Plug: The Confidence of Jerry Coyne

Ross Douthat has been involved in an interchange with Jerry Coyne. I thought this comment was a very good response to the New Atheist position in general.

I tend to agree that, so long as Coyne and others continue to do exactly the things that Douthat accuses him of doing, their movement will do more to foster interest in religion than destroy it.

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18 responses to “Plug: The Confidence of Jerry Coyne

  • Arkenaten

    Yes , it will foster interest in religion. But this is not something for a non believer to worry about. In fact it is those with the greater vested interest, the religious, that should be concerned.

    As an atheist, I am not in the least bit concerned by what people such as Jerry Coyne say or write, as it will promote greater understanding of all sides of this fascinating debate.

    If current trends are anything to go by the religious are having to fight a continual rearguard action.

    These so-called New Atheists have only come to prominence because of greater secular freedom. ( and the internet)
    They have little to about being jailed or burned at the stake, which must come as a huge sense of relief.

    The conservative ranks ( and mainstream) seem used to the bible thumping evangelists such as Billy Graham or Jerry Falwell mould. You don’t see or read much about their ilk any more unless they are bonking ”Tammy-Lyn” being the wife’s back and making tearful confessions or ripping off the congregation.
    But much of the rank and file appear stumped by the likes of Dawkins, Krauss, Coyne & (the late, great ) Chris Hitchens, hence the (often) vitriolic responses to their ”anti god” stance.

    I truly believe what they are doing is excellent and full marks to the New Atheists for causing a few hard-line religious thinkers to metaphorically pee their pants a bit.

    And it is also time to wake up those fence sitters.
    Do I not worry that such debates will turn people to religion? Not in the least.

    The ”out there” concepts proposed by Coyne and his fellow ”radicals” are not easy to come to terms with, even for middle of the road atheists ( anti theists) who have , by and large, been weaned on and eventually weaned off, religion.
    Indoctrination is not an easy thing to shrug away.
    Ask any former religious fundamentalist.
    I doubt many of them would ever countenance religion once they escaped from the clutches of their former faith.

    Sadly,there is always a subtle bias here, in as much as the ”religious interest” referred to generally refers to the Abrahamic/ Yahweist religions and is unlikely to mean Jainism for instance.

    And this inevitably spirals downwards to arrive at Yeshua and back to the bible.

    Oddly enough I have never read any of Professor Coyne’s work and don’t often read his blog,

    Finally, Coyne is probably correct in his assessment that the universe displays no purpose, but humans are not purposeless, and are able to create their own purpose ( if I have understood him correctly, from the piece).

    Which seems about right.

    Let me exercise my free will and go and make a coffee. 😉

    Amen to that, right?

    • paarsurrey

      @ Arkenaten’s comments

      Quoting your words:
      “Coyne is probably correct in his assessment that the universe displays no purpose, but humans are not purposeless, and are able to create their own purpose ( if I have understood him correctly, from the piece).”.

      A purposeless universe giving birth to humans who could create their own purposes; isn’t it a weird concept?

        • Frank Morris

          Ark, you say that a universe that displays purpose displays no purpose, and then ask why that is seen as an odd contention.

          I guess it would not seem like an odd assessment if you turned off your brain and gave literally no thought to the questions at hand.

          Life displays purpose in all of its actions and thoughts. Life is a part of the universe. Which part of this is hard for you to understand?

          Moreover the universe itself is suited for the existence of matter and life in ways that are clearly by intent.

          Coyne simply made a claim that is disproven by each of us each and every moment. And that’s good enough for you?

    • Debilis

      I doubt that the argument from current trends is much to go on.

      But the way the New Atheist leadership behaves is significant in that their failure to address the rational/philosophical arguments put forward for theism makes it clear to many that the group isn’t as committed to reason as it seems to think.

      I agree that we should all be free to express our views. But simply dismissing anyone who disagrees as being indoctrinated is the kind of talk one hears out of the fanatically religious.

      In any case, Coyne is incorrect so long as one is consistent about purpose. Of course people have subjective purposes, but this is not what questions about purpose are asking. Coyne simply ignores the subject.

      Either way, enjoy the coffee.

      • Arkenaten

        But the way the New Atheist leadership behaves is significant in that their failure to address the rational/philosophical arguments put forward for theism makes it clear to many that the group isn’t as committed to reason as it seems to think.

        This is a blatant contradiction of terms, an oxymoron, there are no rational arguments for theism as theism ( Christianity, if we are being blunt) is based not only on the supernatural, but also the very real possibility that Jesus of Nazareth is a narrative construct.

        [Off-topic personal attacks have been removed]

        • Debilis

          If this is your claim, please offer some evidence in support of it. So far, I’ve only heard accusations directed at the Bible–not an actual evidence-based theory.

          As for the personal comments, I have no idea what leads people to trolling–or why you seem more interested in me than the subject–but I find them boring. I’ve deleted them.

        • Arkenaten

          Is this how it works?
          Your claim that there are rational arguments for theism,are made without providing evidence and not even an outline of what type of theism you follow ( though you continually slate my interpretation) , yet any statement I make that contradicts this POV is considered ”my( unevidenced) claim ”

          As I have repeatedly asked. Please link me to evidence ( ANY evidence) that clearly demonstrates your rational claim for theism and a definition of the branch of theism you follow.
          It is a simple request so why is is so difficult?

        • Debilis

          Because it is off topic.

          I’ve discussed all kinds of arguments for theism all over this blog; I even have them categorized via links. If you want to discuss any one of them, feel free. I’m good about responding to those points.

          However, I’ve always been asked to provide evidence for any claim I make; I consider this fair. What I don’t understand is why it isn’t fair for me to expect the same from those who want evidence for me.

          As to the fact that I haven’t outlined my position, it’s a complicated topic. When I’ve tried in the past, I’ve been told not to get into philosophy.

          As such, I’ve been making an effort to skip that and stick to pointing out when something isn’t my view.

          But, if you’re interested in discussing philosophy, let me know; I’ll put together a list of differences between my beliefs and the God that Richard Dawkins seems to think I believe in.

          In fact, that might be a good topic for a post–I’ll think on that…

  • Arkenaten

    Typo: …..little to “worry”‘ about

  • Arkenaten

    I found the comment (below) in the thread.
    It is probably the best of the lot and expresses everything one need to know
    about this topic and one I have tried to convey.

    A colleague of many years ago used to quip, “We are tripping over our own underwear.” I thought of him (and that) when reading Douthat’s convoluted essay. The essential truth he never addresses here is that science and the secularism to which it gives birth are nothing more than a systematized quest for reliable, dependable truth, via hypotheses put to the test, and more tests, and more tests. Religion is an acceptance of a “received truth,” quite untested. Case closed.

    • Debilis

      This is very a superficial approach that wants to give a quick answer, then quit thinking.

      The shortest response is to point out that science doesn’t support secularism. This is simply a myth, for which the critical thinker should expect evidence before accepting.

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