In ‘bama

September 3, 2009 • 3:59 pm

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!

24 thoughts on “In ‘bama

  1. 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)

  2. 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!

  3. 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!!

  4. 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!

    1. 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!”)

  5. 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!

  6. 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

  7. 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.

    1. 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.

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

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

  9. 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

  10. 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.

    1. “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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