On BBC radio…

I was interviewed by a rather baffled radio announcer about the destruction of crackers (I know! Who would have thought such a silly event would be the focus of so much attention?) on BBC Radio Ulster. Reader DaleP tells me that it will be available online only until Saturday, so if you want to hear another flat-voiced nasal American talking to the lovely lilting voice of an Irishman, here’s your chance.


  1. Sigmund says

    William Crawley is usually a decent interviewer but he went a bit over the top on this one. He made it sound like you have a regular black mass going and were looking for a side order of eucharists to go with your main course of virgins.

  2. Lago says

    I could not believe what a hard time he had paying attention to your motives. He simply couldn’t wrap his mind around the concept of telling people to keep their sacred cows to themselves…

  3. Savagemutt says

    The blurb for the show is pretty misleading…Unless you’ve been privately impaling lots of other crackers and not telling your readers.

    “…a deeply controversial free speech campaign: the desecration of consecrated communion wafers taken from Catholic churches across the United States.”

  4. says

    The blurb for the show is pretty misleading…Unless you’ve been privately impaling lots of other crackers and not telling your readers.

    PZ the Impaler.

    PZ do you live in a huge dark musty castle complete with guard squid in the moat and with your victims displayed, crumbly and moist from humidity, along the twisting steep path to the front gate?

  5. Christian Ridley says

    As much as the interviewer seemed rather on the side of Catholics, your arguments really were eloquent, and to me at least you came out of that sounding pretty damn good!

    Hear, hear, PZ the Impaler!

  6. scooter says

    There’s a natural comedy in a conversation where one person is highly offended and the other can’t stop laughing.

    Good one PZ, made my morning.

  7. says

    What I find interesting is that Mr. Crawley never seemed to grasp the fact that there was only one cracker desecration and that you don’t have anymore planned. Sounds like he was trying to make this a bigger event than it actually was. He also missed the point that nothing should be sacred and that, not only the cracker, but a page from koran and a page Richard Dawkins’ book were desecrated along with it.

  8. clinteas says

    Mr Crawley was clearly biased on the issue,he seemed to be taking it awfully seriuosly and personally,asking how many wafers PZ had gotten his hand onto and all,it was kind of funny.

    PZ was his usual pleasant self,but the guy somehow just didnt get him,did he….

  9. says

    the lovely lilting voice of an Irishman

    I’ve found lilting highly overrated ever since hearing Alastair McGrath.

  10. says

    You know, as rough and rude as the Irish have a reputation for being, they seem to be far more polite than most of the Catholics, liberal Christians, and fundies in this country…

  11. bric says

    Please remember this is Northern Ireland, where until recently such an event would have been the subject of armed reprisals lasting many months. I was caught up in one of the London bombings (the Irish ones not the Islamic ones), which is ironic since my father came to England from Ireland to avoid such things.

  12. NMcC says

    Don’t be too hard on Crawley. He’s done a couple of excellent interviews of Richard Dawkins (can be accessed on Dawkins’ website) one for the BBC TV and one for BBC Radio. The Radio interview was only a few weeks ago and is the first item on Dawkins’ list of items for reading or listening to on the right hand side of his website. I would say that Crawley is probably an agnostic (if not an atheist) – he certainly gives the impression of being sympathetic to the arguments, which he appears to know quite well.

    Also, he was playing up the whole issue for local consumption, though I doubt that 1 in 1000 people in NI these days gives a toss.

    In regard to the lilting tones of McGrath, yes, indeed, his inanity certainly grates. But don’t forget that idiot Lennox and that uber idiot CS Lewis. Imagine having to listen to all three of them at the same time! I don’t know about THEIR voices ‘lilting’; YOUR ears would be lilting, just before they melt and drop off!

    As to the idea that Northern Ireland people seem to be quite polite, well, when it comes to the religious, you haven’t fucking met me!

  13. raven says

    The media isn’t that concerned with accuracy so much as popular interest. If the headline was,

    “Minnesota professor takes sacred body of Jesus for Dark Arts malevolent purposes, Catholics threaten to Crucify or Gitmo him.” That is news.

    “Minnesota professor sticks nail through cracker” Right, who cares.

    That is why it is called news rather than reality or information reporting.

  14. Steve_C says

    It’s pretty funny how he just didn’t get it. “Why would you do something so offensive?” Geeze. “But to Catholics it’s the body of Christ.”

    But it’s not.

  15. MH says

    “But to Catholics it’s the body of Christ.”

    Well, Mr. Crawley, your clothes are the manifestation of J-yuy, the all powerful god of my ancestors. By wearing them, you are desecrating that which is most holy to me, and I AM OFFENDED. Take them off now!!!


    Dualism is complete and utter bollocks.

  16. Chris Chandler says

    -Someone bakes a cracker and then hands it off to someone who waves his (always a He) hand over it and the cracker becomes special. This is a concept one would expect only to read in ancient manuscripts, not from a modern first-world country.

    -Of course the act was offensive. That was the point: to communicate the silliness over being offended. Being offended is a wonderful aspect of humanity, but if you’re offended by someone breaking a cracker you have bigger problems.

  17. Black Sheep says

    Reading the comments on the BBC article/blog that Peter Klaver pointed out further up in the comments here is quite interesting in itself.

    It seems the commenters there are quite familiar with each other and thus seem to represent their particular debating club more than the general audience of the radio show. But the way in which PZ’s action (and more importantly, the events that lead up to it) is marginalized in the debate and instead the discussion hovers around the finer points of politeness and christian theology to me just proves that the atheist crowd might just need many more acts of atheist iconoclasm in order to be heard.

    Quite unbelievably, some of the commenters there even dismiss the fact that all of this was not at all religiously motivated (as some kind of inner-christian slant against catholics) as unimportant and yet judge it as bigotry!

    By the way PZ, did you just choose not to mention the fact that you gave a Quran and ‘The God Delusion’ a similarly disrespectful treatment as the infamous cracker or did the BBC cut that from the broadcast?

  18. says

    I think what’s really notable here (and illustrative of the points in ch. 7 of TGD) is that PZ’s interview was the final of three segments, the first of which was a lengthy memorial to “activist legislator” Leo Abse. Last in the line-up is the spot broadcasters reserve for the “quirky human interest” story that tickles the audience’s waning attention. If punching holes through crackers is really such a big fat hairy frackin’ deal, shouldn’t PZ be at the top of the program?

  19. Shane McKee says

    PZ, just to echo what NMcC said above – William Crawley is a great interviewer, and trust me – you came across *superbly*. He’ll put the questions to you in a way that allows you to bat them back over the net with aplomb (which you did).

    William’s interviews with Richard Dawkins are also very good – he’s a mischievous chap, and has interviewed (and made mincemeat of) people like Ken Ham and Andy McIntosh. He also dealt very well with the recent homophobic rants of one of our prominent politicians over here.

    A lot of this is for local consumption, as noted above, but Will is one of the good guys (even if he does have an inordinate fondness for Anglicans).

    His blog is at http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/ni – as Peter Klaver says above (Hi Peter!), it is well worth a visit, and some of the regulars could SO use some Pharyngulove

  20. BobC says

    PZ gave excellent answers as usual, but what I liked most was the lady who was interviewed before PZ. What a wonderful accent. It would be worth going to Ireland just to listen to those people talk.

  21. Shane McKee says

    [incidentally, wrt Black Sheep #29 – this is WHY more people need to join in – at present it’s a rather restricted gene pool]

  22. Ordained Atheist says

    I’ve been mostly pro-PZ and anti-cracker during this whole brouhaha, but I didn’t find this interview very compelling.

    When Crawley asks whether the stunt wasn’t a bit “gimmicky,” PZ’s response is that it’s either an act fraught with meaning or it isn’t. That’s not only a false dichotomy, it also bypasses the question (“gimmicky” is not synonymous with ‘meaningless’).

    Also, (mostly) lost in this interview is PZ’s contention that his was an act of protest (against the insanity visited upon the UCF student). That’s too bad because unless it really was an act of protest, it comes off as a rather churlish stunt, intended to do nothing but stir up shit.

    For the first time in this thing, I’m almost sympathetic with the Catholics. To that extent, maybe it was a compelling interview.

  23. Joe says

    I doubt that 1 in 1000 people in NI these days gives a toss.

    I think you’re being charitable there. I lived in NI for 30 years and I have never encountered such staggering density of religious pig-ignorance. Earlier this year it emerged that the minister whose remit included the Giant’s Causeway believes that the earth is less than 6,000 years old – in other words, younger than some of the archaeological sites he’s expected to safeguard.

  24. NMcC says


    I’m not sure that there is a logical connection between the first sentence and the second one. Yes, because religion was so mixed up with nationalism (of different varieties) in the past, people were more inclined to reveal their bigoted idiocy. I think there has been a significant change that is manifest in the fact that it’s much easier (and safer) to declare that you consider religion to be bollocks, rather than to have to ‘show your colours’ so to speak.

    As far as the politician is concerned, they are all pig ignorant about most things – economics, history, the environment, sexuality, you name it – so I wouldn’t single out their attitude to the age of the earth.

    The main problem, I think, when looking to the views of politicians in order to fathom the views of the voters, is that in ‘democracies’ the majority of people either don’t vote or vote for those other than those elected.

  25. Ginger Yellow says

    Assuming the presenter was actually from Norn Iron, that’s the first time I’ve ever heard an Ulster accent described as “lilting”.

  26. SASnSA says

    I would have liked to hear more about why this needed to be done. I didn’t hear a lot about the student in UCF who was facing possible expulsion for trying to show his friend what the Eucharist was, or that the Catholic League felt the Eucharist was more important than this kid’s future.

  27. NMcC says

    Savagemutt | August 28, 2008 8:33 AM:

    “The blurb for the show is pretty misleading…Unless you’ve been privately impaling lots of other crackers and not telling your readers.”

    What, you mean PZ might be fucking crackers?

    (Er….sorry about that; plus that joke might not travel – which makes it even worse….slinks away, ashamedly).

  28. says

    I would have liked to hear more about why this needed to be done. I didn’t hear a lot about the student in UCF who was facing possible expulsion for trying to show his friend what the Eucharist was, or that the Catholic League felt the Eucharist was more important than this kid’s future.

    Are you asking to know more about Crackergate aka The Great Desecration?

    There are no less that 10 posts about this.

    Use the search function above and enter Eucharist or Cracker. You’ll find more than you probably every wanted to know.

  29. Deep Blue says

    Catholics can’t say that the wafer literally is Christ, unless they can actually provide evidence this is true. They can’t say that it’s the Christ to them because it either is or it isn’t. If the Biblical creationists think their delusions should be taught alongside biology, then I can only assume that Catholics want their magical transubstantiation be taught alongside the atomic theory in school.

  30. Spinoza says

    Wow… Mr. Crawley (the irony, were spelled ‘Crowley’, would be amusing) is apparently not that bright… he sounded as if he was offended himself, and also as if he was afraid of saying very much for fear of losing his job… the interview questions were pretty stupid, especially for an “ethics” podcast.

  31. Tom (the Belfast one) says

    I must admit, I’m delighted that NI is getting some attention on a noteworthy blog. A big hi to Joe and NMcC (how’s about ye?). They know as well as me that women in particular love the NI accent – and I’m certainly not complaining!

    I’ve got to say, NI is a reasonably intelligent part of the UK, until it comes to religion, then we are spectacularly stupid. It wouldn’t surprise me if the interviwer was deliberately making the questions easy to bat back – that way, he gets the message across while having a quiet chuckle to himself. Being a country hidebound by religious tradition, the more intelliegnt of us have to operate by stealth.

  32. says

    Deep Blue #43: I was thinking exactly this as I listened to the recording. If Xians insist the wafer is actually Christ, then they should provide evidence. Unless and until they do, it’s just a piece of bread. Either it is (to everybody), or it isn’t. And the lack of evidence says it isn’t, despite anything they claim.

    I am 100% with PZ on this.

  33. JWC says

    Good job on being quick to call out Crawley’s flaws in logic! This was an entertaining example of an interviewer trying to provoke someone vastly more intelligent.

  34. says

    Great work on speedily dispelling the myths, PZ – although the routine now is that some sad and boring sod will write in to the BBC and complain.

  35. W, H. Heydt says

    Correction of #49…that’s from MSNBC. (I was reading the BBC a bit earlier…)

  36. Iain Walker says

    They know as well as me that women in particular love the NI accent

    Oh, crap. And I’ve been trying to lose my accent for the past 20 years …

  37. Lee Brimmicombe-Wood says

    Northern Ireland was until recently, and still is to a certain extent, an outpost of Europe’s wars of religion. It is no surprise that Papists and Protestants both take an interest in such matters as this.

  38. ILYa says

    PZ you made folks from the old country squeamish. This meme will grow into a revolution. If you are to make a video and have it annotated by the other big boys of Atheist front we will have a lovely war on our hands. And I say bring it!!! Atheists are the only army I would care to join and the only cause I am willing to battle for.

  39. says

    Who would have thought such a silly event would be the focus of so much attention?

    Well who would attempt to do such a “silly” thing with the wafer in the first place. Most likely the radio host was confused why a professor in biology would take such an interest in destroying religious symbols and then post them on the net for millions to see.

  40. the Kardinal says

    Anyone else having trouble downloading this?

    I’ve tried both Firefox and IE with no luck. Any suggestions?

  41. says

    I sure hope you made a point of trying to piss off the Protestants as much you’ve already pissed off the Catholics.

  42. Shane McKee says

    Guys, it is the job of the interviewer to put some of the “counter-arguments”. I think Will Crawley did as good a job as anyone could – the counter-arguments are of course nonsense.

    For Will interviewing Richard Dawkins, check this Youtube video, and the 2 follow-ons: http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=7mgaRKsIR_U

  43. says

    Start listening at about 26:30.

    I’m surprised you didn’t mention how you did “desecrate” a copy of each The Quran and The God Delusion along with the cracker, especially since he mentioned pouring petrol on the book of Islam and torching it.

  44. Steven Carr says

    I think PZ Myers should have masticated the wafer.

    Catholics eat Jesus every week? It really is cannibalism?

  45. says

    I listened to this, the interviewer just doesn’t get it. All I could think of during it was “IT’S A FRACKING CRACKER!”