In ‘bama

Awash in the Crimson Tide, I’ve made it, and am about to have a genteel Southern dinner (at the riverside Cypress Inn — they have peanut butter pie!) before my talk. Tomorrow: grits and red-eye gravy — and hopefully biscuits — for breakfast, and ribs for dinner.

The campus here is lovely, and large, with the huge Bryant-Denny football stadium (now being enlarged to contain 101,000 seats!) looming above it all. Nearby is Foster Auditorium, where George Wallace made his futile bid to prevent black students from enrolling on June 11, 1963 — an event that I’m old enough to remember. There’s a museum to Bear Bryant as well, whose statue (along with those of other championship-winning coaches) stands outside the stadium. Large fraternity houses line the main drag, and on the side streets are gorgeous houses, shaded by old oaks, which are said to be the purview of wealthier faculty members.

I’m told that Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird, lives nearby, and can be seen going to the campus library from time to time. But one is advised not to approach her for a signature!

fb-stadiumFig. 1. The humongous Bryant-Denny stadium

But what most impressed me was the President’s house, cheek by jowl to the stadium. It’s said to be one of only two buildings on campus that weren’t razed by the Yankees at the end of the Civil War. Imagine living in a place like this — your own Tara!

100198-004-FF3499B3Fig. 2. President’s house, University of Alabama

And so to fuel up for the big evolution talk. . .

Post mortem: It’s always hard to tell from the inside how these things went, but I was very pleased. Despite a nagging bronchitis, I soldiered on about the evidence for evolution, and I think it went well. Lots of people showed up, the questions were intelligent and wide-ranging, and even my criticism of religion as a cause of anti-evolution sentiment was received well. (One person did say that my comments on religion might have been inimical to my message about evolution.)

And I sold a lot of books! I think the best gauge of audience reaction will be in the Tuscaloosa paper, or perhaps even on this website. All I can say is that everyone I’ve met — especially my hosts — has been friendly and (dare I use the word) accommodating. Bring on the biscuits!

Oh, and one more astounding fact: the head football coach at Alabama makes four million dollars per year!


  1. Posted September 3, 2009 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

    And so to fuel up for the big evolution talk. . .

    Always perverting the ignorant righteous with demonstrable knowledge, aren’t you?

    Glen Davidson

  2. Kyle
    Posted September 3, 2009 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

    I bet you’ll be revealing in your talk that you have now converted to creationism. That house is too beautiful and complex to have been the result of some random process, it clearly has a designer. Now consider the complexities of the human body and the beauty of nature…coincidence? Accident? Random process? I don’t think so. (Insert mocking tone)

  3. Posted September 3, 2009 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

    Rely on the kindness of strangers. And pass the mint julep please.

  4. Bama Student
    Posted September 3, 2009 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

    Welcome to UA, Dr. Coyne… hope you enjoy your stay and fill up on some good food. We’re looking forward to your talk tonight!

  5. newenglandbob
    Posted September 3, 2009 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

    Let us know how your talk is received.

    I am sure it will be a transcending experience for many. 🙂

  6. Hempenstein
    Posted September 3, 2009 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

    Peanitbutta pie! Lawd, jac, have a piece if you must, but make sure you get a piece of pecan pie somewhere too. Minnie Jackson, made the best pecan pie in the world, and she was from Alabam!!

  7. Posted September 3, 2009 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

    Great talk tonight, Dr. Coyne. Very few people stormed out in righteous indignation, and I heard plenty of awkward shuffling in seats (inconvenient facts will do that). All in all, I think it was a big success, and I’m looking forward to participating in the ensuing discussion on campus.

    Hope you enjoy your stay and come back soon!

  8. Posted September 3, 2009 at 11:46 pm | Permalink

    I’ll bet they wouldn’t pay E.O. Wilson that kind of salary. SEC football trumps both science and religion.

    • Newman
      Posted September 4, 2009 at 7:11 am | Permalink

      And the stadium, at its current capacity of 92,000, seats more people than the entire population of the city of Tuscaloosa. And it’s packed out on Gameday.

      Yes, we do have our priorities here. (I say that as my other, perhaps less rational, half gives a hearty “Roll Tide!”)

  9. Posted September 4, 2009 at 2:59 am | Permalink

    I didn’t realise that Harper Lee was still living.

    I really, really liked “Mockingbird”.

    I only recently realised that the character Dill was based on her real-life friend Truman Capote.

    Anyway, enjoy Bama!

  10. Don
    Posted September 4, 2009 at 7:04 am | Permalink

    Did slaves build the big white house?

  11. Don
    Posted September 4, 2009 at 7:06 am | Permalink

    Damn, it has dawned on me that my previous comment brands me as a racist.

  12. Marilyn
    Posted September 4, 2009 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    I dont see why you are so shocked about the “crimson” coachs’ salary? isnt a common-est- ocurrence, a natural selection for big football coaches’ salaries under the pressure for many universities to be in the “spotlight”, whatever that is? i dont know how much u. of chicago football coach makes but u of illinois makes also a million; so do many other coaches. i also know that u chicago sucks, as the coach has a .55 something record. as to the living white house president headquarters one shouldnt be surprised either. slavery is-was- considered an unavoidable event in the evolution of american society hence it is ok to live inside history…oh goog lord…ooops sorry

  13. Posted September 4, 2009 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    Everyone keep in mind, the football program pays for itself (and more). Say what you will about the dangers of a sports-obsessed culture (they are certainly real), but financially coach Saban’s salary is totally appropriate.

    • Newman
      Posted September 4, 2009 at 8:51 am | Permalink

      Yes, that’s true. I always say the same thing when I hear people complain that the insanely high coach’s salary, stadium expansion, etc., take money away from academics. That simply isn’t true.

      • J.J. E.
        Posted September 4, 2009 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

        Not for Bama. But for many schools with mediocre teams and less fanatical fan bases, it is often a losing proposition.

  14. Chris
    Posted September 4, 2009 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    Thank you for coming, and hopefully your visit has helped dispel the myth that Alabama as a state is wholly ignorant.

  15. Marilyn
    Posted September 4, 2009 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    well meaning question: how does dr coyne lecture got to do with dispeling the myth-unknown to me-that alabama state-as a whole-??? is gnorant..i would say that the myth to dispel is the reactionary,retrogade white male politics

  16. JefFlyingV
    Posted September 4, 2009 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    My niece is a freshman at UA and looking forward to your lecture.

  17. Posted September 4, 2009 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    I second the pecan pie suggestion. Peanut butter v pecan? No contest!

    • Hempenstein
      Posted September 4, 2009 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

      Glad you agree!

      But it just occurred to me that maybe there’s a confrontational purpose in going for PB pie. If he comes back spouting creationism we’ll know what’s responsible:

  18. Bama Student
    Posted September 4, 2009 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

    Marilyn… I’d say the fact that we invited & paid him to talk to us proves that we’re open to what he has to tell us.

    Interesting talk, all sucker-punches to Alabama aside… it’s at once strange and nice to hear another atheist say the things I’ve often thought. I’d almost forgotten there were others out there.

    • Posted September 5, 2009 at 10:39 am | Permalink

      “it’s at once strange and nice to hear another atheist say the things I’ve often thought. I’d almost forgotten there were others out there.”

      And that is why it is so necessary for the “new” atheists to keep on saying those things, and why it is so pernicious for enemies of the “new” atheists to keep trying to bully them into ceasing to say such things.

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