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Will PZ Myers end up alienating atheists from Darwin?

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Further to “Why atheists can’t get dates (potential dates get wise too soon?), here’s an interesting moment from the implosion of the new atheist movement. Not-so-happy atheist Michael Nugent deplores “The hurtful and harmful smears of PZ Myers, ‘The Happy Atheist’”:

After I criticised PZ Myers and others for smearing the atheist movement and individual atheists, PZ responded by falsely accusing me of defending and providing a haven for rapists, and he has now refused for ten weeks to withdraw and apologise for this defamatory smear.

Hmmm. Myers has been quite the warrior for Darwinism as the creation story of atheism (natural selection acting on random mutations is the key source of increasing information in life forms). But as to his relations with fellow atheists, we further learn:

There are now so many smears that each can hide behind the others, as PZ drags us on a desensitising race to the ethical bottom, many levels below the basics of civil discourse, evidence, fairness, empathy and justice. Ironically, any one of PZ’s smears, if viewed on their own, might stand out as worse than the suffocating tangle of smears that has evolved as he gradually lowers our expectation of decent behaviour.

Short form: = Myers’ general outlook, written down

PZ Myers’ unethical behaviour is harmful to the atheist and skeptic movements, and to the cause of social justice, as well as being hurtful and unjust to the individuals that he smears. It also discredits the American Humanist Association and the IHEU, who gave him a Humanist of the Year award in 2009 and International Humanist Award in 2011, and it disrespects other Humanist awardees who try to promote ethical rather than unethical behaviour.

Of course Nugent is moving too fast here. Who says those groups want to promote “ethical rather than unethical behaviour”? For one thing, whose definition of such behaviour is to be accepted?

That said, all in one place, Nugent provides a convenient list of Myers’ accused online sins and wickedness, which readers may consult if ever needed (strong language and cultural sensitivity caution).

We follow this topic with interest because we have made our last payment on the classic popcorn maker.

Curious that both Richard Dawkins and PZ Myers, key Darwin defenders, are people one senses the atheist movement (new and old) would for the most part like to be rid of. For Dawkins, along these lines, see, for example, here.

Could it be that atheists would gladly dump Darwin and his now-distinctly downscale tribe for more plausible naturalist theories on evolution? That is the impression recent news stories leave and we’ll unpack it in more detail in an upcoming feature.

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9 Replies to “Will PZ Myers end up alienating atheists from Darwin?

  1. 1
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Interesting story, News – thanks.

    Of course Nugent is moving too fast here. Who says those groups want to promote “ethical rather than unethical behaviour”? For one thing, whose definition of such behaviour is to be accepted?

    That’s the question we ask so often and it simply remains unanswered within the atheist movement. PZ Meyers is a hero to many. His ‘smears’ are works of righteousness and justice according to him and his followers. The Humanist movement likes to think it is ethically high-minded but they’re appealing to a Christian culture and the spirit of outrage to support an ethical system.

    Curious that both Richard Dawkins and PZ Myers, key Darwin defenders, are people one senses the atheist movement (new and old) would for the most part like to be rid of.

    But they can’t really afford to get rid of them because they’re the great popularizers and apologists for atheism. They bring in the converts and the big audiences — and all the atheists benefit from them. Dawkins and Meyers are cheered by many for their crass stunts and in-your-face tactics, and why not? Who said atheism should be tasteful and reserved? That’s really what you get in a no-rules scenario and it’s good to see it played out in public.

    Could it be that atheists would be glad to dump Darwin and his now-distinctly downscale tribe for more plausible naturalist theories on evolution?

    The downscale tribe. 🙂 I think that says it for quite a lot of the neo-atheist presence, on the web at least.
    As for dumping Darwin … you could be right. Darwin was always a means to an end. Even if there’s nothing more plausible, they might find one more palatable.

  2. 2
    redwave says:

    Prior to taking a long road to a juncture at which I became a scientist, I was an hospice chaplain who had visited hundreds of people at the precipice of life, at death … at death’s appearing and intruding into every fibre that intertwined what we have thought to be an ontological whole. Death is as overwhelming, as consuming, as saturating, as Life, though often compacted into a moment of breath. The moment of breath visits remind me of Derrida’s Epilogue … one must know the end of it to fully appreciate its beginning. And so we face a conceptual paradox, a transformative continuum from which we can not escape … the precipice is real.

    Somehow the atheists have integrated this existential ontological reality, the steepness into the unknown, awaiting us at the moment of breath. Would they otherwise be human? Somehow the atheists know that their life will continue only through writ and talk, and recorded in the memories of those standing a safe distance from the precipice. What matters is to be remembered … that is the ultimate end game … there is nothing beyond the Epilogue. The atheists have nothing else. Their engrams evaporate into nothingness. Being remembered at all costs, whatever this entails, being remembered is the atheists’ teleological imperative.

    I remember one ninety six year old man passing out of our lives and he was unashamedly honest with this priest, “I have lived all these years without God, why would I need you and your God now? And anyway if your God exists I am sure he cares little about me. Why would he after so long a time, I have given nothing to him?” My first response, “Who told you God is a man?” at which he nearly chocked from laughter and asked what on earth could I do now as he invited me to sit, have some coffee, he lit a cigarette, and said “lay it on” him. The days leading up to his death, I asked him to share with me, and his ninety four year old wife, stories about his birth and the years of his childhood. They had known one another from her thirteenth year and had been married nearly eighty years, smoking tobacco and drinking coffee to the last day, yet the stories of his first few years of life were as fresh and vital as if they happened yesterday. The moment of breath does not yield to time’s restraints.

    Did I convert him on his death bed? Was a moment of belief, however minuscule in time, sufficient to subsume over three billion seconds of living? One must not waste the moment of breath on images of an old white bearded man stuck on a throne hovering above the earth, or a jolly fat balded man in lotus repose, or one sporting an elephant’s head, or dancing in ecstasy, or with a spiraling array of arms, or hanging upon a tree. The precipice is far too tenuous a moment, irreversible and consequentially permanent, for all moments from life’s beginning.

    Among those facing death there are atheists, yet at the moment of breath the controversies between the Creator and the myriad human constructs, break down, dissipate and one thing remains encapsulated within the moment of breath … Life.

    Is this moment of breath, the precipice, the crisis of which Myers, Dawkins, Coyne, Krauss, et al., can make no sense? They will be remembered by some, then fewer than some, then fewer still, and then lost to the ages … until an unknowable discovery might piece together their remains. What was the name of that Neanderthal found in the Engis caves?

  3. 3
    ppolish says:

    Being remembered is sometimes important, Redwave. Sometimes very important. But WHAT you are remembered for is key.

    “Do this in memory of Me.”
    “God Delusion”

    Saving souls versus maiming souls. May God have mercy on Dawkin’s soul.

  4. 4

    Redwave has a way with words, I wish I had. That was very good.

  5. 5
    bornagain77 says:

    I’m also very concerned with who remembers me after my life ends here on this earth.

    Luke 13:27
    “But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’

    Luke 23:42:43
    Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
    Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”


    Joyful, Joyful – Casting Crowns

  6. 6
    rvb8 says:

    His published works on the evolution of cephalopod vision is still the ‘go to’ for biologists around the world. His work on cephalapod evolution in general is greatly respected. His students at the Umiversity of Minnesota Morris admire him, and his graduate students deeply admire him. Across respected educational institutions around the world these characteristics have all the hall marks of an excellent teacher.

  7. 7
    bornagain77 says:

    OT: This following excerpt from a talk I recently listened to has really changed my thinking about how people view cause and effect in science. Particularly, changed my thinking in how people view cause and effect with the Darwinian terms of ‘Natural Selection’ and ‘Random Mutation’ :

    A Professor’s Journey out of Nihilism: Why I am not an Atheist – University of Wyoming – J. Budziszewski
    Excerpt page12: “There were two great holes in the argument about the irrelevance of God. The first is that in order to attack free will, I supposed that I understood cause and effect; I supposed causation to be less mysterious than volition.
    If anything, it is the other way around. I can perceive a logical connection between premises and valid conclusions. I can perceive at least a rational connection between my willing to do something and my doing it. But between the apple and the earth, I can perceive no connection at all. Why does the apple fall? We don’t know. “But there is gravity,” you say. No, “gravity” is merely the name of the phenomenon, not its explanation. “But there are laws of gravity,” you say. No, the “laws” are not its explanation either; they are merely a more precise description of the thing to be explained, which remains as mysterious as before. For just this reason, philosophers of science are shy of the term “laws”; they prefer “lawlike regularities.” To call the equations of gravity “laws” and speak of the apple as “obeying” them is to speak as though, like the traffic laws, the “laws” of gravity are addressed to rational agents capable of conforming their wills to the command. This is cheating, because it makes mechanical causality (the more opaque of the two phenomena) seem like volition (the less). In my own way of thinking the cheating was even graver, because I attacked the less opaque in the name of the more.
    The other hole in my reasoning was cruder. If my imprisonment in a blind causality made my reasoning so unreliable that I couldn’t trust my beliefs, then by the same token I shouldn’t have trusted my beliefs about imprisonment in a blind causality. But in that case I had no business denying free will in the first place.”

    How this applies to the Intelligent Design vs. Darwinism debate is if you look closely at both Natural Selection and Random Mutation in the light trying to provide causal adequacy, you will notice that a illegitimate switch is made from agent causation to the ‘illusion’ of natural causation.
    Even William Provine, Professor of Evolutionary Biology at Cornell University, himself admits that Natural Selection is not a ‘cause’ that pushes or pulls anything,,

    “Natural selection does not act on anything, nor does it select (for or against), force, maximize, create, modify, shape, operate, drive, favor, maintain, push, or adjust. Natural selection does nothing…. Having natural selection select is nifty because it excuses the necessity of talking about the actual causation of natural selection. Such talk was excusable for Charles Darwin, but inexcusable for evolutionists now. Creationists have discovered our empty “natural selection” language, and the “actions” of natural selection make huge, vulnerable targets.”
    The Origin of Theoretical Population Genetics, 2001 (pp. 199-200) William Provine – Professor of Evolutionary Biology – Cornell University

    In other words, to postulate natural selection as the cause for an after the fact observation of an effect, (i.e. such as a change in proportions of a population), is to illegitimately switch the whole cause and effect relationship in science. Natural Selection, as it is used by Darwinists, is a superfluous narrative gloss, that gives the illusion that nature, apart from God, is ‘selecting’ something. Moreover, natural selection is added on after an observation has been made and tells us nothing as to the actual cause for how the change in a population actually occurred.

    Why Do We Invoke Darwin? – Evolutionary theory contributes little to experimental biology – Philip S. Skell -The Scientist – August 29, 2005
    Excerpt: I found that Darwin’s theory had provided no discernible guidance, but was brought in, after the breakthroughs, as an interesting narrative gloss.,,,
    Darwinian explanations for such things are often too supple: Natural selection makes humans self-centered and aggressive – except when it makes them altruistic and peaceable. Or natural selection produces virile men who eagerly spread their seed – except when it prefers men who are faithful protectors and providers. When an explanation is so supple that it can explain any behavior, it is difficult to test it experimentally, much less use it as a catalyst for scientific discovery.
    Darwinian evolution – whatever its other virtues – does not provide a fruitful heuristic in experimental biology.

    Invoking natural selection as a adequate cause to an effect is useless, even misleading, as a heuristic in science, since natural selection falsely claims to supply a valid explanation as to the actual cause for an effect when it has in fact done no such thing, but was only brought in after the effect was observed as a ‘narrative gloss’.
    And the same lack of adequate causal explanation from Darwinists can be found in their use of the term ‘random mutation’. Stephen Talbott puts the situation with the term ‘random’ like this:

    Evolution and the Illusion of Randomness – Talbott – Fall 2011
    Excerpt: The situation calls to mind a widely circulated cartoon by Sidney Harris, which shows two scientists in front of a blackboard on which a body of theory has been traced out with the usual tangle of symbols, arrows, equations, and so on. But there’s a gap in the reasoning at one point, filled by the words, “Then a miracle occurs.” And the one scientist is saying to the other, “I think you should be more explicit here in step two.”
    In the case of evolution, I picture Dennett and Dawkins filling the blackboard with their vivid descriptions of living, highly regulated, coordinated, integrated, and intensely meaningful biological processes, and then inserting a small, mysterious gap in the middle, along with the words, “Here something random occurs.”
    This “something random” looks every bit as wishful as the appeal to a miracle. It is the central miracle in a gospel of meaninglessness, a “Randomness of the gaps,” demanding an extraordinarily blind faith. At the very least, we have a right to ask, “Can you be a little more explicit here?”

    In other words, when people say that something “happened randomly by chance”, usually a mishap, they are in fact assuming an impersonal purposeless determiner of unaccountable happenings which is, in fact, impossible to separate from agent causality. i.e. ‘every bit as wishful as the appeal to a miracle’.
    Although the term “chance” can be defined as a mathematical probability, such as the chance involved in flipping a coin, when Darwinists use the term ‘random chance’, generally it’s substituting for a more precise word such as “cause”, especially when the cause, i.e. ‘mechanism’, is not known. Several people have noted this ‘shell game’ that is played with the word ‘chance’.

    “To personify ‘chance’ as if we were talking about a causal agent,” notes biophysicist Donald M. MacKay, “is to make an illegitimate switch from a scientific to a quasi-religious mythological concept.”

    Similarly, Robert C. Sproul points out: “By calling the unknown cause ‘chance’ for so long, people begin to forget that a substitution was made. . . . The assumption that ‘chance equals an unknown cause’ has come to mean for many that ‘chance equals cause.’”

    Thus to say ‘it happened by chance’, as it is usually used by Darwinists, is in reality a ‘placeholder for ignorance’ instead of being an appeal to a known cause.
    Thus, when an atheist states that something happened by chance, we have every right to ask, as Talbott pointed out, “Can you be a little more explicit here?”
    Moreover, contrary to how atheists imagine reality to be structured, they, in their appeal to random chance and natural selection as to being causally adequate within themselves, have, in reality, appealed to vacuous explanations for a ‘causal mechanism’. Explanations that are far more properly grounded in agent causality.

    To clearly show that explanations in biology are far more properly grounded in agent causality rather than ‘natural’ causality, Stephen Talbott points out that it is impossible to describe the complexities of biological life without illegitimately using words that invoke agent causality:

    The ‘Mental Cell’: Let’s Loosen Up Biological Thinking! – Stephen L. Talbott – September 9, 2014
    Excerpt: Many biologists are content to dismiss the problem with hand-waving: “When we wield the language of agency, we are speaking metaphorically, and we could just as well, if less conveniently, abandon the metaphors”.
    Yet no scientist or philosopher has shown how this shift of language could be effected. And the fact of the matter is just obvious: the biologist who is not investigating how the organism achieves something in a well-directed way is not yet doing biology, as opposed to physics or chemistry. Is this in turn just hand-waving? Let the reader inclined to think so take up a challenge: pose a single topic for biological research, doing so in language that avoids all implication of agency, cognition, and purposiveness1.
    One reason this cannot be done is clear enough: molecular biology — the discipline that was finally going to reduce life unreservedly to mindless mechanism — is now posing its own severe challenges. In this era of Big Data, the message from every side concerns previously unimagined complexity, incessant cross-talk and intertwining pathways, wildly unexpected genomic performances, dynamic conformational changes involving proteins and their cooperative or antagonistic binding partners, pervasive multifunctionality, intricately directed behavior somehow arising from the interaction of countless players in interpenetrating networks, and opposite effects by the same molecules in slightly different contexts. The picture at the molecular level begins to look as lively and organic — and thoughtful — as life itself.

    This working biologist agrees completely with Talbott:

    Life, Purpose, Mind: Where the Machine Metaphor Fails – Ann Gauger – June 2011
    Excerpt: I’m a working biologist, on bacterial regulation (transcription and translation and protein stability) through signalling molecules, ,,, I can confirm the following points as realities: we lack adequate conceptual categories for what we are seeing in the biological world; with many additional genomes sequenced annually, we have much more data than we know what to do with (and making sense of it has become the current challenge); cells are staggeringly chock full of sophisticated technologies, which are exquisitely integrated; life is not dominated by a single technology, but rather a composite of many; and yet life is more than the sum of its parts; in our work, we biologists use words that imply intentionality, functionality, strategy, and design in biology–we simply cannot avoid them.
    Furthermore, I suggest that to maintain that all of biology is solely a product of selection and genetic decay and time requires a metaphysical conviction that isn’t troubled by the evidence. Alternatively, it could be the view of someone who is unfamiliar with the evidence, for one reason or another. But for those who will consider the evidence that is so obvious throughout biology, I suggest it’s high time we moved on. – Matthew

    Although I have my quibbles with Shapiro’s use of the word ‘natural’ in his term ‘natural genetic engineering’, James Shapiro has created quite a stir in Darwinian circles by pointing out that random causes have very little, if anything, to do with what is really happening in molecular biology:

    Revisiting the Central Dogma in the 21st Century – James A. Shapiro – 2009
    Excerpt (Page 12): Underlying the central dogma and conventional views of genome evolution was the idea that the genome is a stable structure that changes rarely and accidentally by chemical fluctuations (106) or replication errors. This view has had to change with the realization that maintenance of genome stability is an active cellular function and the discovery of numerous dedicated biochemical systems for restructuring DNA molecules.(107–110) Genetic change is almost always the result of cellular action on the genome. These natural processes are analogous to human genetic engineering,,, (Page 14) Genome change arises as a consequence of natural genetic engineering, not from accidents. Replication errors and DNA damage are subject to cell surveillance and correction. When DNA damage correction does produce novel genetic structures, natural genetic engineering functions, such as mutator polymerases and nonhomologous end-joining complexes, are involved. Realizing that DNA change is a biochemical process means that it is subject to regulation like other cellular activities. Thus, we expect to see genome change occurring in response to different stimuli (Table 1) and operating nonrandomly throughout the genome, guided by various types of intermolecular contacts (Table 1 of Ref. 112).

    Also of interest from the preceding paper, on page 22, is a simplified list of the ‘epigenetic’ information flow in the cell that directly contradicts what was expected from the central dogma (Genetic Reductionism/modern synthesis model) of neo-Darwinism.

    Here are 20 Pro-Natural Genetic Engineering papers published in an extremely high ranking journal that get Shapiro’s point across most effectively:

    Natural Genetic Engineering and Natural Genome Editing

    supplemental notes as to the superiority of invoking agent causality in science rather than ‘natural’ causality:

    BRUCE GORDON: Hawking’s irrational arguments – October 2010
    Excerpt: ,,,The physical universe is causally incomplete and therefore neither self-originating nor self-sustaining. The world of space, time, matter and energy is dependent on a reality that transcends space, time, matter and energy.
    This transcendent reality cannot merely be a Platonic realm of mathematical descriptions, for such things are causally inert abstract entities that do not affect the material world,,,
    Rather, the transcendent reality on which our universe depends must be something that can exhibit agency – a mind that can choose among the infinite variety of mathematical descriptions and bring into existence a reality that corresponds to a consistent subset of them. This is what “breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe.” Anything else invokes random miracles as an explanatory principle and spells the end of scientific rationality.,,,
    Universes do not “spontaneously create” on the basis of abstract mathematical descriptions, nor does the fantasy of a limitless multiverse trump the explanatory power of transcendent intelligent design. What Mr. Hawking’s contrary assertions show is that mathematical savants can sometimes be metaphysical simpletons. Caveat emptor.
    – per Washington Times

    Not Understanding Nothing – A review of A Universe from Nothing – Edward Feser – June 2012
    Excerpt: A critic might reasonably question the arguments for a divine first cause of the cosmos. But to ask “What caused God?” misses the whole reason classical philosophers thought his existence necessary in the first place. So when physicist Lawrence Krauss begins his new book by suggesting that to ask “Who created the creator?” suffices to dispatch traditional philosophical theology, we know it isn’t going to end well. ,,,
    ,,, But Krauss simply can’t see the “difference between arguing in favor of an eternally existing creator versus an eternally existing universe without one.” The difference, as the reader of Aristotle or Aquinas knows, is that the universe changes while the unmoved mover does not, or, as the Neoplatonist can tell you, that the universe is made up of parts while its source is absolutely one; or, as Leibniz could tell you, that the universe is contingent and God absolutely necessary. There is thus a principled reason for regarding God rather than the universe as the terminus of explanation.
    – per First Things

    “In the whole history of the universe the laws of nature have never produced, (i.e. caused), a single event.”
    C.S. Lewis – doodle video

    “to say that a stone falls to earth because it’s obeying a law, makes it a man and even a citizen”
    – CS Lewis

    Verse and Music:

    Acts 17:28
    For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’

    Aaron Shust – O Come O Come Emmanuel –

  8. 8
    Robert Byers says:

    I got banned on myers web thing long ago. i don’t remember why.
    If he is discredited then I might think i was innocent. not learn my lesson.
    I want these guys around because they create audience. creationists have trouble getting audience. We need them.
    Unfortunately i find so many of them are motivated by hostility to God/christ/Christiandom, despite getting all they have from same, and not motivated by pure scientific investigation of great claims in the universe.
    I don’t wish ill to any.
    its Christmas. or end-of-year-present-opening-time as they say in canada.
    Naw. its just cHristmas.

  9. 9
    Joe says:

    rvb8- He doesn’t even know what makes a cephalopod a cephalopod.

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