Miss Quote-mine is at it again

Dense O’Leary, a dim-bulb journalist and cdesign proponentist, has been regaling anyone who will listen with tales of the dangerous PZ Myers who might have plotted to disrupt an advance screening of the movie Expelled , in which he was featured, and for which he had registered under his own name. Diffidently I point out that she wasn’t there. By all eye-witness accounts, the assistant producer vetted the guest list and decided to turn Prof. Myers away at the door. That was an ill-judged show of spite and cowardice that violates the registering site’s privacy policy. But the producers have tried to hide their movie from both movie reviewers and the scientifically literate.

Dense quotes something about PZ breaking out the steel-toed boots and brass knuckles, trying to imply that he was talking about the movie. But that would be a lie. The quote-mine queen had to go back to 2005 to find something that sounded vicious enough for her. And naturally she dug it out of a completely different topic, one that is worth getting passionate about, even if the boots are rhetorical.

Of course, she’s just following her mentors at the “Discovery” institute. Jonathan Witt used the same quote about disagreements in evolutionary theory. PZ reports:

Because we think the unqualified lawyers, philosophers, bibliolaters, and kooks of the Discovery Institute deserve no place in the curriculum, we must also be planning to snuff out other unconventional thinkers.

“According to the Darwinists’ Ohio logic, scientists who merely point out weaknesses in Darwinism (Stephen Jay Gould, Franklin Harold, Stuart Kauffman, etc., etc.), are arguing for intelligent design, are card-carrying design theorists. That means they’re fair game: break out the steel-toed boots and brass knuckles. (See “No more coffee for Mr. Witt.”)

funny pictures
(More funny pictures)

What Prof. Myers actually said, after he discovered that he’d been lied to and tricked into doing an interview for a pro-ID propaganda movie, was that he’d go to the movie and cheer loudly at his 30 seconds onscreen. And I think he was kidding.

PZ Myers
I will go see this movie, and I will cheer loudly at my 30 seconds or whatever on the screen, and I will certainly disembowel its arguments here and in any print venue that wants me. That’s going to be fun.

Here’s the original context of the ‘steel-toed boots’ remark:

Perspective

John Hawks thinks there’s too much “foaming at the mouth” over Bush’s support for Intelligent Design creationism.

I want to improve the teaching of evolution. Taking an adversarial position toward religious viewpoints or political parties is not the way to make education better. Sometimes such conflicts are unavoidable. Some religious beliefs are just scientifically wrong. The Earth was not created 6,000 years ago, and any scientific understanding of the past must repudiate this particular religious view. But many deeply religious people, and entire faiths, have no conflict with evolution. Even so, they may believe that alternative views should be available in schools.

Would it help to have a biology teacher call a child’s parents “lunatics”? Certainly not. But parents, community members, churches, and other people that children know and respect are precisely the people that one is attacking, when one uses derisive rhetoric. —John Hawks

PZ MyersThere is a bit of truth here terribly wrongly applied. It is correct that if I were talking to a student or a parent, trying to persuade them to abandon misbegotten notions of creationism that are affecting the student’s ability to be a good biologist, I wouldn’t call them lunatics. It isn’t very effective to try and persuade an individual by calling them idiots, and in most cases I don’t think the creationist students I occasionally get are idiots—just sadly misled.

However, I was not attacking such individuals, but the president of the US and the preachers at the Discovery Institute. You know, the responsible people who are lying to the public or working to disseminate destructive delusions.

Oh, but Hawks has that covered; his last sentence suggests that the people they “know and respect” should not be so harshly criticized, lest we alienate them. I strongly disagree. It is the leaders and enablers who must be vigorously attacked, the ones who abuse those positions of authority and respect to poison minds. When thinking people abstain from criticizing religious or political groups out of some abstract notion that responsible intellectuals are aloof from sectarian or party arguments, they are betraying the principles of their discipline.

I am a biologist. Like it or not, the Republican party is being led by religious zealots who are anti-biology, who publicly and vigorously oppose reason and knowledge and evidence in my field of study. This hasn’t always been true, and it may not always be true (I hope), but right now and right here, it is inarguably the case. I will not throttle my criticisms of the despicable gang of anti-intellectuals who run this country because it might irritate all those millions of people who voted for George W. Bush; they were wrong and he is wrong and it is my responsibility as a scientist to oppose ignorance, especially ignorance that has power and influence. Let them find comfort and forgiveness for stupid mistakes in their religion, because I sure as hell am not going to give it to them.

Don’t tell me to be dispassionate or less unreasonable about it all because because 65% of the American population think creationism should be taught alongside evolution, or that Americans are just responding to common notions of “fairness”. That just tells me that we scientists have not been expressing our outrage enough. And yes, we should be outraged that the president of our country panders to theocrats, faith-healers, and snake-oil artists; sitting back and quietly explaining that Bush may be a decent man who is mistaken, while the preachers are stridently condemning all us evilutionists to hell, is a damned ineffective tactic that has gotten us to this point.

I say, screw the polite words and careful rhetoric. It’s time for scientists to break out the steel-toed boots and brass knuckles, and get out there and hammer on the lunatics and idiots. If you don’t care enough for the truth to fight for it, then get out of the way.

However, I will concede that there are reasons to argue that the worries of scientists are overblown. There is the matter of perspective.

The fate of science in our country is a small thing (but it is my small thing, so be understanding when it is the one I harp on) compared to other issues. For instance, consider Gary Farber’s accounts of our soldiers, also summarized by Digby. Our people are killing Iraqis by beating them with a rubber hose while tied up in a sleeping bag, or pounding on them with sledgehammer handles. We are aggressors who have launched an unjust war and are committing atrocities against a civilian population.

So, yeah, that argument would give me pause. It is relatively unimportant to bash on the Republican party as a scientist, for betraying the promise of the Enlightenment.

We should be marching in the streets as self-respecting human beings because the Republican thugs have betrayed the cause of civilized humanity. We should be yelling EVEN LOUDER.

Goddamn, but don’t even suggest that we’re being too partisan. I am on the side of reason and human rights, and my only failing is that I’m not partisan enough. —PZ Myers

Most of the bolding is mine. Now, isn’t that worth getting pasionate about? A strong human disgust for lying, pandering, torture and atrocities. And that’s the person the Expelled producers (and others) slander and want to shut up!

PZ Myers Expelled by creationists
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2 Responses to “Miss Quote-mine is at it again”

  1. C. David Parsons Says:

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  2. monado Says:

    As somone once said, we speak of economics because people buy and sell. Similarly, we speak of evolution because organisms reproduce and evolve. Biology is based on physical chemistry, which is based on physics, which is based on reality. But that doesn’t mean you can withdraw into whatever mathematical model you’ve made of subatomic particles and prove or disprove evolution. You have to deal with the organisms and their lives or you are just another crank.


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