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Bronze-level articlePZ Myers

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PZ on his Aug 09 visit to the Cretin Museum. Here he can be seen tipping his nice-looking hat while violating an important rule: only children are allowed on the saddled dinosaur.
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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[1]

Paul Zachary "PZ" Myers is an associate professor of biology at the University of Minnesota Morris.[2] He is better-known as a popular atheist blogger. His primary blog is Pharyngula ("Evolution, development, and random biological ejaculations from a godless liberal"), where he criticizes creationism, advocates for the popularization of science, and gushes about cephalopods. He 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.

He is also the author of The Happy Atheist.[3]


[edit] Atheism

You may have needed a book of rules and a master to put on the shackles of faith, but you don’t need a guidebook to live a life of liberty. Do you know why atheists are so happy? Because they’re the freest people on Earth, and their only responsibilities are to their fellow human beings, not phantasms.

Myers claims being religious needs effort but atheism avoids absurd creeds, futile rituals and obedience to supernatural demands. Atheists act morally through natural altruism and do not need promise of Heaven or threat that a malicious god will send them to Hell as motivation. Atheists do not pray or need to explain lack of response to prayer. Atheists have the simplest answer: there is no god listening.

Myers further maintains atheists avoid futile guilt over breaking obsolete religious rules. Atheists also ideally avoid excessive respect for rulers, Religious leaders, their own tribe, the male sex and can see all human beings as equal. Atheists only need to feel guilty when they have caused actual harm and that helps atheists to be moral.[4]

[edit] The atheist movement

Over the years, PZ became increasingly frustrated with the atheist movement. His main criticism was against an empty “just disbelief” form of atheism. Myers at one point considered himself a New Atheist,[5] but appeared to naturally gravitate towards Atheism+ as time went on, which he saw as a natural extension of New Atheism (New Atheism highlighted the importance of science to atheism, Atheism+ highlighted the importance of social justice).[6] This may have been hastened by several ongoing and public disagreements between Myers and both Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins.[7] Myers feels the atheist movement pays too much attention to abstract metaphysics, and that the movement is too concerned about better off white men and does not adress issues connected with racial oppression, poverty, and women's issues. Myers feels the atheist movement is shooting itself in the foot with regressive social attitudes and scandals. [8]

Myers believes atheists should be decent human beings who want to build meaningful communities. He maintains that if atheists embrace progressive stances on issues relating to diversity, legal and social equality, and common responsibility for humanity, atheism will become both more meaningful and more attractive. Myers rejects the view that atheism "only means you don't believe in gods", and sees this interpretation as a "flat abstraction" that forgets that atheists can, indeed, be decent human beings (who knew?).[9] Myers feels that it is unacceptable for skeptical movements (like atheism) to avoid issues like racism, sexism, war, and climate change denialism, and pins this problem on predominantly white, male and privileged skeptics who won't hesitate to shout down anyone who makes them uncomfortable.[10] [11] Myers values Humanism highly for the emphasis ethics and social justice receive within the movement. In fact, he was accused of masterminding a series of initiatives by the American Humanist Association to work towards social justice for African American, feminist and LGBTQ people (his blog post referenced below claims that the initiatives are intended to work toward justice for humanist members of these minorities, but the AHA page makes no such distinction; this is probably a mistake on Myers' part, as such discrimination would contradict humanism's supposed aims). Myers fears that people may be driven away from atheism and towards humanism as a result of all this, though secularism is not uncommon among humanists and often goes hand in hand with the rejection of supernatural beliefs.[12]

[edit] Pharyngula

Pharyngula, named for the pharyngula[wp] stage of embryonic development, got roughly 2.5 million hits each month but the popularity of the Freethought Blogs has declined significantly according to Alexa.[13] The Pharyngula blog focuses on many topics: biology, evolution, Young Earth creationism,[14] Old Earth creationism,[15] atheism, liberal politics, why sex abuse and violence[16] towards women should not be tolerated,[17] exposing Donald Trump,[18] exposing quack medicine,[19] abuse of guns, lack of accountability and other problems with American police,[20], affairs in Minnesota, [21] squid porn,[22] non-squid cephalopod porn, the shortcomings of Intelligent Design, conservative wackos, squid porn, etc.

Pharyngula was initially an independent blog. It moved to ScienceBlogs, Seed Magazine's blogging collective, where it was one of the major generators of traffic for the site. Around 2011, ScienceBlogs started to decline and was acquired by National Geographic,[23] which Myers thought had a more uptight nature that would interfere with Pharyngula's tone and content. As a result, Myers and Ed Brayton founded their own blogging collective, Freethought Blogs, and cloned both their blogs there. Myers also maintains the blog's old presence at ScienceBlogs, reposting his more science-oriented articles.[24] The FtB version of Pharyngula remains Myers' main blog.[25] [26]

A controversy in mid 2015 over then-FTB-colleague Ophelia Benson's views on trans people caused drama in the FtB comments.[27][28] As a consequence, PZ Myers decided to end his traditional social threads "the Lounge" (moderated) and "The Mended Drum", formerly "Thunderdome" (unmoderated) — which mainly served his regulars — citing "far too much cliquishness" as a reason that made moderating an "unrewarding chore".[29]

[edit] Trolls

From early 2009, till 2013 the professional troll John Kwok stalked Myers, also posted many annoying and/or threatening comments. See John Kwok and PZ Myers for more. Dennis Markuze was another internet troll stalking and repeatedly threatening Myers as well as other prominent atheists. An online petition that Myers organised probably helped get Mabus arrested.[30][31][32]

[edit] Slymepit

More recently denizens of the Slymepit and like minded people have caused problems for PZ Myers and his supporters. Slymepitters are immature teenagers and adults who continue to act like teenagers. False implausible accusations[33] including spreading a malicious rumor that pretended PZ had STD were perhaps among their less objectionable efforts.[34]

[edit] Michael Shermer accused

Alison Smith (a former employee of the James Randi Educational Foundation) approached Myers accusing Michael Shermer of rape. Smith requested that Myers publish her claims anonymously as a warning to other women to not allow Shermer to get them drunk and isolate them from groups. PZ felt morally obliged to publish Smith's accusation because he had heard other similar complaints about Shermer and the issue of sexual harassment in the atheist movement had been gathering momentum. Subsequently, journalist Mark Oppenheimer wrote an article that named, with permission, not only Smith, but several other alleged female victims of Shermer’s behavior.[35] Oppenheimer's piece included corroborating accounts from named and unnamed sources. Shermer changed his story so much Myers believes Shermer lost all credibility.[36]

[edit] Atheist Ireland

Michael Nugent, the Chairperson of Atheist Ireland was furious that PZ had posted the rape accusation against Shermer.[34][37][38] He had previously alleged that PZ Myers' abusive comments and polarising style was unhelpful to the atheist movement.[39] Nugent's supporters were also outraged, although it’s worth noting that people from the Slymepit constitute a significant percentage of the commenters at Nugent’s blog and these are a huge part of the anti-PZ voice there.[40] The Slymepit is a reactionary, anti-feminist internet forum.

The argument escalated on October 4, 2014 when PZ tweeted a message that infuriated Nugent. The tweet reads:

It’s not about what he thinks, but what he’s doing: defending & providing a haven for harassers, misogynists, and rapists.

Nugent was upset about the "providing a haven for rapists” portion, and repeatedly demanded a recantation. PZ, however, took the position that in defending Shermer and also in allowing the Slymepit contingent to litter his comments, Nugent had provided a safe place for misogynistic and sexist behaviour. Perhaps understandably, Nugent became fixated on the issue, and has written some 80,000 words about Myers.

Things reached a tipping point when Ayaan Hirsi Ali addressed the American Atheists convention and declared falsely[41] [42] that the worst thing that happens to gays in America is that they are not served cake, while gays in Muslim countries are thrown off buildings.[43] PZ criticized this form of whataboutism, and this was apparently more than Nugent could take.

[edit] Atheist Ireland's J'accuse

In April of 2015, Atheist Ireland's Executive Committee released a "dissociation" from Myers.[44] The thing is an extended list of unlinked quotes from Myers' writing, many of which are distortions of what Myers said and meant. Consider this attack on Myers:

He described Robin Williams’ suicide as ‘the death of a wealthy white man dragging us away from news about brown people’

Myers did no such thing. He made the point that our grotesque media -- with its infotainment approach[45] and priorities[46] -- went into overdrive about a death that, while tragic for Williams' family, blotted out all coverage of young black men shot down by police. This type of media criticism is hardly unique to Myers.[47]

Then there is this paragraph, which is nothing more than a whinge about tone:

Among the many people he publicly ‘hates’, ‘despises’ or ‘detests’ are philosophers Alain de Botton and Harriet Baber, interfaith activist Chris Stedman, comparative religion author Karen Armstrong, pastor Lee Strobel, columnist Richard Cohen, attorney Debbie Schlussel, creationists Ken Ham and Fred Phelps, broadcasters Bob Beckel and Rush Limbaugh, and authors Ben Stein, Bryan Appleyard and Dinesh D'Souza. Just last month he said that his ‘contempt’ for US President Ronald Reagan has vastly increased.

And? Cohen, Ham, Phelps, Stein, Beckel, Limbaugh, D'Souza, Schlussel and Reagan are detest-worthy. Perhaps Irish atheists' delicate eyes are affronted by someone rhetorically using words like "hate" or "detest" about these (mostly) rancid individuals? My what a damning indictment we have there! In July 2015 Nugent posted another piece criticizing Myers for being too disparaging when Nugent felt more diplomatic language would work better.[48]

[edit] Christianity

As Christianity is the dominant religion in the USA Myers puts much effort into dealing with it.

[edit] Courtier's reply

See the main article on this topic: Courtier's reply

Myers coined the term "courtier's reply" to describe the argument that only clergy and theologians are qualified to comment on questions of faith.[49] Many people are quick to suggest that someone like Richard Dawkins, who was trained as a biologist, does not have the authority to criticize religion.[50] Myers suggests this is like telling the child in Andersen's fable to study haute couture before judging if the emperor is naked.

[edit] Expelled

PZ Myers on creationism.
See the main article on this topic: PZ Myers "expelled" from screening of Expelled

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.[51]

[edit] Crackergate

On July 24, 2008, Myers desecrated a consecrated host, along with pages from the Qur'an, Richard Dawkins' book The God Delusion, coffee grounds, and a banana peel. This followed an assault on Webster Cook, a student who kept a host in his mouth to show to a friend later, rather than eating it during a eucharist at the University of Central Florida, and (according to some) Myers attempted to draw fire. It succeeded in that, sparking a feud between Dr. Myers and William Donohue. (See also Iconoclasm.) The degree of “hysterical” reaction surprised Myers who had hoped intelligent Catholics would see Jesus was in no way harmed. Myers feels those who hold supposed sacred objects dear can endanger the liberty of others.[52]

[edit] NOMA

See the main article on this topic: Non-Overlapping Magisteria

Myers like many members of the most recent generation of outspoken atheists reject NOMA or "non overlapping magisteria". NOMA was Stephen J. Gould's position claiming matters of science and faith were separated into two groups that never overlapped. This for a time appeared to answer the "conflict thesis" of science and religion. Myers and other modern atheists dismiss NOMA - some suggesting Gould himself wasn't totally convinced. Myers argues that faith and superstition, while unfounded, have real impact on the world through actions of believers and therefore merit critical analysis by any and all means, including science.

[edit] Islam

Myers has many times criticised theocratic Muslim nations [53] but he feels stereotyping Muslims is quite unreasonable as is discriminating against people for being Muslim.[54] He strongly opposes those bigots who treat all Muslims, even former Muslims as bogeymen. He also opposes those who treat all criticism of Islam as not liberal and are reluctant to speak against even the worst types of Islam.[55]

Following from the 2016 Orlando nightclub shooting Myers stated that radical Islam is a great evil which he hopes can be defeated. Myers went on to cite poll evidence that typical American Muslims are moderate. 42% of US Muslims support gay marriage which is roughly the same proportion as Christians who support gay marriage. Myers maintains that typical American Muslims are far less bigoted than the more extreme Christian gay haters in Republican strongholds. Myers maintains deporting Muslims would solve nothing as narrow minded sections of the dominant Christian religion promote a homophobic culture and even some atheists support homophobia.[56]

[edit] Politics

Myers is an outspoken liberal who fears Donald Trump does not understand science and believes Trump alienates too many people. [57] Myers is concerned since "A significant fraction of the American electorate wants this whiny brat to be president."[58] Myers thinks the distasteful prospect, "that an inflamed orange hemorrhoid will be elected president" is less likely because too much Trump campaign money ends off in Trump owned companies.[59] Myers plans to vote for Lucifer Hillary Clinton as president[60] [61] and hopes other Sanders supporters will do the same.[62]

Myers argues global warming denialism is clownish and comparable to evolution denialism.[63] Myers notes scientists get neither fame nor money fighting powerful vested interests in the fossil fuel industries. Scientists argue humans cause global warming because of overwhelming scientific evidence that this is happening.[64]

Myers favors stricter gun control "Their purpose is to kill people. Got that? They are devices to hurl small pieces of metal at lethal velocities that are intentionally aimed at human beings to do them harm."[65] He notes cases where guns have tragically killed.[66] Myers has researched whether his local elected representatives accepted money (Myers considers it bribes) from the NRA.[67]

Myers takes a feminist stance in debates about the role of women in the skepticism movement, and claims some people in the movement are guilty of covering up the sexual exploitation of women.[68] He advocated for a woman who complained about sexual abuse and gender discrimination at the James Randi Educational Foundation.[69][70]

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

  • 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)
  • Pharyngula Wiki.

[edit] Footnotes

  1. Oh, no! The New Atheists are getting attacked again! (Ellipses are in the original quote, rather than a redaction of part of it).
  2. Google Scholar
  3. The Happy Atheist
  4. 4.0 4.1 An atheist’s guide to the good life Myers explains how he makes ethical decisions.
  5. Comes a Horseman, Myers' acceptance speech for the Humanist of the Year award for 2009.
  6. Nice Article on Atheism+ in the New Statesman Myers, PZ. Pharyngula, 23 Aug. 2012.
  7. The Trumpification of atheism
  8. The Atheist Disillusionment
  9. Sunday Sacrilege: The Responsible Atheist
  10. Skepticism will not fix its problems by denying their existence
  11. These problems apply less outside the American atheist movement.
  12. HumanismPlus? How about just plain humanism
  13. How popular is freethoughtblogs.com? This may or may not be reliable.
  14. Cruel and unusual punishment
  15. Let’s pick on an Old Earth Creationist
  16. Academic failures in elementary humanity
  17. Canada sets another example for us all
  18. By golly, Trump is negging us! A day in the life of a buffoon
  19. An abuse of stem cells Stanislaw Burzynski must be stopped Disgraceful quackery from Bioharmonic Technologies, and shame on the Autism Society Another cancer quack But of course @DeepakChopra is incorporating epigenetics into his quackery
  20. Disarm the police Don’t blame the victims Depends on whose ox is getting gored Mr Rogers says, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
  21. Syllabusery Minnesotans! You have an election on Tuesday! Vote!
  22. Tentacle Sex
  23. "National Geographic Taking the Wheel at Scienceblogs.com". Columbia Journalism Review. http://www.cjr.org/the_observatory/national_geographic_taking_the.php?page=all. Retrieved 16 July 2012. 
  24. Pharyngula on ScienceBlogs
  25. Welcome to the new digs!, Myers welcome message on the new incarnation of Pharyngula
  26. Unknown people calling themselves Pharyngulite started their own little wiki on Wikia. See It’s a lens to concentrate the weirdness It mostly covers possibly immature ideas and memes repeated on the blog and comments. 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 Myers' distaste for libertarians and love of evo-devo. It's fairly inactive.
  27. And some of the boxes are wired to explode!PZ Myers
  28. A horrible effective silencer Ophelia Benson
  29. Between me and my mind
  30. Case Study: How a notorious spammer was brought down via Twitter
  31. VICTORY! Montreal Police Begin Formal Investigation of “David Mabus”
  32. Montreal police investigating alleged threats made against atheists
  33. Pitposting
  34. 34.0 34.1 The Background of Atheist Ireland’s Breakup with PZ: It’s about Michael Shermer
  35. Will Misogyny Bring Down The Atheist Movement? Buzzfeed
  36. The crooked, twisted story of the wanton kid
  37. comment by PZ Myers
  38. The approach taken
  39. Nugent is not the only person who criticised Myers for being unnacceptably offensive.The Trash-talking Hypocrisy of PZ Myers
  40. The end of the @micknugent saga PZ Myers
  41. http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jun/12/orlando-shooting-nightclub-pulse-gunman
  42. LGBT People Face More Hate Crimes Than Any Other Minority
  43. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/progressivesecularhumanist/2015/04/ayaan-hirsi-ali-advocates-for-muslim-lgbt-at-american-atheists-convention/
  44. Atheist Ireland’s statement on PZ Myers, with added links to the actually Myers' posts Alex Gabriel
  45. https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/bad-girls-and-gone-girls-why-the-media-tired-of-missing-white-women/2015/12/09/5660fb52-9934-11e5-94f0-9eeaff906ef3_story.html
  46. https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20140124/07221725975/journalism-msnbc-cuts-off-congresswoman-talking-about-nsa-to-get-to-breaking-news-about-justin-bieber.shtml
  47. https://theintercept.com/2015/04/23/power-dzhokhar-tsarnaevs-middle-finger/
  48. PZ Myers and the Little Shop of Hatred
  49. PZ Myers, "The Courtier's Reply", Pharyngula, 24 December 2006.
  50. http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2007/01/11/a-mission-to-convert/
  51. PZ Myers: Expelled from Expelled! - Richard Dawkins
  52. Setting the Koran on fire, vs. setting personal liberties on fire
  53. Dangerous nerds Gulf states develop amazing new biomedical technology Free Raif Badawi
  54. If you see something, say something
  55. Ex-Muslims of North America
  56. Is the core of the problem Islam?
  57. Nature abhors a Trump
  58. Are we a nation of two year olds?
  59. Cui bono?
  60. Ben Carson always brings the weird
  61. There’s a name for my kind?
  62. A numerical reminder
  63. Prime snide kookrant
  64. I don’t understand what’s going on in denialist’s heads
  65. I don’t give a damn about your gun specs
  66. What was horribly tragic? Why can’t we prosecute people for gun incompetence?
  67. It’s a start
  68. Painfully close to the truth
  69. I’m ready to be divisive
  70. Carrie Poppy tells all
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