Debate:Did PZ Myers Cross the Line?

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Feel free to add your own spin on the story. Please keep it civil!
Information icon.svg This debate was created by SirChuckB (from Template talk:According to).

Introduction: This debate was spurred by a blog post by PZ Myers of scienceblog Pharyngula fame.
Note: Page content moved from Template talk:According to.

I think PZ was a bit overly obnoxious about the whole thing, but in general I agree with him. From the perspective of any truly rational person, it is a cracker. One laden with symbolism, but still a cracker. I think religion needs a kick in the pants every now and then as a sort of reality check. Yes, the papists will take this more seriously than a stolen Cheez-it because, according to their subscribed beliefs, it is, in fact, Jebus himself. This whole incident should at least remind Catholics what it is they allegedly believe if they hold true to church dogma. I can't be sure, but I'd wager if you were to ask a statistically relevant sample of casual Catholics if, when taking the Eucharist, they are actually really eating the physical body of Christ, or just a cracker than represents him, the majority would say it's a ritualistic symbol (and even if they didn't say it, I bet they'd still believe it). Nevermind that 400 years ago people killed each other in large numbers over that question, and it was one of the major things that differentiated Catholics from some other denominations. Incidents like this sort of drive the point home.

It reminds me a bit of the Mohammad cartoons last year (or whenever it was). Those cartoons were, in a way, necessary. Muslims need to realize that a large number of people out there not only disagree with their beliefs, but think they're kind of dumb. Eventually they have to learn to deal with this, as most other religions have, at least to an extent. Yes, this Eucharist controversy brought out some of the crazies in the Christian world, and while some did threaten Myers' life, let's face it, no one is going to kill him. (The internet just makes sending death threats way too easy these days.) When those Mohammad cartoons were printed, people did die. The Muslim world has to learn to get indignant when their beliefs are insulted, but keep that indignation in perspective. Protest, make a big fuss, change the names of some pastries, but don't kill people. High profile insults to people's beliefs are necessary every now and then, just so people can learn to deal with them. DickTurpis 19:41, 10 July 2008 (EDT)

I think the true problem with this whole debacle is that when you truly beleive something, anything, strong enough, it becomes an obsession. If you're a true beleiver, you can't see from an outside view. Christian, Muslim, Scientologist(sp?), Jev. Witness, anything. You feel so strongly that when someone doesn't beleive in what you do, and therefore mocks it, it's nature to become defensive. In my observations, I've seen that just about every religion has a persecution complex and thinks that whole world is out to get them... this is just one more representation of that. SirChuckBEl...ipses are Cool... 19:57, 10 July 2008 (EDT)
I get that, and I understand people getting defensive, but getting offensive (violence, and threats thereof) is where people need to get a grip. Events like this can be useful for reflecting on one's beliefs, though I think PZ Myers' approach was not so conducive to rational reflection. I think his approach could have been better. DickTurpis 20:01, 10 July 2008 (EDT)
I agree with that, but you have to see that to these people, when you offend them, they think death threats are within the realm of acceptable. Remember, they're following a book that advocates the death penalty for everything from percieved blasphemy to disrepecting parents.... 20:23, 10 July 2008 (EDT)
As I have remarked elsewhere, saying that the Eucharist is just a cracker is just as effing stupid incorrect as saying that your collection of family photographs is just little pieces of coated paper. Or along similar lines, that the original copy of the Declaration of Independence is just a scrap of old paper with some ink scratches. This is simply wilful ignorance, and I would frankly have expected much better from a PhD. --AKjeldsenCum dissensie 20:24, 10 July 2008 (EDT)
I really think those are completely invalid comparisons, to me the crackers would be more closely linked to the little plastic flags you buy at walmart on the fourth of July. Mass produced, mass distributed, mass consumed...yea there is some symbolic meaning behind it but in the end it all washes out in pomp and circumstance. Regardless of any assumed symbolic meaning, you have to admit that the reaction of the theist was completely absurd. tmtoulouse irritate 20:32, 10 July 2008 (EDT)
[edit conflict] I'd have to disagree, at least to an extent. If we're talking about original physical copies of photos or the Declaration, then we're dealing with unique, irreplaceable objects. Destroying, damaging, or doing likewise to them is much different than a cracker the likes of which has been seen millions of times before and will be seen millions of times again. However, if we're talking about digital copies of photos or a transcript of the Declaration of Independence, then I'm in a bit more agreement. No one should be upset by anyone deleting a photograph from a hard drive or tearing up a copy of the Declaration of Independence. I know some people take these religious rituals very seriously, but I really think they should keep them in proportion. DickTurpis 20:36, 10 July 2008 (EDT)
These are rather difficult subjects, gentlemen at this website, and it is a little late in the evening for me to go into an in-depth discussion about them, but the fundamental issue here is what happens to a set of objects when they are consistently exposed to certain ritualized acts by a community with a shared set of ideas about what it is that happens through these acts. Specifically, the objects are imbued with a symbolic meaning that in the eyes of this community transforms them from everyday objects into objects of ritual. In this regard, there is no difference between the Eucharist and, say, the bones that a shaman might use to commune with the spirits and perdict the future. The outsider who does not understand the acts of ritual that are being performed might say that "they're just chicken bones", but this would be wrong - for the members of the shaman's community, they have, because of their significance for the ritual, been transformed from dinner left-overs into highly significant ritualized objects. In exactly the same way, the moment that the Catholic priest consecrates the host through the word-acts of the ritual, that particular host ceases to be "just a cracker" and starts being an object of ritual.
Please note that I'm not talking about theology here. The exact reason why the community attaches this significance to the ritualized object is less relevant in this context. What matters is that the ritual happens, and that for a lot of reasons, this ritual changes the meaning of the ritualized object, and that is basically an anthropological and/or a sociological question.
Now, again, I realize that these are not simple matters, but they are very well described in the anthropological literature, and I must admit that it bothers me a great deal that otherwise highly educated people like Myers and Dawkins apparently do not see the need to try gain a basic understanding of the matters involved before they pretend that they have something of value to say about them. To me, this speaks of a disdain towards other branches of academia than their own, the natural sciences. That is something that in my opinion has no place at all in these circles, although I suppose it is nevertheless, and regrettably, quite widespread. --AKjeldsenCum dissensie 21:14, 10 July 2008 (EDT)
Your offering a description of a phenomenon that I agree is widespread and happens cross-culturally. But just because something does happen doesn't mean that it should happen or that it is good when it happens or that it is right. The near worship of inanimate objects is a product of a system of belief and thought that I think is ultimately harmful. It is why I am very luke warm about things like the atheist "out symbol" of Dawkins. tmtoulouse irritate 21:24, 10 July 2008 (EDT)
Do you realize what you are saying, Trent? That we should be more rational with our feelings? Is that even humanly possible? Star of David.png Radioactive afikomen Please ignore all my awful pre-2014 comments. 21:44, 10 July 2008 (EDT)
Well post age 23 +/- a year............yes. tmtoulouse irritate 21:45, 10 July 2008 (EDT)
Although I "appreciate" AK's point (I guess), I find his examples wanting. Roughly 1 billion crackers are blessed and cannibalized each week, right? At least, that's how many Catholics there are, and they do it every week, right? The comparison to the shaman and chicken bones almost unmakes the point. Could an "outsider" or potential mocker get their hands on them? Be handed them? I doubt it. The emperor, in this case, has no clothes. Whatever significance is attached to the individual experience of the cracker eater, to the rest of us they are indistinguishable from "normal" crackers. The reaction of certain hard-line loudmouthed Catholics is the issue, not whether said cracker is or was truly the embodiment of a 2000 year old Jew. The reaction was way over the top, and unbecoming of Western Civilization. "We are offended and disappointed, dismayed and saddened" might be appropriate. "We hope he understands how he has hurt our feelings", appropriate. Calling it a "hate crime", totally out of proportion. IMHO. ħumanUser talk:Human 21:49, 10 July 2008 (EDT)
Oh the "hate crime" thing was classic. I mean, I believe that a prerequisite for something being a hate crime is that it is first and foremost a crime. Not swallowing a cracker someone has given you doesn't quite cut it. DickTurpis 21:56, 10 July 2008 (EDT)
Human, as I pointed out in my blog post, I agree with you completely with regards to that. My issue was with PZ Myers calling it "just a cracker". Regardless of any zealots acting outside the bounds of human decency, the cracker still has value. Star of David.png Radioactive afikomen Please ignore all my awful pre-2014 comments. 22:14, 10 July 2008 (EDT)
I think that once it left the confines of its ceremonial environment it ceased to be the physical body of Christ and returned to simple crackerhood. ħumanUser talk:Human 22:31, 10 July 2008 (EDT)

Feelings... whoa whoa whoa, feelings...[edit]

What gave it value in the first place were the emotions people invested in it, which die a lot harder than Christ. Star of David.png Radioactive afikomen Please ignore all my awful pre-2014 comments. 23:14, 10 July 2008 (EDT)
Brother, you have no idea what I'd do to a man for a Cheez-It. DickTurpis 23:18, 10 July 2008 (EDT)
*slyly* Would you liquidate a few pests for me for a box? Star of David.png Radioactive afikomen Please ignore all my awful pre-2014 comments. 23:20, 10 July 2008 (EDT)
"the emotions people invested in it" - at this point we are arguing over hurt feelings - that's what emotions are, right? Hurt feelings lead to death threats? ħumanUser talk:Human 23:26, 10 July 2008 (EDT)
Regarding "hurt feelings": (My thanks to you for opening up the thread from a debate about the Eucharist to a more general discussion on the value of feelings. Proceed to be pwned.) Congratulations on belittling the entire human experience, Huw! In acknowledgment of your disregard for the human condition, you are hereby awarded the Heartless Bastard Award by every rape victim, oppressed minority, and abused child in history! After all, we all know that what makes the crimes they suffered wrong is a bunch of abstract philosophical concepts, and have absolutely nothing to do with something as silly as "hurt feelings". Star of David.png Radioactive afikomen Please ignore all my awful pre-2014 comments. 23:45, 10 July 2008 (EDT)
Regarding death threats: *tosses eloquence out the window* Read the fucking disclaimer at the end of the fucking post! Star of David.png Radioactive afikomen Please ignore all my awful pre-2014 comments. 23:45, 10 July 2008 (EDT)
I firmly believe in what Frazier termed "contagious magic" in the anthropological sense. A baseball signed by Babe Ruth is just a baseball, but because it's been in physical contact with him, its value is immensely increased. Nothing's really different about the ball, a ball with his signature drawn on by an excellent forger isn't valuable - it has to actually be physically signed by Babe Ruth. Though I don't actually believe anything intrinsically is different about a baseball signed by Babe Ruth and one with a signature forged, I'm willing to concede (even though I don't like baseball) that I would pay more for a baseball actually signed by him than one which is forged. Because I would be willing to do this, I'm willing to concede to others their various irrational "contagious magic" views ( It's why I've been the target of rather unpopular extremism for saying that forcing bakers to bake gay wedding cakes is actually a violation of the free exercise clause by requiring them to actually participate in a ritual which they are prohibited from participating in. Just like I would be annoyed if anyone forced me to pray at a government function or otherwise. I think the Catholics are fully in their rights to be pissed about actually stealing a communion wafer. Under most circumstances, if this were an atheist, I would support a hate crime enhancement. Bloomingdedalus (talk)

(unindent) That's a pwning? I don't get it... I read the thing three times and still can't quite figure out your main point... what exactly are you arguing? SirChuckBEl...ipses are Cool... 23:50, 10 July 2008 (EDT)

Don't diminish the moment, Chuck. Let me bask in my own conceit a while longer. Star of David.png Radioactive afikomen Please ignore all my awful pre-2014 comments. 23:56, 10 July 2008 (EDT)
Wow, you missed that one, RA. If someone says to me "your truck is ugly" my feeling might be hurt (it's pretty). If they blow it up, or cut the brake lines, that's an issue. Your examples all involve actual physical damages (stick and stones...), not just "hurt feelings". ħumanUser talk:Human 23:57, 10 July 2008 (EDT)
(edit conflict)My point was that real human suffering is defined by feelings hurt, and by belittling "hurt feelings" in general Human also belittled the real suffering experienced by people. Star of David.png Radioactive afikomen Please ignore all my awful pre-2014 comments. 00:05, 11 July 2008 (EDT)
Yes, but you failed to make that point in any clear way. And, no, I define "real human suffering" as far more than hurt feelings - physical injury, deprivation, etc. ħumanUser talk:Human 00:21, 11 July 2008 (EDT)
However, one must admit that the most damaging aspect of crimes such as rape or child abuse are the psychological damage it does, which lasts far longer than the physical aspect. To merely call such damage "hurt feelings" is not doing it justice, they are both emotional distress. DickTurpis 00:31, 11 July 2008 (EDT)
Stop sign.svg

This conversation is about to go badly downhill, inevitably ending in comparisons to Hitler, and hurt feelings all around.
Stop now. Step away from the keyboard.
Go pet a jerboa, or milk a goat.

"...hurt feelings all around..." Just realized how ironic that is. DickTurpis 00:03, 11 July 2008 (EDT)

00:04, 11 July 2008 (EDT)

Going to ignore the template and plunge right in.... I agree with Human. There is a strong difference between a rape, opression etc and this issue. Had the student stolen the faucet the baptismal font, or walked off with a big crucifix, I would agree with you... However, All he did was violate the unwritten rules of the church. I would also like to point out that according to many churches and conservatives, hate crimes don't exist. They are simply liberal tools to stop religious leaders from preaching. So why do they scream hate crime? Because there is no law against what he did.... if they get it classified as a hate crime, they can push for prosecution... How hypocritical can you get? SirChuckBEl...ipses are Cool... 00:10, 11 July 2008 (EDT)

From the discussion above[edit]

Human: "The reaction of certain hard-line loudmouthed Catholics is the issue, not whether said cracker is or was truly the embodiment of a 2000 year old Jew." Firstly, that may be what you want to make into an issue. As I have outlined just above your comment, there certainly are other issues involved. Some of the reactions that have come of this are clearly unacceptable. However, since we have no shortage of discussions about evil Christians around here, I think it is a much more interesting and novel issue that a PhD of biology can not only write a piece where he displays an embarrasing lack of knowledge about the issues involved, but also generate almost 1500 comments, most of which (speaking from a sample, of course) seem to agree with the man. Secondly, you are misstating my position, because I specifically said that "The exact reason why the community attaches this significance to the ritualized object is less relevant in this context." What matters here is rather that the community believes this and the social contexts and meanings that are created by this. I remain confident that this distinction will eventually be understood. --AKjeldsenCum dissensie 03:09, 11 July 2008 (EDT)

I take it that this issue of ritualized meaning gets its authority from duration and popularity? Because otherwise, I could hold certain things to be sacred (or whatever word you prefer) and be somehow justified in calling it a hate crime if someone tramples on them, and sending death threats to someone who mocks me? Because, see, I have this half-eaten plate of ravioli in the fridge...
So, is the cracker the Jew? Is that the issue?
Did the student spit on the altar or otherwise defile the place of worship?
Was it a hate crime?
Keep in mind, PZ is reponding (from what I can tell) to the response by a certain strident Catholic, not the original story. And that certain strident Catholic needed to be put in his place (reminded that to the rest of us, it was just a cracker, and no "theological" or "sociological" argument can change that). If all that happened was the kid snuck out a communion wafer, then he was just at worst a lout. Being crude at others' ceremonial expense. But what happened next was some idiot made it sound like he spray-painted a swastika on a synagogue ("hate crime").
Finally, did the dumbass kid hurt anyone? Really? I'm usually pretty tolerant on here of people's religious leanings, but I tend to shy away from tolerance of stupidity, and the ranting of that strident Catholic and subsequent death threats (however empty), seem much more stupid than what that kid did. ħumanUser talk:Human 03:22, 11 July 2008 (EDT)
The fact that Myers is responding to a few idiots who get a thrill out of sending death threats does not change the other fact that his conclusion ("just a cracker") is both catastrophically wrong - if it is even that - and as far as I can tell symptomatic of an unfortunate trend in certain parts of the academic community. --AKjeldsenCum dissensie 04:55, 11 July 2008 (EDT)
I don't disagree with the point that people add symbolic value to otherwise inherently worthless objects, but that to me seems to be an extremely trivial point. Yea people can convince themselves of just about anything, and can get very worked up over it. The point? It is still a cracker. I do not see how recognizing perceived psychological value of any object changes anything. 10:29, 11 July 2008 (EDT)
That's unfortunate, because I don't think I can explain things much better than I already did. However, I suggest that you go out and find Clifford Geertz: The Interpretation of Cultures (1973). That's one of the standard works on this field. --AKjeldsenCum dissensie 10:40, 11 July 2008 (EDT)
So really, that's it? You think that because some people have convinced themselves that an object is something that it is not, it somehow changes that object? I have seen going around trying to convince people that it is "more" than a cracker because some people think it is more than a cracker. I will agree that, yea, some people think it is more than a cracker. How do we connect the dot then that because someone thinks something that it is actually true? 10:44, 11 July 2008 (EDT)
Alright. Let me see if I can't explain this another way. You have to imagine that, in a sense, there are two different objects involved here. One of them is the physical object itself. This one obviously doesn't change unless there's some sort of physical force working on the object. The other one is your perception of the object in question. This perception of yours can be influenced by a variety of different factors. For instance, let's imagine a bracelet. Physically, it is a perfectly ordinary bracelet, and you will also perceive it as such as long as you can't connect it with any particular context or significance. However, let's imagine that instead of being a completely unrelated bracelet, it is actually a bracelet that you gave to your wife on your tenth anniversary. Or maybe it used to belong to a mean-spirited ex who made your life a living hell for months until you finally got rid of her. Or it could have belonged to a grandmother that died recently. All of these different scenarios will each in their own way substantially alter your perception of this bracelet and probably cause you to attach a particular significance to it that makes this particular bracelet distinct from every other one of the same type, even though physically they may be exactly the same.
Now, let's imagine that instead of this being about just your experiences, we're dealing with a group of people who are connected in different ways, one of them being that they regularly participate in a certain type ritual together. This ritual doesn't have to be religious - it might just as well be related to sports, social events, politics, associations, etc. That doesn't matter - the general principle is the same: The shared ritual acts causes their perceptions of the objects involved to change, and this in turn creates a context and a set of significances attached to the objects, even though the physical object itself remains the same. In other words, this group creates a constructed reality for themselves that is not immediately obvious to people who are not members of the group, but which can be described through e.g. anthropological methods.
I hope this makes my point more clear? --AKjeldsenCum dissensie 11:16, 11 July 2008 (EDT)
Your point is certainly clear, that Catholics ascribe more value to a communion wafer than is suggested by its actual physical value. However, even given this added value, the Catholic community reaction is massive overkill, and that's what PZ is making fun of here. If an outsider comes in to a religious ritual and does it wrong in such a way that offends the in group, but is not in breach of any civil law, then that situation calls for whatever punishment the religion has for such transgression. The Catholics might pray to God to smite him, or damn him to hell for all eternity, whatever. That way, we'd all have a jolly good laugh at Catholics threatening imaginary punishments for imaginary crimes and that'd be the end of it. I suppose the Catholics would be happy too, since to them both the crime and punishment were real. Everybody wins.
However, what actually happened is that a man was freely given a communion wafer by a priest and instead of eating it as the ritual demands, he took it away. The church then starts threatening actual civil punishments such as being charged with a hate crime, and comparing the offence with kidnapping. They want the guy expelled from his university for doing this. Taking your bracelet analogy, it's like after your home was burgled asking the insurance company for 10,000 Euros for a 100 Euro bracelet because it has sentimental value to you. The insurance company has every right to laugh at you, and refuse your claim. Similarly, civil society has every right to laugh at the Catholic church in this instance. -- 14:10, 11 July 2008 (EDT)
The fact that Myers is responding to a few idiots who get a thrill out of sending death threats does not change the other fact that his conclusion ("just a cracker") is both catastrophically wrong - if it is even that - and as far as I can tell symptomatic of an unfortunate trend in certain parts of the academic community. --AKjeldsenCum dissensie 14:12, 11 July 2008 (EDT)
But to him it is just a cracker. He doesn't share the religious conviction that makes it anything more than a cracker. Cultural sensitivity must cut both ways, you cannot simultaneously demand that people respect the symbolism of the Eucharist and at the same time demand that secular society punish people who don't respect it. -- 14:35, 11 July 2008 (EDT)

Just because you're right, doesn't mean you have to be a prick about it[edit]

He crossed the line not because his assessment of the situation was wrong, or his offer to desecrate a sanctified host was wrong, but just because he was such an immense dick. If there's anything a look at atheist pundit Christopher Hitchens can teach us, it's that you can be entirely right about something and still be a tool.--Tom Moorefiat justitia ruat coelum 03:32, 11 July 2008 (EDT)

I think you have a great point Tom. Many atheists and agnostics have to deal with being branded as hating religion and working to destory it. However, speaking for myself, I'm a pretty live and let live kind of guy. I have no hatred toward religion, I just get upset when they try to impose their morality and lifestlye on me. But when people go out of their way to provoke and insult them, it casts a bad light on everyone else. Did the Catholics overreact? absolutely, but did Myers have to write that post in the first place? I fully support his right to do so, and even agree with most of it. However, it seems that he went overboard with the "send me a cracker" bit. SirChuckBEl...ipses are Cool... 03:37, 11 July 2008 (EDT)
I disagree, I would fully support a hate crime enhancement assuming this was done out of animosity for Catholics. If he had criticized the Eucharist or something I would be inclined to believe differently, but since he actually showed up at a service, obtained a communion wafer under false pretenses and then decided to display his theft to the world - yes - hate crime. Bloomingdedalus (talk) 11:58, 30 December 2013 (UTC)
What is the crime? Theft? Fraud? I seriously doubt that the little notice in the missalette about who may receive communion constitutes an enforceable contract. Why is being consigned to burn in Hell for all eternity not sufficient punishment? (talk) 11:10, 29 March 2014 (UTC)

And the point is?[edit]

Having now read all I can on this subject here and on the PZ Myers site I'm a little confused about the point.

PZ Myers implies that the cracker, in every physical test that we might apply to it, remains a cracker and no more than a cracker. There is no test that we could apply which would show that the cracker had experienced any physical change that would differentiate it from any other common or garden cracker and, in this physical respect, it is just a cracker. (He is probably assuming this - I have not heard of anybody carrying out an experiment to actually confirm it. This could be an interesting Templeton Foundation project.) But he would seem to be obviously right when when he says that in every physical sense it is indeed, "just a cracker".

PZ Myers' detractors point out that, to believers, it is clearly far more than a cracker. They are also obviously correct. The excessive reaction to the episode - death threats and all - demonstrates beyond all doubt that, to them, it is far more than a cracker.

Up to this point we all in agreement I would suppose.

So the debate would seem to to centre around the belief that although PZ Myers clearly believes it to be "just a cracker", he should not have said so because some people believe it is more than a cracker. Is that correct, or have I misinterpreted the situation?--Bobbing up 09:11, 11 July 2008 (EDT)

I think three different things are being argued here, actually. PZ says it's a cracker, nothing more. He might as well have had a Cheez-it in his mouth. AKjeldsen says it's more than that because of the significance given to it by important long-standing religious tradition (I think I'm summing him up accurately). However, the devout Catholics say it's more tha a cracker because it is actually Jesus Christ himself. Someone has actually kidnapped the Messiah (or at least a very small part of him), which would be a pretty damn serious problem on all sorts of levels. The latter notion, to any rational person (which we all allegedly are here) is just ridiculous. I really have to wonder how many Catholics honestly and sincerely believe that. I imagine it can't be that many. This isn't the 1500s, and I think it really is time people seriously re-examined the notion of transubstantiation. It would be great if this crisis could be a catalyst for that. What PZ Myers probably should have said is that this is not Jesus, it is a cracker. It may be a very significant cracker to one's beliefs, perhaps comparable to a Bible or religious text that is more than "just words on paper", but it is not the physical body of Jesus Christ. The sooner you accept that the better. Then they could have the debate about its significance, not its physical properties. DickTurpis 09:27, 11 July 2008 (EDT)
Mmmm. Yes, good point. You are right, it is three - although nobody in our debate above is arguing for point three. But splitting it up like that does clarify the issue some more.--Bobbing up 09:35, 11 July 2008 (EDT)
But it's the third group that Myers is responding to, I believe (or at least I assume). I think he's ignoring AKjeldsen's middle ground (which was probably a mistake) but not attacking it. Anyway, I think Myers was overly obnoxious about the whole matter, and it's not good PR for us atheists. DickTurpis 09:46, 11 July 2008 (EDT)
Not a lot has changed since 1726 when Jonathan Swift wrote Gulliver's Travels. This really does smack of Big-Endians v Little-Endians. I should perhaps point out that I was also particularly offended by AKjeldsen's condemnation of the serving of English ale. It should always be served cooled but never at the teeth-jarring temperatures of lager style beers. If only he had the same reverence for the social history, customs and qualities of English beer (see Ballad of John Barleycorn for the death and resurrection of Little Sir John) that he expects others to have for Catholic crackers. Jollyfish.gifGenghisYou have the right to be offended; and I have the right to offend you.
I have debated English beer with Akjeldsen myself. You need to go to the Alcohol page.--Bobbing up 10:35, 11 July 2008 (EDT)
A small correction: I don't really expect Dr Myers or anyone from his crowd to respect the Catholic beliefs - that would probably be futile, anyway. However, I most certainly do expect at least an academic like Myers to respect that there exists a field called anthropology and that decades of peer-reviewed (!) research by its practitioners shows quite clearly that his opinion on this issue is "not even wrong".
Howewer, I think that Genghis's example about British beer is much more on point than you probably think. While I must admit that I have never had the pleasure of visiting an English pub, I am quite certain that the drinking of English beer is surrounded by just as much ritual, social context and construction of significance as the Catholic Mass is. --AKjeldsenCum dissensie 10:37, 11 July 2008 (EDT)

Here's something I just noticed: the news story Myers' cited in his blog got it wrong, calling the cracker "a small bread wafer that to Catholics [is] symbolic of the Body of Christ..." (emphasis mine). To devout Catholics it's not a symbol, but the thing itself. This somewhat explains the overreaction to the incident, and Myers should have understood that, though I'm no longer sure he did. In any case, he is quite right to say that physically, at least, it is a cracker, and anyone pretending otherwise is a bit nutty. That doesn't excuse his obnoxiousness about the entire thing, though I think it's explained partly by people's tendency to have their resolve strengthened and go a bit over the top when they're victims of unreasonable attacks, as at least the cracker thief was. DickTurpis 10:17, 11 July 2008 (EDT)

Good points. --AKjeldsenCum dissensie 10:37, 11 July 2008 (EDT)


Actually, you can clarify something for me if you would, AKjeldsen. Is this really and truly the official Catholic Church position? That is literally - I mean literally - the body and blood of Christ? Actual flesh and blood? Or is it to be understood in some metaphorical sense - I had always assumed it was the latter, but now I am starting to wonder.--Bobbing up 11:05, 11 July 2008 (EDT)
Check out wp:transubstantiation for more info. DickTurpis 11:31, 11 July 2008 (EDT)
That's awfully difficult, but I can try. The official position (Catechism 1373-77) is that Christ is "truly, really and substantially" present in the consecrated host. However, "substantially" doesn't necessarily mean the same as "physically" present, in the way that Christ was (supposedly) physically present 2000 years ago. It draws on the philosophic idea, which in different ways go back to Aristotle and Plato, that all objects have a so-called "substance" which is different from its actual, physical appearance - its "essence", you might say. For instance, if you think of a table, you would say that there is a certain quality or essence apart from the physical appearance (also called the "accidents") that makes this object into a table - an inherent "table-ness", one could say.
The Catholic belief, which dates back to especially Thomas Aquinas, is that it is this "substance" that changes (thus "transubstantiation") from bread and wine to the True Body and Blood, but not the physical appearance/"accidents" of the bread and wine. So you could say that it is much more than just symbolic, but Catholics don't exactly believe that they are actually, physically eating flesh and drinking blood, either.
I'm not sure that explained it very well, but... --AKjeldsenCum dissensie 11:45, 11 July 2008 (EDT)
OK, Thanks for giving it a shot. My take-away message of the Catholic Doctrine then is that's neither a symbol of the flesh and blood, nor is it really the real flesh and blood - but something vaguely, almost indescribably, in between. Is that reasonable?--Bobbing up 13:13, 11 July 2008 (EDT)
Hi Bob. There are things we can touch, see, smell, feel and taste about things. These are called the accidents. "Butter" has certain accidents, these let us know that it is butter. Butter is not made of these accidents, butter is made of certain substances. These substances give rise to butter, produce the accidents that we can perceive and, crucially, determine it to be butter. Butter is made of milk. Margarine is made of oil. If we had something that tasted, looked, felt, smelt and sounded like butter but was made of oil we'd have margarine. Not "sort of" butter, not "physically butter, but spiritually margarine", if it's made of oil it is margarine. We may not be able to believe it's not butter, but its not butter. The concept of substance in transubstantiation is that "ultimate" substance, the thing that gives rise to all the accidents. We may be able to push back to atoms, and know that atoms are made of protons and things, and that these are made of strings vibrating but, unless you are a Berklian idealist, there is always another level to go. The concept of substance here is that ultimate level, the stuff that stuff itself is made of, the level we know we'll never get to but all believe is there. Now we can never see, touch, smell, hear or taste this. We touch, smell, hear and taste what it does, not it. But, just as something that has all the detectable attributes of butter but is made of oil is margarine something that had all the detectable attributes of a cracker but was made of the substance of Jesus would be Jesus. --Toffeeman 15:40, 11 July 2008 (EDT)
Yes...... Mmmmm Thanks ....soo ..... was my summary correct or not?--Bobbing up 15:45, 11 July 2008 (EDT)
It might be in terms of modern thought. I don't think it is in Aquinas' terms. In his terms once the substance has transformed then the Eucharist is the body of Christ, no ifs, no buts, no maybes. Just as that margarine is margarine, no matter how much it seems like butter. Basically it is the body of Christ doing a really, really, really good impression of a wafer. (BTW Thomas Aquinas once wondered whether it was the accidents or the substance of wine that made you drunk. So he said Mass, concecrated a barrel of wine and got thoroughly rat-arsed on the blood of Christ!)--Toffeeman 16:16, 11 July 2008 (EDT)

The point is not whether or not it's "just a cracker"…[edit]

…but whether PZ crossed the line into "anti-intellectual jerk" territory. There is absolutely no reason why he couldn't have simply made a reasoned, dispassionate case for his beliefs, without resorting to mockery and needless provocation. The pen is mightier than the sword, after all. And I don't say this because I'm a Catholic (I'm not), or because I believe in transubstantiation (I don't), but simply because I have no very low tolerance for senseless vituperative/vindictive antagonism. I would feel the same way if someone was all like "HURR I'M GOING TO DRAW PICTURES OF MOHAMMED AND COVER THEM WITH PORK" or "LOL I'M GOING TO BUILD A STATUE OF GANESH OUT OF BEEF" or something. --λινυσ() 10:00, 11 July 2008 (EDT)

I actually agree with the above 100%. While I do, for the most part, agree with PZ, I feel that he could have pulled this off in a much more dignified manner (Eg. Leave out the "Send me a cracker" crap). However, he did not. Did I lose respect for him due to this? No, not really, we do all, as it is, make slip ups once in awhile. Pinto's5150 Talk 13:08, 11 July 2008 (EDT)

Is he crackers?[edit]

Thought control -- are we all against it? Hmmm, maybe. I know i am.

Should there be a law, a hate crime law, against being offensive? I say no, absolutely not, but a lot of people must disagree, else why would there be laws against hate crimes?

But for the nonce let's assume we all agree there should not be thought control or laws against being offensive, and take things to a new level. Given that we are allowed to be offensive, should we? Wait a sec Rem, a lot of people find it fun to be offensive, and fun even to watch people squirm that are offended, and you're not against fun are you?

No, i'm not, but i don't find gratuitive offensiveness fun if it causes pain, and i think that people that do are either sick, puerile, or both. Okay, i wouldn't be likely to defend Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Castro, Saddam, Awkminijob and the like against nastiness directed at them, but ordinary people with deeply held religious beliefs? That's a different story. We're dealing with faith in the supernatural, which by definiton means there can never be any proof either way, at least not in the natural world, even if we rigorously employ the scientific method.

On to Islam. Muslims are terrorists right? So any indignities we can heap on them, who should object? Me. First, because of a reckless, feckless, and ignorant news media, Fundamentalist Muslims are seen as terrorists. Because the newsies are confused, most of the rest of us are confused.

The idea that Muslims who believe in the fundamentals of their faith are the ones that gladly offer up their offspring to suicide bombings for the purpose of murdering infidels is ludicrous. These are people that are most vociforously AGAINST terrorism, and debate the terrorist "religious" leaders whenever they can. I witnessed one such debate in England on a two-hour documentary hosted by Christiana Aminpoor(sp? now with CNN, formerly of BBC?), and after the debate, participants spilled out onto to the street, the fundamentalists obviously aggrieved as the radical Imams still spewed hate and advocted violence, all on camera. Bin Laden is no fundamentalist, and there is no way we're going to war with 1/5 of the world's population.

Sure, we wouldn't like the fundamentalists because of their beliefs, but should we draw cartoons of Mohammed and poke fun at him? Isn't it silly, childish, and unwise to do so? I'm not talking about the RIGHT to do so -- it should be there and i support it, but i don't support being purposely offensive. It is divisive. So while i cannot believe things, probably many things, that Catholics believe, i want them to feel included in society, not feel like a beleagured minority -- it is hardly to our benefit to pressure them into isolation. The enjoyment some of us get from publicly humiliating them pales in comparison.

I'm a big fan of sarcasm, and probably use it too frequently, but if someone appears to be sensitive to it, i will stop. Civility is, i think, one of the highest achievements of a truly civilized culture, and we're losing it.

Maybe PZ Myers is crackers, i wouldn't know -- his reputation precedes him, so i'm not tempted to read his stuff. I leave that for the kiddies that delight in that kind of thing.

-- RemBeau 12:31, 11 July 2008 (EDT)

What on God's polluted brown earth are you talking about? "Thought police"—where did that come from? Is that how my previous rant seemed to you guys? Ouch. Star of David.png Radioactive afikomen Please ignore all my awful pre-2014 comments. 14:05, 11 July 2008 (EDT)

Little late[edit]

I know I'm coming in a little late to the game, but this is ridiculous. I agree with PZ, it's a goddamned cracker (or god-blessed cracker?). I though some white trash dude had been kidnapped at first. Seriously though, get a grip. When I was a kid we got a whole bag of left-over crackers from the church and my sibs and I ate 'em. Big deal. See you in hell. BeastmasterGeneral 13:08, 11 July 2008 (EDT)

A couple quick points: it sounds like the crackers you ate were unconsecrated, which makes all the difference. Also, while I'm inclined to agree in general, what would the overall RW response be if say, Michael Savage, in response to Muslims getting all worked up over desecration of the Koran, said on his radio show "send me Korans! I'll show you sacrilege, with much fanfare!" I think he'd be in "According to" shown in a rather negative light. It's not quite the same thing, but it's the same ballpark. DickTurpis 13:15, 11 July 2008 (EDT)
And your counter-arguments to the various point I have made above are...? --AKjeldsenCum dissensie 13:58, 11 July 2008 (EDT)
In my experience, "A little late coming to this" is a euphemism for "I didn't bother reading the preceding discussion". Star of David.png Radioactive afikomen Please ignore all my awful pre-2014 comments. 14:10, 11 July 2008 (EDT)
Well, i got few, alltho im normally one of those people allways thinking about other peoples feelings, but there is a limit to that too. You compare that cracker to items that have sentimental value to people, unique items which are usually valued because they remind the owners from something special. But now we are talking about a cracker, which is one in a million, value it has to a person comes from the ritual performed upon it, which according to their belief indeed literally transforms it to the body of their savior, dead for 2000 years. That is insane. and i don't say that easily, but really... So, i really think it's time for a wake up call for these people, shake the system a bit, challenge it and the institution that holds theses crackers in so high value. They aren't destroying some valuable memorial object, it's not like they stole some holy relic, its a cracker. Timppeli 14:22, 11 July 2008 (EDT)
If I can reiterate, the general blessed cracker population is billions, not millions. Correct, AK? RCC does the communion thing every week, right? And there are a billion Roman Catholics... ħumanUser talk:Human 14:24, 11 July 2008 (EDT)
That is correct, but you have to understand the significant (HA!) difference between the pre-consecration host and the post-consecration host. And why is that? Exactly because, as I have tried to explain about half a million times, it is the context generated by the ritualized acts that creates this significance in the first place. An unconsecrated host is indeed "just a cracker". A consecrated one is not. --AKjeldsenCum dissensie 14:28, 11 July 2008 (EDT)
RA nailed it. I didn't bother reading the entire debate above (although I did read PZ's original post). I still stand by it. Desecrate some Korans and Bibles, just lay off the Hammer of Thor!!!2 Seriously though. I can understand people getting upset but clearly deathreats are over the top here. Demanding the wafer be returned? A mountain is being made out of quite a small molehill. BeastmasterGeneral 14:31, 11 July 2008 (EDT)
Every week? Again I must have misunderstood - I thought mass was a couple of times a day. --Bobbing up 14:35, 11 July 2008 (EDT)
No AK, a "consecrated" cracker is still just a cracker. Some guy (never a woman) making incantations over it does not change its nature. You just happen to think it's changed because a bunch of guys in Rome said so a long time ago. Jesus never said that mass produced wafers 2000 years after his death should be given special significance. They are artefacts of a man-made religion. Jollyfish.gifGenghisYou have the right to be offended; and I have the right to offend you. 14:52, 11 July 2008 (EDT)
I do understand what you are saying, but i just don't think it still can be compared to some memorial object that people hold dear. There are billions of crackers to go around, it's not like they couldn't bless more of them and no one could tell the diffrence. What is being offended here is the religious beliafs of these people. Bit like eating a hindu holy cow and while it is obvious that some people think it's a disgrace, i allso think it's important to challenge these beliefs and to get people to take a look on what they really beliave. Timppeli 14:42, 11 July 2008 (EDT)
It's more like someone stealing your favorite pokemon card. Actually, that is not right either because the priest gave the wafer to him. BeastmasterGeneral 14:46, 11 July 2008 (EDT)
Well, what im trying to say here is that i dont think that the whole argument and why people are upset is over the cracker, pre or post-consecration, it's about the church doctorine, and therefor it can't really be compared to other items people hold for memories sake. Timppeli 14:56, 11 July 2008 (EDT)

Don't mess with other people's magicks[edit]

Interestingly, atomic theory actually makes transubstantiation more feasible, at least in this physical realm. Maybe Jebus does actually inhabit the spaces in between atoms? Perhaps the desecration intended would be a physical examination and a "fly-by" with a tunneling electron microscope?

Don't poke things that other people regard as untouchable: it's bad form, bad manners and starts wars.
Maybe the "message" to those who would hold our feet to the rational fire is that a little bit of irrationality is a good thing to cuddle in against the hard, black, cold dead of the universe?

CЯacke® 14:57, 11 July 2008 (EDT)

Im suprised you dared to take part in debate about eating Crackers, hide ! ( yes, some one had to make a joke about it...)Timppeli 15:02, 11 July 2008 (EDT)
Yes, someone did. SOON TO BE BLOCKED USER!!! Bwahahahaha The One True CЯacke®Kneel when thou speakest it! 15:09, 11 July 2008 (EDT)

Chapter 26: In Which AK Starts Talking to Himself[edit]

Hello, AK. --AKjeldsenCum dissensie 14:36, 11 July 2008 (EDT)

Hello there, AK. How you doing? --AKjeldsenCum dissensie 14:36, 11 July 2008 (EDT)
Fine, thanks. Say, it doesn't really look like you're getting through to these people, does it? --AKjeldsenCum dissensie 14:36, 11 July 2008 (EDT)
Seems not. Wonder why not. --AKjeldsenCum dissensie 14:36, 11 July 2008 (EDT)
Don't worry about it. Anthropology's difficult stuff. --AKjeldsenCum dissensie 14:36, 11 July 2008 (EDT)
Yeah, maybe. Seems a bit of a waste of time, though. --AKjeldsenCum dissensie 14:36, 11 July 2008 (EDT)
Looks like it. Hey, let's go look at some LOLcats instead! --AKjeldsenCum dissensie 14:36, 11 July 2008 (EDT)
Yay! --AKjeldsenCum dissensie 14:36, 11 July 2008 (EDT)
Don't steal any of Ceiling Cat's blessed cheese while you are there. BeastmasterGeneral 14:42, 11 July 2008 (EDT)
I think some people seem to have glossed over the point of Myers' article. It was in response to the heavy-handed tactics in dealing with a university student who didn't swallow a communion wafer which led to a church having police guards to prevent further occurences, and death threats being sent to the student. While I appreciate that for some people this cracker may have special significance, in the overall scheme of things it is exceedingly petty. There are so many other things in the world to be angry about, and people are getting het up about a cracker. I'm sorry (if I offend anyone) but the response to the alleged "offense" was completely disproportionate and Myers was mocking it. That he then offered to commit unspecified sacrilege with a cracker I believe to be merely hyperbole. Now everyone is quarrelling over Myers' disrespect for special crackers which should never have been the issue. The whole thing is just, well.. crackers! Jollyfish.gifGenghisYou have the right to be offended; and I have the right to offend you. 15:01, 11 July 2008 (EDT)
The fact that Myers is responding to a few idiots who get a thrill out of sending death threats does not change the other fact that his conclusion ("just a cracker") is both catastrophically wrong - if it is even that - and as far as I can tell symptomatic of an unfortunate trend in certain parts of the academic community. --AKjeldsenCum dissensie 04:55, 11 July 2008 (EDT)
It's like they never heard a Slayer record before. BeastmasterGeneral 15:03, 11 July 2008 (EDT)
"his conclusion ("just a cracker") is both catastrophically wrong" I must take issue with your continued assertion that he was "catastrophically" wrong. That's just plain hyperbole. What "catastrophe" exactly is involved? ħumanUser talk:Human 15:11, 11 July 2008 (EDT)
That a PhD displays such potentially willful ignorance about another academic field? --AKjeldsenCum dissensie 15:47, 11 July 2008 (EDT)
To be honest, i understand his point of view, no matter how much people love, hate, worship or perform rituals to an cracker, it is still just an cracker. People might feel diffrently towards the cracker, and we might want to respect those feelings, but that still dosen't make it anything more than a cracker. Timppeli 15:16, 11 July 2008 (EDT)


Did PZ cross the line? Of course not. Was he out of line? Yes, by all standards of common decency. The Eurachrist (yes, I refuse to call it a cracker, fuck you) is more than just a cracker. Just as the Declaration of Independence is more than just a piece of paper. If someone destroyed the DoI, would we belong to the british again? No. Would we be super pissed at whoever did it? Of course. Most of the blame lies on the kid in the first place. It would be like someone destroying the original copy of the On the Origin of Species. It is simply a move that doesn't consider anyone else, and it is what gives atheism a bad name. Most here, I would assume hate what Fred Phelps has to say, correct? Well why, it's not like it really affects anyone. It's the same thing. This wasn't a hate crime, and it didn't deserve death threats. But I know that he's wrong for it. Also, I really think PZ Meyers would never turn down a chance to see Donahue kick Benedict in the balls. --*Gen. S.T. Shrink* Get to the bunker 15:13, 11 July 2008 (EDT)

"If someone destroyed the DoI, would we belong to the british again?" I bloody hope not. The American War of Independence was the only war in history that both sides won!(Do I put a smiley? Do you know it's a joke anyway and a smiley just spoils it, should I put a smiley in just to make sure? Dry remarks on the internet, such a difficult one.)--Toffeeman 15:47, 11 July 2008 (EDT)

Reminds me of the old joke from ISIRTA, "10,000 years ago [sic] was the time of the Norseman. Vikings taught the world navigation, but their greatest contribution to the civilised world is that they discovered America... and kept quiet about it." -- 16:24, 11 July 2008 (EDT)

Myers acted like a Fundie[edit]

AKjeldsen is both right and wrong. Right in explaining how the Eucharist can have meaning beyond its crackerness. Wrong in thinking that that is at all necessary. The offence happened at Mass, it happened on the Catholics turf. Common decency dictates that you go along with what they do and what they want when you are a guest, no matter how stupid what they're doing is. The Catholics do not have to justify their beliefs for there to be a duty to follow them on their turf. (Mohammed is not the last prophet of God. Does this give me the right to plaster those cartoons inside a Mosque? )

The reaction was over-the-top, death threats are never on. But that doesn't make the orignal action any better, or Myers defence of it. It is a common Fundie tactic to argue the factivity of others opinions as an excuse to act abominably, or defend offensive behaviour. The Fundie thinks that it’s ok to deliberately misquote Evolutionists, because Evolution is wrong. They think it’s fine to disrupt Hindu prayers in Congress, because they are stupid heathen prayers. The Fundie cannot see what is wrong with picketing a gay carnival, because the Fags are against God.

The Fundie cannot see what is wrong with desecrating what somebody believes is the body of Christ because, it’s just a "frackin’ cracker."

More here (spam [1]) --Toffeeman 16:05, 11 July 2008 (EDT)

See, I don't understand how this is desecration at all. If you went in to a mosque and stuck up pictures of the prophet or indeed of anyone, that's clearly against what they believe. The Qur'an says idolatry is wrong, and muslims of a certain ilk regard all pictures of the human form or of God idolatry. Now, in the Eucharist the priest gives you some bread and says "The body of Christ", there is no suggestion of what you ought to do with it. For the faithful who believe Jesus said "Eat this for this is my body" and "do this in remembrance of me" or words to that effect (it's been decades since I went to church) these people are probably going to eat the bread. As far as I know Jesus did not say, "Don't fucking dare take this bread away with you, bitch, or God'll be pissed." -- 17:24, 11 July 2008 (EDT)
But why do you have to understand it? Yes, you would need to know that it would offend (from descriptions it appears that Cook knew it would offend) but why the requirement to understand? Do you have to understand why it would cause offence before you avoid offence? Do you avoid offending someone on their own turf because it offends them, or because feeling offence is somehow "reasonable"? The key thing about not putting up the posters in the Mosque is because it's their Mosque and they would be upset, that's it. They don't have to give me a reason, it's their Mosque and it was the Catholics' Mass. They don't have to give a reason (they do need to for death threats, and they can't give any for that, but not for taking offence). --Toffeeman 17:58, 11 July 2008 (EDT)
You've missed the point. I'm saying that taking offence is unreasonable, even given the ridiculous premises of Catholicism. The priest gives someone some bread, and they're supposed to eat it in remembrance of Jesus. Nowhere does compulsion enter in to it. -- 18:27, 11 July 2008 (EDT)
I don't think they have to be reasonable. Or, another way, they have no duty to give us reasons that accord with our ideas of how they should feel about things. That's how they feel, we should just accept it.
They certainly have to be reasonable in their response, in their actions. And they certainly haven't been (or to be accurate some haven't been). The death threats are, obviously, out of order. Others have rather missed the mark aswell, I think Bill Donahue is being a real idiot: he should sort out his own mob before turning on PZ, condemn the death threats before demanding respect. This is quite a missed opportunity by PZ, he could have been just sitting back, pointing to some "caring" "Christians" threatening murder. Atheists 1 Theists 0. Instead of knocking their actions though he starts knocking their beliefs (ok, they might not be strictly orthodox Catholic beliefs but they are their beliefs), on the basis that he thinks they're "demented". Atheists 0 Theists 1 (Myers O.G.).
Fortunately for Myers the unreasonable response gets more and more unreasonable (see this [2] - yeah good going Catholic league, threaten someone with death and then ask for more security for yourselves!). Atheists 1 (Donahue O.G.) Theists 1 (Myers O.G.). Penalties anyone? --Toffeeman 19:09, 11 July 2008 (EDT)

quick two cents[edit]

First, it's obviously not "just a cracker" or else there would be no reason to insult it.

k, i still think that the cracker thing was a bit in bad taste, and a political faux pas, but this is insane. It really is a cracker.

The Church has a few probs here. It helped depopulate the America's, led the Inquisition, sat by and watched the Holcaust, and elected a pope who's previous job was essentially to burn heretics. They really don't have the moral high ground. Oh yeah, and the buggery...almost forgot the buggery.

The Church has used religion abusively for millennia. Sure, some good works have come out too, but hey, I wouldn't care much about those if I were the sodomized alter boy, or the first course at an auto da fe.-- Asclepius staff.png-PalMD --Grüß Goat!

Quite aside from whether he crossed a line, I think he's doing atheism a disservice... SELF SERVING PLUG.-caius (historian) 00:26, 12 July 2008 (EDT)
Already read it...good piece. -- Asclepius staff.png-PalMD --Grüß Goat! 00:28, 12 July 2008 (EDT)
You know what? I'm an atheist. We are not organized. PZM does not speak for me. It's not "just a cracker"!!! It's a "cracker that has a spell told over it"!!! Keep in mind, AK, as you defend the history, the anthropology, and the importance of honoring others' traditions, this is the church that argues worldwide against any kind of birth control, even if the condoms are to prevent the spread of AIDS, and fights against gay and women's rights at every turn. It's just a cracker if it's not honored by the recipient! It's blessedness only matters and carries as far as the mouth that participates in the ceremony. By the way, he only wanted to show it to his friend, a guest -- from what I can tell. I love that we have spent so much time discussing this, we need a "best of RW arguing with itself" category! ħumanUser talk:Human 01:36, 12 July 2008 (EDT)

An analogy[edit]

Would the people that are upset be upset if this were to happen to a different religion? Lets say someone stole secret scientology texts and put them online. Is everyone who thinks it is more than just cracker as outraged about Xenu being revealed? BeastmasterGeneral 14:28, 12 July 2008 (EDT)

That's a bad anology, because firstly, Scientology is not a religion, it's a scam trying to masquerade as a religion; and secondly, I'm not trying to argue that what Mr Cook did was wrong, or that the response was justified, but rather the fact that both that reaction and a bit of basic athropology quite clearly tells us that Myers is wrong when he claims that it's "just a cracker". I must admit that I'm slightly surprised that so many people here seem unable to distinguish between the two issues.
On a related note, I wonder how people would have reacted if Myers had claimed that the Earth is flat, because frankly, his statement ranks on about that level in lack of scientific knowledge. --AKjeldsenCum dissensie 14:53, 12 July 2008 (EDT)
AKjeldsen: With regard to the “Just a cracker”. It depends on how you define “just” doesn’t it? If we define Just a cracker to mean. This cracker is not materially different to any cracker. It cannot be differentiated by any material test, and consequently – in material terms - it is just a cracker. Then I doubt anybody would argue.
Conversely if we make this statement: This cracker carries no additional emotional significance to anybody because holy words have been spoken over it - therefore it is just a cracker. Then I’m sure everybody would say the statement is obviously wrong. It is clearly wrong because death threats have been made over the holy cracker.
But I have the impression that you are making a stronger point and that’s where you’re losing people.
Finally, why isn't Scientology a religion?--Bobbing up 15:16, 12 July 2008 (EDT)
In that case, perhaps I could ask you or someone else to briefly summarize your/their impression of the point I am trying to make in this discussion. I may not be expressing it very well.
Scientology is not a religion because it contains practically no supernatural or spiritual elements at all. According to themselves, everything they do is based on the pseudo-scientific "tech" of Scientology, such as Dianetics. On the other hand, there's no deity or other kind of force outside of humans involved, and the only spirits they have are the "thetans", which are actually dead space aliens. At best, I guess we could call it a cult. That's all a bit off-topic, though. --AKjeldsenCum dissensie 15:29, 12 July 2008 (EDT)
This is going to seem a little harsher than it's intended, but that sounds a lot like They're not a religion because I don't they are. Beastmaster has a great point though... When the Scientologists sued website to get their texts taken down, everyone (rightly) mocked them. When the Muslim community rioted in response to a few cartoons of their prophet, they were almost universally mocked and their actions were decried. However, now that it's Christian values that are being ridiculed, people defend their actions and their belief systems... It just seems an awful double standard. SirChuckBEl...ipses are Cool... 16:24, 12 July 2008 (EDT)
Alright. And do you perceive me as being part of that group of "people"? --AKjeldsenCum dissensie 16:34, 12 July 2008 (EDT)
Never said you were, but you're arguing that PZ Myers was inappropriate in saying it was just a cracker, whereas you (seem) to be totally in favor of posting Scientology articles because you don't consider them a religion. If I may ask, what is your position on the Dutch Cartoon scandel? I've never seen anything from you on the subject SirChuckBEl...ipses are Cool... 17:06, 12 July 2008 (EDT)
Beastmaster does not have a "great point". People are hostile towards Scientology because of its practises of deception and its illegal activites -- there is no parallel with Catholicism here, none whatsoever. If Scientology were a harmless organisation (and open about its "beliefs" and actions) I would indeed oppose any unnecesary mockery of their beliefs. <blink></blink> 17:11, 12 July 2008 (EDT)
I'm happy to see that I can clear up a misunderstanding here. I am not arguing that it is inappropriate for Myers to say what he did, although I'll readily admit that he's not exactly earning any respect points from me on that account. Rather, I am arguing that his position - which I interpret as "the host is nothing more than any other cracker" - is incorrect on scientific grounds. Further, I am arguing that it is highly problematic that holds such opinion that flies in the face of such scientific research and especially that he doesn't even seem to realize this.
I am not taking a position on Cook vs. the Catholics, Myers vs. the Catholics, or indeed anyone vs. anyone else. I have never talked about that at all.
Re: Scientology: No, I do indeed not consider them a religion, because they do not fit my personal definition of what a religion is. What else do you expect than that? However, I am happy to report that at least the governments of Denmark, Germany, Belgium, France and Greece and probably several others agree with me. On the other hand, they fit my definition of "a dangerous scam that is destroying a lot of peoples' for profit" very well.
And re: the Danish cartoon scandals, I can report that I found them immensely juvenile, and that they basically accomplished nothing other than pissing off a lot of people for no good reason at all. --AKjeldsenCum dissensie 17:25, 12 July 2008 (EDT)
And these "scientific grounds" are to be found in the anthropological/sociological literature, right? --Robledo 17:34, 12 July 2008 (EDT)
Correct, although I should probably say "academic grounds" - in English, "science" relates more to the natural sciences, IIRC. --AKjeldsenCum dissensie 17:38, 12 July 2008 (EDT)
Aye, YRC. You know where this is going now, don't you? --Robledo 17:46, 12 July 2008 (EDT)
I think so. This is probably where you're going to argue that social scientific research is somehow less valid than natural science for some obscure reason, right? --AKjeldsenCum dissensie 17:49, 12 July 2008 (EDT)
Aye. It's useful for descriptive models and frameworks, but it's shaky ground to try and make a stand on, fella. --Robledo 18:02, 12 July 2008 (EDT)
I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask you to develop that argument a little further. Everything I have referred to is well described in the anthropological literature, fully peer-reviewed, and follows a methodology. --AKjeldsenCum dissensie 18:06, 12 July 2008 (EDT)
That's super, but you can't study human behaviour with anything approaching the same rigour as when studying other animals. And talking about the kind of socio-cultural shit you're on about here, you're also reliant on a range of hopelessly nebulous concepts like "community" and "belonging" in your starting frame of reference. Add to this the fact that we're wilful, conscious entities and any resulting "explanations" of behaviour start to look more and more like entirely subjective interpretations.
Like I said, these interpretations can often be useful, not least because they generate descriptive/conceptual frameworks that assist further study and discussion. But it's a step too far to claim that they should have any objective meaning or truth beyond their own narrow descriptive remit. --Robledo 19:14, 12 July 2008 (EDT)
...we're wilful, conscious entities and any resulting "explanations" of behaviour start to look more and more like entirely subjective interpretations.Robledo[3]
Doesn't that just support AK's and mine point? Star of David.png Radioactive afikomen Please ignore all my awful pre-2014 comments. 19:50, 12 July 2008 (EDT)
Sir: I regret that my "socio-cultural shit" fails to live up to your highly exacting standards of objectivity. We poor beasts in the humanities and social sciences regrettably have to tackle such "nebulous concepts" on a daily basis, yet amazingly, we seem capable of muddling on anyway, occasionally even producing something that we, being in a state of hubris most likely approaching that of Ozymandias himself, manage to convince ourselves have some small value in describing the world around us. However, being caught as we are in this dark Tartarus of subjectivity, we are certainly overjoyed that we have our esteemed colleagues from the natural sciences to bring us out of that misconception and set matters straight. Certainly, I will readily admit that some of my more close-minded colleagues might be less appreciative of your efforts towards this end - such as suggesting that you "go sit on it and rotate" - but fortunately, such indignities are far beyond me. After all, unlike them, I find in myself the ability to look beyond what on the surface might appear to be a gross lack of both respect for and understanding of an entire field of academic disciplines, and instead recognize the deep concern over our lack of objectivity. I deeply and truly appreciate this.
Thank you. --AKjeldsenCum dissensie 19:57, 12 July 2008 (EDT)
Stop sign.svg

This conversation is about to go badly downhill, inevitably ending in comparisons to Hitler, and hurt feelings all around.
Stop now. Step away from the keyboard.
Go pet a jerboa, or milk a goat.

Come now. Let's not squabble. <blink></blink> 20:07, 12 July 2008 (EDT)
Easy, tiger. ;) I have a habit of using "shit" as a synonym for "stuff", as in "Look at that shit over there!" I'm sure you do an excellent job in your field, but I stand by my objections above. --Robledo 20:12, 12 July 2008 (EDT)
Oh, a challenger... You want some of this?? Do you??? <blink></blink> 20:18, 12 July 2008 (EDT)
That's nice, but let me just ask, would you ever refer to, say, Myers's work as "that biological shit he's on about"? I could be wrong, but I must admit I have a sneaking suspicion you wouldn't.
As for your objections, that's old stuff. That's the kind of stuff that scientists have been trotting out for decades whenever they feel the need to demonstrate how much more objective and scientific than the rest of us they are. After a while, I'm sure that you can imagine that such things get just a little bit annoying.
I don't really see the point of your objection, either. All I'm saying is that ritualized communities invariably attach special meanings and significances to the objects and events that are part of their rituals. This is something that happens whether we're talking about Catholics, Taoists or Australian aboriginals. If this was some new or controversial theory, you might have a point, but it isn't - as observations of such things go, this is about as trivial as you can get. --AKjeldsenCum dissensie 20:47, 12 July 2008 (EDT)

Edit button[edit]

(undent) I'm objecting to two things:

  1. That anthropological/sociological concepts are necessarily valid or meaningful for anyone outside of those particular fields, and thus
  2. Your claim that Myers is demonstrably wrong in saying "it's just a cracker".

--Robledo 21:36, 12 July 2008 (EDT)

To be honest, I don't really know what to say to that. I just can't relate to that position. I mean, these are not things that are being pulled out of thin air. Again, they're based on careful research in the field, usually through wp:Participant_observation, examined trough proper methodologies, and published in peer-reviewed publications. I don't know what else is expected. Certainly it's not rigorously objective in the way that the natural sciences claim to be, but that doesn't mean it can just be ignored - particularly not by people who haven't taken the trouble to familiarize themselves with the subject first. If they want to do so anyway, they're of course welcome to do so, but frankly, that does not exactly make me think very highly of their reasoning abilities. --AKjeldsenCum dissensie 05:29, 13 July 2008 (EDT)
I'm not saying such concepts should be ignored, and I've said twice already that they can be useful. Myers, however, is under no obligation to buy into them, and can therefore assert that "it's just a cracker" without fear of contradiction.
Your obvious fallback position is to make the case that he's being short-sighted here, and missing out by ignoring their descriptive/explanatory utility. That's not the same as demonstrating that he's incorrect, but it's a) at least possible and b) strong enough to convey your exasperation, I reckon. Peace. --Robledo 13:20, 13 July 2008 (EDT)
I must admit that I don't see any obvious difference between "not buying into" and "ignoring", particularly when such "not buying into" happens without any actual knowledge of the subject. Isn't that practically the same as saying, "I don't understand your research, but I don't accept it because it doesn't fit with my world view"? I suppose the obvious next step is to ask Clifford Geertz to release his data... --AKjeldsenCum dissensie 13:38, 13 July 2008 (EDT)
I'm not sure where you're going with that reply, and Geertz says he's busy studying Hendrix and his angelic entourage of groupies. Myers' knowledge base is not the issue here - you can't contradict him because your concepts won't bear the weight. Perhaps that's just the social scientist's burden: to be content with utility, rather than demonstrable truth. --Robledo 17:09, 13 July 2008 (EDT)
So what you're basically saying here is that it's perfectly fine to reject valid research without even studying it first, simply on the grounds that it comes from a social scientific discipline? That you can assume a priori that it "won't bear the weight"? --AKjeldsenCum dissensie 17:17, 13 July 2008 (EDT)
No, I'm making a point about how the concepts thus derived usually fare in strict logical arguments. A point that I'm confident you're familiar with, and one that I suspect, outside the confines of an Internet Argument, you'd grudgingly accept. --Robledo 17:34, 13 July 2008 (EDT)
I must admit I'm slightly confused. First you say that "...anthropological/sociological concepts are [not] necessarily valid or meaningful for anyone outside of those particular fields...". This is of course correct, but I assume you'll agree that it is necessary to have a basic understanding of what those concepts are and how they were developed before one evaluates whether they are in fact valid. However, then you say that "Myers' knowledge base is not the issue here...", which would seem to indicate that, on the contrary, you rather think that is acceptable to reject such concepts without knowing anything about them. The only way I can resolve this paradox is by assuming that you think that the fact that these concepts come from the social sciences is by itself sufficient to reject them a priori. If this does not reflect your opinion, I'm afraid I'll have to ask you to explain in a little greater detail what exactly it is that you mean. --AKjeldsenCum dissensie 17:45, 13 July 2008 (EDT)
Such concepts usually fail the test of cognitive command, namely that it's reasonable to imagine that two optimally informed and impartial judges could still have legitimate grounds for disagreement over their validity. The social sciences would look very different if this wasn't the case, and you damn well know this. --Robledo 18:28, 13 July 2008 (EDT)
That's a pretty fancy way of saying the exact thing I just did - that social scientific research can be rejected a priori. This is a bit of an alien concept to me. I mean, we in the subjective, usually-cognitive-command-test-failing humanities/social sciences have this funny little academic tradition of first examining the specific concept or theory in question, and then developing actual arguments against it in case we disagree with it, but hey! It's a free country! Guess it would be unreasonable to expect everyone to do things our way, eh?
Might I ask, are you in fact working in the natural sciences? --AKjeldsenCum dissensie 18:47, 13 July 2008 (EDT)
No, fella, I'm not. Nor do I recall saying that such research should be rejected, a priori or otherwise. And given that I've said on three previous occasions that it can be useful, it seems unlikely that I would do. What I have said is that, by the very nature of the things they describe, the concepts thus derived are both problematic in arguments and extremely difficult to verify.
Which takes us all the way back to where we started when I told you that they're shaky ground to try and make a stand on. Good night. ;) --Robledo 19:29, 13 July 2008 (EDT)
Well, in that case, I guess there must be some difference between "rejecting" and "not buying into" that I'm not aware of. I hope you'll find the opportunity to explain this difference at some point. --AKjeldsenCum dissensie 19:39, 13 July 2008 (EDT)

No one here is defending the reactions of those who made death threats and called for hate crime prosecutions. It seems to me the main issue AK and other have is use of the word "just". Myers should have said "it's a cracker" and made the point he wanted to make. No rational person would have contradicted him, in the sense that, from the perspective of the natural/physical sciences, it is indeed undeniably a cracker. The only ones who would contradict that are devout Catholics who believe it has literally transformed into Jesus. I don't mind saying that that notion is crazy, and Myers has my full support is pointing that out. Clearly this cracker, while perhaps indistinguishable from any other cracker made by Nabisco, has special significance beyond your standard Ritz. Myers could acknowledge that and still keep his useful message of "get a fucking grip."

As for the Mohammad cartoons, I think while they may have been juvenile, something along those lines had to happen eventually. Too much of the Islamic world is too accustomed to having their beliefs given special treatment, not only making them beyond ridicule, but in places actively enforced by law. They must come to terms with the idea that many people do not agree with them, and they are not above mockery and criticism any more than any other religion. Even in the Western world there is an inclination to give Islam special treatment when it comes to critique. Eventually they will have to learn to deal with an Islamic Piss-Christ with a reaction other than with violence or oppression. The Danish cartoons might start to get them accustomed to this. One can even look at Colbert's I Am America and So Can You to see what is both a joke on the hesitancy to ridicule Islam, and a example of it. DickTurpis 18:17, 12 July 2008 (EDT)

Into the future: who won?[edit]

PZ Myers did a great favor to every Catholic Fundamentalist in the U.S. and other places.

Every extremist out there can say that all of the atheists in the world are despicable, and we will have to enter a losing battle of who said who. And it will be like Andres, an atheist who nobody knows, is saying PZ Myers is not the voice of all of us. Andres Villarreal

The line is criminal acts versus free speech. He committed criminal acts against "property" in Minnesota. That is the line, and he did cross it. — Unsigned, by: / talk / contribs

Whose property? It was freely given to him, and the books belonged to him. No crime that I can see. WazzaHello? Is there anybody in there? Just nod if you can hear me... 22:52, 2 December 2008 (EST)
It certainly wasn't freely given, at least not to the person who originally obtained it. It was given as part of a ritual which that person participated in voluntarily, and where bloody well knew what he was supposed to do with it. "Criminal", I wuldn't say that. But somewhat questionable. --AKjeldsenCum dissensie 13:48, 3 December 2008 (EST)

Who won? The extremists on both sides won. And who lost? Those who would prefer their public discourse to consist of a mutually respectful and nuanced exchange of opinions and views, instead of a circus show. --AKjeldsenCum dissensie 13:43, 3 December 2008 (EST)

Really? I was under the impression that PZ and Donohue cancelled each other out, and all around them was a larger group of people having discussions like this one, which remained more civil and nuanced. So everyone won. I bet the Catholic League even got a larger membership out of it. WazzaHello? Is there anybody in there? Just nod if you can hear me... 18:11, 3 December 2008 (EST)
Really? If the evil New Atheists® didn't mock the Catholics over them getting so upset that A GUY TOOK A FUCKING CRACKER, then everything would be hunky-dory and we'd have peace and love and everybody would accept atheists? Give me a break. They already hate us, so it's not much use to say "Oh yes, that man was such a bad dude for stealing your cracker". The best thing we can do in blatantly absurd situations like this is to drive home how obviously fucking stupid it is, which might have an effect on at least some of them -- it did for me when I was a Christian, anyway. Fidgetertalk to me :D|see my shit 09:53, 31 December 2011 (UTC)