Reddit interviews me

The interview in which I answered the top 10 questions submitted by Reddit readers is now online, and it’s right here.

I haven’t watched it. I can never bear to see myself in these things. You’ll have to tell me if I said something stupid.


  1. Brownian, OM says

    “Thank you for what you’re doing, because I can’t do it myself.”

    Beautiful! That’s why we’re here! (Well, that and I like yelling at strangers.)

  2. Isherwood says

    Nicely done, Dr. Myers. The questions were unfortunately somewhat mundane and typical, but you answered them patiently and thoroughly.

    The sound was fine for me. I did have to turn it up, but it was clear and fairly full-spectrum.

  3. Treppenwitz says

    The sound quality is terrible. It needs subtitles.

    Terrible in what respect? There’s a little background noise, but I didn’t have any issues with volume or clarity, and I’m just using some cheap earbuds.

  4. aratina cage of the OM says

    Don’t be so hard on yourself. You looked relaxed and welcoming on camera and were very funny, and your interview was highly enjoyable. Only complaints: too short and volume too low.

  5. Brownian, OM says

    Only complaints: too short and volume too low.

    Boy, if I had a nickel for every time a girl said that to–wait, what site is this? Pharyngula?

    I mean, I agree with my esteemed colleague Mr. Cage. I hadn’t realised how much I’d cranked the sound until I scrolled to the edge of something and Windows made that melodic ‘thud’ sound and I fell out of my chair.

  6. cag says

    Well, you asked if you said something stupid. In a word , yes! I heard Ham and Comfort – that’s two stupid things. As well there was mention of religion/religiosity. A whole lot of stupid there!

  7. Ol'Greg says

    Hmmm… and with that I seem to have identified myself and my youtube account :( Ah well, bound to happen some day. The good news is it’s likely no one would care anyway.

  8. NewEnglandBob says

    As I said over at, this was a wonderful Q & A but needed 200 more questions for you to answer.

  9. SEF says

    @ Treppenwitz #7:

    Terrible in what respect?

    It’s very quiet and indistinct (the latter of which is going to be a feature of the relatively self-effacing PZ) compared with nearly all other YouTube things I’ve ever tried (since getting them to work at all). They all seem to come on at full volume already (after initially having had to set up my computer ages ago for the various audio streams).

    There’s a little background noise

    I agree that that was not part of the sound quality issue for me. It’s more the overall recording volume and, to some extent, the diction. My deafness certainly doesn’t help (and can’t be fixed with a hearing aid). I normally rely on lip-reading to supplement loss of information but beards and any degree of mumbling interfere with that. (Not that PZ’s beard is of the most concealing style around.)

  10. Janine, Mistress Of Foul Mouth Abuse, OM says

    So, this time you avoided saying that you wanted to reduce religiosity to a hobby like knitting. Must not want to piss off the Kninja Knitters like Patricia and Redhead! It seems that our dear boy done learn from past indiscretions.

  11. aratina cage of the OM says

    Brownian #9, LOL! No spill this time but there would have been one had I been drinking some beverage. :)

    Having the Windows™ *thud* blast inappropriately one too many times after leaving YouTube, I have rid myself of system sounds altogether.

  12. Bad Albert says

    Sorry PZ, you lack credibility because you weren’t wearing your lab coat and speaking with a British accent.

  13. boygenius says

    Hmm. The backdrop is a little bland. Could have been improved with a colorful squid tapestry. Maybe some flat mirror DMX scanners, pinspots, some gel screen cans, a followspot, and some assorted lasers and strobes would have livened it up visually. :) Otherwise, very nicely done!

  14. charley says

    Good interview. I was kind of surprised by your question of Reddit, where you asked how they are using their power to prevent the spread of pseudoscience. Are you suggesting they should employ a pseudoscience censor to override their popularity based ranking system?

  15. bcoppola says

    You’ve managed to mostly disguise your true, baby-eating, ball-kicking, Mad Pariah* nature behind the mask of soft spoken affability, but “the devil hath power to assume a pleasing form”!

    OK, Poe-ing aside: your response that scientists should stop stigmatizing and start supporting popularizers might be the best single concrete suggestion for scientists to get real science before the public. Worth more than all the dead trees used for “Unscientific America”.

    Also appreciated your comments on the abuse of postmodernism. IMO, lot of us with a scientific/naturalistic worldview might be too quick to completely dismiss postmodernism in particular (and philosophy in general) with little more basis for doing so than creationists have for dismissing evolution. They have value in understanding the world; while there’s a lot of bullshit under those banners we should also remember the baby/bathwater relationship. Shorter version: glad you didn’t dismiss all of postmodernism out of hand.

    And just by way of full disclosure: I am not by any means a postmodern theorist. I simply try to avoid dismissing what I do not understand out of hand.

    Speaking of dead trees – just got “Your Inner Fish” from the library. Looks good on the quick skim I did over lunch. It’s going to be my vacation reading (a road trip south is imminent).

    Finally, more thanks to Brownian #9 for the lulz.

    *the birth of another Pharyngula catchword?

    Corporations are not people. Visit

  16. says

    Mind if I quibble over your answer about evangelical atheism?

    I agree in general, but I think “we’re right” is probably a bad term. You are correct in that evangelical atheism relies on presenting evidence and poking holes in poorly held beliefs, and that the approach works because objective reality backs it up. It’s when it goes beyond that to threaten, harass or injure others in the name of that belief, right or not, that it’s destructive.

    At the moment, the worst that evangelical atheism does is apply an intellectual peer pressure: “You’re stupid if you don’t believe what I believe.” I think thats orders of magnitude less destructive than threatening eternal damnation, withholding aid from the unconverted, oppressing religious minorities through government intervention, or the bloody history of forced conversions, wars, and ethnic cleansing done in the name of religious belief.

    Being mindful of that difference is the important part, not so much that atheism is “right”. I know that neither you nor the vast majority of commenters believe in adopting those extreme measures of evangelism, but I think it’s an important distinction to make for the few (Hitchens comes to mind) that do.

    That all said “A punch to the balls” is a wonderfully appropriate response otherwise. ;)

  17. Kagehi says

    I have, in the past, read a number of things from people that actually do know something about postmodernism. There tack was nearly what PZ himself claimed “some” of them do. Take a few catch phrases, and misuse them, to say something else.

    It seems to be linguistic legerdemain, of a sort. Make a simple statement 20 times more complicated, by using really big words, say nearly the exact same thing your own opposition just got through stating, then turn around and claim that it undermines everything the opposition said.

    Or, to put it another way, every instance I have seen of it personally seems to be what the Republican answer to the President’s speech yesterday was, if it had been given more cleverly, by someone with a better education, and enough of a vocabulary to confuse people about how much of a total idiot they sounded like.

    But, heh.. that’s just my experience on the subject. Maybe, someplace, somewhere, postmodernism is being used to state the non-obvious, or actually bring up real challenges, or state things that actually mean something, instead of just looking at everyone else through a badly warped and blurry lens.

  18. Ol'Greg says

    Is postmodernism still being used? I thought it died the death all isms die when time refuses to stop and people start talking about other things. Oh… gawds… how postmodern of me!

    One thing I actually enjoy about postmodern debate is that it does draw attention to the framing of thought, a reminder that the same story might look different with different narration and different audience etc.

    But I think the argument that it some how undermines science is stupid. It can’t undermine anything anyway.

    Wish I could see the video. I’ll try again I guess when I get home tonight.

  19. bcoppola says

    Kagehi: Yeah, I often think that too. Reading any of the stuff is like wading thru a swamp (why can’t supposed English majors write, y’know, clear English?). But it seems to be a somewhat useful means of looking at literature and, perhaps, language itself. IMHO (make that VERY humble opinion) once it strays beyond lit crit it gets silly.

    As I have little patience or ability to wade thru it all, all I can say is that I’m “agnostic” about postmodernism. My English PhD neigbor is into all that and sometimes when she patiently explains it to me, some of it makes sense as literary criticism. When it comes to scientific “texts” — not so much. And when she remarked that “the world is a text” to be examined (or as they like to say, “interrogated”) I rolled my eyes and said something like you can take a metaphor too far. But we’re still friends.

    Basically, I’m unwilling to pass judgement on the whole enterprise if only because of my own ignorance. Hey, I can’t know everything.

    Corporations don’t have rights. People do. Visit

  20. negentropyeater says

    I wonder if religion can ever morph into a sort of hobby, as PZ says, “something fun that people do during their spare time but no longer plays a significant part in guiding how society operates”.

    What would it look like ? So people would go to church to sing songs and read passages of the bible just to have fun but wouldn’t actually believe any of that stuff ? But why would people still want to do that ? What would be fun about it ? If it’s just about singing songs in a community, Karaokes and concerts are much better at that. If it’s about reading poetry, there are much better books than the bible. If it’s about playing games about supernatural monsters and stuff without actually believing in them, dungeons and dragons and all the more recent computer based games are already there.

    Why would people spend money and time on a religion that’s just a very lousy hobby ?

    Would it be because there’s nothing else to do as a community in the village ?

    I still have a lot of difficulty to visualize the concept of religion as just a fun thing to do in the sparetime.

    I think when a religion stops playing a significant part in guiding the minds of those who practice it, it most probably dies.

  21. Blind Squirrel FCD says

    I think when a religion stops playing a significant part in guiding the minds of those who practice it, it most probably dies.



  22. jfredett says

    Wrt the last question from PZ.

    We do our best, but there’s alot of dumb in the world, some of it gets to reddit.

    /signed, founder of /r/skeptic

  23. antaresrichard says

    Well, I kept my ear out for those three words, but as you never said them, I guess you didn’t go and spoil it all.


  24. Simon says

    That was really good.

    Science operates on discussions and arguments and scientists are brought up on it. Out there in the big bad world, it can be very different.

    I’m sadly out of science now and think I understand the question about homeopathy and avoiding fights. Evidence counts for 0 out here more often than I expected. And the homeopathy fans can hit the ‘offence as defence’ button fast!

    So to the person who asked you about avoiding fights, if you are having problems with one group, then resort to saying you only take treatments prescribed by your doctor. That usually makes life easier, while making a subtle point – it isn’t ideal but it will let you get through the day.

  25. atomjack says

    A lot more soft spoken than I expected. Keep up the good fight, PZ! I run into believers at work (if they bother to ask) and I tell them where I stand and why. Religious belief is such a problem in the world! I equate it to intellectual laziness and/or dishonesty, personally.

  26. TechSlave says

    Re: The question PZ posed at the end.
    Reddit does have a healthy skeptic and atheist community, though the format as a whole is based on user voting. (See the above mentioned /r/skeptic and as well)

    We do our best to be involved and both engage with (and down-vote) the silly buggers who want us to believe patently proof-free, faith-required myths.

  27. okahnus says

    @jfredett THANK you for making it! I’d have given up on Reddit’s sanity if it weren’t for /r/skeptic.

  28. janegael says

    You look very nice and cultured. I think I was a little surprised that you didn’t come across more angry. That’s a pleasant surprise. It is nice that you are out there letting the world know that not everyone believes and that believing without questioning is wrong.

    Unfortunately your fan club here isn’t as nice and cultured. I found out that you should not actually post more than a rude comment, or you are “long winded” and never say anything dissenting lest you stir ire rather than provoke thought. So, although I will continue to read, this is the last time I will post.

    Keep up the good work, PZ and enjoy your cheesecake.

  29. aratina cage of the OM says

    I think I was a little surprised that you didn’t come across more angry….Unfortunately your fan club here isn’t as nice and cultured. I found out that you should not actually post more than a rude comment, or you are “long winded” and never say anything dissenting lest you stir ire rather than provoke thought.

    janegael, your comment about the afterlife was not really thought provoking if that is the one you are holding the grudge over. But why the double standard? You made a mistake in thinking of PZ as an “angry” person, so why would you then not allow his “fan club” to have a mistaken impression of you?

  30. Nerd of Redhead, OM says

    Janegael, you obviously misunderstand this place. Anything you say, especially if it is irrational like the afterlife, will be challenged. At that point, you have two choices. Defend what you say with logic and evidence, or run away. Your evidenceless belief is meaningless.

  31. Janine, Mistress Of Foul Mouth Abuse, OM says

    Unfortunately your fan club here isn’t as nice and cultured. I found out that you should not actually post more than a rude comment, or you are “long winded” and never say anything dissenting lest you stir ire rather than provoke thought. So, although I will continue to read, this is the last time I will post.

    This is hardly the only video of PZ speaking. Just go to YouTube and search for PZ Myers. This is not hidden information. And it should not comes as a surprise that a college professor comes across as a college, that is, thoughtful and well spoken.

    If you really were a reader of this blog, you would know that we are not a fan club for PZ Myers. Pz has something better, he has cultivated a blog where there are a number of intelligent people from different fields who feel comfortable at.

    While I will admit that I make use of short and rude comments, to say that this the norm for the majority of the people here shows that you are not here to engage. You are here to provoke and evangelize among the heathens.

    Janegael, if you spent anytime at all reading this blog, you would realize that your post is but a caricature. And if the few posts that you have dropped off here are typical of how you interact, it really is for the best that you never comment again. You have nothing to say, only things to whine about.

    But I suggest this if you actually are going to continue reading this blog. Read the contents for once.

  32. jfredett says


    Your welcome, but most of the credit goes to KyleV (the other mod over there), who really jumpstarted the thing. I may have made the actual subreddit, but he really got it going and did the dirty work of building the community. Now we have something like 5000 subscribers, and it’s all his fault!

  33. The Tim Channel says

    I don’t give Goddamn, I’m still a PZ Myers fan!

    For anyone posting a farewell comment, I salute you. I like the extra elbow room.

    You wouldn’t believe the grief some give me for my supposed spam-whorishness because I add a personal link on many occasions. If you click on my links, you are never presented with an opportunity to buy magic biscuits (e.g.) or the much anticipated, long awaited, Tim-branded trinkets so long in the works. For better or worse, you just get more of ‘me’. LOL.

    That said, here’s the latest on the drug warriors (at least as loathsome as holy warriors):


  34. Ol'Greg says

    Finally able to view it. Oh the swansong of academia :(:(:(

    Awesome answers though. No matter how many times I encounter it I’m always amazed by how sweet PZ seems when he talks (as many have noted). I don’t know if I’m a “fan” per se though? I’ve never really had the tendency to be a fan of people so much as of ideas.