PZ Myers’ “The Happy Atheist”

I was considering reading PZ Myers’ new book “The Happy Atheist” so I could do a brief review of it here. However, I have decided against it after reading the user reviews on Amazon. Here are a few random excerpts:

“The Happy Atheist” is just a collection of blog posts cleaned up and converted into a book format, arranged in an order so they make sense. Unfortunately this leads to a lack of substance on some of the chapters, as it doesn’t appear anything new was added. In some cases this is a serious problem, because a book is not a blog – and it’s not unreasonable to expect a book to cover issues in more depth than a two page blog post would. There are some chapters just screaming out to be expanded on so that more info could be presented, more sources cited, more angles covered, more caveats added, etc. Reading along you can pretty much guess where the links to other blog posts or news stories would have gone in the text – but this is a book, so I can’t click them, and all that extra info is lost.

and

Hoping this would be entertaining, as it didn’t appear more than a series of essays, I figured it wouldn’t be a scholarly book or researched tome. Instead, it was a collection of essays that I realize much have been part of his blog. The Introduction, About the Author and next couple of chapters really had me interested. By the 7th, I was pretty bored.

I found myself skipping over whole passages, as they were just repeating themselves. It was chapter after chapter of stories outlining arguments and disagreements between him and different people and organizations. It just didn’t keep my interest.

and

If you read his blog,this books adds nothing. It breaks no new ground, offers no new perspective and has no insight. It is a very insular work, reflecting the experiences and thoughts of someone trying to “jump in late” with an atheist book – but not really having any justification or reason to do so. You get the sense he is like a “little kid” on the atheist schoolyard. His heart is usually in the right place but he’s immature (which you can also see on this blog sometimes). He’s just out of place on the basketball court where the older kids like Harris, Dennett, Hitchens and Dawkins play.

Dr Myers is intelligent, and some of writing here is worth being read – but there is no coherent whole or central idea. Nothing here justifies a book.

and

Almost word for word, sometimes with a different intro or ending, and perhaps a few other very small changes, here are the chapters, er blog posts, that I found online with the same titles:

4) The Great Desecration
11) The Top Ten Reasons Religion is Like Pornography
13) Happy Easter! is from an original post titled “Sunday Sacrilege: The Silliest Story Ever Told.”
17) Imagine No Heaven
18) Daughters of Eve
19) Prometheus’s Sin
20) So Alone
21) One Nation Free of Gods
22) An Embryo is Not a Person
23) The Courtier’s Reply
28) We’re Happier out of a Straightjacket Than in One
31) The Active Hand
32) The Proper Reverence Due Those Who Have Gone Before
33) Niobrara
34) We Stand Awed at the Heights Our People Have Achieved.

If someone is putting out a series of blog posts as a published book for a price, readers would want to know so they can make an informed choice before laying down the required money to read it. A publisher would most definitely want to know. They surely paid him a huge advance, probably in the tens of thousands of dollars. Did they know?

So, in short, it appears that I have basically already read the book by virtue of having read most of these blog posts. It looks like PZ was just looking to get some of his more popular or contentious ideas into the public sphere as a way to make an easy buck. I see no reason to purchase this book.

In other news, Richard Dawkins has a new book coming out in a few weeks. I will be devoting a bit of money towards that purchase.

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4 Responses

  1. Six years ago Myers got an advance to write an atheism book. He would post periodic updates to the status of the book. Then he stopped.

    Meanwhile, I got tired of his petulant demagoguery/blog and moved on to the point I pretty much ignored the atheist/skeptic community for years. Even if I did keep some blogs, such as yours, WEIT and few others book marked and occasionally visited.

    Imagine my surprise when I came back to find out this book, started six years ago, ended up being mostly self-plagiarized blog posts. And that was from the man who ripped Jonah Lehrer for self plagiarism. I can only surmise that Myers failed in his writing efforts and his publisher decided recycling old-blog posts was about the best chance they had in recouping the royalty advance they gave Myers.

  2. Fortunately, the atheist/skeptic movement doesn’t particulary need Myers… and I suspect he knows it.

    The fact that Dawkins is hated by Myers just makes the decision to purchase Dawkins’ book all the sweeter.

  3. “The fact that Dawkins is hated by Myers..” PZ Myers doesn’t hate Dawkins. He might be critical of some of Dawkins’ gaffs, such as the “Dear Muslima” response to Rebecca Watson or Dawkins admission that he was sexually abused and it did nothing much to him, but that doesn’t amount to as strong a word as “hate”. I suspect butthurt on the part of Copyleft. And Myers is more the future of atheism than Dawkins will ever be.

  4. That letter wasn’t a gaffe at all. It’s simply that anything said in front of Internet feminists which doesn’t 100% agree with third wave feminism is automatically considered wrong-headed and sexist and something something rape culture.

    At any rate, Myer’s initial popularity came about almost entirely because he was duped into doing the same creationist movie that duped Dawkins. Had Dawkins not been a part of it all, no one would know about Pharyngula. Moreover, Sam Harris detests Myers, Jerry Coyne finds him dramatic and annoying, David Silverman believes he creates false controversies for the sake of blog hits and the enjoyment of drama, Michael Shermer hated him long before Myers libeled him, Penn Jillette is entirely opposed to everything he stands for, and most of YouTube seems to hate him. Myers is going to ride Freethought Blogs until it is no longer profitable enough for him, then he’ll slink away. Even if he wanted to be the face of atheism, it would never happen. He doesn’t understand that atheism is descriptive, not normative, so he’s going to continue to push his very specific beliefs as if they are at all related to atheism. He just doesn’t get it because he doesn’t think that deeply; PZ Myers is to philosophy as creationists are to science.

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