This might be the start of a Monty Python sketch

They even titled the announcement “And now for something completely different…”. I’m going to be doing a new monthly science column for the Guardian, so once again, I have blithely stacked another deadline on top of the groaning pile already on my desk. This should be fun, though, and one must constantly be building beachheads on other continents if one hopes to take over the world. Besides, I’ve also been promoted to “leading American evolutionary biologist”, which will surprise leading American evolutionary biologist everywhere, but which will look wonderfully pretentious on my CV.

It’s also going to be a weekly column — we’ll be cycling a stable of science writers, including Simon Singh, Chris French, and Andy Miah, to keep up some regular science content on the Guardian, and you have to applaud the effort of the paper to do that, especially when science coverage seems to be weakening everywhere else.

I’m already whipping up a little something for my inaugural column. It’s got snails in it. I hope it’s not too continental for the British.


  1. Jud says

    It’s got snails in it.

    Go escargot!

    [Y]ou have to applaud the effort of the paper to do that, especially when science coverage seems to be weakening everywhere else.

    E.g., the WaPo. Maybe they’d like to pick up this little feature from the Guardian and run it opposite George Will.

  2. Ramases says

    COngratulations PZ, you will make an excellent contributor to an excellent newspaper.

    I’ll be reading, and it will be interesting to see how you work in such a different context.

  3. Moggie says

    especially when science coverage seems to be weakening everywhere else

    The Guardian, of course, is the paper which gives room to the excellent and hugely irreverent Ben Goldacre, so they’re already doing something right in the science department.

  4. Mark says

    Snail porridge PZ, that’s all I have to say. Besides that reading PZ in the Guardian will be awesome!

  5. Clapton_is_God says

    US continental I presume? Us Brits would not like to think it was from that lot across the Channel.


  6. TheLady says

    Wow, I’m uncharacteristically impressed with Teh Grauniad*. You’ll be a super addition tot eh paper, PZ.

    * So called by many of its UK readersdue to a sad history of sloppy copy editing and endemic typos and misspellings.

  7. Ramases says

    Actually, looking at the Guardian article, it looks like some of the other science writers they’ve signed up will be pretty intersting to. Great to see a paper taking science seriously, and making quality science coverage part of their regular work.

    This description of yourself, PZ, is quite amusing,

    “Finally, the leading American evolutionary biologist, PZ Myers, joins us. PZ is based at the University of Minnesota, Morris, and is the author of the ever-amazing Pharyngula blog. A glance through his recent posts reveal musings on the love songs of mosquitoes, a spat over a poll about the afterlife and an electron micrograph of a truly terrifying beetle phallus, which does indeed look like a medieval torture instrument.

    “PZ, we are delighted to have you with us.”

    WOW! Poor little Jon Howard must be having a heart attack!

  8. arekksu says

    that’s a good list of contributors right there. i might have to start reading british newspapers again, after giving up on them in despair last year.

  9. says

    Oooh yep many congratulations, but don’t worry we Guardian readers are pretty much pro the continent and all things foreign including snails.

    The Guardian has pretty good science coverage as well as featuring the magnificant Bad Science column by Ben Goldacre. Just beware the comments on the Guardian website can be just as clogged up with creationist nonsense as any American proscience website.

  10. MPG says

    Nice! You’ll be in good company alongside the ever-illuminating Ben Goldacre, who already has his regular Grauniad column picking apart shoddy science. I hope to read some refreshing journalism among the morass of “x found to cause/prevent cancer” stories that pass for science writing in most tabloid rags (I’m looking at you in particular, Daily Fail).

  11. Doug says

    I don’t know, can PZ write and do funny walks at the same time? We’ll have to wait and see, but at least he can write in a British accent.

  12. Marvol says

    Hear hear!

    As a continental in England I’m looking forward to all these columnists – without fearing the snails! My favorite newspaper just got even better.

    Not to sound condescending (mostly just curiosity), but can anyone point me to an instance in a US newspaper that runs akin to “Science will mould our future society, and so critical thinking, respect for evidence, and a nose for the lack of it, will be crucial in plotting our course.”

    What times do we live in that reading that actually is a pleasant surprise instead of a ‘well, duh, obviously’?

  13. Wowbagger says

    Didn’t the Piltdown creature froth at the mouth about Guardian readers in a recent thread? Good to know that he’ll now have another reason to be unhappy.

  14. Stephen Wells says

    Yay, favourite science blogger joins favourite newspaper. Happy Monkey!

    BTW, did you see the Hypothesis article in Nature last month (19th Feb, I think) on the evolution of the ribosome? Analysis of the structural stability tells a story of numerous, successive, slight modifications :)

  15. Missus Gumby says

    Congratulations PZ! You should consider this assignment as a honking great feather in your cap. You deserve it!

  16. Newfie says

    Snails are the first animal to be farmed by humans. I saw that on a downloaded episode of the BBC’s QI, so it could be complete bullshit.

  17. Pauline in UK says

    Congratulations sir! And congratulations to my favourite newspaper, very well played.

  18. Wowbagger says

    Snails are the first animal to be farmed by humans.

    I want a job as a snailherd!

  19. Bullet Magnet says

    Bloody brilliant! Mainstream exposure in the printed medium in Britain is fantastic news for my favourite scientist, and the Guardian’s attempts to rectify the dire science reporting in the modern media is very heartening.

  20. Mill says

    The Guardian should be commended for a lot of things. They’re pretty much the only paper in the UK worth buying anymore, what with the Metro being handed out for free.

    Yesterday, the Daily Fail reported on the news that single women who undergo IVF can now name anyone the father on the birth certificate, including women. A pretty bold step forward for women’s rights by my standards, but the Mail decided to cover the story under the headline “Another Blow to Fatherhood”, and opened the article with “Family values came under attack last night”.

    So it’s good to see now that British journalism hasn’t completely lost its way.

  21. Faintpraise says

    Fantastic news! I can’t wait to read them. If the Guardian gets much better I might actually start buying it again!
    (Reasons for buying the Guardian- Charlie Brooker, Ben Goldacre and now PZ.)

  22. SEF says

    I’m going to be doing a new monthly science column for the Guardian

    Woohoo! You’d better check you have editorial control over the spelling in the final print version though – and I don’t mean the American vs English differences.

    It’s got snails in it. I hope it’s not too continental for the British.

    That depends on what you did to the snails. Snails are pets in the UK. …_@o”

  23. Faintpraise says


    It should do, they normally have an RSS feed per columnist (I’ve got Ben Goldacre, Charlie Brooker and David Mitchell on my reader).

  24. says

    This is excellent news! The Grauniad* has pretty good science coverage: in addition to the aforecommented Ben Goldacre, there’s also the Science Weekly podcast which is always worth a listen.

    I’m guessing that you’ll be wearing more of a scientist’s hat (or lab-coat) than the atheist’s deerstalker for your columns, and I have to confess that I lurk here for the atheism more than the science, but I’ll definitely be following you over at the Guardian.

    I’m not familiar with the other two columnists, but given the profile of yourself and Simon Singh, it looks like I most assuredly should be.

    Anyway, congratulations on getting the column!

    * yes, us Brits tend to refer to the Guardian thus. Even better, redirects to the site proper. See, a paper that even does self-deprecation: how cool is that?

  25. Dan Moody says

    Have French snails evolved a tactic to avoid being eaten and British snails haven’t? How exciting!

  26. Matt Penfold says

    A.C. Grayling also writes for Guardian. He is another it is worth adding to your RSS feed. I love his response when there was a debate over whether people offering services to the public should be prevented from discriminating on the grounds of sexuality. Grayling’s response was yes, and if those providing the service did not like then tough, get another job.

  27. Matt Penfold says

    Have French snails evolved a tactic to avoid being eaten and British snails haven’t? How exciting!

    Some enterprising farmers in the UK have started rearing snails and exporting them to France. I thus predict UK snails will soon evolve to avoid being eaten.

  28. RedGreenInBlue says

    The Guardian? Don’t you know Guardian readers are all Jew-bashing America-hating champagne-socialist middle-class urbanite hippy second-home-owning class-war-obsessed ecofascists? And atheists??

    (Apologies, I’ve spent too long reading Comment is Free.)

    PZ, whatever you do, don’t read the comments after your posts. The concentrated FAIL will make your irony meter go supernova and destroy the Earth.

  29. Ramases says

    It’s a pity our friend Jonny Howard has not popped by yet.

    Be great to get his take on it!

  30. tom P says

    surely Chris FRENCH would be more continental to us Brits.

    That’s very good news PZ – congratulations, I’m very happy to hear it.

  31. Stephen Wells says

    For those of you who are wondering about this, the Grauniad has long been famous for its mipsrints.

  32. AnthonyK says

    Yay! Brilliant news! Could you do something about octopuses? I know it’s largely outside your interest zone, but you had a wonderful post a while back about how fascinating, but how difficult they were to keep in captivity.
    Watch out for Goldacre though, he keeps going around saying “I’m a doctor, you know” and moaning about statistics. As a present, you could take him some new alternative remedies, he really likes that sort of thing.

  33. DaveH says

    I would also add the Blessed Nancy Banks Smith as a reason to buy the paper (pity she’s so infrequently in it nowadays, but I read her reviews though I don’t even have a TV). And, of course, Steve Bell’s cartoons. Pure, concentrated snark!

  34. DavidONE says

    The Guardian consistently does The Right Thing ™ with regards science – and doing it again by inviting PZ on board. Well done to whomever made it happen.

  35. Sam C says

    AnthonyK: Ben Goldacre is quite cheerful except when the planets are badly aligned and the meridians from his chakras to his acupressure points get blocked. It needs a few sympathetic Grauniad readers to download pictures of Dr Ben and practise their reiki to send him healing energy and re-energise his biokinetic pathways with lovely left-wing chi. If he could get some crystals to power up the life force that would help too.

    I was going to send him a homeopathic remedy, but I understand he has mains water at home, so he can get any remedy at any time.

    Of course, if I could get a Dr Ben doll, I could have a go at the wonderfully absurd Tong Ren version of acupuncture, where you take a voodoo style doll and bash it with a small hammer! Don’t believe me?… google it!

  36. says

    The Guardian? Don’t you know Guardian readers are all Jew-bashing America-hating champagne-socialist middle-class urbanite hippy second-home-owning class-war-obsessed ecofascists? And atheists??

    You take that back! I am not a hippie!

  37. Ultima thule says

    Gratz for the promotion!
    Pz where can i vote for you to be the director of the world science program?


  38. Rey Fox says

    “I hope it’s not too continental for the British.”

    I believe the word is “colonial”.

    “Another Blow to Fatherhood”


  39. AnthonyK says

    Also, PZ, when you’re on your knees tonight praying to Darwin, you might consider a litlle extra request.
    Ask him for a T-shirt with LEADING EVOLUTIONARY BIOLOGIST on the front. In case that’s not clear enough, have an arrow pointing up to your head above the slogan, and in smaller letters underneath “That’s Me That Is”.
    Think of the respect of your colleagues and students! Think how mad the likes of Jerry Coyne will be! And as for the Discoverish Institute, why they’ll be so cowed that I wouldn’t be surprised if they gave up research forever, and we never for that elusive proof for ID.
    But say it loud and say it proud. In a world where proper scientific qualifications are ten-a-penny, you should be all too pleased with a genuine (British! – we invented science) Media Accolade!

  40. says

    PZed: I saw that Simon Singh’s column has comments on. If they are doing the same at yours, be prepared for any mention of politics or religion to cause an avalanche of stupid. (I like the Graun but CiF attracts the dumbest trolls on the internet)

  41. julia says

    Carl Zimmer tweeted you,I see.

    carlzimmerRT @pzmyers: PZ Myers and other scientists are now blogging for the Guardian

  42. bric says

    Snails are Prof. Steve Jones’ speciality, and I have heard him say he is a Guardian reader. Just sayin’.

  43. Stephen Wells says

    One reason the Guardian is good is that, rather than having an owner or publisher controlling the purse strings and the politics, they have a trust (it’s now become a company) and editors are appointed with the task of running the paper “on the same lines and in the same spirit as heretofore”.

    This does lead to some interesting results, like the time they were advertising in Germany for any distant relatives of the house of Hanover whose ancestors might have been barred from succession to the British throne by the Act of Succession, which blocks Catholics; the intention is to find the monarchy in breach of ani-discrimination laws. Healthy fun for all the family, including Mad Uncle Ludwig.

  44. Jack Rawlinson says

    Congrats, PZ! The Guardian needs as many rational voices as it can get, and this will go some way towards making up for its current regrettable tendency to indulge god-botherers, religious apologists and anti-atheists.

  45. AnthonyK says

    tendency to indulge god-botherers, religious apologists and anti-atheists

    But no longer, now that the Prince of Reason, our Squiddly Overlord, is there.

  46. ihedenius says

    AC Grayling & Ben Goldacre. I’ve no idea. Time to make a permanent Guardian bookmark.

  47. mothra says

    I can already hear McGrath saying: “We will preach our theology on the beaches, we will preach in the villages and towns, in the hills and valleys we will never convert.”

  48. Moggie says


    Watch out for Goldacre though, he keeps going around saying “I’m a doctor, you know” and moaning about statistics.

    Yeah, but nobody believes the doctor thing. Have you seen him? He’s clearly about twelve years old. Bless!

  49. tcb says

    No, no. This is Blackadder, not Monty Python.

    (Burgundy, The Hawk, has just returned from 15 years of exile in France and is simply furious at Edmund, The Black Adder, Duke of Edinburgh and Laird of Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles, who had convicted framed him.)

    The Hawk: “Because, Edmund, it will take you fifteen years … TO DIE!’

    The Black Adder: “H … How?”

    The Hawk: “I think it would be more amusing if you found out for yourself. Let’s just say it has something to do with … SNAILS!!”

    (The Hawk flicks open a panel in the stone wall to reveal several enraged snails, some of them moving as fast as two centimeters per minute.)

    Then Rik Mayall shows up and saves the day.

  50. Todd says

    I see you’ve come up with a clever scheme to keep publishing on the internet after Jonny shuts down Pharyngula. And on foreign soil to boot. Well played.

  51. Roger says

    re. #53: yeah, what he said. That Guardian Trust thing has definite religious leanings. And as for their ‘Face to faith’ column …… oh dear! PZ, will you be restricting yourself to science – or will you be allowed to ‘expand’ on your views??

  52. amon says

    Congratulations PZ, I look forward to finding your contributions – will you use the photo from Pharyngula to earmark your column ?

  53. Marc Abian says

    I don’t read it a lot, but I’ve seen several anti-religious articles in the Guardian. Though it would be understandable if if they just wanted PZ to cover science and leave the sarcastic atheist at the door.

  54. says

    oH joy, chortle and cahoy! Zee Ped ist wirting for The Grauniad. (Actually, to be fair, the typos and misspellings for which they are infamous are much rarer now, and have been for some years, with the move to all-electronic production.)

    On the subject of religious affairs reporting in The Grauniad, there’s an amusing article by Stephen Bates, who was their religious affairs correspondent for seven years. The experience turned him into an atheist:

    Now I am moving on. It was time to go. What faith I had, I’ve lost, I am afraid – I’ve seen too much, too close. A young Methodist press officer once asked me earnestly whether I saw it as my job to spread the Good News of Jesus. No, I said, that’s the last thing I am here to do.


  55. MH says

    Faintpraise #28:

    It should do, they normally have an RSS feed per columnist (I’ve got Ben Goldacre, Charlie Brooker and David Mitchell on my reader).

    You have impeccable taste. Just reading Mitchell’s now. They’re superb!

    Congratulations, PZ. What popped into my head when I read that you’re going to be writing a column in one of our newspapers was Bill Bryson’s 1990’s column in the Mail on Sunday (collected in the book Notes from a Big Country). I guess it’s because you are both beardy, liberal Americans, each with an interest in science and a great sense of humour.

    Anyway, I look forward to reading your articles along-side the luminaries previously mentioned.

  56. Eyeoffaith says

    Congratulations! And thankyou for answering the call to present science to the public. There is rarely a second chance for things like this, so even though it adds to your workload I am sure it will be very rewarding for you.

  57. kevinj says

    adam rutherford is another good guardian writer concentrating on science. they also have sue blackmore and the atheist bus campaign was started by ariane sherine in one of her columns.

    they do have some nutter columnists though and some very weird posters on the blogs.
    mention Harun Yahya since his fans seem to frequent the blogs and get very excited over any mention.

  58. chuckgoecke says

    I hope you Brits and others who read PZ’s columns will be a able to get used to his folksy, Minnesota, self-deprecating style. I know its probably as rare as fog on your side of the pond. For practice, I recommend reading or listening to Garrison Keillor.

  59. Bart says

    Congrats PZ! I read the Guardian fairly regularly but not religiously so. I guess I’ll have to go religious now…

  60. Steve says

    If you can get some sense into the Guardian that would be a great benefit to all of us in the UK. We call it the tabloid for the pretentious. I wish you luck.

  61. gazza says

    Congrats – I’m a regular Guardian reader and I’m looking forward to it. The online version has an active comments area (CiF) which can be pretty active, especially if you should chose to touch on religion – so it will be interesting to see what sort of hornet’s nest you can stir up!

    ANd I hope you’ve adjusted your spell checker to the English (UK) dictionary – we want ‘colour’, ‘through’, ‘centre’ and ‘sceptical’ thank you very much! Not the colonial mis-spellings!

  62. Steve says

    PZ, you weren’t referred to as a “leading American evolutionary biologist.” You were called “THE” leading American evolutionary biologist. That’s a HUGE difference.

  63. Kimpatsu says

    Phil Plaitt is going to be livid. As an Anglophile (home of doctor Who, after all), he wanted to conquer Blighty’s shores first.
    Congrats, PZ. The Guardian gets better and better!

  64. 'Tis Himself says

    Wow, PZ has the time to run this blog, associate profess*, lecture all over North America, fulminate against goddists and/or conservatives, write monthly columns for British newspapers (not nudespapers like the Sun), and be THE leading American evolutionary biologist. I’m impressed. I’ve decided I want to be PZ Myers when I grow up.

    *Or whatever it is that associate professors do.

  65. Jeremy says

    Good job PZ!

    I was going to make the same comment as Steve (#79). You are THE leading American evolutionary biologist. That’s an incredible achievement. I wonder what criteria they base that assessment on? Good looks perhaps? ;)

  66. Ian H Spedding FCD says

    Well done, PZ! You’ll be writing for one of the best British papers, creator of the second-best April Fools joke ever – after Panorama’s Spaghetti Harvest – the island of San Serriffe

  67. AnthonyK says

    will be a able to get used to his folksy, Minnesota, self-deprecating style

    Pffffft. Yeah right. You’ll be saying he’s a LEADING EVOLUTIONARY BIOLOGIST next.

  68. ice9 says

    Their names all end in ‘h’. so does “British.” Your name does not end in ‘h’. You, therefore, are either wrong, or right. I’ll let you know which soon.


  69. Pope Maledict DCLXVI says

    Congratulations PZ! Just make sure Teh Grauniad doesn’t spell your name the way that the creotards tend to, when they visit here…

  70. Toby Barrett says

    You’ll also be in good company with columnist Polly Toynbee. She helped launch the Athiest Bus and is a former “Islamophobe of the Year”.

  71. Paguroidea says

    Congratulations,PZ!!! I’m going to start reading the Guardian regularly now.

  72. Alex Deam says

    I saw Simon Singh give a lecture (mainly on Fermat’s last theorem and Andrew Wiles, but it touched a lot of other subjects) yesterday in the Oxford Uni Physics department. He was really interesting, plus he was giving his books away for cheaper than normal prices.

  73. John Phillips, FCD says

    Happy Monkey indeed PZ and welcome back, metaphorically speaking, to the UK.