PZ Myers Update

Hat tip to my man C4, for pointing me to this response interview with PZ Myers (as C4 says in a comment to my earlier post, PZ still doesn’t get it).

Key piece (MnIndy=Minnesota Independent, the newspaper published/gave the interview)–my emphasis:

MnIndy: What about the stories of US military personnel urinating on and otherwise abusing copies of the Koran in Iraq? Were you outraged by that, or is that a different version of this for you?

Myers: There’s a subtle difference there — maybe an important difference. I don’t favor the idea of going to somebody’s home or to something they own and possess and consider very important, like a graveyard — going to a grave and desecrating that. That’s something completely different. Because what you’re doing is doing harm to something unique and something that is rightfully part of somebody else — it’s somebody else’s ownership. The cracker is completely different. This is something that’s freely handed out.

MnIndy: Do you see a parallel between this case and the furor in the Netherlands (and later the Islamic world at large) over cartoonists’ depictions of Mohammed? It seems unlikely that these Catholics would take kindly to being compared to Islamic extremists, but death threats over the fate of a host suggests it’s not an unfair characterization.

Myers: Of course! Both are demands that quirky sectarian peculiarities be given undue respect by those who don’t believe in them. Furthermore, the majority of the email I’m receiving is making it explicit: they are telling me that I should not abuse their sacred icon, but that I should instead go do something sacrilegious with the Koran.

As to the first question, the “cracker” in question is given out to baptized Roman Catholics and it is presumed that one is a member of the religious community (hence the fear of someone improperly taking it without valid standing in the community). Or in other denominations like mine, any baptized Christian. While it is not correct to say the Church “owns” the Eucharist, since in Catholic theology it is a bearer of the presence of God–and God can not be owned or controlled–it is true to say that the community has been entrusted with the ritual and has its own standards of helping to bring about good order and proper practice of the religion.

In other words, there is an implicit recognition of mutual responsibility on both sides. Those receiving communion are expected to be approaching the table in good faith. This is not consumerism and the idolization of the individual’s rights: nobody has a right to the “cracker” in question. It isn’t a consumer product that is there to fulfill my needs and nothing else. It’s not just “given out” like a free sample at the grocery store.

In religious terms, it is rather more to say that the Eucharist is a precious gift and therefore should be treated accordingly. The only reason it is a cracker for Myers is that is the LCD way in which he approaches (and therefore sees) the issue.

Myers it seems is (as I said before) totally stuck in his own orbit on this one. He doesn’t have to believe it, he just has to imagine what it would be like if he were someone who believed (or cared about someone who did even) and how he would feel in that situation if the shoe were on the other foot. It’s a liberal democracy one of the pillars of which is tolerance in non-essential, non-criminal matters. Non-essential that is to the healthy maintenance of the republic and the running of government.

The logical flaws in his response to the first question are too many to count and too egregious to do justice to all of them. But the basic point is the questioner asked about the Qu’ran and there is no doubt a clear parallel to the desecration of the Quran and the desecration of the Eucharist.

He doesn’t want to come out favoring urination (dollars to donuts) on the Quran because he’s a liberal and doesn’t like the Bush administration. So Myers tries to sidestep the actual question by introducing the notion of the graveyard. The someone who owns the graveyard is presumably the family of the person buried? I don’t think he means the actual owner of the entire graveyard site and certainly the dead person no longer owns anything as they are no longer alive to be in possession of anything. Except that he has to grant that the graveyard example is something people consider themselves very important, which again is obviously the Communion wafer. Which is really the whole point of the entire thing: let people decide for themselves what they find important and learn to live with difference.

As to the second question, it’s certainly ignorant to tell someone not to desecrate my holy symbol rather go desecrate that other guy’s (trade Wafer for Quran for example). That being said, I highlighted the modifier “undue” in “undue respect” to question how undue is it not to publicly declare you are going to desecrate someone’s sense of sacrality? Like many many millions of people’s in the United States’ (and billions worldwide) symbol? There’s no “undue” about that, but rather it’s called basic civility (the point of my original post). It’s not undue respect; it’s just respect. This whole thing is an unforced error on his part. He could have easily (and correctly) criticized the crazy and destructive responses of the Bill Donohue-types of the world to the original event, and he may have got some push back, but he would have been basically right. But then PZM had to go and stick his foot in his mouth and pour gasoline on a burning fire and then act all of surprised and victimized by massive blow back. [Which is not to excuse/condone stupid people sending him hateful messages.] Only to say it was unnecessary, unthinking, and only made things worse and was bound to only exacerbate the situation.

That was why contrary to some I was against the publishing of the Danish cartoons because I don’t think unless you have a really good reason you don’t go poking sticks in other people’s eyes. Particularly since (as with Myers) there was a double standard with the Danish newspaper. Rather than being these great heroes of free speech (again like Myers), the Danish newspaper DIDN’T publish similarly controversial Christian cartoons. Which is to say, it’s ok to denigrate Muslims just not Christians (because Europe is white and Christian). At least they could have been consistent and ripped on all religions (South Park-like). That would at least be fair.

Obviously there are lines that can not be crossed and those lines are not always completely clear. Of course is a religious group is practicing serial sexual slavery of say adolescent girls then the public law trumps religious respect. But with the Catholic wafer, there’s no issue of public law. [Other than idiots like Bill Donohue trying to get involve and get the kid kicked out of school or Myers fired]. The law not being in question, he’s certainly free to his opinion, but as a basic practice of human interaction, it’s not laudable (imo) to just be a jerk unnecessarily.

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Published in: on July 14, 2008 at 3:20 pm  Comments (4)  
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  1. “He could have easily (and correctly) criticized the crazy and destructive responses of the Bill Donohue-types of the world to the original event, and he may have got some push back, but he would have been basically right. But then PZM had to go and stick his foot in his mouth and pour gasoline on a burning fire and then act all of surprised and victimized by massive blow back.”

    exactly. and that’s what’s disappointing about this whole PZ Myers rant because Myers went down the rabbit hole with Bill Donohue.

    at this time Myers is caught up in his own cognitive dissonance, committing performative contradictions left and right. the fact that he’s getting all this attention (including, unfortunately, violent threats) is an obvious case in point that the consecrated host is not just a cracker. duh.

    now excuse me while i eat some kosher crackers 😉

    ~C

  2. P.S. just noticed the latest PZ Myers post related to the cracker fallout. notice the cognitive dissonance and performative contradictions? italics is in the original post.

    “It is most definitely not intended to incite harassment. I do not want you to be dunning these people with email, threatening them back, signing them up for spam, or otherwise being a jerk. For one thing, we can’t be certain that an innocent’s account hasn’t been hijacked; for another, we’re supposed to be better than that. With the size of the readership here, any reaction by you is likely to be repeated a thousand-fold and turned into an over-reaction. I welcome any suggestions from you all but let me take care of any writing back.”

    i wished Myers thought of “we’re supposed to be better than that” before threatening to desecrate a goddamn cracker 😉

    ~C

  3. oops. forgot to include the link. here you go:

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2008/07/stop_it_now_please.php

  4. exactly dude. the answer is right in front of his nose.


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