Friday, July 11, 2008

Pharungula solidarity

Dr. PZ Myers of the U of Minnesota/Morris has been in the news lately. And it seems he's received a certain amount of attention from the Catholic League (and a few death threats, I might add). Myers asked for people to write his boss and tell him to ignore the bigots calling for his head (he's a tenured professor making a comment on a non-university blog site, people, don't hold your breath). My letter follows:

Dear President Bruininks,

I would like to take a few moments to weigh in on the recent controversy surrounding Dr. PZ Myers of the Morris campus. (dryly: I'll assume you know the one to which I'm referring...)

I have become a fan of Dr. Myers' in recent months, and have become an avid reader of his blog. In light of his recent declaration that he would desecrate a consecrated Catholic Communion wafer to make a statement about Catholic intolerance (a declaration I hope to be in the realm of the metaphorical), my admiration did not prevent me from taking him to task for acting like an attention-seeking juvenile. My exact words follow:

You're out of line, Dr. Myers.

The idea, in case you've forgotten, is to point out the illogical and irrational stupidity of the right-wing-nuts in the Catholic Church, NOT to try to out-do them and make us look bad as a consequence! My best friend on Earth is a Catholic, and I can assure you, he's as disgusted by these hysterics as anyone.

I'm having a rough enough time convincing my Catholic family that being an atheist doesn't make me a puppy-killer without YOU trying to attack the Church's own rituals.

And don't forget: attacking an organization's rituals in this way only strengthens their determination, because you're playing into their hands in terms of persecution. They thrive on that. Hammer them on how unchristian they are being by threatening this kid with death, and leave it at that.

Please note that while I agree with Dr. Myers on the principle that intolerance should be challenged whenever we find it, I suggested there were other ways to go about expressing his outrage. And since a great many people read his words, he should be more careful in choosing them.

Having said that, I still support Dr. Myers' right to say whatever he wants to on his blog site, Pharyngula (short of, ohIdunno, death threats like the ones he's received). I know that Pharyngul ais not supported in any way, shape, or form by the U of M, and that Bill Donohue and the "Christians" at the Catholic League (among other entities) have called for an investigation on what action should be taken against him. Please ignore these blowhards. I also noted that the link to Pharyngula was taken down from Dr. Myers' profile on the U of M. I would like to think that this is a coincidence and not a response to a challenge from without, but I am forced to conclude otherwise. I am disappointed, but understand your reluctance to get the University involved in such a scrum.

I would also like to think, however, that you recognize the real prestige that having a man such as Dr. Myers brings to your institution. His knowledge of his chosen discipline is unquestionable, and his willingness to defend the scientific method with passion, however scornful it can become, is admirable in the extreme. I hope that my dissatisfaction with his choice of words in this instance is not construed as a denunciation of the scientist himself. he provides more than ample insight into the wonders of science the the joy of discovery, and why we need to cultivate those characteristics into our children. Please recognize this incident as the minor fracas that it is, and keep Dr. Myers' contributions in the larger context.

Respectfully yours,

Paul Lundgren.

PS: Please make sure the link to Pharyngula is put back once this all blows over. Thank you.

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