In an earlier post, I introduced the concept of “denormalization.”
In this second post, I want to talk about PZ Myers. He and his supporters are also candidates for denormalization.
To recap, thuggery or scams that have persisted for a long time and are endorsed at the highest levels of the establishment come to seem “normal.” So the “problem” is not the behavior of thugs and scammers but the attempted responses of those they attack.
The responses sound raucous or incoherent against the tranquil background of accepted misgovernment.
However, in a free society, misgovernment persists because most people do not know what is going on and do not know what they can do to change things. Denormalization means getting the message out to a broad public: Look, this is happening. Do you think it’s fair? If not, here is what you can do about it.
That’s what the Expelled film is doing in the ID vs. unguided evolution (Darwinism) controversy. It shows both the evidence for intelligent design of life and the unconscionable lengths to which the Darwin fans are willing to go, to keep both students and the broad public from knowing why their ideas about the nature of life are probably wrong.
Myers came to public notice recently when line producer Mark Mathis ejected him from a recent Expelled screening. I suppose he felt ill-used, given that a number of other atheists who were attending a conference in the area (including Richard Dawkins) were admitted. Mathis retorts,
It is amazing to see the reaction of PZ Myers, Richard Dawkins and their cohorts when one of them is simply expelled from a movie. Yet these men applaud when professors throughout the nation are fired from their jobs and permanently excluded from their profession for mentioning Intelligent Design.
I hope PZ’s experience has helped him see the light. He is distraught because he could not see a movie. What if he wasn’t allowed to teach on a college campus or was denied tenure? Maybe he will think twice before he starts demanding more professors be blacklisted and expelled simply because they question the adequacy of Darwin’s theory.
I doubt it. Myers, who teaches at a Minnesota liberal arts university that is proud of its status, had this to say about those who think that the evidence favours views other than his:
The only appropriate response should involve some form of righteous fury, much butt-kicking, and the public firing of some teachers, many school board members, and vast numbers of sleazy, far-right politicians … I say, screw the polite words and careful rhetoric. It’s time for scientists to break out the steel-toed boots and brass knuckles, and get out there and hammer on the lunatics and idiots.
Yes, this statement is famous among ID theorists, particularly those whose expulsion from their positions Myers has celebrated. But most Americans do not know even about it, let alone contemplate what it means that a teacher at a “liberal arts” university should express himself in this way. The Expelled movie will, I hope, denormalize that.
And there is more. Myers clearly enjoys his self-appointed role. Here is an excerpt from his Raving Atheists interview (9 20 2007):
At one point, the interviewer asks, “In a related matter, how come when I enter the search term “demented f[#]ckwit” into Pharyngula I get about a zillion hits?” (09-20-2007, 08:34 PM)
Somebody’s got to be in charge with slapping around the demented f[#]ckwits. The position has devolved on me. (09-20-2007, 08:39 PM)
Go to Raving Atheists for the excerpted material in context.
(Alert readers will notice that I airbrushed the text above. It should not interfere with readers’ understanding.)
Again, most people, who hear only sympathetic treatments of Myers in legacy media, simply do not know about his zesst for persecution. Denormalization means telling them.
It is most revealing that a number of people describe Myers as a nice guy. You know, “a gentle soul”, a gentleman, and soft-spoken but with strong convictions, and all that.
What could they possibly mean, in light of the material above, which Myers has never disowned?
Only four possibilities come to mind. These people
1. do not know what he thinks and says. But many do.
2. are disingenuous (but it’s hard to prove).
3. are disconnected from reality (possibly).
4. This is what I think most likely: Attacks – verbal, career or otherwise – on anyone who talks about the problems with Darwin’s theory are considered normal.
Thus, a person who writes as Myers does is nonetheless viewed as a mild-mannered gentleman and scholar, worthy a place at a liberal arts university.
Herre’s a thought: Abused women sometimes tell friends, in all seriousness, “He’s a really nice guy, you know. As long as you don’t get on his wrong side.” In one such case, the appropriate response was offered by a female relative of mine who snapped, “Well, I can tell you this. If I ever get on his wrong side and anything happens, he will end up wishing he had only right sides.”
As this anecdote illustrates, a critical aspect of denormalization is to let a wider range of people view the problem and respond. Suddenly, what was supposed to be, oh you know, just normal, becomes recognized for the abnormality that it is.