Is it okay for a National Geographic blogger to call religious people “batshit insane”?

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  • Spencer

    I would rather overtly stated views with colorful language than unscientific, subversive, covert or often willfully deceptive statements where the speakers agendas are hidden.  I dont think a bit of color is really the issue here is it? 

    • http://societymatters.org Alan Mairson

      Then try this Spencer: Give me an example of rhetoric that crosses the line — for you? What would be too offensive? 

  • Spencer

    I would add one other small point. You are being a little precious. Religious groups of all denominations have been calling thinkers like PZ Myers and other atheists who refuse to believe in their particular god in far worse things and for that matter doing far worst things in the name of their particular deity.  Sticks and stones indeed.  If God exists and really had an issue i am sure he canl take it up with PZ myers personally…

    • http://societymatters.org Alan Mairson

      Spencer – Thanks for your comments, but I don’t think we have only 2 choices — either PZ Myers’ “bathshit insane” OR burn the heretics at the stake. I’m confident there is ground in the middle.

      Plenty of people believe what Dr. Myers believes. But he must have realized that by being a provocateur, he could draw a bigger crowd than if he argued his position in more measured language. 

      Calling people nasty names might pump up his page views — and, therefore, the value of ScienceBlogs as an advertising platform — but it does little to promote respect, understanding, and peace.

  • Sig2noise

    Alan, you can’t be for free speech in China in one post and against it on NG’s  in another.  I find you are being very inconsistent on the issue of free speech. Either you are for it or against it. Nevermind that I mostly agree with the blogger’s comments I think he is entitled to his opinion and should not be censored just because it offends.

    • http://societymatters.org Alan Mairson

      Sig2noise – You bring up a great point. I firmly believe that PZ Myers has the right to say whatever he pleases, in whatever way he pleases, about people of faith. But I don’t believe National Geographic has any obligation to serve as his host, especially if he insists on being gratuitously insulting. 

      Put another way: If you invited me to dinner at your house, and I called your family and friends “idiots” and “batshit insane,” do you have any obligation to invite me over again? Of course not. 

      In China, people are put under house arrest, or worse, for speaking out against the government; for championing human rights; for worshipping according to their conscience. Here, PZ Myers won’t be locked up for his rants about religion — and thank God for that. But he should perform his show for a community where his confrontational & profane style is the norm. National Geographic is not that place… but what interests me is whether or not the Society is gradually becoming that sort of place. 

      Which is why I pose the questions I do to John Fahey: By acquiring ScienceBlogs, and a crowd grabber like PZ Myers, are you telling us something about the type of Society you’re trying to create? I think that’s a question that deserves an answer. 

      Thanks for your thoughtful & very civil question — and for stopping by.  

      • Sig2noise

         I think it’s a little bit disingenuous to acquire a forum (Science Blogs) where participants were able to voice their opinion freely and to then try to impose a new set of NG standards on those participants. Wasn’t Science Blogs already having this type of problems before…If I was a scientist writing there I would starting packing my bags .

        BTW I’ve been following your blog since you left NG. I usually find it both informative and on target  but this is one case where I disagree with you. It would be a different story if these were NG explorers in residence or funded scientists. But this is a community that NG flat out bought. Let’s not add insult to injury by censoring them.

        A good anology would be if CNN acquired your blog and when you badgered Fahey one too many times they told you to stop criticizing NG because you are making them look bad. I think you would start looking for a new place to blog.

        • http://societymatters.org Alan Mairson

          I’m not familiar with the roster of writers at ScienceBlogs, but I doubt most of them will have any problems dealing with NG editorial standards. So I can’t imagine there will be a mass exodus. @pzmyers:twitter is a special case, of course — both for his rhetorical style and the size of his readership. I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t eventually pack his bags.  

          Re: censorship – as I think I’ve said, I have no desire to muzzle PZ. But I question the wisdom of buying a blog network that’s anchored by a guy whose main trick is calling people of faith “idiots” and “self-righteous pricks.” … Going “down market” like this can be a ratings grabber. (See: Rupert Murdoch, News Corp & the NG Channel.) But it’s a strategy that sucks the equity out of the NG brand, and doesn’t bode well for the future. 

          Also: Bringing a religious skeptic into NG’s editorial orbit is not a bad thing. In fact, I think it’s healthy. But if NGS wants to maintain its credibility, then they need to be seen as a referee in the science-religion debate, not an advocate for one side. I could write endlessly about this topic, but suffice it to say that Time magazine has a religion editor; USA Today has a religion editor; Newsweek has a religion editor; why doesn’t National Geographic? When editors meet to select stories, why isn’t there someone who specializes in religion in the room? (This is a very old hobby horse of mine….)

          Re: CNN — how much are they offering for this blog? Please ask them to send all formal offers to our Office of Strategic Partnerships.  :-)

          Finally, thanks very much for the kind words re: this site. “Informative and on target” is far kinder than the comments I’ve received from some other folks. :-) 

          Thanks again for your thoughts, Sig. 
          best,
          A

          • http://twitter.com/MooseCW Carl Wayne

            Alan, I have very little time so I want to ask this question directly:  You are not a current employee at National Geographic.  Why are you worried about them? 

          • http://societymatters.org Alan Mairson

            Carl – I think it’s an amazing organization that’s lost its way. And though I’m no longer an employee, I am a Society member. You might find that goofy, but I think the whole notion of membership, of belonging to a Society that has a share Story — that’s what will sustain NGS. But the other stuff they’re doing — NG bedroom furniture, coffee beans, wristwatches, air freshener — that’s a dead end. 

  • http://profiles.google.com/ronmurp Ron Murphy

    Alan, your house analogy doesn’t work. Try this one. If I’d rented, or been given free rental, on an apartment for some time and established it as my home, and then Nat Geog Housing Assoc. bought up the property, and some of the assocs members started a campaign against my personal style, I think I too would tell them to mind their own business.

    • http://societymatters.org Alan Mairson

      Ron – Your analogy is better than mine. It’s a much better reflection of the facts at hand. 

      That said, there’s a huge difference in the personal freedom you enjoy when you’re a renter vs. an owner. 

      As a renter, you’re subject to lots of rules, spelled out in your lease, about what sorts of behavior is permissible. For instance, holding noisy, all-night parties with a live band in your apartment on a regular basis — that probably wouldn’t be allowed. Nor would running a car rental business from the parking lot. Nor would sitting in the lobby & loudly insulting the other tenants. 

      Whereas owning your own property gives you a lot more freedom. The question is: Which arrangement will work best for PZ Myers.  

      FWIW: When I was still on staff at NGM, and writers had the opportunity to blog, I proposed a blog called Kaleidoscope. The goals was to juxtapose the worldviews of people who regularly appear in the pages of National Geographic with the worldviews of people who rarely, if ever, got any ink. For instance, EO Wilson is a NGM regular who shares many of PZ Myers opinions about religion, but who is far less combative. The Magazine regularly feature Dr. Wilson, his writings, his ideas. But I wanted to put him on your computer, side-by-side, with Wendell Berry, whose book, Life Is A Miracle, is an extended refutation of EO Wilson’s mechanistic way of seeing the world. Berry is a highly respected environmentalist; he’s also a Christian. I thought (and still think) he deserved equal time on the NGM stage, which is what Kaleidoscope was going to do. … The blog was approved by my editor, but then, days before the launch, it was killed by Chris Johns, the Editor-in-Chief. Evidently, the comparisons I wanted to make — and the challenge those comparisons represented — were not welcome. 

      Was I disappointed? Sure. But I was a “renter” — a tenant-at-will without a long-term lease. So, I ultimately had no control over what NGM would put on its site. Here, though, at Society Matters, I’m the owner. It’s my house. The audience is smaller, of course — but the voice is finally my own. And that’s a wonderful & liberating feeling. 

      I’d say the same goes for PZ Myers. If he keeps renting at ScienceBlogs, he’ll inevitably get muzzled, especially if, via branding, readers see Myers-NGS connection. No way will he be allowed to call religious people “idiots” and “batshit insane” if he’s standing beneath the NGS umbrella. 

      Thanks for stopping buy, and for sharpening the analogy.

  • Therese

    “…PZ Myers — the most popular SB blogger — to continue his profanity-laced diatribes against people of faith?”
    I’m all for free speech, but why does this guy (or anyone) have to use profanity? There is no need for it.

    • http://societymatters.org Alan Mairson

      I’m afraid it’s about marketing, Therese. For if you talk dirty — especially when you have a PhD — then the world will consider you more authentic, and beat a path to your website, where your ad rates will soar. 

      It’s the same reason why some stand-up comics regularly drop the f-bomb: It’s transgressive… edgy. Crowds love it (for a while). 

      Imagine if PZ Myers spoke kindly, and treated his adversaries with some respect. Then, he’d be just another voice in the long-running debate between science & religion. And the crowd would slowly drift away…..

      • Snowflake

        I agree with your last passage. If PZ Myers began tiptoeing around people’s deeply-held beliefs, no matter how absurd, censoring his every thought out of concern that it may be too harsh for someone to hear, not expressing his feelings because someone, somewhere may be offended, avoiding curse-words as though he actually believed that such a thing as a curse might exist, and lacing his criticisms of liars and frauds with “I feel you may be overlooking something” and “if I may be so bold to say so, I respectfully disagree”, and if his commenters began doing the same, his blog, despite actually saying much less, would become so much more well-mannered and tedious and civil, and not so darn offensive and outspoken and popular.

        Hopefully and probably, he knows better than that.

        • http://societymatters.org Alan Mairson

          We do agree, Snowflake: Civil discourse, where people speak respectfully to each other, will not be as popular as being “darn offensive.” Then again, National Geographic became a raging success without being offensive. How do you think they pulled that off?

          • Snowflake

            Er… Pictures of adorable penguin chicks by the legion? Trying very
            hard never to offend anybody? Who cares? Is this really more relevant
            than saying “gee, ABBA became a raging success without being offensive,
            so tut-tut, now what atheists?”?

            How is the secret to NatGeo’s popularity even relevant to this
            conversation? It’s basically the old “it’s not necessary” schtick in
            disguise: pointing at the hypothetical possibility of achieving success
            or expressing the same idea without profanity, without bothering to
            establish that there is in fact something bad about using profanity.

            Also, when it comes to religious debate, I think many people have found
            that there is no sufficiently respectful and inoffensive way to tell a
            person “I find your cherished beliefs laughably absurd”.

            The fact is, Pharyngula does draw readership from the
            religious side of the aisle. The strong occasionally try to argue their
            beliefs, the weal take their ball and go home, the majority remains
            silent and reads. Many people are invigorated by the intense debate, in
            which standards of logic and evidence are held much more highly than standards of tone. Why calibrate the rules of debate to suit the daintiest?

          • http://societymatters.org Alan Mairson

            “I find your cherished beliefs laughably absurd”… and here’s why.  
            That’s great, Snowflake! That works! Direct, honest, and not quite insulting. You should start providing PZ with congeniality training. :-)

          • Snowflake

            Thank you, but I am not interested in giving anyone uninvited congeniality tips.

            And the flaws of religion, as a concept and as particular creeds, are intensely discussed at Pharyngula, whether between PZ and atheistic regulars or with theists who aren’t as fragile as you would have us believe. You must have overlooked that in your rush to tut-tut PZ for not being sufficiently respectful to self-indulgent wishful thinking paraded as knowledge and moral superiority.

        • http://societymatters.org Alan Mairson

          We do agree, Snowflake: Civil discourse, where people speak respectfully to each other, will not be as popular as being “darn offensive.” Then again, National Geographic became a raging success without being offensive. How do you think they pulled that off?

      • Anonymous

        What really is “obscene”?  Are F-bombs so bad?  Is just ‘marketing’ when people of a religious persuation curse atheists, and threaten violence, up to and including death threats?  PZs words are much milder than those thrown at atheists, by and large. Pulpits ring with ultimate condemnation to ‘hell’ for the unbelievers. It should be noted in ‘rental unit analogy’, that PZs verbal transgressions are exclusively made “in his rental unit”, and no one is forced to enter it against their will.  It is not at all like a live band whose noise disturbs an entire building.

        • http://societymatters.org Alan Mairson

          Ivar, You’re right about the rental unit. PZ’s apartment has soundproof walls, so it’s not as if he’s disturbing the neighbors. My mistake.

          But the point of moving his unit to a National Geographic high rise is to increase his reach. NGS will, in effect, be promoting his f-bombs. And I’m not convinced that’s a wise thing for our Society to do. 

          And please believe me when I say I’d protest as energetically if NGS brought in some nutball believer who blathered on in a hateful way. 

          A little decency & respect. Is that too much to ask?

    • Snowflake

      I’m all for free speech, but why did you have to leave that comment? There was no need for it. In fact, there is no need to keep blogs or comment on them at all, and yet here we are. There being no need is a very poor argument to make against anything.

      People express themselves as they see fit. When they feel strongly about an issue, they may spice up their words with some strong expressions. Claiming to be “all for free speech” while appointing yourself as the arbiter of what needs to be said is hypocritical.

      And swear words are just words. There’s no destructive black magic to them. People who are offended by them regardless of context need to examine their own feelings and suppositions.

      • http://societymatters.org Alan Mairson

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      • http://societymatters.org Alan Mairson

        Words create worlds. At least that’s what I believe. Words matter. So, while I support PZ’s right to free speech, I don’t think calling people of faith “idots” (and much worse) is constructive, useful, fair, or true. 

        And PZ doesn’t just spice up his own thoughts with an occasional expletive. Instead, he demeans the people he disagrees with. He’s a better man than that. 

      • http://societymatters.org Alan Mairson

        Words create worlds. At least that’s what I believe. Words matter. So, while I support PZ’s right to free speech, I don’t think calling people of faith “idots” (and much worse) is constructive, useful, fair, or true. 

        And PZ doesn’t just spice up his own thoughts with an occasional expletive. Instead, he demeans the people he disagrees with. He’s a better man than that. 

        • Q.E.D

          Mr. Mairson,

          Re: “I don’t think calling people of faith “idots” (and much worse) is constructive, useful, fair, or true.”

          Your thinking is demonstrably incorrect.

          Religious organizations and people do, in fact, believe and do a lot of idiotic things deserving scorn and vilification.  Here is a representative but by no means exhaustive list:

          Denying people civil rights
          Homophobia
          Denying women healthcare
          Raping children
          Covering up for and protecting the rapists wh0 raped children
          Using 30,000 Irish women and girls as slave labour
          Honour killings of women
          Lying about the effectiveness of condoms in preventing STDs
          Blaming then punishing women who are raped
          Blasphemy laws
          Believing that wine and crackers are miraculously turned into the body and blood of a god
          Institutional antisemitism
          Killing innocent people over the images of a religious figure

          So Mr Mairson, you can choose to be a tone concerned Quisling for the religious.  Some of us will continue calling out the bat-shit insane idiocy of  ”people of faith” listed above.
             

          • http://societymatters.org Alan Mairson

            QED: You’re right. Some religious organizations and people are guilty of all those sins. So are non-religious people: In the name of science, eugenicists have committed some horrible crimes. 

            But that’s not an indictment of faith — or of the scientific method. It’s a human failure to discern what is good. 

            I think PZ Myers is, in his own way, trying to figure it out. So is, say, Wendell Berry. 

            Why, then, is PZ Myers, a biologist, being ushered onto the National Geographic stage, while Berry, a highly respected environmentalist and a Christian, largely ignored? It’s a question worth pondering.

            (I highly recommend Berry’s book Life Is A Miracle, which is an extended critique of EO Wilson’s scientific / mechanistic worldview.)

          • Snowflake

            The false equivalence you draw between religious faith, which presumes to offer a recipe for a moral life, and the scientific method, which doesn’t, is noted.
            An interesting debate may be held about the properties of faith and of the religious epistemology which makes them lend themselves easily to abuse of power. Of course, there’s no particular reason for such a debate to be held in pristine language. If you weren’t so busy taking offense in the name of hypothetical believers whose sense of entitlement may be hurt, you would notice that many in-depth discussions about the aformentioned topic and others take place weekly on Pharyngula, enabled by the fact that the blog, being the free speech zone it is now, attracts many intelligent and knowledgeable individuals.

            Which makes me wonder what could make you reconsider your position. What reasonable result would PZ Myers have to obtain for you to consider that perhaps he is, in fact, doing it right?

          • http://societymatters.org Alan Mairson

            Great question, S. I think PZ is doing right by PZ, and by all the people who enjoy his work. But I’m not clear why NGS thinks he’s a natural addition to their editorial mix.  It would be like adding tabasco sauce to vanilla ice cream; you might like it, but I wonder if millions of people — who like vanilla ice cream just the way it is — will appreciate the hot sauce. 

          • Snowflake

            Obviously, that is a question for the marketing department, but I don’t think you’re being honest here. You have set out to quite openly criticize PZ, coyly calling him a publicity monger and saying that his manner of expressing himself “is constructive, useful, fair, or true”… And when asked to back up those claims with something more than just tossing quotes that you personally find inflammatory out of context, you retreat to claiming your only concern is compatibility.

            There’s nothing wrong with criticizing someone and being publicly harsh. You don’t need to retreat from your criticism, fret about possibly offending PZ’s fans and worry about maybe overstepping some boundary. There isn’t one.

            Also, what did you think of Crackergate?

          • Snowflake

            and saying that his manner of expressing himself “is constructive, useful, fair, or true”…

            Obviously, there’s a “[not]” missing in there.

          • http://societymatters.org Alan Mairson

            S- I confess (ahem) that I don’t know about Crackergate. Why, you think I should go after PZ on that, too? :~)

          • Snowflake

            Not really, it’s old news. I was just curious, since most of the people who complain about his tone place it high on their lists of grievances.

          • NoxiousNan

            I would be more inclined to wonder if Myers’ thinks NGS would be a bad fit given their dwindling interest in sicence.   Murdoch ruins everything.

            I’ll have to try tobasco on vanilla; maybe it’s not so bad.  Red wine on vanilla ice cream is awesome!

          • Q.E.D

            You make a false equivalence fallacy by comparing religious organizations and people to eugenicists.  The religious do evil in part because they think their god or book tells them to.  Eugenicists had an evil social agenda that was not supported by science.  Science is humanity’s single, best, tool for understanding the universe; religion is a fact-free set of stories passed down from iron age goatherds.

            You dodge my point which is, in fact, an indictment of faith.  Believing in gods and holy books motivates the religious to do evil.  No one has a duty to be polite or respectful to religious people who actively fight to repeal gay’s right to marry; marginalise the non-religious as “not fully human”; brainwash children into fearing hell and  keep evolutionary science out of school.  

            The only reasonable response to such people and organizations  is to say: “you are deluded, ignorant, dangerous, arsehats and you can stick your religion up your arse before I let you oppress the rest of us any further.

            At your suggestion, I just read the review for Life is a Miracle and , it looks like  merely another Non-Overlapping Magisteria bullshit apologetics for “religious ways of knowing”.  Religion has no methodology for knowing or learning anything.

          • http://societymatters.org Alan Mairson

            QED: We agree on this: Some religious people do some crazy shit. And exposing them as creeps & charlatans is a good thing. 

            But, as PZ says, he thinks Unitarians are insane. He paints the world with a painfully broad brush.

            Martin Luther King was not an “arsehat.” Abraham Joshua Heschel was not an “arsehat.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer was not an “arsehat.” Reinhold Niebuhr was not an “arsehat.” 

            Yes, there are plenty of arsehats in the world, and we shouldn’t be shy about calling them out. But PZ goes so much further than that. And so do you when you say, “Religion has no methodology for knowing or learning anything.” 

            Such statements are breathtakingly blind to the history of religion, writ large.

          • Q.E.D

            Another logical fallacy.  Your claim that I am  ”breathtakingly blind to the history of religion” is merely the Courtier’s Reply.

            Although I attended a Catholic University and my thesis advisor was a Jesuit, I do not have to be an expert in the history of religion to see that it has no methodology for knowing or learning.

            Unlike the scientific method which has demonstrable, verifiable results, Religion has neither the  methodology nor the results to show that it has taught us anything about the Universe.  This is evidenced by religious leaders, theologians and texts being demonstrably wrong about empirical claims they make for their religions.  

             

          • Q.E.D

            Another logical fallacy.  Your claim that I am  ”breathtakingly blind to the history of religion” is merely the Courtier’s Reply.

            Although I attended a Catholic University and my thesis advisor was a Jesuit, I do not have to be an expert in the history of religion to see that it has no methodology for knowing or learning.

            Unlike the scientific method which has demonstrable, verifiable results, Religion has neither the  methodology nor the results to show that it has taught us anything about the Universe.  This is evidenced by religious leaders, theologians and texts being demonstrably wrong about empirical claims they make for their religions.  

             

          • http://societymatters.org Alan Mairson

            I guess what I was trying to say (and which I said to Carl Wayne elsewhere on this thread), is that science & religion don’t really attempt to answer the same questions, do they? 

            What is the surface temperature of Venus? (science)
            How should I treat my neighbor, and why? (religion)
            How fast are the polar ice caps melting? (science)
            What is the meaning of my life? (religion)
            How old is the Earth? (science)
            How should we live our lives? What should we value? (religion)

            Religion may not have taught us anything about the universe. But I think it has lots to teach us about ourselves.

            One of the things my tradition teaches: Don’t insult people. Don’t call your adversaries “idiots” or “batshit insane.” Don’t tell a journalist you disagree with that he has a “stick up his ass.” 

            Does science teach those lessons? If so, why hasn’t PZ gotten the memo? :-)

          • Snowflake

            How should I treat my neighbor, and why? (religion)

            Not covet his wife or any of his other property, or, if he’s gay, stone him.

            What is the meaning of my life? (religion)

            Your life is an insignificant speck of time in comparison to the eternity you’ll spend either in heaven or in hell, so it should be spent bowing and scraping before god, hoping it would be the former.What do I win?Seriously, appealing to religion as the sole provider (or, many times, even a provider) of meaningful insights re: the meaning of life OR ethics isn’t going to get you very far. Especially if you simultaneously try to excuse its distortions of ethics.

          • http://societymatters.org Alan Mairson

            I know lots of religious people, and very few of them see their lives as “bowing and scraping before god.” Your description — and it’s very PZ-like — is painfully one-dimensional. It’s as if religion has to be this way, so that the non-religious can say: See how crazy they are?

          • Snowflake

            Really? You think that most deeply religious people would disagree that glorifying God and living according to His will are the most important aspects? It’s the same thing I have said. The only difference is the choice of language.

            And your argument about religion as a guide to ethics has been refuted long ago. And when I say “long ago”, I mean millenia. Kindly look up “Euthyphro dilemma” in your spare time.

          • http://twitter.com/MooseCW Carl Wayne

            I have much to add in reply to your posts above, and may try if time allows…but a small note here:  The fact that you think religion HAS a methodology for knowing or learning anything empirical is vast problem.  Yes, religious people have achieved much in the past however this happened in part due the wealth they had amassed.  On occasion they used this money to truly educate themselves and others in matters that were testable and repeatedly demonstrable.  They occasionally used the scientific method to their best ability and made advances.
            Science is not an entity.  It’s not a concept you can attribute things to the way you do with “religions” and “gods”.  The scientific method enables objective collection of empirical evidence and is used to form a “real” view of the world.
            As I will mention at lenth (in reply to your earlier comments), Myers loses my respect  by simply ‘using’ profanity.  
            Your statement of “such statements are breathtakingly blind to the history of religion…” offends me even more.

        • http://twitter.com/MooseCW Carl Wayne

          Beautiful to say that he is a better man than that.. and I personally hope that he is.  While I agree with his position that religion is nonsense, I do not respect him for calling people names.
          Your first paragraph is also very nice.  Having said that, I am under no obligation to not laugh out loud at the thought of any gods. 

  • Therese

    “…PZ Myers — the most popular SB blogger — to continue his profanity-laced diatribes against people of faith?”
    I’m all for free speech, but why does this guy (or anyone) have to use profanity? There is no need for it.

  • FrankieAvocado

    Hahahah, like anyone cares about National Geographic any more.  I’m astonished that it even bothers to refer to itself as a scientific publication considering its association with “Finding Atlantis” (http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/episode/finding-atlantis-4982/Overview) or any one of its metric crap-ton of UFO shows.  Clearly it’s lost touch with its glory days of yellow-bound magazines.  If PZ’s current host tries to censor him then he’ll just take his ridiculously successful blog to a less idiotic host.  Hell, I’d host him on my server for free and I’m sure there are tons more people who would do the same.

    • http://societymatters.org Alan Mairson

      I think we agree, Frankie. Many of the shows on the NG Channel undermine the Society’s hard-earned reputation. But as I’ve said many times, the Channel is owned by Rupert Murdoch & News Corp, and they seem to control the content.  

      And you’re right: PZ will no doubt leave if he gets muzzled — and he’ll take his sizable audience with him. 

      • http://twitter.com/MooseCW Carl Wayne

        “Muzzled”.  That is actually rude.  I would hesitate to “muzzle” a dog.  Let alone a human being.

  • http://petermilley.wordpress.com/ Peter

    Trying to portray yourself 0n Twitter as nothing more than a journalist disinterestedly seeking facts is a bit rich given how clearly your express your opinions of National Geographic and of Prof. Myers on your blog.

    • http://societymatters.org Alan Mairson

      You’re right, Peter. I do have opinions about NGS, and share them frequently here. But in the case of Prof. Myers, I more interested in how his negotiations play out. I think PZ will still be PZ, no matter what happens — and that’s not a bad thing. He has his story, and he’s sticking to it. 

      I’m more interested in what this situation says about NGS, which had a story — but abandoned it

      I hasten to add: I welcome the discussion that PZ Myers engages with such gusto. The science-religion debate is worth continuing. But it’s worth asking who, if anyone, will be on this virtual stage with PZ to present the opposing point of view?  

      • http://petermilley.wordpress.com/ Peter

        If your concern is about “who, if anyone, will…present the opposing point of view” then why are you posting…over and over again…about Prof. Myers’ tone?

        The top SIX posts on your blog now are you, tsk-tsking about Prof. Myers’ use of naughty language. You’re not concerned about who’s going to present the opposing point of view, you’re slamming the naughty language issue to try and shame NG for presenting Prof. Myers’ point of view. Don’t try to paint this as a issue of balance when all you’re doing is trying to discredit the other side.

        • http://societymatters.org Alan Mairson

          Thanks for your note, Peter. 

          I would write about “who’s going to present the other side,” but at National Geographic, there IS no other side. There is no religion editor, or blogger, or beat reporter. While I was on NGM’s staff, I pleaded endlessly for a religion editor (TIME has one; Newsweek has one; USA Today has one) to sit opposite the science editor, but no dice. If there was someone on “the other side,” I’d happily shine a light on them, too.

          • http://twitter.com/MooseCW Carl Wayne

            This is the issue I see zero comprehension on.  There is no other side to the scientific method.  The scientific method was designed to be empirical and objective.  Religion is not empirical and is not objective.

          • http://twitter.com/MooseCW Carl Wayne

            This is the issue I see zero comprehension on.  There is no other side to the scientific method.  The scientific method was designed to be empirical and objective.  Religion is not empirical and is not objective.

          • http://societymatters.org Alan Mairson

            Carl – Please see my reply to your other comment. Tx.

  • http://twitter.com/NightJaguar Night Jaguar

    Posted by: PZ Myers  | June 8, 2011 5:22 AMIn the news: Will atheist PZ Myers’s science blog evolve under Nat. Geographic eyes?Somebody slap Alan Mairson, please. He’s been whining at me constantly lately about my “profanity-laced diatribes” and how I dare to dismiss the faith of billions as lunacy. He’s a prim, prudish bluenosed wanker who has appointed himself the politeness police over an organization which no longer employs him. Which makes him a disgruntled former employee who seems resentful that his former organization might possibly have an independent contractor who doesn’t have a stick up his ass like he does.He does seem to have found a like-minded censorious colleague in the odious Grossman. The company he keeps does not reassure me that he’s a serious critic — just another whiner about ‘tone’._ _ _hehehttp://bit.ly/kUnrwd

  • http://twitter.com/NightJaguar Night Jaguar

    http://bit.ly/kUnrwd

    “Posted by: PZ Myers  | June 8, 2011 5:22 AM

    Somebody slap Alan Mairson, please. He’s been whining at me constantly lately about my “profanity-laced diatribes” and how I dare to dismiss the faith of billions as lunacy. He’s a prim, prudish bluenosed wanker who has appointed himself the politeness police over an organization which no longer employs him. Which makes him a disgruntled former employee who seems resentful that his former organization might possibly have an independent contractor who doesn’t have a stick up his ass like he does.

    He does seem to have found a like-minded censorious colleague in the odious Grossman. The company he keeps does not reassure me that he’s a serious critic — just another whiner about ‘tone’.”

    hehe

  • Joan

    This call to pressure NG to censor the opinions of an outspoken athiest is really interesting, particularly after seeing the scold on the first page about how NG shouldn’t cooperate with China censoring opinions.   Considering that National Geographic has a long history of bringing the strange and wonderfully diverse of the world to its readers, it seems to me that NG  could consider Scienceblogs an area that has to be accepted on its own terms.  I find it kind of astonishing that people are obsessing about whether athiests are being sufficiently ‘respectful’ towards religion when religion is currently attempting to get civil laws changed to make sex illegal and pregnancy the ‘punishment’ for it, and seeking an exemption from standards of medical practice so that pregnant women can be left to die for failing to perfectly perform the sacrament of pregnancy.  PZ Myers may express his opinions rudely, even crudely, but those on his side of the discussion aren’t the ones who feel entitled to kill others for their principles.

    • http://twitter.com/MooseCW Carl Wayne

      This is not a reply to Joan.  I just wanted to thank her for her fantastic post.

      Here is my reply to Alan Mairson with regards to ‘freedom’ and such.. I may digress and talk about the scientific method but repetition appears to be necessary:

      Yes Alan, it is ok for a National Geographic blogger to call people “batshit insane”.
      You simply don’t have to respect him for it. 
      I do not. 

      However, I agree with his position that religions are unworthy of any consideration, and that gods very likely do not exist.

      There is also no “other side” to science.  Yes:  The scientific method has no ‘other side’.  Religion has no place when the scientific method is discussed and practiced.  Nothing else has a place.  I will repeat myself here: The scientific method is empirical and objective.  Religion is not empirical and is not objective.  There is no competition.  There is simply no place for religions.  No place for gods.  No “other side”.

      Alan, you appear to have never lived in a country where people are not free.  I have.  That is why I no longer live there.  That is why I live in the USA.  As such, I respectfully submit that you can have no idea how precious freedom, and freedom of speech are.  In turn, you do not see the utter importance that freedom of speech not be limited by government or industry.

      Myers is not bullying anyone.  Myers is also not harming anyone.  He is certainly not limiting any person’s freedom.  As far as Myers is concerned, you can believe in all the gods you want: you simply have no right to force them upon him (keep in mind the my statements above, concerning “other side”).
      To say his language is about marketing is one thing….  and he has every right to speak that way, marketing or not.  This is why he lives in the USA.
      However, to follow it up with “For if you talk dirty — especially when you have a PhD — then the world will consider you more authentic.” is ridiculous. 
      He may very well be seeing more hits because of his unpleasant language but your statement is beyond bizarre. 

      His profanity may show a lack of couth and wisdom in some areas of life, but it certainly does not negate years of discovery brought about by following the scientific method. 

      Your civility is very much appreciated, however it does not make religions and gods meaningful under the gaze of reality and the scientific method.  This is not disrespect.    Once again, there is no ‘other side’ to science.

      • http://societymatters.org Alan Mairson

        Hi Carl,

        First of all, thanks much for your long & thoughtful comment. It’s late here, so I don’t have time for a long response, but let me share some quick thoughts….Re: what is okay and not okay for the National Geographic Society — as I said to Joan (above), this Society, like all societies, has its traditions, folkways, habits, and tics. One of them is to be civil. To engage the world with open arms, while maintaining a clear sense of who you are — and who you are not. I’m not saying those traditions never change. They do. I’m simply questioning whether or not we’re the sort of society that encourages insults people, and tells folks who disagree that they have “a stick up their ass.” I think that’s a repulsive way to speak, don’t you? I agree there is no “other side” to science. When the questions are: How fast is our climate warming? What is the best medicine to treat AIDS? How can we build a car that gets 200 MPG? What is the surface temperature of Saturn? What is the age of the Earth? .. If I wanted answers, I’d turn to scientists and engineers. I would not ask a priest. A cleric would have absolutely nothing to say on the matter — and least nothing that’s worth listening to. But if the questions are: How should I live my life? What do I value? How should I treat my neighbor? What does my life mean? What matters most? What is Good? If I wanted answers, I certainly wouldn’t ask a scientist, but I know many religious people who have worthwhile guidance & wisdom to offer. Let me give you a quick example: I think improving cities — urban life — would be a huge step forward for the environmental well-being of the planet. (See David Owen’s “Green Manhattan,” a New Yorker piece about how NYC is the greenest place on the planet.) But the urban challenge isn’t a scientific one as much as a people problem: How can we all live in close proximity and be happy? Science can contribute pieces to the puzzle, but the core challenge is the Rodney King challenge: Why can’t we all get along? So, when I say a religion editor should be sitting opposite the science editor, it’s not because I think the religion editor has anything to add to a conversation about evolution. It’s because a religion editor can lobby for stories that address questions and concerns that are beyond the reach of science. Does that make sense? Thanks again for helping me think through some of this stuff, Carl. It always helps to be challenged, and to try & formulate a coherent response. I hope I succeeded. But if I didn’t, just remember: It’s late here in Bethesda! :~)

    • http://societymatters.org Alan Mairson

      Joan, Thanks for your comment. You make some good points, esp the long view of National Geographic — its history of “bringing the strange and wonderfully diverse of the world to its readers.” But it’s also the journal of a Society, and like all societies, NGS has its traditions, folkways, habits, and tics. One of them is to be civil. To engage the world with open arms, while maintaining a clear sense of who you are — and who you are not. 

      Censorship in China means that if you say the wrong thing about powerful people, you’ll find yourself under house arrest, in jail. or worse. All I’m suggesting is that PZ Myers should take his message to the world, but perhaps using someone else’s microphone — and God knows there are now too many microphones & communications platforms to count. There certainly is no shortage.

      Is it censorship if a Catholic priest doesn’t let a Imam give the Sunday sermon? 
      Is it censorship if the TED conference doesn’t invite Jacoby Shaddix to perform. (Warning: Non-stop f-bombs.)
      Is it censorship if the KKK doesn’t let a Rabbi publish an editorial in the weekly KKK Times? (Okay, I just made that title up.)
      Is it censorship if People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals doesn’t allow Cory Wall to give its annual keynote address? 

      My point is there’s a time and a place for everyone and everything. I’m just not sure NGS is the best place for PZ Myers & his show. 

      Please know that I defend his right to free speech. But it’s not clear that I necessarily have to subsidize it.

      • Joan

        While certainly you are entitled to your opinion, it was not my understanding
        that you were a major sponsor subsidizing NG’s programs, nor a current employee
        of NG, nor in a position to make policy for NG.  As I understand the current
        platform for Pharangula, the costs of hosting the blog are more than covered by
        the advertisers, and the NG’s participation in PZ’s blog would be collecting
        revenue from it rather than making a monetary contribution.

        I have all the respect and sympathy possible for people with sincere religious
        beliefs and their desire to have those beliefs respected.  I have zero respect
        and sympathy for the heirarchies and national organizations of religions which
        want their actions exempt from criticism which they try to enlist the power of
        civil law to enforce their ‘moral’ rules on both their laity and strangers who
        don’t share their beliefs.

        It has been the human experience over many thousands of years that as a system
        of beliefs that is by definition irrational, religion is only tolerable when it
        is restricted to the private sphere and its professionals are able to persuade
        but not insist. Allied with the State. given the ability to
        control assets through taxation and the power of the sword to oppress
        dissidents, religion seems unable to resist the temptation to institute a reign
        of terror and attempt to wipe out what it perceives as its enemies, everyone who
        thinks and reasons independently.

        Your impulse to have ‘editorial review’ muzzle PZ Myers or have his opinions
        ‘shunned by all decent people who value civility and order’ is a pale reflection
        of that impulse.

        • http://societymatters.org Alan Mairson

          Joan, 

          We share the same suspicion of religion when it’s wedded to state power. Persuade me, but don’t coerce me. That’s a good rule of thumb. 

          But NGS is not the State. It’s a non-profit organization. They have a stage, and are allowed to invite anyone they’d like to speak from it. As a Society member, I have a right to say: Bravo! or Bad call! The guy is a bully! 

          PZ is free to be PZ. But that doesn’t necessarily mean I want him in my house. 

          But I will always defend his right to speak his mind at your house — if you invite him in.

      • Joan

        While certainly you are entitled to your opinion, it was not my understanding
        that you were a major sponsor subsidizing NG’s programs, nor a current employee
        of NG, nor in a position to make policy for NG.  As I understand the current
        platform for Pharangula, the costs of hosting the blog are more than covered by
        the advertisers, and the NG’s participation in PZ’s blog would be collecting
        revenue from it rather than making a monetary contribution.

        I have all the respect and sympathy possible for people with sincere religious
        beliefs and their desire to have those beliefs respected.  I have zero respect
        and sympathy for the heirarchies and national organizations of religions which
        want their actions exempt from criticism which they try to enlist the power of
        civil law to enforce their ‘moral’ rules on both their laity and strangers who
        don’t share their beliefs.

        It has been the human experience over many thousands of years that as a system
        of beliefs that is by definition irrational, religion is only tolerable when it
        is restricted to the private sphere and its professionals are able to persuade
        but not insist. Allied with the State. given the ability to
        control assets through taxation and the power of the sword to oppress
        dissidents, religion seems unable to resist the temptation to institute a reign
        of terror and attempt to wipe out what it perceives as its enemies, everyone who
        thinks and reasons independently.

        Your impulse to have ‘editorial review’ muzzle PZ Myers or have his opinions
        ‘shunned by all decent people who value civility and order’ is a pale reflection
        of that impulse.

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