Name-calling in the Twitterverse

Earlier we looked at Ezcurra et al. 2020 (December 09, 2020)
who made a chimaera of a lagerpetid and a protorosaur and called it a pterosaur precursor that walked on two toes close to dinosaurs. Ezxurra et al. cited Peters 2000, who recovered four pterosaur precursors using four previously published analyses, but Ezcurra et al. omitted those four taxa from their analysis.

On December 09, 2020
PhD Darren Naish (@Tetzoo) posted notice of the Ezcurra et al. 2020 paper to Twitter (Fig. 1). Several responses followed. Naish responded to one that referenced this blogpost (toward the bottom of Fig. 1).

Figure 1. Copy and paste from @Tetzoo Twitter.com account December 09, 2020.

Figure 1. Copy and paste from @Tetzoo Twitter.com account December 09, 2020.

Some definitions
Pseudoscientist: “a person who falsely or mistakenly claims to be a scientist.”

Scientist: “a person who is studying or has expert knowledge of one or more of the natural or physical sciences.”

Pseudoscience: “consists of statements, beliefs, or practices that are claimed to be both scientific and factual but are incompatible with the scientific method.”

The Scientific Method:  “a process for experimentation that is used to explore observations and answer questions.” There are seven steps in the Scientific Method:”

  1. Question
  2. Research
  3. Hypothesis
  4. Experiment
  5. Observe
  6. Conclude
  7. Report results

I would add eighth, ninth and tenth steps, but they must be done independently by others: 8. Repeat the experiment to confirm or refute findings. 9. Report any material omissions in the original study. And finally, getting back to the original authors: 10. Have the guts to publicly admit error, omission and oversight when appropriate. If possible, everyone, readers and authors alike, should do these in a precise, timely and public manner, while the original report is still in the news cycle. Not letting a myth proliferate is everyone’s responsibility. Not falling behind the cutting edge of research is also everyone’s responsibility.

I would not add the following steps to the scientific method: 1. ad hominem remarks, 2. name-calling. 3. prejudicial remarks, 4. hyperbole or 5. other middle-school pranks. People who decide future opportunities and book sales for all of us judge all of us on everything we do, including publicly visible tweets.

References
Click here for a list of topics characterized as pseudocience. Creation science is on that list. Phylogenetic analysis is not.

9 thoughts on “Name-calling in the Twitterverse

  1. So basically you’re claiming that these lagerpetid+protorosaur “chimaeras” were found independently in Madagascar, Brazil, Argentina and North America? What a coincidence.

    In past posts we’ve seen many people advising you about your methodology in relation to your study of shark chondrocranium and other stuff (apart from all the dozens, if not hundreds, of comments warning you that your phylogenetic analysis methodology is flawed beyond reasonable). If in spite of all this, you keep doing the same thing (even if not intentionally, except that in your case we know that is), and claiming that you must be the only person that got it right, because reasons, yes you should add that to the list of pseudosciences.

    • Mauricio, are you sure you want this tirade published? It could be embarrassing if others see it.

      I have never claimed “these lagerpetid+protorosaur “chimaeras” were found independently in Madagascar, Brazil, Argentina and North America.” You have fabricated this from thin air. I have no idea what other specimens you are referring to.

      I have defended my phylogenetic analysis in the past because it recovers results in which all sister taxa share more traits than any of the other 1780+ competing taxa. This is the ideal. This is microevolution documented. If not, please be specific and name taxa that should not nest together. This has not only been a challenge, but a plea, in order to get it right. To your point, over the weekend the order of several sharks in the cladogram shifted slightly. Pseudoscientists are not open to change. I am.

      In science anyone who repeats the same methods, including the taxon list, should replicate the same results. That has happened many times. https://pterosaurheresies.wordpress.com/?s=heard+it+here+first&submit=Search

      If still wrong, please advise and I will make changes as appropriate.

      To your point, those who ‘discovered’ the above relationships after I did also ‘got it right’. Eeveryone who discovers something, whatever it is, is for that moment “the only person that got it right” until others join that person. It’s not pseudoscience to discover something. All of this is subject to change as more data comes in… which is part of the scientific process.

      One more thing:

      In pseudoscience you won’t find that openness to change. So, where is your competing analysis with a similar taxon list? That’s what you need to show. Evidence trumps authority. If others, like the Ezcurra team, are unwilling to add pertinent taxa, when they have been published twenty years ago in a peer-reviewed journal they cited, then it is the Ezcurra team that you, Mauricio, should accuse of pseudoscience, as I accused them of taxon omission, a type of cheating to get cherry-picked results.

      Thank you for exposing the prejudice and bias that permeates vertebrate paleontology. Remind yourself before you go to bed tonight: evidence trumps authority and tradition.

      • Mauricio got it right – there are so many problems with your methodology that your results simply cannot be treated seriously.

        Your digital methods don’t work. I’m sorry to say that, but they don’t. I can tell you from first-hand experience that some of your reconstructions are inaccurate. I’ve seen the actual specimens, and your interpretations simply don’t match what the actual specimen preserves.

        Most of us will not allow our graduate students to use your methods. It’s not a matter of trying to protect our vested interests because their insights might disagree with ours – it’s personal experience. I’ve added several taxa to my analyses based on the literature. Precisely none of them did not require substantial revision after I saw the specimen for myself. This is true even if high-quality photos were available when I first included them.

        Your continued insistence on coding features expressed in dermal skull elements on sharks and other fishes without a dermatocranium is a perfect example of the problem. You see things in pictures, but when you’re informed what you claim to see is biologically impossible (and it is), you stick with the pictures.

        Think about that in the context of your description of the scientific method. You made some claims. You were then made aware of information that falsifies those claims. But rather than saying something like, “well, I thought there was something to be seen, but I learned some important biological facts that demonstrate their inaccuracy, so let’s set my claims aside as artifactual and move on,” you stick to your guns and continue as though your claimswere never falsified.

        Moreover, we’ve tried to explain until we’re blue in the face that adding taxa is great, but not if you don’t also add more characters. When our results differ from yours, you jump to “taxon exclusion” to explain why other trees are wrong, but you never stop to consider the possible impact of character exclusion on yours.

        We’re well aware that improved taxon sampling can improve phylogenetic estimates. I’ve written some of that literature myself. But robust character sampling is also important. This is especially true with morphological data – smaller data sets run a greater risk of being misled by biased character sampling.

        You keep asking for examples of inaccuracy in your trees. Where to start? Whales and marsupials not being monophyletic? Whale sharks being jawless fish? Sturgeons not being closely related to other ray-finned fishes? Turtles and pareiasaurs? Sauropodomorphs paraphyletic with respect to ornithischians? And I can’t make heads or tails of how pseudosuchians fall out on your tree. These are all contradicted by massive amounts of evidence. They’re wrong, and that’s not coming from some old guy who refuses to accept contradictory information. (I work on gharials. I’ve dealt with conflicting data my whole career. I know the difference between conflicting signals and something that’s just wrong.)

        Yes, I can see that your results seem to string together taxa that kinda sorta look similar. So what? Certainly among living forms, we wouldn’t expect such a result – we’re dealing with the tips of very long branches. And even if we include fossils, we’re dealing with an incomplete and biased fossil record. Indeed, the fact that you get what you think looks like a smooth pattern is powerful evidence that something has gone wrong – given how incomplete our knowledge is, there’s no way we should expect a clean signal.

        Why don’t I go into the details of these clades? Because I have other things to do. I have graduate students to advise, my own research to conduct, and when classes begin, those as well. And I have a family. Besides – why would I bother? I could point out flaws until the sun explodes, and you’d never accept any of it. It would be a waste of time.

        And I can now say with absolute certainty that it would be a waste of time. I tried my best to explain why you can’t code dermatocranial characters for animals with no dermal bones in the head. It’s basic biology, less “this is the tree we all think is correct” and more “DNA encodes heredity.” I give you credit for one thing – you do seem to have done a literature search on the topic – but you interpreted the literature in ways that would rescue your untenable position. I was trying to help you (and your readers), and it went nowhere.

        This is precisely why you’ve been described as a crackpot and quack in soclal media, and it’s why your work is often seen as pseudoscience. It’s not that your results are at variance with consensus wisdom. It’s that we’ve identified serious problems with your methods, pointed out how these problems are almost certainly the reason your results diverge from common wisdom, and you’ve waved it all off.

        You’ve probably heard the old saying: “Yes, they laughed at Galileo. They laughed at Copernicus. They laughed at Pasteur. But you know what? They also laughed at Jerry Lewis.”

      • Chris, lots of tell in your paragraphs. No show. You ask me to believe you. I need evidence. You tell me you have different results. You have not shown me once your different results.

        Something tells me you are digesting the LRT wrong. Confusing to me, you wrote:

        “Whales and marsupials not being monophyletic?”
        Sure they are. The marsupial Caluromys is a last common ancestor of all placentals in the LRT, but why bring in whales (a polyphyletic traditional clade)? Misprint?

        “Whale sharks being jawless fish?”
        No. They have jaws. No one ever said they lack jaws. They don’t have marginal teeth. Misprint?

        “Sturgeons not being closely related to other ray-finned fishes?”
        I report results. Please send competing results that include pertinent taxa, if you have them.

        “Turtles and pareiasaurs?”
        I report results after adding taxa that others have overlooked. Please send competing results that include pertinent taxa, if you have them.

        “Sauropodomorphs paraphyletic with respect to ornithischians?”
        If you’re talking about both being in the Phytodinosauria, I’m not the first to suggest this. Please send competing results that include pertinent taxa, if you have them.

        “And I can’t make heads or tails of how pseudosuchians fall out on your tree”
        That’s because the traditional clade “Pseudosuchia” is polyphyletic when you add pertinent taxa. You can throw away several useless traditional clades including ‘parareptilia’, ‘ornithodira’, ‘avemetatarsalia’ and ‘pseudosuchia.’

        “These are all contradicted by massive amounts of evidence.”
        Lots of evidence, perhaps, but not enough in the LRT. Adding taxa lumps and splits traditional clades. That’s the key. Do the analysis yourself to find out for yourself.

        Don’t do what Ezcurra et al. 2020 did: omit taxa they don’t like.

        Don’t do what Hone and Benton 2007, 2008 did: omit taxa they don’t like.

        Don’t do what turtle workers have been doing: omit taxa they don’t like.

        Don’t do what fish workers have been doing: omit taxa they don’t like.

        Etc. etc.

        The LRT has shown you time and again how adding taxa helps to nest enigma taxa.
        Never has anyone showed anyone how adding characters would help nest enigma taxa.

        You wrote, “Yes, I can see that your results seem to string together taxa that kinda sorta look similar. So what?”
        Not only ‘sorta’ but in 235 details more so than in any of the 1780+ taxa competing for an interrelationship with any included taxon.
        If you don’t get this… don’t reply with ‘so what?’ Remember, we paleontologists all live by the concept of ‘maximum parsimony’. If you have something better, please offer it, but don’t trash the best tool we have at present.

        Thank you for your help, Chris, but you really need to get back to basics: repeat the experiment, add the taxa, show your work.

        Name calling does not support your case. It cheapens your position and your reputation.

  2. Well, let’s go

    You said yourself, many times, that Ezcurra published a chimaera. But Lagerpetidae (which is the focus of the study) is not composed by a single genus/species, it is composed by Dromomeron (and its 3 species), Kongonaphon, Ixalerpeton and, obviously, Lagerpeton. Which one are you claiming to be a chimaera? Or are you referring to the skeletal reconstruction in the paper? Because it only reflects the actual material of all these lagerpetids combined (scaled to Ixalerpeton because it is the most complete specimen). All the new materials presented in that paper were found associated to known lagerpetid material, and therefore if you claim that one of them is a chimaera, the others must be as well, because the elements are repeated among mentioned species. If I got it wrong again, please explain to me what you meant.

    No one will waste time repeating an experiment that fails in some of the first steps (methodology) of the scientific process. Maybe when you correct the methodological part of the LRT, other researchers will be more interested in replicating the results. As anyone that sopts to read the comments of your posts can see, most of the time you ignore the corrections and suggestions made by the experts in the subjects you are dealing with (based solely on your own evidence and methods). Who will want to keep doing this ungrateful job if it has no effect at all?

    That’s all you can do, claim that someone who disagrees with you must be biased by “authority and tradition”, because you are the only one who could possibly be right. This is just silly.

    Thanks for the responses, I always have fun reading through them

    • Ixalerpeton is the protorosaur. The others are lagerpetids. The combination creates a chimaera.

      re: “Methodology”… adding taxa is standard operating procedure. How you score characters is up to you. How you add characters is up to you. You can employ your own methodology, just don’t omit pertinent taxa.

      re: “ignoring corrections and suggestions made by the experts”… Mauricio, you should redirect this to Ezcurra et al. They ignored and omitted tested taxa. So did Hone and Benton 2007, 2008. So did Unwin 2003. So did Kellner 2003. So did Bennett 2012, 2013. (see reference below)

      re: “you are the only one who could possibly be right”… not sure what makes you think this. I have tested a wider gamut of taxa and reported results that differ from those who have omitted pertinent taxa. To your point, workers should embrace such criticism, not hide from it, nor cast aspersions. If only Ezcurra et al. had included Cosesaurus and kin, I would have nothing to criticize them for. The same for the others.

      References: https://pterosaurheresies.wordpress.com/2013/09/20/bennett-moves-pterosaurs-to-the-base-of-the-archosauriformes/

      • Dear David,
        As already said, we are only wasting time with you. You keep to consider yourself as a victim of paleontologists, when, conversely we tried several times tried to give you suggestions…. that’s to patetic. You keep asking for examples of inaccuracy in your trees. However, you ignore every single suggestion or example we bring to your attention. As I have some expertises in batoids systematics and phylogeny, I already toldl you that all your batoid taxa (rays and skates) fall in a wrong systematic position, surely because you did not include a single batoid synapomorphy. Will you consider this example now? Several years of molecular and morphological studies detected their monophyly based on the presence of several unambiguous characters that you deliberately ignore and don’t want to include in your matrix. Most of these studies inlcuded in the same phylogeny rays, sharks and chimaeras, so you cannot say there is “taxon exclusion”. How can you pretend we consider you phylogeny reliable?? Don’t try to tell me to be more specific or to send you my data. Go to literature, go to researchgate, go to libraries… where you can find all data you need… study and keep away wikipedia.
        After you will include all synapomorphies of batoids (and those of every single clade you talk about), I might change in part my opinion of your method. But all we know you will not do it, and then we will continue to consider all your methodology and results unreliable and as pseudoscience because:
        1) you never accept criticisms by experts
        2) you ignore the literature and suggestions
        3) you uses a not-replicable methodology (nothing less Photoshop) which was proven to be unreliable by several scientists because it cannot distinguish shadows, preparation scars, fractures, etc, form bones and you consider these rumors as genuine features, including them your phylogeny!!!!
        4) You state the scientists working on this or that topic are wrong.. in every single post and every single time! That’s arrogance!!!
        5) you think everyone is wrong because the main problem is the “taxon exclusion” from the phylogenetic analyses…
        7) at the same time, you will never add a single character to your matrix (235 chs x 1700+ taxa!) until you recover a single tree, suggesting you have no clue even on phylogenetics… How can you think 235 characters can cover the whole diversity of all the Chordata !!
        8) you invent absurd theories/hypotheses to force and explain your strange tree topology (least but not last, see your absurd theory about the dermal bones on cartilaginous fishes!!!)

        As already said, all of this is the death of the scientific method and of the Science. If you don’t change your methodology, it is just pseudoscience, and therefore I hope your readers will understand soon and forget your blogs.

      • You wrote: “you ignore every single suggestion or example we bring to your attention.”
        This is hyperbole. You are not aware of every single suggestion or example “we” (= all readers with comments?) that have been made. All valid suggestions and examples have resulted in changes.

        You wrote: “You keep asking for examples of inaccuracy in your trees. However,”
        Just provide examples, please. Don’t make excuses for your inability to do so.

        You wrote: “As I have some expertises in batoids systematics and phylogeny, I already toldl you that all your batoid taxa (rays and skates) fall in a wrong systematic position, surely because you did not include a single batoid synapomorphy.”
        Please send a citation with pertinent taxa included. I will spend today looking, too. Including batoid synapomorphies brings the high risk of “Pulling a Larry Martin”, which is something I caution readers not to do. 235 multi-score traits as a suite mark every included taxon. I am as surprised as anyone that this generic list is still lumping and splitting all included taxa.

        You wrote: “Don’t try to tell me to be more specific or to send you my data.”
        I share everything I have with whoever wants it.

      • Part 2.

        You wrote:

        “1) we will continue to consider all your methodology and results unreliable and as pseudoscience because:
        you never accept criticisms by experts.”
        False. I accept valid criticism by experts and others

        “2) you ignore the literature and suggestions”
        False. I list citations and gather the vast majority of my data from the literature. The rest I have gathered by firsthand observation. With regard to suggestions, see #1 above.

        “3) you uses a not-replicable methodology (nothing less Photoshop) which was proven to be unreliable by several scientists because it cannot distinguish shadows, preparation scars, fractures, etc, form bones and you consider these rumors as genuine features, including them your phylogeny!!!!”
        False. Many workers are coloring their bones using Photoshop now that online publication has made this as cheap as gray-scale photos. I’ve been doing this since 2003 because it permits readers to see every little buried corner of every layered bone. Providing such images invites criticism. These ‘several scientists’ you report have not shared their results with me. To be sure, mistakes happen and every taxon is new to me. The same for other scientists. I have been asking for workers to provide evidence of three arm bones in Yi qi and Ambopteryx. Please send those if you have them.”

        “4) You state the scientists working on this or that topic are wrong.. in every single post and every single time! That’s arrogance!!!”
        False, but to your point, if no one else points out flaws in taxon exclusion or other shortcomings, then I do in order to prevent the perpetuation of myths. Confirming and/or refuting results is part of the scientific process. It is not “arrogance!!!”

        “5) you think everyone is wrong because the main problem is the “taxon exclusion” from the phylogenetic analyses…”
        False. Everyone is not wrong.
        True. After ten years of this, taxon exclusion is the main problem in phylogenetic analysis.

        6) You seem to have skipped #6.

        “7) at the same time, you will never add a single character to your matrix (235 chs x 1700+ taxa!) until you recover a single tree, suggesting you have no clue even on phylogenetics… How can you think 235 characters can cover the whole diversity of all the Chordata !!”
        This surprises me, also. I heard about this issue when I had only 360 taxa. Evidently this a myth you still believe in. Sometimes you just have to test something to see if it is true or not. Due to including headless taxa with skull-only taxa the LRT no longer recovers a single tree. Even so, the vast majority of taxa are can be lumped and split. If not then corrections usually solve the issue.

        “8) you invent absurd theories/hypotheses to force and explain your strange tree topology (least but not last, see your absurd theory about the dermal bones on cartilaginous fishes!!!)”
        I report results. I encourage others to include a similar taxon list with their own characters and scores to see if the same topology results. That’s good science.

        You wrote, “As already said, all of this is the death of the scientific method and of the Science. If you don’t change your methodology, it is just pseudoscience, and therefore I hope your readers will understand soon and forget your blogs.” Please tell that to other workers who have made discoveries first reported on this blog site and http://www.ReptileEvolution.com. Links here: https://pterosaurheresies.wordpress.com/?s=here+first&submit=Search

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