Pharyngula

Sunday Sermon-Skit

THE SCENE: A circular room cut deep into stone; magma pits bubble left and right, all is lit by roaring torches that cast dark, flickering shadows. In the center, the Cephalopod Throne.

THE CAST: PZ Myers broods on his throne, chin on fist. He glowers at a horde of SUPPLICANTS, bowing and scraping before him. Many are speaking at once, but all have the same concern.

SUPPLICANT: “O Lord PZ…”

SUPPLICANT: “…Great Lord PZ…”

SUPPLICANT: “…Lord PZ, do you ever…”

SUPPLICANT: “…ever worry…”

SUPPLICANT: “…worry that your puissant and uncompromising godlessness might…”

SUPPLICANT: “…might frighten…”

SUPPLICANT: “…drive away…”

SUPPLICANT: “…terrify…”

SUPPLICANT: “…terrify the religious moderates?”

SUPPLICANT: “O Lord?”

SUPPLICANT: “Perhaps you shouldn’t be so hard on the soft and unthreatening believers, who might also find goodness in science?”

SUPPLICANT: “Perhaps your atheism diminishes support for science education?”

PZ’s brow furrows, and fury kindles like glowing embers in his eyes; he rises and gestures angrily, and his servant, the Invisible Virtual Hand of the Internet, appears, virtually and invisibly, by his side.

PZ: “You dare…?”

The IVHI sweeps across the room, squashing the supplicants and casting their smeary broken carcasses into the magma pits. Smoke rises to fill the room. PZ sits again.

PZ: “But perhaps … perhaps this is a question I should consider further. Invisible Virtual Hand of the Internet, bring to me … an agnostic! One with views on religion different from mine!”

Swiftly, the IVHI vanishes and reappears (transparently) with a mostly unclothed JOHN WILKINS, who looks about confusedly and sleepily.

WILKINS: “What’s this then…?”

PZ: “SHHH!”

WILKINS: “Mururzh? What am I doing here? I was sleep…!”

PZ: “SHHH! You are just a prop upon which to exercise my thoughts. You do not have a speaking part.”

WILKINS: “Bloody hell…!”

PZ: “SHHH! I have summoned you here because your agnosticism offends me. It is tepid and uninteresting and annoying, and disturbs me personally.”

WILKINS: “I’ll have you know agnosticism is a reasonable and intellectually honest philosophical position, and one that I hold after considerable thought and …”

PZ: “Oh, put a sock in it, John. I have told you I find it offensive; I think that in response I must change my beliefs to punish you. I am therefore going to join the pagans and wiccans, and sacrifice kittens to Eris. I think also I shall change my views on a number of unrelated social issues, out of spite — so henceforth I’m going to be pro-life and anti-feminist. See what you’ve done with your willful antagonism to my former atheism? Now begone.”

The IVHI manifests itself subtly and with a flick of its unseen finger, sends WILKINS flying through the air in a south-westerly direction.

PZ: “Invisible Virtual Hand of the Internet, bring unto me another prop-person.”

With a totally silent whoosh, the IVHI swoops away and returns indetectably bearing ORAC, who appears noticeably irritated at this abrupt interruption.

PZ: “Orac! You are a Catholic, are you not?”

ORAC: “Well, yes, but I don’t make a big deal about my religion…”

PZ: “SILENCE! My questions are only rhetorical. Your nominal, tepid Catholicism offends me! Your unwillingness to slavishly imitate my beliefs about religion has so antagonized me that I have decided to celebrate Hitler’s birthday and consider seriously the idea that the Holocaust was a hoax. And oh yes, I am joining the Communist party. You regret your intransigence now, don’t you?”

ORAC: “What the…?”

PZ: “I am done with you!”

The IVHI scoops up Orac and with a hard fast overhand throw, flings him towards the east.

PZ: “Invisible Virtual Hand of the Internet, I find this intellectual extortion amusing. Bring me another.”

MARK CHU-CARROLL is plopped onto the floor before PZ. He rises with a peevish expression.

MARK CHU-CARROLL: “Melodramatic jerk.”

PZ: “Hush! “Nice Jewish boy,” eh? I am OFFENDED! How dare you respect a different religious tradition, instead of bowing before mine? I can but conclude that math sucks — no other response is possible. I plan to forget algebra immediately. I shall also ignore seatbelt laws from now on. If I die in a traffic accident, it will be all your fault. Now, GO!”

The Invisible Virtual Hockey Stick of the Internet descends and with a quick slap shot sends MARK CHU-CARROLL scooting to the east.

PZ: “Perhaps one more, Invisible Virtual Hand of the Internet. Make it a good one.”

With an inaudible snap of nonexistent fingers, ROB KNOP blinks into existence before PZ, who rises and points.

PZ: “AAAAAAH! OFFENDED! OFFENDED! RECANT! REPENT!”

ROB KNOP blinks in confusion, and wipes spittle from his face.

PZ: “I don’t even know where to begin! I’m joining the Republican party! I’m taking up cross-dressing! Blood-drinking — sounds fun! Your freakish, bizarre Christian beliefs compel me to be a hardline atheist! No … I shall become a Mormon and immediately propose to both Ann Coulter and Debbie Schlussel! Aaargh, my heart! Begone!”

PZ slumps back into the throne, panting heavily. The IVHI picks up ROB KNOP by the shirt collar, and with a casual flip, tosses him over the horizon.

PZ sighs.

PZ: “Perhaps they were right.”

With a wave of his hand, PZ summons the IVHI, which swiftly reconstitutes the SUPPLICANTS from the smoke particles filling the throne room. SUPPLICANTS gibber and cling to one another in terror.

PZ: “Fear not, my loyal clients, worshipful minions, and obedient servants. You have taught me the error of my ways. Clearly, the only force that would permit other people to value science and hold socially progressive views is my personal, patent adherence to their religious ideology. Their values are so weakly held that the mere existence of an atheist who openly rejects Christianity will hurl society into bloody chaos and ravening anarchy. I’d better be very, very quiet about my denial of Christian dogma, or the religious moderates will start raping puppies and beating up science teachers.”

SUPPLICANT: “O Lord PZ…”

SUPPLICANT: “…PZ…”

SUPPLICANT: “…PZ, your wisdom…”

SUPPLICANT: “…wisdom warms us,…”

SUPPLICANT: “…warms us, but…”

SUPPLICANT: “…but your sarcasm…”

SUPPLICANT: “…your goddamned overbearing sarcasm…”

SUPPLICANT: “…sarcasm pisses us off.”

(The director would like to thank the unwilling members of the Scienceblogs Players who were dragooned into appearing in this little skit. Any injuries inflicted in their brusque dismissals are entirely virtual and invisible and we deny any responsibility for damages to persons or dignity. Their participation in this exercise does not imply in any way that they believe the existence of the godless will lead to godly puppy-raping. Supplicants were not actually incinerated, but were only mildly scorched — it was all done with CGI, and we really blew the special effects budget with that one. No hypothetical puppies are actually or virtually raped during any performance. A few kittens were sacrificed, but not very many, and we said we were sorry afterwards.)

Comments

  1. #1 John Morales
    September 30, 2007

    That allegory metaphorically scorched me, and I am merely an observer!

  2. #2 Who Cares
    September 30, 2007

    I think someone forgot that the majority of people here have their asbestos suit surgically grafted onto their skin =D

  3. #3 blf
    September 30, 2007

    THE SCENE: … In the center, the Cephalopod Throne.

    THE CAST: PZ Myers broods on his throne, chin on fist. …

    The Kraken is going to me mighty annoyed at PZ for upsurping her, and having a mere monkey’s chin and fist fitted.

  4. #4 John S. Wilkins
    September 30, 2007

    Right! That’s it, Mashing, I’m going to unleash my minions, who will swarm over you and cover you in great warm gobbets of reasonableness, tolerance and other wishy washy emotions and you will cower… well, not cower, but you might get really, okay, moderately annoyed. Maybe a bit put out.

    And then you’ll be sorry, or perhaps mildly regretful.

  5. #5 Dwimr
    September 30, 2007

    You have teats, right? Because I definitely picture us supplicants jostling for a teat while you devour kittens.

  6. #6 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    September 30, 2007

    I resent having to wake up after having virtually bowed and scraped. I mean, I know it was just a virtual skit with CGI and all that, but think of the minions occasionally, will ya? Don’t take our slavish devotion for granted all the time!

    Any leftover kittens?

  7. #7 sailor
    September 30, 2007

    See what happens when you hold back in a debate with Chris Mooney? Don’t ever be so reasonable again!

  8. #8 thalarctos
    September 30, 2007

    You have teats, right? Because I definitely picture us supplicants jostling for a teat while you devour kittens.

    Shhhh! Careful, or he’ll post the picture again.

    Meanwhile, I need to go find an icepick to put out my mind’s eye…

  9. #9 Willo the Wisp
    September 30, 2007

    Wait, PZ, you’re now misrepresenting your own views? Odd. Most odd.

  10. #10 John Pieret
    September 30, 2007

    Any injuries inflicted in their brusque dismissals are entirely virtual and invisible and we deny any responsibility for damages to persons or dignity.

    Oooh! A virtual disclaimer! That’ll be easy …

  11. #11 ChrisC
    September 30, 2007

    You’re celebrating Hitler’s birthday AND joining the communist party?

    Well, it’s no more contradictory than the Christian bible! (boom-tish!)

  12. #12 Bond, James Bond
    September 30, 2007

    PZ, O great deluded one!!! I pay homage to the darkness you spread so that the light of truth shines that much brighter…May your impotent darkness and confusion grow more silly so that the agnostics will see the limitless foolishness and folly of your ways….

    By the way, O exalted darkened one…Don’t you think the true High Priest of ignorance (Dawkins) will be infuriated at you exalting yourself in front of the blind masses?????

  13. #13 thbbt
    September 30, 2007

    Since different deities promise different (and nasty) versions of the afterlife for nonbelievers, risk minimization dictates that you should wander the world seeking out the deity which threatens the nastiest afterlife for nonbelievers, and worship that deity.

    This deity is clearly the flying spaghetti monster. Think pirates and noodles. What could possibly be worse?

  14. #14 weemaryanne
    September 30, 2007

    Biggest laugh since “Planet of the Hats.” Thanx. (Yeah, I’ve been lurking here that long. So sue me already.)

  15. #15 Ian H Spedding FCD
    September 30, 2007

    Well, I don’t think Spielberg has too much to worry about.

    Besides, as a true agnostic, I’m beginning to think Muyhearse is really just the Max Headroom of the blogosphere, thrown together by some smart-arse UMM biology students. The guy you see on the stage is just a bit-part actor hired in for the day.

  16. #16 Brad S
    September 30, 2007

    Well that was odd.

  17. #17 Globle Warren Terrism
    September 30, 2007

    PZ, the point is that you risk alienating the merely batty by warning the world of the truly crazy. For a useful analogy, your might lose the support of amateur serial killers by prosecuting professional mass murderers.

  18. #18 Voting Present
    September 30, 2007

    I sometimes think the only difference between the atheist and the agnostic is in the (utterly unreproducible) sense of surprise – or lack thereof – experienced when waking up after death.

    Oh, I know perfectly well the chance is zero. Doesn’t stop me from constructing a possible egalitarian paradise that doesn’t discriminate on the basis of belief. Otherwise I would have to consider some kind of idiotic Pascal’s wager.

    Oh, you wanted a LOGICAL argument?

  19. #19 Anonymous
    September 30, 2007

    Delicious copypasta > Sunday Sermon-Skit

    PZ Myers waited. The lights above him blinked and sparked out of the air. There were religious fanatics in the Scienceblogs. He didn’t see them, but had expected them now for years. His warnings to everyone were not listenend to and now it was too late. Far too late for now, anyway.
    PZ was a blogger for a few years. When he was young he watched the debates and he said to dad “I want to be in them daddy.”
    Dad said “No! You will BE KILL BY RELIGIOUS FANATICS”
    There was a time when he believed him. Then as he got oldered he stopped. But now in the Internet base of the world wide web he knew there were religious fanatics.
    “This is Scienceblogs” the radio crackered. “You must fight the religious fanatics!”
    So PZ gotted his palsma rifle and blew up the wall.
    “HE GOING TO STOP US” said the religious fanatic
    “I will shoot at him” said the creationist and he fired the young earth rocket missiles. PZ plasmaed at him and tried to shut him up. But then the server went down and they were trapped and not able to stop.
    “No! I must stop the religious fanatics” he shouted
    The radio said “No, PZ. You are the religious fanatics”
    And then PZ was a zombie.

  20. #20 Steve_C
    September 30, 2007

    Bond’s response only makes it funnier.

    Can’t stop giggling.

  21. #21 Gridman
    September 30, 2007

    I loved that episode of Everybody Loves Raymond when I first saw it!

    It’s a pity about Peter Boyle dying, though, he played the occupant of the Cephalopod Throne as if it was the part he was born to play…

    It was the best dream sequence in a television show since Gilligan thought he was turning into Mr. Hyde.

  22. #22 Zeno
    September 30, 2007

    Damn. This has “sequel” written all over it.

    Episode II looms threateningly.

  23. #23 Michael
    September 30, 2007

    Add the word “Fuck” about 14 times in the first 5 lines and this could be indistinguishable from David Mammet.

  24. #24 Blake Stacey
    September 30, 2007

    Yes. . . and add the word “fuck” eight thousand more times, and PZ will sound just like Spider Jerusalem!

  25. #25 Scott Hatfield, OM
    September 30, 2007

    For my next trick, I will smile indulgently in public at this latest screed, neither persuaded by PZ’s strong non-belief nor especially concerned that same damages the cause of science education.

    Privately, of course, I’m angling for a role in the sequel, and attempting to use PZ’s unaired dirty laundry as leverage to secure such a role. Why, he’s been known privately to actually assist folk such as…..but I see I’ve said too much.

  26. #26 Chris Clarke
    September 30, 2007

    This is just unbelievably cruel, gratuitous, and offensive.

    I mean come on. Debbie Schlussel? Ew.

  27. #27 Acleron
    September 30, 2007

    Steve_C said
    “Bond’s response only makes it funnier.
    Can’t stop giggling.”

    Agreed

  28. #28 Carlo
    September 30, 2007

    Am I the only one who sees this as a ridiculous strawman argument? Who in the pro-science blogosphere is saying that we have to convert to Christianity to get Christians to value science?

  29. #29 Nick Gardner
    September 30, 2007

    Call me stupid, but I thought it was meant to be taken as a ridiculous strawman argument!

  30. #30 Hal
    September 30, 2007

    I get the feeling that the virtual, invisible hand of the internet is doing some masturbating when it’s not flipping corpses around.

  31. #31 Zan
    September 30, 2007

    Yes. . . and add the word “fuck” eight thousand more times, and PZ will sound just like Spider Jerusalem!

    Posted by: Blake Stacey | September 30, 2007 11:43 AM

    I wholeheartedly support doing this. In fact, I’ll finance it . . . in cookies.

    Though in all seriousness I’m of the opinion the world really does need a Spider Jerusalem to spew his filthy swear laden truth all over our failing media.

  32. #32 PZ Myers
    September 30, 2007

    No, it is not a straw man argument at all. I get several emails a week asking me if advocacy of atheism hurts the cause of science education, and it’s guaranteed that if I give a talk I’ll be asked the question at least once.

    Everyone seems to be oblivious to the fact that it is a very weird question, which is the point of this little story — to make you aware of its peculiarity.

    Think about it. If a presidential candidate were discovered to not be a rugby player and thought the game was too rough, would all the rugby players get upset and decide that his other ideas must be all wrong? Well, maybe they would…but I would hope we’d all be smart enough to recognize that they are committing a logical fallacy.

  33. #33 Phoenician in a time of Romans
    September 30, 2007

    Though in all seriousness I’m of the opinion the world really does need a Spider Jerusalem to spew his filthy swear laden truth all over our failing media.

    Go read the Rude Pundit.

  34. #34 Micah
    September 30, 2007

    Though in all seriousness I’m of the opinion the world really does need a Spider Jerusalem to spew his filthy swear laden truth all over our failing media.

    “Fuck you. If anyone in this shithole city gave two tugs of a dead dog’s cock about the Truth, this wouldn’t be happening.”

    Oh, Spider, I love you.

    PZ, important question: are you in charge of Cthulu as well?

  35. #35 CortxVortx
    September 30, 2007

    Will you feed our steaming organs to all the hounds of Hell and watch our eyes burn til the cows come home?

    Now that would be some sequel!

    — CV

  36. #36 Tanya
    September 30, 2007

    Oh Mighty PZ! I pray that I never offend you.

  37. #37 brightmoon
    September 30, 2007

    LOL

  38. #38 Gerry
    September 30, 2007

    PZ: I dreamt about you last night…careful mate, you’ll soon achieve god-like status at this rate.

  39. #39 Elia Diodati
    September 30, 2007

    All that’s really needed now is a reference to the Amulet of Yendor.

  40. #40 JohnnyPotamus
    September 30, 2007

    I love this new Ming the Merciless meets The Great and Powerful Oz thing you’ve got going on, PZ.

  41. #41 paul01
    September 30, 2007

    Well, you have outdone yourself.

    If I was one of the aforesaid players, I would not cross swords with you again… unless I WANTED to piss you off.

  42. #42 Scott Hatfield, OM
    September 30, 2007

    Hey, in a probably-vain attempt to win the SciBlogs commenting contest, I urge you to write a sequel!

  43. #43 lunartalks
    September 30, 2007

    I hope you have warning signs, safety railings and hi-viz tape around those bubbling magma pits. Someone might get hurt, and it would be awful to the occupant of the Cephalopod Throne up before the judge on Heath and Safety violations.

  44. #44 Zarquon
    September 30, 2007

    …a reference to the Amulet of Yendor.

    More like the Eye of Argon.

  45. #45 James
    September 30, 2007

    Since your lofty excellence is in a mood for satire, let me humbly share with you an inept parody of my own, in comparison with which your own humor will shine all the more brightly. It is a post about a new movement, “Group Of Intellectuals Negating Godless Atomism + Generic Atheism”:

    http://exploringourmatrix.blogspot.com/2007/09/group-of-intellectuals-negating-godless.html

    Any resemblance to actually existing movements is entirely uncoincidental.

  46. #46 NC Paul
    September 30, 2007

    PZ Myers broods on his throne, chin on fist.

    And because I’m down with my inner geek, I’m not ashamed to say that my first thought was “Cool, a thinly veiled D&D/Greyhawk/Iuz the Evil reference!”

    Can we call you the Old One now, PZ?

  47. #47 Justin Moretti
    September 30, 2007

    Advocacy of atheism probably does not harm science education, but linking the two (even in a befuddled mind) could well stop brainwashed sheep who are trying to escape their servitude from learning what they need to do so.

    I am an ex-atheist believer (I had an epiphany that involved a God of truth and beauty), but I would not have considered atheism, rejection of the Church or rejecting the literalist viewpoint without first becoming aware of the science. And there are people out there who will not bother with the science if they think they have to reject God in order to do so.

    OTOH, PZ, your original post was fucking brilliant. Tip o’ the hat to you.

  48. #48 RamblinDude
    September 30, 2007

    PZ, you have the dramatic flair of a really good evangelical preacher. Noooo!! Noooo!! It was a compliment…splat.

  49. #49 Cappy
    September 30, 2007

    Ooooo, now that was a hoot!

  50. #50 RamblinDude
    September 30, 2007

    I am an ex-atheist believer (I had an epiphany that involved a God of truth and beauty)

    Your implication that atheism requires faith, and that people who don’t believe in invisible, supernatural beings don’t appreciate truth and beauty, suggests that your God is neither truthful nor beautiful.

    Or am I misreading your comment?

  51. #51 kate
    September 30, 2007

    This agnostic enjoyed that skit. Also, I hadn’t read John Wilkins blog before- I’ll have to check that out.

  52. #52 Ebonmuse
    September 30, 2007

    I don’t know about the rest of you, but I find it immensely reassuring that PZ’s vast power clearly hasn’t corrupted him one bit!

  53. #53 Steve_C
    October 1, 2007

    NC Paul…

    I was thinking more Conan the Barbarian.

  54. #54 Justin Moretti
    October 1, 2007

    RamblinDude, you’re misreading.

    What I was getting at was that the epiphany was of a God of truth and beauty as opposed to a God of things like: homophobia; genocide; misogyny; an obsession with the triumvirate of sin, fear and sex; and doing unto Giordano Bruno what you wish you could do to Galileo.

    I never meant to imply that atheists could not comprehend truth or beauty. That would be bullshit.

  55. #55 Susan Silberstein
    October 1, 2007

    No, stay away from Wilkins’ blog. It’s all so reasonably, sanely, civilized over there.

  56. #56 John Morales
    October 1, 2007

    Justin Moretti,

    Advocacy of atheism probably does not harm science education, but linking the two [could]

    PZ doesn’t link the two.

    I am an ex-atheist believer (I had an epiphany that involved a God of truth and beauty), but I would not have considered atheism, rejection of the Church or rejecting the literalist viewpoint without first becoming aware of the science.

    An ex-atheist believer who had an epiphany? That’s credible if one is credulous.
    Besides, everyone was once an atheist.

  57. #57 John S. Wilkins
    October 1, 2007

    No, stay away from Wilkins’ blog. It’s all so reasonably, sanely, civilized over there.

    I was going to become an extremist, but they demanded I take the leather elbow patches off my tweed jacket, and have Opinions about politics, which I disavow entirely.

  58. #58 HP
    October 1, 2007

    Comment 17: For a useful analogy, your might lose the support of amateur serial killers by prosecuting professional mass murderers.

    No! I would never compare religious moderates to serial killers. They’re more like spree killers, who are only observant on holidays.

    (As opposed to agnostics, who are like murder-suicides, always being even-handed and trying to please both sides.)

    (Be sure to check out my new online quiz: What Kind of Murderer Are You? It’s fun, and free! No signups required.)

  59. #59 Justin Moretti
    October 1, 2007

    John Morales: No, he doesn’t, but his supplicants said this:

    SUPPLICANT: “Perhaps your atheism diminishes support for science education?”

    There was a link here, however loose, and I picked it up and ran with it. That’s all.

    An ex-atheist believer who had an epiphany? That’s credible if one is credulous.

    I went from being almost certain there wasn’t a God to being absolutely, incontrovertibly, unassailably sure there was. And if He is the same God the Christians worship, He is going to be mightily pissed off with the manipulators of the U.S. religious right when they rock up before Him to take their lumps.

    Being a God of Truth, He is going to hold them to how true they’ve been to their stated beliefs and their fellow human beings. And given how many male and female prostitutes they’ve shagged, how many kids they’ve taught creationism, how many school boards they’ve manipulated, how many bad books they’ve published etc. etc… All He will find is lies and ugliness, and His response will be proportionate.

    I have yet to decide what He would do with the atheists – I suspect that being believers of Truth, most of them, they would automatically be His Servants, and all would be well.

  60. #60 AtheistAcolyte
    October 1, 2007

    Cute. I liked the image (har!) of the IVHI. Weird acronyms remind me of the BOFH, and it makes me smile.

  61. #61 kehrsam
    October 1, 2007

    It is, of course, a vile myth that we moderate Christians will never pay attention to PZ until he converts to Christianity: In truth, any of the Abrahamic religions would be sufficient. Well, maybe not Islam.

  62. #62 the great and powerful oz
    October 1, 2007

    JohnnyPotamus: I love this new Ming the Merciless meets The Great and Powerful Oz thing you’ve got going on, PZ.

    Who is this Ming the Merciless of which you speak? Mmm?

  63. #63 John Phillips
    October 2, 2007

    That was great fun and many of the comments were almost as good, lots more please 🙂

  64. #64 John Morales
    October 2, 2007

    Justin (#59), look at what happened to the supplicants who dared ask that.

    Anyway, thanks for posting an answer.

    If PZ’s atheism doesn’t bother you, there’s some mighty good posts in the archives, and the signal-to-noise ratio of the comments is way higher than that of most blogs.

    PS Good luck with your theological ponderings…

  65. #65 ganv
    October 2, 2007

    “No, it is not a straw man argument at all. I get several emails a week asking me if advocacy of atheism hurts the cause of science education, and it’s guaranteed that if I give a talk I’ll be asked the question at least once.”

    “PZ Myers”

    There is a confusion here about what the questioner is asking. Of course you should promote your philosophical belief if you think it is true and not be controlled by what others think. But if you are conflating your philosophical beliefs with scientific conclusions then you are quite likely to cause harm to science education. Current science rules out some religious beliefs, but it has nothing to say about many other religious beliefs. If you are promoting a version of science that opposes all religious belief then you are creating a false notion of science that many people will rightly oppose–with the effect of harming science education.

  66. #66 The Noelie
    October 2, 2007

    This agnostic enjoyed that skit. Also, I hadn’t read John Wilkins blog before- I’ll have to check that out.

    Dammit, now see what you’ve done!

  67. #67 TSK
    October 2, 2007

    You simply don’t get it, PZ, do you ?
    I will tell you a secret:

    You aren’t requested to shut up. *REALLY*. As the Enlightement philosophers you can criticize religious beliefs as long and as exhaustively as you like.

    The whole point is: Criticize the idea, not the person behind it. And from this viewpoint you and your admirers did an exceedingly bad job…a total lack of awareness concerning social relations. You may not believe it, but it is actually possible to talk with people you don’t agree with without treating them like subhumans and calling them names. If they are obnoxious, ignore them.

    Oh yes, you have a circle of believers and relatives you are treating kindly. But Rowling did a good job when their
    hero Sirius uttered: “If you want to know what a man is like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals”.

    Why it is so important ?
    You are complaining that many people don’t understand so much science, right ? What do you think they are doing to judge atheists if they don’t follow their arguments ? I would think that they are looking how they behave and *not* how they wish to present themselves (especially praising themselves as “rationalist” or worse, “brights”). And like red amples, particularly bad examples of atheists stand out so that the majority of green lights (including agnostics and pantheists) is ignored. Thanks, pal.

    You raised the point that some people believe that advocacy of atheism may hurt scientific education and called it “very weird”. It isn’t weird, it is actually a very good question which you obviously haven’t understand yet.

    You and Dawkins are convinced that religious beliefs and science aka rationality are incompatible, right ? Lets imagine for a moment that atheists like you and Dawkins are ruling the universities. Isn’t it imaginable that *only atheists* and their beliefs are permitted because religious people are “impaired” or “mentally handicapped” with superstitious believes and therefore unable to do proper science ? Please explain me what exactly prevents you from throwing all religious students out (or more politely, allow them to stay, but taking their results not seriously)
    if you have the power to do this ?

    And as the education is based on scientific research it is quite likely that all schools are enforcing the atheist viewpoint concerning science. Is that a “very weird” question or quite a valid one ?

    In other countries it is not a problem at all. Religious beliefs are private there; focus your research on the question and let your private beliefs out. It seems that the belief “Situation in America == situation in the world” is rampant in the USA (and totally mistaken). In fact, I am seriously concerned with the widening gap and increasing hostility in your country between left and right. A divided land is never a good thing, especially if people in the middle like Kenneth Miller are grinded up. If you still don’t get it, perhaps other people may recognize that there is a problem with your approach and behaviour.

  68. #68 John Morales
    October 3, 2007

    TSK (#67):

    PZ has ominously anticipated your comment here.

  69. #69 TSK
    October 3, 2007

    Ahh, yes, thanks….but I will answer here because I don’t want to split my argumentation on several sides.

    In short: I don’t buy it.
    First of all, PZ carefully avoids the name of the “very good” religious scientists in question. I think he realizes that it is a dangerous path for him; if the scientist confirms one or several particular belief(s) that PZ ridicules the whole time, PZ is in very deep trouble.

    Second, as he mentioned himself, there are non-deity religions like Theravada Buddhism. So he can know a Buddhist and tell us that he considers him a very good scientist. He told the truth without needing to give up his position and people erronously assume that he meant *all* religious people can be good scientist. Another possible fuzziness is the use of “scientist”.

    Anyway, to avoid any ambiguity I can nail it down to:

    Can an ardent believer of the Roman Catholic Church be a very good physicist ? Can someone who willingly indulges in theological discussions be a very good scientist ?

    As any man who is confronted with the possibility of religious scientists which are difficult to imagine with his
    proposed incompatibility of religion and science, PZ may have an explanation. I think he believes: They don’t really mean it.

    According to his example of the girl student he is convinced that people are automatically softened up and converted to atheism if they delve deeper into science.
    He confirms it with:
    “I’m saying that people who go into science are going to be encouraged to wield Occam’s Razor freely…and the religious metaphysics are going to get slashed, no matter how careful you are.” PZ grudgingly admits that people are in fact able to hold mutually inconsistent beliefs, but he forget to explain that this ability severely weakens his assumption that science and religion are incompatible.

    I got the impression that PZ assumes that his “religious” scientist is in fact not *really* religious. The guy does it for pure custom, he call himself “Wicca”, “Hindu”, “Christ” or whatever, but…you really don’t believe this shit, do you ?

    And worse: “But people also prefer the low-strain tactic of avoiding inconsistencies, so remaining true to science is going to make it difficult to remain true to any but the most general of religions.”

    So the religions which are *not* most general (which are the vast majority, by the way) makes it impossible to remain true to science, right ? So when people cannot remain true to science, how can they be “very good scientists” ?

  70. #70 PZ Myers
    October 3, 2007

    Talk about not getting it…

    I am not at all reticent about naming them, but simply didn’t single anyone out because there are many of them. OK, though, here are the usual suspects: Francis Collins and Ken Miller. They’re good scientists, and I’ve said so before — but their religious beliefs are pure bunkum, and I’ve said that before.

    No, I don’t argue that “they don’t really mean it.” I trust that they are completely sincere.

    I am not “convinced that people are automatically softened up and converted to atheism” by science. I said something entirely different: it isn’t automatic at all, people can keep their faith and do good science, but that their will be unavoidable pressures against faith.

    I do not “grudgingly” admit that people are “able to hold mutually inconsistent beliefs.” I said it rather plainly and without reservation. Everyone holds beliefs that conflict with each other in some way.

    Here’s something else I freely admit: I can’t see how you can get everything so completely wrong without being an idiot. You might as well go away now, ’cause I won’t be bothering to reply to any further delusions by TSK.

  71. #71 Blake Stacey
    October 3, 2007

    PZ Myers:

    I do not “grudgingly” admit that people are “able to hold mutually inconsistent beliefs.” I said it rather plainly and without reservation. Everyone holds beliefs that conflict with each other in some way.

    Seems like I remember hearin’ some talk about bein’ large ‘n containin’ multitudes. . . .

  72. #72 TSK
    October 3, 2007

    PZ….
    Please remember that your article may be read by other eyes and other minds and you cannot hold people responsible if they take it differently as you intended. It is not possible for me to read your mind; I must base my conclusions on what you have written or stated. You cannot read my mind either; my answer was based on that what I thought of your position after reading your sermon skit.

    You may say that your intention is always clear, crisp and
    obvious. Hard to counter, so:
    Why are you so concerned then that other people don’t recognize my text as *completely wrong* that you corrected what you see as severe misrepresentation of your position ? If I wrote: You are five metres tall ! nobody bothers about that. Can you acknowledge that I may come to other conclusions than you intended and it may be not a product of malice or delusion ?

  73. #73 TSK
    October 3, 2007

    Addendum (sorry):
    If I am understanding PZ completely wrong, then I am surprised why I see so much footsteps in the same direction.
    Wilkins,
    Ed Brayton (“Clarifying the Moran Debate”)
    and last but not least Red State Rabble.
    PZ’s answer especially in the last case was very instructive (a deja vu):

    http://redstaterabble.blogspot.com/2006/11/darwinian-fundamentalism-infantile.html

  74. #74 John S. Wilkins
    October 3, 2007

    Well, Wilkins can be explained in terms of wishywashy Chamberlainism. But PZ might want to say this is just an argumentum ad vericundiam – 20 million philosophers can be wrong.

    The same is, of course, never true of biologists…

  75. #75 John Morales
    October 3, 2007

    TSK, you might wish to consider that PZ has an extensive corpus of posts, and has covered a lot of territory. You can’t expect to read one post and make an opinion on his overall stance. Most if not all of the content of your comment has been addressed before.

    Further, I suspect PZ’s blogospheric persona is not that of either his quotidian or professional life.

  76. #76 PZ Myers
    October 3, 2007

    I hope you’re not replying to this ass, TSK, John…I’m about to ban him. If he claims to read my mind one more time, as in his claim that I “may say that your intention is always clear, crisp and obvious”, and get it 180° wrong again, he’s flying out of here. I can’t stand soothsayers. Especially pretentious ones.

  77. #77 John Morales
    October 3, 2007

    PZ, I hear you.

  78. #78 John S. Wilkins
    October 4, 2007

    It seems that the framing of this debate has become ossified, almost fossilised, so that neither side can hear the other properly. Such are the vagaries of rhetoric, I suppose.

    Are there soothsayers who don’t pretend, by the way?

  79. #79 PZ Myers
    October 4, 2007

    Are there soothsayers who don’t pretend, by the way?

    Probably not. But if there were, they’d be welcome here, even if they were obnoxious, as long as they also gave me stock tips and lottery numbers.

    Are you possibly being less than agnostic about the possibility of functional soothsayers? Tsk, tsk.

  80. #80 John S. Wilkins
    October 4, 2007

    As you, who complain that people do not get your nuanced view, will understand, having no doubt read my comments over the years, I do not say one has to be agnostic about all claims to be agnostic about some.

  81. #81 PZ Myers
    October 4, 2007

    And you, having read my comments over years, should be able to recognize snark by now.

  82. #82 John S. Wilkins
    October 4, 2007

    But the lurkers! Think of the lurkers! Won’t anybody think of the lurkers?!

  83. #83 PZ Myers
    October 4, 2007

    I am thinking of the lurkers — they all support me. They said so in email.

  84. #84 PZ Myers
    October 4, 2007

    I’ve got a list, too.

  85. #85 John S. Wilkins
    October 5, 2007

    Let me guess: Australians of all kinds?

  86. #86 Alan Kellogg
    October 5, 2007

    Paul, I see we’re going to have to go back to the namebrand medications; the generics just aren’t working.

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