1. says

    Not only is sarcasm ethical, it ought to be required. Unfortunately, beyond the use of exclamation points and question marks, prosody tends to be lost in written speech. I think, as text correspondence over the internet continues to become more ubiquitous, we ought to introduce a sarcastic punctuation mark.

  2. homostoicus says

    I can’t help but wonder what Nisbet’s definition of ethics is. I don’t have to patience to slog through his misdirections, however. “normative imperatives”? Would that be how one is to toe the line?

  3. Snowbird says

    After reading Dr. Blackford’s blog, I was wondering how long the bruises from a back-handed compliment take to heal. ;)

  4. Thomas Winwood says

    #1: Subtitles here in the UK use (!) and (?) as final delimiters for sarcastic speech, declarative and inquisitive respectively. I find it a good solution for use on the internet.

  5. David says

    Haha, wow, I kept reading through that essay getting more and more infuriated until I finally realized it was sarcastic. Poe’s Law makes another appearance.

    Yeh, I just got trolled hard. Q_Q

  6. Daniel M says

    wow, I was gnashing my teeth one second and going “wait, what?” the second.

    I have to proclaim him Master of Poe

  7. Geoff says

    Matthew Nisbet is my hero. I wish I had hair like his. I’m so jealous he has a PHD in communications and I only have a lousy BA.

    I wish I knew as much stuff as Nisbet. He is the Walrus! Koo Koo ka Choo!

  8. Screechy Monkey says

    I suspect that sarcasm is unethical, but I need to conduct a focus group to make sure.

  9. Sgt. Obvious says

    PZ, how can you criticize Matthew Nisbet? He’s been a good friend of mine ever since we went to the same prestigious preschool together, which shall remain nameless, but I promise it’s a big deal. Besides, he’s done more for science than you ever did. It’s not like you’ve ever won Humanist of the Year or anything.

  10. Brian says

    I’m pretty sure we can conclude that this entire blog is unethical, and possibly even Seed Magazine as accessories.

  11. says

    Nisbet is unethical both in direct practice and also indirectly, as he enables unethical people.

    However, I sure would like to get the patent on his invisible hair net.

  12. XD says

    Does anyone else think that Matt is like a young Bill Dembski? The sun-like glow of his ego blinds him from seeing his incompetence.

  13. NewEnglandBob says

    Obviously, education is unethical. Anything beyond a grunt is against dog.

  14. says

    As I’ve mentioned before I haven’t always been reading the comments to these posts, so maybe I’m missing something. Does anyone know why I just read a report about unemployment rates in Germany, in German? I’m honestly confused.

  15. says

    One of the comments resonated with me:

    I have been researching Buddhism recently, and I was quite surprised to come across a statement that was supposedly made by the Buddha, which said basically that public statements of faith are political acts, and are not deserving of respect. This idea has been around for millenia, yet seems to have been largely forgotten in Western societies. Public declarations of membership of a faith are, said the Buddha (allegedly) equivalent to declarations of membership of a political party. No-one complains about evidence undermining the policies of a particular political group. We don’t “frame” ideas so as to avoid offending the opposition.

    I think this is exactly right. If a person publicly declares their membership in a political party, I don’t question their right to do so – but I do feel free to criticise and to judge them for it. If a person expresses public support for the Communist Party, or the Nazi Party, I will tell them that they are wrong.

    Exactly the same attitude should be applied to membership in a religious group. Vapid, mealy-mouthed exhortations to “respect all religions” are not helpful; they seek a kind of uncritical “respect” for religious ideas which we would not give to any other kind of idea. When the Catholic Church announces that condoms do not help in the fight against HIV/AIDS, we should stand up and point out that they are wrong. When a religious group asserts that dinosaurs walked the earth with humans and that the Earth was created in 4004 BC, we should stand up and tell them that they are wrong. “Respecting” religious beliefs is all very well when those beliefs remain private and personal; but when they are announced and promoted in a bid to influence public policy and social behaviour, they are everyone’s concern and we are morally entitled to criticise them.

  16. Auraboy says

    Ah yes, the unethical attempt to point out the bleeding obvious. Hell, if we’re going to misuse ‘ethics’ we might as well not hold back, let’s go for ‘illegal’. That’s better. Dawkins is breaking the LAW!! Hmm…how about a warcrime? Thoughtcrime? Incitement to…er…people’s unjustified paranoid ranting? Hmm.

    As ever, a well written takedown Doctor Doctor. It’s only a shame so few people can recognise sarcasm anymore. It is practically unethical.

  17. Colonel Molerat says

    Sorry, but I couldn’t think of another way to introduce this to the rest of the Pharynguloid hordes…

    I noticed a small ‘Case for Evolution’ Facebook group on a debate between creationists and theistic evolutionary theory believers (can I make this the one time it’s acceptable to say ‘evolutionist’? Theistic evolutionist is less of a mouthful.)
    It’s only got two members, and I’m unsure of their religious persuasion, so I thought I’d publicise it here and on the forums, in case lots of Christian apologetics join. I don’t want to a minority atheist…

    Sorry for the derail! To try to get back on topic:
    Science is unethical? Well, I supposed it does mandate the beating of children, raping of women and stoning of gays.
    Remember when Darwin said:
    “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword”
    That was Darwin, right?

  18. KI says

    Walton, you’re going Buddhist on us? Careful, my boy, you might start smiling, laughing and dancing around the house, not to mention acquiring a taste for pork products.

  19. Colonel Molerat says

    Yeah, because everybody knows there’s no symbol for sarcasm right now (!)


    I don’t know if that was sarcastic or not. Does (!) count? Did I sound sarcastic?
    Either (!) is and I was, or (!) isn’t and I wasn’t.
    I think.

  20. says

    Raivo Pommer’s comment reads “Just like me, Dr. Nisbet knows how to get his message out in terms his audience will understand and how not to just people off and make them hate him. Richard Dawkins made Germans unemployed.”

  21. Felix says

    It seems that raivo indulges in some sort of dadaistic action art, sort of like DM, only in a non-disturbingly-and-in-desparate-need-of-medication way.

  22. says

    Matt has now responded in a comment on my blog, so I took the trouble over there to state my position more straightforwardly.

    There’s also a debate on Jerry Coyne’s blog.

  23. says



    What a delightful opportunity to review how much of my long-past high school and college German study I still retain (not a lot, but enough to get the gist).

    Aber… was gibt? What does a report about job losses in Germany actually have to do with this thread? Jus’ wondrin’….

  24. says

    Thanks to everyone who has replied and suggested sarcastic symbols… I especially enjoyed #28. I’m still not sure if the Colonel was being sarcastic…

  25. Bryn says

    Quelle horreur! How dare Dr. Dawkins “give resonance” to something? I don’t what that means, but it can’t be good. How utterly kind of Mr. Nisbet to try and show us the error of our atheistic ways.

    Oh, bravo to “Dr. Dr.” Blackford! I love me some well-done sarcasm. I think Mr. Nisbet’s strategy could be condensed to a much shorter form–“Shut up and sit in the back of the bus where you belong”. I’d like to ask him how well that strategy worked in the past for women, blacks, gays, lesbians…..

  26. CalGeorge says

    Matt: “These organizations have had a long standing position on science and religion that has emphasized compatibility.”

    Apparently, it’s not okay to disagree with “long standing” group think. Matt doesn’t seem to like it when people make up their minds for themselves.

    “Yet what’s still missing is a clear outline of the ethical and normative imperatives that apply to scientists, journalists, and their organizations when actively drawing upon framing to achieve these public engagement goals.”

    Should scientists who speak out on issues of the day call Matt before giving a talk to make sure that “public engagement goals” are being met? Sounds like Matt thinks it’s more important not to offend anyone than to speak honestly and truthfully.

    Richard Dawkins and PZ treat people like adults who can think for themselves. Thank goodness for that.

    Matt? Who knows what he thinks. He’s too busy framing his bloody frames.

  27. Kevin (NYC) says

    actually, #20,

    “When the Catholic Church announces that condoms do not help in the fight against HIV/AIDS, we should stand up and point out that they are wrong.”

    I don’t think that is exactly the point. I think its that because the Catholic Church announces that condoms do not help in the fight against HIV/AIDS, when someone professes respect and allegiance to the CC, then we should stand up and point out that they, personally,are wrong for supporting such a hatefull and lying organization.

    Further if that person insists they support the church, then we lose respect for that person, as they prove themselves an idiot.

    Should we do that? What if someone said they were a member of the New Nazi Party and celebrated Hitler’s birthday. Would you lose repect for them then?

  28. Cowcakes says

    #9 Posted by: David | March 31, 2009 1:17 AM

    “Haha, wow, I kept reading through that essay getting more and more infuriated until I finally realized it was sarcastic. Poe’s Law makes another appearance.

    Yeh, I just got trolled hard. Q_Q”

    David, You are obviously not Aussie, Kiwi or British ;-) Such a deliciously served plate of sarcasm I’ve not seen in a while. Brilliant

  29. kingfurniture says

    I love me some well-done sarcasm. I think Mr. Nisbet’s strategy could be condensed to a much shorter form.