Re: [asa] The Science = Atheism Meme

From: PvM <>
Date: Thu Jul 31 2008 - 14:04:11 EDT

I agree that Myers actions may reinforce the ignorance and
misconceptions of some, however, there is little that Myers could do
to reach those people, something he is quite aware of himself. What he
however is interested in is getting people to think critically about a
variety of issues and while science is one closest to his direct
profession, he is also a well known atheist and his blog attracts
millions of readers who have come to appreciate both his fine
scientific postings as well as his position on religion and atheism.

Personally, I believe that the incident which started it all was
incredibly blown out of proportions: trying to destroy the educational
career of a student for 'desecrating the host'. While the Catholic
church has had a sordid history with the host in the dark ages, one
would hope that in the age of enlightenment, they can find Christian
forgiveness rather than vengeance.

---""For a student to disrupt Mass by taking the Body of Christ
hostageóregardless of the alleged nature of his grievanceóis beyond
hate speech. That is why the UCF administration needs to act swiftly
and decisively in seeing that justice is done. All options should be
on the table, including expulsion.""---

Once, Myers got involved, things did not get much better. Although he
points out that to non believers the host is but a cracker, it
represents to catholics the true body of Christ. So far, calling the
host a cracker seems rather juvenile and yet it brings home an
important message namely that to those who do not accept the
miraculous nature of the consecrated host, it is indeed 'just a
cracker'. Myers next action to pierce a host and combine it with a
selection of pages torn out of the Koran and the God Delusion is an
interesting statement in response of the Catholic League's president
Donahue suggesting that Myers would surely not do anything similar to
other religions. ("The biology professor made it clear that he would
never disrespect Islam the way he does Catholicism.") and shows a
surprising ending to the whole incident where Myers gets the last word

-- By the way, I didn't want to single out just the cracker, so I
nailed it to a few ripped-out pages from the Qur'an and The God
Delusion. They are just paper. Nothing must be held sacred. Question
everything. God is not great, Jesus is not your lord, you are not
disciples of any charismatic prophet. You are all human beings who
must make your way through your life by thinking and learning, and you
have the job of advancing humanity's knowledge by winnowing out the
errors of past generations and finding deeper understanding of
reality. You will not find wisdom in rituals and sacraments and dogma,
which build only self-satisfied ignorance, but you can find truth by
looking at your world with fresh eyes and a questioning mind. --

Nothing but fuel to a fire that should have never been allowed in the
first place. And yet, email threats kept pooring in, the threads on
the Pharyngula site kept reaching many hundreds of comments and more
and more catholic organizations seemed to chime in. In fact it seems
that some see this as somehow promulgating the science=atheism meme,
and while of course those who hold such a position are seldomly open
to logic and rational arguments, the meme that seems strongest here is
one of "hold nothing sacred, question everything".

Do I approve of Myers' actions: Not really, although their ending was
somewhat unexpected, it was a silly stunt in response to a foolish
response by a Catholic church to prosecute a student for desecrating
the host by not immediately eating it.

Personally speaking, I also find the tearing out pages from books also
quite disturbing, partially because I hold books 'sacred'. When Myers
tore out the first page of Genesis from a brand new Bible, it pained
me, not so much because it was a Bible but because it was a book and I
see books as a valuable contributor of knowledge and entertainment.
That's a personal 'flaw' of mine I guess.

So, to return to the topic. Myers' Pharyngula is and has always been a
mix of science and atheism, politics etc. This is just what makes his
site so popular.

On Wed, Jul 30, 2008 at 3:51 PM, Stephen Matheson <> wrote:
> Mike is quite correct, and actually I think his point is painfully obvious.
> PZ Myers is a phenomenal science writer, and very recently has become a
> widely-known scientist. His atheism isn't particularly relevant or
> interesting, but his juxtaposition of religion (in this case, aggressive
> atheism and anti-religious crusading) with pure science should be expected
> to reinforce misconceptions and prejudices, and his prominence just means
> that his voice is much louder than others. The "desecration" would be
> notable on any widely-read blog; that it is featured on a "science blog" at
> a site called "ScienceBlogs" is precisely the outrage that Mike Gene says it
> is.
> Here are a few things to add to the discussion that might bring the context
> into clearer focus.
> 1. Myers is frequently identified as an "evolutionary biologist." This is,
> IMO, misleading. Myers *was* a developmental biologist a decade and more
> ago. He no longer contributes to the scientific literature (try PubMed),
> hasn't had a serious publication in 15 years, and hasn't had an NIH grant
> since his first one at Temple. When he was an active research biologist,
> his work did not touch on evolutionary biology, beyond its relevance to
> basic developmental mechanisms in the nervous system. The point is not that
> Myers isn't a "real scientist" or that he's stupid or wrong about evolution.
> The point is that his scientific stature is entirely the result of his
> successful blog, which is entirely the result of his intelligence, wit, and
> wordcraft. His scientific accomplishments, as judged by his publication
> record, are negligible.
> 2. Pharyngula is a science blog, but it's a science blog that consists of
> at least 66.7% non-science, and that material is political and religious in
> nature, and mostly negative. Myers is quite open about this, and I don't
> suggest that it means that his scientific voice is therefore biased or
> compromised. But I suspect, and others have claimed, that his readership is
> largely attracted by the non-scientific material. Larry Moran at Sandwalk
> ( has lamented the difference in response between
> posts on science and posts on politics/religion on his own blog. I don't
> have numbers, and I doubt anyone else does, but we might be overestimating
> the impact that Pharyngula exerts on scientifically-minded readers and/or on
> people looking for scientific writing.
> 3. ScienceBlogs is ridiculously overloaded with atheists and with blogs
> that deal as much or more with skepticism or religion-bashing as they do
> with science. I don't know whether this is obvious to many or most visitors
> to the blogs there, but it is probably the most notable characteristic of
> the site.
> The point of all this is that we shouldn't overstate the influence of PZ
> Myers on the scientific community, and maybe we should give people in
> general more credit for being able to recognize Pharyngula as something
> other than a "science blog." And I think it's fair to point out that Myers
> is not a prominent or accomplished scientist.
> For those who would like to read more about my position on Myers'
> desecration stunt, check out my blog at
> Steve Matheson
>>>> "Nucacids" <> 07/30/08 3:40 PM >>>
> Hi PvM,
> "PZ Myers is not my friend at best he is a fellow poster at Pandasthumb
> and I have no problems criticizing him for his actions.However this is not
> really about me
> and PZ but rather about your 'argument' about
> PZ."
> Indeed. Yet your replies have not addressed this point and instead have
> sought to change the topic and make it about catholics or the ID movement.
> But thank you for providing that link to the "Confraternity of Catholic
> Clergy," as it supports my point - note that they are associating this act
> with biologists *thanks to Myers.* Word association can go a long way in
> the world of public perception, as you know.
> "I understand that for some, such a distinction is hard to make especially
> when the 'arguments' fail at a basic level of logic."
> It's not about logic; it's about public perception. Myers' publicity stunt
> has helped to support the public perception that science = atheism. It is a
> historical fact, after all, that the #1 Science blog publicly desecrated a
> Eucharist wafer to much fanfare and very little criticism from other
> "pro-science blogs." .
> "I assume that you are not really familiar with the emails received by
> PZ and the actions by so called Catholic organizations such as
> Donahue's."
> Yes, I am familiar with all the haze created by allegations, accusations,
> and posturing that dominate the murky world of the blogosphere. For example,
> I recall that Myers noted that a dozen or so nasty "catholics" turned out to
> be *one person* with lots of socks. But you made a specific, real world
> claim - "Thanks to Myers, we now know that thousands of catholics seem to
> have forgotten that their religious faith is one of forgiveness not one of
> vengeance."
> Internet haze is no substitute for evidence. Where is the evidence that
> "thousands of catholics" have been practicing "vengeance?" I see no data to
> support the numerical claim and I see no effort to define "vengeance" to
> distinguish it from other motivations nor any effort to determine the most
> common response. Like I said, it looks like you are just trying to join in
> with Myers' theater to smear Catholics with more spin.
> Besides, when it comes to forgiveness, has Myers apologized?
> "PS: Do I agree with PZ's actions? While I support him exposing the
> hypocrisy and foolishness of some when it comes to persecuting people
> for violation of faith based concepts, I also believe that ripping
> pages out of bibles and korans and piercing consecrated hosts, while
> certainly a valid form of expression, serves little purpose other than
> to incite more foolishness."
> But that is what the #1 Science blog did. THAT is the issue I raised.
> Instead of trying to bury this historical fact with complaints and smears
> against catholics, or raising irrelevant anti-ID movement talking points,
> why not simply address this fact head-on?
> Do you think this stunt was more likely to dispel or to add to the
> science=atheism confusion? It's a simple question
> Fourth posting - last for the day.
> - Mike
> To unsubscribe, send a message to with
> "unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message.

To unsubscribe, send a message to with
"unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message.
Received on Thu Jul 31 14:04:21 2008

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Thu Jul 31 2008 - 14:04:29 EDT