Myers: The response has done nothing but confirm it: I have to do something. I'm not going to just let this disappear. It's just so darned weird that they're demanding that I offer this respect to a symbol that means nothing to me. Something will be done. It won't be gross. It won't be totally tasteless, but yeah, I'll do something that shows this cracker has no power. This cracker is nothing.
And this is after getting a couple death threats, one threat that got a woman fired because her husband sent it.
PZ did succeed in getting a lot of people's attention, but desecrating the cracker now wouldn't add a damn thing to the point made by PZ in his first post. He didn't have to do it to get the reaction he should have expected doing it would get him. It was Bill Donohue who drove home PZ's point and Donohue and his emailing followers are too blind to see it: getting upset over a cracker is insane and some people are that insane. But also, getting angry and taking it out on a cracker is just as useless and crazy. Some of PZ's old allies are starting to turn against him on this issue. Unless PZ is going to do something funny or with some point to it, then there's no reason to abuse the cracker. Yet, if he doesn't, it will look like he was intimidated by all this.
Frankly, I would be intimidated. Death threats do that to me. By threatening violence they do indeed get a kind of respect -- the respect one gives a dangerous rattlesnakes one avoids stepping on, a respect that is only born of fear. On the other hand, once you've got that much attention it would be such a waste not to use it to make a strong point. But what point? Some ideas for dealing with the issue can be found on youTube:
This isn't over.
Saying that "PZ deliberately acted like an outrageous asshole," is a fair criticism, but he got himself a lot of attention (more than the rest of us can get - I wish my blog got read so much, don't you?) -- the question, the real test, is if he can do anything useful with that attention.
PZ has a chance to redeem himself if he does something smart with the crackers he gets (if any). And he doesn't really need to get any - he can buy unconsecrated crackers from any number of online suppliers and just say they're consecrated. Even if he does get crackers, how can he be sure they're consecrated?
He could challenge Christians to tell which crackers are consecrated and which aren't. He could do scientific tests on them -- which might involve burning them. He could do a comedy bit where the cracker talks like Mr. Bill: "Eat me! Eat me! I'm your savory Lard -- Oh nooo!!!"
I sure hope he doesn't merely stomp on a cracker -- that would be so pointless.
If you've been reading PZ's blog you already know that he has published some of the emails he has gotten. Those are the mind sets of people who are now paying attention. Most of the emailers seem to have been effectively lied to about the context of PZ's remarks. Any video should fill them in on the context, the student who took the cracker, the original post Bill Donohue objected to and how crazy it is to take a cheap cracker and because some priest mumbles some mumbo jumbo over it some people think it is more than it really is.
Several emails made reference to how some Muslims reacted to the Danish Cartoonists and stories of Korans being pissed on. For example, you'll find comments like this in PZ's collection of emails:
If he is generally against religion, I suggest that he show the courage of that position by publicly using a copy of the Koran to wipe his behind. If he plans to do so, please let me know so I can give prior notice to the Muslim communities in your State AND recommend to a mathematics instructor I know to apply to fill the sudden vacancy of Dr. Myers' position.
I seriously doubt that he would ask someone to get him a Koran from a mosque or a copy of the Torah from a synagogue in order to publicly desecrate them since, after all, they're only pieces of paper with ink on them. Asking for the Koran would probably bring him and the U of M physical harm. Asking for a Torah would bring a swift lawsuit from the ADL. Right now, all he's getting is a public scolding from the Catholic League and some nasty e-mails. Therefore, I hope the U of M sees this for what it is -- a serious offense against Catholics -- and takes appropriate action.
The way that some emailers aspired to persecution might be something worth addressing:
You are a monster. We need another Inquisition to root out idiots like you (and anyway, the Church only excommunicated heretics and witches, then handed them over to the state for punishment. We never executed them directly). How dare you insult the Lord God like that. Losers like you will suffer. I hope and pray that this will loose you your job and your career.
How does one meet a mind like that with any sympathy? The sympathy that Neil degrasse Tyson called for:
I don't think you do engage them, you look past them to those you can sympathize with, and just let them know what exists in their church.
PZ did it. A picture is up here.
My favorite PZ quote from The Great Desecration:
I think if I were truly evil, I would have to demand that all of my acolytes be celibate, but would turn a blind eye to any sexual depravities they might commit. If I wanted to be an evil hypocrite, I'd drape myself in expensive jeweled robes and live in an ornate palace while telling all my followers that poverty is a virtue. If I wanted to commit world-class evil, I'd undermine efforts at family planning by the poor, especially if I could simultaneously enable the spread of deadly diseases. And if I wanted to be so evil that I would commit a devastating crime against the whole of the human race, twisting the minds of children into ignorance and hatred, I would be promoting the indoctrination of religion in children's upbringing, and fomenting hatred against anyone who dared speak out in defiance.
Bill Donohue responded with a press release, MYERS DESECRATES THE EUCHARIST. It claims, among other things, that:
"A formal complaint against Myers has already been made. What he did--in both word and deed--constitutes a bias incident, as defined by the University of Minnesota. The policy says that 'Expressions of disrespectful bias, hate, harassment or hostility against an individual, group or their property because of the individual or group's actual or perceived race, color, creed, religion...can be forms of discrimination. Expressions vary, and can be in the form of language, words, signs, symbols, threats, or actions that could potentially cause alarm, anger, fear, or resentment in others...even when presented as a joke.'
"The University must now take action and apply the appropriate sanction. We are contacting the president, Board of Regents and the Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action Office at the school, as well as Minnesota's governor and both houses of the state legislature; the Catholic community in Minnesota is also being contacted. Moreover, we are also contacting Muslim groups nationwide.
"It is important for Catholics to know that the University of Minnesota will not tolerate the deliberate destruction of the Eucharist by one of its faculty. Just as African Americans would not tolerate the burning of a cross, and Jews would not tolerate the display of swastikas, Catholics will not tolerate the desecration of the Eucharist."
Thing is, PZ included the "God Delusion," a symbol of his own beliefs, in the "great desecration." It might save his ass. What he did isn't a lone attack on Catholicism, but on holding anything sacred in an abstract sense. I don't know how much that will mean in the end.
No expulsion for UCF student who stole Eucharist wafer