On PZ, Don Imus Atheism, and "Atheistblogs.com"?


Myers with Richard Dawkins: Does his atheist punditry damage the scienceblogs.com brand?

Call me agnostic on the controversy that has erupted over the Catholic wafer incident in Florida. On the one hand I see the outcry from conservative groups as opportunistic and ridiculous. The reported death threats are outrageous, should be condemned by all parties, and prosecuted to the full extent of the law. The calls for expelling the student or the firing of PZ Myers are equally ridiculous.

Yet I also recognize that the Communion wafer has deep symbolic importance to the Catholic community and in that context many of the sharp emotional protests are not surprising.

As for the reaction to blogger PZ Myers commentary, it's another example of the unintended consequences of his preferred brand of Don Imus atheism. Even fellow atheists and free speech advocates are troubled. Here's what Andrew Sullivan has to say:

It is one thing to engage in free, if disrespectful, debate. It is another to repeatedly assault and ridicule and abuse something that is deeply sacred to a great many people. Calling the Holy Eucharist a "goddamned cracker" isn't about free speech; it's really about some baseline civility. Myers' rant is the rant of an anti-Catholic bigot. And atheists and agnostics can be bigots too.


What alarms me the most about the incident, however, is the major perceptual hit that the scienceblogs.com community and brand continues to take because of PZ's antics. The Seed sponsored blog portal is supposed to be a place that attracts new audiences to science, but in fact, it has turned into the Web's leading echo chamber of anti-religious rants and sophomoric discussions of atheism, what the physicist Chad Orzel refers to as the "screechy monkey" problem.

In a recent interview on the podcast Point of Inquiry, host DJ Grothe asked PZ if he worried that scienceblogs.com was becoming better known as "atheistblogs.com." It's a question that merits serious consideration, especially in light of recent events.


James Patterson on writing: Plotting, research, and first drafts

The best-selling author tells us his methods.

Videos
  • James Patterson has sold 300 million copies of his 130 books, making him one of the most successful authors alive today.
  • He talks about how some writers can overdo it by adding too much research, or worse, straying from their outline for too long.
  • James' latest book, The President is Missing, co-written with former President Bill Clinton, is out now.
Keep reading Show less

How to vaccinate the world’s most vulnerable? Build global partnerships.

Pfizer's partnerships strengthen their ability to deliver vaccines in developing countries.

Susan Silbermann, Global President of Pfizer Vaccines, looks on as a health care worker administers a vaccine in Rwanda. Photo: Courtesy of Pfizer.
Sponsored
  • Community healthcare workers face many challenges in their work, including often traveling far distances to see their clients
  • Pfizer is helping to drive the UN's sustainable development goals through partnerships.
  • Pfizer partnered with AMP and the World Health Organization to develop a training program for healthcare workers.
Keep reading Show less

Why the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner won’t feature a comedian in 2019

It's the first time the association hasn't hired a comedian in 16 years.

(Photo by Anna Webber/Getty Images for Vulture Festival)
Culture & Religion
  • The 2018 WHCA ended in controversy after comedian Michelle Wolf made jokes some considered to be offensive.
  • The WHCA apologized for Wolf's jokes, though some journalists and many comedians backed the comedian and decried arguments in favor of limiting the types of speech permitted at the event.
  • Ron Chernow, who penned a bestselling biography of Alexander Hamilton, will speak at next year's dinner.
Keep reading Show less