Severe Weather Alert: Dr. Jerry Coyne – Militant Atheistic Biologist – Is Blowing Very Hot Air In Chicago!
Of all the new age, “militant” atheists with whom I am familiar, only P.Z. Myers seems able to out-perform Dr. Jerry Coyne, of the University of Chicago, in sheer crudeness, abrasiveness, and obnoxiousness. That is not to say that Dr. Coyne is not a hard worker. Achieving silver medal status next to P.Z. Myer’s gold is no small achievement; one does not scale such heights by coasting or resting on one’s laurels! In fact, judging by the time and energy Coyne seems to devote to his blog, Why Evolution is True, one wonders if his students could possibly be getting anything other than sloppy-seconds.
Recently, Jerry (yes, we’re on a first name basis) lashed out (read: threw a temper tantrum) at a rather brilliant academic with whom I am friendly: Dr. David Berlinski, a mathematician, science and math writer, Senior Fellow of the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, self-proclaimed agnostic, and a well known critic of Neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory. I am not qualified to pass judgment on the substance of their disagreement, which revolves around the ability or inability of evolutionary theory to account for the organized complexity of life on our planet. However, the tone and maturity level of Dr. Coyne’s screed is worth noting. Here is a sampling of what he had to say about Berlinski:
“Berlinski makes an ass of himself”
“full of lies”
“pompous and awkward”
“Do not write like this!”
“[Berlinski] apes Gould’s writing style”
“the idiots at the Discovery Institute”
“Discovery Institute…reserved for only the highest Poo-Bahs of Ignorance”
“the height of stupidity”
“he’s a liar”
“[he’s] lying again”
“morons like [Berlinski]”
“[Berlinski wants] to keep them in a state of ignorance”
While Coyne’s inability to control his adolescent impulses to crudely insult his opponent – so much so that it leaves us wondering if he simply forgot to take his medication – does not necessarily invalidate his actual argument, it definitely raises some red flags. He further undermines his own credibility by describing Berlinski’s prose as awkward. Anyone who has read Berlinski’s books or articles – whether you agree with him or not – knows that his writing is anything but awkward. Excuse me Jerry, but if Berlinski’s prose is awkward, then yours could only be described as quadriplegic. On the other hand, if Berlinski’s writing is the most exquisite bottle of French Bordeaux wine, yours is a watered-down quart bottle of Ripple. I’m sure an august institution like the University of Chicago has some wonderful creative writing courses…Just do it, Jerry.
Coyne also bizarrely characterizes Berlinski as a “creationist,” and a “defender” of Intelligent Design theory. In fact, he is neither. The notion that Berlinski is a “creationist” is nothing short of laughable and while “sympathetic” to ID, he is by no means an advocate of the theory, much to the chagrin of his colleagues at the Discovery Institute.
Most revealing of all is Coyne’s confession that he has “trouble believing” that Berlinski is really an agnostic. I find this intriguing. Why is it difficult for Coyne to believe such a thing? As far as I’m concerned, the answer is obvious. Dr. Jerry Coyne is a fanatic. A fanatic is someone who is so emotionally and psychologically bound up with their beliefs, that they are incapable of considering another point of view. The sense of reality and emotional stability of the fanatic depend entirely on protecting their beliefs from any type of serious questioning or intellectual attack. Coyne is a fanatical atheist and a fanatical Darwinist. From Coyne’s psychological perspective, it is impossible for there to be flaws in evolutionary theory. It is impossible for any rational person to have doubts about evolutionary theory. The only possible reason for anyone to question Darwinian Evolution would be in order to promote their religious agenda. It’s clear then, that few things could be more threatening than a brilliant agnostic (like Berlinski) raising doubts about Coyne’s dearly held worldview. After all, absent the motivation of a religious agenda, perhaps the reason Berlinski claims there are holes in the theory is because there are holes in the theory. That is a little to much for Dr. Coyne to handle, hence the hysterical pushback.
We can at least be thankful that Dr. Coyne did not bring up the issue of Berlinski’s Jewishness as he did with me. In early March of 2011, I incurred the “wrath of Jerry” by inspiring Rabbi Adam Jacobs, a columnist on the Algemeiner and Huffington Post, to write an article entitled “A Reasonable Argument for God’s Existence.” The article dealt exclusively with the issue of Origin of Life, a subject which covers about 1/3 of my book, Nonsense of a High Order: The Confused and Illusory World of the Atheist. Dr. Coyne, who describes himself as a “cultural Jew,” expresses his Jewish identity by posting pictures of triple-decker pastrami sandwiches on his blogsite.
In his attack on Rabbi Jacobs and me, he attached great significance to the fact that we were Jewish. He wrote that he was “deeply saddened” that arguments like this “come from Jews,” and concluded by declaring, “Rabbi Jacobs makes me ashamed to be a cultural Jew.”
In light of the fact that there are far more gentiles who enjoy pastrami sandwiches than there are Jews in the entire world, it’s hard to understand what exactly is so “Jewish” about deli-sandwiches. In fact, it’s hard to understand why Jerry Coyne considers himself Jewish at all. I’m ashamed that he trivializes the concept of Jewish identity by reducing it to something as silly and pathetic as a pastrami sandwich. I’m also ashamed that Coyne fanatically promotes life-negating ideologies like atheism and Darwinism – which teach us that a human being is nothing more than an intelligent cockroach, and no more significant either – when the entire meaning of Jewish existence was to teach the world that every human being is created in the image of God, bestowing a nearly infinite preciousness and significance upon human life.
The argument that I put forth in my book, which Rabbi Jacobs also presented in his Huffington Post column, was that the simple reason why Origin of Life researchers are baffled in their attempts to find a naturalistic origin of life – as Noble Laureate Dr. Jack Szostak put it, “It is virtually impossible to imagine how a cell’s machines…could have formed spontaneously from non-living matter,” is because it is impossible for a cell’s machines to have formed spontaneously from non-living matter. The notion that the functional complexity of a bacterium could be the result of an unguided process is as absurd as asserting that the sculptures on Mt. Rushmore were the result of an unguided, naturalistic process. Here is Dr. Coyne’s “killer response”:
“Nope, we don’t yet understand how life originated on Earth, but we have good leads, and abiogenesis is a thriving field. And we may never understand how life originated on Earth, because the traces of early life have vanished…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.”
The Talmudic Sages declare that “someone who wants to lie makes sure that his witnesses and evidence are far away.” In other words, a skilled fabricator always is careful to tell a story that can never be checked out objectively or falsified…sort of like Dr. Jerry Coyne telling us that while today he has zero evidence that life could come from non-life through an unguided process, not to worry: 50 years in the future we’ll have all the evidence we need. I am certain that God the Creator exists while David Berlinski is not certain at all. But on one thing we are both certain: The impotence and vacuousness of Dr. Coyne’s writing and reasoning speak for themselves
If you wish to be notified when Rabbi Averick’s new columns appear, send an email to email@example.com and simply write the word Subscribe in the subject bar. Rabbi Moshe Averick is an orthodox rabbi and author of Nonsense of a High Order: The Confused and Illusory World of the Atheist. It is available on Amazon.com and Kindle. Rabbi Averick can be reached via his website. .