe his representations of the claims and arguments of others are even accurate? Why should anyone even believe that Dawkins and Harris actually made the claims that PZ is critiquing? Why should anyone believe his claim that he doxed a woman due to “libel? PZ has also shown that he will unconditionally accept any claim from his allies, regardless of the credibility of that claim. He has also shown that he will automatically reject any defense made by his ideological enemies. Furthermore, he has demonstrated his willingness to lie to and mislead his readers in order to further his ideological agenda. He has also proven himself a remarkably poor judge of character, and demonstrated that he will believe and vouch for anybody in his in-group. Why would any reasonable person believe a sexual harassment claim published on Myers’ blog? Why would anyone think that he would make any effort to vet the claim before publishing it in his blog? How could anybody trust PZ to accurately represent the facts of the case? The same goes for the rape allegation against Michael Shermer that PZ Myers published. PZ claims he trusted the source of the allegation, but how can anyone believe that PZ would scrutinize any claim from an ally that helped advance his agenda? How can anyone trust that PZ made any attempt to vet the claim before publishing it? How can we trust that he presented the facts correctly? No reasonable person can assume that any of this actually happened.
Similar questions can be asked about Jason Thibeault. Thibeault’s blog is almost entirely focused on drama in the atheist/skeptic community. Thibeault has assumed the role of historian for FTB, documenting the major events in his blog. However, given his documented dishonesty and credulity, Thibeault seems to be an awful choice to serve in this role. He may well be atheism’s answer to David Barton. Thibeault has also demonstrated that he does not evaluate claims based upon evidence, rather, he evaluates them based upon group affiliation and how they advance his ideological agenda. Thibeault has demonstrated that he will mislead his readers and misrepresent facts in order to advance his agenda. He has demonstrated a mindboggling level of credulity-he has accepted a fantastic and implausible claim from a known liar without question, all because the person was part of his in-group and the claim advanced his agenda. Why would any reasonable person assume that Thibeault has even bothered to vet the claims that he publishes in his blog? How can anyone believe that he will accurately represent the facts in his blogposts?
The reactions to the Avicenna incident in no way represent the totality of dishonest and credulous deeds by PZ Myers and Jason Thibeault. However, their reaction to this one incident perfectly demonstrates the dishonesty, credulity, and flawed thinking of these two men. The polar opposite of skeptics, they judge claims based upon group affiliation and ideological agendas, rather than upon evidence. They have demonstrated a complete lack of integrity, and shown a willingness to both mislead their readers and lie about their ideological opponents. They have shown that their words, claims, and endorsements have no credibility. When it comes to ideological drama, these two men have proven themselves to be as untrustworthy as Avicenna. For this reason I make the same recommendation as I did with Avicenna.-no claim that they make should be trusted without independent, corroborating evidence. For PZ Myers, I recommend that anything he says outside of his area of expertise of undergraduate level biology should be ignored. As for Jason Thibeault, I recommend that he just be ignored completely.