Monday, September 11, 2006

PZ on Ken Miller: Let him be anathema!

Pharyngula is one of the first blogs I read every morning. One reason is that I am always looking for something to write about. Blog fodder is the currency that supports my addiction. Another is that PZ Myers is refreshingly honest.

This morning I was not disappointed, as I discovered that Myers has been taking a switch to the backside of Brown Professor Ken Miller.

I too have criticized Miller many times, but from the opposite direction. A professed pro-evolution Catholic, my complaint with Miller is that he mischaracterizes his own Church's position on evolution. In my mind, Miller is dishonest. It would be one thing to say: I think my church is wrong in this matter. It is quite another to do what Miller does, which is to misrepresent Rome's stand, going so far as to quote-mine the previous Pope in a missive to the current pontiff, co-authored, to add insult to injury, by physicist Lawrence Krauss, an atheist. (Yes, I think Krauss's atheism is very relevant when we are talking about a letter offering free advice to the Pope.)

Myers likes to attack impure scientists who dip even as little flesh as their small toe in the waters of theism. Not long ago he took on Francis Collins for his participation in a D. James Kennedy anti-evolution television show.

Francis Collins is a believer and a geneticist with scientific credentials that make Myers look like someone who couldn't find the working end of an operating Bunsen burner.

Myers wrote a set of three posts on Collins and his role in the Kennedy program. I'll paraphrase those posts and the general mien of the comments from his independent-thinking followers:

Post 1:
PZ: Collins is an idiot!
Commentators: he's a loser; he's a traitor, I always knew Collins was a nut; what a moron,…

Post 2:
PZ: Cool! Collins repudiates his role in Kennedy’s program!
Commentators: yeah I knew he wasn't that bad; I'm not surprised that he's the victim here; Collins is one of the good guys, for a believer,…

Post 3:
PZ: Hold on! Now that I've seen the show, Collins really is an idiot!
Commentators: he's a loser; he's a traitor, I always knew Collins was a nut; what a moron,…

Folks, for this kind of entertainment you would, at the very least, have to purchase an expensive premium-package upgrade to your basic cable service.

Well, as I said at the start of this post, Myers has now set his evangelical crosshairs on Ken Miller. From Myers's perspective, Miller’s Catholicism, minimally intrusive as it may be, makes him a minion of the antidawkins1.

I'll repeat myself: I admire his honesty. Contrast Myers's approach to the infamous and duplicitous tactic of Eugenie Scott, director of the National Center for Science Education2, who said:
One clergyman with a backward collar is worth two biologists at a school board meeting any day!
Charming. Scott and most of her colleagues (but not PZ) see the nominally religious scientists as useful idiots--an extremely repulsive position. Myers, an ideological conservative, fundamentalist, and altar-boy for the Church of Richard Dawkins, wants no unholy alliance with the unclean. The radius of Myers's circle of orthodoxy is microscopic.

In criticizing a talk Miller gave in Kansas, Myers writes as if he is passing little gossipy notes in fifth period study hall:
Thanks, Dr Ken! I know what side you're on, now…it's you and the creationists, best friends 4ever! Did they promise to let you strike the match at the atheist-burning?
Just as with Francis Collins, Myers's more weak-minded commentators instantly change course, like imprinted ducklings. "That's too bad, I liked Ken Miller" wrote one. "Ken Miller: massive generalizations a specialty" added another. You get the picture.

Myers calls Miller a creationist. You have to understand what an insult that is meant to be. It is not an exaggeration that on the Dawkins/Myers abomination scale, which ranges from zero (a ranking which only Master Dawkins has attained) to Jesus Christ, it unclear which is worse: creationist or child-abuser. Or, more accurately, if you can be the former without being the latter. Here is what PZ wrote:
To those who disagree with my calling Miller a creationist: tough. I've read his book, I've listened to several of his talks. He believes that evolution is insufficient to explain our existence, and has to postulate a mysterious intelligent entity that just happens to be the Christian god as an active agent in our history, and further, he believes he can make common cause with more overt creationists by highlighting his religious beliefs. Theistic evolutionists are part of the wide spectrum of creationist beliefs, and that he personally endorses the power of natural processes in 99.99% of all cases does not change what he is, it just means we're haggling over the degree
Did you think I was kidding when I claimed Myers was a fundamentalist? The standards he sets for one to avoid a charge of apostasy exceed anything imagined by the inquisition.

Keep writing PZ, so that I may never run out of topics.

1 The antidawkins is an evil creature who could appear on the scene any day now. Fortunately he is recognizable by his hideous markings: four circular scars--two on his wrists, and two on his feet.
2 As long as that science is not physics, chemistry, or astronomy, about which the NCSE has nothing to say.

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