Massimo Pigliucci: On Coyne, Harris, and PZ (with thanks to Dennett)

From the IEET website:

Massimo-outdoorOh dear, I pissed off the big shots among the New Atheists — again. If you are on Twitter or happen to have checked a couple of prominent NA blogs recently, you will have noticed a chorus comprised of none other than Jerry Coyne, Sam Harris, PZ Myers and, by way of only a passing snarky comment, Richard Dawkins — all focused on yours truly. I’m flattered, but what could I have possibly done to generate such a concerted reaction all of a sudden? Two things: I have published this cartoon concerning Sam Harris, just to poke a bit of (I thought harmless, good humored, even!) fun at the guy, and — more substantively — this technical, peer reviewed, paper in a philosophy journal devoted to a conceptual analysis and criticism of the NA movement, from the point of view of a scientist, philosopher, and, incidentally, atheist.

(The same issue of that journal carries a number of other commentaries, from theists and atheists alike.)

I watched the Twitter/blog mini-storm with some amusement (decades in the academy have forced me to develop a rather thick skin). The event was characterized by the usual back and forth between people who agreed with me (thank you) and those who don’t (thank you, unless your comments were of the assholic type). I thought there was no point in responding, since there was very little substance to the posts themselves. But then I realized that the mini-storm was making precisely my point: the whole episode seemed to be a huge instance of much ado about nothing, but nasty. So I decided a counter-commentary might be helpful after all. Here it is, organized by the three major authors who have lashed out at me in such an amusing way. I’ll start with a point-by-point response to Coyne’s longest blog post, followed by a more cursory commentary on PZ (who actually makes most sense out of the whole bunch, and indeed was himself mentioned only in passing in my paper), and ending of course with Harris, in whose case I will simply let Dan Dennett (another NA, did you know?) do the job for me.

More here.