By slogging through the writings of the Undeveloped Invertebrate, I have developed a more nuanced opinion of him. Here, for example, he offers a distinctly libertarian opinion:
Actually, I don’t hold religion culpable — I hold people, the perpetrators, responsible. Religion, science, nationalism, preferences in cheese, whatever…people will find reasons to fight and kill each other, in the absence of ethical constraints on their behavior.
Then, he goes on to critique religion in a way that sounds suspiciously like a 13-year-old Baptist rising out of complacent self-absorption into an awareness of his own power of moral judgment:
My gripe with religion is that it claims to provide such a sense of ethics, and it does no such thing. It’s a failure. In fact, it’s a distraction—too many people substitute church attendance for morality. . .
Finally, he throws cold water on any pretenders to Enlightenment morality:
Science does not claim to hold any moral weight.
and continues by degrading the notion of science providing behavioral guidelines and, echoing Jesus, upbraiding religious people for not being as moral as they would like.
I particularly liked the nod to John Zerzan‘s anarcho-primitivism, which PZ nevertheless despises:
It is entirely true that living in a lower-density, more primitive, socially unadventurous state might very well lead to a more stable, longer-lived human species. Early agricultural societies dominated by a religious hierarchy were highly successful, and provided the foundation for our current culture, so sure, one could argue that stepping back into the pre-industrial period before science might well be a much more sustainable solution. Heck, why stop there—the hunter-gatherer lifestyle endured even longer, and has a much lower impact on the environment.
However, he does ignore the postcolonial, feminist, and Asian critiques that identify modern “Western” science as fully determined by the narrowly literal, text-based, individualistic, exclusivistic, competitive, acquisitive, melioristic, rationalistic culture of European Christianity. Since previous generations of avant-garde idlers were embarrassed by this heritage of cultural domination, the modern liberal Euro-American tends to flail about and grasp at romanticized, irrational expressions derived from non-European cultures or nonliterate Euro-American subcultures. The resulting denial of cultural heritage leads to an educational vacuum in the heads . . . I mean, the historical sensibilities . . . of politically liberal science wonks, as well as scientifically illiterate liberal policy wonks.
For me this is the great punchline:
From an evolutionary point of view, there isn’t necessarily any particular advantage to being smarter.
Oho! I made this very same argument to a bunch of speculative evolutionists once, and was met with jeers and sneers. That is because they ignorantly confused evolution and meliorism, which PZM elsewhere disentangles. So, there is still hope for PZM, if he holds to a truly non-teleological view of evolution. And I shall reconsider my Jack Deth attitude toward squids.