|Fly, fly away!|
The funny thing is, PZ's "response" to Beale actually does show why he doesn't do debates, and why that may really be a wise policy for him.
Let us take this in small bites.
"I don’t do debates anymore. One reason is that they give the other side far too much credibility; another is that the format rewards rhetoric, not honesty. But the other big reason is sheer disgust at the spectacle these loons can put on."
Since I probably know more about the subject than PZ does -- make that definitely -- wouldn't the real danger be that a debate between the two of us would give PZ too much credibility, than the other way around? It's not as if PZ starts with oodles of extra credibility, here. We both did our undergrad study at the University of Washington (me also, MA), the difference being, I studied things somewhat related to this issue, while PZ studied sea cucumbers or something. One would think the debate would only give more credibility to the person who won.
As for "spectacle" and "loons," read on.
"Imagine this metaphorical situation: you’re at a debate, and your opponent stands up and in the first round, starts punching himself in the face. Punching hard, until the blood spurts in great red rivers out of his nose. You’re aghast, but when your turn comes up, you try to make your points; in rebuttal, he pulls out a knife and starts gouging out one of his eyeballs. You just want to stop the whole debacle, call an ambulance, and have the poor warped goon hauled away. But then afterwards, he crows victory."
What a colorful imagination our friend PZ has.
"That’s a bit of hyperbole, but not by much. Theodore Beale, aka Vox Day, has leapt upon my post in which I used the status of women as evidence that religion does harm to humanity, and eagerly tries to rebut me in a spectacular act of self-mutilation. I won’t link directly to poor sick Theodore Beale — he needs psychiatric help — but fortunately Dave Futrelle quotes him extensively, so you can get the gist without feeding Beale’s pathology directly."
Now here's the real reason why PZ is a biologist and not an historian, and why he probably is better off not doing debates.
Given a choice between (A) reading a blog by an ally who quotes your opponent, and (B) reading the opponent for himself, which is the course of reason and empiricism? Which is less likely to leave you with egg on your face when you misread satire for straight argument?
If you think (A) is the correct answer, please do read on (but warning: the debate takes a detour to the grotesque).
"But there’s enough bile to make you wonder. I was arguing that many features of religion clearly don’t benefit women, so I asked:
"How does throwing acid in their faces when they demand independence from men benefit women?
"So Teddy rebuts that in the most appalling way.
"[F]emale independence is strongly correlated with a whole host of social ills. Using the utilitarian metric favored by most atheists, a few acid-burned faces is a small price to pay for lasting marriages, stable families, legitimate children, low levels of debt, strong currencies, affordable housing, homogenous populations, low levels of crime, and demographic stability. If PZ has turned against utilitarianism or the concept of the collective welfare trumping the interests of the individual, I should be fascinated to hear it.
"Say what? So his answer to how this benefits women is to say it’s bad for society for women to be independent, and that honor killings, stonings, and mutilation of women is a small price?
"I think he just made my case for me."
I'm sorry to inflict the macabre on my readers. But notice that PZ just ran off the road, here. No doubt Beale was bating Myers in this passage. But was Beale really advocating burning the faces of women with acid? Read carefully, and there is no genuine sign of any such Taliban-like advocacy in the paragraph Myers cites. Did PZ overlook the words "using the utilitarian metric favored by most atheists." Does Beale accept that metric? He does not say so. In fact, in the comments section he clearly states that he does NOT accept that metric:
"Who said anything about supporting the proposition. PZ was asking for an answer to a question, not a personal opinion. In case it has previously escaped you, I'm not a secular atheist utilitarian."
Reading the man second-hand as he does, PZ ignores such piddling details as Beale's actual point, and pretends he is, in fact, advocating violent attacks on women:
"But how about this: Beale has not made the case that destroying women’s lives is a necessary price to pay for social stability. I reject his bargain; I say we can have a more stable, healthier, stronger society if human beings live in mutually loving and respectful relationships. I do not have to hover over my wife with a threatening jar of acid in order for both of us to live together happily; in fact, a life where I had to compel a partnership with terror would be a horror and a nightmare."
What's really going on here, is two popular bloggers, a Christian and an atheist, are both maneuvering to portray the other as morally reprehensible. To do so, both ascribe to the other positions that they do not consciously hold -- either a desire to commit violence against women (Beale), or a moral philosophy (PZ's presumed utilitarianism) that could not explain why it is wrong.
Now of course, I agree with Myers that Taliban-like violence against women could be argued against in good conscience on utilitarian principles. It could also be argued for -- "the end justifies the means" is a highly fungible guideline. I'm not a Vox Day scholar nor his psychologist, so I won't try to figure out why he chooses such violent language to make his point -- my interest lies in PZ Myers, and how he reacted to challenges against his primary claim.
For one thing, having been challenged by two Christians to debate his claim that Christianity is bad for women, why did PZ choose to respond to Beale and not to me?
I wrote one of the first rebuttals of the New Atheism, a rebuttal that some say (and I agree) remains one of the best. My other books, some of them related to this topic, have received excellent reviews from great scholars, and my research lies largely in the field of history.
Beale is an entertaining and often clever blogger, but seems to be mainly a computer game geek.
So why did PZ respond to Beale, and not me? And why did he do that second-hand, and garble Beale's actual point?
The answer is obvious enough. PZ would rather mock and slander Christianity than engage those who believe it in a serious intellectual way. Beale left himself open to that kind of slander, especially if one reads with one's emotions rather than with one's head. The images he uses to argue with are like a red flag in front of an angry bull. PZ uses Beale's imagery to wave the red flag in front of his own disciples, egging them on to rage, never in any case far from the surface on that site.
Debating me would not achieve that end. It would "lend Christians legitimacy" in the sense that a real, adult conversation would undermine PZ Myer's libelous purposes.
PZ then waves an even brighter red flag for his readers, which Beale furnishes, for his own purposes:
"One more. I also asked this: How does letting women die rather than giving them an abortion benefit women? Here’s his answer.
"'Because far more women are aborted than die as a result of their pregnancies going awry. The very idea that letting a few women die is worse than killing literally millions of unborn women shows that PZ not only isn’t thinking like a scientist, he’s quite clearly not thinking rationally at all. If PZ is going to be intellectually consistent here, then he should be quite willing to support the abortion of all black fetuses, since blacks disproportionately commit murder and 17x more people could be saved by aborting black fetuses than permitting the use of abortion to save the life of a mother. 466 American women die in pregnancy every year whereas 8,012 people died at the hands of black murderers in 2010."
Let me say, reading this stuff, that I didn't much care for this Beale character. I saw what he was getting at, but it's an ugly, nasty way to make a point. But even disliking him, to rebut a person, one has to follow what he is saying accurately. That's why, when PZ was studying sea urchins at the University of Washington, I was reading Marx and Stalin, whose works I loathed. PZ Myers fails at this essential task, a prerequisite of philosophical discourse:
"A fetus is not a woman. I’m used to hearing those wacky anti-choicers call the fetus a “baby”, with all those emotional connotations, but this is the first time I’ve heard them called “women”."
PZ is engaging in a form of equivocation, here. When we talk about the effects religion has on the status of women, age is not the issue, gender is. If Mohammed was wrong to marry a 9 year old, one cannot excuse his treatment of women by saying, "Oh, but she wasn't a woman! She was just a little girl! That doesn't count!"
|To the sharks with ye both!|
What we see here is a crude fencing duel on the moving deck of a galleon in heavy seas, both sides manuevering the other towards a gap where his opponent can be forced into the salty brine. Beale is relying on logic and crude caricatures; Myers is relying on emotion and impressionistic but fallacious readings of those same caricatures:
"The racist tirade is just sickening. So now Beale wants us to lump all black people together as “murderers” to justify forced sterilization, as a logical consequence of my values? I’ve heard of that tactic somewhere else before."
If you don't like to be sickened, PZ, why not debate me, instead? But we've already established the true answer to that question: PZ DOES want to be sickened, so he can illegitimately sicken his following against Christianity. Unfortunately Beale seems to find bating him in such a way useful for his own purposes, as well.
"Again with the logical fallacies. Here’s a hint: the death of women in back-alley abortions can be directly addressed by legalizing abortion and providing responsible medical treatment; the socioeconomic conditions that create an environment of crime are not addressed by racially-defined forced abortion. If we want to end murders by any population (yes, please), the answer is not the extermination of that population, but the correction of social and economic inequity and providing opportunity for advancement."
This man badly needs to read Dostoevsky. The naivity of this argument, and the palpable failure of these remedies, is evident (he really seems to be saying that murder is caused by "economic inequalities!" -- is that why Hitler invaded Poland? Is that why Al Capone paid off hit men?).
But answering that misconception would take us far afield. For the record, let us merely note that probably no one here is really advocating genocide-by-abortion. Their swords are blunted. The two gentlemen are again just dancing.
"And with that, I’m sufficiently repulsed not to want to continue. Beale/Day has apparently been whiningly demanding to debate me for the last few years; now you know why I won’t even consider it. Getting his words as second-hand text is nauseating enough, I’d rather not have to deal with the poisonous little scumbag directly."
Getting your opponent's words second-hand is not only nauseating, it is a grade A intellectual mistake. PZ might not have misread Beale so badly, if he'd read the post for himself, and Beale's explanation in the comments.
And that is fundamental for the "human sciences." That's why I read Marx, Lenin, Stalin and Mao in college, obnoxious as I found Marx and his followers. I have found a lot of "poisonous" materials on Pharyngula, too, but one cannot intelligently critique what one does not know.
So we see why PZ doesn't do debate, and why that might not be a bad thing. Instead of implying that he won't debate because we're all racist, women-hating savages (most Christians these days actually are women -- in the age-inclusive sense of female -- and most of us are now non-white), or because PZ Myers owns this vast stockpile of credibility and doesn't want any of it leaking out to nourish undead believing memes, PZ might just admit, "My whole schtick involves pretending that we atheists are a breed apart, and that the solution to religion is to mock it, deride it, and slander those who believe it. I would lose credibility with my crowd if I were found on stage reasoning -- really reasoning, thinking and discoursing and looking at evidence and trying to really understand, rather than just slandering and dancing and posturing -- with the other side."
He wouldn't even need to add, "Besides, I might lose."