Over at the SciAm blag, Chris Mims breaks the story that a public-relations flack was cheerleading for classic crackpot Stuart Pivar. Matthew Rich, a.k.a. Matt Richards, is a New York-based PR veteran of sixteen years whose PR agency issued the press release for Pivar’s new edition of LifeCode. This was, incidentally, the press release which prompted PZ Myers to repost his old debunking of Pivar’s crackpottery. This was also the press release which claimed that Neil deGrasse Tyson supported Pivar’s work, a claim which random folks on the Internet soon demolished, and which Tyson himself soon denied.
For some reason, Matthew Rich then went around the Web, saying good things about Pivar. At the Amazon.com page for LifeCode, he wrote under the name M. rich “open minded”, saying this:
I liked seeing a new point of view. The author flys in the face of “established” Darwinism but his thought process is facinating. Worth the read
Yes, fascinating, much like that six-car smashup on the Interstate which all the drivers are slowing down to see.
Rich then showed up at several blags, including Science After Sunclipse, where he said,
The libel claim against PZ Meyer is a blow FOR scientific freedom. Just because Meyer does not like Pivarâ€™s theory he canâ€™t get away with saying as fact that Pivar is a â€œCrackpotâ€ And by the way, the book LifeCode seems pretty interesting as i saw sample chapters at www.aninconvenienttheory.com
He signed this comment as “opened mind,” but left firstname.lastname@example.org as his e-mail address. Unfortunately, he never returned to answer my question: Do any of those sample chapters explain why Pivarâ€™s “theory” has nothing to do with the way embryos actually look, grow or develop? Or why Pivar manufactures fake endorsements?
Oh, and a word to the wise: even on the Internet, sloppy writing does not always leave a charming impression. While science blogs and their comment threads are informal, they are not AOL Instant Messenger chats, nor are they “texting” on cellphones. We write to be noticed, we write to be remembered, and we are fully capable of using all the punctuation marks we have at our disposal.
The same day he was commenting at the Panda’s Thumb, Sunclipse and Pharyngula, Rich was dropping remarks at the SciAm post which broke the story. This time, he signed as “Matt Richards,” and his first comment was pretty much what he said here, although he followed it up with this afterthought:
As an attorney I can tell you Pivar has every right to sue PZ Meyer and may well prevail. And by the way, shame on PZ for trying to censor an interesting, if unconventional theory, in science community. shows part of the book in question and it seems of interest to this non-scientist Atlegalbar
I wonder if Stuart Pivar goes around making people into attorneys the same way that he granted me a PhD? It didn’t take long for other SciAm visitors to smack “Richards” down, and — given that Pivar withdrew the suit — I’d say their judgment has been rather vindicated.
I don’t know if Pivar hired Matthew Rich in a formal arrangement, or if he called in a favor from a fellow New York media person. (Axiom House did apparently advertise LifeCode as a favor.) Either way, Pivar’s PR specialist is about as bumbling and incompetent as his legal counsel.