Can PZ Myers Change His Ways? Should He?

I've been critical of PZ Myers for five principled reasons: 1) he doesn't understand the mind of the believer, 2) he treats people who disagree as if they are morons, 3) he's a divisive force within the ranks of atheism, 4) he panders to the younger baser type atheist audience, and 5) he doesn't much value the contributions of people like me who deal with Christians on their own terms. I don't understand his motivations. He may like the power and the money that come from having a large audience. Or, it just may be his personality. He may be an ideologue by nature, an extremist, the type of person who can usually make a big difference. Can he change his ways? Should he? That's the question here. One thing is sure, more atheists are speaking out against him and his ways. John Draper, an important Canadian atheist blogger known as the Cobourg Atheist, recently said of him:
According to PZ you either agree with him or you are the scum of the earth. If anyone is giving atheists a bad reputation it's PZ - he shows no tolerance or respect for anyone other than himself. Link.
On the right-hand sidebar of the Cobourg Atheist site there is a "Comment on PZ Myers," where Draper says:
Two of the values that I cherish are tolerance and a willingness to listen to others. On this site, no dissenting comment is deleted or blasted. Other bloggers are not so tolerant with the worst offender being PZ Myers. He is arrogant, smug, unwilling to listen, juvenile and worst of all intolerant. I am embarrassed to say that he is also an atheist but I am not the only one to think like this - John Loftus at Debunking Christianity has spoken out. Link.
Take for example a somewhat typical post where I agree with PZ about gun control titled, "Is There a Way to Impeach Scalia?" PZ's rhetoric against people he disagrees with is particularly abrasive here:
Our legal leadership consists of brain-damaged, narrowly literal-minded amoral morons who worship an 18th century scrap of paper. Link.
The problem is that the only reason PZ gives for disagreeing with Scalia is that he is inconsistent:
So no head axes, and no artillery...but the right to keep and bear arms can be extended to fucking rocket launchers.
Again, I agree with PZ against allowing American citizens to possess rocket launchers. It's just that he gives no credence to why Supreme Court Justice Scalia thinks there is no inconsistency with his position. PZ offers no argument beyond this. But my main point is that this is the same rhetoric PZ will use against anyone he disagrees with, at least more often than not. And he will use it against others without trying to understand why they think the way they do. He just knows he's right. Others are complete and utter brainless fools.

People like Scalia who disagree are not brainless fools. They are wrong. They are not morons. If you want to prove the charge that Scalia is a moron then you ought to try to understand and argue against his legal philosophy. I strongly suspect PZ cannot do that, just as he cannot argue against Christian theology.

Someone might respond by asking why I care. After all, I agree with PZ against Scalia and I probably cannot do much better than PZ in arguing head to head with Scalia about his legal philosophy. So in some sense I don't care. I don't have to understand Scalia's legal philosophy and argue against it before I can disagree with him. Neither does PZ.

There lies the problem.

Do we need to be experts in a field of study before we write on it? No, I don't think so at all, especially when it comes to blogging. Many of the best bloggers do have an expertise in at least one field of study though. For PZ it's the field of evolutionary developmental biology. For me it's Christian theology. The difference is that I don't usually write about politics or evolution because I'm not an expert in these fields of study (I have a modicum of understanding of both). PZ however, regularly writes about, well, anything and everything. Another difference is that even in my field of expertise I don't call others morons or brain-dead, at least, such occasions are very rare (the term "delusion" has to do with believing against overwhelming evidence). PZ however, repeatedly says such things about others in fields of study where he is no expert at all.

Granted, PZ is an expert in a very important field of study, one that's more interesting and makes a more devastating case than I could produce against religion or Christianity. Sir_russ says as much when he wrote:
Let me make this as plain a I can: all by itself, evolutionary theory debunks Christianity.

Evolutionary theory tells us beyond doubt that no first humans ever existed. There was no Adam and Eve. There was no original sin. Mankind has not inherited a sinful nature. There was no need for an atonement. So, if a person named Jesus actually existed his life and death were only the life and death of a human being. Evolutionary theory tells us that the Jesus stories as Christian relate in Sunday school are myths, legends and fairy tales. Link.
But PZ's expertise in one area doesn't transfer into the areas of politics, economics, philosophy, ethics, or a number of others.

For the record, outside of his expertise PZ is usually right, at least as far as I can tell from reading a limited number of his posts. But he doesn't adequately justify his positions outside of his expertise. Sometimes he doesn't even try to reason against people who disagree, including atheists. He just tries to bully us into submission. He's a divisive force. You are either in his camp or out of it. There is a black or white flavor to his extremism, and that is what I oppose. He usually doesn't even refer to experts in other fields of study when speaking on those topics. In fact, in one of his posts he can think of no better philosophical atheists to mention than Christopher Hallquist, Daniel Fincke and Matt Dillahunty. Come on now. I have nothing against Hallquist or Dillahunty, but mentioning them when there are so many other better philosophical atheists is just plain dumb, or nepotism, or both.

Still, since I'm opposed to that kind of black or white thinking, I must ask if I'm wrong about him. Should I embrace his approach and agree to disagree? Should I stop criticizing him by acknowledging his effectiveness, even though he has pretty much assigned people who criticize him to the outskirts of the atheist camp? Can we live with this? Should we?

Hank Fox, the "Blue Collar Atheist" at Freethought Blogs provides a good justification for what PZ does:
I can't speak for PZ, but for me, converting Christians to atheism is nowhere in my game plan. I can't say it's a waste of time and energy to try, because most of the atheists I know personally are converted Christians. So there must be SOMETHING reaching the edge demographic.

But the most useful strategy, seems to me, is to reach young people. Those still open-minded enough to really THINK about the issues, and come to their own independent conclusion.

The main goal of activist atheism should be a generational change (which takes longer but is easier), with a campaign of conversion coming second.

To reach those young people, original approaches such as humor and showmanship work very well. You get their attention, show them there's an option other than religion, and THEY do the thinking that leads them along the path to atheism.

Regarding that last, the really cool part of the whole thing is that all the rational arguments are already on our side. You don't have to persuade or browbeat or brainwash young people, you only have to call their attention to the theism-atheism divide, and they come eventually to their own independent conclusion ... which, given the basis of religion, trends toward disbelief. Link.
If this represents PZ's approach then he's reaching out to the younger generation before their brainwashing is complete. He's reaching a demographic that is somewhat of an uninformed one, an impressionable one, a largely angry one. This demographic will usually, more often than not, accept what an authority figure says if he says it with a cocksure attitude of certainty. Given PZ's popularity his efforts are successful among this demographic. He is rallying the troops. Of course, I think this is cult-like behavior coming from an egotist, something I would consider to be dangerous if I didn't agree with PZ so much.

Nonetheless, can it be that we should stop trying to change the ways of PZ Myers and embrace them for their effectiveness, even if we don't like them? Should he change his ways? If he won't change, should we accept him despite his ways and stop criticizing him?

Damn it all. Sometimes I'm just too nice. If I were like PZ then this would be a much more interesting fight. But I'm not. Compared to him I'm a voice of reason. He's probably best described as an atheist populist.