PZ Myers

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Paul Myers, 2010

Paul Zachary "PZ" Myers (born March 9, 1957) is an American biology professor at the University of Minnesota Morris (UMM) and the author of the science blog Pharyngula, who works with zebrafish in the field of evolutionary developmental biology (evo-devo), and also cultivates an interest in cephalopods.


  • This does not mean that scientists can't be religious. We can encompass irrational beliefs without regret and without obligation—I can, actually, look at my kids in a different way than I would an experimental subject under my microscope. I also do not pretend that I view my children rationally and objectively, untainted by emotion or history, and I'm not ashamed of that at all. So, a scientist should have no problem demanding one standard of logic and evidence in the lab, and dropping that demand when they go to church on Sunday.
  • If you've got a religious belief that withers in the face of observations of the natural world, you ought to rethink your beliefs — rethinking the world isn't an option.
  • ...what I want to happen to religion in the future is this: I want it to be like bowling. It's a hobby, something some people will enjoy, that has some virtues to it, that will have its own institutions and its traditions and its own television programming, and that families will enjoy together. It's not something I want to ban or that should affect hiring and firing decisions, or that interferes with public policy. It will be perfectly harmless as long as we don't elect our politicians on the basis of their bowling score, or go to war with people who play nine-pin instead of ten-pin, or use folklore about backspin to make decrees about how biology works.
  • Look at the bible as a pastiche, a collection of mutually and often internally inconsistent fragments slapped together for crude reasons of politics and art and priestly self-promotion and sometimes beauty and a lot of chest-thumping tribalism, and through that lens, it makes a lot of sense. It does tell us something important…about us, not some fantastic mythological being. It tells us that we are fractious, arrogant, scrappy people who sometimes accomplish great things and more often cause grief and pain to one another. We want to be special in a universe that is uncaring and cold, and in which the nature of our existence is a transient flicker, so we invent these strange stories of grand beginnings, like every orphan dreaming that they are the children of kings who will one day ride up on a white horse and take them away to a beautiful palace and a rich and healthy family that will love them forever. We are not princes of the earth, we are the descendants of worms, and any nobility must be earned.
  • People who say this cracker is literally and physically the body of their god and that I'm doing this great act of heresy and sacrilege and horror -- even though I didn't actually do anything to it -- is disturbing. It's like discovering there are witch doctors lurking in your community and they've been doing weird practices.
  • Nothing must be held sacred. Question everything. God is not great, Jesus is not your lord, you are not disciples of any charismatic prophet. You are all human beings who must make your way through your life by thinking and learning, and you have the job of advancing humanity's knowledge by winnowing out the errors of past generations and finding deeper understanding of reality. You will not find wisdom in rituals and sacraments and dogma, which build only self-satisfied ignorance, but you can find truth by looking at your world with fresh eyes and a questioning mind.
  • I have been told that my position won't win the creationist court cases. Do you think I care? I didn't become a scientist because I want to impress lawyers. The word for people who are neutral about truth is "liars".
  • Religion is a barbarous obsidian knife poised over our chests — put it in a cabinet and admire it as a work of art, but don't ever wield the damned thing ever again.
  • If a scientist saw a cataclysm coming, say a meteor on collision course for earth in 2050, we wouldn’t be saying, “Hallelujah, physics is true, bring it on! Our faith in mathematics is strengthened!” We’d be trying to stop it. Which makes the Christian reaction puzzling. If I actually believed Jesus was coming to end the world, I’d be preparing by stocking up on timber and nails. They were pretty effective last time.
  • What has occurred over the course of the last few centuries is a growing (but by no means universal or certain) recognition that science gets the job done, while religion makes excuses. Sometimes they are very pretty excuses that capture the imagination of the public, but ultimately, when you want to win a war or heal a dying child or get rich from a discovery or explore Antarctica, you turn to science and reason, or you fail.
  • We're confronted all the time with evolving viruses and bacteria. The Red Queen really rules the biological world, and we have to keep running just to keep up pace with the changing microorganisms. Yet policymakers and the public deny vaccination, and evolution itself, and question the value of biomedical research. Maybe they don't believe in evolution, but the microorganisms trying to kill us are taking full advantage of it.
  • Faith is a vice pretending to be a virtue, its lies and errors and frothy nonsense deluding us and distracting us from action. There's no salvation in wishful thinking, only inertia. Faith is the enemy of reason. The one thing every single one of us here must be united in despising is faith. It's the barren refuge of the vacuous, the fearful, the frauds, and the obstacles to accomplishment.
    • Reason Rally speech, National Mall, Washington, DC, 2012-03-24
  • "Human beings are still fish."
    • During an interview for Ray Comfort's "Evolution vs. God" (2013), after explaining that Comfort was wrong to disregard the Lenski experiment on the grounds that Lenski's bacteria "are still just bacteria". After Comfort asked him again, "Humans beings are fish?", Myers replied again "Yes, of course they are."
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