Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Jerry Coyne, Slug

Twice now, most recently here,  Jerry has referred to the title of my good friend Tom Gilson's blog Thinking Christian as "oxymoronic". Gee Jerry, we got it the first time. Har, har. You want to make sure that we notice you have cleverly recognized that "thinking" and "Christian" are antithetical. Thanks for using the same joke again. Just in case it was too high-brow. (Which might be true for some of Jerry's fanboys.) I can imagine you squirming in your seat and giggling as you typed it in. A second time. Dare we hope for a third?

Seriously. Is Jerry in middle school? Who could possibly think such an insult is funny or clever? It is on par with calling Dembski,  "Dumbski". Speaking of Dembski, it is on par with morphing Coyne's picture onto Herman Munster, as Dembski once did. The two, it would appear, have about the same level of sophistication in their humor.

Tom Gilson and I have experienced another aspect of Jerry Coyne's slugness first hand. Both of us can no longer post comments on Jerry's blog. Dembski, when he banned me from Uncommon Descent (for sarcastic anti-ID comments) at least had the cajones to say that he was banning me. PZ Myers, for all his faults, gives people repeated warnings and then places them in a dungeon. He posts, for posterity, the reason they were banned and, amazingly, a courtesy link to the banned person's blog, if there is one. Not Jer. When the mood strikes he, slug-like, either places a filter or simply stops approving your comments. (He may then address your last comment in an attempt to convince his fanboys that you are so devastated by his repartee that you have slithered away, licking your wounds.) 

Jerry doesn't like Tom Gilson much. I am  referring to Jer's recent post: It’s about morality, stupid: why Dawkins won’t debate William Lane Craig. It was in this post that Jerry first unleashed the devastating "Thinking Christian is an oxymoron" uber-insult.

The post was ostensibly about why Dawkins refuses to debate Craig. As an aside, like many I am not a fan of debates. For that matter, as a presuppositionalist, I am not a big of William Lane Craig's apologetics, either.  But Coyne reports that Dawkins's reason for not debating Craig is Craig’s reprehensible defense of the slaughters ordered by God in the Old Testament.

So Dawkins won’t debate Craig because Craig defends the slaughter of the Canaanites during the conquest of Palestine.  I don’t get it—why would the fact that someone holds a position that you find reprehensible cause you not to debate them? Shouldn't it, if anything, stoke the flames of outrage and encourage you to debate? 

I say that this is an aside because it is the only on-topic (i.e., related to the title of the post) discussion Coyne provides.

You see, Coyne doesn't really want to discuss why Dawkins won't debate Craig. He sorta, kinda wants to discuss the Euthyphro Dilemma.  The old "Is what is morally good commanded by God because it is morally good, or is it morally good because it is commanded by God?" conundrum.

And it is not even that. The actual reason for the post is nothing more than this: Coyne wants to criticize Tom Gilson who gave him a less than favorable (but in fact way too kind) review of an atrocious op-ed piece Coyne wrote for USA Today.

The USA Today piece is stupid from top to bottom, beginning with its title (which of course may not have been written by Coyne):  As atheists know, you can be good without God. This plays on Atheist Victimhood, which along with all other types of victimhood (including Christian victimhood) is an American epidemic. The title attempts to address what is never charged: that atheists cannot behave morally. Indeed, I suspect my fellow evangelicals will confirm that what their pastors complain about in the pulpit is not that atheists cannot behave morally, but rather that our behavior is not noticeably better.

Coyne's poor logic is demonstrated by the last sentence in his op-ed, which simply reiterates the title: Clearly, you can be good without God. But of course Coyne has demonstrated no such thing--all he has demonstrated (which nobody disputes) is that you can be good without believing in god. He has not established the non-existence of god, and has not demonstrated that god could never be the source of goodness for all men, believers or not. (Common Grace).

Recent studies about American students' mathematical abilities place them near the bottom in actual ability among industrialized nations. But there is good news: they are at the very top in terms of their math self-esteem. Atheist mathematician Jason Rosenhouse who, unlike Coyne, writes with intelligence and integrity, commented on this phenomenon here

What these students are to math, Coyne is to religion. He is a complete and utter idiot, yet his self-esteem regarding his religious acumen is stratospheric. The first time I realized this is when I was astounded to read that he took the proof of God's nonexistence by Epicurus (God cannot be omnibenevolent and omnipotent, ergo no god) seriously. I'm a presuppositionalist primarily because I cannot take any of the proofs of god seriously--and yet some of those constructs are superior to Epicurus' proof. Coyne can dismiss (rightly so) arguments from Aquinas on the existence of God with a wave of his hand, while at the same time write with all seriousness, and irony meter intact: earthquakes kill people, ergo no god

Speaking of irony, Jerry's little joke about "oxymoron"in a post about debating is particularly ironic. Tom Gilson, in a debate on religion, would utterly decimate poor Jerry although Jerry, blinded by his misplaced self esteem, probably wouldn't notice.


  1. Can you explain presuppositionalism? (Or, if you did already, link to your explanation.) One of the things I really like about this blog (when it is active) is its theological explanations, which are generally pitched just right for my level of understanding. For example, the stuff some years back on pre-, post-, and amillenialism really clarified my own thinking, not to mention letting me understand where my pastor was coming from.

  2. Sean,

    Basically it is the idea that the existence of God and the bible as his word are presupposed--i.e., taken as true. Confidence is gained not by constructing proofs, but by, starting with these presuppositions, building a self-consistent world-view that is aligned with our observations.

  3. sean, I believe that Greg Bahnsen wrote a lot on presuppositionalism. Possibly John Frame, too. I've read and seen videos of Bahnsen using presupp apologetics. I haven't read any of Frame's apologetics.

    Dave, does that match what you know of them?

  4. Hola Dave.

    Isn't WLC's take on physics, especially "something from nothing" a bit wrong also?

  5. Richard,

    Yes it is.


    Yes that's Bahnsen.

  6. I can believe that you and Tom
    Gilson were banished from Dr. Coyne's site. I was also banished for politely suggesting to Dr. Coyne that he treat Rabbi Jacobs more courteously (See "Deluded Rabbi, WEIT). I also believe you about the "hit and run" tactic that Dr. Coyne uses to leave the impression that you have "slithered away" (Dr. Coyne called me a name, asked me a question, then censored me so that I couldn't reply).

    I attempted to recount my case on Dr. Dawkins's website, but I was censored there as well before I could make a single post (Dawkins is a friend of Coyne).

    Dr. Coyne has a habit of calling people names rather than making an intelligent argument. He recently called author Jim P. Houston a "pompous jerk" because Houston asked Coyne to to be more polite to Keith Ward.

    When someone like Dr. Dawkins considers "you are a pompous jerk" to pass for intelligent discourse and censors dissenters, I think we are all in trouble.