PZ Myers: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

PZ Myers

PZ Myers
Born March 9, 1957 (1957-03-09) (age 53)
Residence United States
Fields Evolutionary developmental biology
Institutions University of Minnesota Morris

Paul Zachary "PZ" Myers (born March 9, 1957) is an American biology professor at the University of Minnesota Morris (UMM) and the author of the science blog Pharyngula. He is currently an associate professor of biology at UMM,[1] works with zebrafish in the field of evolutionary developmental biology (evo-devo), and also cultivates an interest in cephalopods. He is a public critic of intelligent design (ID) and of the creationist movement in general and is an activist in the American creation-evolution controversy.


Early life

Myers was born March 9, 1957, the eldest of six children in Kent, Washington. He was named "Paul Zachary", after his grandfather, but preferred the initials PZ to being called "Little Paul." He claims to have been a "science geek" from an early age, gaining an interest in zoology and marine biology from studying the insides of fish while on fishing trips with his father.

Myers was raised as a Lutheran. Prior to his confirmation, Myers experienced a change of heart, "I started thinking, you know, I don't believe a word of this."[2] Now an atheist, Myers comments widely on his blog about science, education, atheism and religion.[3]

Education and activism

In 1975, Myers attended DePauw University in Indiana on a full scholarship. However, he returned home the next year after his father suffered a heart attack. He then attended the University of Washington in 1979 to receive a Bachelor of Science in zoology. Myers drifted away from this field toward evolutionary developmental biology and obtained a PhD in Biology from the University of Oregon.

A self-avowed "godless liberal"[4] and outspoken atheist, he is a vocal skeptic of all forms of religion, superstition, spirituality and pseudoscience. He is quoted as having "nothing but contempt for ID," arguing that it is "fundamentally dishonest."[2]

Asteroid 153298 Paulmyers is named in his honor.[5]

In 2009 Myers was named the American Humanist Association's "Humanist of the Year".[6]

Post-graduate career

Myers has taught and researched at the University of Oregon, the University of Utah and Temple University. He is currently an associate professor of biology at the University of Minnesota's Morris campus.[1] He is a member of Minnesota Citizens for Science Education.[7]

Internet involvement

On USENET user groups, forums, and web sites such as talk.origins, Myers became involved in scientific debates, particularly those surrounding the growing creationist movement in the United States. He was a founding member of The Panda's Thumb, and in June 2002 he created his own Web site and blog, Pharyngula.org. Since late 2005 he has been a contributor to Ask A Biologist, a science education website.



Pharyngula is Myers' personal weblog, promoted as "Evolution, development, and random biological ejaculations from a godless liberal."[4] The topics Myers covers are eclectic, delving into the non-scientific as well as scientific. While Pharyngula includes many articles discussing breaking science news and research, the blog has become particularly well-known for criticism of intelligent design and of attempts to insert it into science education. The blog has been ranked as the third-most-read blog maintained by a Minnesotan. Pharyngula won the 2005 Koufax Award for Best Expert Blog. The science journal Nature listed Pharyngula as the top-ranked blog written by a scientist.[8]

According to Alexa.com, Pharyngula.org was started on June 19, 2002.[9] It started out as an experiment in writing instruction for a class. Students were required to submit mini-essays to be published online. After the project was finished, Myers still had the web-publishing software, and started to use it himself. The blog is named after his favourite stage in embryonic development, the pharyngula stage. Pharyngula moved to hosting at ScienceBlogs, a project of Seed Magazine, in 2005.

On Pharyngula, Myers has often criticized the Discovery Institute, Answers in Genesis, and other creationist websites, as well as offering criticisms of Intelligent Design, asserting that its claims are pseudoscientific. Other posts on Pharyngula cover a broad variety of topics that interest Myers. These include cephalopods; science; religion; local, national and international politics, particularly those involving science and/or education; superstition; and evolutionary developmental biology.

On his blog in 2007, Myers reviewed Stuart Pivar's book Lifecode, which argues that self-organization at the embryonic and fetal stages determine the development and final structure of organisms.[10][11][12] Myers reviewed the book negatively, stating that the diagrams and ideas in the book arose from Pivar's imagination and had no basis in actual evidence.

How his theory can be reconciled with a large body of embryological evidence that directly contradicts virtually all of it is not clear, and Pivar has chosen not to address any of it. And a book full of geometrically interesting sketches neither explains nor supports Pivar's theory.… Theories are supposed to explain observation and experiment. You don't come up with a theory first, and then invent the evidence to support it.[10]

After some discussion in the comments threads of Pharyngula, Pivar sued Myers for libel.[10][12] Within a week Pivar withdrew the lawsuit, stating that "the real issue got sidelined" and that his problem was more with Seed Media Group.[13]

In addition to articles about keeping religion out of science education, church-state separation, and complaints of misdeeds done in the name of religion, Myers continues to write about science in the disciplines of evolution,[14] palaeontology,[15] genetics,[16] development,[17] and molecular biology.[18]

Interview and screening of Expelled

In April 2007 Myers was interviewed for a documentary titled "Crossroads," purportedly about science and religion.[19] However in Fall 2007, executive producer Mark Mathis announced that the movie was Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed about "censorship" of intelligent design supporters.[20] Regarding the discrepancy of focus Myers wrote, "I mean, seriously, not telling one of the sides in a debate about what the subject might be and then leading him around randomly to various topics, with the intent of later editing it down to the parts that just make the points you want, is the video version of quote-mining and is fundamentally dishonest."[19]

On March 20, 2008, Myers was denied entry into a screening of Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed at the Mall of America in Minneapolis. He was waiting with his family and guests to attend a private screening after having reserved seats for himself and guests under his own name using the freely available online procedure set up by the film's promoters. Shortly before the film started, a security guard told him that the producer Mark Mathis had instructed that Myers be removed from the premises. After telling his family of this, Myers went to a nearby Apple store and blogged about his amusement that they had expelled him, but allowed his guest that evening, British evolutionary biologist and high-profile critic of creationism Richard Dawkins, in to see the film.[21] In a question and answer session at the end of the film Dawkins asked why Myers had been excluded, and later said that "if anyone had a right to see the film, it was [Myers]. The incompetence, on a public relations level, is beyond belief."[22] The saga has been described by Dawkins as "an incredible piece of inept public relations" on the part the film's producers.[23]

Eucharist controversy

A controversy arose in July 2008 over a Pharyngula blog entry written by Myers expressing amazement at news reports of death threats issued to University of Central Florida Student Senator Webster Cook. On June 29, 2008, Cook attended a Catholic Mass being held in the student union at UCF by a Catholic student group that receives funding from the student government. Cook received the Catholic Eucharist host but did not consume it immediately. He said later that he wanted to take it back to his seat to show a friend, but when stopped he put it in his mouth until back at his seat, then a church leader made forcible attempts to take the host from him.[24][25] Cook stored the host at his home, then returned it one week later after receiving e-mail threats and pleas.[24][26] Bill Donohue, President of the Catholic League, described the student's actions as "beyond hate speech" and said that "All options should be on the table, including expulsion."[27]

In his July 8 blog entry, Myers criticized the reaction to Cook's act. Myers described the level of harassment including multiple death threats leveled against the student, and accusations against the student which included hate crime, kidnapping, and intent to desecrate the wafer which Catholics consider a mortal sin.[25][28] Myers expressed outrage that Fox News appeared to be inciting readers to cause further problems for the student, and ridiculed reports that armed guards would attend the next mass. Myers suggested that if any of his readers could acquire some consecrated Eucharistic hosts for him, he would treat the wafers "with profound disrespect and heinous cracker abuse, all photographed and presented here on the web."[29]

A number of Roman Catholics immediately reacted strongly. Donohue's Catholic League accused Myers of anti-Catholic bigotry,[30] described his proposal as a threat to desecrate what Catholics hold to be the Body of Christ, and sent a letter asking the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota State Legislature to take action against Myers.[30][31] According to Donohue, as the Pharyngula website was accessible via a link from the University of Minnesota website, it should be bound by the institution's code of conduct which requires faculty to be "respectful, fair and civil" when dealing with others.[31] Subsequently, Myers explained to the Star Tribune that while his post was "satire and protest," he had received death threats regarding the incident but was not taking them too seriously.[30]

In a talk show featuring Myers on Catholic Radio International, hosted by Jeff Gardner, Myers confirmed that he had been sent an unspecified number of consecrated hosts and said that he intended to “subject them to heinous cracker abuse.” When asked by Gardner to explain why he must do so, Myers said that Donohue of the Catholic League was insisting that he acknowledge the Body of Christ in the Eucharist. Gardner pointed out that Donohue had no authority to insist on such acknowledgment. The show host then asked Myers which individual possessing the Magisterial authority of the Catholic Church had insisted that he recognize the body of Christ in the Eucharist. Myers replied that no one from the Catholic Church had contacted him.[32]

On July 24, 2008, Myers, in his post, "The Great Desecration," wrote that he had pierced through the "goddamned cracker" with a rusty nail, which he also used to pierce a few ripped-out pages of the Qur'an and The God Delusion, and had simply thrown them all in the trash along with old coffee grounds and a banana peel. He provided a photograph of these items in the garbage, and wrote that nothing must be held sacred, encouraging people to question everything. In addition, he described the history of allegations of host desecration, emphasizing the frequent use of such allegations in medieval Europe to justify anti-Semitism.[33] The following day, University of Minnesota, Morris (UMM) Chancellor stated: “I believe that behaviors that discriminate against or harass individuals or groups on the basis of their religious beliefs are reprehensible,” and that the school "affirms the freedom of a faculty member to speak or write as a public citizen without institutional discipline or restraint."[34]

Creation Museum visit

Myers at the Creation Museum

Myers' engagement as keynote speaker at the 2009 Secular Student Alliance Conference in Columbus, Ohio[35] developed into an August 7, 2009 trip, in which 304 attendees visited the nearby Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky.[36] Beforehand, there was a flurry of heated blog posts which resulted in the museum sending a warning letter detailing appropriate behavior. The visit resulted in two reported incidents. In one, a student wearing a t-shirt that read, "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy yourself"[37] was asked to turn the shirt inside out.[38]

It was also reported that a student was expelled from the Creation Museum after a family visiting the museum complained to staff that they saw him "laughing at the exhibits". Ken Ham however denied that the student was told to leave, claiming that a photographer who witnessed the incident was the one who was expelled.[39]


  1. ^ a b PZ Myers Biology Faculty from University of Minnesota Morris
  2. ^ a b Mosedale, Mike (November 23, 2005). "The Mad Scientist, interview with PZ Myers". City Pages 26 (1303). http://www.citypages.com/2005-11-23/news/the-mad-scientist/3. Retrieved 2007-08-22. 
  3. ^ Myers, PZ (March 13, 2006). "Left or Right, religion and politics don't mix". Pharyngula. http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2006/03/left_or_right_religion_and_pol.php. Retrieved 2007-08-22. 
  4. ^ a b Tagline on Pharyngula: "Evolution, development, and random biological ejaculations from a godless liberal."
  5. ^ Medkeff, Jeff (March 25, 2008). "PZ Myers and (153298) Paulmyers". http://bluecollarscientist.com/2008/03/25/pz-myers-and-153298-paulmyers/. Retrieved 2008-03-25. 
  6. ^ "2009 Humanist Awardees". American Humanist Association. http://americanhumanist.org/What_We_Do/annual_conference/Awardees. Retrieved 2009-03-28. 
  7. ^ MnCSE Scientific Advisory Board from Minnesota Citizens for Science Education
  8. ^ Butler, Declan (July 5, 2006). "Top five science blogs". Nature 442 (7098): 9. doi:10.1038/442009a. http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v442/n7098/full/442009a.html. Retrieved 2009-07-15. 
  9. ^ "Related Info for: pharyngula.org/". Alexa.com. http://www.alexa.com/data/details/main?q=Pharyngula.org&url=pharyngula.org. Retrieved 2006-09-03. 
  10. ^ a b c Myers, PZ (July 12, 2007). "Lifecode". Scienceblogs. http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2007/07/lifecode.php. Retrieved 2007-08-21. 
  11. ^ Myers, PZ (July 17, 2007). "Lifecode: From egg to embryo by self-organization". Scienceblogs. http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2007/07/lifecode_from_egg_to_embryo_by.php. Retrieved 2007-08-21. 
  12. ^ a b "PZ Myers, ScienceBlogs.com's lead blogger, is being sued for libel". Scientific American. August 20, 2007. http://blog.sciam.com/index.php?title=pz_myers_scienceblogs_com_s_lead_blogger&more=1&c=1&tb=1&pb=1. Retrieved 2007-08-21. 
  13. ^ Monkey's Uncle, City Pages, September 5, 2007
  14. ^ [1] Pharyngula: Science: evolution
  15. ^ [2], Pharyngula: science: fossils
  16. ^ [3], Pharyngula: science: genetics
  17. ^ [4], Pharyngula: science: development
  18. ^ [5], Pharyngula: science: molecular biology
  19. ^ a b PZ Myers (August 22, 2007). "I'm gonna be a MOVIE STAR". Pharyngula (blog). http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2007/08/im_gonna_be_a_movie_star.php#more. Retrieved 2008-05-28. 
  20. ^ Cornelia Dean (September 27, 2007). "Scientists Feel Miscast in Film on Life's Origin". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/27/science/27expelled.html?_r=2&oref=slogin&oref=slogin. Retrieved 2008-05-28. 
  21. ^ PZ Myers (March 20, 2008). "Pharyngula: EXPELLED!". http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2008/03/expelled.php. Retrieved 2008-03-23. "There is a rich, deep kind of irony that must be shared. I'm blogging this from the Apple store in the Mall of America, because I'm too amused to want to wait until I get back to my hotel room. I went to attend a screening of the creationist propaganda movie, Expelled, a few minutes ago. Well, I tried… but I was Expelled!" 
  22. ^ Chris Hewitt (2008-03-21). "Biology prof expelled from screening of 'Expelled' - TwinCities.com". The Pioneer Press. http://www.twincities.com/ci_8653837. Retrieved 2008-03-21. 
  23. ^ Discussion on PZ Myers being expelled from Expelled. The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science. Retrieved March 22, 2008
  24. ^ a b "Radio interview with "Webster Cook, student senator and non-eater of communion wafers"" (online radio). podcast. Freethought Radio. 2008-07-19. http://ffrf.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=361015. Retrieved 2008-07-28. "Tune in to hear the inside story about the young Orlando student whom Catholics have accused of committing a 'hate crime' for not eating a communion wafer!" 
  25. ^ a b "'Body Of Christ' Snatched From Church, Held Hostage By UCF Student". WFTV. 2008-07-09. http://www.wftv.com/news/16798008/detail.html. Retrieved 2008-07-11. 
  26. ^ "'Body Of Christ" Returned To Church After Student Receives Email Threats". WFTV. 2008-07-09. http://www.wftv.com/news/16806050/detail.html. Retrieved 2008-07-25. 
  27. ^ "Florida Student Abuses Eucharist". The Catholic League. 2008-07-07. http://www.catholicleague.org/release.php?id=1458. Retrieved 2008-07-25. 
  28. ^ Cheryl Getuiza (2008-07-09). "Student Who Took Religious Icon Getting Death Threats". MY Fox Orlando. http://www.myfoxorlando.com/dpp/news/Student_Who_Took_Religious_Icon_Getting_Death_Threats. Retrieved 2009-11-18. 
  29. ^ "IT'S A FRACKIN’ CRACKER!". Pharyngula. 2008-07-08. http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2008/07/its_a_goddamned_cracker.php. Retrieved 2008-07-11. 
  30. ^ a b c "Communion wafer held 'hostage' raises holy heck". Star Tribune. 2008-07-11. http://www.startribune.com/lifestyle/faith/24313139.html. Retrieved 2008-07-11. 
  31. ^ a b "Minnesota Prof Pledges to Desecrate Eucharist". The Catholic League. 2008-07-10. http://www.catholicleague.org/release.php?id=1459. Retrieved 2008-07-11. 
  32. ^ "The Heart Of The Matter On Catholic Radio International". We Need To Talk. July 10, 2008. http://www.catholicradiointernational.com/heartofmatter.php. Retrieved 2008-07-18. 
  33. ^ PZ Myers (2008-07-24). "Pharyngula: The Great Desecration". Pharyngula. ScienceBlogs. http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2008/07/the_great_desecration.php. Retrieved 2008-07-24. 
  34. ^ WALSH, PAUL Morris chancellor defends instructor who defiled Eucharist, tore Qur'an Star Tribune, July 25, 2008
  35. ^ "Secular Student Alliance". http://www.secularstudents.org/conference. Retrieved August 17, 2009. 
  36. ^ Devin Powell (August 14, 2009). "A firebrand visits Creation Museum". StarTribune.com. Minneapolis: Star Tribune. http://www.startribune.com/lifestyle/53237252.html. Retrieved August 17, 2009. 
  37. ^ See Atheist Bus Campaign
  38. ^ Devin Powell (August 8, 2009). "Creation Museum: is this how world began?". ABC News. ABC News Internet Ventures. http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/Story?id=8280168&page=1. Retrieved August 17, 2009. 
  39. ^ http://blogs.answersingenesis.org/blogs/ken-ham/2009/08/08/the-day-285-atheistsagnostics-visited-the-creation-museum/

External links




Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Paul Zachary "PZ" Myers (born March 9, 1957) is an American biology professor at the University of Minnesota Morris (UMM) and the author of the science blog Pharyngula. He is currently an associate professor of biology at UMM,[1] works with zebrafish in the field of evolutionary developmental biology (evo-devo), and also cultivates an interest in cephalopods. He is a public critic of intelligent design (ID) and of the creationist movement in general, and is an activist in the American creation-evolution controversy.


  • ...what I want to happen to religion in the future is this: I want it to be like bowling. It's a hobby, something some people will enjoy, that has some virtues to it, that will have its own institutions and its traditions and its own television programming, and that families will enjoy together. It's not something I want to ban or that should affect hiring and firing decisions, or that interferes with public policy. It will be perfectly harmless as long as we don't elect our politicians on the basis of their bowling score, or go to war with people who play nine-pin instead of ten-pin, or use folklore about backspin to make decrees about how biology works.
    • From an interview about religion in Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed
  • This does not mean that scientists can't be religious. We can encompass irrational beliefs without regret and without obligation—I can, actually, look at my kids in a different way than I would an experimental subject under my microscope. I also do not pretend that I view my children rationally and objectively, untainted by emotion or history, and I'm not ashamed of that at all. So, a scientist should have no problem demanding one standard of logic and evidence in the lab, and dropping that demand when they go to church on Sunday.
  • People who say this cracker is literally and physically the body of their god and that I'm doing this great act of heresy and sacrilege and horror -- even though I didn't actually do anything to it -- is disturbing. It's like discovering there are witch doctors lurking in your community and they've been doing weird practices.
  • Nothing must be held sacred. Question everything. God is not great, Jesus is not your lord, you are not disciples of any charismatic prophet. You are all human beings who must make your way through your life by thinking and learning, and you have the job of advancing humanity's knowledge by winnowing out the errors of past generations and finding deeper understanding of reality. You will not find wisdom in rituals and sacraments and dogma, which build only self-satisfied ignorance, but you can find truth by looking at your world with fresh eyes and a questioning mind.
  • Look at the bible as a pastiche, a collection of mutually and often internally inconsistent fragments slapped together for crude reasons of politics and art and priestly self-promotion and sometimes beauty and a lot of chest-thumping tribalism, and through that lens, it makes a lot of sense. It does tell us something important…about us, not some fantastic mythological being. It tells us that we are fractious, arrogant, scrappy people who sometimes accomplish great things and more often cause grief and pain to one another. We want to be special in a universe that is uncaring and cold, and in which the nature of our existence is a transient flicker, so we invent these strange stories of grand beginnings, like every orphan dreaming that they are the children of kings who will one day ride up on a white horse and take them away to a beautiful palace and a rich and healthy family that will love them forever. We are not princes of the earth, we are the descendants of worms, and any nobility must be earned.

Notes and references

  1. PZ Myers Biology Faculty from University of Minnesota Morris

External links

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