Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Jerry Coyne can't help himself

Jerry Coyne is upset that Francis Collins the head of the NIH has the temerity to take advantage of that pesky First Amendment to discuss, on his own dime and his own time, his religious beliefs.

Regarding Francis Collins’s latest volume, Belief: Readings on the Reason for Faith, Coyne writes:
Even though Collins is now director of the National Institutes of Health, the love of Jesus is still welling up inside him, like an oil well that can’t be capped.  It’s produced another gusher.
I was under the impression that when Collins came aboard as NIH director, he was going to give up the public religious proselytizing, or at least his tendency to tell everyone that science proves the existence of God.  I was wrong.
You are not just wrong, you are also a liar, neither of which is news. Collins is not arguing that science proves God. He is arguing that there is a rational basis for his faith. That is quite a different matter.

You write "Even though…" as if you expected that his becoming the director of the NIH would quench the "love of Jesus" within. Why would you think so? What does one have to do with the other? Dumb.

Coyne writes:

And to those who say that he has the right to publish this sort of stuff, well, yes he does.  He has the legal right.  But it’s not judicious to argue publicly, as the most important scientist in the US, that there is scientific evidence for God.  Imagine, for example, the outcry that would ensue if Collins were an atheist and, as NIH director, published a collection of atheistic essays along the lines of Christopher Hitchens’s The Portable Atheist, but also arguing that scientific evidence proved that there was no God.  He would, of course, promptly be canned as NIH director.
What to say? Here is a peculiar admixture of the idiotic, a namby-pamby atheistic persecution-complex (we atheists never get to have fun, everyone hates us!) and false-analogy distortion. Coyne’s hypothetical martyr  should be fired if he argued that the evidence proved there is no God—because that would demonstrate scientific illiteracy.

Coyne truly is a nasty piece of work—the image of a jackal springs to mind. Collins does not even come close to arguing that science proves the existence of God. If he did, then I’d agree with Coyne, he should be fired. What Collins is actually arguing, in effect, is that Christians should embrace science because it affirms rather than threatens their faith. This is the unpardonable sin that makes the small-minded Jerry Coyne so blood-vessel-popping upset, that gets his fists clenched into tiny balls of self-righteous indignation—that someone, somewhere has the gall to disagree with his dogma and to argue for the compatibility between science and Christianity. 

That is what Collins is doing, primarily for an audience of believers. He is not arguing that science proves God. Coyne is lying

Thursday, February 18, 2010

A call for imprecatory prayer…

that God may kick the shins of this embarrassing, lunatic, apostate, God's-Glory-Robbing tool-of Satan disgrace to all Baptists everywhere: Wiley Drake.

This repulsive creature, who should be defrocked, is calling on his church to pray for the death of the President. According to John Avalon of the Daily Beast:
Pastor Wiley Drake kicked off this Presidents’ Day Weekend with an email blast to his supporters saying “Imprecatory Prayer is now our DUTY” and announcing a daily teleconference call to advance the cause. Drake has been an enthusiastic advocate of imprecatory prayer since he announced that God answered his call with the murder of Kansas abortion clinic doctor George Tiller in church last May. “George Tiller was far greater in his atrocities than Adolf Hitler,” Drake said at the time, “so I am happy. I am glad that he is dead.” This emboldened him to add “the usurper that is in the White House … B. Hussein Obama” to the list said in his church on Sundays.
Sadly, Drake is not a complete fringe figure. He served as a second vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention in ‘06 and ‘07. In ‘08, he received 47,000 votes as the vice-presidential nominee of the American Independent Party, alongside conservative activist Alan Keyes, Obama’s GOP opponent when he was elected to the Senate in 2004.

There is only one weapon to bring to bear against God: to rob him of his glory (i.e., curse him). Athiests can’t do it—they are impotent. Richard Dawkins has not robbed God of any glory. Only Christians can rob God of glory. Wiley Drake, in this event you have won gold.

Demonstrating that he is completely ignorant of the Baptist tradition of favoring separation of church and state, he has also prayed for God's wrath on Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. It appears that God is not listening. The prayers of a self-righteous ignoramus avail little. I hope the IRS nails his posterior.

Here he is--for those with a strong stomach

HT: Ed Brayton

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The time has come

I sent this letter to the Discovery Institute:


Please pass this along to the relevant person: I respectfully request to have my name removed from the DI's "Dissent from Darwinism."

Since signing that document, I have come to support the position commonly called "theistic evolution". As such, it no longer makes sense to have my name on the list of dissenters.


David P. Heddle, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Physics
Christopher Newport University, and
The Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility

For reasons I can't easily explain it has taken me a while to take this step. Also, I don't intend this as a "bash the DI" post. When I signed the document, I knew exactly what I was signing. There was no misrepresentation or deceit on the part of the DI. My position has changed. That's all.

UPDATE: I received a courteous reply from the DI that my name would be removed the next time the list is updated.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Meanwhile over at PZ's Palace

As for PZ world—they are having one of my favorite discussions—a fight among the godless over libertarianism. PZ makes it clear that he views libertarianism as a pathology.

Feeling a bit of the over-used schadenfreude over the prospect of a circular firing squad, I posted this comment:
I envision this TV-Guide entry in heaven:

Thursday, 10:00, GBS. Rational Land, the Lost Nation (Season Premier) This critically acclaimed satire begins its 969th season. For the newly glorified: enjoy the drama of a nation where all religion and irrational thought has been eliminated. Only people for whom "rationalism is king" are citizens. One third are progressive, academic liberals known as PZians. One third are xenophobic, militaristic secular rightists known as Derbyshirians. And one third are libertarians known as Randians whose leader is indeed a randy old cougar. All are secular, all are convinced of the correctness of their positions and the total lack of merit (or pathology) of their opponents' positions. They have achieved their common goal of a society free of religion. Do you suppose they have a beautiful and peaceful nation? Tune in to see! Available in Aramaic by pressing the AAP button on your set.
I was roundly ignored. But I'll show 'em. I'll post it here. After all, according to my calculations, PZ's blog gets the same number of hits every 7.8 minutes as I get in a day!

On the other hand, I have to give PZ some credit. He has a knack for finding funny comics. I love this one:

Don’t believe me? See, for example Barbara Branden, The Passion of Ayn Rand.

New Comment System (And question for blogspot experts)

The haloscan system which I used for years is dead. I am trying its replacement "echo" on a 30 day trial basis. Expect hiccups.

By the way, if I decide not to pay the $12 for echo how do I simply use blogspot comments? Anyone know? In hunting about my settings I see no obvious way to turn them on (actually, according to the settings they are on--that is, the "show" radio button is selected.)--will just removing the javascript that powers the haloscan (now echo) comments cause the blogspot comment link to appear? Or will I need to go get a new template?

Reverend Jerry still working hard to purify the race

It has been a while since I checked in on Jerry Coyne, but I see he is as muddleheaded as ever. In a post describing whether religion was a genetic adaptation or a byproduct, he writes:
I’m not sure exactly what data would support one hypothesis over the other, and in the end, if you can’t settle the issue the question becomes scientifically uninteresting.
He is correct. What is amusing is that this is exactly what I have stated, repeatedly, even on his blog until his blog stopped accepting my comments, about the issue of the incompatibility of science and religion. That is: unless you provide some data—unless you can do the experiment and demonstrate the effect—it is scientifically uninteresting. In other words, it’s an opinion. But in the incompatibility question Coyne doesn’t see the lack of data as a problem—there he has argued that the alleged incompatibility is a fait accompli. Mr. Pot, meet Mr. Kettle. Or perhaps: Mr. Horse, here is a nice big ole pair of blinders.

Coyne goes on to discuss the origin of morality. With his repulsive regularity he must accuse someone of “faithism” (which if you don’t know is a kind of a derogatory N-word whose invention he commissioned) . This time it is science blogger Josh Rosenau. (Rosenau works for the anti-ID National Center for Science Education, a group that played a huge rule in the Dover case. He is, however, outside Coyne’s circle of orthodoxy. Coyne is the Robespierre of New Atheism.)

Rosenau the Apostate writes, paraphrasing here, that theists should not be troubled by theories of moral universalism. He is correct—and I’ll come back to that.

Coyne, criticizing Rosenau, writes:
But that’s not what religious scriptures say, nor what a huge number of the faithful really think. It always amuses me when accommodationists, especially the atheistic ones, tell religious people what they’re supposed to believe, or where they’re supposed to find comfort.
Rosenau: tells us that we should not be troubled. Bad.
Coyne: tells us what we think. Acceptable.

Figure out that calculus.

In fact, Rosenau and Coyne are both guilty of not knowing what we think. If they did, they would know that for Christians it is not the presence of morality in atheists or people of other faiths or primitive peoples that would be problematic—it would be its absence that would present difficulty. Go look up “common grace” and get back to me.

"accommodationists" is kind of like the "colored people" or "negro" version of the word faithiest.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Say it ain't so, PZ

That railing rascal of rationality PZ Myers has a post in which he gives his endorsement of some real woo. The woo in question is from writer Kim Stanley Robinson speaking at Duke:
science is a Utopian project; it began as a Utopian project and it has remained so ever since, an attempt to make a better world. And this is not always the view taken of science because its origins and its life have been so completely wrapped up with capitalism itself. They began together. You could consider them to be some kind of conjoined twins, Siamese twins that hate each other, Hindu gods that are permanently at odds, or even just a DNA strand wrapped around each other forever: some kind of completely imbricated and implicated co-leadership of the world, cultural dominance--so that science is not capitalism's research and development division, or enabler, but a counterforce within it. And so despite the fact that as Galileo says that science was born with a gun to its head, and has always been under orders to facilitate the rise and expansion of capital, the two of them in their increasing power together are what you might call semi-autonomous, and science has been the Utopian thrust to alleviate suffering and make a better world.
There is so much new-age aroma and sophomoric politics emanating from this meaningless word-soup that I imagine PZ reading it while rearranging his energy crystals in a pleasing pattern resembling Che Guevara's beard.

Science, it seems rather obvious, arose from human curiosity--an itch that had to be scratch. And itch-scratching is selfish, not utopian.