Pharyngula

I get no respect

Here’s the difference between me and Michael Bérubé: he gets labeled a dangerous radical and profiled in David Horowitz’s new book, while all I get is a
mild squeak in our weekly campus newspaper and our local conservative rag.

While perusing the UMM main page, I happened upon the website http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula which belongs to UMM’s own Professor of Biology Dr. Meyers. Upon closer inspection I found content relating to my religious beliefs that offended me beyond belief. Not only was this speech sacrilegious and offensive, but it was readily available to anyone who happens across the UMM main page. The portion of content which I found most offensive was written under the label “humor,” and his blog is in fact up for an online award. Yet despite my outrage I must defend Dr. Meyers. He has the right to state his opinions and it is not my place to try to stop him. I may suggest the administration take the link off the campus website, but that has more to do with the fact that the website speaks for the University as a whole.

He is a bit of a junior Horowitz—I kind of like how he’s bending over backwards to insist I have a right to free speech while calling for the university to censor me—but you know, he put this up almost two weeks ago and the only reason I noticed at all is that my wife ran across it. It’s just sad. I mean, if what I wrote was really sacrilegious and outrageous and offensive beyond belief, couldn’t they get a condemnatory petition going, or a protest march, or even get one of Horowitz’s junior sub-alterns to come out and give a talk in which he complains about not being allowed to give a talk, while my kidneys threaten Western Civilization?

Man, I’d even be satisfied if they just spelled my name right.

Comments

  1. #1 Dr. Free-Ride
    February 19, 2006

    If you put on that skin-tight vinyl bodysuit, people will recognize just how dangerous you are …

  2. #2 wamba
    February 19, 2006

    Upon closer inspection I found content relating to my religious beliefs that offended me beyond belief.

    If that content helps him get beyond his silly beliefs, then I guess it’s done its job.

    Yet despite my outrage I must defend Dr. Meyers.

    While spelling his name incorrectly.

    I may suggest the administration take the link off the campus website, but that has more to do with the fact that the website speaks for the University as a whole.

    As I understand it, the “offensive material” is at Pharyngula, which is not on the campus web site. So if he followed through, he would be complaining about the fact that there is a link to Pharyngula on a UMM site. Why stop there? Why not insist that UMM block access to Pharyngula from all on-campus computers? Where will it end?

  3. #3 Will
    February 19, 2006

    That’s too bad you’re not being more persecuted by this guy. But chin up ol’ pal, maybe you’ll get a pie in the face one day! Then you’ll know you’ve really made it!

  4. #4 Alon Levy
    February 19, 2006

    Do I see a trace of Bokonon in you, PZ?

  5. #5 Angel
    February 19, 2006

    The hypocrisy never ceases: sure, defend the right to free speech, just make sure there is no access to the guy’s blog anywhere on our university site. It always amuses me how they claim to defend free speech (more as a way to cover themselves and say “see, I defend his right to free speech”), but then they conveniently suggest some form of censorship or another. You keep right on offending them, since more often than not all it really does is point out their shortcomings and failings. And hey, keep working at it. I am sure in time you will give Berube a run for his money. In the meantime, best, and keep on blogging.

  6. #6 Socialist Swine
    February 19, 2006

    P.Z.,

    I’m actually surprised that you don’t get more of a negative reaction from the far right. It seems to me that you should be the epitome of what they would view as an imminent atheist liberal threat to their beliefs and quest for hegemony. Educated, literate, anti-religious, and a biologist to boot. Maybe they’re trying to be less predictable.

  7. #7 PZ Myers
    February 19, 2006

    I think the fact that I’m so closely affiliated with the anti-creationist fight actually insulates me a bit: I think there are a fair number on the far right who are acutely embarrassed by the anti-science fringe they’re associating with. It’s easier to attack someone when you don’t have to also add that you think he’s right on this one specific, major issue.

  8. #8 Alon Levy
    February 19, 2006

    Well, there are more creationists than evolutionists in the US; isn’t it logical that some will try bashing you and trying to shut you down for being biased, or stifling dissent, or promulgating Darwinist lies?

  9. #9 Steve Sutton
    February 19, 2006

    They just don’t like having reality thrown in their faces. It threatens their ability to believe in that magical fairyland that they think floats around in the clouds.

  10. #10 Rick @ shrimp and grits
    February 19, 2006

    I think the fact that I’m so closely affiliated with the anti-creationist fight actually insulates me a bit:

    I think that the fact that you live in Minnesota as opposed to, say, South Carolina insulates you more than that. Small-town Minnesota might be religious and conservative, but it’s nothing compared to the South.

  11. #11 BlueIndependent
    February 19, 2006

    What bothers me is that the less “hard-core” Republicans I know don’t like the things that go on in their name, but almost none of them care to stop, or at the very least correct that, because it means their ship is sailing in the general direction they THINK it’s going.

    I’ve talked to and worked with many who think all this crazy far-right rhetoric is great because it’s “putting us liberals in our place”. But then you get down to real issues with them, and it’s amazing how more centrist they are, they just don’t realize it. Which is the crux of the problem. This country has lost sight of why certain policies were in place: TO KEEP OUR COLLECTIVE ASSES ON THE STRAIGHT AND NARROW PATH TOWARD A BETTER FUTURE.

    Simply put the far-right’s rhetoric sells people on the idea of getting something done through tough talk, which is nothing more than hot air as well all here know. And what’s tough talk backed up with immediate action regardless of the details? Right and good action, damnit!

    The far-right read the slimy salesmens’ book to a richer you, and have taken it up as their defining doctrine. They just sell it as being virtuous.

  12. #12 george cauldron
    February 19, 2006

    Do you have any idea what your front-page stories were the day Mr. Sensitive there stumbled across your blog? He seems to be awfully vague about just what it is that’s so evil about Pharyngula, just that it’s Deeply Offensive.

  13. #13 Kristjan Wager
    February 19, 2006

    The portion of content which I found most offensive was written under the label “humor,” and his blog is in fact up for an online award.

    Two things, I don’t think he gets humor, and I don’t think he udnerstands the principles behind the Koufax awards.

  14. #14 John M. Price
    February 19, 2006

    Edwards is a piece of work, indeed. I wonder if texts like The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man (Price, RM, 2003) also offend him so much that he’d want them available, but only under the librarians’ desk with sign out permission from parents?

    At least, though, he corrected his assumptions regarding coursework. You’d think he’d have been bright enough to check… oh, wait, nevermind….

    It is always my sincere hope that reality comes acrashing into the solely faith based life.

  15. #15 Rick @ shrimp and grits
    February 19, 2006

    You’d think he’d have been bright enough to check… oh, wait, nevermind….

    It’s the typical conservative stragegy of “Ready, FIRE, aim!”.

  16. #16 Rick @ shrimp and grits
    February 19, 2006

    Strategy, even. Maybe my wife’s right and I *do* need glasses. 🙂

  17. Well, I suppose it’s about time for me to admit that I’ve always found this site offensive. I mean, it’s like, one day PZ is rude to good people who sincerely believe that Adam and Eve rode to church on dinosaurs, and the next day he’s posting NSFW (not safe for wankers) descriptions of tentacle sex.

    That’s the way it’s gotta be done, I think. The best defense is a good offensive blog.

  18. #18 mr.ed
    February 19, 2006

    Does he have an embassy you can burn?

  19. #19 george cauldron
    February 19, 2006

    It’s not too surprising that he blithers about supporting free speech yet wants access to your blog to be restricted. To folks on that end of the political spectrum, not calling for the immediate shutdown of your blog is more than enough to qualify as ‘supporting free speech’.

    It’s also amusing to realize if someone on the left made complaints like his, he’d immediately dismiss the person as ‘politically correct’. Coming from his POV, tho, it’s much more serious

  20. #20 Flounder
    February 19, 2006

    Could just one single winger who claims to actually go to a university or possess some sort of education use there, their, and they’re correctly? I suppose it would be too much to ask them to use the possesive sense correctly as well.

  21. #21 lt.kizhe
    February 19, 2006

    Perusing a little of Mr. Edwards output there, it seems to me that he doesn’t have much of substance to say, only a limited vocabulary for saying it — and yet he manages to go on at some length anyway. Question for discussion: Should we censor someone for being offensively banal?

  22. #22 Corkscrew
    February 19, 2006

    I kind of like how he’s bending over backwards to insist I have a right to free speech while calling for the university to censor me

    I would note that, as established during the Caroline Crocker incident, failure to endorse is not censorship. And, as established during the Guillermo Gonzalez fiasco at the Smithsonian, there’s a strong argument saying that displaying someone’s work can, in an academic context, be considered to be endorsement of that work.

    As such, I wouldn’t consider a removal of links to your site to be censorship.

    I’m with you on the rest, of course. In particular, I wish that I could come up with “offensive beyond belief” articles that were that hilarious.

  23. #23 Elf Eye
    February 19, 2006

    Flounder,

    It’s “possessive.” Seriously, though, I wish people–left and right–would stop using “it’s” as a pronoun. It’s a contraction, damn it!

  24. #24 donna
    February 19, 2006

    Wow. Some people just really don’t get the concept of humor and satire do they?

    Oh, right, they’re religious….

  25. #25 Ed Darrell
    February 19, 2006

    Well, there are more creationists than evolutionists in the US . . .

    I wouldn’t bet on it, when the chips are down. For example, next year when the flu shots are coming around, ask your creationist colleagues to forego the things to demonstrate their faith in creationism. I work in a public school, and our local creationists all said something akin to, “Do I look insane to you?” I have found atheists in foxholes, but I’ve never found devout creationists in the infectious disease wards. Not once.

    Also, while most people in the U.S. express a preference for the facts being that God had some role in their getting where they are, when Gallup did a serious survey on the issue way back in 1999, 83% of Americans said evolution should be taught. A significant portion of that group thought creationism ought to be taught too, if it can find the scientific chops, and a significant portion confessed to great ignorance about evolution; but most Americans understand that it’s an important idea, and they’d like their kids to get a better education than they got. I know of no creationist who wants a kid to know more than a parent, especially if it involves science contrary to creationism’s odd beliefs.

    Americans are all for fairness, and they get their dander up if it looks like somebody is being unfair to creationism in the classroom. But Americans also don’t like to be duped, and they don’t like idiots. When it’s clear there’s nothing to creationism, Americans tend to claim they are not experts, and they’re happy to leave such issues to people who do know the difference.

    Jeffersonian democracy still works, you know. Not so well or so fast as most of us wish, but it still works.

  26. #26 Ed Darrell
    February 19, 2006

    Is Minnesota Morris the evo-devo equivalent of Indiana Jones?

  27. #27 Rosie
    February 19, 2006

    Is that Ben Edwards a student at UMM? If so, is there some way you can refer him for urgent remedial English classes?

  28. #28 James Gambrell
    February 19, 2006

    Ben, the author of the essay in question, is a friend of mine; and while I don’t share his views on many issues, I find him to be an affable and reasonable guy. I talked to him about that essay because I thought it didn’t really sound like him. From our conversation, I don’t think he was actually as “offended” by Pharyngula as he claimed in that essay, but was just making the point that people on the right COULD be just as offended by liberal sites like this one as minorities are by some rather racist posters recently put up around our campus (by conservatives).

    In other words, its part of an ongoing drama here in Morris, so I would advise those outside UMM not to take it at face value. In fact Ben is just the kind of reasonable conservative we evolutionists need to reach out to.

    However he DID beleive that a direct link to Pharyngula from the frontpage of the university website was inappropriate. Now, if PZ’s site was purely polemic, I might agree with him; but as the recent beautiful post on gene interactions shows, it is far more than that. I think the unversity linked to Pharyngula because it is one of the best blogs on the internet, gives UMM much-needed publicity, and they are proud of having him around.

  29. #29 george cauldron
    February 19, 2006

    From our conversation, I don’t think he was actually as “offended” by Pharyngula as he claimed in that essay, but was just making the point that people on the right COULD be just as offended by liberal sites like this one as minorities are by some rather racist posters recently put up around our campus (by conservatives).

    I can believe that. One sees that rhetorical gambit with the right a fair deal — even if you’re not actually offended by something, pretend to be so in order to score political debating points. Then accuse the other side of being ‘politically correct’.

    I also find it interesting that he apparently considers racism to be a rightwing equivalent of antichristian sentiment, and apparently just as acceptable. Unless he’s just pretending about that reaction, too.

  30. #30 Timothy Shortell
    February 19, 2006

    I consider it an indictment of the level of scholarship in Horowitz’s “book” that I’m included in the list and PZ is not. (We all agree that Bérubé belongs on it.) While I aspire to be as dangerous as Prof. Myers someday, I still have a lot of work to do. I guess Horowitz couldn’t get any of his “research assistants” to do a little homework for the book. That might have slowed down the fundraising machine.

  31. #31 PZ Myers
    February 19, 2006

    He needs to work on his language then — “offended me beyond belief” and “sacrilegious and offensive” are rather unambiguous.

    Being hypothetically offended is kind of strange, too. I could say I’m deeply offended at the exhibition of The Counterweight at kiosks around campus, and suggest that maybe it ought not to be allowed — permission to distribute it here seems to me to be a far more solid endorsement than putting a link on a web page. If I were to complain to the administration on pretext and pretense of offense, I think we’d all agree I was just being a jerk.

  32. #32 Rosie
    February 19, 2006

    Is that Ben Edwards a student at UMM? If so, is there some way you can refer him for urgent remedial English classes?

  33. #33 Steff Z
    February 19, 2006

    From the Word Have Meaning department:

    Edwards wrote, “Not only was this speech sacrilegious . . .”

    As I understand the word, it would only be sacrilegious if PZ says something antithetical to HIS OWN religion. What PZ wrote could be sacrilegious to Edwards, but if and only if *Edwards* (or someone who shares Edwards’ religious beliefs) wrote it.

    To illustrate: PZ doesn’t hold the Bible sacred. So he can’t commit sacriledge with anything he says about the Bible.

    PZ would have trouble blaspheming, too, I’m pretty sure.

  34. #34 James Gambrell
    February 19, 2006

    George, I think your absolutely right about this being a common right-winger tactic. In order to gain poltical power, money, or fame, some conservatives will say anything. Of course poltics has always been given to this sort of thing, but beginning in the 90’s, republicans have taken it to a new level.

    PZ, its part of this whole poster drama, its not about your site really. I’d be surprized if there were more than 20 students on campus that would genuinely “be offended” after reading your most anti-religious posts. By “be offended” here I mean actually experience the emotions of resentment, shame, etc; not know intellectually that this material is offensive.

    The weird thing is, I think that number goes up when they have someone like Ben here TELLING them they SHOULD be offended. Gotta love that mob psychology. Fake emotions become real.

    To stray off-topic a little, I think a lot of the right-wing revival in the last decade has come from the “firing up” of otherwise stay-at-home, complacent, private christians. Fiery (and probably to a large degree fake) rhetoric taught these people they SHOULD think this and that, and SHOULD be offended by this and that, and of course that they SHOULD vote republican. I think opinions formed in this way are pretty mutable however, if the democrats can ever put together a strong enough message.

  35. #35 Rosie
    February 19, 2006

    Sorry for double-post – I got a server issue when I tried to post. Feel free to remove this and the duplicated post! Thanks.

  36. #36 Reed A. Cartwright
    February 19, 2006

    Edwards needs to reread his notes on coercion from his con-law class. Coercion is not applicable to a university because university students are adults and not impressionable children. I know of no SCOTUS decision where K-12 coercion precidence has been extended to public universities.

    I think UMM has every reason to highlight PZ’s blog. I know I for one would not know about UMM if PZ didn’t highlight it so often.

  37. #37 Unstable Isotope
    February 19, 2006

    Somewhere out there is a Dr. Meyers receiving Prof. Myers hate mail.

  38. #38 C. Schuyler
    February 19, 2006

    Misspelling your name is the least of it. Is this level of semi-literacy the norm for students at your institution?

  39. #39 PZ Myers
    February 19, 2006

    Nah, just the Young Republican contingent.

    (That’s a joke: I’ve had some of the YRs in my classes, and at least some have been bright.)

  40. #40 RavenT
    February 19, 2006

    Well, every threat and anonymous letter *I’ve* ever gotten from rightwingers had at least one misspelled word in it. There’s just no pride in craftsmanship among the wingnuts anymore.

    Maybe this will cheer you up, though, PZ:

    http://www.seattleaquarium.org/events/detail.php?eventid=46

    Seattle Aquarium is showing the Octopus so much respect they even gave their week extra days.

  41. #41 PZ Myers
    February 19, 2006

    Now just how can that cheer me up? It’s in Seattle, and I’m in Minnesota. I need an excuse to escape to the Pacific Northwest for a while.

  42. #42 RavenT
    February 19, 2006

    You can stay with Mr. Raven and me!

    I really, really, really hope you like cats, though. And sleeping on the floor.

    Well, it’s more like sleeping on the floor with cats, but it’s an open invitation at any rate.

  43. #43 PZ Myers
    February 19, 2006

    Oh, I’ve got lots of family in the Seattle area. We’ll definitely make it out there again someday…but not this week.

  44. #44 Torris
    February 19, 2006

    UMM heavily advertised their Prairie Home Companion event recently on their homepage and currently has a link to Keillor’s UMM show online. For those of you who didn’t listen to the show, it was very religious with the singing of religious songs by both the gospel group which came with Prairie Home Companion and UMM’s choir. It definitely was the sort of music outside the comfort zone of at least some non-believers. Does that mean that the UMM administration purposely endorses religion and tries to offend the minority non-believers? I doubt it. I think they are just proud that they hosted a very successful Prairie Home Companion and had an opportunity to highlight what a great university UMM is!

    I believe one of the hallmarks of a great university is an environment that fosters a rich diversity of ideas. For the most part UMM does an excellent job, but there will be occasional exceptions by those who want links to sites removed because they don’t want anyone who thinks like them to possibly go outside their comfort zone.

  45. #45 SEF
    February 19, 2006

    Poor PZ: your attempts to gain world infamy via “offensive” blogging are being thwarted by the unintelligently designed education of those who can’t manage to spell your name correctly.

    Do you think their imaginary gods take after them? There could be a lot of mix-ups at the gates of heaven and hell, if so. They’d have to ask you searching questions about a pharyngula stage embryo while the creationists get ones on their favourite colour (ie Monty Python style – Life of Brian combined with Holy Grail).

  46. #46 outeast
    February 20, 2006

    Hmm… can’t see the link myself, except at Meiyers’ own entry (where I would have thought it’s OK). However, I think that the good Doctor (Miyers, that is, not Who) is overreacting a tad – not having a link in the uni site would not be censorship.

    OTOH, my guess is that UMM isn’t too bothered to be associated with Mayiers’ perspectives anyway… I’m guessing it’s not the most conservative of institutions.

    Of far more concern to me is UMM’s apparent endorsement of one of the most vile butcheries of the Noble Tongue I’ve ever seen: I refer, of course, to their reference to UMM as ‘among [the] best values in the nation.’ WTF is that about, eh? The values we hold dear are Honesty, Temperance, Sincerity, and University of Minnesota Morris? Gagh.

  47. #47 John C. Randolph
    February 20, 2006

    So, what’s this offended little git going to do? Burn down an embassy or something?

    -jcr

  48. #48 Apikoros
    February 20, 2006

    PZ- don’t feel bad about Horowitz’s new book; the moment I saw it in the book store, I checked the index for your name, and put the book down when I did not find you.

    Unfortunately, I didn’t think to check any of the very creative spellings above.

    There’s always hope for the second edition!

  49. #49 John M. Price
    February 20, 2006

    Blasphemy is a victimless crime.

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