“”I also don't believe that being godless is sufficient to be a good, wise person, nor that people afflicted with superstition must be evil and stupid. That does not mean, however, that we shouldn't vigorously oppose stupid ideas…like religion.
|—PZ Myers |
Paul Zachary "PZ" Myers is one of the most popular atheist bloggers on the Internet, a biology professor well-known for his smack-downs of creationism, popularization of science, and love of cephalopods. His primary blog is Pharyngula, named for the pharyngula[wp] stage of embryonic development, and according to the sub-title contains "Evolution, development, and random biological ejaculations from a godless liberal". He also occasionally blogs for the Panda's Thumb, a group blog devoted to dissecting creationist claims. After the site that was hosting Pharyngula was acquired by National Geographic, he and Ed Brayton founded Freethought Blogs.
 Biology career
 New Atheism
Myers considers himself a New Atheist and, unsurprisingly, has outspoken opinions on many controversial subjects connected with atheism and freethought. Below are some of the more notable examples.
 Courtier's reply
|This article or section requires revision to improve readability.|
Myers is famous for his "courtier's reply", a refutation of the common claim that only clergy and those well-studied in theology are qualified to analyze matters of faith. The claim maintains that only these individuals understand the relevant technical jargon and other disciplinary details to fully comprehend and therefore comment on religious works. A prime example of this claim in action is a common criticism of Myers' buddy Richard Dawkins' atheist activism and writing: many are quick to point out that Dawkins as an evolutionary biologist doesn't have the authority to criticize the faith of others.
In essence, the courtier's reply asserts that theologians must consider their own qualifications as well. Even the experts on theology cannot be perfect experts: cannot possibly read every related material by other theologians, cannot become unparalleled authority on holy texts from ancient times, etc. Therefore their own qualifications are perspective-based and relative to begin with. The argument, 'You haven't read enough on it!' means very little when even the greatest authorities on the topic also cannot 'read enough on it' in order to become irrefutable gatekeepers of their discipline.
According to Myers, the failing of this argument can be demonstrated in the popular Hans Christian Anderson story The Emperor's New Clothes - in which people are told that the king is not actually naked, and anyone stating so is just ignorant of the many volumes written about royal fashion, meanwhile the townsfolk can plainly see the King's genitals flopping out all over the place. It would therefore be unreasonable to demand that those townsfolk not make their own judgement, based on their own perception. Myers relates this example to the argument at hand; scientists and New Atheists don't need to read every imaginable book on the subject or consider every established theological angle in order to test the existence of God as a scientific hypothesis. As they are discussing evidence, their scientific credentials are qualification enough, in the same way that the eyes of the townsfolk were enough to discern that their King was naked.
“”“Religion of Peace,” my ass; Islam is the religion of ignorance and hate.
Myers has also criticized Islam quite strongly. He used the title "Vile Islam" in a blog post regarding a Bangladeshi husband named Rafiqul Islam who cut the fingers off his wife's right hand as punishment for her going to college without his consent. The victim, Hawa Akther Jui, is determined to go back to college despite this.  
Unlike many atheists of the mid-20th century and earlier, Myers and many other members of the most recent generation of outspoken atheists do not subscribe to "non overlapping magisteria". Non overlapping magisteria, or NOMA, was the philosophical principle of Stephen J. Gould that said matters of science and faith were forever separated in two groups that never overlapped. This was, for a time, a solid response to the "conflict thesis" of science and religion. Myers and other modern atheists reject the NOMA principle outright, with some even suggesting that Gould himself wasn't totally convinced by it. Myers argues that faith and superstition, while unfounded, have a very real impact upon the world through the deeds of believers and thus merit critical analysis by any and all means, including science.
Pharyngula's header describes it as "Evolution, development, and random biological ejaculations from a godless liberal" but this hasn't deterred readers and there are roughly 2.5 million hits each month. The blog focuses on many topics: biology, evolution, atheism, squid porn, inane creationist quotes, non-squid cephalopod porn, the shortcomings of Intelligent Design, conservative wackos, squid porn, etc.
Pharyngula was initially an independent blog, but its popularity caused it to be invited to ScienceBlogs, Seed Magazine's blogging collective, where it remained for quite some time as one of the major attractors of traffic for the site. Around 2011, ScienceBlogs started to decline and was acquired by National Geographic, leading to some concerns that the more uptight nature of NatGeo will interfere with Pharyngula's tone and content. As a result, PZ Myers and Ed Brayton founded their own blogging collective, Freethought Blogs, and essentially cloned both their blogs. The FtB version of Pharyngula remains Myers' main blog, while only science-related material is posted to the old blog at ScienceBlogs.
 The Eternal Thread and its descendants
The Eternal Thread—also known as the 'undying thread', 'the undead thread', 'The Thread', 'the endless thread', and by some "90% of my social life" (sadly)—is an ongoing thread at Pharyngula. Myers usually opens a new subthread with a YouTube clip from a cheesy, B sci-fi movie.
Genesis of The Thread
The discussion started when a creationist kook by the name of Alan Clarke debated the then recent findings of Titanoboa, a large, prehistoric extinct snake. He claimed the Bible made mention of this snake. There was much discussion on the thread. Eventually Myers decided to close the thread and ended it with the remark: "Alan Clarke, you are an idiot. Yes, this thread is dead."
Alan Clarke however was persistent. He wanted to continue the
ass whooping conversation and for some reason decided to do it on a Pharyngula thread about a video explaining the science behind the (then upcoming) movie Watchmen. He was persistent in his belief that the geological evidence indicated a recent Global Flood. During this entire time he was accompanied by his squire RogerS, a creationist who had some relation to Clarke. There were many Pharyngulites who were well-educated in geology who took great pains to discuss what was wrong with the two's interpretation of the data. However, they fired back with many ad hoc hypotheses to save their theory. None of these explanations were satisfactory and they oftentimes contradicted each other. The term "delugionists" (in reference to the "Deluge myth") was coined to describe these two. Alan would also take to challenging the findings of modern geology. At one point Alan tried to debunk the theory of plate tectonics by citing a paper which (unbeknownst to him) came from a journal that focused primarily on UFOs, psychokinesis, and other paranormal phenomena. He was heavily mocked for this.
Alan Clarke's contributions were often quite disturbing. When not peddling pseudoscience he would offer unasked (and unwanted) glimpses into his psyche. These included: his views on relationships, a story of how he once took too many sleeping pills and then went driving, his use of drugs and alcohol, how an acquaintance of his was soaked in the blood of her dead lover after a car accident, etc. Myers even had to explicitly tell him that Pharyngula was not a group therapy session and that he should go seek a professional psychiatrist.
The discussion continued. While geology was prominently featured, other topics were also discussed. Alan argued against the theory of evolution, which he astonishingly understood even less than geology. When asked to give a definition of evolution he equated it with atheism. Astrophysics, computing, Biblical scholarship and theology were also discussed and each time he proved to be even more ignorant than the last. Oftentimes Myers would get annoyed with the two creationists (especially Alan) and would threaten to ban them. While all agreed that they were silly, many enjoyed the informative and entertaining responses they inspired. The term 'collateral wisdom' was used to describe it.
Clarke's ultimate banning however was a result this comment he made:
“”Are prayers sometimes answered with miracles? I had my heart set on a young girl who was 14 years my junior. I never said anything to her because of the age difference and thought I should at least wait until she was 18. I prayerfully waited for 8 years only to be let down when a young man got her pregnant then married her later. At that stage I was about 33 years old and gave up on the idea of marrying anyone young or anyone at all since my preferences were always someone much younger than myself. When I was 44 years old and content with my single status, I saw my wife-to-be who was 16. Been married for 9 years, 3 kids, and loving every minute.
This admission of pedophilia was too much, even for Clarke. Many disgusted with the remark called for his immediate banning. Hours after Alan had made the comment Myers banned him.
Remarkably the discussion continued even after Clarke was banned. Pharyngulites actively tried to recruit other creationists to the thread. At one point they settled for a new ager high on cannabis, LSD and an inflated sense of his own intellectualism.
The Thread however became more of a social club for Pharyngulites, in which anything can be discussed. Examples of regular topics of discussion: bacon, lesbians, odd pieces of news, politics, bad jokes, an obsession over the life of a certain Oxford undergrad, how a fight between Buffy and River Tam would go down, etc.
It seems quite funny that Alan Clarke, a creationist kook, ended up creating a place for atheists and rationalists to gather.
The Lounge and the Thunderdome
In summer 2012, the original name was abandoned in favor of The Lounge, which is a heavily moderated thread for any topic, as with TET. This was accompanied by redoing The Zombie Thread, a far less heavily moderated recurring thread that users prohibited from posting in other threads can post in as well as users in good standing, into The Thunderdome, which serves the same purpose as TZT, as well as bringing back The Dungeon (i.e. the list of banned users).
 Pharyngula Wiki
Pharyngulites have even started their own wiki, hosted on Wikia, mostly covering the various ideas and memes that get repeated on the blog and comments, from "Cupcake Bingo" to "Goats on Fire". But it also covers much of the same science and pseudoscience remit as RationalWiki, with articles on New Atheists and peer review, plus such delicacies as PZ's distaste for libertarians and love of evo-devo.
Here's the main page of Pharyngula Wiki.
In a bizarre mixup, Myers was prevented from attending a screening of the movie Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed while Richard Dawkins, standing next to him, was allowed to attend. After a quick blog post to mention how funny it was that Dawkins wasn't blacklisted from seeing the film (despite being the better-known critic of creationism and religion) the two discussed the movie in an informal manner online.
On July 24, 2008, PZ desecrated a consecrated host, along with pages from the Koran, Richard Dawkins' book The God Delusion, coffee grounds and banana peel. This was in response to the assault on Webster Cook, a student who kept a host in his mouth to show to a friend later, rather than eating it at a celebration of the eucharist at the University of Central Florida, and (according to some) an attempt to draw fire. In that, it succeeded, sparking a feud between Dr. Myers and William Donohue. (See also Iconoclasm.) The extent of the “hysterical” reaction surprised even Myers who had hoped intelligent Catholics would see Jesus was in no way harmed and Myers feels those who hold supposed sacred objects dear can endanger the liberty of other people.
 John Kwok
In March 2009, the professional troll John Kwok stalked PZ. After Kwok posted many annoying, name-dropping comments on his site, Myers made him compete against other trolls in a mock game show. The losers, determined by commenter vote, would be banned from the site. At one point Kwok threatened Myers with Facebook retaliation:
“” @ PZ - If I am bounced off Pharyngula, then you may find yourself losing some friends over at Facebook.
After this lame threat there was a huge upswing in the Kwok vote and the game ended with Kwok being banned from the site. Kwok then started an email campaign to try to coerce PZ into buying Kwok an expensive camera (specifically, a used Leica M7 rangefinder) to avoid a lawsuit against Myers for "stalking" Kwok (the irony of which was not lost on Pharyngulites), simply for posting his emails to Myers's website. Kwok has also threatened to include Myers as an Irish terrorist in a novel Kwok is working on, and to email CAIR to put a fatwa on PZ.
Kwok was not the only problematic Internet troll. One named Dennis Markuze (aka David Mabus) stalked and repeatedly threatened Myers and other prominent atheists and an online petition that Myers organised probably helped get Mabus arrested.
Myers is an outspoken liberal (in the US sense) and he doesn't shy away of making his views on various politicians known. His political posts often are prompted by issues related to religion and science, but are in no way limited to that.
Myers has taken a stand on the "feminist side" in the ongoing conflict over feminism and related issues that had developed in the atheism/skepticism movement since Elevatorgate.
 See also
- Debate:Did PZ Myers Cross the Line?
- PZ Myers/What should PZ do with the crackers?
- Ham Hightail
- Essay:PZ Myers panel discussion, March 3, 2011
- Pharyngula on Freethought Blogs, the latest incarnation
- Pharyngula, the older ScienceBlogs incarnation, now running in parallel as a "lite" version. After the transfer to National Geographic the comments on many older posts seem to be missing.
- About PZ (The Mad Scientist. Biologist and blogger PZ Myers speaks out on the war on science, intelligent design, and the sexual habits of giant squid)
- ↑ Oh, no! The New Atheists are getting attacked again! (Ellipses are in the original quote, rather than a redaction of part of it).
- ↑ http://scholar.google.com/scholar?as_q=&as_epq=&as_oq=&as_eq=&as_occt=any&as_sauthors=%22PZ+Myers%22&as_publication=&as_ylo=&as_yhi=&btnG=&hl=en&as_sdt=0%2C23
- ↑ Comes a Horseman, Myers' acceptance speech for the Humanist of the Year award for 2009.
- ↑ PZ Myers, "The Courtier's Reply", Pharyngula, 24 December 2006.
- ↑ "Mohammed’s dead hand still ruins lives from the grave"
- ↑ "Vile Islam"
- ↑ Bangladeshi woman's husband 'chopped off her fingers'
- ↑ Tentacle Sex
- ↑ Welcome to the new digs!, PZ Myers welcome message on the new incarnation of Pharyngula
- ↑ http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2009/02/titanoboa.php
- ↑ http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2009/02/science_of_watchmen.php
- ↑ http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2009/06/bride_of_the_thread_that_will.php#comment-1712915
- ↑ It’s a lens to concentrate the weirdness
- ↑ PZ Myers: Expelled from Expelled! - Richard Dawkins
- ↑ Setting the Koran on fire, vs. setting personal liberties on fire
- ↑ http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2009/03/survivor_pharyngula_day_one.php#comment-1473866
- ↑ http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2009/03/john_kwok_sends_email.php
- ↑ I’m ready to be divisive