There’s probably a lot of truth in the dictum that you should avoid criticising your enemy because it only gives them publicity. The corollary of this may be than its worth antagonising your enemy as their responding outrage will give your own viewpoint more publicity.
The issue of criticism came up with many scientists as they sought the best way to respond to the anti-science attacks made in Ben Stein’s creationist film Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. The American Biologist PZ Myers has often been criticised for his strong defense of science and frequent attacks on creationism and the excesses of religion. Whatever you views on how the response to such issues should be framed, or even whether there should be a response, you have to admit that PZ Myers is very successful in getting his view across. His blog is the most poplar science blog on the internet.
Why is Pharyngulaso popular? How has it come to the attention of so many people. Part of the answer must surely be the attacks and criticism (not to mention death threats) PZ Myers gets from supporters of creationism and religious extremism. Have a look at the Google Trends graph below showing search volumes for PZ Myers over the last 12 month.
Expelled and wafer “hate crimes”
The first boost came last March when the producers of Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed expelled Myers from a screening of their film (see Should Dawkins have been Expelled?). Despite the fact that an interview with Myers was included in the film and he is thanked in the credits! At the same time they didn’t recognise Myers guest, Richard Dawkins, and allowed him in!
The second boost came this month after PZ Myers brought to our attention (IT’S A FRACKIN’ CRACKER!) the treatment of a student, Webster Cook, at the University of Central Florida who had taken a wafer out of a Catholic mass. (For his story have a listen to the interview on Free Thought Radio). Myers pointed out how ridiculous the reaction had been (it included death threats, accusation of hate crime and attempts to expel the student from his university). He also offered to carry out his own desecration of any wafers Catholics sent him. (For details of the actual “desecration,” which in the interests of fairness was also carried out on pages from the Qur’an and The God Delusion, have a look at The Great Desecration.)
Now Myers has been subjected to a number of death threats and a campaign, orchestrated by the Catholic League, to have him sacked from his job at the University of Minnesota. (See the response of his University Chancellor).
Of course these campaigns are silly, and some aspects are criminal. But one thing they have achieved has been to create many new readers for PZ Myer’s blog!
As for the other side – Ben Stein and his film received a peak in Google searches during April but Bill Donohue and his Catholic League appears to have not yet received any increased interest as a result of their attacks.
By the way – Myers also produces some excellent posts describing advances in science. Have a look at Epigenetics which describes an exciting new develoopment in evolutionary science.
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An evil atheist and a Catholic priest have a conversation…
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Guilty by Association