Why PZ Myers is off my reading list

ImageSummary: 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.]
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PZ Myers’ Grenade

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.
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