What am I going to ask PZ Myers on Sunday?

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I’ll be interviewing PZ Myers on Sunday on Atheist Talk Radio in the Twin Cities. I can’t think of a thing to ask him about … what would YOU suggest?

Write your proposed questions or topics in the comments below.

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79 thoughts on “What am I going to ask PZ Myers on Sunday?

  1. I won’t be able to attend the Humanist presentation, so I would like to know how biologists can study the evolution of creativity; which an abstract concept. How does a biologist avoid the trappings of evolutionary psychology when looking at something so difficult to define.

    I am sure that his background in studying neurology will lend some guidance, but where else does he pull his data from?

  2. Ask him about his squid fetish… or whether he still gets death threats about the cracker incident. In fact, you might want to have him briefly describe the cracker incident no matter what else you have planned, as many of your listeners might not have heard/read about it when it happened.

  3. I don’t know how he became a born again atheist (if he did have a religion at some point), if its still not widely known you could ask him that, or how his friends and family reacted to it, i always find that information quite fascinating.

    lucky you, i would love to have the opportunity to interview him

  4. Yes! What Mike said.

    Also – what’s the biggest surprise or eye-opener in PZ’s experience working with angel fish? Was there something about an experiment that surprised him? Result, unexpected obstacle, mutated anatomy?

  5. If I had the chance, I would ask him his opinion on the evolution of humans. Does he think taking control of our environment, which shaped life, and us, as we know it, have ill or beneficial effects on our evolution. What does he think, in say, 5000 years, humans will look like? (if we make it that far)

  6. what’s the biggest surprise or eye-opener in PZ’s experience working with angel fish?

    that’s the wrong end of the fish-alphabet

  7. What, in his experience, is the best way to deal with communicating to the lay-creationists, anti-vaxers, and so forth (the people that believe the lies, not the crazy bastards that invent them)? Also, what misconceptions about biology does he think contribute to the size of these groups?

    On another line of thought:
    What biology concepts are freshman typically unprepared for by high schools?

  8. Ask him in advance to bring in some of his recent email from wingnuts. Read out highlights on air (a la Richard Dawkins’ hatemail), and have him do live rebuttal.

  9. Ask Prof Myers his opinion on the centuries-old and continuing efforts by various churches to “convert” indigenous peoples around the world – what impact does he see this having on local communities? Is it appropriate to alter traditional ways of life in this way? Is it something the atheist community needs to address?

  10. Assuming your intended audience are people who don’t know anything about PZ, then ‘What do you do’, ‘how did you arrive at the beliefs you have’, ‘What is your goal’, ‘What is your strategy for achieving that goal’, ‘how did you arrive at that strategy’ are good generic questions for either atheist activism, anti-creationist activism, or biology research. And if you want to sound like a professional talk show host, frequently advertise his blog: ‘and where can our audience go to learn more about …’

    If your intended audience are people who follow Pharyngula regularly, then yeah, I’d also have difficulty coming up with good questions.

  11. As an educator, it’s important to distinguish between “what is best way I can teach X?” and “what is the best way that students learn X?”, or a better way, if you prefer.

    So, what do you think are best practices to promote student learning of evolutionary biology? From specific examples to general frameworks, whatever.

  12. Ask PZ whether the selective advantages of empathy, taboo, cooperation, reciprocity, altruism can account for The Golden Rule. The neurobiological basis for ethics and morality ought to be an eye opener for folks who think Moses invented civil behavior.

  13. Ask Dr. Myers: If you were convinced that mainstream Christian leaders would support science education that is devoid of church input, so long as they did not feel scientists were overtly insulting religious believers, would you then consider toning down the rhetoric in the best interest of students and scientific fields? What evidence would you require to convince you that this kind of detente is possible or likely and worth the compromise?

  14. Some atheists think that atheism won’t truly take hold in a substantial fraction of the population unless it provides a framework for community that could replace the church. I would love to hear what he thinks of this idea in particular and more generally what role he thinks community will play as atheism spreads further.

  15. Id like to see the whole ‘dictionary atheist’ thing hashed out. How should we seek to define the word atheist, and how should we let it define us.

  16. Catholics follow an “apostolic” Christianity – if the Pope were to announce that abortion was OK they’d have to go along with it “officially”.

    On the other hand, Protesants follow one of many versions of the bible and Jesus clearly is not teaching a U.S. flag waving, “family oriented”, capitalist, make war not love, greed is good philosophy.

    Ask him why he thinks supposed Christians are so out of step with the reported teachings of Jesus?

  17. Question: Prof. Myers, assuming you are a monist (i.e. no separation of body and soul), what is your position on individuality, free will and, most importantly, responsibility?

    If all our conscious actions are the result of thoughts, which are in turn the result of firing synapses, which are in turn the result of chemical reactions, how can we talk about human beings as free and responsible agents?

  18. “Do you think enough is being done to address problems of bias in research, such as due to corporate influence, and what role, if any, do you think science bloggers have to play in this regard?”

  19. At least some of the basic distrust of science today is based on discoveries that science has sold itself out to corporate greed. When people read books like â??Mad in Americaâ? by Robert Whitaker,this skepticism grows into fear and anger. What responsibility does the scientific community, especially medical science, have to respond to criticisms and present fair and balanced reporting to the general public?


  20. How does PZ deal with students who first encountered him thru his diatribes on Pharyngula, and come into his class expecting him to be an ogre?

  21. If he gets really worked up, just say “Easy, PZ!”

    What role (or roles) do sexual and gender variations (like homosexuality and transsexuality) have in Darwinian evolution?

  22. I’d like to follow up on Matt’s question about pedagogical practices, and extend it to the atheist/skeptical sphere.

    As a professional educator who (I would hope) recognizes that different approaches to material work better with different kinds of students, why does he think that so many in the skeptical community insist upon a “one true approach” when attempting to communicate their ideas (whether it be accommodation, confrontation, ridicule, logic, etc.) rather than tailoring their approach to best reach the person or people to whom they are speaking?

  23. Tell PZ that I heard him speak in Belfast recently – he was great. I am a minister, I need out, but very difficult but have been encouraged by the Dennett/LaScola paper. Has he comment on this situation or advice?

  24. Hey PZ, David from Boston here. Why do you think it is so hard for most people to understand that every God was created in Man and sometimes in Woman’s image, instead of the other way round?

  25. I’d like to second NewEnglandBob’s question(s). What about that new book, PZ?

    Also, Gene@#28: you might visit Eric MacDonald’s blog, choiceindying. He was in your situation, and found his way out.

  26. Professor Myers,

    In your study of biology you have shown a passion for the sea going creatures such as squid, octopi and so on. While Minnesota is a very nice place it is also land locked. Have you ever considered relocating to be closer to the ocean in order to perform up close study?

  27. Is Punctuated Equilibrium still in favor? What are the long range goals or potential frontiers of Biology in, say, the next 50 years? “Purpose” seems to be a feature of emergent systems. Are there any non-living systems that display this property, such as the way it seems that the Universe has evolved from Quark soup to today’s structure because that’s the only way it could have turned out under the initial conditions?

  28. Something I’ve always wanted to ask PZ. I know that he is pro-choice. I also know that his justification tends to be based on the health of the mother coming before that of the fetus. I happen to agree with this. But this of course only represents a subset of abortions. My question is: what is your position when the health of the mother is not a concern (e.g. she didn’t intend to get pregnant, and wants to abort). If you’re still pro-choice, what is the justification in this case? If the answer is “the mother has the right to choose”, why not use the “right to chose” argument when talking about any abortion, rather than resorting to the health argument when convenient?

  29. I am one of the people mentioned in a prior comment that feels that Atheism needs its own church like structure to move beyond our current single digits and capture more the spiritual but not religious market. Iâ??d love to hear what he thinks about this and if he agrees have him describe what an Atheist service would be like and what services an Atheist church would provide to its members.

  30. I am one of the people mentioned in a prior comment that feels that Atheism needs its own church like structure to move beyond our current single digits and capture more the spiritual but not religious market. Iâ??d love to hear what he thinks about this and if he agrees have him describe what an Atheist service would be like and what services an Atheist church would provide to its members.

  31. Question for Mr. Myers: Being a biologist who studies evolution, why get married? Are humans biologically inclined to be monogamous?

  32. Please ask Dr. Myers his opinion of whether Jesus existed at all. Iâ??ve done a little research myself and I tend to lean towards the idea that Jesus was â??inventedâ? in the likeness of other pagan gods (such as Mithras) since they have so much in common (virgin birth, miracles, etc). Iâ??ve read several articles from authors who make a case for the non-existence of Jesus and that case seems plausible to me. Even the claim that Josephus mentioned Jesus in his writings can be disputed because the text seems inserted later by someone else (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josephus_on_Jesus ). As a follow up question, you could ask â??If there is just as much evidence that Jesus didnâ??t exist as evidence that he did (probably more that he didnâ??t exist), why would people so blindly believe that he is a savoir or messiahâ??

  33. As an educator, what’s the biggest challenge you experience in explaining evolution? Do you have any tips for helping students understand the concept?

  34. Greg. Please ask PZ how he deals with fellow atheists who also hold repugnant opinions in other areas? Christopher Hitchins’ unflagging support of the neocon imperial Bush/Cheney military policy springs to mind. Also, a lot of atheists I’ve met just use their atheism as an excuse to be asshats. I have a hard time finding commonality with a lot of these guys (and they are all guys).

  35. I am just curious if PZ considers Medical marijuana to be holistic medicine, or does he think that it has legitimate medical benefits?

  36. I’m a long-time Atheist and a Libertarian as well and I’m puzzled by the many Atheist/Humanist organizations and their members who seem to assume liberal or collectivist politics as well? It’s similar to some extreme right wingers equating Christianity with conservatism. Isn’t this grouping or packaging of beliefs dangerous?

  37. Re teaching ID in Schools and Colleges, please ask him what he considers the worse possible scenario, the best possible scenario and most probable scenario?

    Secondly, I sometimes fear we are drifting back to the Dark Ages. Does he share this fear? Thanks

  38. I have noticed a debate on the topic of global warming taking place in the Letters to the Editor section of skeptic magazines and on some skeptic websites. For example, when James Randi expressed his opinion that it is likely that global warming is caused by anthropogenic influences but that he is not sure, Dr. Myers countered that anthropogenic global warming is as well-established as the world being an oblate spheroid. My question for Dr. Myers is why — in his estimate — anthropogenic global warming has not come to be as accepted in the skeptic community as the fact that the world is not flat.

  39. I think this would be an interesting question:

    You have said, done, and written many controversial things over the last few years. In hindsight, is there anything you would do or say differently — either because you changed your mind, rethought your strategy, or been less clear than you intended? If so, what do you wish you had done/written instead — and why?

  40. I’m thinking of a question that might elicit a response from listeners as well as PZ.

    “PZ, there is disagreement in the atheist community about whether atheists should present their case in a friendly and accommodating way or in an angry and ridiculing way. You yourself seem to practice both strategies, being very mild and friendly in person but sometimes being very harsh and ridiculing on your blog. What is your view of this? Are both strategies effective? And listeners, what is your experience with atheists? Give us a call at: [number to be given out on air]”

  41. For the benefit of us who can’t listen to your interview on radio, will you be writing a future post on the interview and the questions you asked him? Thanks.

  42. Christians and other religionists often claim exclusive domain over social values as a result of having received those morals from their God. They often assert that in the absence of God, humans would have no values whatsoever and would run amok.

    Dr. Meyers, will you list for us the values that support a secular society? Honesty, quest for truth, â?¦

  43. PZ, there is disagreement in the atheist community about whether atheists should present their case in a friendly and accommodating way or in an angry and ridiculing way

    no, there isn’t any such disagreement, you are confused.

    Instead, YOU need to ask him:

    “What does accomodationism actually entail?”

    because the answer would help you form a better NEXT question.


    As for me, I too would like to know if there has been any advancements in his developmental work with zebrafish, and if he has a goal in mind for publishing any results?

  44. Would you please ask PZ to differentiate between the “religious” concept of freedom that “enables one to live a virtuous life” and the secular concept of freedom? Thanks.

  45. Many people have a negative view of atheists, claiming we are bitter people. What do you think we should do to change this misperception?

  46. Sometimes people attempt tie baggage to atheism. This can be countered by explaining that athiests are a diverse bunch with a wide range of views, practises and lifestyles. No generalizations can be made of atheists as a whole. PZ has taken issue with what he calls “Dictionary Atheists” who use this approach. Ask him why he detests people who try to keep ideas clear and concise.

  47. PZ,
    A. Given that xtian piety come and goes in cycles in American scoiety, is the piety (albeit rather misguided) we see today, intermingling in politics, a cycle or something more, particularly given that during past cycles there was no internet?

    B. Clearly, hatred of fellow man and refusal to accept scientific facts regarding the world around us are religion-based, and are given tacit permission by religious leaders. Is it possible to increase education to combat the current pervasive ignorance (such a climate deniers) or is this impossible without first addressing the moral failings of xtianity?

  48. Does PZ have any thoughts on how sexually reproducing species can evolve to having a different number of chromosomes and then be able to reproduce? This seems like a glaring gap in my understanding of evolution.

  49. Does PZ have any thoughts on how sexually reproducing species can evolve to having a different number of chromosomes and then be able to reproduce?

    did you have a species in mind?

    there are lots of ways to accomplish asynchronous chromosomal sorting.

  50. Ask, “What is the point in arguing with idiots? (Including IDiots).”

    Seriously, they don’t listen and they couldn’t understand even if they wanted to, so why do it?

  51. I didn’t read every comment here, so if this has been suggested already, please forgive me.

    I suggest you ask him about his stance on accommodationism in the New Atheist movement. (If you want to call it that.) Perhaps you could include a couple quotes from Dawkins, Hitchens, Mooney, et. al. as a way to frame your question.

  52. If the human brain is a physical system with no meta- or non-physical components, why is Ray Kurzweil so deserving of the ridicule presented on Pharyngula?

    (That’s not intended as a snarky side-snipe. The last Kurzweil-related post on Pharyngula had a lot of “it’s very complex”, “it’s not as simple as Kurzweil made out”, “Kurzweil is some kind of scammer” comments; but I haven’t yet found a definitive summary answer to the question. Being atheist, I was an avid Pharynguloid for years… but have finally found the last Kurzweil post to be way too over-the-top and excessively rude for my tastes.) Many thanks.

  53. Is it possible to consider religous people as serious colleagues? If a prof or researcher has faith in god can he be trusted to be honest and diligent as a scientist?

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