My Dinner Date with PZ Myers

I have no camera, but I do have an iMac.  Apologies for any legibility issues, it says, “Notice: No Squid!  This is Bullshit!  PZ Myers.”

That’s the Gideon Bible what I stole and kept because it was green.  I stole it because that’s generally my MO in hotels, but I didn’t throw it away because it was green and I didn’t have a Bible to desecrate reference.  I got it signed because I had the brilliant idea at midnight when talking to a friend who was super jealous he couldn’t go.

I’ll probably do a separate post about the whole conference thing, but the dinner was really neat.  Firstly, there was someone else wearing the Squid vs. Noah shirt, and there was a very cool and interesting guy from Anchorage/Irvine/England who was wearing lime green.  I have forgotten his name.  There was also Phil Zuckerman and a cute blonde guy in glasses, who were sitting a bit down the table but occasionally joined in.

But dinner was really cool because it was basically just hanging out with some really interesting smart people who enjoyed snark.  And I learned new things about PZ.  We hit a broad range of topics but I’ll give the highlights.

We talked about his experiments with zebrafish.  Apparently fish in captivity are really dumb, and fish in the wild are really clever.  I’m not sure how much to talk about because apparently some jerkface stole something about the zebrafish experiments from PZ’s blog and published it so I don’t want to spoil anything.  Suffice to say we spent a long time talking about zebrafish and it was pretty interesting.

We talked about Neanderthals.  I asked how do we decide that Neanderthals are a different species from us since we could interbreed, to which PZ gave the witty reply that they are all dead, that’s how.  I’m fond of Neanderthals because they had red hair.

We talked about the Uncanny Valley and the creepy proportions of the Shroud of Turin.  And how the fingers look like they’re made of rubber.  Funny Alaskan said they were tentacles, and I made a jab about Onanism with tentacles for fingers and PZ drifted into a reverie for a moment or two.

I got to be directly catty about the comments in favor of the genital nicking on the part of pediatrics.  I feel often that my comments are fairly ignored over there, which isn’t that big of a deal, comments seem mostly about hearing yourself talk anyway, but it was nice to feel heard on the issue.

I found out PZ’s opinion on Andrew Sullivan (nuanced), Episcopalians (relatively OK with), men hijacking any thread about women to make it all about them and their issues (aware of), Dr. Who (for), Macs (for), Linux (against!), PZed (against!), Australians (arrogant bastards insist on saying PZed), and steak (medium).

I also got to see the cover of his upcoming book which apparently needs to be written.  I give the cover a B+.  It has tentacles, an elephant and a great deal of purple, but it doesn’t have PZ and there’s something weird about the color scheme in general.  I suggested he get a quote from Trophy Wife TM and if that happens I’m just going to go ahead and claim credit right now.

I never quite figured out what he was vaguely irritated with Michael Shermer for.  Michael Shermer, by the way, looks eerily like Jonathan Pryce and has a weird arrogant swagger to him that is both compelling and a bit unsettling.  He was super nice when I talked to him and I got his newest book, so nothing personal there, just an observation.

I also saw PZ at lunch where he said he knew what his grandmother’s face looked like when she orgasmed, made fun of Utah and Mormons, and laughed heartily at my True Stories About Atheism.  I made my mother’s friend cry when I told her I was an atheist.  Hysterically she asked, “Don’t you want to get married and have a family?!”  I told my ex-Catholic mother when she was taking me to college that I was atheist and she said, “I’m so disappointed you don’t believe you’re going to Hell.  Wait, that came out wrong.”

There was lots more and I don’t remember it right now, but if I think of it, I promise I’ll add it.  It was totally worth the money.  And not just for PZ but for the other interesting people who also wanted to have dinner with PZ.  It was all very snarky and civilized.

I forgot to ask him if he’ll do a bit appearance in Bible Con, my script making fun of Christians and atheists, if it actually gets made.

EDIT: The rest of the story: http://ashleyfmiller.wordpress.com/2010/05/11/ocfa-conference-2010-where-i-met-pz/

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About ashleyfmiller

I write, give occasional speeches, and am currently getting my PhD in Mass Communications from South Carolina. Before going back to school, I worked in Los Angeles in reality tv, web series, and film.

Posted on May 9, 2010, in atheism, Politics, Posts Worth Going Back and Reading, Real Life, Religion and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 57 Comments.

  1. NoAstronomer

    I don’t usually, well ever, take the bibles. I write in them, put post it notes highlighting various interesting sections that sort of thing.

    • ashleyfmiller

      I’m just so icked out that they’re there that I feel obligated to throw them out.

      At the conference there was a guy who took Gideon bibles from all the hotels he stayed at, drilled big holes through the middle, and retitled them “Holey Bible – You can see right through it”.

    • I like the idea of sticking a parental advisory on the front covers: “Warning: this book contains genocide, murder, torture, rape, incest, genital mutilation… superstition,…”
      You could give chapter and verse so they could avoid those passages ;) .

  2. I haven’t ever taken the hotel bibles, but I like to hide them in other places in the room, I figure the cleaning staff get a kick out of that.

  3. did you know that the Gideons fully intend for you to take one home with you?

    • ashleyfmiller

      Yeah, it’s not really an effective form of protest, I more do it because I feel the need to. I think the hotels usually have a bunch on hand to replace the ones that get taken, so I’m not even saving someone (other than myself) from having to look at it.

      • yea one day….your last day on the planet…you will wish you had read that bible and accepted JESUS who is THE WAY…THE TRUTH…AND THE LIFE.

        I was once where you are now, so i understand how it is…..I to was so totally shocked to find out that the JESUS stuff is actually true.

        life has been so unbelievable every since…and having ever lasting life now
        cant wait for my last day on the planet now

        because i know where i am going….and i know where you are going to…but its not to late. read the book.

      • ashleyfmiller

        @Larry

        A) You are a troll
        B) I have read that book
        C) To and too are different words
        D) You have no empirical evidence that the Jesus stuff is true
        E) The way you’re looking forward to your own death is an example of the dangerous thinking your cult promotes

      • With regard to having “them” on hand… the Gideons actually come by on a regular basis and are permitted by the hotel establishment to place the bibles in the rooms. When they find one removed they make a specific point to pray for whoever you may be because they know you are that much closer to read it. The few of them that I have met have expressed little concern over the treatment of the bibles which they place in hotel rooms. Rather, they are glad that you have one. From their perspective, they are looking forward to the day that you least expect their God to love you and win your heart.

      • Larry, jesus is waiting, he wants you to come home now, today looks to be your big homecoming day, last day on the planet… bye bye ya whackaloon. Or is your faith not quite that big…. good luck!

  4. I too collect Gideon Bibles. I would like to gather with others who do this so we can pool our resources and turn the Bibles into a glorious scuplture. (I was thinking along the lines of a double-helix, but we’ll see.)

  5. Circe of the Godless

    The best way is to take a highliter pen & highlite all the mysogynistic, bigoted, homophobic verses, dog tag the pages, then leave there for the next guest to find. Draw people’s attention to the good stuff.

  6. PZed. PZed. PZed.

    There.

    And to quote Oppenheimer re medium: “Are you sure you wouldn’t rather try the fish?” (To be fair, he did say that to someone who ordered well done.)

    men hijacking any thread about women to make it all about them and their issues

    Fucktards.

    • ashleyfmiller

      I had the fish, it was OK, but then I’ve never willingly eaten something cooked above medium rare. The menu was set and the choices weren’t too compelling. I don’t even remember if he ordered it that way, there was just a very large semi-obnoxious popsicle stick thing jabbed into the meat that said medium in large pretentious letters.

  7. You all have an incredible about of antipathy. If it is all superstition, wouldn’t you a little more mature to ignore it. You hate what you deny, which is comical.

    • ashleyfmiller

      Because the fact that the country is dominated by Christians and their way of life is something I feel the need to protest against. It has little to do with their personal beliefs and everything to do with how they want to invade my life with them.

      • Whether the country is dominated by Christians is highly debatable. True, many people claim Christianity. True, the founding fathers were mostly Christians and founding documents reveal a Christian worldview. True, there are tons of churches, and the religious right is a loud voice in the political arena. False, because the vast majority of Americans don’t believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus (Paul said that if it wasn’t true, the whole thing was worthless). False, because most Americans are more dominated by material goods than any religion. False, because the trend in politics and the court is to reject Christianity in favor of anything else.
        Your statement is silly and false. Dominated sounds like we live in a different era or different country. If you are angered because they have a voice, go live somewhere without freedom of speech.
        Protesting their way of life? Inasmuch as it is Christian, it means loving your neighbor, sacrificing yourself for others, accepting that you have faults, accepting forgiveness, etc. Sounds like a wretched and horrible way of life.
        Invade your life? The hyperbole of anti-Christians knows no bounds. In the same way, my life is invaded by countless hosts of people and groups who are allowed to have a voice in a free country.

        Like I said, the antipathy is incredible.

      • Threedom,

        Churches are subsidized through taxation (they don’t pay taxes and, therefore, receive services fjor which others are forced to pay); christians demand that their baseless beliefs get enforced by law (eg.anti-gay marriage); christians corrupt pubic education by having their nonsensical beliefs (like creationism) taught as fact.

        There…just off the top of my head…a few ways that christians invade the lives of others.

    • ashleyfmiller

      WordPress only embeds comments so much, so I’m replying back here.

      When gay marriage is legal and creationism isn’t taught in public schools, when christian militias and lone gunmen are no longer a terrorist threat, I’ll believe that my life and country aren’t made worse by Christianity.

      So if they stop putting bibles in my hotel rooms, and stop preventing me from marrying whatever consenting adult I’d like, and stop telling me what I can buy on Sundays, and stop telling me that I’ve got to accept the teaching of mythology in my science classrooms, I’ll stop complaining about them.

    • You’re a pretentious douchebag, threedom. “You hate what you deny, which is comical.” (I’m sorry, but this is really shitty sentence construction: “To hate what you deny is comical.” would sound better and the infinitive would still be able to have that haughty and condescending tone that you seem to enjoy which the gerund “hating” wouldn’t carry as well.) I don’t see why it would be particularly comical. If an idea has a demonstrably negative impact on you and other people around you (and it does–opposition to gay marriage, science, equality, etc.), I do not see why one would not find the idea, or at least certain variations of the idea, contemptible whether or not it’s true. For example, I am relatively doubtless that most of the people in Europe who oppose immigration from Muslim majority countries do not believe in Islam. Still, though, many hate Islam and oppose the immigration. I do not find this fact ridiculous, but maybe you’ll get a laugh out of it.

      Your second comment is a collection of fallacies. Oh, let me name them: no true Scotsman right out of the gate (“claim Christianity”, but aren’t *really* Christians, right?), red herring (“don’t believe in the bodily resurrection”, even though it has no bearing on the argument or whether or not the person actually believes in Christianity as a whole unless you couple this with the previous fallacy), another red herring (“dominated by material goods” has no bearing on whether the person in question believes in Christianity or not), straw-man (domination does not equal free speech), equivocation (Christians as the ideal, as opposed to the reality, but you’ll probably say I got it all wrong then couple it with your no true Scotsman fallacy), and it ends with yet another example of the straw-man (hint: the issue is that many Christians oppose egalitarian measure because of Christianity, not that they should not have free speech). Probably a nasty case of projection as well (oh darn, I can’t believe those heathens have free speech–they’d be at the fires if it were just a few hundred years ago!).

      Your main argumentation error is in your unwarranted assumption that it is free speech that bothers those who dislike Christianity. I can see why a person would do this since it makes your argument easier (they’re freedom-hating, godless commies after all!), but the issue is nowhere near as clear cut as you try to make it. Most atheists acknowledge that some Christians are made better because of their beliefs and do not oppose egalitarian measures. That, however, does not nullify the fact that most oppose them because of Christianity. If Christianity did not exist, I seriously doubt Proposition 8 would have existed, Ken Ham would have opened the Creation Museum, or retired military chaplains would have sent a letter opposing the repealing of “don’t ask, don’t tell”. It is not that Christianity has never done good, but that it has co-opted goodness under its banner so that many believers think that there cannot be good without Christianity, thus go out of their way to oppose things that they think will dilute their particular brand of Christianity. And it is not that Christianity is the cause of evil in the world, it is simply the cause of many unnecessary evils.

      “Like I said, the antipathy is incredible.”
      Grow up. People dislike things and some of those things may be what you like or find important.

      • ashleyfmiller

        Well said.


      • You’re a pretentious douchebag, threedom. “You hate what you deny, which is comical.” (I’m sorry, but this is really shitty sentence construction: “To hate what you deny is comical.” would sound better and the infinitive would still be able to have that haughty and condescending tone that you seem to enjoy which the gerund “hating” wouldn’t carry as well.)

        Seriously? Calling someone pretentious and then having a go at their writing style?

        Not living in the US, I wouldn’t know, but I’d suspect that the truth of the matter is somewhere in between your 2 perspectives. My own views are probably closer to yours than threedom’s, but you sounded much more sanctimonious that (s)he did.

      • “Seriously? Calling someone pretentious and then having a go at their writing style?”
        Stylistic errors annoy me. I didn’t go after his spelling, which wasn’t really the point and didn’t bother me as much. I suppose Microsoft Word must be a pretentious piece of software as well if pointing out bad sentence construction is pretentious. If he hadn’t acted as condescendingly smug as he did, I doubt I would have cared enough to highlight the error.

        “Not living in the US, I wouldn’t know, but I’d suspect that the truth of the matter is somewhere in between your 2 perspectives. My own views are probably closer to yours than threedom’s, but you sounded much more sanctimonious that (s)he did.”
        I’m not sure what this would mean exactly: between “Christianity has some good qualities for some people but adds unnecessarily to the problems of many others” and “(true) Christianity can do no wrong.” He was burning one big straw-man argument the whole time (i.e. equivocating the condemnation of the free speech rights of Christians and the condemnation of their support of inequality), and if he continued, the argument probably would have turned into a Möbius strip of sorts, with him addressing how true Christians do x and how they aren’t really Christians because true Christians can do no wrong, others addressing the realities of fundamentalism, then him saying that they aren’t really Christians, etc.

        My style was acerbic, but the viewpoint was still relatively moderate (at least as moderate as a rant can get). You come across as a concern troll yourself (i.e. I’m on your side, but think about the tone). What makes you think that the correct viewpoint lay in the middle? Is the reason substantial or just a feeling?

  8. Whenever I stay at a hotel and find one of those bibbles…I throw it out in a trash can outside the hotel. That way others can’t become more delusional and I get a little revenge for having to live with those lies for years.

  9. 'Tis Himself

    Scott sez “I haven’t ever taken the hotel bibles, but I like to hide them in other places in the room, I figure the cleaning staff get a kick out of that.”

    I was a hotel housekeeping supervisor at one time. The housekeepers and I hated people who hid the Gideon Bible because we’d have to waste time checking in the usual places to make sure some jerk hadn’t decided to play silly games and hide the Bible before replacing it.

    The next time you’re in a hotel room and decided to hide the Gideon Bible, give a thought to the underpaid, overworked housekeeping staff who have to look for it. The chuckles you get from hiding the Bible aren’t worth the aggravation you caused the housekeepers.

  10. The myth-busters showed that phone books can bullet-proof a car.

    I think I need more bibles for my parallel experiment

  11. That was a joy to read.

    Also, I’m entirely jealous that you had so much face time with PZ. I saw him talk here in Maine, but for whatever inane reason I didn’t go to the bar afterward.

    • ashleyfmiller

      There were some ups and downs with this particular conference, it was obviously a young conference still finding its legs, but spending 50 bucks to get a 20 dollar dinner and face time with the speakers was a really cool option that more places should do. And, again, it was cool because there were other interesting people who wanted to talk to PZ at dinner too.

  12. Threedom said:

    Whether the country is dominated by Christians is highly debatable. True, many people claim Christianity. True, the founding fathers were mostly Christians and founding documents reveal a Christian worldview[citation needed]. True, there are tons of churches, and the religious right is a loud voice in the political arena. False, because the vast majority of Americans don’t believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus (Paul said that if it wasn’t true, the whole thing was worthless). False, because most Americans are more dominated by material goods than any religion. False, because the trend in politics and the court is to reject Christianity in favor of anything else.[citation needed]
    Your statement is silly and false.[citation needed] Dominated sounds like we live in a different era or different country. If you are angered because they have a voice, go live somewhere without freedom of speech.
    Protesting their way of life? Inasmuch as it is Christian, it means loving your neighbor, sacrificing yourself for others, accepting that you have faults, accepting forgiveness, etc.[citation needed] Sounds like a wretched and horrible way of life.

    Fixed that for you.

  13. ‘Tis said: “I was a hotel housekeeping supervisor at one time. The housekeepers and I hated people who hid the Gideon Bible because we’d have to waste time checking in the usual places to make sure some jerk hadn’t decided to play silly games and hide the Bible before replacing it.”

    If you say so Tis – but I make up for it by being exceptionally tidy. And it’s not like I hide the book someplace they wouldn’t have to clean anyway.

    And forgive this observation: if the bible is missing, the housekeepers look all over the room for it before deciding to replace it – so presumably they hate people who take the bible for whatever reason as much or more than people who hide it.

    The real villains here are the Gideons.

    • 'Tis Himself

      Never mind, Scott. You obviously don’t care about the people who have to deal with the consequences of your need to play silly games.

  14. When my Wife and I were on our (belated) honeymoon in India, we stayed in a very nice hotel in Jaipur. After we checked in and started putting our stuff away, I opened the drawer of the bedside table and found the Bhagavad Gita.

  15. I met PZ at the atheist convention in Melbourne but although I got a photo with him the scrum around him was too much for me and we didn’t get to chat. I probably should have tried harder but I’m not fond of crowds. Maybe another time.

    • ashleyfmiller

      I don’t do well in crowds either, the event was cool because everyone sat at tables and there were never big crowds and dinner was low key.

  16. I’m totally jaleous. I want your book! Did you think of that use for it?

    I’m really jaleous :) So awesome :)

  17. What the… “Australians arrogant bastards”? Just because sesame street can’t say the last letter properly. Everyone knows it should have been omega anyway.

    • ashleyfmiller

      Well, regardless of how they say the letter in general, PZ pronounces his name “PeeZee.” I think he was calling them arrogant (in a completely jocular way) because they didn’t either ask him how to pronounce it or wouldn’t pronounce it the way he prefers. It’s like if your name is “Ralph” but you pronounce it Raif, people who refuse and always call you Ralf are being kinda jerks.

  18. Fair enough. Having only read PeeZee’s writings, I would have called him PeeZed as well. It is one of the stranger differences batween the cultures as it is more significant than just an accent. And calling an Australian a bastard really is a term of endearment.

  19. While traveling (almost weekly) on business, I used to toss the Gideon Bible in the trash can. On one memorable stay at the Lord Beaverbrook Hotel in Fredericton, N.B., I found a very explicit sex manual in the bedside table and no Bible to be seen anywhere. I had a good chuckle and left it in place for the next occupant.

  20. “Linux (against!)”

    But… why?

    • I’m curious why he’s against it as well…

      • ashleyfmiller

        I think he just likes macs and isn’t into linux, I don’t think it’s more complicated than that. Plus, whenever you have the Mac vs PC argument, it’s always fun to agree that both are better than Linux.

  21. Heh. In Utah, you’ll get the Book of Mormon along with the Gideon.

  22. OMG I have the same shirt!

  23. “There was also Phil Zuckerman and a cute blonde guy in glasses, who were sitting a bit down the table but occasionally joined in.”

    I agree, the blond guy in glasses across from Phil IS totally cute. In fact, so cute, I married him ;).

  24. For the record, the founding fathers were not “mostly Christian!!” And why can outspoken Christians never construct a proper sentence?!?! Enough, already.

    “Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear.” –Thomas Jefferson

    George Washington could be fairly considered Christian by the “not a true Christian” ideals of Threesome-poster above. He was baptised as a baby and attended services with his wife as an adult. That is, until his rector chastised him for skipping out before communion every week. He never went back. So, perhaps, “bad Christian” for Washington. And as far as a Christian world-view, Washington consistently supported tolerance for everyone regardless of religious views or lack of them.

    John Adams believed in God and was, perhaps, the most religious of the founding fathers. But even he rejected orthodox Christianity and did not believe in the Trinity. Another “bad Christian” perhaps.

    Ben Franklin, one of my favorites, had a thing for French whores, which could probably fit in well with practicing Christian leaders, had they been boys, but not with the text of Christianity. Franklin definitely professed consistent belief in God, and even supported Christian preachers. But he claimed to support anyone who compels good works. He opposed the principle of salvation (the core of modern Christianity, perhaps?). Franklin expressed his respect for the teachings of Jesus, and also his doubt of Jesus’ divinity. So, again, Christian, but not really.

    Alexander Hamilton actually professed Christianity, and wandered around both Presbyterian and Episcopal churches. But he was famous for making jokes about God. Another “bad Christian” perhaps. Of course, on his deathbed after his final duel, neither the Episcopal nor the Presbyterian minister would minister last rites until he renounced dueling, which was forbidden by both religions.

    Those are the big five, in my mind. There are certainly no more substantial founding fathers than them. So where the hell are the Christians? And why do I expect creationist loons to actually do any homework to find out the truth? If they don’t care enough to take a biology class, they’re certainly not going to check their idiot pastor on historical accuracy. For expecting more of them, I’m as big of an idiot as any of them, I guess. :-(

  25. I usually just steal the pens and pads at hotels.

  26. Linux (against!)

    why?

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