Summary: PZ Myers has created a “rude” environment on his blog, where the emphasis on ridicule and insult can obscure the nuances that separate good scholarship from pseudo-scholarship.
[EDIT– It has been pointed out to me (see comments) that some of my generalizations in this post are unfair. I agree with the assessment. My comments below are motivated by a particularly bad experience in which I was heckled by a few participants, one of whom trotted out some literature from a holocaust denial publisher, which left me somewhat enraged. In this specific experience, constructive discussion was simply unable to gain a foothold amidst the cacophony. This does not change my critique of Pharyngula’s general style as a community, which echoes (and amplifies) the style of denunciation and ridicule that appears in PZ’s own writing. I don’t think this style is a good representation of science and it interferes with the mission of public understanding.] Continue reading →
Several days ago, popular Atheist blogger PZ Myers made some incendiary claims on his site Pharyngula. Myers asked, “What do you do when someone pulls the pin and hands you a grenade?” Probably the worst response is to throw the grenade into a large crowd. But that’s what Myers did by posting criminal allegations on his blog — specifically, he posted an anonymous allegation of rape made against a popular author and speaker. In spite of the fractured culture that’s emerged in the skeptic/Atheist blogosphere, I like Pharyngula and I usually enjoy Myers’ writing. This time, I think there’s a consensus that he made a mistake (I’ll avoid linking to other blogs since there’s a lot of shouting about who’s buddies with whom). From my perspective, PZ’s question about the grenade should be translated into a more practical wording:
How should an individual or association respond to private allegations of criminal conduct?
There’s a quick answer (and I’ll offer more detailed explanations below): In general, if you have knowledge of a crime, you should immediately speak to a law enforcement representative and/or consult with an attorney before taking any action or making any public disclosures. Now since PZ is a blogger — and therefore arguably classifiable as some form of journalist — there may be other appropriate steps. Continue reading →