Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Memo to Jerry Coyne: We Can't Imagine You Giving a Commencement Address Either

Apropos Eugenie Scott's recent commencement address at University of Missouri, the always deep-thinking Jerry Coyne is once again scratching his head. Why? Because she encouraged the use of critical thinking skills--but wasn't as absolute as Coyne would like.
But why is it always the psychics, the homeopaths, and the astrologers who take it in the neck when scientists attack irrationality? What about the most widespread form of irrationality?

That would be religion, you see. You know who we're talking about. People who go to church and to temple. Worse, people who go to church and temple and then (splutters over his coffee) their lab!!?

Coyne: "Isn’t it weird that pro-science organizations gleefully take out after every form of superstition save the one that’s most pervasive?"

Yeah. I'm sure it has nothing to do with the fact that a majority of pro-science American high school and college students subscribe to that last "superstition" and that they don't seem to be exactly out-competing U.S. non-science majors (or their counterparts in other countries) for their degrees. But hey, why should the National Center for Science Education care about that?

Earlier in the post Coyne writes that he can't imagine giving a commencement address. Given his cluelessness about science education, we can't either. And we hope he never does.


Brandon said...

It has a lot to do with my brain being fried after grading, but it's rather funny that I first read the quote not as being by Coyne but as being said by someone about Coyne.

Brandon said...

To be more exact, my first thought was, "I don't think Coyne's views are really that widespread"!

John Farrell said...


Crude said...

What I find really interesting is that for all Coyne's bluster, he's said outright that deism is compatible with science. It's the idea that God actively intervenes in the world, or planned things, that he objects to. But to me, ceding that science is compatible with the existence of (even a deist) God just wreaks havoc on most of his views right out of the gates.

John Farrell said...

Intellectual consistency is not one of his strong points.


Crude said...

True enough. :)

What I find very surprising, though, is that I know of no one - not even a critic - who's called Coyne on this particular point. Maybe someone has and I've missed them. (Actually, I get the impression that Coyne is taken far less seriously than Dawkins, maybe even a little less than PZ Myers. That could explain it.)

But take the following: "Likewise, as I’ve said ad nauseum, not every form of faith is incompatible with science. In my New Republic article, I claim that pure deism (which accepts a hands-off God who doesn’t intrude into the workings of the Universe) is absolutely compatible with science. The problem is that hardly anybody is a pure deist."

That's Coyne, right off his own blog. When Dawkins was reported as having said something similar, the reaction was downright electric from all quarters. As near as I can tell, Coyne keeps reaffirming it. Why is it that seemingly no one mentions this?

Then again, I may have answered that question in my own post.

John Farrell said...

I think you're right. Coyne is very much a johnny-come-lately to the 'scene' so I don't think what he says draws nearly the attention that the antics of the others do.