Monday, May 21, 2012

PZ Myers vs. Women

If there are two things Gnu blog-mogul PZ Myers can't stand, it's Christians and bigots. 

Dr. Octopus, before he acquired
the extra arms.
PZ's hatred of Christians is one of the mainstays of the biologist's popular Pharyngula web site, along with florid descriptions of underwater fauna, and sometimes fawning descriptions of underwater flora.  Christians are stupid, venile, pestilential, and all the attributes Dawkins ascribed to God, incarnate here on Earth. When a Christian shows up on his blog, as I did for a few exciting months last year, PZ leads the high-tech lynching in person, not of course with rational argument, but with crude name-calling, obscenities, and a "throw everything up and see what sticks" litany of accusations.  Sooner or later, he finds some excuse to get rid of the Christian, and the highly-educated denizens of Pharyngula breath a collective sigh of relief, like a mob that has had fun burning its witch of whom it is secretly afraid.  Besides, it's late and the mob has work the next day, when it goes back to its regular occupation of more low-key scoffing, denigrating, and dehumanizing those outside the True (un) Faith. 

At the same time, PZ also passionately crusades against bigotry -- directed at women.  He often attacks fellow male atheists for real or imagined sins of mysogeny, with ferocity of an intensity not unlike that he directs at Christians. 

Recently, PZ tried to combine his two prejudices, by claiming that the chief moral problem with religion is how it encourages us to treat women:

"Whenever I hear that tripe about the beneficial effects of religion on human cultural evolution, it’s useful to note that the world’s dominant faiths all hardcode directly into their core beliefs the idea that women are unclean, inferior, weak, and responsible for the failings of mankind…that even their omnipotent, all-loving god regards women as lesser creatures not fit to be intermediaries with him, and that their cosmic fate is to be subservient slaves to men, just as men are to be subservient slaves to capital-H Him.

"David Sloan Wilson can argue all he wants that religion helped promote group survival in our evolutionary history, or that his group selectionist models somehow explain its origins, but it doesn’t matter. Here and now, everywhere, those with eyes to see can see for themselves that religion has for thousands of years perpetuated the oppression of half our species. Half of the great minds our peoples have produced have lived and died unknown and forgotten, their educations neglected, their lives spent doing laundry and other menial tasks for men — their merits unrecognized and buried under lies promulgated by religion, in cultures soaked in the destructive myths of faith which codify misogyny and give it a godly blessing.

"Isn’t that reason enough to tear down the cathedrals — that with this one far-reaching, difficult change to our cultures, we double human potential?"

Tear down cathedrals? 

Like the octopus that is his totem, PZ Myers looks fearsome, but is actually a timid creature, in my experience.  Were it not so, I might merely reply to all of this:


In fact, I think I'll e-mail this challenge to PZ.  But I doubt he'll will be willing to debate me publicly -- or even allow me to take him, and his thousands of disciples, on, in his own forum, with all the odds stacked in his favor.  I'll tell what happened last time, another day. 

But PZ's comments above bring up several initial observations to mind.

First, by "religion" PZ clearly has Christianity largely in mind.  Thus, the evil that religion does to women is reason to tear down "cathedrals," not (per example) gudwaras, ashrams, synagogues, temples, or Earth God shrines in the fields of Guang Xi Province.  This is also implied by the term "the world's dominant religions," of which Christianity is of course the most demographically prominent. 

Second, it is a physical fact that women are, generally, weaker than men, in the most concrete sense of muscular power.  Less literally, women are stronger in the sense that they usually live longer. Biology knows nothing of equality: this is a human construct, which generally arises from religious or metaphysical beliefs. It would be strange if a biologist, of all people, were to take strict gender-equality, or the idea that gender roles should be identical, for granted, as if it were some sort of a biological given.   

Third, I'm sure PZ is very good at doing laundry.  He's fond of water, familiar with sponges, at least scientifically, and has long practice in white-washing the absurdities and contradictions of his own on-line sect.  So I'm sure he knows where the washer and dryer are at home, though of course I have no idea how often he uses them. 

But if it were not for religion, does PZ seriously maintain that men and women would be domestically interchangeable?  Does he imagine that, say, in the Soviet Union, after all religion was driven underground, and no macho man in the whole Evil Empire would admit to believing in God like the babushkas (grandmas), that suddenly men started doing the laundry?  Or how about Japan, where men are very irreligious -- do they do half the domestic chores?  (Pause for extended, in some cases bitter laughter from those who, like myself, have lived in Japanese and Soviet societies.)

If real world experience doesn't falsify PZ Myer's naïve conception of how relations between men and women would be in the absence of religion, what can? 

Again, my claim is that the Gospel has liberated women more than anything else.  I argue this from personal experience, from sociology, from history, and from the gospels themselves.  

If all that is true -- and it is -- then PZ's attacks on Christianity are, in effect, also attacks on women. 

I dare PZ Myers to debate me on this issue.  I challenge him to carry out that debate in a fair, equitable, and open forum.   (They say he can be civil in person -- I'm not sure I'm ready for that, but what the hey.) 

I'll e-mail this challenge to PZ.  The response I most expect will be silence, or else another unified chorus of vitriol and insults.  But people grow, and perhaps we may hope that even PZ Myers may some day grow up and begin dealing maturely with the real world, and the genuine role the Gospel of Jesus has played in making it a whole lot better. 

(And here on Myers' "response.")


Tom Gilson said...

More power to you, David!

Cristofer Urlaub said...

Should be a good debate, but I don't think he has any incentive to accept. He'll pretend it's juvenile, then there will be a collective "golf clap" from his fans, and they'll forget about it.

David B Marshall said...

Yes, I think you're right -- it's all about posturing, for Dr. Myers. It's not aoout finding truth.

Mark said...

cris- I've seen the same kind of behavior from David Marshall and his very few fans. Alot of chest pounding but very rarely putting forth much if any arguments.

David B Marshall said...

Mark: Read my six-part series on "How Jesus Liberates Women." To claim I don't give arguments, or when needed, a whole lot of evidence, for my positions, including this one, is either a stupid lie, or an even stupider shot in the dark.

As for how many "fans" I have, I prefer to think of them as fellow-seekers and conversation partners, which is also how they present themselves, whatever their numbers.

Mark said...

I'm sorry I should have been more precise. I was referring to your lack of defense against a commentator who presented data that shows how the more secular countries fare better in the relm of women's rights than Christian ones. You failed to give a satisfactory response. (Not that you could. Those facts shoot down your arguments wholesale)

David B Marshall said...

Where is that? I think my answer was satisfactory, and also the truth. First, countries like Norway are mostly secular now, but they have been deeply influenced by Christianity for a thousand years. And second, injustice can be done by women, for women, as much as by men, and for men. Secular ideology, building a weak superstructure on the strong foundation of Christian morals, often encourages the former: injustice by women against children and against men, which is not true ethical progress.

Crude said...

I'd like to point this out: Norway was not, until this very year, even a 'secular country'. It's funny to see people calling a country with a state church and a considerable, even recent, explicitly Christian religious history 'secular'. At absolute best, it is "more secular than some other countries" - and the 'more secular' aspect isn't longstanding. The state of Europe is a complicated matter.

Great article as ever, David. Myers won't accept, partly because Myers will always run from any challenge he suspects he'd lose - and with you, he'd know he was outgunned.

David B Marshall said...

Thanks, Crude -- yes, I'm afraid intellectual timidity is the secret vice of our octofriend.

I was reading a blog debate between some "ladies" on PZ's Shiite list yesterday -- wow, the feathers did fly. Say what you like about the Gnus, they do know how to have a robust, four-letter-word ad hominem debate. PZ issued a fatwa against the both of them for their nastiness, but aside from their contempt for him, they didn't seem less reasonable than himself, and no more vitriolic than their foes. Honestly, it was enough to make me appreciate the most mind-numbingly repetitive worship music -- at least Pentacostals don't worship themselves. Usually.

Robert Lowrance said...

In most cultures not influenced by Christianity, women are not accorded anywhere near equal status. Belief in atheism certainly does not give women equal status. After all, if only the strong servive, then the strong should make the rules and trample over the weak. And men generally have the strength to follow through with such ideas.

In Galatians we see the Christian ideal, among other things, in Christ there is no difference in status between men and women. In Genesis, mankind, both men and women, were created in God's image. It was this latter ideal that ultimately led to Christians opposing slavery.

Equality is not an idea that you would get from nature. It is not an idea that atheism would come up with on its own. Atheists have to borrow from the Christian world view to talk about equality. In this, they are not being consistent. If they were consistent, they would not have a problem with any form of abuse or enslavement.

BillT said...

"Why is the physical universe so unimaginably large?"

Actually, it isn't. what physics tells is is that in order for the universe to be able to support itself that is to create stars, planets and galaxies it's just about the right size. If it were much smaller or much larger it would not be able to sustain itself given the laws of physics that governs it.

David B Marshall said...

Bill: Thanks, but it looks like you posted in the wrong forum.