PZ Myers

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PZ Myers
Pzm london lg.jpg
PZ Myers in London in 2006
Born Paul Zachary Myers
(1957-03-09) March 9, 1957 (age 57)
Residence United States
Fields Evolutionary developmental biology
Institutions University of Minnesota Morris
Alma mater University of Washington
University of Oregon
Known for Pharyngula (blog)

Paul Zachary "PZ" Myers (born March 9, 1957) is an American scientist and associate professor of biology at the University of Minnesota Morris (UMM).[1] He is founder and co-author of the Pharyngula science blog, hosted on both the Science Blogs and Freethought Blogs networks. He currently works with zebrafish in the field of evolutionary developmental biology and cultivates an interest in cephalopods.

He is an outspoken critic of intelligent design (ID) and the creationist movement, and is active in the American creation–evolution controversy. He is widely regarded as a confrontationalist.[2]

In 2006, the journal Nature listed his Pharyngula as the top-ranked blog by a scientist.[3]

Myers received the American Humanist Association's 2009 Humanist of the Year award and International Humanist Award in 2011. Asteroid 153298 Paulmyers is named in his honor.[4]

Early life[edit]

Myers was born March 9, 1957, the eldest of six children in Kent, Washington; his mother is of Swedish and Norwegian descent.[5] Regarding his ancestry, Myers wrote: "I'm only half Scandinavian. The blood has been thinned with that of those domesticated English and Irish and Scots."[6] He was named "Paul Zachary", after his grandfather, but preferred the initials PZ to being called "Little Paul". He claims to have been a "science geek" from an early age, gaining an interest in zoology and marine biology from studying the insides of fish while on fishing trips with his father.

Growing up, Myers attended an Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) church.[7] Prior to his confirmation, Myers says, "I started thinking, you know, I don't believe a word of this."[8] Now an atheist, Myers comments widely on his blog about science, education, atheism and religion.[9][10]

Education and activism[edit]

Myers graduated from Kent-Meridian High School in 1975 and subsequently attended DePauw University in Indiana on a full scholarship.[8][11] However, he returned home the next year after his father suffered a heart attack.[8] He then graduated from the University of Washington in 1979 with Bachelor of Science in zoology. Myers drifted away from this field toward evolutionary developmental biology and obtained a PhD in Biology from the University of Oregon.[12]

A self-avowed "godless liberal"[13] and outspoken atheist, he is a vocal critic of all forms of religion, superstition, supernaturalism, spirituality and pseudoscience. He is quoted as having "nothing but contempt" for intelligent design, arguing that it is "fundamentally dishonest".[8]

He is also an outspoken supporter of sex-positive feminism.[14] Myers believes women should make their own sexual choices without outside pressure.[15]

In 2009 Myers was named the American Humanist Association's "Humanist of the Year".[16]

Post-graduate career[edit]

Myers has taught and researched at the University of Oregon, the University of Utah and Temple University. He is currently an associate professor of biology at the University of Minnesota's Morris campus.[1] He is a member of Minnesota Citizens for Science Education.[17]

Internet involvement[edit]

USENET[edit]

On USENET user groups, forums, and web sites such as talk.origins, Myers became involved in scientific debates, particularly those surrounding the growing creationist movement in the United States.

Blogging and writing[edit]

In June 2002, Myers created his own web site and blog, Pharyngula.org, which has since been hosted at ScienceBlogs by Seed Media Group[18] and Freethought Blogs by Ed Brayton.[19]

He was a founding member of The Panda's Thumb blog.

Pharyngula[edit]

Main article: Pharyngula (blog)

Pharyngula is Myers' personal weblog, promoted as "Evolution, development, and random biological ejaculations from a godless liberal."[13] The topics Myers covers are eclectic, delving into the non-scientific as well as scientific. While Pharyngula includes many articles discussing breaking science news and research, the blog has become particularly well known for ridicule of intelligent design and of attempts to insert it into science education. The blog has been ranked as the third-most-read blog maintained by a Minnesotan. The science journal Nature listed Pharyngula as the top-ranked blog written by a scientist.[20]

According to Alexa.com, Pharyngula.org was started on June 19, 2002.[21] It started out as an experiment in writing instruction for a class. Students were required to submit mini-essays to be published online. After the project was finished, Myers still had the web-publishing software, and started to use it himself. The blog is named after his favorite stage in embryonic development, the pharyngula stage. Pharyngula moved to hosting at ScienceBlogs, a project of Seed Magazine, in 2005.

On Pharyngula, Myers has repeatedly denounced the Discovery Institute, Answers in Genesis, and other creationist websites, as well as offering rebuttals to Intelligent Design, pointing out that its claims are pseudoscientific. Other posts on Pharyngula cover a broad variety of topics that interest Myers. These include cephalopods; science; religion (to which Myers is unequivocally opposed); local, national and international politics, particularly those involving science and/or education; superstition; and evolutionary developmental biology. Myers dismissed the Discovery Institute's petition A Scientific Dissent From Darwinism, stating that the scientists listed didn't have credentials relevant to Biology, and that the number of them was minuscule compared to the scientific community as a whole.

On his blog in 2007, Myers reviewed Stuart Pivar's book Lifecode, which argues that self-organization at the embryonic and fetal stages determine the development and final structure of organisms.[22][23][24] Myers reviewed the book negatively, stating that the diagrams and ideas in the book arose from Pivar's imagination and had no basis in actual evidence.

How his theory can be reconciled with a large body of embryological evidence that directly contradicts virtually all of it is not clear, and Pivar has chosen not to address any of it. And a book full of geometrically interesting sketches neither explains nor supports Pivar's theory.… Theories are supposed to explain observation and experiment. You don't come up with a theory first, and then invent the evidence to support it.[22]

After some discussion in the comments threads of Pharyngula, Pivar sued Myers for libel.[22][24] Within a week Pivar withdrew the lawsuit, stating that "the real issue got sidelined" and that his problem was more with Seed Media Group.[25]

In addition to articles about keeping religion out of science education, church-state separation, and complaints of misdeeds done in the name of religion, Myers continues to write about science in the disciplines of evolution,[26] palaeontology,[27] genetics,[28] development,[29] and molecular biology.[30]

In 2012, Myers announced that Chris Clarke, an environmentalist and blogger, would become Pharyngula's co-author.[31]

Books[edit]

Myers' first book, The Happy Atheist, has been published by Random House in August, 2013.[32] It is largely a compilation of previous blog posts [8].

Eucharist controversy[edit]

A controversy arose in July 2008 over a Pharyngula blog entry written by Myers expressing amazement at news reports of death threats issued to University of Central Florida Student Senator Webster Cook. On June 29, 2008, Cook attended a Catholic Mass being held in the student union at UCF by a Catholic student group that receives funding from the student government. Cook received the Catholic Eucharist host but did not consume it immediately. He said later that he wanted to take it back to his seat to show a friend, but when stopped he pretended to put it in his mouth until back at his seat, then a church leader made forcible attempts to take the wafer from him.[33][34] Cook stored the host at his home, then returned it one week later after receiving e-mail threats and pleas.[33][35] Bill Donohue, President of the Catholic League, described the student's actions as "beyond hate speech" and said that "All options should be on the table, including expulsion."[36]

In his July 8 blog entry, Myers criticized the reaction to Cook's act. Myers described the level of harassment including multiple death threats leveled against the student, and accusations against the student which included hate crime, kidnapping, and intent to desecrate the Eucharist which Catholics consider a mortal sin.[34][37] Myers expressed outrage that Fox News Channel appeared to be inciting readers to cause further problems for the student, and ridiculed reports that armed guards would attend the next mass. Myers suggested that if any of his readers could acquire some consecrated Eucharistic hosts for him, he would treat the wafers "with profound disrespect and heinous cracker abuse, all photographed and presented here on the web."[38]

Myers was criticized from both religious and non-religious quarters. The Catholic League accused Myers of anti-Catholic bigotry,[39] described his proposal as a threat to desecrate what Catholics hold to be the Body of Christ, and sent a letter asking the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota State Legislature to take action against Myers.[39][40] The Catholic League argued that, as the Pharyngula website was accessible via a link from the University of Minnesota's website, it should be bound by the university's code of conduct, which requires faculty to be "respectful, fair and civil" when dealing with others.[40] Joe Foley, a member of the Board of the Secular Student Alliance, wrote on the organization's website that Myers had "crossed the line" from "playful satire" to "masturbatory condescension".[41] Foley concluded, "if open-minded believers are willing to join us in polite dialogue, we need to be ready to welcome them with more than ridicule and pranks."[41]

Subsequently, Myers explained to the Star Tribune that while his post was "satire and protest," he had received death threats regarding the incident but was not taking them too seriously.[39]

In a talk show featuring Myers on Catholic Radio International, hosted by Jeff Gardner, Myers confirmed that he had been sent an unspecified number of consecrated hosts and said that he intended to “subject them to heinous cracker abuse.” When asked by Gardner to explain why he must do so, Myers said that Donohue of the Catholic League was insisting that he acknowledge the Body of Christ in the Eucharist. Gardner pointed out that Donohue had no authority to insist on such acknowledgment. The show host then asked Myers which individual possessing the Magisterial authority of the Catholic Church had insisted that he recognize the Body of Christ in the Eucharist. Myers replied that no one from the Catholic Church had contacted him.[42]

On July 24, 2008, Myers, in his post, "The Great Desecration," wrote that he had pierced through the "goddamned cracker" with a rusty nail, which he also used to pierce a few ripped-out pages of the Qur'an and The God Delusion, and had simply thrown them all in the trash along with old coffee grounds and a banana peel. He provided a photograph of these items in the garbage, and wrote that nothing must be held sacred, encouraging people to question everything. In addition, he described the history of allegations of host desecration, emphasizing the frequent use of such allegations in medieval Europe to justify anti-Semitism.[43] The following day, University of Minnesota, Morris (UMM) Chancellor stated: "I believe that behaviors that discriminate against or harass individuals or groups on the basis of their religious beliefs are reprehensible" and that the school "affirms the freedom of a faculty member to speak or write as a public citizen without institutional discipline or restraint."[44]

Science activism[edit]

Interview and screening of Expelled[edit]

In April 2007 Myers was interviewed for a documentary titled "Crossroads", purportedly about science and religion.[45] However in September 2007, executive producer Mark Mathis announced that the movie was Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed about "censorship" of intelligent design supporters.[46] Regarding the discrepancy of focus, Myers wrote: "I mean, seriously, not telling one of the sides in a debate about what the subject might be and then leading him around randomly to various topics, with the intent of later editing it down to the parts that just make the points you want, is the video version of quote-mining and is fundamentally dishonest."[45]

On March 20, 2008, Myers was denied entry into a screening of Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed at the Mall of America in Minneapolis. He was waiting with his family and guests to attend a private screening after having reserved seats for himself and guests under his own name using the freely available online procedure set up by the film's promoters. Shortly before the film started, a security guard told him that the producer Mark Mathis had instructed that Myers be removed from the premises. After telling his family of this Myers went to a nearby Apple store and blogged about his amusement that they had expelled him, but allowed his guest entry to see the film—British evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, who had also been interviewed for the film under similar circumstances.[47] In a question and answer session at the end of the film Dawkins asked why Myers had been excluded, and later said that "if anyone had a right to see the film, it was [Myers]. The incompetence, on a public relations level, is beyond belief."[48] The saga has been described by Dawkins as "an incredible piece of inept public relations" on the part of the film's producers.[49]

Creation Museum visit[edit]

Myers at the Creation Museum

Myers' engagement as keynote speaker at the 2009 Secular Student Alliance Conference in Columbus, Ohio[50] developed into an August 7, 2009 trip, in which 304 attendees visited the nearby Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky.[51] Beforehand, there was a flurry of heated blog posts which resulted in the museum sending a warning letter detailing appropriate behavior. The visit resulted in two reported incidents. In one, a student wearing a T-shirt that read "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy yourself"[52] was asked to turn the shirt inside out.[53]

It was also reported that a student was asked to leave the Creation Museum after a family visiting the museum complained to staff that they saw him "laughing at the exhibits". Ken Ham however, denied that the student was told to leave, claiming that a photographer who witnessed the incident was the one who was removed.[54]

Appearances[edit]

Myers has been invited to speak about science, rationalism, or atheism at conferences, symposia, and other events.

In July, 2013, Freethought Blogs organized an online virtual conference called FtBCon or FtB Conscience. Google+ Hangout software was used to enable real-time discussion around the world. Participants included all the Freethought Blog bloggers as well as Jeremy Beahan, Jamila Bey, Virginia Brown, Ania Bula, David Brin, Eneasz Brodski, Ian Bushfield, environmental blogger & author Chris Clarke, James Croft, Heina Dadabhoy, J. T. Eberhard, Daniel Fincke, Debbie Goddard, Julia Galef, Nicole Harris, Rebecca Hensler, scientist and blogger Greg Laden, Robin Marty, science artist & blogger Glendon Mellow, Aoife O’Riordan, Beth Presswood of The Atheist Experience, Kim Rippere, Amy Roth, Jacques Rousseau, Desiree Schell of Skeptically Speaking, David Silverman, Xavier Trapp, blogger Rebecca Watson, Eliezer Yudkowski, scientist & blogger Bora Zivkovic, and others. The conference was free and took place over three days.[56]

Awards[edit]

Myers has received several awards for his activism.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b PZ Myers Biology Faculty from University of Minnesota Morris
  2. ^ Oppenheimer, Mark (2010-10-16). "BELIEFS; Atheists Debate How Pushy to Be". The New York Times. p. 12. Retrieved 2010-12-19. 
  3. ^ "Top five science blogs". Nature 442 (7098): 9–9. 2006. doi:10.1038/442009a. ISSN 0028-0836. PMID 16823420. 
  4. ^ Medkeff, Jeff (2008-03-25). "PZ Myers and (153298) Paulmyers". Archived from the original on 2008-08-07. Retrieved 2008-03-25. 
  5. ^ Myers, PZ (June 19, 2011). "My Swedish/Norwegian mother, you mean?". Twitter. 
  6. ^ Myers, PZ (February 5, 2011). "Have I ever told you how proud I am of my Scandinavian ancestry?". Pharyngula. ScienceBlogs. Retrieved July 24, 2011. 
  7. ^ Myers, PZ (June 2, 2013). "An atheist goes to church — 1stLC."
  8. ^ a b c d Mosedale, Mike (November 23, 2005). "The Mad Scientist, interview with PZ Myers". City Pages 26 (1303). Retrieved 2007-08-22. 
  9. ^ Myers, PZ (2006-03-13). "Left or Right, religion and politics don't mix". Pharyngula. Retrieved 2007-08-22. 
  10. ^ http://thehumanist.org/humanist/09_nov_dec/Myers.html
  11. ^ "My week in the Pacific Northwest". ScienceBlogs. 2010-07-25. Retrieved 2010-07-25. "Saturday at 5:00pm on I'll be attending…my 35th high school reunion with a gang of strange people I haven't seen in decades. You aren't invited unless you were also a graduate of Kent-Meridian High School, Class of 1975" 
  12. ^ "About PZ Myers
  13. ^ a b Tagline on Pharyngula: "Evolution, development, and random biological ejaculations from a godless liberal."
  14. ^ "The not-so-Amazing Atheist self-immolates". Freethoughblogs. Retrieved 2012-09-29. "The feminism I embrace is sex-positive. It includes heterosexual men and women, homosexual men and women, trans men and women, and every kink and twist you can imagine." 
  15. ^ I’m ready to be divisiveCarrie Poppy tells all
  16. ^ a b "American Humanist Association: Humanist of the year". American Humanist Association. Retrieved 2013-06-06. 
  17. ^ MnCSE Scientific Advisory Board from Minnesota Citizens for Science Education
  18. ^ [1], Pharyngula, Science Blogs
  19. ^ [2], About >> Pharyngula, Freethought Blogs
  20. ^ a b Butler, Decla (2006-07-05). "Top five science blogs". Nature 442 (7098): 9–9. doi:10.1038/442009a. PMID 16823420. Retrieved 2009-07-15. 
  21. ^ "Related Info for: pharyngula.org/". Alexa.com. Retrieved 2006-09-03. 
  22. ^ a b c Myers, PZ (2007-07-12). "Lifecode". Scienceblogs. Retrieved 2007-08-21. 
  23. ^ Myers, PZ (2007-07-17). "Lifecode: From egg to embryo by self-organization". Scienceblogs. Retrieved 2007-08-21. 
  24. ^ a b "PZ Myers, ScienceBlogs.com's lead blogger, is being sued for libel". Scientific American. 2007-08-20. Archived from the original on 2007-08-23. Retrieved 2007-08-21. 
  25. ^ Monkey's Uncle, City Pages, September 5, 2007
  26. ^ [3] Pharyngula: Science: evolution
  27. ^ [4], Pharyngula: science: fossils
  28. ^ [5], Pharyngula: science: genetics
  29. ^ [6], Pharyngula: science: development
  30. ^ [7], Pharyngula: science: molecular biology
  31. ^ Pharyngula is About to Add a Co-Blogger
  32. ^ "Random House: The Happy Atheist by P.Z. Myers". 2012. Retrieved 2013-07-26. 
  33. ^ a b "Radio interview with "Webster Cook, student senator and non-eater of communion wafers"" (online radio). Freethought Radio. 2008-07-19. Retrieved 2008-07-28. "Tune in to hear the inside story about the young Orlando student whom Catholics have accused of committing a 'hate crime' for not eating a communion wafer!" 
  34. ^ a b "'Body Of Christ' Snatched From Church, Held Hostage By UCF Student". WFTV. 2008-07-09. Retrieved 2008-07-11. 
  35. ^ "'Body Of Christ" Returned To Church After Student Receives Email Threats". WFTV. 2008-07-09. Retrieved 2008-07-25. 
  36. ^ "Florida Student Abuses Eucharist". The Catholic League. 2008-07-07. Retrieved 2008-07-25. 
  37. ^ Getuiza, Cheryl (2008-07-09). "Student Who Took Religious Icon Getting Death Threats". My Fox Orlando. Retrieved 2009-11-18. 
  38. ^ "IT'S A FRACKIN’ CRACKER!". Pharyngula. 2008-07-08. Retrieved 2008-07-11. 
  39. ^ a b c "Communion wafer held 'hostage' raises holy heck". Minneapolis Star Tribune. July 11, 2008. Archived from the original on February 4, 2009. 
  40. ^ a b "Minnesota Prof Pledges to Desecrate Eucharist". The Catholic League. 2008-07-10. Retrieved 2008-07-11. 
  41. ^ a b J. Foley, "Wafergate: PZ Myers Crossed the Line", secularstudents.org, Aug. 3, 2008
  42. ^ "The Heart Of The Matter On Catholic Radio International|2008-07-10". We Need To Talk. Catholic Radio International. Retrieved 2008-07-18. 
  43. ^ Myers, PZ (2008-07-24). "Pharyngula: The Great Desecration". Pharyngula. ScienceBlogs. Retrieved 2008-07-24. 
  44. ^ WALSH, PAUL Morris chancellor defends instructor who defiled Eucharist, tore Qur'an Star Tribune, July 25, 2008
  45. ^ a b Myers, PZ (2007-08-22). "I'm gonna be a MOVIE STAR". Pharyngula (blog). Retrieved 2008-05-28. 
  46. ^ Dean, Cornelia (2007-09-27). "Scientists Feel Miscast in Film on Life's Origin". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-05-28. 
  47. ^ Myers, PZ (2008-03-20). "Pharyngula: EXPELLED!". Retrieved 2008-03-23. "There is a rich, deep kind of irony that must be shared. I'm blogging this from the Apple store in the Mall of America, because I'm too amused to want to wait until I get back to my hotel room. I went to attend a screening of the creationist propaganda movie, Expelled, a few minutes ago. Well, I tried… but I was Expelled!" 
  48. ^ Hewitt, Chris (2008-03-21). "Biology prof expelled from screening of 'Expelled' - TwinCities.com". The Pioneer Press. Retrieved 2008-03-21. 
  49. ^ Discussion on PZ Myers being expelled from Expelled. The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science. Retrieved March 22, 2008
  50. ^ "Secular Student Alliance". Retrieved 2009-08-17. 
  51. ^ Powell, Devin (2009-08-14). "A firebrand visits Creation Museum". StarTribune.com. Minneapolis: Star Tribune. Retrieved 2009-08-17. 
  52. ^ See Atheist Bus Campaign
  53. ^ Powell, Devin (2009-08-08). "Creation Museum: is this how world began?". ABC News. Retrieved 2009-08-17. 
  54. ^ Ham, Ken (August 8, 2009). "The Day 285 Atheists/Agnostics Visited the Creation Museum". Around the World with Ken Ham. Answers in Genesis. Retrieved June 1, 2011. "The bigger incident at this particular moment is recounted here by Dan Mangus, our museum’s director, who saw much of what went on with the young man talking with me: “When you addressed the young man to have him apologize to the offended family, a gentleman stepped from the prof’s mob to try to film the action and listen in. I stepped in front of his camera and informed him it was a private conversation. He kept sidestepping me and being rude about it, like I didn’t exist, so I motioned for an officer to escort him away. Our officer said: ‘Sir, will you come with me?’ The photographer said nothing; he just followed him. Nothing else was said. He escorted him to the crosswalk. That’s when he made the comment that he hadn’t done anything.” I mention this in detail because Lyz and many SSA members were (falsely) told that the young man was thrown out, and that is now being reported by bloggers, and we want to set the record straight. Only one person—the videographer—was ushered out." 
  55. ^ "PZ Myers on the Pharyngula at Glasgow Skeptics". Glasgow Skeptics. Retrieved 18 April 2014. 
  56. ^ "FtBCon 2013: Atheism with a conscience". Freethought Blogs. 2013-06-21. Retrieved 2013-07-21. 
  57. ^ "IHEU Awards for 2011". Internation Humanist and Ethical Union. Retrieved 16 August 2013. 

External links[edit]

Official

Interviews/Presentations