Dear Dr. Coyne,
I’ve been contemplating the three attacks you launched against Rabbi Adam Jacobs and myself within a period of several weeks. They appeared on your website “Why Evolution is True”, and were, to a large extent, in response to a column that Rabbi Jacobs had written for the HuffPost religion section (3/6/11) called “A reasonable argument for God’s existence.” Rabbi Jacobs had mentioned that some of the material was drawn from my book, Nonsense of a High Order: The Confused and Illusory World of the Atheist. What I found most fascinating is that all these attacks were couched in terms of our Jewishness. Among the flowery gems that flowed from your highly enlightened, educated, and sophisticated pen:
“Evangelical Christians can be as moronic as they want, but when a rabbi says something dumb, well that sets my DNA on edge.”
“Frankly I’m weary of arguments like this one and deeply saddened that they come from Jews.”
And finally, “Jews can be just as willfully misguided about evolution as Christians like William Dembske and Michael Behe.”
Your first comment about setting “my DNA on edge” appears overtly racist. Do you actually believe there is such a thing as “Jewish DNA?” You say that you are “deeply saddened that they come from Jews.” Are Jews actually different than other human beings? Do you expect more from Jews? I guess you feel that we are superior to the gentiles. Has natural selection made us smarter than “moronic” Christians? What about non-Christian gentiles? Is there also such a thing as “Christian and non-Christian gentile DNA?” Gee, the next thing that might pop out of your Darwinian inspired view of reality is that there is also superior “Aryan DNA.” Hmmm, where have I heard that before? I’ll leave the analysis of your arguably racist views to some of the expert social scientists who inhabit your Hyde Park neighborhood. Let’s move on to the gist of the matter.
You stated that “Jews can be…willfully misguided about evolution.” What is so strange about this remark is that neither Rabbi Jacobs nor I ever discussed the theory of Darwinian evolution. The topic under discussion was the origin of life. When asked how life came from non-life, Rabbi Jacobs stated, “How? I have no idea. On the basis of all chemistry I know, it seems to me astonishingly improbable.” Oh, excuse me. That wasn’t Rabbi Jacobs, that was Dr. George Whitesides of Harvard University, who has the highest Hirsch-index rating of any living chemist. What Rabbi Jacobs actually said was, “The origin of life is a total mystery.” Sorry, I keep getting mixed up; that was a “moronic” Christian physicist by the name of Freeman Dyson in an article entitled “How We Know” (3/10/11) that appeared in the New York Times Review of Books. I think Rabbi Jacobs said, “We don’t know how life began…we don’t know the mechanism that turned non-life into life…we have many theories, many conjectures but we don’t know what happened.” What is with me today?! That was Dr. Paul Davies, an Origin of Life expert who made those remarks at the recent Origins Conference at ASU to a panel of some of the world’s leading scientists, including J. Craig Venter, Richard Dawkins, Sydney Altman, etc. In any case, did I mention that the title of Rabbi Jacobs HuffPost article was “Pssst, Don’t tell the creationists, but scientists don’t have a clue how life began?” I did it again!! That wasn’t Rabbi Jacobs, that was a senior writer for Scientific American, John Horgan. It was the title of his Scientific American column (2/28/11) reporting on the aforementioned ASU Origins Conference.
What I think is really bothering you Dr. Coyne is that Rabbi Jacobs and I, and others like us, have pointed out that the emperor is embarrassingly naked. Scientists are completely baffled how life could come from non-life and it deeply disturbs you that we would have the chutzpah to even suggest the possibility that it was created. What a slap in the face to scientists everywhere! How dare we suggest that perhaps there are mysteries that are beyond the reach of science! After all, if scientists can build a hydrogen bomb, they must be able to do anything! At the end of your post on 3/7/11 you summed up your “slam dunk” response to misguided, medieval fundamentalists like us:
“Nope, we don’t yet understand how life originated on Earth, but we have good leads, [perhaps you should inform Dr’s Whitesides, Dyson, and Davies of the good news] and abiogenesis is a thriving field. And we may never understand how life originated on Earth, because the traces of early life have vanished. We know it happened at least once, but not how. I’m pretty confident that within, say, 50 years we’ll be able to create life in a laboratory under the conditions of primitive Earth, but that, too, won’t tell us exactly how it did happen – only that it could.”
How you “know” that life emerged through an unguided, purely naturalistic process when you admit that you have no evidence to support such an assertion, is a mystery that only atheistic scientists such as yourself, Richard Dawkins and P.Z. Myers understand. Imagine a District Attorney going before a judge with a petition to deny bail because he “knows” the defendant is guilty. When asked for some evidence to that effect, he replies, “Oh your honor, I’m confident that within 50 years we’ll have all the evidence we need!” The impotence of your argument, Dr. Coyne, and the weakness of your position speaks for itself.
I’m embarrassed when intelligent people present ridiculous and foolish arguments whether they are Jewish, Christian, or skeptics. Now you understand why I called my book Nonsense of a High Order: The Confused and Illusory World of the Atheist.
Sincerely, (Rabbi) Moshe Averick, Chicago, Ill.
Dr. Jerry Coyne is a distinguished biologist at the University of Chicago and a self labeled “cultural Jew.”