Pity party!


Hey, everyone! It’s Saturday night, during a pandemic, and I home alone with a cat that hates me, so it’s a perfect time for a pity party. I walked out to the liquor store and got some cheap whisky, and I’ve already downed a couple of shots, so you better get to work to catch up. I have many things to be miserable about, and I wanted to get a head start.

  • I’ve already mentioned my monster load of grading. I don’t need advice, I know it’s my fault — but I also feel an obligation to cram in a lot of stuff the hard way because this zoom teaching is not my bag at all. I’m clearly overcompensating and suffering for it.
  • Speaking of which, this has just been an agonizing year. All the compromises I’ve had to make are driving me crazy, and all the good stuff about teaching have been lost. I hardly know my students — they’re names on a roster. Getting any kind of interaction with them is a struggle. I did not sign up for this career to be a voice on a computer talking to an array of black rectangles.
  • I’ve been regretting more than a few choices. Forty years ago my dad suggested I go into refrigerator repair, and even lined up an apprenticeship for me. Sometimes now (especially now) I fantasize about a 9-to-5 union job with good pay and paid vacations…I wonder what that would be like?
  • I used to enjoy getting out to events and talking with other people about science, or the folly of religious dogma, or the importance of social justice. I was traveling roughly every two weeks to meetings, and then, abruptly, that all dried up about 8 years ago. Sheesh, you expose just one high muckity-muck skeptic rapist, and your phone stops ringing. It was impressive how quickly and thoroughly the blacklist was implemented.
  • The fun was only beginning. I learned gradually that the movement I’d spent years promoting was infested with patriarchal asshats and harassers. I get so much hate mail now! It turns out many of the rank-and-file of atheism sound like refugees from 4chan. Or whatever that hellhole is called now.
  • Some of you regular readers got a taste of what my in-box looks like — we had a troll come by and leave a series of obscene comments talking about how I enjoyed fellating transsexual individuals, among other such crudities. Don’t bother looking for them, I delete them as fast as I find them, but here’s a taste of one of his milder comments:

    Myers is a bitch. And she was bitchslapped long time ago by almost everyone in the atheist community and made a pariah [he’s right, you know–pzm]. Thoroughly deserved given the damage that C*unt did.

    Once upon a time I thought atheists would be more rational than theists. Boy was I wrong!

  • But, you say, that’s just some bottom-of-the-barrel nobody — a loud-mouthed twit who has never contributed anything positive — so who cares? But then tonight I also got email from a more senior member of the atheist community, with a high position in a regional organizer. She’s been pestering me for years, and now she was writing to me to get my support (why, I have no idea — I have zero influence) in a crusade against American Atheists. This is what some high-ranking atheists sound like.

    Have you see this?
    Access the article by clicking on the address way below.
    Notice that the tranny within AA, Alison Gill,
    is coming down hard on Dawkins.
    Dawkins is not perfect but I’ll take him any day over Alison Gill.
    Dawkins’ main problem is that he doesn’t speak “American.”
    I think he means well but he doesn’t come across very well
    to Americans. But he is basically correct.

    Rumor is that the Humanist organization
    has also been taken over by LGBTQ people.

    I wrote back to tell her to stop sending me her poisonous crap. Like my usual trolls, she didn’t stop.

    PZ, This is not hateful and this is not poisonous.
    You know me better than that.
    These people (LGBTQ) have taken over AA and
    the Humanist organizations.
    “Tranny” is a well-known nickname for transgender people,
    which is a mouthful to type. It is not meant negatively.

    Dawkins is correct. The right wing fundamentalists
    are using the “transgender issue”as a Trojan horse to get at us.
    We need to separate the transgender issue from atheism.
    We are science oriented.
    You do not become a woman by amputating your male genitals.
    But if they want to do that, they are free to do so in America
    but don’t connect it with atheism.
    THAT IS ALL WE ASK.

    Depressing, isn’t it? I don’t want to be associated with these people any more. And she doesn’t know me at all.

  • I’ve got lots of legal debt that’s going to drain all of my disposable income for the next few years. Yeah, that’s the happy ending to my atheist career.
  • I’m running out of whisky.

Fuck it, party is over.

Comments

  1. kome says

    The word transgender is a “mouthful to type”? First, what does that even mean? Secondly, if transgender is too long a word to type, why use “organizations” instead of “groups”? That person knows what she was doing and is now trying to backtrack because you don’t accept her implicit dehumanization of an entire group of people. “Taken over” is the language of people with an axe to grind. What a lame ass excuse. Disgusting.

  2. Rob Grigjanis says

    Notice that the tranny within AA, Alison Gill, is coming down hard on Dawkins.

    What a cissy.

  3. ORigel says

    The slur “is a mouthful to type”? Then just use “trans”– everyone knows by now that when you’re using that term, you are not usually referring to the fat.

  4. raven says

    Rumor is that the Humanist organization
    has also been taken over by LGBTQ people.

    That is a convincing statement. Not!!!

    And, who cares anyway.
    LGBTQ people are…people too.

    Rumor has it that, …more senior member of the atheist community… is a right wingnut Trump voter and probably hates me as much as she hates PZ and LGBTQ’s.

  5. John Morales says

    Dawkins is correct. The right wing fundamentalists are using the “transgender issue”as a Trojan horse to get at us.

    So the proposed “solution” is to concede to the RWFs?
    Just give in!

    (Such cowardice!)

  6. maddogbinkley says

    Ever since my RSS reader went belly up, I haven’t been reading your blog much, sorry! But when I heard about the Dawkins fiasco, I wanted to see your reaction. You did not disappoint. Now I’m going to check out American Atheists, because if the anti-LGBTQ+ people hate it, I want to check it out and maybe give them money that I can’t afford to do. Thanks for being you!

  7. lochaber says

    gotta wonder about an organization that can be so easily damaged by someone speaking out against predatory behavior…

    Like, maybe get your(not you-your, the complaining troll-your) own house in order?

    Anyways, I lurk a lot, and rarely comment, mostly because I can’t keep up, but for what it’s worth generally most of the posts here and on the associated blogs, and have learned quite a bit (biology, social issues, and other areas as well).

    It’s a bit of an over-simplification, but I feel like “don’t be a dick” still has a fair bit of merit. I forgot who/where, but something I saw (youtube? twitter?) relatively recently mentioned that it can be difficult to understand the complexities of various political and social issues. But also, that the nazis are pretty much almost always on the wrong side of things, and if you find yourself on the side supported by nazis, you should probably sit down and think for a bit.

  8. vucodlak says

    Rumor is that the Humanist organization
    has also been taken over by LGBTQ people.

    I realize this is a text-based communication, but I can’t help but hear last abbreviation in the same whisper that my racist grandmother used to use when she said “black.” Really, it’s okay to say the man who helped you with your groceries was black, grandma. Especially since we’re in your living room. That’s not actually racist, and there are no other old white ladies around to be scandalized that you talked to a black man, unless they’re hiding under the divan.

    These people

    There are entirely innocent uses of this phrasing, I know. Like “those people prefer mayo on their French fries, and these people prefer ketchup.” Most of the time, though, you can hear/envision the sneer on the face of the person who uses it. ‘These… people’ they’re saying, and you can bet that the speaker has more love and concern for things they’ve scraped off the bottoms of their shoes than they do for the people in question. It is, in its way, a useful bit of verbal shorthand for expressing utter contempt for a group.

    Alas, this… person lacks the wits to understand how the tool works. You’re supposed to use it instead of slurs and other messy, open expressions of prejudice. Using a “these/those people” in the same letter as you spell out your bigotry plain as day is pretty fucking stupid, as well as a waste of a perfectly good rhetorical tool.

    [slur] is a well-known nickname for [marginalized persons]

    You know, you can fill in any slur, along with its corresponding marginalized group, and it never gets any less gross. Or stupid.

    The right wing fundamentalists are using the “transgender issue”as a Trojan horse to get at us.

    So clearly the intelligent thing to do is… join forces with the rightwing fundamentalists? Surrender to them? Huh. This, too, seems pretty fucking stupid.

    I’m not exactly impressed with this atheist intellectual titan.

  9. says

    This one sure has some feelings to get out.
    Trying so hard to portray things in such a bad way. They’re sensitive to rape accusations, willing to use LGBT+ people as an insult. At least we are making the right people upset.

    Has anyone tried Atomicrops? It’s a post-apocalyptic farming simulator where you forage during the day and protect your crops at night.

  10. Aoife_b says

    Sometimes I miss Natalie Reed’s blog here. Now I wonder if she had the right idea getting out when she did

  11. Silentbob says

    @ 19

    Hahahaha.

    Look on the bright side PZ, no matter how grim things seem at times your life is like three orders of magnitude better than these pathetic clowns. Can you even imagine having so meaningless a life this is all you have to do all day. :-)

  12. Silentbob says

    @ 26

    Dance, puppet, dance!

    C’mon is that all you’ve got? It’s hilarious watching you have your little tanty and soil your diapers. Got any more toys to throw out of the pram before mommy comes to collect you?

    Don’t leave my hangin’ kid – dance! You’re cracking me up. :-)

  13. says

    These problems are so bad that we share them with the religious. The pitiless bigot’s resentments are specific. They fear sexual assault being taken seriously. They want dominance over LGBT+ people. They want to see us suffer. So I am fine.

    Imagine people like this concentrating social in spaces. It’s good that they get some atheist groups ro themselves. Better each other than us.

  14. barry21 says

    I’ve been a reader/lurker since you were part of Seed magazine’s blog presence. I moved to DC for law school in my late 20’s. You and Ed Brayton were in town on my birthday weekend (I think for an Americans United for Separation of Church & State conference), and I celebrated by dragging my then-girlfriend to meet you guys in a bar.

    I’ve taken you for granted, PZ, because you’ve been there nearly every day.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  15. brucegee1962 says

    These blogs are pretty much my only point of contact with the atheist “movement,” such as it is. It doesn’t sound as if I’m missing much.
    Without social justice, what’s the point?

  16. louis14 says

    I very rarely comment here, though I’ve been a regular reader for a decade at least. Wanted to comment on this post though.

    Sorry to read that you’re feeling so down PZ. If the new federal administration can get its way, things are likely to improve over the course of this coming year. Hang in there.

    As an Englishman, I can confirm (in case you were in any doubt) that Dawkins’ meaning is the same this side of the Atlantic as on the western side. The problem is not that he doesn’t speak ‘American’. I used to be a big fan of Dawkins’ writing in his books about evolution. Still am. But boy, he’s turned out to be such an ass as a person. This is why I’ve never had heroes.

  17. blf says

    Ignoring the transphobic homophobic & probably-rationality-phobic nazi, who seems to have just returned in an effort to be drenched in milkshakes, the mildly deranged penguin is offering to send you some cheese. Whilst both unusual (on her part) and kind (for her), I’d suggest declining, as ballistic-reentry cheese tends to arrive as a very hot fondue, known to sometimes be mistaken for a volcano. She means well, and both she and I do hope & wish you all the best.

  18. says

    You whore of a morher is. And she told me her son is a fag when she danced on my cock last night.

    This is so funny. Like it’s a bad thing if one’s mother has a sex life?

    SPOILER ALERT: Without female ancestors with sex lives, literally none of us would be here.

    It’s really clear, innit, that if this is the person who shows up to defend Dawkins and that unnamed leader within movement atheism, then to the extent that there is a “rift” with “sides”, we’re sure as hell on the right one, and Dawkins, et al. are sure on the wrong one.

  19. davidc1 says

    Maybe in stead of answering these wackloons like what a scientist would ,maybe just mock them to the limit .
    A britshitter on faceache said that i had been measured and found wanting ,followed by a line of smiley faces .
    I replied I hoped he used a metric tape measure ,I can’t stand that imperial crap ,he replied with a bell emoji ,meaning i was a willie .
    I asked him ,why no smiley faces .

    PS one should never drink alone .

  20. says

    A britshitter on faceache said that i had been measured and found wanting

    Wouldn’t be surprised if they got that from A Knight’s Tale. Far be it from these ignoramuses to indulge in actual literacy.

    PS one should never drink alone .

    Perhaps that’s why PZ is sharing his drinking with us.

    @PZ:
    It’s been a good while, but I enjoyed the time we met in Seattle and I’d be honored to meet up with you again, assuming we end up in the same city again someday. I’ll drink in the same room with you happily. In the meantime, I’ll just raise a glass from the west coast and think of you.

  21. oddie says

    Sorry thing have got your down PZ. It’s been a though year for sure. As others have mentioned, you are my only current connection to the old “movement” and it too bad that most of the others in it turned out to be garbage people. For what it’s worth I love your blog and the current turn to spiders 🕷. You do good work. Thanks.

  22. snarkrates says

    Ultimately, what it comes down to is that people suck, and they suck for a reason. Altruism is costly to the individual–if it isn’t, then it isn’t really altruism. It is a benefit if those around one are altruistic. But, a species can only have so many altruists and survive.
    It remains to be seen whether the amount of altruism required to survive increases once the species has the ability to obliterate the planet, but our species probably ain’t gonna be around to find out.
    I just say I am a humanist now. There are humanists who believe in gods. There are humanist like me where gods make no sense in the universe I see. Fuck the rest of humanity. The sooner our species dies off, the better for the planet.

  23. bsr0 says

    It’s always darkest before the dawn? Sorry – not sure what to say to cheer you up, except that I (mostly lurk) and enjoy this blog daily – as someone above said it’s the only atheism-linked blog I read any more after dumping several others.
    Hopefully you can look forward to your summer (MN summers are great – used to enjoy lake life up in the Iron Range) and more spider hunting and photography.
    It’s been a sucky year all around, but it does seem to be getting incrementally better.
    Distance prevents us from crowding into your home and drinking with you – maybe host another online get-together?

  24. barry21 says

    @snarkrates: I think there’s a bit of tension between identifying as a humanist and your desire for human extinction.

    I love it! <3

  25. snarkrates says

    barry21, Not at all. Human extinction is inevitable, due to the fact that we are just smart enough to fuck things up. It is desirable that we die off before we fuck things up irreparably. Fortunately, life seems to be pretty robust. So, my desire is that we be as humane to each other as possible on our way to the dustbin of evolution.

    The basic fault of humans is our tendency to reject truth for the sake of comforting lies. Some humans were actually smart enough to develop science as a remedy for our ability to reject reality, but the rest of the human race was innovative to develop counter measures: hard-core denial and even anti-science, which masquerades as science while still imparting those lies we are so desperate to believe in. And when all else fails, they resort to bullshit and trolling. Any species that is that dedicated to lying to itself cannot survive forever.

  26. barry21 says

    @snarkrates – that’s all fair, but doesn’t quite explain how to be a humanist who says “fuck the rest of humanity.”

    Accepting the inevitability of eventual human extinction is different from expressing a desire for humanity to die off for the planet’s sake.

    Not trying to fight. Like I said, I love the tension I see in your original comment.

  27. says

    If someone had sent me a note like that I would be sharing the contents and the name of the person who wrote it.

    We need to name names because these bigots live in the shadows and know what they say is frowned upon. If you are too afraid to go public with a view point of hate then what does that say about your view point?

  28. davidc1 says

    @38 ” Perhaps that’s why PZ is sharing his drinking with us.”
    Nott the same as at the end of the drinking session you can stare into your fellow drinkers bloodshot eyes and say “You are my best mate ,do you know that ,my best mate in the world “

  29. snarkrates says

    No, I understand, and I appreciate the “dynamic tension”, myself. My lovely wife (who is just as misanthropic as I am) has reduced morality to three basic tenets:
    1) Don’t be greedy.
    2) Don’t be stupid.
    3) Don’t be mean.
    I could not on the above in any way. I only added a fourth admonition
    4) Don’t be pathetic.
    It’s probably more important for me, because men have much more of a tendency to be pathetic than do women. For me, “Fuck the rest” just means I’m willing to let them go to hell rather than drag them to heaven against their will. The humanist bit means I won’t help them ruin themselves and I’ll offer a hand should they decide they want to turn around.

  30. Matt G says

    Well at least your cat hasn’t killed you. When she does, THEN you’ll have something to complain about.

  31. blf says

    Matt G@50, We have no evidence (to-date) the evil cat hasn’t learned mousing using poopyhead as a practice dummy, albeit I concur we have no evidence the other way (other than the recent kiboshing (Thanks!) of a certain everything-phobic’s “comments”).

  32. redwood says

    *A termite walks into a bar and says, “Hey! Where’s the bar tender?”
    *A horse walks into a bar and the bartender says, “Why the long face?”
    *A guy walks into a bar and sees a little man about a foot tall playing a tiny piano. He’s really good, but there’s a sad-looking man sitting next to him. The first guy says, “Wow, that guy can really play. What’s he doing in here?” The morose guy looked at him and said, “Oh, I found a lamp and when I rubbed it, a genie appeared and said he’d grant me one wish.” “And you wished for a little guy that can play the piano?” “Well, not exactly. The genie thought I wanted a 12-inch pianist.”

  33. vita says

    I’ve been reading your blog for half my life now (I’m 27) and I’m continually grateful that you’re still going and haven’t turned out to be a sh*t-head like everyone else I read/admired as a teenager, I’ll carry on reading and enjoying as long as you’re writing.

  34. maireaine46 says

    Go buy yourself some good whisky (Irish recommended) and call your wife and talk to your little granddaughter. I am neither an atheist nor a science person, but my husband is, and I love reading your blog and agree with you about asshole atheists as well as asshole religionists. My husband is like you, has been an atheist since he was a kid, raised Orthodox Jewish, but never into Dawkins or any of that kind of nasty character. Our political beliefs are also very much like yours. I was raised Catholic but am disgusted with their anti-woman, anti-LGBT views. Anyhow, take care of yourself, you are a voice of sanity and kindness whom I admire. And keep feeding the cat! She can’t help being herself.

  35. stroppy says

    Reminds me of Saul Steinberg and his New Yorkah’s map of the US, only instead of New York, substitute Homo sapiens with maybe a little bit left over for all that of nature stuff (or whatever that thing is that granola-eaters keep mumbling about).

    https://www.illustrationhistory.org/images/uploads/ny.jpg

    As long as we, as a species, register in the red zone on the Crap-o-meter, we have no business assuming human exceptionalism in our philosophies. We’re collectively headed for a well deserved Darwin Award, and I doubt we’ll be missed.

    OK, so maybe the raccoons will light a candle for us once they take over our niche.

  36. opposablethumbs says

    Slightly ironically, I first learned of the existence of Pharyngula thanks to Dawkins (in the book-writing pre-twitter stage; iirc he references Pharyngula in The God Delusion, so this would have been in about 2006/7 when I wasn’t yet online much at all and this was all in the ScienceBlogs before times of course).

    And ever since then, Pharyngula has never disappointed. (Dawkins, on the other hand … )

    Thank you for doing what you do and writing what you write, PZ!

  37. muttmutt says

    My position on “organizations” and “clubs”:

    “I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member.”

    Groucho Marx

  38. blf says

    Go buy yourself some good whisky (Irish recommended)&hellip

    Whisky from Ireland (island)? Maybe possible, but whiskey will be easier to find (in general, Morris may be one of those places where Whisky made from the finest Irelandish grapes† is more easily found?).

    I do concur Irish whiskey is a very good choice (single malt or not), as is Japanese. Single malt Scottish whisky is also excellent.

      † Supposedly, yonks ago, there was a counterfeit Scottish whisky made from the finest Scottish grapes (paraphrase from memory) — possibly just a very confused advertising sign.

  39. Pierce R. Butler says

    Our esteemed host is quite rugged: very few typos for a post whose writing consumed a full bottle o’ whiskey.

  40. david says

    PZ, your post conveys a depressive attitude about several major aspects of your current life situation. Please recognize that as a potential warning sign and get some professional input.

    (Longtime reader, rare commenter)

  41. shinji2k says

    I guess I’ll chime in too. I’ve been following you since Crackergate and I wanted to thank you and your community for making me a better, more thoughtful person (hopefully). I was pretty into “skepticism” at the time and I shudder to think where I would be without being shown how to examine my own beliefs and biases before judging others. I won’t list everything I’ve directly and indirectly learned from you but I will say that you are one hell of a teacher

  42. says

    I found something interesting and I was curious about what people might think.

    I’ve been working on getting a functional understanding of the nervous system and the latest step is being able to picture it in a segmented fashion from the sensory surfaces in. I was revisiting the somatosensory system (touch: multiple kinds of touch/pressure+temperature+pain) and it’s organization and I noticed something that made me think of how generalized mood states might work.

    Skin infirmation is divided into 2 paths as the cells extend axons towards the brain.
    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/b/b2/Spinal_cord_tracts_-English.svg/1024px-Spinal_cord_tracts-_English.svg.png
    *The DCML (dorsal column medial lemniscus system) which carries “discriminative touch” (touch you can localize) and proprioception (place in space of body parts).
    *The spinothalamic tracts (lateral and anterior) which carry “non-discriminative touch” (touch you can’t localize), temperature and pain. This part is also referred to as affective (emotional component of pain).

    Following this hunch I followed temperature processing and emotion and started running into stuff like this.
    “The Brainstem in Emotion: A Review”
    https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnana.2017.00015/full

    On top of that
    in figure 3 the “emotional motor system”

    I was already thinking in terms of tics having intensity and instruction set components. Those

  43. birgerjohansson says

    The late Ed Brayton would sometimes publish hate mail under the headline “Mikey gets mail” – a friend of his in än organisation för religious freedom in the military.
    The letters were often anti-semitic rants and the poor spelling and frequently self-contradicting statements would keep the commentariat entertained for days, offering various theories how those literary masterpieces could be interpreted.

    -I suggest you make a habit of publishing the more entertaining hate letters here for a collective dissection. Like, what are the likely hangups that make some people so freaked out by LBTQ issues ?
    And why are some people with an academic career so obsessed with shoehorning humans In simple, binäry categories?
    I look forward to letters with a richer harvest of spelling errors than this one.

  44. thewolf says

    PZ. long time lurker here, i registered just to let you know this:

    screw all that crap. I have been an atheist since I was a kid, but I don’t need conferences or organizations. What has been a great help to my sanity and thought processes, are your voice and ideas coming through on a regular basis on the great free innanet.

    Teaching sounds like a complete drain, and I hope you find a way to reduce the load and get back to the rewarding aspects. I need to keep hearing your voice here, so GET ON IT.

    in my early to late teens, i was physically and sexually abused by my stepfather. i had to submit, because after he knocked me out the first time I was afraid of getting brain damage or killed if i resisted. he threatened to put my in an asylum or on the streets if i told. i was powerless. i lost my personhood and have spent decades getting it back. you did the right thing, and fuck the conferences and social stuff. you HELPED. maybe you saved some people from the stuff I lived through.

    so, thank you. keep doing the right thing. you are appreciated.

  45. says

    I forgot to mention a connection. Emotions like anger and fear involve temperature changes. Some concepts like “center-surround” also in other parts of the nervous system. Maybe a “discriminative” /”non-discriminative frame works for mood?

    I have great functional control on my generalized anxiety but I still want to find the controls to shift things more positive. I like individuals and groups have been complicated for as long as I can remember.

  46. cartomancer says

    Have you considered moving to a university in a sane country, like Germany or Sweden or Norway, where things are less crap for academic people and the atheists tend to be more numerous and less awful? Or at least to somewhere a bit more spidery?

    Or, if all else fails, there’s always Berserkergang.

  47. KG says

    Altruism is costly to the individual–if it isn’t, then it isn’t really altruism. It is a benefit if those around one are altruistic. But, a species can only have so many altruists and survive. – snarkrates@41

    This is both simplistic and confused. Let’s deal with the “confused” first – the last sentence quoted. Altruism would be expected to benefit the species, at least if its targets are primarily conspecifics. Clearly, if we were all more concerned about other people, it would be easier to agree and institute the measures necesary to halt climate disruption, gross inequality and other environmental and social crises.

    Now the simplistic. Natural selection, of course, works primarily at the individual level*: it can’t select traits because they would benefit the species, although it can select traits that benefit the species, provided they also increase the inclusive fitness of individuals that possess them; it will select against traits that reduce inclusive fitness – and from that it’s tempting to conclude that it can’t select for altruism. But we need to distinguish between different things that all get called altruism, but are very different. I call an act genetic altruism if it increases the inclusive fitness of others relative to one’s own, resource altruism if it results in the (average net) transfer of resources of whatever kind to other individuals, and motivational altruism if it is motivated by the desire to benefit others despite anticipated costs to oneself. Any given act, or trait affecting what acts are more or less likely, can have any combination of these properties**, and it is only genetic altruism that will be selected against. There are multiple plausible mechanisms that can lead to selection for resource and motivational altruism (kin selection, group selection, reciprocity, reputational effects including the handicap principle, tendency to acquire and transmit cultural norms (this is what makes group selection a plausible mechanism in humans and possibly some other social species) and even “spite” as manifest in the tendency to punish norm violators even at cost to the self – and the fact that people (and some other animals) do in fact demonstrate both resource and motivational altruism indicates that at least some of these mechanisms must be (or at least, have been relatively recently) in operation – if they weren’t and hadn’t been, we’d all be psychopaths. Your excessive cynicism is probably as dangerous to our common future as the denialist proclivities you rightly deplore.

    *Or that of the gene, if you want to take that p.o.v. – it doesn’t matter in the current context.

  48. beholder says

    Sorry to hear that you’re overwhelmed with bullshit, PZ. I second @61, seeking professional help is a good idea.

    Take a larger perspective on the misfit dudebros cluttering your feed. The pollsters asking these questions for a living have found that self-identified atheists are far more likely to be supportive of social justice and far less supportive of reactionary politics than their counterparts (far more than the nonreligious, even). I think atheists got the message loud and clear; you’re just hearing the wails of the terminally ignorant regressives. Take some solace that they’re being pushed away from the demographic they claim to represent.

    Hope you’re feeling better soon.

  49. KG says

    PZ,
    I’ll echo what others have said about the good you have done – to many individuals including me, and for Social Justice – far exceeding what the vast majority of people ever manage; and also david@61 in urging you to recognise that you may be at risk of serious depression – not at all surprising given the factors you list. I’m tempted to say – give the cat away, and get a dog of some good-natured and cheerful breed such as a labrador – it will always be pleased to see you, and will require you to exercise!

  50. stroppy says

    No, I think giving away a bonded cat would be cruel.

    Nothing against dogs, we had both growing up, just noting that cats can be excellent companions. Mine always greeted me at the door when I came home from work.

  51. magistramarla says

    Hang in there, PZ!
    Like others here, I truly appreciate you as a teacher and a leader.
    I’m another non-science person who is married to a science person.
    I actually was the one in the family who discovered your blog on ScienceBlogs years ago and I introduced it to my
    science-loving husband. You have helped both of us to understand our own philosophy of life.
    Know that your voice is heard and appreciated.

  52. petesh says

    Gee, if I could think of a really stupid pseudonym, maybe I too could post a post so content-free it actually remained invisible.

    Until that blessed day, cheer up, PZ, we’re right behind you, which is why the slings and arrows hit you first!

  53. Jazzlet says

    I wanted to post a link to pictures of spiders living in a house in the UK to distracct you from the crap PZ, but they’ve all hidden away.

  54. withanaxe says

    I want to say thank you too, PZ. I’ve read your blog since I don’t know when, before FTB. I started reading during a time when I picked up a lot of athesist blogs, and gradually either I’ve stopped reading them because they’ve gone to shit, or they’ve gone silent. Yours is the only one where I actually read every single post, and I learn a lot here, especially on the topic of social justice. (The most science-heavy stuff might go sliiightly over my head as biology isn’t something I’ve studied much beyond the basics taught in school in the Olden Days.)

    Thank you for keeping up with this blog. If I were in charge of setting up panels and conferences, you’d have a seat, but I break out in hives at the thought of joining the intrigues and games that in my experience come with being in a position of even minimum power in an organisation. But if you should consider cartomancer’s suggestion and move to Norway, I can at least hook you up with some decent whisky and a membership in the malt whisky society.

  55. cvoinescu says

    Imagine the spiders behind all those refrigerators!

    Is it school policy to teach to black rectangles? I know it was for my son’s college (that would be high school in American, roughly), but in the few seminars I taught and attended while squirrelled up [wrong blog?] at home I always got to see the students or fellow participants, and that was super-useful. It was understood that everyone was free to turn their camera off if they wanted to, but few did, and usually only briefly. (There are many things that can happen, from inopportune grocery delivery to unauthorized offspring incursion.)

    In the grand scheme of things, does it help to know that you’ve been right practically all the time? On second though, that may be a bit depressing. Sorry. FWIW, you did cure me of a youthful bout of libertarianism (of the Ayn Rand kind) a decade or so ago, for which I thank you.

  56. nomdeplume says

    Why the sudden influx of vicious trolls (their “contributions” now thankfully deleted above) on PZ’s lovely blog? Or do they come in waves?

    Plenty of support for you though in your winter of discontent. I have also felt academically isolated and forgotten in recent years. Perhaps you are struggling because you are in transition between zebra fish and spiders (I had several transitions in my career) and feel you are out of your comfort zone and not yet established in your new field. But you are just a young fellow with a whole exciting new career about to open up. Bravo!

  57. nomdeplume says

    Hi John – I realised this was just the one (in spite of his devilishly clever ruse of changing his name…), but has it only been the same one back through time?

  58. Ray, rude-ass yankee - One inseparable gemisch says

    Hi PZ, You are the reason I identify as atheist / godless and humanist. I have followed you through all the iterations since I saw a blurb about your blog in a magazine so many years ago. I see the merit in your views on the way the organized movement has gone and how they behave. I respect your scientific prowess and have learned a lot of cool and interesting things over the years by reading your posts. More recently, as I was able, I’ve been trying to contribute to help keep this blog going (as anyone who can – should!). I want to bump it up a bit, what’s the best way to do that? I don’t see a patreon tier above $5. You and Ed Brayton did a magical thing starting the freethoughtblogs network I can’t thank you enough for what you do. I don’t have any whisky, but I will raise my glass of chocolate milk to you – Sláinte mhaith!

  59. expat says

    As a former student of yours (pre pandemic) that happily graduated with a biology degree, thank you for your work. Your classes were my favorite and most memorable, I’ve bought and read your book, and will go sign up for your patreon just because I enjoy your research.

    Oh – I also grew up in a fundamentalist Lutheran home (LCMS) and over the years have made my way to being a politically active, atheistic SJW in no small part because of you.

    I’ll go pour myself a whiskey – cheers

  60. Ray, rude-ass yankee - One inseparable gemisch says

    Even if drunk, I find professor Myers waaaaaay more coherent that Dawkins.

  61. EigenSprocketUK says

    I’ve lurked since scienceblogs, and seldom comment. By the time I see stuff, all the right things have been said by all the good people. And I see that today too.

    I’ll just say Thankyou PZ, and Keep On Keeping On. I’d like to echo several lovely comments, but particular #Vita @53.

    It’s coming up to 7am here (UTC+01.00), Monday morning. I’ll get some coffee on for anyone who wants it or who ran out of whisky/whiskey. Bit too soon for Minnesota, but still.

  62. hillaryrettig1 says

    I also appreciate you PZ – very much.

    And I think the teaching this year has been excruciating for everyone.

  63. birgerjohansson says

    Look at it this way- once the vaccine starts having effect, you personally are safe, and come fall the students will have had shots too- thus ordinary education can resume.
    .
    BTW I think you are dangerously close to “burnout” and once there, it may take several years to recover.
    I strongly advice you consider taking time out- you will not be good for working anyway once you cross the line of collapse.

  64. snarkrates says

    KG: “Clearly, if we were all more concerned about other people, it would be easier to agree and institute the measures necessary to halt climate disruption, gross inequality and other environmental and social crises.”

    Well, except for the fact that we haven’t had to confront such crises until very recently–certainly way to recently to affect our evolution as a species. And, yes, there are different kinds of altruism, but what I said still applies. Altruism is costly to the individual, and as such can only be selected for if the trait favors selection of one’s genetics from related individuals. It doesn’t alter the basic fact: people suck. They’ll always suck. It doesn’t matter what they believe or don’t. The suckiness is genetic–inherent to our humanity. It’s the 99% of us who will give the other 1% a bad name.

  65. says

    Hugs, PZ, if you want them. Remember, right now nobody is happy. It’s a shitty situation all around and you’re allowed some ranting.And whisky, though I’d also recommend some good whisky.

    snarkrates
    I think the problem with your reasoning is that you treat this as a zero sum game. Sure, the moment I do something altruistic, it costs me. But at some other point, I may benefit. It may also cost me less than it benefits the other person. Take a simple, modern example: You’re in your car on the main road. There’s a bit of a traffic jam because it’s the rush hour and in front of an intersection it’s stop and go. There’s a road merging and in theory, the cars there have to wait until the main road is clear. Being a kind person, you let the person in the car there out in front of you. This cat costs you 20 seconds, the other person wins half an hour. Next time maybe you are the one coming onto the main road. Because it’s generally seen as “the right thing to do” somebody else let’s you pass.

  66. Rob Grigjanis says

    snarkrates @95:

    Altruism is costly to the individual

    Not being altruistic is costly to the individual with a conscience. And if the suck to not-suck ratio were indeed 99-1, we wouldn’t be here.

  67. PaulBC says

    Giliell@96

    Remember, right now nobody is happy.

    Some of us have had an awesome year, to be honest. I don’t know if I should be feeling survivor’s guilt but I’m not. Work has been going well, and I am at least as effective remotely as I ever was going into the office. I was never much for socializing anyway, and less so at my current age. There has been some family tragedy, but not related to the pandemic. There has been great news medically speaking in my immediate family (long-awaited and very successful solid-organ transplant).

    Clearly, it has been a terrible year for many people, but it depends on circumstances. But it would be inaccurate to say that nobody is happy, and I suspect there are a lot of people who found this year more suited to their preferences than they want to let on. It’s starting to drag and I am looking forward to getting past that second vaccination, but this at least in the top 10%tile of years in my own life.

  68. stroppy says

    “…we haven’t had to confront such crises until very recently–certainly way to recently to affect our evolution as a species.”

    There’s a cost to selfishness which is why we evolved into social animals to begin with. We also have culture that evolves by learning, and we know how civilizations can fail.

    But we also have buggy wetware which, among other things, makes it hard for people to comprehend things on large scales and makes us vulnerable to tribalism and superstitious thinking. There is a certainly a cost in energy spent thinking about complex issues, which is not to say that proper training and education couldn’t remedy the situation–admittedly a tough nut to crack.

    All by way of saying that ‘selfishness’ is probably too monocausal to cover the situation.

  69. PaulBC says

    stroppy@99

    There’s a cost to selfishness which is why we evolved into social animals to begin with.

    I agree. No one should assume that nobody wants to help anyone else. For most human-beings, it’s built-in that we like to be appreciated and will often do more just to feel like we’re helping out than we’d do for direct compensation. It varies by personality, and it’s not something you want to rely on in an emergency or as your primary means of resource allocation.

    Another problem is that people often start with good intentions but make things worse. The allocation problem needs to be solved with some awareness of actual need. Sending rolls of toilet paper to some place may or may not help, or if you’re Elon Musk, sending a submarine. Either find out first, or send money to a trusted agency that actually knows.

    The market is sometimes effective, just like a river is sometimes effective at getting water to a place where it’s needed, but that makes it a starting point, not a circular definition of “optimal.”

    The most pernicious obstacle to social progress is the insistence that some people are “deserving” or “undeserving” and the resentment of those who are doing just fine towards those imagined to be getting a free ride, even if it’s the kind of ride you wouldn’t wish on yourself or your friends.

    I wish I had studied more economics when I was younger, because I think it’s an interesting field. The assumption of a rational, self-interested actor completely ignores many things we’ve discovered about human behavior since Adam Smith and other classical economists wrote about markets. It’s not a bad starting point, but neither is a spherical cow, depending on the problem you’re trying to solve.

  70. magistramarla says

    PaulBC @98
    I’m with you. We had just moved back to our beloved Monterey Bay and were still unpacking boxes when the pandemic hit. We were in the perfect place to ride it out.
    My husband has been able to successfully work from home, and has built himself an awesome man-cave in our third bedroom. He could not have done so if he had remained at his Texas job.
    I’ve been able to slowly and methodically empty boxes and organize our lovely little home overlooking the bay. I’ve also upped my cooking game, so I’ve been happy in my kitchen.
    We have access to the small, but well-stocked commissary at Ft. Ord, so we’ve had a safe place to shop for groceries all year. Between the large crowds at the military bases in Texas, and the science deniers (including the daughter who still lives in the San Antonio area), I don’t think that we would have remained safe for long there.
    Like you, I feel a bit of guilt over just how well this year has worked out for us. After nearly 45 years of marriage, we feel closer than ever, and we’re both looking forward to him retireing so that we can just enjoy living in this wonderful spot.
    As a retired teacher, I feel for PZ. The end of every semester is stressful. The stresses of trying to teach during a pandemic have to really be rough. So glad that things are looking better now!

  71. PaulBC says

    magistramarla@102 A move from Texas to the Monterey Bay will do that. Or at least I think it would for me. I was in Austin many years ago and liked it, but that is probably my limit. All of the “open carry” trends have made me leery of living anywhere outside my cultural bubble. Assuming I’m going to be living in the US, my choices are pretty limited.

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