Dawkins sues own webmaster

| 65 Comments

I have not seen this in the New York Times yet, so I guess it is not Real News, but evidently Richard Dawkins (or the Richard Dawkins Foundation) is suing his webmaster for alleged embezzlement. Dawkins alleges that the webmaster, Josh Timonen, embezzled nearly $400,000, which appears to be most of the money earned by an on-line store that Timonen operated on behalf of the foundation. Timonen has posted a reply here. I also noticed a discussion at the James Randi Educational Foundation and a short article on Pharyngula. The question of who owns certain intellectual property promises to have very interesting consequences. All I know. Thanks to Abigail Smith for the tip.

65 Comments

If Timonen did embezzle that money, I’d expect him to not only be sued, but to be imprisoned for many years.

I knew of this guy from the incident in which P Z Myers was expelled from seeing the Expelled movie. P Z speaks on the matter here: http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/[…]_timonen.php

That’s the link I gave in the article. Did you mean here? Timonen is briefly mentioned as having shown up and been admitted to the showing of “Expelled” from which Myers was excluded.

… and what conclusion about the mechanisms or history of evolution rests on this litigation?

Joe Felsenstein said:

… and what conclusion about the mechanisms or history of evolution rests on this litigation?

“Survival of the Fittest?” ;-)

Nah.…. Survival of the Craftiest IMHO:

Mike Elzinga said:

Joe Felsenstein said:

… and what conclusion about the mechanisms or history of evolution rests on this litigation?

“Survival of the Fittest?” ;-)

Honestly don’t know whether I should feel sorry for Dawkins. In the short span of less than two months he is attacked by evolutionary biologists for his apparent ignorance of work done since the mid 1970s on inclusive fitness. And now this financial contretemps.….

… and what conclusion about the mechanisms or history of evolution rests on this litigation?

None. Who said it did? And how is the question relevant? The article is a blurb about a well-known evolutionary biologist, nothing more. Indeed, its category is “slightly off topic.”

Honestly don’t know whether I should feel sorry for Dawkins. In the short span of less than two months he is attacked by evolutionary biologists for his apparent ignorance of work done since the mid 1970s on inclusive fitness.

??

are you sure you aren’t thinking of EO Wilson here?

I Still can’t understand why Dawkins didn’t sue Keziah productions re. the silence in the creationist video “from a frog to a prince”:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zaKryi3605g

This is being bandied about in creationist circles throughout the world still, even 13 years after the event. Why didn’t he take the bull by the horns on this one ?

Further SciBlogs commentary on Timonen’s youthful indiscretions here and here, with no doubt more to come.

As I understand it, the RD Foundation filed its case on a Friday afternoon, apparently doing its best to keep this low-profile. Maybe they’re learning something about tactical politics at last.

No, David Sloan Wilson was the one who has been leading the charge. I will admit that this is an area I’m not familiar with, but apparently, Dawkins was grilled on this and related matters when he spoke here in New York City last month at Cooper Union (This I had heard indirectly from someone who had attended Dawkins’s evening talk.):

Ichthyic said:

Honestly don’t know whether I should feel sorry for Dawkins. In the short span of less than two months he is attacked by evolutionary biologists for his apparent ignorance of work done since the mid 1970s on inclusive fitness.

??

are you sure you aren’t thinking of EO Wilson here?

EO Wilson, however, is the one Dawkins often accuses of ignoring most of the basic understanding of kin selection theory.

Sloan Wilson is the one pushing group selection because he can get it to work in a mathematical model.

this has been going on for years, btw.

I saw Sloan Wilson give a talk here in Wellington a couple weeks back, in fact. He’s currently trying to force his group selection hypotheses into the evolution of religion.

It was pretty sad.

seriously, I went in with an open mind, ready to hear his latest support for his group selection ideas. What I saw could best be summed up simply by saying:

assumes his conclusions.

No, Dawkins really does know his stuff regarding inclusive fitness theory; he and Hamilton were buds when Hamilton was first working it out.

It’s EO Wilson that’s always been confused about it (yeah, I know, surprising given the subject of most of his work, but there it is), and Sloan Wilson that has always been pushing group selection models.

I’m sure you caught a bit of the latest kerfuffle with that paper EO and Sloan Wilson published a couple months back.

it’s nothing new, and the summaries keep getting shorter and shorter, but Dawkins summarizes pretty well here:

http://richarddawkins.net/articles/[…]in-selection

Edward Wilson was misunderstanding kin selection as far back as Sociobiology, where he treated it as a subset of group selection (Misunderstanding Two of my ‘Twelve Misunderstandings of Kin Selection’: Zeitschrift für Tierpsychologie 1979).

so, as you can see, this goes all the way back to some of the earliest publications on kin selection!

btw, there are some excellent questions and answers in the comments on that thread.

Sloan Wilson is the one pushing group selection because he can get it to work in a mathematical model.

this has been going on for years, btw.

DSW first published his work in 1975. I find that whole debate silly - I don’t think they’re arguing about the biology now, but instead about which mathematical framework is best to use to analyse the biology.

Bob O’H said:

I find that whole debate silly - I don’t think they’re arguing about the biology now, but instead about which mathematical framework is best to use to analyse the biology.

I have indeed been finding it eye-glazing. It doesn’t seem like anybody really disagrees with the observations of nature, as you say they are just arguing over the framing of theory. Which may be relevant on a professional level, but it hardly seems of interest to the rest of the world.

My word! John Kwok must have one of the finest tipping-points any man was ever cursed with!

It’s not that he’s even generally full of both himself and nonsense, but that when that proverbial butterfly’s wings tip his point, I wish I had never even learn the man existed, even as a joke.

That may be, but Dawkins was apparently raked over the coals with regards to this when he spoke at Cooper Union. Someone has claimed that his understanding of evolutionary theory in this area hasn’t advanced since 1975. And remember, unlike Stephen Jay Gould, Carl Sagan, or Sean B. Carroll, Dawkins has not made any important contributions to his field in decades or has published anything worthy of note in the scientific literature since the 1980s if not before:

Ichthyic said:

EO Wilson, however, is the one Dawkins often accuses of ignoring most of the basic understanding of kin selection theory.

Sloan Wilson is the one pushing group selection because he can get it to work in a mathematical model.

this has been going on for years, btw.

I saw Sloan Wilson give a talk here in Wellington a couple weeks back, in fact. He’s currently trying to force his group selection hypotheses into the evolution of religion.

It was pretty sad.

seriously, I went in with an open mind, ready to hear his latest support for his group selection ideas. What I saw could best be summed up simply by saying:

assumes his conclusions.

No, Dawkins really does know his stuff regarding inclusive fitness theory; he and Hamilton were buds when Hamilton was first working it out.

It’s EO Wilson that’s always been confused about it (yeah, I know, surprising given the subject of most of his work, but there it is), and Sloan Wilson that has always been pushing group selection models.

I’m sure you caught a bit of the latest kerfuffle with that paper EO and Sloan Wilson published a couple months back.

it’s nothing new, and the summaries keep getting shorter and shorter, but Dawkins summarizes pretty well here:

http://richarddawkins.net/articles/[…]in-selection

Edward Wilson was misunderstanding kin selection as far back as Sociobiology, where he treated it as a subset of group selection (Misunderstanding Two of my ‘Twelve Misunderstandings of Kin Selection’: Zeitschrift für Tierpsychologie 1979).

so, as you can see, this goes all the way back to some of the earliest publications on kin selection!

I would agree, but apparently Dawkins’s own thought has been stuck in some kind of intellectual stasis since the mid 1970s and he has ignored much of the recent work done in this area, so his critics contend:

mrg said:

Bob O’H said:

I find that whole debate silly - I don’t think they’re arguing about the biology now, but instead about which mathematical framework is best to use to analyse the biology.

I have indeed been finding it eye-glazing. It doesn’t seem like anybody really disagrees with the observations of nature, as you say they are just arguing over the framing of theory. Which may be relevant on a professional level, but it hardly seems of interest to the rest of the world.

Legionbyanyothername said:

My word! John Kwok must have one of the finest tipping-points any man was ever cursed with!

It’s not that he’s even generally full of both himself and nonsense, but that when that proverbial butterfly’s wings tip his point, I wish I had never even learn the man existed, even as a joke.

Just do what I and so many others do and let your eyes just sorta’ slide right past anything with his name on it. Trust me, it’s less painful that way.

Apparently you seem to be among those who would support Dawkins - who has not published anything worthy of note in science for decades - than those of his critics who are still actively engaged in research in this branch of evolutionary biology:

Legionbyanyothername said:

My word! John Kwok must have one of the finest tipping-points any man was ever cursed with!

It’s not that he’s even generally full of both himself and nonsense, but that when that proverbial butterfly’s wings tip his point, I wish I had never even learn the man existed, even as a joke.

Sorry, I’m not “full of both [myself} and nonsense”. But I don’t expect you to believe it.

Anyway, I will merely elaborate now on a point I made lately to Ichthyic. While both Stephen Jay Gould and Carl Sagan had very active - and quite productive - scientific careers until the end of their lives, the same can’t be said for Richard Dawkins. This observation also stands in stark contrast to several currrent notable science popularizers in the biological sciences, E. O. Wilson and Sean B. Carroll, both of whom still have noteworthy and quite productive careers.

Just for those who are unfamiliar with the ongoing debate between David Sloan Wilson and Richard Dawkins, I am posting the link to the former’s comments here:

http://scienceblogs.com/evolution/2[…]_dawkins.php

I do not claim to be familiar with inclusive fitness theory - I am not - but I do take seriously Wilson’s assertion that Dawkins has ignored important work from the 1970s onward, starting with Hamilton’s 1975 paper.

Does that mean that I am joining Wilson in his condemnation of Dawkins? No. I remain an agnostic on this simply because I’m not familiar with the debate. Nor do I denounce Dawkins as a writer, since I have stated here more than once, my admiration for him as a superb writer on science, especially with regards to evolutionary biology. But it is a bit disingenuous to claim that Dawkins is a practicing evolutionary biologist now - or may be fully cognizant of current developments - since he has not had any meaningful published work in the scientific literature since the 1980s if not before.

John Kwok said: But it is a bit disingenuous to claim that Dawkins is a practicing evolutionary biologist now - or may be fully cognizant of current developments - since he has not had any meaningful published work in the scientific literature since the 1980s if not before.

Careful now, it’s also a logical fallacy to suppose that just because somebody doesn’t publish regularly in a field, they aren’t up to date with the literature.

I don’t disagree with your observation:

The Founding Mothers said:

John Kwok said: But it is a bit disingenuous to claim that Dawkins is a practicing evolutionary biologist now - or may be fully cognizant of current developments - since he has not had any meaningful published work in the scientific literature since the 1980s if not before.

Careful now, it’s also a logical fallacy to suppose that just because somebody doesn’t publish regularly in a field, they aren’t up to date with the literature.

However, it is David Sloan Wilson, am eminent evolutionary biologist, who is making this accusation - and one that seems to be supported by other professional evolutionary biologists - that Dawkins has ignored much of the work done since 1975. But it is still a fair point that Dawkins should not be regarded as a professional evolutionary biologist simply because he hasn’t done much scientific work since the 1980s, if not before. It is an observation that I make not out of any sense of malice toward him - I don’t have any - but one that would be substantiated by virtually every prominent evolutionary biologist I can think of.

John Kwok said:

I don’t disagree with your observation:

The Founding Mothers said:

John Kwok said: But it is a bit disingenuous to claim that Dawkins is a practicing evolutionary biologist now - or may be fully cognizant of current developments - since he has not had any meaningful published work in the scientific literature since the 1980s if not before.

Careful now, it’s also a logical fallacy to suppose that just because somebody doesn’t publish regularly in a field, they aren’t up to date with the literature.

However, it is David Sloan Wilson, am eminent evolutionary biologist, who is making this accusation - and one that seems to be supported by other professional evolutionary biologists - that Dawkins has ignored much of the work done since 1975. But it is still a fair point that Dawkins should not be regarded as a professional evolutionary biologist simply because he hasn’t done much scientific work since the 1980s, if not before. It is an observation that I make not out of any sense of malice toward him - I don’t have any - but one that would be substantiated by virtually every prominent evolutionary biologist I can think of.

You bring up an interesting point, John. I find it odd, however, that you have brought the same point up nearly every time you have posted in this thread. A thread, I might add, that really does not hinge on Dawkins’ knowledge of inclusive fitness theory.

I am beginning to wonder if you are paid by the post on this issue.

Mindrover said: I am beginning to wonder if you are paid by the post on this issue.

Something hints to me that you are not very familiar with John Kwok. He has been surprisingly quiet here for the last few months, I presume being distracted by other issues, but now he is returning to his traditional MO.

No, haven’t brought up the same point deliberately - if I have at all - but only in response to Ichthyic’s defense of Dawkins. Personally I would have been satisfied in mentioning it once and then ending my participation here:

Mindrover said:

John Kwok said:

I don’t disagree with your observation:

The Founding Mothers said:

John Kwok said: But it is a bit disingenuous to claim that Dawkins is a practicing evolutionary biologist now - or may be fully cognizant of current developments - since he has not had any meaningful published work in the scientific literature since the 1980s if not before.

Careful now, it’s also a logical fallacy to suppose that just because somebody doesn’t publish regularly in a field, they aren’t up to date with the literature.

However, it is David Sloan Wilson, am eminent evolutionary biologist, who is making this accusation - and one that seems to be supported by other professional evolutionary biologists - that Dawkins has ignored much of the work done since 1975. But it is still a fair point that Dawkins should not be regarded as a professional evolutionary biologist simply because he hasn’t done much scientific work since the 1980s, if not before. It is an observation that I make not out of any sense of malice toward him - I don’t have any - but one that would be substantiated by virtually every prominent evolutionary biologist I can think of.

You bring up an interesting point, John. I find it odd, however, that you have brought the same point up nearly every time you have posted in this thread. A thread, I might add, that really does not hinge on Dawkins’ knowledge of inclusive fitness theory.

I am beginning to wonder if you are paid by the post on this issue.

You simply have no idea, nor will I share them with you:

mrg said: I presume being distracted by other issues, but now he is returning to his traditional MO.

As for my “traditional MO”, I’ll stop by here whenever I think I should. That was true before and it is true now.

John Kwok said: You simply have no idea, nor will I share them with you …

Thank you.

I do not claim to be familiar with inclusive fitness theory - I am not - but I do take seriously Wilson’s assertion that Dawkins has ignored important work from the 1970s onward, starting with Hamilton’s 1975 paper.

DSW’s views on group selection are decidedly non-standard: he equates his present approach to the pre-1965 view of Wynne-Edwards et al. despite numerous attempts to correct him.

Dawkins, I believe, sees that there is a difference between the two, and I’m pretty sure he and Hamilton both accept the 1975 results, but think that they show that (kin) group selection is harder to attain. I read somewhere (either in Narrow Roads of Geneland or Defenders of the Truth) that Hamilton felt he was mis-represented by Sober and DSW in their Unto Others book as being a supporter of group selection.

This is not the topic, but John Kwok is making a somewhat valid point here. In Dawkins’ defense, I don’t think Dawkins really claims to be a cutting edge evolutionary biologist.

I saw Dawkins talk at a book store in NYC last winter, promoting what was then his new book. A friend of mine who is an attorney had come to town specifically for the talk.

I thought it was a rather decent exposition on evolutionary biology for lay people, but not to be confused with anything more.

I had looked briefly at the web site a while back, and found it to be very poorly designed, so I never went back to it.

Unlike most people, I don’t have an extreme view on Dawkins one way or the other.

He does sometimes come across, to me, as a bit naive. The actual topic of this thread reinforces this belief in my mind.

He is, of course, a talented communicator of very basic concepts to the general public.

Classic Byers. Garbled, shambolic, skating on the very verge of word-salad, confused as to point and subject, and with a positively Macgonigalic grasp of bathetic juxtaposition (“robbery and trust” is superb), yet somehow managing to convey a wrongness so monumental as to be splendid.

What am I bid for this perfect bijou masterwork?

Dave Luckett said: What am I bid for this perfect bijou masterwork?

Pah! Hardly in a league with TIMECUBE. Give the fellow a few more decades of deterioration and he may amount to something.

Robert Byers said:

The tax thin

W. H. Heydt said:

Robert Byers said: I can’t see biblical creationists having this kind of a disaster. Let all be wary.

You can’t? What about the suit Ken Ham was involved in with his “colleagues” in Australia? What about Kent Hovind winding up in jail for tax evasion?

Aren’t both of those disasters among biblical creationists?

–W. H. Heydt

Old Used Programmer

\ Tax stuff is just a reflection on the persons morality. i don’t this person anyways. the fight amongst AIG is intellectual and relationship. Not about robbery and trust. Different.

Doesn’t acting in an illegal fashion reflect on the kind of person Hovind is? Isn’t it a disaster (of at least some form) that he got caught, convicted and is now in prison? Isn’t Hovind a Biblical creationist? (Not necessarily *your* sort of Biblical creationist, but one anyway.)

As regards AIG…doesn’t the dispute go to the whole “brothers in Christ” meme? Or should we call it a “falling out among thieves”? The charges and counter-charges certainly involved money, so I don’t see that you can dismiss “robbery and trust” issues out of hand.

–W. H. Heydt

Old Used Programmer

W. H. Heydt said:

Doesn’t acting in an illegal fashion reflect on the kind of person Hovind is?

Not to mention a STUPID fashion. I’ve gone around with the taxman on tax errors a few times, they were often surprisingly polite about it, we came to an agreement, and I paid them what I owed. No worries matey. The IRS doesn’t want to lock anybody up, they just want their money.

From what I saw on Wikipedia, the Man gave Hovind every chance to make amends and he gave them a poke in the eye instead, and all but dared them to lock him up. So they did.

You made some good points there. I did a search on the topic and found most people will agree with your blog.

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