This is not an easy time for Dr. Jerry Coyne, our favorite atheistic biologist at the University of Chicago. First: Some very bad news from the world of cosmology. On 1/11/12, Lisa Grossman posted an article on New Scientist entitled, “Why physicists can’t avoid a creation event.” The opening paragraph is roughly the equivalent of a Doctor calmly requesting a patient to sit down before he tells him he has six weeks to live. (Jerry, I hope you’re sitting):
“You could call them the worst birthday presents ever. At the meeting of minds convened last week to honor Stephen Hawking’s 70th birthday – loftily titled “State of the Universe” – two bold proposals posed serious threats to our existing understanding of the cosmos.”
What was the terrible news that Grossman felt would ruin the birthday-boy’s big day? It seems that new research by physicists suggests there is no way to avoid the conclusion that the universe is not eternal, “resurrecting the thorny question of how to kick-start the cosmos without the hand of a supernatural creator.” Oy vey! As cosmologist Alexander Vilenkin of Tufts University explained: “All the evidence we have says that the universe had a beginning.” You see, Stephen Hawking is one of those scientists who does everything possible to avoid having to believe in God. Grossman describes Hawking as one who “shies away” from any type of cosmic beginning and quotes him as saying, “A point of creation would be a place where science broke down. One would have to appeal to religion and the hand of God.” Personally, I can think of many things a lot worse than that, but we all have our problems don’t we? Jerry, it’s not that terrible; you could become a deist like Antony Flew and that means you still don’t have to worry about keeping kosher.
Second – and I must admit I feel really bad about this – on 1/8/12, Jerry wrote in his Why Evolution is True-blog that, “Rabbi Moshe Averick has been a royal pain in the tuchus, [Yiddish for “tushy”], spreading his creationist views all over the internet, most shamefully at the Algemeiner Journal, a Jewish weekly newspaper whose chairman of the board is, of all people, the renowned Elie Wiesel…Wiesel is, of course a Nobel Laureate…he doesn’t deserve the Averick albatross around his neck, and I wonder if he knows he’s harboring a creationist.” (In Jerry’s eyes “creationist” is one notch below “Nazi”)
If any of the readers know Wiesel personally please let him know; I just hope he can take the shocking news without breaking down completely. Jerry, I apologize, because deep down I really like you, and the thought that I am causing you pain, even if it’s just your tuchus, disturbs me to no end. I did hold out the peace-pipe to you in one of my recent columns on Algemeiner.com where I suggested we meet and discuss our differences about Origin of Life in an adult forum at the lovely Hyde Park campus of the University of Chicago, but you have made it clear in several of your posts at Why Evolution is True that you prefer to have women do your fighting for you. That includes both Terri-Lynne McCormick (the wife of Origin of Life researcher Dr. Jack Szostak), and Faye Flam the Planet of the Apes columnist at the Philadelphia Inquirer. Although Ms. McCormick was mistaken about her accusations against me, I certainly admire a woman who “stands by her man,” as she felt she was defending her husband against unfair representation; and while Faye Flam’s arguments against my position were rather weak, to say the least, I do give her credit for (a) being polite and civil in both her public and private communication with me and (b) at least having the courage to write out some form of measured, coherent argument explaining why the utter cluelessness of scientists regarding a naturalistic origin of life does not imply the existence of a Creator. It is worth noting that both of these women spoke on behalf of Dr. Jack Szostak. It would be interesting to hear what Szostak himself has to say about the ignorance of science about origin of life and the challenges that ID theorists present to his position. You, on the other hand, had only this lame statement to back your faith in the coming of the Darwinian-Origin-of-Life-Messiah:
“Nope, we don’t yet understand how life originated on Earth… 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.”
I repeat what I wrote to you in April, 2011: 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.
Third: This one is the clearest indication that Jerry is really having a bad hair day (I’m jealous, at least he has hair). On New Years Day, 2012, in an op-ed piece in USA Today, Coyne informed us that free will is an illusion. “[none of our choices] results from a free and conscious decision on our part. There is no freedom of choice; no free will…free will is a complete illusion.” In other words, in a world that consists of nothing but atoms, molecules, and chemicals, all causes and effects are governed by, and are the result of, the immutable laws of physics and chemistry. There is no such thing as a “will” that changes things. Everything that happens is like a series of billiard balls hitting each other and bouncing around. The notion that we can alter reality with our “will” is as absurd as suggesting that the billiard balls can control their speed, velocity, and which balls they hit next. Of course, if there is no free will that means that it was inevitable that Jerry Coyne would be an atheist and write an article about not having free will in USA Today. It has nothing to do with his own thoughts, weighing of the evidence, and decision making. All of those would involve “will.” According to him, it was inevitable that I would be a rabbi and a believer in God. If that is true it would the height of absurdity on his part to engage in arguments or try to present evidence to support his position. His magnum-opus Why Evolution is True is an exercise in utter futility. Everything he says he must say. He has now joined the ranks of other hard-core materialist loonies like Dr. Susan Blackmore: “The self is not the initiator of actions, it does not “have” consciousness and it does not “do” the deliberating…it is a false idea that there is someone inside who is in charge…free will, like the self who “has” it, is an illusion.” Imagine if Coyne was married to Blackmore and they went to the local hardware store to choose which color paint to use for their living room:
- Coyne: Honey, which color do you want, the peach or off-white?
- Blackmore: I must choose the peach.
- Coyne: Are you sure?
- Blackmore: Now I must change my mind.
- Coyne: Now I must start getting annoyed, because every time we go shopping together you can never make up your mind. I told you I didn’t want to come in the first place.
- Blackmore: You are so predictable, you always want to be in control!
- Coyne: You are so predictable, you never can make up your mind! Besides you are really predictable, not only can you never make up your mind, but you don’t even have any free will to begin with. All your decisions are just illusions. They had to be that way!
- Blackmore: Don’t start with that no free-will crap, you always use it to your advantage! I must see some other color options.
- Coyne: But the only colors that match our living-room furniture are peach and off-white!
- Blackmore: Then we must buy new furniture.
- Coyne: But we can’t afford new furniture!
- Blackmore: You are so predictable, it obviously was inevitable that you would be a cheapskate!! And to think, back in college I had a chance to marry Jack Szostak…..
Coyne tells us: “True free will would require us to somehow step outside of our brain’s structure and modify how it works. Science hasn’t shown any way we can do this because “we” are simply constructs of our brain. [Gee, I wonder “who” figured all this out, who "chose" to examine the evidence, and “decided” it was true?] We can’t impose a nebulous “will” on the inputs to our brain that can affect its output of decisions and actions, any more than a programmed computer can somehow reach inside itself and change its program.” Translation: True free will would mean a component of our being that is separate from the deterministic/materialistic brain, which would imply a non-material, spiritual reality, which would imply a soul, which might actually lead to, dare I say it…..God. Coyne and many of his fellow atheists are prepared to embrace the completely absurd reality of an existence without free will or real decision making rather than consider the possibility of a non-material soul or God. I leave Jerry to his absurdities, whatever they may be. However, there is perhaps one cosmic consolation for Dr. Coyne in all this.
Just meditate on the following: From the very moment of the Big Bang some 15,000,000,000 years ago; from the instant that time, space, matter, and energy came into being, when free photons uncoupled from the primordial mass, when the first atoms of our universe’s elements began to form, when the hot gases coalesced into great stars and massive quasars, when the milky-way galaxy began to glow and our own solar system formed; it was already inevitable, “written in the stars” as it were, that billions of years later on a small planet we call Earth, in a lovely neighborhood in Chicago called Hyde Park, that the University of Chicago would have in the person of Jerry Coyne, its very own…..Nutty Professor! Awesome dude, just awesome!
If you wish to be notified when Rabbi Averick’s new columns appear, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org 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. .