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 sent 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, the movement is too much concerned about better off white men and does not adress issues connected with racial oppression, poverty, 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. Myers maintains that if atheists embrace issues like diversity, equality, responsibility for all humanity, this will make atheism more meaningful to people so more people will want to identify with atheism. Myers rejects types of atheism that are only about entitlement for their own group.[9] Myers is concerned because he feels even in 2016 the atheist movements avoid social justice issues, also tolerate too much racism, sexism and tolerate chronic harassers of women.[10] [11] Myers values Humanism because humanism always cared and cares about ethics and social justice. Myers notes and strongly approves a fresh initiative of the American Humanist Association to work towards social justice for African American, feminist and LGBTQ humanists. Myers feels problems within the atheist movement can drive better people towards humanism.[12]

[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.[13] 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.[14] Myers suggests this is like telling the child in Andersen's fable to study haute couture before judging if the emperor is naked.

[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.[15] The Pharyngula blog focuses on many topics: biology, evolution, creationism, atheism, liberal politics, squid porn,[16] 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,[17] 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.[18] The FtB version of Pharyngula remains Myers' main blog.[19] [20]

A controversy in mid 2015 over then-FTB-colleague Ophelia Benson's views on trans people caused drama in the FtB comments.[21][22] 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".[23]

[edit] Expelled

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.[24]

[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 was in response to an 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 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.[25]

[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.[26][27][28]

More recently denezens 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. Hemant Mehta avoids them like the plague. False implausible accusations[29] including spreading a maliciatious rumor that pretended PZ had STD were perhaps among their less objectionable efforts.[30]

[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.[31] Oppenheimer's piece included corroborating accounts from named and unnamed sources. Shermer changed his story so much Myers believes Shermer lost credibility.[32]

[edit] Atheist Ireland

Michael Nugent, the Chairperson of Atheist Ireland was furious that PZ had posted the rape accusation against Shermer.[30][33][34] He had previously alleged that PZ Myers' abusive comments and polarising style was unhelpful to the atheist movement. [35] Nugent's supporters were also outraged, although it’s worth noting that people from the Slymepit, a reactionary, anti-feminist internet forum, constitute a significant percentage of the commenters at Nugent’s blog and these are a huge part of the anti-PZ voice there.[36]

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 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. [37] 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.[38] 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 [39] and priorities[40] -- 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.[41]

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, Reagan and especially Schlussel 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.[42]

[edit] Politics

Myers is an outspoken liberal who argues that global warming denialism is comparable to evolution denialism.[43] Myers fears Donald Trump does not understand science and believes Trump alienates too many people. [44]

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.[45] He advocated for a woman who complained about sexual abuse and gender discrimination at the James Randi Educational Foundation.[46][47]

[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. PZ Myers, "The Courtier's Reply", Pharyngula, 24 December 2006.
  15. How popular is This may or may not be reliable.
  16. Tentacle Sex
  17. "National Geographic Taking the Wheel at". Columbia Journalism Review. Retrieved 16 July 2012. 
  18. Pharyngula on ScienceBlogs
  19. Welcome to the new digs!, Myers welcome message on the new incarnation of Pharyngula
  20. 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.
  21. And some of the boxes are wired to explode!PZ Myers
  22. A horrible effective silencer Ophelia Benson
  23. Between me and my mind
  24. PZ Myers: Expelled from Expelled! - Richard Dawkins
  25. Setting the Koran on fire, vs. setting personal liberties on fire
  26. Case Study: How a notorious spammer was brought down via Twitter
  27. VICTORY! Montreal Police Begin Formal Investigation of “David Mabus”
  28. Montreal police investigating alleged threats made against atheists
  29. Pitposting
  30. 30.0 30.1 The Background of Atheist Ireland’s Breakup with PZ: It’s about Michael Shermer
  31. Will Misogyny Bring Down The Atheist Movement? Buzzfeed
  32. The crooked, twisted story of the wanton kid
  33. comment by PZ Myers
  34. The approach taken
  35. Nugent is not the only person who criticised Myers for being unnacceptably offensive.The Trash-talking Hypocrisy of PZ Myers
  36. The end of the @micknugent saga PZ Myers
  38. Atheist Ireland’s statement on PZ Myers, with added links to the actually Myers' posts Alex Gabriel
  42. PZ Myers and the Little Shop of Hatred
  43. Prime snide kookrant
  44. Nature abhors a Trump
  45. Painfully close to the truth
  46. I’m ready to be divisive
  47. Carrie Poppy tells all
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