left biblioblography: My Dinner With PZ Myers…

Monday, January 25, 2010

My Dinner With PZ Myers…

…okay, it was actually pizza and beer with approximately 20 other people – I was kinda going for the ‘My Dinner With Andre’ motif.

On Sunday January 24th, I drove down to De Anza college (about 9 minutes away from where I live) to see the good professor speak on Creationism And Complexity. And a good time was had by all. PZ spoke at length on a variety of topics dealing with creationism, deftly illustrating how they tend to cherry pick selected highlights to cast evolution in a poor light. One such example was the Stickleback fish – it turns out that there’s an off/on switch (yes, I’m simplifying it here) in the genome that activates whether or not they have the protective spines. Meyer and Behe dismissed this as ‘breaking and neutralizing’, not realizing the profound significance of this achievement.

The good professor also discussed the Banana Man (Dis)Comfort, and the word  ‘obtuse’ was used profusely on that topic. He also addressed the ‘no missing link’ argument, illustrating the many, many transitional fossil forms (including the seemingly unquestionable proof of whale evolution). He spoke on complex molecular models (at this point, unfortunately, the post-lunch drowsiness started to seep in, and I had to shake the glaze out).

PZ Myers handles his subjects well, both topical as well as audience. He speaks in that calm authoritative manner that comes from years of public speaking and being an educator, and it’s hard to picture him as the fire-breathing dragon his detractors portray him as.

The Q&A was interesting. One fellow brought up the concept of ‘using the bible to defeat the bible’, which I wanted to interject on (because when you tell a believer “The bible says it’s okay to kill this guy” or “the bible okays stoning disobedient children”, it comes out “The bible says it’s okay/okays blah-de-blah blah”), but I held my tongue. One fellow stood up, and asked a 5 minute question that, by the end of it, lost us all, and PZ had to ask what the question was. It boiled down to “What do you want US to do?” (Like we’re soldiers in an army, and PZ’s the general.) I asked him for a 15 to 30 second elevator speech for a response to the creationist trope, “how is the cell so complex?” The professor offered to sit down for an hour on the topic. Darn. I think elevator speeches are a distinct possibility for use, inasmuch as long involved talks aren’t really an American habit – we do so love sound bites. There were other questions to be sure, but they were mostly from the front row, and I was up in the 15th, and crane as I might, I didn’t catch them all.

(I’m doing this all from memory, so apologies if I’ve missed anything or in error.)

The turnout was somewhere in the vicinity of 50 people, and it was a nice mix, there was more older people (some snow on the mountain, and a few were missing shrubbery on the top), but there was enough young people, students, who attended.

We adjourned to B.J’s in Cupertino, a sports bar during a football game, perhaps not too strategic (a lot of roaring going on), but it wasn’t too bad. I introduced myself, adding that I’m also the Krystalline Apostate and mentioning this blog, to which the professor said (diplomatically) “Oh, yeah, sure.” Like he keeps track of everybody on the internet. (Facepalm)

I sat at the end of the table with 2 other fellows, and PZ gravitated over to us, probably because we were telling jokes and laughing uproariously (most of the rest were engaged in some somber discussion). I was corrected at least once, and I likely made a bit of a fool of myself  more than once (which is par for the course). We did talk of many serious matters as well, and the fellow who sat next to me spoke quite passionately about ‘spreading the word’ (my phrase, not his), and PZ addressed the popularization of our particular worldview. We spoke about Richard Dawkins for a while, his new children’s book, and other things.

In summation, I had fun. It’s nice to rub shoulders with people of like mind, and take the time to press the flesh (like in the picture, no smarmy comments please), and I need to go out and do this more often.

As a side note, for a liberal professor, PZ’s got some grip on him.

Thanks, professor.

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SUIRAUQA said...

I am jealous that you got the chance to meet the good professor! I would like to hear him speak some day... but PZ doesn't usually grace the East coast for some reason.

BTW, it's Myers, not Meyers. Or was that some inside joke I am not aware of?

broxster said...

I had my own facepalm moment with PZ at Santa Cruz. Entering the room, the movements of people thrust me in front of him. I wasn't planning to say hello, but when you end up bang in front of the guest, one has to be polite.

I introduced myself as "someone who reads his blog...". A glazed look came over PZ's face, "Oh not, not again" (praise be to Douglas Adams and the bowl of petunias).

Ooops! I realised what I had done and told him a little about myself and was then lucky enough to ask the first question after the talk.

The drive back over the hill went very quickly as K and I were deep in discussion the whole way back.

Krystalline Apostate said...

Again, I commit the unpardonable error of misspelling? Oh, the horror!
I've corrected it since.

petersonremodeling said...


I was at the talk too, I thoroughly enjoyed it all. I was the one asking for evolution books for young children.

I will definitely make a point to catch talks like this one again.

I'm a little bummed I couldn't make the "after party", oh well.

Do you have any idea when Dawkins' children book is coming out?

Fly44D said...

The few pictures I (and the one PZ took) are at:

You still have a Meyers in the body... :-)

Fly44D said...

Oops, you fixed that one also!
Never mind.

Krystalline Apostate said...

Peterson - sorry, if PZ mentioned a timeline, I don't recall.

Fly44D - someone on Pharyngula pointed that out to me, but thx.