PZ Myers is to philosophy as creationists are to science

I was bouncing around YouTube today when I started watching the beginning of Thunderf00t’s 3-part series about how feminism is poisoning atheism. A clip of PZ Myers showed him re-defining atheism as such:

Atheism is the radical notion that we should live our lives by the principles of reason and evidence – by science.

As I’ve said so many times, atheism is only descriptive. To say that it implies any ‘shoulds’ or ‘should nots’ is to clearly state that it is normative. PZ has had problems with this in the past. He believes that atheism has with it particular values, and his ‘reasoning’ is that atheists themselves all have values, thus atheism does, too. To see the fat idiocy of such an argument, one only need to replace atheism with another descriptive position such as, say, aunicornism: Aunicornist all have values, and so aunicornism also has values. Indeed, I can even define these values! (Surprise, they happen to be exactly the same as mine!) This is why we can say with confidence that there is broad-based agreement on a whole host of complex issues amongst people who do not believe in unicorns.

If PZ actually understood the difference between normative claims and descriptive claims, he would absolutely never make the asinine arguments he does. It’s quite clear that he has an impossible to respect motivation: He wants to impose his particular values on the atheist community at large. It’s wonderful that this will never work – since atheism is 100% descriptive and nothing else, there’s no way to approach his faulty goals without necessarily ostracizing a large number of atheists (sort of like the Republicans have done with their accusations of ‘RINO’ and demands for strict conservatism in the party) – but I do find it distressing that there’s someone out there supposedly on the side of atheists and causes commonly supported by Gnu Atheists who would so willingly attempt to destroy a community through wanton and intentional fracturing.

It’s a common practice of universities to offer its employees free or reduced classes. As a professor, it’s likely that PZ could take whatever course he wants without incurring any costs. I only hope that he finds the time to wonder into an introductory philosophy course. His creationist-level thinking is embarrassing and, worse, wholly detrimental.

The importance of specificity in language

When I write, I make it a point to be as specific as I can with my words and phrasings. I’m not perfect at it, but I think I do a pretty good job. However, this causes some of my sentences to be longer than absolutely necessary. I try to counter that by throwing in lines and syllables that will slow down a person’s reading. My hope is that doing so will bring about a little more concentration and thus a better chance at an accurate reading. If that fails, then I have to turn to bringing up past quotes and spelling things out. It can get tedious and no one likes it, but sometimes it has to be done. For example, let’s consider Thunderf00t and PZ Myers.

I don’t want to get into the details of the kerfuffle at ‘Freethought’ Blogs here, but I have been lightly following the videos that keep popping up. As of late there have been two of note: yet another from Thunderf00t and one from PZ. I hate transcribing stuff, so I’ll give a quick summary.

In PZ’s video, PZ says Thunderf00t polled YouTube commenters about this whole incident in order to settle the issue. He then says Thunderf00t claimed (on his blog, prior to getting the boot) that the poll was free from confirmation bias because he didn’t block or ban any of the said commenters. Thunderf00t responded by first pointing out that he never claimed to have settled anything. He then went after PZ’s accusation that he had said the poll was free from confirmation bias. Here is what Thunderf00t actually wrote:

The thunderfoot channel is essentially a 100% free speech zone, with no confirmational bias due to blocking/banning people.

Do you see the important part here? Thunderf00t said there was no bias due to blocking/banning people. He did not say there was no confirmation bias at all. He was making the specific point that his YouTube channel is essentially a 100% free speech zone – just like he said in his first clause. So not only was Thunderf00t very clear in his claim regarding confirmation bias, but the context of his sentence confirms his claim.

So why does this matter? In this case, PZ was attempting to make Thunderf00t look stupid and irrational by virtue of making what would be quite a fundamental mistake and misunderstanding of a basic scientific concept. The reality, however, is that Thunderf00t did no such thing. PZ simply was not careful in his reading. As Thunderf00t says in his video, it would be as if he said there are no broken windows in Manhattan due to meteor strikes, but then PZ turns around and tells people Thunderf00t thinks there are no broken windows in Manhattan at all.

This is one small example of what happens when people don’t pay attention to language. It’s okay to have misunderstandings and the occasional slip-up, but I find this to be an all-too-common occurrence on the Internet. A little more caution would go a long way.

The irony of Freethought Blogs

Freethoughtblogs.com is, presumably, promoted as a gathering of blogs which support the free exchange and criticism of ideas. Of course it has its leanings, but sans any legal issues, it is to be expected that such a place would not only allow opinion that parted ways with the local majority, it would embrace it. Unfortunately, expectations are not always met:

I thought Freethought Blogs was a stupid idea when I first heard it, because I knew it would just encourage a groupthink mindset… you know, the kind of thing that we self-proclaimed “free thinkers” generally desire to stay away from.

Thank you, PZ Myers, for proving me right. As if you hadn’t gone downhill enough already during ‘Elevatorgate’.

And this once again shows that for whatever reason, dissent of any kind on topics related to ‘feminism’ – even if it is simply misperceived – turns certain people in the atheist community into raving idiots who just shout past each other.

This is all in reference to the recent addition of Thunderf00t to the community. He is probably most well known for his YouTube videos criticizing creationism and other ill-thought, but when he turned to blogging, he set his sights on talking about Freethought Blogs’ pet issue: feminism. I have no desire to wade into the minutiae of it all – anyone who didn’t already agree with me would probably be a caricature feminist, and everyone knows there’s no arguing with those people – but here’s the gist: A new blogger comes on the scene and takes a contrary view to the established bloggers. In turn, the established bloggers fire back. The new blogger does the same. And ’round and ’round we go. That is, until the 800-lbs gorilla in the room – PZ Myers – steps in and censors the dissent:

That’s right. Someone wrote negatively about feminism and, since he had the power, PZ went about pulling the plug on everything. I would call it pathetic, but that really is far too kind.

I can’t say I’m personally surprised at any of this. PZ originally helped me with my Maloney issue but later completely ignored me when push was coming close to shove. It’s entirely obvious why: He didn’t like that someone was quieting something with which he agreed. That was the linchpin to his initial help – he agreed with my criticism of naturopathy. By the time I was close to being frivolously sued, however, I had spent some time disagreeing with him and criticizing some of his arguments (especially on feminism). He clearly knew this and had no desire to help a person who didn’t see eye-to-eye with him on his favorite issue. He never cared about censorship or the First Amendment. His concern was purely for issues that mattered to him, not any broader principle(s). And now we’re seeing that more clearly than ever: PZ Myers, censorious hack, has taken the steps necessary to censor Thunderf00t for doing no more than holding a different opinion.