Irony

The most ironic thing about irony is how many people have no clue what it means.

In watching a program on forensic science (the real stuff, not the CSI franchise’s magic) the sister of the murder victim commented that it was ironic that her sister’s killer was found by science, since the victim was a biology major and interested in forensic science. That isn’t ironic. It is appropriate. It would have been ironic if the victim had been a science denier whose murder was solved by science.

In the continuing melodrama that is crackergate, and I don’t intend to comment extensively on what I consider to be essentially adolescent behavior by all parties (and stupidly adolescent behavior from Donohue et al), The Confraternity of Catholic Clergy has observed that

The Chancellor of the University refused to reprimand or censure the teacher, who ironically is a Biology Professor.

What, exactly, was supposed to be ironic about it? Irony involves contradiction, a discord between words and meaning, or persona and action. As PZ Meyers, the biology professor under discussion, rightly notes in his own blog Pharyngula

There’s nothing ironic about the fact that I’m a biologist, nor did I claim my profession gave me special qualifications to see through the foolishness of faith.

If a Catholic theology professor had desecrated a host in the middle of a lecture on transubstantiation, that would have been ironic, but when an avowedly atheist biology professor does it, in his own home, with no connection to his role as professor, it is deeply offensive to some, and profoundly silly to others, but it is in no way ironic.

It is understandable that the sister of a murder victim, under the pressure of a TV interview, would misuse a word. It is far less unremarkable on the part of a group of supposedly educated men in a statement prepared for publication.

It makes me wonder about the much trumpeted superiority of Catholic education.

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