Framing Science

i-06c9b6834ec03b853fdf1cead65fa847-MyersDawkins.jpg
Myers with Richard Dawkins: Does his atheist punditry damage the scienceblogs.com brand?

Call me agnostic on the controversy that has erupted over the Catholic wafer incident in Florida. On the one hand I see the outcry from conservative groups as opportunistic and ridiculous. The reported death threats are outrageous, should be condemned by all parties, and prosecuted to the full extent of the law. The calls for expelling the student or the firing of PZ Myers are equally ridiculous.

Yet I also recognize that the Communion wafer has deep symbolic importance to the Catholic community and in that context many of the sharp emotional protests are not surprising.

As for the reaction to blogger PZ Myers commentary, it’s another example of the unintended consequences of his preferred brand of Don Imus atheism. Even fellow atheists and free speech advocates are troubled. Here’s what Andrew Sullivan has to say:

It is one thing to engage in free, if disrespectful, debate. It is another to repeatedly assault and ridicule and abuse something that is deeply sacred to a great many people. Calling the Holy Eucharist a “goddamned cracker” isn’t about free speech; it’s really about some baseline civility. Myers’ rant is the rant of an anti-Catholic bigot. And atheists and agnostics can be bigots too.

What alarms me the most about the incident, however, is the major perceptual hit that the scienceblogs.com community and brand continues to take because of PZ’s antics. The Seed sponsored blog portal is supposed to be a place that attracts new audiences to science, but in fact, it has turned into the Web’s leading echo chamber of anti-religious rants and sophomoric discussions of atheism, what the physicist Chad Orzel refers to as the “screechy monkey” problem.

In a recent interview on the podcast Point of Inquiry, host DJ Grothe asked PZ if he worried that scienceblogs.com was becoming better known as “atheistblogs.com.” It’s a question that merits serious consideration, especially in light of recent events.

Comments

  1. #1 CanuckRob
    July 14, 2008

    I think you are not giving readers much credit. I read scienceblogs for a variety of things but mostly for the science. Most posts are pretty clearly labeled as to what they are about and if it is not something I am interested in I don’t read them. I personally find religion silly but do understand that it makes some people act very strange, saying stupid and hateful things and these types of posts can be interesting (in a car crash kind of way). Most times they are just boring.

    In addition I don’t think science blogs are going to be attractive to people that don’t already have an interest in science. However if they come for other reasons they may find the science articles enough to engage their interst and they can then proceed onto to other sources of science writing.

  2. #2 Biomass
    July 14, 2008

    If mocking a group of people for describing the theft of a small cracker a “kidnapping” is bigotry, then the word “bigotry” has acquired so broad a meaning as to be meaningless.

  3. #3 ylooshi
    July 14, 2008

    PZ’s response to DJ Grothe on POI was spot on.

  4. #4 Jim G
    July 14, 2008

    This seemingly unending catfight between the Nisbet and Myers camps is becoming wearisome to follow. For those short of time, I will try to summarize this post thus:

    “I, and three other people, continue to be bothered that PZ Myers is a firebrand, and I will illustrate that by including a photo of him alongside Richard Dawkins and by comparing him to Don Imus.”

  5. #5 Jeff
    July 14, 2008

    “Don Imus atheism”… does this mean you’ve accepted the “Neville Chamberlain” label for your own brand of framing?

  6. #6 Donalbain
    July 14, 2008

    Like it or not, PZ is the major draw to this grouping of websites. His readership is enormous, and when he talks about science, his writing is fantastic. Often times his writings stray from specific science topics to discussions about other topics. But then so does Ed Brayton. Hell, so does everyone. Are you going to complain that scienceblogs is becoming libertarianblogs because of him? PZ had a blog long before Seed assimilated his ass, and they knew exactly what they were getting when they took him in. He was known in the internet-o-sphere as a provocative atheist biologist and Seed decided they wanted him as part of the collective. Quite frankly, he drives up clicks which drives up ad revenue.

  7. #7 Pepijn
    July 14, 2008

    PZ Myers writes about a person -ignorant & stupid, yes- who’s been persecuted much like an apostate in the European middle ages. A persecution by fundamentalists who compare this guys act with that of racist murder (e.g. hate crime). To refute he uses their own antic and ridicules their believes (moral framework) just as the “other side” does with his.

    What surprises me is that this is considered an intrusion by a “anti-Catholic bigot” and not as a smart ass blog comment directed at a hateful group attack on an individual. Shouldn’t the focus be solely on the fact that people made dead threats as opposed to a guy who gives his opinion?

    Is Framing Science genuinely alarmed about the “major perceptual hit”? Is that why I didn’t see a similar blog posts when Science Blogs writers ridiculed “Muslim fundamentalists” after some called for the hanging of solders who destroyed a Qur’an? Those comments surely put me off some blogs. Not Science Blogs as a whole though. Like CanuckRob I think you should give your readers a bit more credit.

    Framing my comment:
    I’m from The Netherlands To most modern Catholics in my country these wafers are basic symbolic items; their value is in the moment and spiritual meaning. (maybe that’s why for the past fifty years you have been able to mail order them by the hundreds, wine included) I’ve spend eight years on a Catholic school among 300 Catholic kids who (well known to the elders) hoarded these crackers for use as godly chips throughout the week. (but often ending up in the trash) I’ve been told their parents did the same when they were kids. While naturally it wasn’t deemed “proper” to steal crackers they surely didn’t perform weekly reparation events to fix the sin. They recognised the power of their believe was in the truth.

    (And it might be a Dutch thing, but here the wafer is quite often named “cracker” by Catholics. Not a derogative term at all)

  8. #8 Alexandra
    July 14, 2008

    The suggestion that PZ just out of the blue decided to call the “Holy Eucharist” a goddamned cracker is not only factually incorrect, it’s grossly misleading.

    Or is that what you mean by “framing”?

  9. #9 Sam C
    July 14, 2008

    I know nothing of Don Imus, so the significance of the title is lost on me (I’m not in the USA so I haven’t heard the name before).

    I don’t like this talk of “atheism”. The -ism suggests a structured ideology or world view or a community. To be an atheist is simply to not believe in gods, so it’s a concept of negatives. Secularism, humanism, communism, socialism, naziism all have something definite to say and are -isms. So there are atheists, many of them, but there is no atheism. It is not a community with leaders or a community with followers. You seem to see these guys as self-appointed leaders of a community; I don’t. They’re just guys who like to talk, write or shout about their views.

    On the substantive point, I find the level of aggression and hostility on both sides deeply distasteful and I suspect it reflects an aggressive and confrontational streak in American society. The idolisation of “free speech” in the USA is extreme; most other countries temper this right with a duty not to foment trouble and residents of other countries recognise more clearly the need to cohabit peacefully with people of other views in this small world. Free speech in this brouhaha is being used aggressively, the message being a finger-prodding “f*** you, I will say whatever I like, wotya going to do about it, eh?”.

    I think Michael Moore wrote something about fear and paranoia being such a driver in USA, in a way that they aren’t in other countries, and it does seem that both religious communities and those who have no religion are convinced that they are being screwed by the other group. Perhaps that’s one reason why everybody is screaming and screeching so loudly? You’re all convinced you’re victims?

    It’s one thing to laugh at Catholics’ rather silly views on what happens to the wafers (such as poking fun by referring them as “crackers”), but it is hypocritical to pretend that asking for the theft of consecrated wafers to desecrate is “free speech” — it’s not, it’s naked nastiness, pure intolerance.

    Would you tell your best friend how ugly you thought his wife or her husband was? No. You’d keep your mouth shut for the sake of good community. The pro-desecrators should learn that lesson.

  10. #10 Trinifar
    July 14, 2008

    What alarms me the most about the incident, however, is the major perceptual hit that the scienceblogs.com community and brand continues to take because of PZ’s antics. The Seed sponsored blog portal is supposed to be a place that attracts new audiences to science, but in fact, it has turned into the Web’s leading echo chamber of anti-religious rants and sophomoric discussions of atheism,…

    And that’s gotta hurt.

    Funny, I discovered ScienceBlogs in the early days when PZ and Ed Brayton moved here, back in the days when PZ wrote a lot about biology and both he and Ed were engaged in ensuring evolution wasn’t going to disappear from science classrooms. Now PZ and his blog have evolved into something quite different. He doesn’t write much about biology anymore. More and more that’s been crowded out by inflammatory speech which is the opposite of what I think science is about.

    Religion and atheism can and should be discussed, argued about, and debated on ScienceBlogs.com — without the ranting and the echo chamber and the other sophomoric bits (which cased me to write this).

    I wonder what the Seed people think. Is the traffic and therefore income worth the damage to the brand? Probably. Pharyngula is just one blog of, what, nearly 100. I wonder what % of the traffic it represents though. Months ago I stopped reading PZ but now I read more of the other SciBlings.

  11. #11 Msgr. Scott Rassbach
    July 14, 2008

    Yet I also recognize that the Communion wafer has deep symbolic importance to the Catholic community and in that context many of the sharp emotional protests are not surprising.

    No. The communion wafer after it’s consecrated does not have ‘deep symbolic importance to the Catholic community’. The Eucharist (as it’s called after it’s consecrated) is the Body of Christ. It does not symbolize God, it IS God, the divine present in the world.

    It’s not like someone is taking a picture of your child, and being disrespectful to it. It’s as though someone is taking your actual child, whom you love, and being disrespectful.

    I’m not Roman Catholic, but I am part of the tradition. For us, the Eucharist after it’s consecrated is the Divine in the world. It’s not even supposed to touch the ground. The only correct ways to dispose of the Eucharist is to eat it or burn it in a suitably solemn ceremony.

    I’m not saying you all have to accept that. But realize that people hold different views, and that when you attack what someone holds dear, you will get a strong response.

  12. #12 Russell
    July 14, 2008

    With all due respect to P Z Myers, he cannot take much credit for people associating scientists with the dismissal of magical thinking. That is what scientists have done as long as there has been science. Early physicians had to violate religious mores to perform dissections. Astronomers displaced the gods from their chariots pulling the stars, turned comets into just planetary bodies, and along the way poked holes in astrology. Biologists discovered microorganisms and the mechanisms of infection, put life on a chemical footing, and dispelled the elan vital that once was supposed to animate still matter. Scientists by the thousands have exposed a host of tricks, spurned religious curses and prohibitions, put everything from intercessory prayer to the soul under the magnifying glass, and labeled every kind of magical talisman, amulet, potion, and marker as not magical at all.

    Reframing science to seem benign to the superstitious is much like reframing forensic accounting and double-entry bookkeeping to seem benign to the embezzler. You can keep the two at peace for a space of time. But you’re never going to erase the innate antagonism.

  13. #13 Anonymous
    July 14, 2008

    Sam C:

    Would you tell your best friend how ugly you thought his wife or her husband was? No. You’d keep your mouth shut for the sake of good community. The pro-desecrators should learn that lesson.

    Would your analogy still hold true if your friend was trying to establish his standard of beauty as the official, state-sanctioned standard to which everyone must adhere?

  14. #14 idahogie
    July 14, 2008

    Sam C:

    Would you tell your best friend how ugly you thought his wife or her husband was? No. You’d keep your mouth shut for the sake of good community. The pro-desecrators should learn that lesson.

    Would your analogy still hold true if your friend was trying to establish his standard of beauty as the official, state-sanctioned standard to which everyone must adhere?

  15. #15 Russell
    July 14, 2008

    Sam C asks:

    Would you tell your best friend how ugly you thought his wife or her husband was?

    Ah, but what do you say to a friend who has an imaginary wife? Perhaps, whatever you say, the friend might interpret it as an attack on the wife’s beauty or character. That’s part of the problem with delusional thinking — merely pointing out the delusion is turned into an attack of another sort. Catholics believe their god is omnipresent, yet also that he has some special presence in a blessed cracker that he wouldn’t have otherwise. To call it just a cracker becomes an insult. Similarly, to ask your friend about his wife’s mysterious absence, or her failure to ever purchase clothing at a local store, or any such oddity of an imaginary person, will get treated as an insult to his wife and to him. And so it should be, in one sense, since it insults a real person to act as if they don’t exist. That’s a form of punishment in many cultures. But when a friend’s wife is, in fact, the result of their own imagination? What to say? What to do?

  16. #16 ylooshi
    July 14, 2008

    I know nothing of Don Imus, so the significance of the title is lost on me (I’m not in the USA so I haven’t heard the name before).

    Don Imus is a radio personality that made a comment about the Rutgers University women’s basketball team. To quote Wikipedia, Imus referred to the players as:

    “rough girls” commenting on their tattoos. His executive producer Bernard McGuirk responded in his familiar “urban-speak” vernacular by referring to them as “hardcore ho’s”. The “urban-speak” banter continued with Imus describing the girls as “nappy-headed hos”[9][10] and McGuirk remarking that the two teams looked like the “jigaboos versus the wannabes”…

    I’d say Nisbet’s title was an attempt to make a fallacious analogy between racist remarks of a celebrity DJ and the comments by PZ regarding the superstitious nonsense of those willing to issue death threats for insulting a cracker.

    Imus made racist remarks about people. PZ ridiculed a cracker. There is no equivocation.

  17. #17 Bing McGhandi
    July 14, 2008

    All of the scienceblog.com blogs are idiosyncratic expressions of their authors. Part of that is what makes blogs an interesting alternative to regular media, that they are often done without an editor’s insight/interference. I suspect in any healthy “discourse community” you are going to have extremes and there’s naught wrong with that, laddie.

    I think that PZ’s blog runs the risk of being identified as a primarily atheist site. Whether or not the sentiment spreads to other blogs, quite frankly, depends on those blogs’ authors.

    HJ

  18. #18 Aerik
    July 14, 2008

    “Don Imus Atheism”

    Way to prove that “framing” is just another word for “spinning,” “bullshit,” our outright lies. Yeah, compare a guy wanting to something to a cracker other than eating it to a racist. Way to be the nice guy here, way to be the responsible scientist. NOT.

    You’ve just proven yourself to be not only a hack, but an asshole of proportions I don’t quite know how to measure.

  19. #19 rationalsheep
    July 14, 2008

    How is the wafer thing any better or worse than depicting Mohammed? If we support one blasphemy or desecration as free speech, aren’t all free game? PZ is being consistent. If you supported the Danish magazine in that instance, then you must support this particular instance of blasphemy… or is it only acceptable when done to Muslims?

    Hooray for PZ for being consistent…

  20. #20 James
    July 14, 2008

    It is difficult for me, after 35 years as a social science practitioner, to view the continuing conflict between the aggressive theists and the equally aggressive subcomponent of the new atheists as anything more than a fight between two different gangs of ruffians, each of which claim that their gang ‘colors’, along with the associated values, are more ‘right’ than that of the other gang.

    The theists claim the ‘bible’, or ‘family values’, or even our nation’s ‘founding fathers’, as the foundation upon which they justify their continued aggressive behavior. ‘Right’, they claim, is on their side. As an atheist and as a scientist, I know that the theist foundation is imaginary. Of this conclusion I have no doubt. As has been noted in almost every form of national and international media, in every highly educated society theism is fading. The evaporation of theism is in large part due to the lack of scientific evidence or verifiable proof to support their position. Science is truly winning this part of the struggle. Theism will surely die!

    Yes, it is true, the new atheists are not burdened by the illusion that ‘god’ is on their side. Nonetheless, some of the new atheists are themselves burdened by an equally devastating illusion. That illusion is the frequently voiced position that very aggressive, offensive, demeaning behavior is a productive position to utilize when confronting the delusional behavior of others. There are few, if any, research findings in the relevant sciences (sociology, psychology, and diplomacy; even (in similar circumstance) the military) to support this position. Scientific research, the social science literature in particularly, seems to prove exactly the opposite. Such overly aggressive behavior does not engender understanding on the part of the person/people upon which this aggression is being directed. Quite the contrary, it engenders hatred! A hatred that can last for generations!

    Yet, some of the new atheists persist in exhibiting very aggressive behavior toward the (equally delusional) theists. They even appear to revel in publishing blog stories that ‘glorify’ their victories over the ‘other’ gang. They offer no supporting evidence to support their aggressive position, short of the occasional anecdotal ‘war’ story. As a scientist and as an atheist, I am left stunned, confused, and saddened. Does that small, yet very vocal segment of the new atheist community not consider social science research to be ‘real’ science? Do they pause for consultation with equally renowned scientists in the field(s) of relevance? Apparently not!

    I believe that science framing is in its infancy, thus, it will make mistakes. Some may even be very big mistakes. Yet, as with other infant sciences, the scientific method will prove to be a very useful guide. Moreover, with persistency on the part of its advocates, it will overcome the hecklers and become a valued contributing member of the science community.

  21. #21 Marilyn LaCourt
    July 14, 2008

    I was going to comment on this insanity but rationalsheep said what I would have said.

    I concur totally with her or his comment. All I can say is ditto.

    I do have a question though.

    Why do posters use pseudonyms?

    I would seriously like to know why some of us choose to hide our true identity when posting here.

    Best Regards, Marilyn LaCourt

  22. #22 SteveC
    July 14, 2008

    “It’s not like someone is taking a picture of your child, and being disrespectful to it. It’s as though someone is taking your actual child, whom you love, and being disrespectful.”

    And that is just mind blowingly stupid, and demonstrates exactly why PZ, and others, need to desecrate these freakin’ crackers.

    You need to learn the difference between fantasy and reality, the difference between a cracker and a human.

    Religion is institutionalized, subsidized deliberate idiocy. Period. There is not a single good argument for Christianity anywhere. Not only do all the “arguments” for Christianity fail to be good arguments, they all — every single one — fail to not be blatantly, in-your-face retarded. It is time to ditch religion, or at least ridicule it mercilessly, as it so richly deserves.

  23. #23 B. Nitta
    July 15, 2008

    Well said. You’ve put it exactly how I see the situation.

    And I’m Catholic.

  24. #24 idahogie
    July 15, 2008

    James:

    Nonetheless, some of the new atheists are themselves burdened by an equally devastating illusion. That illusion is the frequently voiced position that very aggressive, offensive, demeaning behavior is a productive position to utilize when confronting the delusional behavior of others.

    Yet there is a mountain of historical evidence that remaining meekly nonconfrontational does absolutely nothing when it comes to promoting the virtues of atheism. I think PZ’s more aggressive approach is worth a shot.

    (BTW, the anonymous post from 4:18pm was mine.)

  25. #25 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    July 15, 2008

    Well, Matthew, if you would be happier this way perhaps PZ should follow Carl Zimmer and Phil Plait over to Discover blogs. Can you even conceive the number of people that first were attracted to Pharyngula because of PZ moving here? The Seed people knew what they were getting by looking at his original blog and they knew that it would be a great way to kick up traffic.

    So, people started reading Framing Science and Intersection because of PZ. People read many of the other blogs even if they no longer read Pharyngula because they “don’t get enough biology.”

    So, if you think that this is becoming atheistblogs.com because DJ asked the question, and you don’t post PZ’s answer perhaps you should initiate a revolt in the back channel to get PZ kicked off of scienceblogs. All of this publicity is bad for the “Science” Brand.

  26. #26 Derek
    July 15, 2008

    It is one thing to engage in free, if disrespectful, debate. It is another to repeatedly assault and ridicule and abuse something that is deeply sacred to a great many people

    No it isn’t. It’s exactly the same thing. The idea that a cracker becomes the creator of the universe when a man in a dress recites a spell is inherently ridiculous. It deserves no respect. People are free to believe it if they choose but they don’t have a right not to hear it criticised, ridiculed or abused.

  27. #27 Anna K.
    July 15, 2008

    Anti-religion posts seem to attract a lot of traffic here, but I think anyone who looks around a little more will find many intriguing science writers.

    fwiw, I found ‘Framing Science’ a few months ago when I was looking for information about communicating science to religious people who are not scientists, and around the same time I followed a link to ‘Frontal Cortex,’and bookmarked that too. Now I have bookmarked and follow several SB sites. (When I got around to Pharyngula I was surprised it was on Science Blogs, because it didn’t seem to be about science.)

    Re PZ, I have already posted elsewhere on SB sites, no point in rehashing here, except that I’d like to thank Msgr. Rassbach for his post, and I’d also like to thank James, the social scientist, for his. (I think theism will turn out just fine, though, James — religion is tremendously adaptive.)

    It may indeed be turning into “atheistblogs.com” for casual visitors; I don’t know. I talked with another religious friend who reads Science Blogs, and she perceives most of the commenters, though not necessarily the blog writers, to be anti-religious. Which is not the same as being atheist or pro-science.

    Ideally the cure would be to introduce a variety of viewpoints on the relationship between science and religion on Science Blogs; currently there’s only representation from groups that conflate science with anti-clericalism. It would be interesting if Seed sponsored some blogs written by religious scientists. Ones who took screechy monkeys about as seriously as Chad Orzel does. I’m sure it would be reeaally good for traffic. ;-)

  28. #28 D
    July 15, 2008

    “Even fellow atheists and free speech advocates are troubled. Here’s what Andrew Sullivan has to say”

    Andrew Sullivan? That’s your idea of an atheist free speech advocate? :P

  29. #29 Don't Panic
    July 15, 2008
  30. #30 Samuel Skinner
    July 15, 2008

    Crackers are made to be eaten, not made into holy objects. As for the “body of Christ”… seriouly, if that was true, it would be cannibalism.

    People need to realize it is a freaking cracker- it isn’t magic. Unfortunately to point that out is to be considered a ‘fanatical” atheist.

    What can I say? Reality has an atheistic bias!

  31. #31 Russell
    July 15, 2008

    Many religions embody ritualized cannibalism.

  32. #32 Pierre JC
    July 15, 2008

    Belief in magical, invisible friends (like God) is infantile and idiotic. When adults cling to such moronic beliefs, they richly deserve to be mocked. If there were a group of adults who believed in Santa Claus (another lie, for all you children out there), would Andrew Sullivan criticize those of us who mock such belief as unjustly ridiculing the deeply held beliefs of others? I doubt it.
    Of course, God is merely Santa Claus for (alleged) grown-ups.

  33. #33 Matti K.
    July 15, 2008

    The general reason for mocking superstition is that it is irrational and presents no real evidence for its case. Nobody in the academic world seems to object ridiculing superstition, as long as it is not part of a major religion. The general consensus seems to be that willfully ignorant adult people deserve the mockery they get for their silly beliefs, especially if they live in surroundings where enough information is available.

    However, some academic concern trolls seem to say that if enough people are superstitious, their beliefs deserve a special immunity from mockery and ridicule, even if they are irrational and no real evidence is presented.

    Actually, in their heart, these apparently inconsistent trolls do not respect the beliefs of the major superstitionists any more than they respect the beliefs of minor superstitionists. What matters is that avoiding confrontation with a large and influental religious group may deliver political benefits, whereas scratching the back of marginal superstitionists will never bring in dividends of any sort.

    PZ, at least, seems to be consistent (and honest) in his rudeness towards superstitionists.

  34. #34 frog
    July 15, 2008

    Sullivan: It is one thing to engage in free, if disrespectful, debate. It is another to repeatedly assault and ridicule and abuse something that is deeply sacred to a great many people. Calling the Holy Eucharist a “goddamned cracker” isn’t about free speech; it’s really about some baseline civility. Myers’ rant is the rant of an anti-Catholic bigot. And atheists and agnostics can be bigots too.

    Incivility == Bigotry? You’re posting an Sullivan quote that equates incivility with bigotry — and then you expect folks to take you seriously?

    Bigotry is the kind of thing which keeps you from getting a job or advancing, the kind of thing which ends up with the loss of teeth, or the state interfering with your family. Now we know why Mr. Sullivan would post such asinine commentary — he is a professional propagandist after all!

    But as an academic in precisely the realm of propaganda, you have the temerity to minimize the actual real-world bigotry faced by minority groups in this country and reduce it to impoliteness?

    Shame on you.

  35. #35 tes
    July 15, 2008

    Don’t panic: thank you for the link.
    I’ve been thinking similar things myself lately, for what it’s worth.
    If PZ’s the worst you’ve got, the window is far too narrow. You won’t break new ground by being on the defensive, especially not when the opposition is this persistent. So I see no alternative to supporting him even when he is being a bit silly. He puts things on the map, and he does make a lot of other people seem quite nice and moderate by comparison, which is what you want, isn’t it?
    If you want more moderate superstars as well (and you do), go make them. You have my wholehearted support.
    Provocation, if it results in discussion, may lead to positive results.
    Infighting will not.

  36. #36 James
    July 15, 2008

    @ Anna K.

    I thank you for your kind reference. My deceased minister father once made a similar comment to me. And, Yes, in all honesty, religion does appear to be “tremendously adaptive”.

    To paraphrase Mohandus K. Gandi; I don’t want to throw religious people out of this world, I want to welcome them as friends into a world of rational thought.

    Blessed are the peacemakers, is a philosophy that applies equally to all beings.

  37. #37 Converse02
    July 15, 2008

    If one person thought a cracker was actually God, ppl would probably wonder if he belonged in a psych ward. Having millions of people believing such nonsense does not make the cracker any more divine. Watching them make death threats over it, equate it with a “hate crime,” exposes exactly how dangerous and silly their delusions are.

    When someone like PZ Myers has the sense to point out that the emperor has not clothes, he should be supported for having the courage to say what most sane ppl agree with anyhow.

  38. #38 ...tom...
    July 15, 2008


    There is enough excellent content on scienceblogs that I can easily skip past Pharyngula and still feel satiated. I really do not even bother with his particular blog any longer.

    Works for me.

    …tom…
    .

  39. #39 omar ali
    July 16, 2008

    This is an exceptionally silly post. You are saying PZ should not criticize any belief if it is “deeply symbolic” to one or the other religious cult? And you are objecting to his intemprate language and yourself choose to describe him as a “screechy monkey”? Tut tut…

  40. #40 Cain
    July 16, 2008

    So to fire PZ from his job for this incident is, in your own words, ridiculous. So instead you want to fire him from ScienceBlogs?

  41. #41 BobC
    July 16, 2008

    Nisbet, if you don’t like freedom of speech, go live in a theocracy.

  42. #42 Dave
    July 16, 2008

    I see what you did there Dr. Nisbet. Very clever framing to liken Dr. Myers rational argument to the epithets of a racist without actually, you know, addressing the argument itself.

  43. #43 Justin
    July 16, 2008

    A question to Catholics who believe that the consecrated cracker is “God”: if you had to choose between rescuing your child or one of these crackers from a burning building, which would you choose?

  44. #44 mayhempix
    July 16, 2008

    Let me see if I’ve got this straight.

    It is OK for Christians, be they Catholic or whatever, to consistently claim that an atheist like myself is condemned to an eternity in hell if I do not believe in their fairy tales, but dare atheists point out the ridiculousness of the rituals that perpetuate this true bigotry, we are somehow rude and sophomoric.

    And Nisbet is twisting the frame when he holds up Sullivan as an example of an atheist… he is not, he is Catholic. “…it springs from my Catholic faith, which, despite the best efforts of the Catholic hierarchy, endures. The inherent dignity of all human beings is something I believe is a reflection of God’s will through the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Granted, he declares he is not crackpot “Christianist”, but to imply he is some sort if polite enlightened atheist is intellectually dishonest at best.

  45. #45 unicow
    July 16, 2008

    I’m not the first to express this, but my introduction to scienceblogs.com was via Pharyngula. It was only afterwards that I discovered many of the other wonderful blogs here.

    The only blogs here that I’ve seen referenced in the mainstream (or at least non-science-centric) internet with any kind of regularity are PZ’s and Ed Brayton’s. Even if the specific postings that draw people here aren’t exactly science, I doubt one could make a solid argument that people aren’t drawn here by them.

    With all due respect, the “Framing Science” blog isn’t going to attract any “new audiences to science.” Nor are most of the blogs here. But they can all benefit when people come here to look at one of the other blogs and discover something interesting (I can’t count how many times that little sidebar has pointed me to fascinating stuff I would otherwise not have found).

    If you’re seeking new audiences, why not embrace those who (like PZ) have a knack for drawing visitors? Do you just not like the particular sorts of visitors they draw?

  46. #46 Josh
    July 16, 2008

    Mr. Nisbet:

    1. You wrote: “Even fellow atheists and free speech advocates are troubled. Here’s what Andrew Sullivan has to say”

    You know that Sullivan is a Catholic, right? And no, the �and free speech� phrase doesn�t mitigate your mistake.

    2. You wrote: “In a recent interview on the podcast Point of Inquiry, host DJ Grothe asked PZ if he worried that scienceblogs.com was becoming better known as “atheistblogs.com.” It’s a question that merits serious consideration, especially in light of recent events.”

    You realize that PZ gave a cogent (even if you disagree with it) answer to DJ on that question, right? You were going to acknowledge that, rather than disingenuously pretending that PZ offered no reasonable response, right?

    3. You wrote: “What alarms me the most about the incident, however, is the major perceptual hit that the scienceblogs.com community and brand continues to take because of PZ’s antics.”

    And that brings us right to the heart of why so many people – people who would otherwise listen to the points you make – have tuned you out. You display all the classic signs of a ethically bankrupt salesman and demagogue:

    a. You’re never “angry,” or “outraged,” you’re merely “alarmed,” or “concerned,� or �troubled.� Anyone who gets angry is never justified in your worldview; they’ve failed in Framing World.

    b. You claim to care about the substance of issues, but your rhetoric gives the lie. You talk incessantly of “perceptions” and “brands.” You consistently fail to address direct, relevant criticisms from your opponents. When they challenge you to define the line between massaging rhetoric to draw in consensus (a reasonable approach) and selling out to win fair weather friends, you don’t respond.

    c. You are – there’s no subtle way to frame this – an insufferably prissy hand-wringer. You fret and worry and twist your hankie into a knot over the actions of outspoken, vocal opponents of religious nonsense. You simper about how alienating and, gosh, just mean we all are. All the while, you ignore the fact that your conciliatory (and that’s being kind) approach has accomplished absolutely zero in affecting public discourse on important scientific and church/state separation issues.

    Come on, surprise me, Mr. Nisbet – let this post go through.

  47. #47 Pierce R. Butler
    July 16, 2008

    Call me agnostic on the controversy…

    Sorry, no can do. I might call you neutral, or apathetic, or aloof, but unless you insist that you don’t know anything about said controversy, including whether it exists, I simply cannot bring myself to call you “agnostic”.

  48. #48 Onkel Bob
    July 16, 2008

    Out of curiosity, do your concerns extend to Zuska? She has categories such as Moron Management, Why There Are No Women in Science, Apologists for the Oppressors, What They’re Saying, Stereotypes We Know And Love, Those Humorless Feminists all of which take direct aim at the prevailing paradigm with a decided edginess. This post describes her opinion in no uncertain words or terms.
    Is there a fear that ScienceBlogs is the haven of the perpetually unhappy and unsatisfied?
    BTW – the frau is a researcher at an Ivy League school, working for a female chair, and with a Academic of the Sciences who is also female. She is surrounded by women colleagues and the majority of the candidates in her MD/PhD program are female. I’ll be sure to tell her that developmental and cell biology is not science (^:

  49. #49 Blind Squirrel FCD
    July 17, 2008

    Anna K sez

    religion is tremendously adaptive

    Haw haw haw haw haw haw haw haw!

  50. #50 B Cabot
    July 20, 2008

    As a scientist and a Christian, I think the Church can easily survive PZ’s middle school antics.

    So let him be, he is not helping his cause…which is not science but atheism…and that is his problem.

  51. #51 Ed
    July 24, 2008

    “There is enough excellent content on scienceblogs that I can easily skip past Pharyngula and still feel satiated. I really do not even bother with his particular blog any longer.”

    Admit it though, it’s hard not to peak. Its sort of like this communitys version of the Jerry Springer show. Youre flipping the channels and theres Jerry and you just have that weird momentary pause. Sure you shake your head and move on, but it is what it is.

  52. #52 paiwan
    July 26, 2008

    “Anti-religion posts seem to attract a lot of traffic here, but I think anyone who looks around a little more will find many intriguing science writers.”

    I read Anna K.’s posts on evolving thought that were excellent debates together with many others.

    I am a marine virus researcher and a believer in God. In short, I believe the convergence of science and faith. Science blogs IMO should be able to provide the enjoyable learning platforms for religious believers and atheists. After all, the science blogs are promoting science not scientism.

    Thank for Framing Science for clarifying an inclusive stance. I would be happy to come to learn from here from time to time.

  53. #53 Lee Harrison
    July 27, 2008

    I wonder how one goes about ‘clarifying an inclusive stance’ by implying that one of the voices should go away and not be heard…

  54. #54 paiwan
    July 30, 2008

    It is not an easy question to answer. For instance, about twenty years ago I attended a church which had declined the discussion of Evolution Theory, any time this topic came out it just liked touching the nerve. This was the case that excluding science.

    If we simply discuss the topic of inclusive science and religion, then in the same token, religious inputs should be respected. If the religious viewpoints were eliminated and attacked, that is the case of excluding religion.

    So, atheism is not the only legitimate voice of science. Both religious and atheistic viewpoints should be mutually respected.

    It needs some code of discipline to avoid the language violence from both parties.

  55. #55 hoody
    January 1, 2009

    Donohue is a fool, and Little Paul is an asshole; it’s really that simple.

The site is undergoing maintenance presently. Commenting has been disabled. Please check back later!