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May 23 2013

My vast but unsavory power

Some people are upset that Rupert Sheldrake is a pseudoscientific kook whose nonsense has been purged from the official collection of TED talks. To my surprise, I just learned that it is all my fault.

Talks from Rupert Sheldrake and Graham Hancock given at the TEDx Whitechapel event titled “Visions for Transition: Challenging Existing Paradigms and Redefining Values” were both banned following recommendations from a faceless “Science Board,” which turned out to be heavily influenced by the most unsavory of militant atheists. The most active in the controversy appears to be PZ Myers, who is accustomed to being publicly denounced by even atheist organizations and figures for inflammatory writings and such tone-deaf stunts as ripping out pages of the Qur’an, piercing them with a nail, throwing them in the trash with coffee grounds and a banana peel, and proceeding to photograph the scene for his blog.

I found the logical progression interesting: from “Science Board” to “the most unsavory of militant atheists” to inflammatory me to desecrating the Qur’an.

I’m happy to be called an unsavory atheist, but let’s be clear here: I am not an any board associated with TED, I do not consider myself particularly influential in that way, the fact that my writing is regarded as inflammatory and that some atheists detest me does not make me “militant”, and my acts of desecration have nothing to do with the issue at hand anyway (by the way, it’s weird to say I just tore up the Qur’an — I got two letters from Muslims afterwards, one approving and another saying it was irrelevant because I defamed a translation, which doesn’t count; I also desecrated a copy of The God Delusion, with no objections and even approval from its author; and I destroyed a communion wafer, which prompted uncounted masses of letters and emails and public denunciations from the Catholic League).

How can anyone trust the logic of someone like the author of that cranky blog post who gets everything wrong?

48 comments

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  1. 1
    butchpansy

    Disagreeing is militancy; criticism is oppression. Or is that cencesorship? I can never remember.

  2. 2
    Xaivius (Formerly Robpowell, Acolyte of His Majesty Lord Niel DeGrasse Tyson I)

    So, when it’s feminist, blame Rebecca, when it’s science, blame PZ?

    Also, yay for people apparently deciding you’re the new Bogeyman of science!

    Poopyhead for Bogeyman2014: 4 times the arms, 4 times the fun!

  3. 3
    Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human.

    You have ultimate power. Yes.

  4. 4
    tigtog

    I find the non-standard usage of “ban” highly interesting.

  5. 5
    mythbri

    (Deep Movie Trailer Voice)

    PZ Myers IS:

    The Banninator.

  6. 6
    Randomfactor

    Maybe add a little oregano for a more savory power? Or does that smack of accommodationism?

  7. 7
    Viktor Brown

    A science board *gasps* advises against a pseudoscientist presenting! It must be the work of the filthy atheists!

  8. 8
    Sili

    Jerry Coyne must be so pissed right now.

  9. 9
    David Marjanović

    It’s your banhammer, PZ. The author doesn’t know what “ban” means – he clearly believes it means “remove from the Internet” –, but he knows you have a banhammer.

    public denunciations from the Catholic League

    To be fair, the Catholic League only consists of Bill Donahue and, what, his computer? Nobody outside the US has ever heard of it, except if they read Pharyngula.

  10. 10
    chigau (違う)

    Is a “science board” anything like a “death panel”?

  11. 11
    Sili

    Daniel Dennett, perhaps the most popular figure in the most recent atheist movement, is said to have commented to Sheldrake that he thought TED had made a mistake with this whole controversy.

    Next up: The lurkers support me in email.

  12. 12
    sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d

    “Visions for Transition: Challenging Existing Paradigms and Redefining Values”

    Have so many keywords for claptrap ever appeared in one sentence before?

  13. 13
    Greg Amann

    Sheldrake was on “Ideas”, a CBC series that also had Smolin and a bunch of real scientists. Yes. I am judging Rupert to have handed in his “scientist” card. That’s a pretty damning accusation coming from a bachelors in engineering weenie like me.

    But if the wanker is THAT nuts, even I can spot it. ;-)

  14. 14
    Lynna, OM

    So, the Poopyhead has been identified by Know Nothings as “most unsavory.” I disagree. I find PZ most savory most of the time.

  15. 15
    Anthony K

    I also desecrated a copy of The God Delusion, with no objections and even approval from its author;

    Eh, I bet if you called up Stephen King and told him you were going to swallow a page from “IT” every day for three years and change, he wouldn’t give much of a shit either other than to ask how many copies you’d like to eat and then re-check his royalty agreement with the publisher.

  16. 16
    Viktor Brown

    Eh, I bet if you called up Stephen King and told him you were going to swallow a page from “IT” every day for three years and change, he wouldn’t give much of a shit either other than to ask how many copies you’d like to eat and then re-check his royalty agreement with the publisher.

    That would only be one copy of IT that he’d eat so SK wouldn’t get much from it.

  17. 17
    johnwilkins

    Is your power subject to an inverse square law, or is it ubiquitous?

  18. 18
    consciousness razor

    I think you’re savory, PZ. Granted, it wasn’t my first impression, but the aftertaste was surprisingly piquant. And the almost squid-like aroma just sort of hangs there for a long time, so much that it’s almost suffocating. It’s hard to explain. Don’t take this the wrong way, but you may not be the most savory of militant atheists. I’m not sure yet who would get that honor. It’d take a lot more testing to really know. I’d do it for a TED talk, but knowing how these things go, it’d probably get banned, so then what would be the point?

  19. 19
    Rey Fox

    who is accustomed to being publicly denounced by even atheist organizations

    My impression was that the only atheists denouncing PZ are the slimepit losers. The actual organizations seem mostly okay with him.

  20. 20
    PatrickG

    I bet PZ is even more savory now that he’s been infused with paprika.

  21. 21
    ChristineRose

    I think PZ needs a quick parboil to remove then off flavors, then a long stew with some aromatics, as he is somewhat old and stringy.

    If the worst thing your enemies can do is be influenced a stringy biology professor and you still lose, you need to rethink your strategy.

  22. 22
    Owlmirror

    Let us not forget that the horrible, terrible PZ Myers had a lawsuit brought against him for calling someone a classic crackpot.

    That’s quite a bit stronger than a denunciation.

  23. 23
    Naked Bunny with a Whip

    But does your unsavory power outweigh Caring-Lobel’s ability to peer into the minds of faceless, unnamed science-board members?

  24. 24
    Feline

    publicly denounced by even atheist organizations and figures

    Say hello to your allies, Justin.
    I hope you’re proud.

  25. 25
    Ichthyic

    I just learned that it is all my fault.

    butbutbut… I thought it was all Jerry’s fault?

  26. 26
    Ichthyic

    tone-deaf stunts as ripping out pages of the Qur’an

    …interesting that they chose to focus on that book instead of any of the others involved.

  27. 27
    Ichthyic

    and here’s one of the first comments on that article:

    The brightness of noontide is
    as a candle against the radiance of the
    glory of JHVH and the unfading
    light of backwards particles; the redeemed
    and the stamped walk in the
    sunless glory of perpetual day;

    O.o

  28. 28
    FossilFishy (NOBODY, and proud of it!)

    And there you have the authoritarian mindset. Something goes against your wishes and you must run around yelling “Who’s to blame. Who’s to BLAME!” And of course a nameless board isn’t good enough, there must be one, only ONE!

    Kids in the Hall got it right.

  29. 29
    Charlie Foxtrot

    If you’re being criticized by someone with such a loose affinity for accuracy – you’re probably doing something right.

  30. 30
    pocketman

    How can anyone trust the logic of someone like the author of that cranky blog post who gets everything wrong?

    If everyone treated ad hominem arguments as they should be treated (as not actual arguments), then most of people’s arguing (read: yelling inanities at others) tactics would be gone.

  31. 31
    Greg Hilliard

    “I bet PZ is even more savory now that he’s been infused with paprika.”
    PatrickG, you beat me to it.

  32. 32
    Ichthyic

    read: yelling inanities at others

    only if you conflate ad hom with insults, you pusillanimous fuckwit.

    ;)

  33. 33
    Jackie the wacky

    Logic? Oh, I don’t think logic enters into the decision making process at all.

  34. 34
    Tony! The Fucking Queer Shoop!

    PZ:
    With great power comes great responsibility.

  35. 35
    Ichthyic

    ….and with fictional power comes?

    a rubber suit?

  36. 36
    PatrickG

    I think we all know a rubber suit prevents conduction of power, fictional or otherwise.

  37. 37
    Ichthyic

    I think we all know a rubber suit prevents conduction of power, fictional or otherwise.

    I’m sure Gary Aldridge would agree.

    …or would have.

    ;P

  38. 38
    PatrickG

    I’m sure Gary Aldridge would agree.

    Well, his last gasps might have involved how rubber doesn’t prevent asphyxiation… I’m quite sure he was well insulated against electrical shocks? Anyhoo, this is veering way off the topic of the possible flavors of PZ.

    Or is he wearing two neoprene wetsuits as well? Does that modify the flavor?

  39. 39
    Ichthyic

    probably acts to help self-marinate.

    …ok, I wish I hadn’t just said that.

  40. 40
    ronjaaddams-moring

    Sili @11

    Daniel Dennett, perhaps the most popular figure in the most recent atheist movement, is said to have commented to Sheldrake that he thought TED had made a mistake with this whole controversy.

    Next up: The lurkers support me in email.

    This mention of Dennett disturbed me enough to send me googling and digging. I found this: http://sebastian.penraeth.com/post/46115422948/teds-spectacular-fail-ideas-worth-suppressing

    Some commenters theorized that people like Daniel Dennett, himself a staunch materialist… and a member of the TED Brain Trust… must be behind this decision. Interestingly, Guy Hayward wrote:

    I went to a talk by Daniel Dennett last night in London, and heard him saying to Rupert Sheldrake that he thought TED had made a mistake with regard to this whole controversy. Dennett also said he had had nothing to do with the controversy.

    Where the Hayward comment was taken from: http://www.ted.com/profiles/1775620

    Interestingly, this alleged Dennett quote does not specify what exactly Dennett said the mistake was, yet the alleged quote is used as proof that Dennett supports Sheldrake (and Sheldrake’s views on science?). I wonder if Dennett knows about this?

  41. 41
    Viktor Brown

    Maybe the mistake was considering Sheldrake at all or something.

  42. 42
    rorschach

    Interestingly, this alleged Dennett quote does not specify what exactly Dennett said the mistake was, yet the alleged quote is used as proof that Dennett supports Sheldrake (and Sheldrake’s views on science?). I wonder if Dennett knows about this?

    I’ll go and ask him.

  43. 43
    gussnarp

    If the Sheldrake talk was actually removed from the archive or officially disavowed, that’s fantastic. That talk was the quintessential example of the problems with the TED format. The talks have so much power to be persuasive, but consist entirely on one person making their best presentation, with no citations, no questions, no room for debate. Combine that with the power of the TED brand and you’ve got something very dangerous. So I’m overjoyed TED is taking some real responsibility for weeding out the worst of the nonsense.

    But the cherry picking of Crackergate is telling. They only want to paint you as an attacker of Islam. This is the one time I’ll agree that political correctness is being used as a weapon. You did this absolutely right, you made it about free speech and the absurdity of calling common objects sacred, rather than about Muslims, or Catholics, by destroying objects sacred to both groups, and one perceived by the worst of them as somehow being sacred to us. By erasing those elements from the account, they changed the character of what you did and why you did it and lied by omission.

  44. 44
    Cynickal

    Do militant atheists get cool uniforms? Something with shiny buttons or epilates? Are the boots comfortable?

  45. 45
    David Marjanović

    But the cherry picking of Crackergate is telling. They only want to paint you as an attacker of Islam. This is the one time I’ll agree that political correctness is being used as a weapon.

    And the ones who do it do it because they have fatwā envy.

  46. 46
    Useless

    Thank you for answering my concern about when you became a Science Board, but why must you be so inflammatory? I saw a movie about you militants trying to take away Christmas. What’s next? Removing “In God We Trust” from our money?

  47. 47
    Ichthyic

    And the ones who do it do it because they have fatwā envy.

    yeah, that was my first thought.

  48. 48
    Ichthyic

    I saw a movie about you militants trying to take away Christmas.

    may I just say your nym is very appropriate?

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