Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Coyne blows it, Part 1/N

The almost always silly Jerry Coyne, on Andrew Brown's criticism of Sam (the Mystic) Harris's New York Times op-ed criticizing Obama's selection of Francis Collins to head the National Institutes of Health, writes
Thus, when Brown says that Collins need never abandon his faith because “all the best arguments against God are theological,” he’s just wrong.
Sorry Jerry, and I say this knowing nothing about Mr. Brown, but he (Mr. Brown) is just right, at least in this instance. The only arguments against God, that is against the God, also known as the Christian God, are indeed theological—as a moment's reflection should render obvious. There is no scientific argument against God—for the very reason that Coyne later laments:
Finally, the theistic God [sic] obstinately refuses to show himself to people, although he supposedly interacts with the world.
A scientific argument against God is like a scientific argument against the multiverse. In other words, there is none. You can't make a scientific argument for or against that which cannot be detected by scientific instruments.

The scientific age, fortunately or not, happens to fall within the New Testament era, i.e., after God's redemptive plan was finished (as in accomplished.) Supernatural revelation via the overtly-miraculous has ceased. Had we modern equipment prior to "It is finished" we could have photographed, or not, Jesus walking on water or the Red Sea parting. With the redemptive plan finished, done, game-over-man, the supernatural is entirely invisible—regeneration, the in-dwelling of the Spirit, and the like. It's a feature, not a bug. And more to the point, the prediction is that the next time we see God in the physical realm is at the end of history.

If our theology stated that God should be routinely appearing and performing Old Testament miracles then, given they don't happen, Coyne would have a point. But his ignorance prevents him from realizing that his argument is incredibly stupid.

More vintage Coyne,
there has never been a better refutation of the idea of a loving and omnipotent god than the existence of horrible, god-preventable things happening to innocent people.
It is hard to imagine how one person could be so clueless about theology, and yet have the unjustified power of conviction in his ignorance to delude himself into thinking he makes a cogent statement. (It is really no different than Kent Hovind commenting on biology. And yes, I know about the Courtier’s Reply.) What Coyne is actually saying—and it is so dumb as to make me weep, is this: God is not behaving as I (Coyne) would if I were God, therefore there is no God.

But that is not an argument against a God behaving exactly as one would expect from what is revealed in the bible. It is only an argument against a Coyne-god.

Hint to Coyne: if you knew theology, then you'd realize that you ask the wrong question. It is not: Why do horrible things happen to innocent people? But rather: How come horrible things don't happen to all of us, all the time?

If God behaves exactly as one would expect, based on theology—then the only arguments against God are indeed theological. That is, one must show that the theology is flawed. If the theology predicts no physical appearance of God in the New Testament era, then that very same lack of evidence is hardly a flaw. Yes, that's "very convenient." But thems the breaks.

Coyne, when he discusses religion, is a numskull. Like all the New Atheists, for whom a better term might be "Pinheaded Atheists," he is more or less proud of his ignorance. Like Harris and Dawkins, he makes me long for the Old Atheists, who were a helluva lot smarter.

Coyne adds:
None of us “militant atheists” want to deny Collins his job because of his faith.
Liar. You certainly do. You just won’t man up. You arguments against Collins are weak and you doth protest too much that it is “not because he is a Christian. Honest. Swear to Dawkins!”

Let us collect some isomorphic arguments.
  • It is not that Collins is a Christian, but that he is an "evangelical" Christian…

  • Some of my best friends are black… but he is so arrogant

  • I don't mind gays. Really. But does he have to be so flamboyant?
Coyne is a garden-variety bigot, plain and simple.