Home again

I’m back!

Well, sorta. I spent 22 hours traveling from London to Morris yesterday, and didn’t get home until 1am. I got about 3 hours sleep before the circadian rhythms kicked in, and my suprachiasmatic nucleus started kicking the reticular formation into high alert, trying to convince it I was dawdling in bed far too long. I tried fighting it until 6am, when there was no more hope—the SCN was now telling my whole body it was lunch time. So I’m awake and physiologically confused, a state that will probably worsen over the day.

I have noticed that while I was off frolicking in the UK, traffic to Pharyngula has dropped off precipitously to less than two thirds it’s previous level. This will not do. Who would have thought you’d all be so fickle that you’d stop reading the site merely because there was a dearth of fresh content? I’ll try to ramp up the new material as well as I can, so come back! You know, some people, like the Neurophilosopher and Simon Middlemiss and the guy at Darwin Building went so far as to track me down and see me in person, so I don’t think asking you all to visit my site 20 or 30 times a day even when there’s nothing new to read is too much to ask.

Speaking of “tracking down” and “snark”, you may recall that we pestered Dawkins in his lair. One of the things we talked about is his upcoming appearance on American television: Dawkins was on the Colbert Report. You can watch it now (in that horribly ugly, clumsy Windows Media Player format), or better yet, here it is on YouTube:

(By the way, the UK cover is not shiny and silver, it’s black and red.)

I know he was a little nervous about the show, just because Colbert is such a weirdly inverted parody of a right-wing talk show, but I think he did well. He got in a few of his main points—that you can’t disprove the existence of gods, but that they are highly improbable, evolution is not solely random, science is not determined democratically—which is good enough, considering the way that show usually ravages its guests in such a sneaky way. I thought Dawkins zinged Colbert as well as can be expected when he pointed out that Colbert’s rationalizing that “god just did us” was the simplest explanation was defeated by the question “Who did god?”

Now…must get coffee.


  1. oldhippie says

    Not bad, and somewhat amusing, but it would take a special kind of skill to make points in such a short section.
    Whether it is religion or new age, neither our evolution, nor our education system, nor the press equips us to coming to the correct conclusions. The 27 minute video linked below is an old Randi special where he created a fictitious channeler, Carlos, and sold him to the Australian public. It is a classic example of how easily we are fooled and, it works as well for WMDs in Iraq as it does for religion.

  2. Caledonian says

    Give us a break, PZ. There’s only so much snarking that can be done in the comments, after all.

    We picked up some amusing new trolls in your absence that I think you’ll be quite pleased with.

  3. Buffalo Gal says

    Welcome back.

    You could assign some guest bloggers while you’re away, if you trust the car keys to someone.

  4. Silmarillion says

    Posting while you were away kind of felt like visiting someone’s house when you know they’re not home. Kind of weird, you know?

  5. zilch says

    As a coffee addict, and a pretty frequent transatlantic flier, I know the importance of getting the caffeine clock reset for local time. A tip: don’t drink any coffee 24 hours before traveling, and make sure your first coffee upon arrival is at your usual coffee time. It helps.

  6. Larry Moran says

    I hope you recover quickly ’cause I was thinking we might make this an annual event. Maybe we could drag along some others for the grand tour next year? Anyone interested?

  7. says

    There are many things left to explore in London, though, and other scientists to pester, and then there the cheap flights to Amsterdam and Venice, and the throwing of eggs at the London School of Economics (see next article), and oh so much more to do. Once isn’t enough.

    Of course, I think I’ll recover from the jet lag quickly, but the hit on my bank account might take a little longer to repair. We can’t all be absurdly wealthy Canadians, with their vast mineral resources and oil and lumber and booming dollar, you know.

  8. architeuthis says

    I thought Dawkins did brilliantly on The Colbert Report. His natural affability and intelligence really shines through.

    As a recently converted atheist, I have been soaking up all of Dawkins’ work with vigor.

  9. Icequeen says

    It is telling that a faux-conservative like Colbert can do a better debate for that side than the real deal.

  10. Carlie says

    Huh. I thought those were “oooooos”, like “Good show, really got him there”. Now I’ll have to watch it again.

  11. gregonomic says

    Dawkins did quite well. You could tell he was nervous – but what sane person wouldn’t be?

    “Who did God?” – classic! Can’t you just picture God being “done”? Or maybe given a reach-around?

  12. says

    I like the fact that Colbert literally handed him the argument with the pachinko line. “I know there’s a reason the ball goes from one nail to the next, but the outcome sure looks random to me!” If Dawkins had grasped that line more clearly he could have run the entire conversation around that point. As it was, Colbert kept it alive long enough to let the main idea sink in with his viewers.

    And I don’t think those were boos. I think there were a lot of surprised gasps as well: the “You’re atheists about all these gods you don’t believe in, I just go one god further than you” is a powerful line we atheists don’t get to deliver often and Dawkins delivered it exceptionally well; I suspect a lot of the audience went home with something to think about.

  13. Spud says

    Yeah, maybe he was nervous, but on the other hand – he came across exceptionally well, I thought. You don’t see him smile that much and loosen up a little, so it seemed to me that he wasn’t *that* nervous.

    He did a good job in the space allotted to him, anyway.

  14. Jeff says

    I think a book cover like a mirror (Colbert’s statement that he could see his face in it) is appropriate for a book called “The God Delusion”. No one here but us primates.

  15. says

    Larry Moran and I actually gave him the advice that the only way to deal with Colbert is to relax and go with the flow — that he doesn’t really believe his own schtick, so you don’t want to feel like you’ve got to rebut his arguments, and that a little self-deprecating humor goes a long way on that show.

    I think he’d pretty much seen that was the way to go himself, but I’ll pretend we coached him for the show anyway.

  16. gregonomic says

    Either way, I think anyone who sets foot on Colbert’s set has to have major cojones. He can make you, but he can also break you. It’s pretty much a gamble.

    Have you noticed lately that almost all of the Republican representatives who are invited for interviews on ‘Better Know a District’ decline?

  17. G. Tingey says

    Come over again PZ – there’s lots more different beers to try, for a start!

    I’m a bit dissapointed with “God DelusioN” – very good but not a KO against religion.

    Excuse me……

    So you cannot disprove “god’s” existence, so what.
    Try this instead.
    If “god” has any effect at all on this universe, including us, then his/her/its/their presence and or actions will leave traces.
    Where are they?

    Or, in short:
    God is not detectable.
    And, since not detectable, can be ignored for ALL purposes.

    The religious then have to disprove (falsify) this proposition.

    Please give this as much publicity as possible, provided authorship is assigned.

    I too, want religion trashed.

  18. quork says

    You could assign some guest bloggers while you’re away, if you trust the car keys to someone.

    If nominated I will not run. If elected I will not serve.

  19. W. Kevin Vicklund says

    Welcome back, PZ. Hope to see you at ConFusion in late January, which is less than an hour from where I live.

  20. Larry Moran says

    Rupert said,

    Ah, Larry, you know you only have to do the Haj once…

    Oh dear! This was my second time. Does that mean I don’t go to heaven?

    Anyway, the offer was to guide novices who wanted to do it for the very first time but nobody seems to be interested. Heathens.

  21. Siamang says

    G. Tingey,

    That argument is hardly original. I don’t think you need to worry about your place in the history of philosophical argument just yet.

  22. Stephen Erickson says

    I thought Dawkins did quite well for himself.

    A bit disappointing that he didn’t know about Chocolate Thunder and pachinko.

  23. says

    Dawkins did fine, but the show itself is more geared for simplicity rather than his finely-honed English sensibilities. I’d love to catch Colbert behind stage and see what he really thinks though. It’s obvious he’s a liberal, but is he an atheist? His claim that he believes in god sounded sincere.

  24. Stogoe says

    Colbert used to do “This Week in God” on the Daily Show, so at the very least, he’s not opposed to laughing at religion.

    As an aside, the Daily Show is sorely missing “This Week in God”. I wish there were some way to bring it back, but it was spectaculary Colbert’s.

  25. Will E. says

    Over on the Dawkins site, they’re expressing some mild suprise that Colbert is indeed a practicing Catholic, and a Sunday School teacher. Go figure.

  26. Steve_C says

    Colbert teaches Sunday school to one of my coworkers kids.
    I have no idea what his class is like. I suspect a sort of kiddie
    daycare with morality thrown in.

    He’s a liberal catholic like my dad. My dad was awesome when it
    came to being completely opened minded and progressive.

  27. tacitus says

    Welcome to the fold, architeuthis :-)

    I was just thinking last night (the one year anniversary of the Colbert Report) that Stephen Colbert really does have his act down now. In his first few weeks you could sense the strain as he was finding his feet with the show.

    I’m still not a huge fan, (prefer the Daily Show) but it is fun to see right-wing TV pundits being parodied so mercilessly. And the most amusing part is that there are plenty of right-wingers out there who still actually believe Colbert is one of them!

  28. dAVE says

    Rob Cordry actually stepped in and did This Week in God rather admirably. Alas, he has recently left the Daily Show as well.

  29. Robin Levett says

    Ah, Larry, you know you only have to do the Haj once…

    Oh dear! This was my second time. Does that mean I don’t go to heaven?

    No; its like winning a trophy – if you do the Haj here three times, you get to keep our Prime Minister…

  30. JaysonB says

    All this time I thought colbert was an atheist, especially considering the attention he’s given to atheist authors and all the slow pitches he’s thrown their way.

    And now to find out not only is he catholic, but extremely devout……….somehow lessons him.

  31. Tatarize says

    After the Sam Harris interview RA (before the crazy, no insulting Christians rule) claimed that it was clear that Colbert was an atheist. To pitch the softballs Colbert did you would need to fully understand a number of arguments which pretty much destroy religion as it stands. I read a number of articles about it. I doubt that Colbert is really an atheist, but am convinced that he is a freethinker.

    He is certainly a practicing Catholic. He once had a guest on from some Catholic conservative group who made the argument, I kid you not, that Native Americans aren’t Native Americans but rather are from Asia… and that he is a Native American because he’s from New York. — This isn’t the worst part, the worst part is Colbert let is slide.

  32. Percy Percy says

    My 17-year-old daughter’s comment after seeing the interview: “I have to read that book.”

  33. Tatarize says

    Couple quick notes:

    Dawkins did better than Harris. Harris stuck to his guns and ignored the softballs; I think that was a mistake on his part. Though to be fair Dawkins >> Harris, anyway.

    The 95% stat is actually from the Baylor study. They don’t ever ask about belief in God. The only question they ask,
    #26, “In Your Opinion Does Each of the Following Exist? –
    God … Absolutely, Probably, Probably Not, Absolutely Not.”

    According to the Baylor defintion this would mean that 5% put “Absolutely Not”. However, the Probably-Not’s are probably atheists too. 5% declared atheists is actually a step up from the 2-3% a few years back. In case you don’t know there is a major desync between those who declare themselves atheists and those who don’t believe in God. Even though, they both get put in the same box.

    It is incorrect to say that 95% of people believe in God because in the Baylor study 95% put “Absolutely”, “Probably” or “Probably Not” on the only specific God question they had.


  34. SEF says

    traffic to Pharyngula has dropped off precipitously

    Obviously I’m not all of your traffic, nor even necessarily representative of it; but I’ve been extremely busy for someone who doesn’t do anything much. Plus, much worse, the various changes to your site have rendered it pretty much unviewable to me.

    As with PT before, I had to start using FireFox and then still can’t get very far without the whole computer locking up and crashing. Which effectively limits me to only risking it at the end of the day after closing down nearly everything else. My attempt earlier today resulted in just such a crash, requiring power-off and tedious reboot (with potential loss of data from anything else I was doing). It can’t be a coincidence. It’s too repeatable an effect.