Home » Darwinism, Human evolution, News » New York Times columnist offers some apt comments on Jerry Coyne

New York Times columnist offers some apt comments on Jerry Coyne

Further to Vince Torley’s  ”An apology is due from Why Evolution Is True” (Coyne’s blog, named after his book), Ross Douhat notes (a propos something else),

One of the problems with belonging to a faction that’s convinced it’s on the winning side of intellectual history is that it becomes easy to persuade oneself that one’s own worldview has no weak points whatsoever, no internal contradictions or ragged edges, no cracks through which a critic’s wedge could end up driven. This kind of overconfidence has been displayed, at various points in the human story, by everyone from millenarians to Marxists, inquisitors to eugenicists. But right now its vices are often found in a certain type of atheistic polemicist, and in a style of anti-religious argument that’s characterized by a peculiar, almost-willed ignorance of why reasonable people might doubt the scientific-materialist worldview.

Douthat is thinking of Coyne, who attacked something he wrote:

What’s striking about his response, though, is the extent to which its own account of the secular, materialist world-picture actually illustrates precisely the problems and tensions that I was talking about, in ways that even a casual reader should find obvious but which Coyne apparently did not. He can see the weak points in a religious argument, but the weaknesses of his own side of the debate are sufficiently invisible to him that his rebuttal flirts with self-caricature.

But then halfway through this peroration, we have as an aside the confession that yes, okay, it’s quite possible given materialist premises that “our sense of self is a neuronal illusion.” At which point the entire edifice suddenly looks terribly wobbly — because who, exactly, is doing all of this forging and shaping and purpose-creating if Jerry Coyne, as I understand him (and I assume he understands himself) quite possibly does not actually exist at all? The theme of his argument is the crucial importance of human agency under eliminative materialism, but if under materialist premises the actual agent is quite possibly a fiction, then who exactly is this I who “reads” and “learns” and “teaches,” and why in the universe’s name should my illusory self believe Coyne’s bold proclamation that his illusory self’s purposes are somehow “real” and worthy of devotion and pursuit? (Let alone that they’re morally significant: But more on that below.) Prometheus cannot be at once unbound and unreal; the human will cannot be simultaneously triumphant and imaginary. More.

Douthat probably doesn’t realize that  Darwinism, Coyne’s chief devotion, means precisely that the human will CAN be simultaneously triumphant and imaginary. It means never having to be coherent.

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9 Responses to New York Times columnist offers some apt comments on Jerry Coyne

  1. Excellent find and read News! :)

  2. I had to do a double take. I almost cannot believe this is in the NY Times. But at the same time, I suspect that materialism has been monopolized by Ayn Rand fanatics, Singularitarians and other hard-core, machine-consciousness phreaks and libertarians. This is obviously at odds with the left-leaning, liberal stance of the Times’ editorial board.

    I can almost sense a sort of schism coming down the pike. Is the left trying to part company with materialism while distancing itself from the religious right?

  3. Sounds familiar:

    halfway through this peroration, we have as an aside the confession that yes, okay, it’s quite possible given materialist premises that “our sense of self is a neuronal illusion.” At which point the entire edifice suddenly looks terribly wobbly — because who, exactly, is doing all of this forging and shaping and purpose-creating if Jerry Coyne, as I understand him (and I assume he understands himself) quite possibly does not actually exist at all? The theme of his argument is the crucial importance of human agency under eliminative materialism, but if under materialist premises the actual agent is quite possibly a fiction, then who exactly is this I who “reads” and “learns” and “teaches,” and why in the universe’s name should my illusory self believe Coyne’s bold proclamation that his illusory self’s purposes are somehow “real” and worthy of devotion and pursuit?

    It keeps peeking out around the corner of the curtain . . .

  4. Jerry Coyne, the insufferably pompous materialist, atheist and notorious Darwinist, has been royally skewered by the left-wing NYT. Thank God for small pleasures. :-D

  5. The NYT is a historical enemy of Christianity, conservatism, America, and good guys everywhere.
    No thumbs up for trivial YOU WENT TOO FAR ism’s.
    many left wingers don’t like the aggressive anti religious types as they fear a bridge too far too quick. They want left wing causes to take hold before the righteous know it.
    In TIME they promise but whoa.

    I can’t get posts on WHY EVOLUTION IS TRUE webpage BUT being sure its not true I suggest there is no problem here to take on any proofs offered.
    Why not this forum just debunk this cat’s best points in his book.
    Top three addressed and then its all over !
    Origin books raise the stakes on evidence competency for everyone.
    So let the game commence.

  6. One of the more annoying and pompous quotes attributed to Jerry Coyne is this one:

    “If the history of science teaches us anything, it is that what conquers our ignorance is research, not giving up and attributing our ignorance to the miraculous work of a creator.”

    It’s funny, but as a Christian, I can assure Mr. Coyne that my religion teaches me the following:

    “Search and you shall find.”

    My religion also teaches me that everything was created through utmost wisdom and understanding (read, science). If the little dirt worshiper really is interested in poof miracles, he should look no further than his own backyard. What could be poofier and more miraculous than dirt spontaneously turning into self-replicating, living organisms?

  7. Douhat is upset because Coyne didnt praise Jesus.

  8. Seriously Graham2?

  9. Someone please hand Mr Coyne a towel to wipe the egg off his face. ;-)

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