And Appleyard skewers him, returning rhetorical fire with rhetorical fire:
I note also the appearance of this character P.Z.Myers. I’ve never read him before but I now discover he once did me over – ‘How stupid are the editors and managers who keep paying for his badly written lumps of self-contradictory fatuousness?’ Okay, I’m prepared to accept that I may be wrong about everything – I wake up every morning thinking just that – and PZ may be right, but ‘BADLY WRITTEN’! Coming from this sub-verbal sack of shit that’s a bit rich.
And one of Appleyard’s thread contributors nicely deconstructs PZ Myers’s rhetorical maneuvers:
Step 1–Begin by describing a philosophical challenge with a mixture of anger and fatigue, much as you would describe discovering a termite in your house after the exterminator had been through and presumably destroyed them all. The contempt must ooze front and center before you even address the argument so that anyone who might be inclined to take the challenge seriously is forwarned and suitably cowed. Don’t skimp on the insulting adjectives.
Step 2–Deflect the issue from the profoundly philosophical to the mundane by suddenly talking lab gobbledegook about genes, mutations, etc. Use words like phenotype liberally and try to throw in a diagram. Extra points for insisting Darwin himself was well aware of what you are saying and would have agreed with you unreservedly;
Step 3–Insist that any argument that comes within a hundred miles of religion, no matter how ethereal or tentative, leads directly to biblical literalism, preferably as practiced in the American South. Show in one paragraph how it is the root of every atrocity in history, will lead to the end of scientific inquiry and justifies the bombing of innocent villagers by the U.S. Air Force.
Step 4–Bask in the glow of hundreds of one-sentence comments thanking you profusely for your courage and agreeing you have proven there is no need to read what your opponent said to know that the stupid twit isn’t even worth reading.
I myself continue to think that PZ Myers is the most unhinged public figure in the New Atheist movement, but his fellow atheist peers (Dennett, Coyne, Dawkins, Shermer) seem to think he’s the bee’s knees, and speak of him with deep affection. I just don’t get it.
As a reminder of the problem that PZ Myers poses for liberal agnostics and atheists, here are his two blog posts—one promoting iconoclastic gestures toward Catholic communion wafers, and the other narrating his actual engaging in one of these gestures when one of his blog followers scored one for him (from the summer of 2008). How does a person who regards himself or herself as liberal defend this kind of emotional primitivism, incivility, and boorishness?:
Can anyone out there score me some consecrated communion wafers? There’s no way I can personally get them — my local churches have stakes prepared for me, I’m sure — but if any of you would be willing to do what it takes to get me some, or even one, and mail it to me, I’ll show you sacrilege, gladly, and with much fanfare. I won’t be tempted to hold it hostage (no, not even if I have a choice between returning the Eucharist and watching Bill Donohue kick the pope in the balls, which would apparently be a more humane act than desecrating a goddamned cracker), but will instead treat it with profound disrespect and heinous cracker abuse, all photographed and presented here on the web. I shall do so joyfully and with laughter in my heart. If you can smuggle some out from under the armed guards and grim nuns hovering over your local communion ceremony, just write to me and I’ll send you my home address.
And this one:
OK, time for the anticlimax. I know some of you have proposed intricate plans for how to do horrible things to these crackers, but I repeat…it’s just a cracker. I wasn’t going to make any major investment of time, money, or effort in treating these dabs of unpleasantness as they deserve, because all they deserve is casual disposal. However, inspired by an old woodcut of Jews stabbing the host, I thought of a simple, quick thing to do: I pierced it with a rusty nail (I hope Jesus’s tetanus shots are up to date). And then I simply threw it in the trash, followed by the classic, decorative items of trash cans everywhere, old coffeegrounds and a banana peel. My apologies to those who hoped for more, but the worst I can do is show my unconcerned contempt.
Ironically, I think that John Calvin would have understood PZ Myers.