1. Valis says

    Meh, he also comments over at Unreasonable Faith. Don’t know whether to take him seriously or nor.

  2. 386sx says

    So the moral of the story is the next time there’s a plane crash, make sure it’s full of atheists, and then it won’t crash?

  3. says

    You weren’t being offensive enough, you have to make it so anyone who has ever even known anyone to have believed in anything at any point hates you. It’s right there in the atheist 10 commandments…

  4. valhar2000 says

    A curious piece. He starts off with an idiotic story that stablishes him as an imbecile, and then sets himself up as not an imbecile.

    I wonder if he was trying to create some sort of an effect, or if he just really finds that story funny?

  5. says

    Kel, I believe that is spelled “athiest”.

    Oh shit, I didn’t realise I spelt it the wrong way. Of course, it’s the athiest 10 commandments. Apologies for my error, now lets get back to offending theists. It’s commandments 3 though 7 after all.

  6. says

    …about a Muslim atheist, a Christian atheist and a Jewish atheist…

    This seems to imply that, although religious people can stop believing in their Gods, they can never stop being Muslims, Christians or Jews.

  7. says

    I heard you and Dawkins also said there was a ‘soul’. :) That was one of the more fun nut jobs we’ve had at an MNA event. We’ve taken to calling him “Soul Man”, and added him to our collection of wackos who come to our meetings/events along with “White Horse”.

  8. DaveL says

    Quite a flatterring review, although I do have a couple of remarks about his blog:

    The song is about a Muslim atheist, a Christian atheist and a Jewish atheist traveling to Los Angeles for an atheist convention. During the flight there is an accident and the plane begins to go down. The three atheists, believing that they are going to die, all begin to pray. The plane mysteriously manages to right itself and everyone on board is saved. The song ends with the three atheists each returning to their ancestral faith.

    Wow, that’s offensive. Can you imagine someone writing a song about a “Muslim Christian” and a “Jewish Christian” renouncing Christianity under such circumstances? The idea that atheists are somehow only pretending to unbelief seems to be some kind of self-congratulatory masturbation fantasy among religious believers. If I were a believer, I hope I would have the integrity to be ashamed of my coreligionists for indulging in such glurge.

    Then there’s this:

    We live in world caught between secularism and religious fundamentalism. I am taking up my post, alongside many wiser souls, as a low ranking messenger boy in the fight to establish a third path.

    Mr. Chinn, you seem to be labouring under the mistaken notion that secularism is some kind of extreme sitting opposite religious fundamentalism, and that between the two lies the path of reasonable compromise. This is false. Secularism is not atheism. In fact, secularism is that middle path you speak of; it is the philosophy that would allow atheists, religious moderates, and fundamentalists to coexist peacefully, fairly, and equally precisely because it concerns itself only with the worldly concerns all people have in common, and strips all religious notions of civic power.

  9. Cafeeine says

    @12 Tom K.

    That can be taken in two ways. Most converts to atheism, especially ones that didn’t have a traumatic experience due to the religion of their culture, remain immersed in that culture. Like Dawkins, who described himself as a cultural christian.

    The anecdote mentioned however seems to be implying those atheists’ cultural background, as well as the underlying assumption that there are no atheists in foxho… airplane crashes. The point that each turned back to their cultural faith is a point to their subjectiveness.

  10. says

    Aw, what a beautiful, inspiring, uplifting story! When your god says “worship me or else I’ll kill you along with all these people,” you know that you have a fair, merciful god.

  11. says

    …about a Muslim atheist, a Christian atheist and a Jewish atheist…
    This seems to imply that, although religious people can stop believing in their Gods, they can never stop being Muslims, Christians or Jews.

    It is plausible he is using “X atheist” as a short hand for “atheist from X cultural background – perhaps with some markers of that back ground in their character” and not meant to imply that they are somehow “really” still followers. There is respectable precedent for that usage; Bertrand Russell wrote about the difference between “Catholic atheists” and “Protestant atheists” and certainly didn’t think he was “really” still any sort of Christian.

    The story of the song seems weirdly anti-religious, given that he said it was a thing heard specifically in Orthodox Jewish communities. I mean, the event made all three of the see the rightness of their own, mutually-contradictory traditions. That doesn’t seem to be a good argument for saying any of the claims of religions are true. It seems more like it’s satirising the cognitive biases leading to religion.

  12. Delictuscoeli says

    That’s right Cafeeine. Dawkins also retells the old Irish joke about Catholic and Protestant atheists. It’s undeniable that faith communities have cultural characteristics in common that go well beyond religious dogma and belief in the supernatural. One might reject the latter while still embracing the former (like Christmas carols, for example). I for one love to celebrate Carnival, and to see the Bach Passions at Easter time.

  13. Bullet Magnet says

    PZ, you dog! You put me on my guard for something dire, but it was nothing of the sort.

  14. Jack Rawlinson says

    “…a Muslim atheist, a Christian atheist and a Jewish atheist…”

    What a fine little trio of oxymorons. This guy seems not to understand the meaning of the word “atheist”.

  15. gayatheistrecruiter says

    He actually seems pretty open-minded and even-handed for a creationist reviewing a lecture on evolutionary biology…PZ should cut the kid a break methinks–we may be able to bring him over to our side yet…

  16. SLC says

    Actually, having heard a number of interviews and presentations by Prof. Myers, I think that Mr. Chinn has accurately described his persona which, in person, is totally different then what appears on his blog. On his blog, he’s a rottweiler, in person, he’s a cocker spaniel.

  17. Samnell says

    The description of Live Action PZ sounds exactly like my impression of Blog PZ. I am led to suspect that PZ differs very little in person vs. online. Rather instead the viewer of both is less able to pretend PZ is such a rabid squid when seeing him in person.

    Or it could be just that I’m singularly good at deriving someone’s personality from their writing. I am always open to explanations with flattering implications for my own competence. But having read a fair number of books and then observed the authors live on TV giving talks similar to PZ’s (I watch a lot of BookTV on CSPAN sometimes.) I’m inclined to think the difference is in the observer’s attitudes.

  18. eddie says

    It’s amazing! All this time we’ve been asking for evidence of this god thing. All athiests are quite prepared to accept evidence but we’ve been disappointed.
    Luskin just waffles. Behe and Dembski have tried and failed but now Chinnn! The evidence that prayer stops a plane crash!

    Either that or he’s making shit up.

  19. Attila says

    I was at the conference so I cannot fault him in his reviews. The summary is a good and accurate version of what was discussed. It was the lead in to the story that had something to be desire.

    Although in one sense I might speak for Christian Atheists or Muslim Atheists. In my mind if you grew up in a faith tradition that tradition already did its job of dispatching all the other religions as false. It was only your job finally to reject yours. If you didn’t look at the others closely then your Atheism probably in some ways has as a background of rejecting your specific previous faith.

    I always heard the joke of Jewish Atheists being a special case. “Oy vey I don’t believe in god, but let me tell you of the millenia of history and tradition of the god I don’t believe in.”

  20. Jessica R. says

    I was the person right behind him in line to see you, and I knew something was up when he acted all suprised when you treated Paley with respect by not imposing today’s standard on the past. His review of the talk was ok, but what’s with the weird conversion story? I would have hopes that he would see that we humanists are good people who are not going anywhere. His plane conversion in crisis story seems quite unfair considering that he surely saw the two handicapped people there who are still humanists, despite the notion that everyone turns to religion when life gives us difficulties. He expects atheists to respect his religion, then he should respect our decision to have no religion. (Sorry for any tyops, I am using my Touch to type this in between classes.)

  21. Richard Harris says

    So the moral of the story is the next time there’s a plane crash, make sure it’s full of atheists, and then it won’t crash?

    Nah. The moral is, if you want a really big miracle, you need to have involved a Jew, a Christian, & a Muslim, at least. (I dunno if Hindus count. Maybe Yahweh doesn’t listen to them?)

  22. says

    A good outline of the talk, but weird intro.

    Be that as it may, food was good and the talk was too. Although I did not expect an evolutionary biology lecture on cells. Once again I was reminded of why I took the minimum number of science hours as an undergraduate.

    On the other hand, my wife loved it and took notes. Then she attempted to give me the dummies version on the way home. She was no more successful in implanting knowledge than you were P.Z.

    Good time though.

  23. RamblinDude says

    A Pastafarian atheist is traveling to an atheist convention when his plane begins to go down. . . .

  24. Jeff F says

    Religious people always seem to be surprised that P.Z. doesn’t have horns.

    P.Z., Have you considered doing a video blog?

  25. AnthonyK says

    I think it’s a good review, open-minded and fair. But why are people so surprised that you are a decent, fair person in the flesh? Don’t they understand how one’s internet persona is a more distilled, considered, and frequently rude version of one’s own real persona?
    But well done Izgad, a theist who is prepared to modify his opnions when reality bites.
    Completely OT but I think this is really fucking funny:

  26. says

    It sounds like a good description, though I was listening to PZ and not taking notes like it was a biology lecture.

    Still, “Atheist Convention” sounds so… I mean, doesn’t the Columbus Humanist group have a meeting like this every month??

  27. says

    I sent PZ Myers an email -but would like to reiterate here. I am Ron’s wife at comment #31. I took lots of notes and was very excited about understanding genetics in realtion to evolution, more than I ever have. I am interested in Plant Biology and Botanical Illustration and was so inspired I ordered a book on Plant Evolution.

    For the comment on the 2 handicapped people at the banquet – I was one. My husband is an atheist, but I am not. I am a Missouri Synod Lutheran. Respecting atheism is respecting people. I am appaled at how some react when my husband says he is an atheist, and some even ask what I do about it. I love him – he has the same rights I do. Strange World!

    The banquet was wonderful and I look forward to doing other events with the humanists. Not all of us don’t believe in education and rational thinking – really.

  28. littlejohn says

    OK, stop me if you’ve heard this:
    A Muslim atheist, a Jewish atheist and a Christian atheist walk into a bar….
    What a great audience! Tip your veal and enjoy your waitress! I’ll be here all week!

  29. says

    I was also at the event… I really enjoyed the lecture and our humanist group host put on a really nice spread.

    On the creationist blogger’s comments… Apart from the strange intro, I think it was a nice summary and agree with other comments that it sounds like this guy is representing the event pretty well.

    After the lecture, a group of us from Freethought Dayton and a few others hung around PZ at the podium for an interesting chat. I wasn’t surprised by PZ’s warmth but his willingness to engage us in conversation seemed limited only by the fact that the facility staff were about to kick us out. That and PZ had to catch a flight in the AM.

    PZ, Thanks for the lecture and thanks for hanging out with us! It was really cool.

  30. Kendo says

    There was a question and answer session following the lecture where Dr. Myers again proved to be far more congenial and far more open to certain nuances than he is on Pharyngula.

    See, some people get the difference between a public event and a private blog. Those odious trolls should take this to heart.

  31. Arne says

    An agnostic atheist, an ignostic atheist and an apatheistic atheist were travelling to a science convention. During the flight there was an accident and the plane began to go down. The three atheists …

  32. ggab says

    I was right behind you in line and also heard the exchange.
    He was genuinely shocked when PZ spoke well of Paley.

    I enjoyed the event quite a bit.
    The presentation was fun and informative, I met some nice people, the grub was pretty decent.
    The only negative was that I didn’t think to bring my copy of Atlas Of Creation. PZ said he would have been happy to sign it for me.
    I also got the inside scoop on PZ’s upcoming writing projects.

  33. ggab says

    Atlas Of Creation is quite possibly the craziest creationist drek put to print. I thought it would be funny to have PZ sign it for me. It would have been lovely to have him write something scornful in it also.

    I assume, since he talked to me about it at the event, PZ doesn’t mind me mentioning that he has two books in the works. One atheist tome and one on evo devo.

  34. David says

    “The song ends with the three atheists each returning to their ancestral faith”

    … and killing each other.

  35. blueelm says

    I have a problem with the “ancestral faith” term anyway. I’d be hard pressed to pick one “ancestral faith” from my heritage to acknowledge OR turn my back on. I think this only works if you are raised within a particular faith and your cultural identity is already derived from that faith– and possibly if you don’t go too far back in your geneology.

  36. Pierce R. Butler says

    It’s inaccurate to describe Izgad as a “creationist blog”. Benzion Chinn is a religious believer, but his (ambiguous) review of Expelled begins, “I am a practitioner of Orthodox Judaism and a believer in evolution.”

  37. says

    Oddly, I’ve always thought of PZ as a “scholar, biologist and gentleman,” even though I know him only through what he posts here. Since when does passionate advocacy for what you believe to be true banish one from the ranks of scholars and gentlepersons?

    Although in one sense I might speak for Christian Atheists or Muslim Atheists. In my mind if you grew up in a faith tradition that tradition already did its job of dispatching all the other religions as false.

    I’m not sure all “faith traditions” have as their goal “dispatching all the other religions as false”; that seems to be primarily the province of monotheistic traditions. When the core of one’s faith is that there is One True God™, it behooves one to deny other gods; polytheists already believe in other gods within their own faith tradition, which I can only imagine makes it easier to tolerate other gods (or other versions of gods). I’m no expert on comparative religion; maybe polytheistic traditions are just as exclusive as the Abrahamic monotheisms… but it seems to me that monotheistic belief has exclusivity at its core in a way that polytheism, pantheism, etc., do not.

    Finally, I know there are people who identify as “Jewish atheists,” I don’t think it makes any sense to talk about Christian atheists: Unlike the Jews, who share a common cultural tradition and history that’s independent of theology, Christianity spans (largely because of its emphasis on proselytizing) a wildly diverse collection of cultural traditions and ethnicities, such that Christians are uniquely identified as such only by their belief system. Obviously I can’t speak for anyone else, but I would call Christians who shake off their god-belief former Christians rather than Christian atheists.

    I anticipate the objection that Catholics have the same sort of cultural identity that Jews do, but I disagree: The shared culture of most Catholics has far more to do with their national culture than with shared theology: Aside from theology, Irish Catholics (for example) have more in common, I suspect, with Irish secularists than they do with Italian Catholics or Polish Catholics. There is no broadly shared Christian heritage, other than the shared belief in a specific theology… and so (IMHO) it makes no sense to call oneself a Christian absent that theology.

  38. spondee says

    I was reading some Ambrose Bierce this weekend, and re-discovered this little gem from the Devil’s Dictionairy:

    christian, n.

    One who believes that the new testament is a divinely inspired book admirably suited to the spirtual needs of his neighbor. One who follows the teachings of Christ in so far as they are not inconsistant with a life of sin.

    And that is why I read.

  39. AnthonyK says

    A christian atheist, a jewish atheist, and an atheist atheist were sitting in a plane. The captain anounced that the plane was about to crash. The two religious atheists began not to pray.
    The christian atheist says: “My non-existent god gave his only son to humanity and they cruified him. In return we got to feel persecuted and justified throughout history. Mine was the best god to give up – too cruel and mysogenistic, and no sense of humour.”
    The Jewish atheist says: “my non-existent god gave us the promised land which turned out to be shit – but all he asked in return was that we don’t use switches on Saturday and wore warm middle-European clothes in a baking middle-Eastern country. As delusions go, it was mild. But mine was the best god to give up because we’e already argued him into non-existence, and he let us laugh at ourselves.”
    The atheist atheist said “Well my non-existent, non-existent god was the hardest one to give up.”
    Why so, said the other anti-theologians, intrigued.
    “Because he made us deal with you fuckwits and we had nothing else to hate. All we got in return was the right to laugh at everyone,” he replied.
    And they all died happily ever after, which, to be fair, they would have done anyway.

  40. Cafeeine says

    Not to overly heap praise on our intrepid reviewer, but I particularly enjoyed the the previous entry in his blog. He seems quite a reasonable fellow.

  41. says

    I dunno Cafeeine

    Then there are things, like this recent ad from Townhall that make me just want to scream, tear my hair out and despair of there ever being a popular intellectually credible opposition to modern secularism.

    He wants a popular intellectually credible opposition to secularism? That’s pretty hair-tearing-out crazy to me.

    Does the author of the blog not understand what secular means? Seems he’s using it as a synonym for atheism, which is an odd use of the term(as I typically hear it used with regards to public and governmental decisions) or just plain nuts.

    A blank piece of paper is not atheist paper. It’s secular, neutral towards religion. You can use it to write whatever you want, it’s not advocating anything religious. Government neutrality on the subject of religion, secularism, isn’t something that should be opposed IMO.

  42. E.V. says

    Ah, now I remember Mr. Chinn. Has Aspergers’ Syndrome (I dare not say “suffers from…”). And has posted here before and has taken exception to AS as being considered a disability. Good for him.
    All of us are subject to thinking influenced by our specific biology along with any disorder/disease or pharmaceuticals, perhaps “nuanced” would be a better way to put it.
    I’m curious about what subtle interpretive cues, specifically dealing with emotion, a high functioning person with AS is going to have and how that shapes his/her view of the world beyond nurture.

  43. ThirtyFiveUp says

    This is the definitive explanation of what a sensible Jewish, Christian, Muslim or Pastafarian atheist would say.

    “Hey, Grandmother is cooking a big feast for (insert festival here). I will definitely be there and I will bring something good to drink.”

  44. David Marjanović, OM says

    I agree with comment 52.

    I’m no expert on comparative religion; maybe polytheistic traditions are just as exclusive as the Abrahamic monotheisms…

    Some are, like certain militant Hinduists in today’s India and apparently the ancient Carthaginians.

    I’m curious about what subtle interpretive cues, specifically dealing with emotion, a high functioning person with AS is going to have

    Will depend heavily on the degree of AS, which is a wide spectrum.

  45. says

    The one thing I think we missed, and that Greg brought up several times, is more input from high school teachers. What we can do in a university and what others can do in a public school are very different, and I actually think the high school experience is more formative and more important.

    This seems to be a recurring theme. We’ve discussed the need for more secondary educators at these things in the Critical Thinking Education Group (a Google group for anyone interested in the topic)

    I think high school experience much more important; by the time they get to me(my students are mostly graduating seniors – in college), they are pretty set in their ways. I actually had a student this semester who said she knew nothing about evolution. This was not her fault in the least. She is interested and intelligent; nobody ever communicated the significance of the theory to her much less the theory itself.

  46. June says

    Why should religion and science be treated as “two worlds” that somehow require a “messenger” between them? Why not plot religion and science on a single timeline of knowledge? At the early end of the scale, science is very simple: Humans fear pain and worship the sun. Later, humans try to build stone monuments to induce the sun to return after the winter, then on to sacrificing God’s Son to make up for imagined sins, and so on.

    Such a timeline would show that Special Creation was simply a very early scientific hypothesis formed to explain fundamental observations such as human existence, painful childbirth, seashell fossils on mountain tops,
    and huge dinosaur skeletons (“there were giants in the earth…”). Religion somehow stopped there and continues to sacrifice the”lamb of God” even today. But human knowledge progressed on to more realistic knowledge, as older theories were improved or replaced by new knowledge in our quest toward understanding the real, rational world.

  47. says

    #56, I have a friend who says he’s basically emotion-blind. He doesn’t read body language. So he has to memorize standard cues, e.g. if people are leaning forward to listen, they’re interested. He said he couldn’t tell if people were getting annoyed until they started to yell at each other. As you can imagine, this makes all the non-verbal negotiation of flirtation and courtship pretty much impossible.

  48. Ryan F Stello says

    So when you attack religion people take it as a personal attack on their grandmother or the like. (This is somewhat disingenuous on his part as his attacks can get quite personal.)

    Well, that’s bullshit because whenever I see personal attacks, here, an actual person or a group of people are named.

    The first case is addressed to general criticisms of religion. If someone takes such an insult personally, that is their perogative.

    I guess I have to say that Benzion Chinn is a pompous git for wanting a confrontational speaking engagement and trying to rationalize why he didn’t get one.
    I hope no other nice Jewish boys take offence at that.

  49. 'Tis Himself says

    I was not trying to use the song as an attack on atheists. It was my little joke on the song.

    I remember that song from my long-ago childhood. It wasn’t just Orthodox Jews who sang it, it was popular among Catholics as well. I thought it was a dumb song then and my opinion of it hasn’t improved over the years. Essentially it’s the old “no atheists in foxholes” canard that theists like because it supposedly shows that atheists don’t really mean it. I’m not surprised that an Orthodox Jew would refer to that song. It demonstrates his superiority to those nutty, belligerent atheists.

  50. says

    Ryan F Stello

    Thank you for offering a good example of the sort of personal attacks that I was talking about. I did not come looking for a confrontation and I was glad that I did not get one. That was the main point of my post.

    Tis Himself
    The song became popular among Catholics as well. Interesting. Funny how things travel.

    When I quote Christian songs I hope noone takes it to mean that I have some great love of Jesus.

  51. AnthonyK says

    I dont think you should expect to be attacked here, Mr Chinn. It was a good review. Thr trouble is several apologists and opinionated morons do post here, and lots of posters, myself included, like to vent our frustrations on them. Sort of the smiley but obtuse christian at work that you’ve always wanted to punch in the face, repeatedly, even though she’s not the real problem.
    But people on Pharyngula can be very judgemental; I’ve frequently taken them to task over it.

  52. Ryan F Stello says

    Thank you for offering a good example of the sort of personal attacks that I was talking about.

    You’re welcome. It seemed like you were/are desperate to be attacked personally.

    However, when you try to extract from that a general rule, as in: 1) those Dawkinsites are relatively mean or 2) those Pharyngulites are relatively mean, both of which you expressed in your post….well, I have to say you miss the point.

    That I attack you personally is meant to convey that I am attacking you personally, not the ‘group’ attacking you. Not secularism. Not any bogey-man that you wish to marshal against.
    Keep blame where blame is due, at the personal level.
    Here endeth that lesson.

    It seems that you’re capable of coming to grips with some semblance of reality. I hope that you’ll also drop the pettiness.

  53. JoyB says

    Dr. Myers, I thoroughly enjoyed your talk at our banquet in Columbus! My significant other is also a professor of science, and found your talk excellent and accessible. You know, I’m not surprised that brains are kin to hungry slime that eats whatever it crawls over. One more reason to be mindful of just where I set my brain free to feed.

    I think I remember the question from Mr. Chinn during the Q&A, and he seemed a very pleasant young man. I’m glad he came, and I appreciate his thoughtful review and recounting. I got that he was sort of poking fun at the joke, so while I don’t like the joke itself, I kind of got what he was trying to do with it. I welcome him with his seeking his own middle way. There’s room at the table for anybody trying to reason through things, with a good heart for company, as far as I’m concerned.

    Dr. Myers, thank you again. Your students clearly have a terrific science teacher.

  54. A. Noyd says

    gayatheistrecruiter (#23)

    PZ should cut the kid a break methinks

    I read PZ’s post as sarcastically making fun of himself and his supporters, TBH.

  55. St.B says

    You should be quite pleased. I saw no reason to add the warning that Mr. Chinn is theist,lol. I find he did you no disservice. His blog didn’t even explode when he quoted …“Darwin blew Intelligent Design out of the water in 1859.”

  56. says

    It’s not really an inside joke, just that so many theists who rant on here don’t know how to spell it. Though their knowledge of how to spell the word is on par with their knowledge of the concept.

  57. Optimus Crime says

    I attended the soiree in Columbus, Ohio (it was actually a Valentine’s surprise from my sweetie). I almost passed out when I realized I was at a function with PZ as the guest speaker. I got to shake the man’s hand, and take a photo with him. Awesome.

    His presentation was excellent. My microbiology cohorts and I have been repeating “Brad Pitt is a metazoan” all week. My boyfriend is in finance, and he found the presentation extremely accessible to non-science types. And the food was excellent as well.

    All in all, it was a fantastic evening. Thanks for coming to Ohio to hang out with us, PZ!

  58. Bart Mitchell says

    @40 Ron, that line cracked me up.

    Kudos to you and your wife for making that work. I have an atheist friend going through an ugly divorce, his wife went from agnostic to Jehovahs Witness.


    This isn’t the place for it, but I would love hear your wifes idea of God, heaven, etc.

    I think fundamentalists are batshit crazy, but I do understand their point. I hold up the scientific method as a way, with enough time and cleverness, of being able to understand anything. The fundies hold up a book an say the same thing. They are nuts, but I can grasp their firm hold on to it.

    Its all the people in the middle that I just don’t understand. There is no longer a wide gulf, or even a thin line between religions and science. They overlap heavily. The moderate believer is forced to pick and choose among those beliefs to create a system that has the fewest conflicts with the reality that they live in. I guess what I don’t get, is how do they not see that they are picking and choosing from the source faith?