Technically, Nisbet did not say that. He simply showed a picture of PZ Myers … a rather funny picture of PZ that is not what I would call a glamor shot … and made the statement paraphrased as the title of this post in reference to all atheists who have strong views and who are, well, not appeasers of religion.
I’ve been getting private emails from friends and colleagues asking me if I can talk to Nisbet .. and convey a message to him (I won’t repeat the messages here). What I want you to understand is that just because I am a Sbling, etc., does not mean that I’m in touch with the guy. I don’t know him though of course I did a thing with him once, and have certainly debated him on the internet.
In his blog post, Nisbet drones on about how we must work together with the religious. He points out that various catholic writers are mad at PZ for dissing their religion, and in essence, suggests an alternative strategy … of appeasing religious groups and individuals.
Note that the Catholic Register, cited by Nisbet, used the photograph of PZ myers that is used as the head shot on his web site, which was probably the polite thing to do. But Nisbet used this absurd photograph taken from some collection of party shots …. one of many showing PZ in a more relaxed mode than I’ve ever seen, or imagined, Nisbet in.
Let me tell you some truths that Nisbet avoids. About PZ Myers.
First, PZ Myers is explicitly tolerant of religion and religious groups and organizations. He is opposed to state funding of religion, and all that, but he has always supported freedom of expression and worship. His personal opinion, which I don’t need to relay (PZ is quite capable of doing this) is very anti religion, and it is an opinion that he articulates very effectively. Nisbet and the Catholics are telling us that PZ needs to step aside and keep his mouth shut. PZ is not telling them to do the same. There is a marked imbalance of terms of tolerance and acceptance here.
Another thing about PZ that I’d like to note, that I’ve noticed in his writing and speaking but that is probably often missed]: PZ is very willing to leave things open and unexplained when describing and evaluating, and sometimes critiquing, human behavior and the decisions humans make. Humans are conflicted, complex individuals who often strongly feel one way about an issue but hold contradictory beliefs when queried in a different context. Life is complex, and people are complex.
I mention this because it seems to be part of PZ Myers philosophy of critical tolerance. It is this part of his approach that allows vehemence and compassion about the same issues and the same people. It is a higher level of thinking about the world, about society, and about the groups and people that make up society, than we see in Nisbet’s conceptualizing of atheism (or anything else he writes as far as I can see).
What is Matt up to with this post? Well, PZ has gone out of the country for a couple/few weeks. Perhaps Matt feels safe dipping into this issue right now, in this way. Or, perhaps his hit numbers are low and he’s trolling for readers. Well, good luck to him on that. Go ahead and have a look, make a comment, join the party. Nisbet’s post is here.
What I want to know is this: Where is the writing about angry, grumpy, self-serving nasty Christians and the crap that they lay on their followers and everyone else, calling these extremist spokespeople of “the Christian way” on their lies and their damaging speech? Nisbet needs to address that part of religion before anyone can take him seriously, before he can be thought of as anything other than an appeaser. In the mean time, I think I’ll keep Pharyngula in my news reader.
UPDATE … TUIBG tackles Nisbet: Someone is Wrong on the Internet … Afarensis chimes in: Framing Science Embraces the Willie Horton Strategy … Synapostasy identifies Image and Personality Problems