So I respond to atheist scientist P.Z. Myers, who, on his blog got just about everything wrong about an article that my son Thomas wrote on this blog, including who actually wrote it. And after writing it, I am waiting expectantly for Myers to respond to me with some clever insult.
He likes insults: They're so much easier than arguments.
But you know, I'm down with a good insult. Even one at my expense. Insults are one good opportunity to prove your cleverness. I can appreciate a good insult like the next guy and I have been known to laugh uproariously at a well-fashioned insult hurled in my direction.
So I'm watching the comments section of Myers' post (which, by the way, has less need for a moderator than for a babysitter) and, oooh, here it comes: "He’s a creationist," says Myers in the comment section of his blog, "a right-wing nutcase, and proponent of patriarchal organizations who is so ashamed of who he is that he constantly denies it."
What? This is it? This is all I get? I haven't been insulted like that since the third grade. I deserve better insults than this. No, take that back: I demand it. This insult is, to use an expression of a friend of mine, as "weak as puppy pee."
Is it too much to ask for, I don't know, some wit or something? Did Myers even put any effort into this? Is this really the best he can do? If we can't have wit, could we at least have smidgen of cleverness? Something?
If Myers can't give me anything better than this, I'm filing another complaint with the Bureau for Better Atheists, a group that monitors atheist quality and tries to maintain some semblance of rational and rhetorical integrity among the Unbelievers.
And let me tell you, that's not an easy job.
See the problem is this: Something appears to have gone wrong in the genetic atheist code from about the 1920s to now. I haven't quite figured it out yet, but something has happened to degrade the rhetorical abilities of atheist populations to the point that, if this degradation continues, atheists will shortly be capable only of monosyllabic grunts, groans and other audible but incoherent expressions.
In fact, if Myers' combox is any indication, we may already be there.
All I know is that the atheists of yore were far more developed in their rhetorical capabilities than their contemporary colleagues. How else to explain the fact that Meyers and Jerry Coyne and Laurence Krauss aren't even remotely in the same class as atheists like H. L. Mencken and Friedrich Nietzsche.
Just go back and read few lines of the old atheists and you'll get the sensation, going from the old to the New, of having fallen off an intellectual and rhetorical cliff.
Seriously, guys. You can do better than this. And I'm willing to help.
I propose remedial insult training: A clinic in contumely, a boot camp for barbs. Just think of it: Instead of simply employing bad manners or relying on primitive impudence or using expressions that the lack of having a mother who washed your mouth out with soap somehow made habitual, you could learn the art of the tactical wry comment and the subtle disparaging remark that your opponent will realize only later have cut him to pieces—longer, perhaps, if you use them on another atheist, who may never figure it out.
Seriously. You need to put down the blunt instruments and learn how to use something a little more sophisticated.
Get on the stick here.