Another edition of “As others see us”

To my surprise, I opened this week’s edition of the university newspaper, and there was an article about me (it’s near the end, on page 18). It’s complimentary, if you think words like “scathing” and “godless” are high compliments, as I do, and it’s also good to see what some of the students think. However! Yes, I say, However!

Those who know the mild-mannered Myers must surely
wonder where the fire comes
from in his blog. He is perhaps
best summarized as a writer
who demands an empiricist
understanding of truth, disdains
misrepresentation of his views,
and insists on a fair shake for
atheists. There is also an element of thrill to his writing,
the thrill of really nailing some

Aaaaigh. “Mild-mannered?” I also did a phone interview yesterday with Jason Rennie for his podcast (it’ll air in about a month), and he said afterwards that I sound much different one-on-one than I do on the web. I have got to do something about this horrible image problem — it’s the Wizard of Oz effect. On the web, I’m this giant disembodied head with a stentorian voice, with flames erupting everywhere … and then these people keep insisting on pulling back the curtain and exposing the ordinary, dithering old man with soft-voiced professorial airs.


We are who we are, I guess. It’s just that I wanna be a pirate when I grow up, and my career track seems to be leading me towards the kindly ol’ granpa job, instead.


  1. longstreet says

    Wait–you mean you aren’t a giant, diembodied head wreathed in flame?
    How about Bob Park? Is HE a giant disembodied head wreathed in flame?
    It’s so hard to find good idols these days.
    Can I at least assume you have ichor-dripping squid tentacles?
    Hey, maybe all who look upon you go instantly mad, and that’s why they think you’re just a mild-manner tweed jockey.
    Steve “What a great thing rationalization is” James

  2. Tony P says

    I am sure that your “Mild-mannered” nature is just part of your secret identity. It to hide your superhero status.

  3. says

    I had a similar reaction to hearing Richard Dawkins on Fresh Air. He was such a mild-mannered, soft-spoken person. How on earth did he get painted as such a raving ideologue?

  4. David Wilford says

    Shrug. Nearly all of us are mild-mannered in our interactions with others in person. Why? Perhaps it’s because those who tend to be jerks aren’t as likely to pass on their genes. Not that we can’t be more like pirates if opportunity beckons, but that’s not our default setting as a social animal.

  5. amph says

    some reason, it can be tremendously
    satisfying to see someone
    such as Myers ripping into
    inexplicably famous pundits
    so skillfully and harshly.

    Well-phrased by Eagan Heath.
    That pretty much sums up 49 % of my motivation to come here. The other 51% is the DevBio & EvoDevo.

  6. says

    This is pretty damned disappointing. First it was the melting witch and now it’s the not-really-a-giant-flaming-head. Damn. We flying monkeys may need to find other employment.

    Is Dawkins hiring?

  7. CalGeorge says

    Eagan writes:

    “This week’s entries mock prominent moron Dinesh D’Souza.”

    So much for journalistic neutrality. Way to opine, Eagan!

  8. says

    Yeah, right. I tried to interview some flying monkeys for a lackey job, and what did I get? A lemur with diarrhea and a flying squirrel with delusions of grandeur. You don’t fool me, Zeno.

  9. says

    Concerning Professor Myers’ response to Mike Adams, Heath wrote:

    As with nearly every entry about someone on the
    right, Myers wrote a response dripping with ad hominem.

    No, no, no…! He writes responses dripping with insults, but that’s not the same as ad hominems. He doesn’t dismiss their arguments by calling them idiots, he rips apart their arguments and shows that they’re idiots.

  10. says

    I have to battle being perceived as “goth-y” and dark and brooding… for some reason. I’m actually quite happy and upbeat so I don’t know where they get it from.

    Maybe it’s my fascination with skeletons?

  11. Sastra says

    PZ needs to get together with Bob Carroll of Skeptic’s Dictionary fame — articles on him strike the same note. Bearded, mild-mannered, soft-spoken college professor in person; fire-breathing, take-no-prisoners defender of scientific rationality in print.

    Perhaps the two of you can form a club and hold meetings at the Randi convention every year. Penn Gillette can give all you gentle academics some tips on “how to come across like a real skeptic.”

  12. Brian Coughlan says

    PZ, I’ve done this on your blog a few times, please if you mind do let me know.

  13. says

    About the pirate/kindly grandpa thing: no, see, there you’re assuming that the mild-mannered guy that journalists see is the real you while the giant flaming head isn’t; but it could just as well be the opposite; in fact I would say the opposite is more likely.

  14. says

    Yea, you really can’t pull off true malevolence in your current form. So until you schedule a horrific lab “accident” that gives you a diabolical look and supernatural powers, I’d recommend using the right accouterments.

    I’d suggest an iron mask and emerald green tunic with matching cape and hood. Oh, and a voice changer. Something that booms with diabolical intent.

    Best of all, you can simply remove your disguise when you wish to prevent being mobbed by the paparazzi. That’s also good for keeping price quotes low when you take your Squid Mobile in to the auto mechanic.

  15. Scott Hatfield, OM says

    Poor PZ! He can wield a big cutlass, and swoon for a cuttlefish lass, but at the end of the day he appears more cuddly than cuttly.

    It’s not entirely his fault, you know. A few of my acquaintances in the pews have approached me with something like outrage over the ‘New Atheism’. Whenever they attempt to describe folk like you as imps, folk like me demur and say that you are merely imp-ious.

    I think I’ve done enough damage for today…:)

  16. Pierce R. Butler says

    Prof. Myers: You wanna badass rep, you gotta walk the walk.


    2) D. Imus has spare time now; ask him for oratorial tutorials.

    3) Emulate The Rude Pundit at every opportunity.

    4) Black leather. Lots of black leather.

    5) Beating up insufficiently obsequious interviewers is not optional.

    6) BANG POINTS!!!

    7) File your teeth.

  17. Graculus says

    Well, if you want to lean how to project complete evil in relatively normal clothes and speaking quietly, I’d suggest watching Viggo Mortensen’s turn as Lucifer in “The Prophecy”.

    Best movie line by Lucifer yet: “God is love. I don’t love you.”

  18. ajay says

    Have you seen the video of firefly squid that’s up on the BBC News site? Amazing.

    Please. Firefly squid are not amazing. They are “shiny”.

  19. jackd says

    I thought the “giant disembodied head” category on this end of the blogosphere was taken.

    Oh, I’m getting mixed up by that old “either/or” versus “both/and” thing. Sorry.

  20. rrt says

    Please. Firefly squid are not amazing. They are “shiny”.

    Oh, you have no idea how much I needed that laugh this morning!

  21. Inky says

    at the end of the day he appears more cuddly than cuttly.

    Too funny! I imagined PZ as a bearded baby squid trying to look fierce.

  22. says

    7) File your teeth.

    is a common misconception. Most people with pointy teeth (as a means of looking fierce, etc.) get their teeth that way with percussion, not filing.

    It’s usually done at the same time as circumcision. I suppose one distracts you from the other.

  23. says

    “Those who know the milde-mannered Myers must surely wonder where the fire comes from …”

    The fiercest dragons have the deepest dens.