My Comment on "PZ Myers: Can We Raise the Standard Please?"

I just finished reading the article in the June issue of American Atheist by MJP Campbell titled, “PZ Myers: Can We Raise the Standard Please?”. I was confused as to what the author’s actual point was, but I think it was all about “tone”. I am an avid reader of both PZ Myers’ and CFI’s blogs, but if there are two things PZ does not take lightly, it’s accommodationism and complaints about “tone”. Nowhere in this article did I read anything about the actual arguments that PZ made in refuting De Dora. It was all about name-calling, and fundamentalist Atheist dogma (whatever that is) and irrationality vs. rational discourse. I went back and re-read De Dora’s original article and everything that followed and, despite PZ’s tone, his argument is still sound, in my view. I for one appreciate PZ’s willingness to not pull punches and the forceful nature of his arguments. Alliterative name-calling aside, I interpret PZ’s tone to stem from the ongoing frustration he must feel at continually having to refute accomodationist nonsense, especially from someone who ought not to be an accomodationist.


Additionally, equating new-Atheism with fundamentalist religion is patently false and has got to stop. In my opinion, this idea comes from people fearful of religion itself. They want the rest of us to shush so as not to draw the attention of anyone close by that might be religious. In my experience, new-Atheism simply refers to those Atheists willing to actually speak up and be vocal, to actually criticize religion and its ideas, hopefully changing minds in the process, and not afraid to stand and self-identify as an Atheist.


Campbell closes with the ridiculous argument that somehow this exchange between PZ Myers and Michael De Dora has possibly ruined for him any hope of there ever being a feel-good secular society. Well, fine. The rest of us will keep fighting and forge on ahead. But you’ll always be welcomed.

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Replies to This Discussion

Seconded. "Atheist dogma" is an oxymoron, unless the explicit rejection of dogma is itself dogma -- in which case there is no such thing as a dogma-free idea, making the assertion of atheist dogmatism unfalsifiable.

I've added atheist dogma to my list of troll phrases.
Dogma? An athiest wanders out of the cold into "the group" on their own, often lonely, accord. Reason alone is often the only evangalism. But the religions can only throw the most disgusting insults in response to solid evidence. Not so ironic that all they come up with is the very thing that makes them so disgusting a social disease.
Jay, I am convinced that the religions tag us with their words, like "fundamentalist" and "dogma", because in most cases they simply cannot think outside the godbox. Either that or they simply refuse to try. What I find ironic is that when those terms are aimed at atheists, it's often meant to be insulting, which to me demeans their own position since they happily apply those terms to themselves.
I think PZ made a similar point awhile back: if science is "just as bad as" religion, then aren't you admitting something about religion? (And shouldn't you be looking for alternatives that aren't "bad"?)
Having read the commentary, I understand that not everyone is looking at this as what we can currently do, but rather what we would like to see.

I would like to say that the statement would likely come under the jurisdiction of the Lemon ruling. The judge in Kitzmiller v Dover stated it as "As articulated by the Supreme Court, under the Lemon test, a government sponsored message violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment if: (1) it does not have a secular purpose; (2) its principal or primary effect advances or inhibits religion; or (3) it creates an excessive entanglement of the government with religion."

It would seem to me that the statement would not run into problems based on this criteria. It is a statement made in a textbook being used in a school. As far as I can tell, the statement was not included at the behest of any government agency or official.

I would also argue that schools would also have a very difficult time teaching any thing like folklore or fables, or how to tell the differences between these and other forms of literature, if we are not able to use any bits of literature as examples so long as anyone believes them to be true.

There are many Christian religions that do not view the Genesis take on creation to be true. They are not alone. I think a better way for the writer(s) to have made the point would have been to include other discredited stories of creation, not just the Christian version. That would have made the point that all of the previous versions of creation have been discredited, and this theory that you are about to learn is what we currently understand of how life actually evolved.


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