Pharyngula

That recent atheists-hate-ken-miller piece had more words from Jerry Coyne than from me — and his situation was just like mine, saying mostly laudatory things about Miller, only to have our criticisms used to paint a false picture of the beleaguered Dr Miller.

The story did Miller no favors, either. His ludicrous argument about amputees is going to get wide circulation every time we feel in the mood to deflate theistic evolutionists.

Which is all the freakin’ time.

Comments

  1. #1 Caine
    March 5, 2010

    His ludicrous argument about amputees is going to get wide circulation every time we feel in the mood to deflate theistic evolutionists.

    It certainly will from me. My jaw almost dropped off, reading that nonsense. The desperation to get god in there, somewhere, anywhere, is palpable. It doesn’t seem to matter that it simply keeps reducing a god to an ineffectual wave of warm fuzziness “out there” somewhere.

  2. #2 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    March 5, 2010

    windsurfer4494

    What the hell does that have to do with this post?

  3. #3 Caine
    March 5, 2010

    Rev. BDC, it has nothing to do with it – windsurfer4494 landed in my killfile because that’s all they’ve done lately, post vids in thread.

  4. #4 Andyo
    March 5, 2010

    Has Miller said anything about this yet?

    Also, you can embed youtube videos now?

  5. #5 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    March 5, 2010

    you can, but the bigbossman I think mentioned he’d prefer it didn’t happen a lot.

    Slows the loading of threads.

  6. #6 Andyo
    March 5, 2010

    That’s what I was thinking, I thought it was disabled somehow. Not like I was planning on doing it.

  7. #7 'Tis Himself, OM
    March 5, 2010

    That poem, in an embedded YouTube video, has nothing to do with this thread.

    Comment by windsurfer4944 blocked. [unkill] ?[show comment]

  8. #8 CJO
    March 5, 2010

    Stay the fuck away then, moron. Don’t peddle your stupid spam.

    I swear, every two-bit narcissist with an internet connection…

  9. #9 ceestar42
    March 5, 2010

    *shoos away the video-poster*

    flutter your vids at someone who cares

  10. #10 JackC
    March 5, 2010

    You just might learn something.

    Well – I WAS going to watch it – now, no way.

    JC

  11. #11 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    March 5, 2010

    Considering that 99% of what I read here is total bullshit,

    Compared to 100% of what you post? Get real.

  12. #12 PZ Myers
    March 5, 2010

    If that’s the way you feel about it, then YOU SHOULDN”T BE READING HERE.

    Unless you’re one of the team of slaves I’ve got shackled down in the basement, constantly reloading and clicking on the page to get my hit counts up. You know you aren’t supposed to be commenting — just click and load, click and load, click and load, or no gruel for you tonight.

  13. #13 MAJeff, OM
    March 5, 2010

    That recent atheists-hate-ken-miller piece had more words from Jerry Coyne than from me ? and his situation was just like mine, saying mostly laudatory things about Miller, only to have our criticisms used to paint a false picture of the beleaguered Dr Miller.

    The narrative has been established. The preponderance of stories from this point forward will follow exactly this trajectory.

    Our J-school grads tend not to be our: 1) brightest; 2) most inquisitive; 3) most creative; or 4) best writers (which is the saddest for them, since that’s what they always see themeselves as being).

    Once a particular story has been established as “the way things are” it is damn near impossible to dislodge. Ken Miller is–now and forever–the poor put-upon soul, assaulted by know-nothing fundies and arrogant atheists. Whatever PZ or Jerry Coyne or Richard Dawkins or anyone says from this point forward will be fit into exactly this narrative.

    Journalism really does tend to be an incurious and conservative profession.

  14. #14 MAJeff, OM
    March 5, 2010

    How about a replacement squid porn video?

  15. #15 Ichthyic
    March 5, 2010

    What would I do without you, Paul?

    obviously, you would simply be an asshat on someone else’s blog.

  16. #16 heliobates
    March 5, 2010

    His ludicrous argument about amputees is going to get wide circulation every time we feel in the mood to deflate theistic evolutionists.

    Behold God, the clever devil.

    Put ‘em on a lean reinforcement schedule and you’ve got them for life.

  17. #17 Brian
    March 5, 2010

    Scienceblogs.com should have code such that any embedded youtube videos in the comments are automatically replaced with

    NARWHAL NARWHAL SWIMMING IN THE OCEAN

  18. #18 PZ Myers
    March 5, 2010

    Bad, bad move, windsurferXXXX. That’s a declaration that you’re just spamming, and the fact that now that some people have mentioned that they’re killfiling you, you’ve changed usernames and registration, tells me that you’re going to have to go bye-bye.

    Spamming pisses me off.

    Stupid spamming means I feel no guilt at all at throwing you out.

  19. #19 AJ Milne
    March 5, 2010

    Once a particular story has been established as “the way things are” it is damn near impossible to dislodge. Ken Miller is–now and forever–the poor put-upon soul, assaulted by know-nothing fundies and arrogant atheists. Whatever PZ or Jerry Coyne or Richard Dawkins or anyone says from this point forward will be fit into exactly this narrative.

    While emphasizing the way momentum seems to propel these themes, I’d state it a bit less strongly even than ‘damn near impossible’, actually, tho’.

    In elections, every PR department gets the notion of momentum–last thing you want is for the opposition to define your guy before you do–once the press and the public get and idea in their head, it’s twice as hard to dislodge it, is the notion…

    But you can break it. Fight back with a consistent enough message that contradicts it, or just makes it a dead letter, get everything working together, it can be done.

    I’d add that victimhood of the nature Miller now basks in is especially volatile. People are quick to feel sympathy for such put-upon dears, but they tire of it, quickly enough, as well.

  20. #20 PZ Myers
    March 5, 2010

    Oh, it’s what’s-his-name, Wagner. Already banned. Just cleaning up his mess now.

    This registration requirement makes it so easy to get rid of pests like that — two clicks, all of his spam vanishes!

  21. #21 aratina cage of the OM
    March 5, 2010

    Oh, it’s what’s-his-name, Wagner. Already banned.

    No wonder. Good riddance.

  22. #22 Caine
    March 5, 2010

    Oh, it’s what’s-his-name, Wagner. Already banned. Just cleaning up his mess now.

    Thank you. Vids in thread are a major pain when you’re stuck on dial-up, like I am.

  23. #23 sandraw1859
    March 5, 2010

    I registered just to be able to share this. As soon as I saw those nutty posts by windsurfer I decided to investigate this killfile thing. So I googled this: Killfile Mozilla and had it installed and working within 3 minutes! I love it I love it!!!

    As for Kenneth Miller – I’m glad he’s around because the only book discrediting Intelligent Design that you can get an evangelical to read is his “Finding Darwin’s God.”

  24. #24 MAJeff, OM
    March 5, 2010

    While emphasizing the way momentum seems to propel these themes, I’d state it a bit less strongly even than ‘damn near impossible’, actually, tho’.

    Momentum may matter, but the institutional momentum of American media and politics would seem to indicate–to me at least–that we’ve got a hell of a long way to go before mainstream news media will treat atheists generally, and “new atheists” specifically, with anything approaching respectability or legitimacy. It’s going to take a lot of momentum, and despite the growing size of the “unchurched” the religious have a tremendous amount of institutionalized cultural power. That whole “belief in belief” thing that Dennett talks about, as well as the American “pragmatic” obsession with the middle somehow, by definition, occupying the “true” position.

    But you can break it. Fight back with a consistent enough message that contradicts it, or just makes it a dead letter, get everything working together, it can be done.

    Yes, it can be broken. But, no, message isn’t enough. It takes institutional change. It takes a change in the way journalists think about issues, about getting them away from the established narrative. With the underlying “belief in belief” that so many Americans have….

    ….I’m just not optimistic.

    It’s weird. My primary focus is on mass media, social movements, and sexual politics. I’m currently writing about changing news representations of gay and lesbian folks, and how the institutional inertia–the integration of lesbian and gay people into standard narrative forms as normal citizens and neighbors instead of deviant predators and outcasts–is pretty much guaranteeing LGBT “victory” in the news media. We own the stories, and our narratives of gay and lesbian life are absolutely destroying any that might be offered by the Catholic or Evangelical or Mormon bigots. They may be able to point to effective advertisements, but in most of the country gay people parenting children is sort of taken for granted in the reporting of news. Children living in such homes are reported matter-of-factly not sensationally (again, in general). So, I see how representations change over time. I get how the story can change. But, it took decades for us to get to this point with LGBT representations. Although there may be better stories about atheists coming out–we’re no longer the absolute equivalent of the pedophile hanging out in the bushes to steal children–the underlying ideology facing atheists may be stronger than that facing gay folks. After all, the explicit anti-gay legal architecture we take for granted was largely constructed over the past 150 years. There’s something more solid about the “belief in belief” and desire to see Christians, of whatever stripe, as persecuted.

  25. #25 jenbphillips
    March 5, 2010

    This has to be one of the silliest lines in the whole Scharfenberg piece:

    A flush-faced Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, shook his finger at Miller during a tense panel discussion at New York University a few years ago.

    ROFL! No context, no mention of what they were actually discussing, just *gasp* a red-faced ATHEIST finger-waggler gettin’ all up in Ken’s grill. Great writing, David.

  26. #26 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    March 5, 2010

    Oh, it’s what’s-his-name, Wagner.

    *makes sign of crossed tentacles*

  27. #27 amphiox
    March 5, 2010

    The story did Miller no favors, either.

    Ah. I see. Equal opportunity media fail!

    And a ghost cameo by Senor Wagner, too? I suppose a comment on his supposedly mensa-rated brain is more appropriate to that GIGO thread a while back.

  28. #28 'Tis Himself, OM
    March 5, 2010

    A flush-faced Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, shook his finger at Miller

    I’m reminded of a silly, rude joke I learned in Catholic grammar school. The punch line was: “When you get to Heaven St. Finger will shake his peter at you.”

  29. #29 MadScientist
    March 5, 2010

    I love the amputee thing:

    “Of course god wouldn’t give an amputee new limbs – if he did that, then everyone will expect something when they pray, and you know god is so stupid he’ll also grant immoral wishes so all of morality will go down the shit tubes.”

    So Miller conveniently ignores (1) people really do pray for gifts rather than exclusively praying to thank their deity for all the misery in their life and (2) no god is a basis for morality. I’d also like to know how Miller comes across his great knowledge of this god – Miller knows that his god doesn’t grant miracles and he knows why – how did he know why? Now if I were god I’d have a clutch of octopuses run up on land and rape Miller just to let him know that he doesn’t know what I’m thinking.

  30. #30 Andyo
    March 5, 2010

    First time I heard (and saw a picture) of Dawkins was years ago in some news article, with him referred to as “Darwin’s pitbull” (or is he the rottweiler?), and I’m pretty sure the kerfuffle with Miller was mentioned, and the only thing I can remember (I wasn’t even aware I was an “atheist” then) is the image I had that this mean guy was flinging insults left and right, and getting all excited and angry. Imagine that.

    The picture shown had him in a pretty bad very close angle with a wide lens, similar to what you see from paparazzi taking pics of celebrities in their face, or photogs snapping away outside courthouses when suspects or criminals come out.

  31. #31 AJ Milne
    March 5, 2010

    Re #24:

    Broadly speaking, my feeling is you’re a bit more pessimistic than the actual situation warrants.

    First, the hatred of gays and the hatred of atheists are different hatreds. They have many similarities, yes, and absolutely the experience of the LGBT community achieving a level of respect and visibility in the mass media is likely to be informative, but I don’t think you can assume the progression is likely to be entirely the same.

    A major point of difference that occurs to me is that at various quite recent points in the history of European civilization and its offshoots, there were vocal, published atheists and agnostics, and they achieved a level of intellectual respect, even as self-styled holy men fulminated against them from their pulpits. Ingersoll did not have to pretend he was other than what he was to evade arrest in his day, as one prominent example, tho’ it did make his openings to higher political office more constrained.

    A gay in so public a position–and speaking so publicly and prominently about their sexual mores, in contrast, in that same era, would, I expect, have been unthinkable, in contrast. It wouldn’t be a question of ‘Can you run for Congress?’ It would have been: ‘Jail or the mental hospital?’

    There’s one major difference: there has been a strong vein of at least grudging respect for unbelievers in intellectual culture for decades. My sense is: it’s still very much alive, even in the most religion-mad nations of the west. I was an out atheist in a (small, community) newsroom 20 years ago. I could afford to be. I suspect, however, had I been gay, the real dangers being open about it would have engendered would have been much worse.

    The other differences are more complicated. At best I can only offer my sense of this. But my sense, for what it’s worth, is: religion has always been able to use outsiders of various persuasions as scapegoats–gays among them. But gays aren’t actually a direct challenge to religion. It can evolve around them more easily.

    Atheists are another matter, there. So it’s psychologically–and, more importantly, for this discussion, politically–a very different situation.

    And I think the press can be made more easily to understand this. The press likes fights. And when they begin to see us as a real bloc in society, with real spokespeople, and they begin to feel some obligation to deal with us as such, the dynamic is different, than it was and is with gays. They hear priest X fulminating against atheism, and you can get the press more easily thinking: ‘Well, of course you’d say that… These people, especially, are your mortal enemies. If they win, you’re out of a job.’

    On other aspects, I think you’re right about a lot, for a lot of reasons, and you’re probably right the press and popular culture are going to have to endure a long, long series of kicks in the butt on it for anyone to dislodge this unthinking notion that ‘belief in belief’ is somehow without question a good thing, but again, what I’d emphasize is: this isn’t impossible. And that institutional change you’re talking about, where that gets shifted, is starting now. I know a lot of people credit the September 11 attacks with the spate of books critical of superstitious humbuggery from Dawkins and Hitch and Dennet et al making the bestsellers lists, but I think that, too, isn’t quite right either. It’s a more complex thing about context, and, unsurprisingly, the shifting ground in mass communications media. Atheists simply being less isolated with the existence of the internet, I think, that’s probably a larger and more important cause. The institutions that had managed to suppress and shame anyone even thinking that way from communicating don’t seem to have figured out yet to shut that down as effectively as they did before its existence. It’s a huge window of opportunity we don’t want to miss.

    … anyway. That rambled. But one more point: if you want institutional change like that, in part, you are going to have to fight for it on the battlefield we have right now. And like I said: I think Miller’s game is vulnerable, even given the institutions just as they are today. Hit him right, you’ll leave a mark, and leave a message: that kind of bullshit gets called out, now, and everyone had better get used to it.

  32. #32 AJ Milne
    March 5, 2010

    (/Erratum for precision: I was in the newsroom more like 16 years ago, I guess… But y’know… Close to 20, anyway.)

  33. #33 jetjaguar
    March 5, 2010

    “Suppose that it was common knowledge that if you were a righteous person and of great faith and prayed deeply, all of a sudden, your limb would grow back,” he says. “That would reduce God to a kind of supranatural force . . . and by pushing the button labeled ‘prayer,’ you could accomplish anything you wanted. What would that do to moral independence?”

    Yeah, five year old that just had your legs blown off by a landmine, quit praying to the all powerful, all loving God, because if he were to give you your legs back, what would that do to your moral independence? You’re so damn selfish, five year old that just had your legs blown off…

  34. #34 bad Jim
    March 6, 2010

    As bad as it is that the reporter left out the nice things Myers and Coyne had to say about Miller, it’s a good sign that he knew whom to call, and at this point New Improved Atheism probably benefits from the attention.

    It’s too bad that the press likes the stereotype of the angry atheist, but what the hell, it might make it more attractive to adolescents.

  35. #35 Tronzu
    March 6, 2010

    “Once a particular story has been established as “the way things are” it is damn near impossible to dislodge. Ken Miller is–now and forever–the poor put-upon soul, assaulted by know-nothing fundies and arrogant atheists. Whatever PZ or Jerry Coyne or Richard Dawkins or anyone says from this point forward will be fit into exactly this narrative.”

    Wow, this is the smartest thing I have read in a while.

    BTW

    Can someone tell me hot to quote on this comment section?

  36. #36 black-wolf72
    March 6, 2010

    Tronzu, to quote use the standard html blockquote command in <> . There’s no quote button.

  37. #37 cwmagee
    March 6, 2010

    Is this worth worrying about, or is it a tempest in a teapot:
    http://lablemminglounge.blogspot.com/2010/03/will-new-australian-national-science.html

  38. #38 DLC
    March 6, 2010

    Is Ken Miller’s blather about quantum god better than my “God could fix amputees, he’s just an uncaring bastard who wants you to suffer.” ?

  39. #39 Q.E.D
    March 6, 2010

    “Suppose that it was common knowledge that if you were a righteous person and of great faith and prayed deeply, all of a sudden, your limb would grow back,” he says. “That would reduce God to a kind of supranatural force . . . and by pushing the button labeled ‘prayer,’ you could accomplish anything you wanted. What would that do to moral independence?” – Ken Miller

    We can fix both the journalism framing issue and Ken Miller’s idiot argument with one meme. Any discussion of Ken Miller henceforth should include the following:

    “you know, Ken Miller says god needs children and veteran amputees so we can be moral”

  40. #40 'Tis Himself, OM
    March 6, 2010

    Is Ken Miller’s blather about quantum god better than my “God could fix amputees, he’s just an uncaring bastard who wants you to suffer.” ?

    The Abrahamic god is a petulant, capricious, sadistic bully with the emotional maturity of a spoiled five year old. I’ve never understood the prattle about a “benevolent, loving god” when all the evidence points elsewhere.

  41. #41 Aquaria
    March 6, 2010

    I think at some point, PZ et al., you’re going to have to tell reporters that you need their exact name (spelling, too) and then say you’ll call them back. This is your chance to Google the bastards.

    Reply or not, it’s up to you. Now if I were the one dealing with the reporters, I’d bet that maybe 1 in 50 of the maggots is worth talking to. The rest, i’d call back and tell them I wasn’t impressed with their body of work, so fuck off.

    But that’s me.

  42. #42 colluvial
    March 6, 2010

    It’s a grand old tradition that religionists try to divide the world into “good” and “evil”. The basis of most popular stories is the supposed conflict between the two. No surprise that a mercenary journalist would censor your praise for Miller, PZ, on his way to writing a more readable story fairy tale. Good tip by Aquaria to check reporters’ references before talking to them. Makes for less effort in damage control afterwards.

  43. #43 Creature of the Universe
    March 6, 2010

    Miller says “that quantum indeterminacy ? the ultimately unpredictable outcome of physical events ? could allow God to intervene in subtle, undetectable ways”

    By Miller allowing for the possibility of a “god” to intervene….isn’t this the type of thinking that will eventually pervert a pure scientific investigation of physical events?

    And if Miller needs a placeholder for a god to intervene, why doesn’t he specify which god is most likely to intervene? (I must assume he is referring to his own peculiar god.)

  44. #44 Diane G.
    March 6, 2010

    Can someone explain to me Miller’s choice of “supranatural” in that silly amputee justification? Are there gradations of “supernatural?”

  45. #45 Sastra
    March 6, 2010

    Diane G. #44 wrote:

    Can someone explain to me Miller’s choice of “supranatural” in that silly amputee justification? Are there gradations of “supernatural?”

    Good catch. I thought that was a typo, but it seems that it means “beyond what is natural; supernatural.” Coined in 1855, apparently.

    I’d say that it’s a distinction without a difference, only I suspect that Miller deliberately used the less common word to distance himself from those silly people who believe in ghosts and magic. Those things are supernatural, and of course sophisticated people don’t believe in that stuff. God, on the other hand, is supra-natural. It’s beyond nature in a much more sophisticated way.

    I’d love to ask him the difference.

  46. #46 Diane G.
    March 6, 2010

    Ah, that makes sense, thanks. Will be interesting to see if this “distinction” gains traction.

    (It always seems to me that a huge proportion of most apologetics consists of an effort to hopelessly confuse its audience by using arcane lingo…with nebulous definitions…)