Peregrinations: Kentucky

October 11, 2010 • 3:04 pm

I’m off tomorrow afternoon to give two talks at The University of Kentucky (Lexington).  Both will be on Wednesday: there’s a scientific talk on our speciation research at noon, and an evening talk and book-signing, open to the public, on the evidence for evolution (with some atheism thrown in).  If you’re in the area, drop by.

Besides the local biology, I’m hoping to sample fried chicken, the famous Hot Brown, and some bourbon. I’m even going to a horse race.

The estimable Drs. Mayer and Cobb will, I hope, fill in if they have time.  Matthew’s working up posts on dinosaur ornamentation and cats’ eyes, and Greg’s doing his take on the Kitcher piece, with a Darwinian slant.

35 thoughts on “Peregrinations: Kentucky

  1. If you’re having Hot Brown, bring the Lipitor.

    Seriously, we do not need another PZ-like experience.

    Mmmmm….hot brown. I am literally salivating.

  2. See if you can’t find someone who can find you a taste of Pappy van Winkle 20y/o. Jefferson’s Reserve should be more readily available. The folks at Liquor Barn told me they only get 4 shipments of the former/yr, and it sells out in a day or so. They had the latter when I was there this summer but apparently that can’t be depended on either.

  3. Dear Mr. Coyne
    I just read your article in the USA Today Newspaper from October 11th, 2010. First, I just wanted to congratulate you on your use of the English vocabulary. Well done.
    You wrote and I quote, “I’ve never met a Christian, for instance, who has been able to tell me what observations about the universe would make him abandon his beliefs in God and Jesus.(I would have thought that the Holocaust could do it, but apparently not.)” That is a section of your article which I thought very, very curiously interesting, objectively of course. Why you ask? Isn’t it obvious? Well, I thought it was common knowledge. Everyone knows Hitler’s thought process was primarily responsible for the Holocaust and everyone knows Hitler was trying to start a master race that he hoped would rule the world; peacefully of course like good little atheists. Obviously, Jews don’t fit the bill (and for other reasons as well) and neither do gays, blacks, cripples, or any others who don’t fit his perfect description. I mean they obviously aren’t the “fittest” people or most evolved, right? I also thought we all knew that his greatest inspiration for the whole idea was evolution which as we all know was primarily thought up by Charles Darwin; which had to have been one of Hitler’s favorite people. We know evolution is the choice of belief for atheists since it caters so nicely to their thoughts on the world. Therefore, Mr Jerry Coyne next time you make a list of violent religions why don’t you add the religion of evolution to it. Since as we all know, now, it was the primary driving force behind the eradication of all races not fitting the “perfect” description made by one of the most famous and intelligent atheists of all, Hitler.(I mean can you point out any other atheists who practically took over the modern world and did what some atheists wish, deep down in their scientific hearts, they had a chance to do; no). When I look back at the Holocaust it only makes me believe in God all the more. Just because a bunch of twisted people decided to murder a large group of people (yes, people did it) it’s not going to make me abandon my belief in God. Also, Mr. Coyne, what was the result of the Holocaust? Yes, millions of people died. But think more. What else happened? Yes, your right…the Jews got Israel back as their own country. Since your such a big Bible fan you know the signifigance of that. Do you think that could have happened any other way. I would challenge you to devise another way that the entire world would feel so sorry for the Jews that they would decide to just hand over their country back to them. That is no coincidence. I don’t know God’s ways. How could I understand something that created the very organ I try to understand Him with. Does that make sense. Lastly, dosn’t evolution have a certain measure of faith behind it. I mean are you really so certain that all that evolution stuff is really true or do you have to have a little faith in it? Maybe not, but it sure seems that way.

    1. You’re an idiot.
      1. Hitler was a Catholic who was doing “the Lord’s work” in persecuting the Jews.
      2. The eugenics movement was not based on Darwin. No kidding, if you think so, you’re wrong. You get an “F” on that test.
      3. If you’re saying that god killed millions of people — including millions of innocent children — in order that Israel be created, your god is a dick. And a not very powerful dick at that. After all, a truly all-powerful god could just create the country of Israel, and nobody but Jews would ever be able to go in. Why can’t your all-powerful god do something as simple as put up a velvet rope and a bouncer?

      Contemptible theology mixed with nutbag ahistorical nonsense mixed with a complete and utter lack of knowledge of anything related to the science of evolution will not convince anyone of the existence of your god.

      Get off your knees and stop staring at the ceiling. You’re embarrassing yourself.

    2. Fred:
      One of the first things Hitler did on assuming power in 1933 was to outlaw atheism and close the Freethinkers Hall:

      Next, go here and listen to their own justification for genocide (start around 3:50).
      No mention of Darwin, whose books were on banned lists. Sharing common ancestry with apes was inconceivable to the Nazis. Instead, they base it on the laws of the Creator. Get it? That’s why their belt buckles say Gott Mit Uns on them.

      Things change when you have evidence to base conclusions on. Now go read WEIT and educate yourself further.

    3. For goodness sake – ‘your’? you are = you’re!

      Clearly you have never read Darwin or anything about him. Or anything about Herr Hitler’s thoughts. Atheism is NOT a ‘religion’! It is an absence of belief in deities.

      Oh & the ‘people kill people’ line comes straight out of the NRA so we know which side of the political spectrum you come from.

      As for the Jews getting ‘back’ Israel, they stole it from the ruddy Canaanites in the first place. So ‘might is right’ because god says so.

      And anyway, how do you know god is not godess?


  4. Um… little problem, Fred… Hitler wasn’t an atheist but don’t let facts get in the way of a nice looney-tune rant.

    1. Apparently a drive-by troll.

      Expect more of them because of the USA Today thingy.

      All with exactly the same bullshit tired cliches.

      On the bright side, I just need “Darwin recanted on his death bed” to fill my Creationist Bingo Card.

  5. Jerry, with at title already like “Two Flies on an Island: Speciation in Drosophila” I don’t know how you could resist modifying it just a tad to: “Two Flies One Island: Speciation in Drosophila”

    That differs only by 3 characters. 😛

  6. I just wanted to say that I am praying for you. I know that this might spark controversy and anger from the writer and from others on the site, but I sincerely do not want to do that. The comments about Hitler were wrong and uncalled for though some of the facts were halfway true. Darwin did believe that there was a master race but hitlers problems were not based on this thinking. I would also ask that people not call any person’s God a “dick”. These comments do nothing to help conversation. I do want to say that evidence is not something that I must have in order to have faith in God (by God, I am meaing Father,Son, and Spirit). God does not have to work in our human world and within the physics, biology, time, or whatever else scientific evidence is base on. God works, moves, and creates within God’s own way choosing to open the doorway into the heavenly realms or coming to be with us so that we might be with God. So, I pray. Not for you to be convince of any of my writings but that God, out of the goodness, mercy, and love the Lord has for us, to pour out his love, mercy, and grace on you. I also pray for peace. I truly hope that whoever reads this futile attempt at sharing a sincere persons faith does not take offense. May True blessings find you.

    1. Who are these hitlers? Hitler’s!!!

      Clearly another person who has not read Darwin.

      You imbue your god with the nicer human attributes – what about the nastier ones?

      Logical inconsistency –
      You deny the need for ‘evidence’ “evidence is not something that I must have in order to have faith in God (by God, I am meaning Father,Son, and Spirit)” yet rely on the evidence of the collection of myths & stories known as ‘the Bible’. Deny evidence & you deny existence!

      As Puck says to Oberon, “Lord, what fools these mortals be!”

    2. Word, “dick” is as “dick” does — or in God’s case, doesn’t do because there isn’t One. OK?

      You see, if God were real, you wouldn’t have to pretend to ask him to bless us, guide us or whatever. He’d be doing it anyway. So far, nada, which indicates that God is not real.

      Hitler keeps coming because religious people keep claiming that he was an atheist — whereas he and his followers were actually Christians. Bad Christians perhaps, but still Christian.

  7. Dr. Coyne:

    I could not find anywhere else to post this response to your editorial in USA Today. So, I am doing it here. I hope you do not mind.

    You say you have never met a Christian who could specify a fact that would make him or her give up their faith. Really? The Apostle Paul says that if Christ is not raised from the death, the Christian faith is false and contemptible (See 1 Corinthians 15:17).I agree. If conclusive arguments could be shown that Christ is dead and buried and that the beliefs of the apostles and the rest of the early church were false, I would give up Christianity. But after studying Christianity in relation to challenges from atheists and other religions, I remain convinced that it is both true and reasonable.

    I could say much more about your editorial, but now you have met (at least on line) one Christian who has stipulated a fact, that if shown to be true, would refute his religious convictions.


    Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D.
    Professor of Philosophy
    Denver Seminary

    1. LOL!

      You’d think a Professor of Philosophy (all bow!) could at least find one of the more appropriate threads here.

    2. What about the other gods? Why does yours trump theirs? The Bible is not a reliable or unbiased narrative – it does not constitute evidence for god any more than the Harry Potter stories constitute evidence for magic.

    3. Hello Dr Groothuis,

      I’m a former Christian who found that the evidence was very much against the resurrection of Jesus, the accuracy of the gospels, or really any important aspect of Christianity. That’s why I’m an ex-Christian.

      It’s not true, and it’s not even reasonable. It’s been thoroughly refuted many times over. So why are you claiming that it is?

    4. Professor:

      Where is your evidence that any of the myths told in the Little Book of Horror Stories you call the Bible actually happened?

      Where is the evidence that Jesus was a real person, and not merely mythological? Not one single shred of archeological or historical evidence supports any of the narratives of the so-called New Testament.

      Why do you assume that the stories told in that first century book of myths is any more credibly real than the other myths circulating at the time? Why not Heracles? Perseus? Are we to look for winged horses? Centaurs? If we can’t find them, does that prove they existed?

      Where is your evidence that any of the alleged miracles as told in the New Testament actually occurred? Don’t you find it odd that each and every one of them left precisely and exactly the same amount of residual evidence — that being none whatsoever?

      The denizens of this space have heard this several times, but if they’ll forgive me for repeating myself, all of the miracles of the NT (and the OT as well) are what I call “the dog ate my homework miracles”. We have no way to verify them whatsoever.

      * Where’s the wine? We drank it.
      * Loaves and fishes? Eaten.
      * The healed sick? Dead.
      * Lazarus? Dead again.
      * The resurrected Jesus? Invisible in heaven.

      Seriously, I know you’re going to counter with some weak “faith” based position. With all due respect, that’s not faith — it’s credulity.

      You’ve swallowed a bunch of first century myths and believe they provide some sort of credible basis for belief? Seriously?

      Pardon us for not taking seriously your attempt at argument from authority, professor.

      1. I don’t know why Professor Groothuis didn’t leave a copy of the letter that he sent to US Today. here it is (copied from his site The Constructive Curmudgeon):

        Dear Editor:

        Jerry Coyne’s recent editorial bashing religion and claiming it is incompatible with science was a plethora of baseless assertions and misrepresentations of both science and Christianity. Faith in the Bible involves believing in the invisible, but in believing the impossible. The Apostle Paul gave historical evidence for the resurrection of Christ and debated the philosophers of his age, even in Athens itself. Moreover, the leading scientists of the Scientific Revolution in Europe–such as Kepler, Farrady, and Galileo–were Christians or at least theists who believed that God created an orderly world worthy of study. Why a godless world of brute facts, chance, and fortuitous nature laws would be knowable at all is something that atheism cannot explain. Lastly, the areas of biology and physics have provided evidence for a Creator. The universe as a whole is fine-tuned for life, thus requiring a designer. Aspects of biology, such as the information in DNA, cannot be rationally explained by nonpersonal, purely material, and undirected processes. On this, see Stephen Meyer, The Signature in the Cell. Coyne is very good at caricature and ridicule, but quite bad at persuasive argument

        You’ve gotta love the Stephen Meyer line. The “Christian philosophers” worship that guy.

        1. The Apostle Paul????

          Does this guy not even OWN a bible?

          Paul said HIMSELF in the book that he was “born out of time”. He did not see the real, life, pre-dead Jesus in the flesh. He did not witness the ministry of Jesus, did not attend his execution, was not present when the zombie Jesus first made his alleged appearance on Earth.

          PAUL?????????? WTF???

          Some people just need to be pithed.

    5. Professor Groothuis,

      I just attempted to post the following on your blog, but it does not permit posts as long as this.



      Professor Groothius,

      You have asserted that knowledge that Jesus was not resurrected would be sufficient to dissuade you from Christianity. If you are willing to perform a modest amount of research, I am confident you will come to exactly that conclusion.

      In your seminary studies, I have no doubt that you performed extensive research into ancient Christianity. However, I am also certain that your research was very carefully limited to the evidence that exists to support Christianity, thereby giving you a false understanding of the “big picture” of ancient Judea.

      Specifically, as I’m sure you’re aware, the earliest impression Jesus made on the historical record was when Paul wrote about him no earlier than mid-century, at least a couple decades after the latest theorized date of the crucifixion. The Gospels were not written for at least another generation more; Luke even opens with an explicit statement that the author is relating a third-hand friend-of-a-friend story.

      I’m sure you’re aware of Josephus’s Testamonium, and equally aware that even the Catholic Encyclopedia acknowledge it as a forgery. Even if we treat it as partially true, Josephus wasn’t born until well after the crucifixion was alleged to have occurred. And the other Pagan references to Jesus were even later still.

      What I very much doubt your Seminary education covered is the fact that first century Judea was, in fact, documented quite well by its inhabitants.

      And those inhabitants didn’t notice a thing.

      Far and away the most notable omission is to be (not) found in the Dead Sea Scrolls. These were penned before, during, and after the period Jesus was supposed to have been on Earth, and not a single one even vaguely hints at Jesus’s ministry or any of the surrounding events. And, remember, these are the actual documents themselves, not the copies-of-copies-of-copies we have for everything else from that era.

      Almost as significant, diminished only by the fact that the originals are no longer extant, is the collected works of Philo Judaeus. Philo, you may recall, was the brother-in-law to King Herod Agrippa. He was the prolific Hellenistic Jewish philosopher who integrated the Greek Logos into Judaism. He was born well before the turn of the first millennium. His final work was his account of the embassy he participated in to petition Caligula against the mistreatment of Jews, including wanton crucifixions, at the hands of the Romans.

      Philo, too, never even hints at Jesus or any of the events of the Gospels.

      The list of contemporary and near-contemporary authors who failed to notice anything at all is staggering. There’s also Seneca, Plutarch, Justus, and Josephus (assuming the Testamonium is Eusebius’s forgery). There’s also Damis, Pliny the Elder, Juvenal, Martial, Petronius, Persius, Pausanias, Epicetus, Aelius Aristides, Dio Chrysostom, Aulus Gellius, Lucius Apuleius, Marcus Aurelius, Musonius Rufus, Hierocles of Alexandria, Cassius Maxiumus Tyrius, Arrian, Appian, Marcus Fabius Quintilianus, Lucius Annaeus Florus, and Marcus Annaeus Lucanus. Had a dead man with a gaping chest wound spent a month and a half preaching love and peace in Jerusalem, you can be certain that all of them would have noticed…yet not a single one did.

      And let’s not forget: Jesus left behind not only no physical artifacts, but not even a description of his physical appearance. For about as much as you might spend on a mortgage payment, you can buy for yourself a coin with the likeness of one of the Caesars, minted while he was alive. For the human incarnation of the ultimate divine creative force…we don’t even know if he was tall or short.

      Even the list of omissions doesn’t present the full picture, for it doesn’t explain the origins of the Jesus story. For that, all we have to do is look to Justin Martyr, who went to great lengths and extensive detail to equate Jesus and Christian mythology with its Pagan precedents. Of course, Martyr attributed the similarity to time-travelling devils, but I would hope that such an explanation would not be taken seriously in this day and age.

      To confirm Martyr’s thesis that Christianity is, exactly as it appears to be, a syncretic Pagan mystery cult, we have Lucian’s account of the passing of Peregrinus. Whether fictional or not, Peregrinus is described as having fraudulently “revealed” great truths (indistinguishable from common Pagan myths) to the early Christians.

      And, to tie it all together, we have the early Pagan descriptions of Christianity and Christians as being a weird and dangerous new cult, much as we today might describe the Branch Davidians, Heaven’s Gate, or Scientology.

      If your faith survives that investigation, I ask you to re-return to the Gospels themselves. Contrary to popular opinion, they are not praiseworthy. The Gospel on the Mount, for example, sings the praises of self-mutilation and forbids divorce except in the case of the wife’s infidelity. Elsewhere Jesus relates a parable that demands a human sacrifice be made to him of all those who fail to worship him. He came not to bring peace but a sword, and the only way to love him is to hate yourself and your family. And that, of course, is ignoring all the hellfire and damnation liberally sprinkled throughout.

      So, yes, Jesus and Christianity are a lie — and a particularly nasty one, at that. I urge you to abandon the worship of lies known as “faith,” and embrace the exaltation of truth and reality known as rationality and science.



      1. None of these ideas are new to me. I have either addressed them in my books, Jesus in an Age of Controversy or On Jesus, or have heard of them and am not threatened by them. For example, part of what has come down as Josephus’s testimony was probably forged, but not the whole things. More, many commentators did not deal with Jesus because he was neither a king or social revolutionary. At the time, they did not deem him important. I mention this in On Jesus. The idea that Jesus never existed is absurd. The counter-hypothesis bears the burden of proof and must explain all the biblical material as well as the extra-biblical references to Jesus. One could go on, but consult, for starters, Craig Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels or the many debate books on the resurrection featuring William Lane Craig.

        1. Professor Groothuis, your assertion that Jesus “was neither a king or social revolutionary” is astounding.

          Have you never heard of the acronym “INRI”? Have you never read the Gospels?

          If we are to believe the Gospels, Jesus was such a “social revolutionary” that he deserved the personal attention of the highest Jewish and Roman authorities. Jesus not only preached to vast crowds, he performed miracles for them. Even before he was born, his imminent appearance was known far and wide — King Herod even went so far as to slaughter all the male infants in Judea (presumably, thousands if not tens of thousands of children) in an unsuccessful attempt at assassinating the boy who was destined to usurp his throne.

          And, even after the man was dead and buried, he still didn’t stop. For a month and a half afterwards, he continued his ministry, doing exactly that which had gotten the authorities to execute him in the first place — only this time, with a gaping chest wound and holes in his hands and feet. John assures us that “there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.”

          Surely you must find it remarkable that not a single person who wrote at the time or for more than a generation later chose to make even passing mention of Jesus’s name, let alone all the many other things he did.

          Or do you deny the fact of the Resurrection? Do you disclaim the possibility of Pontius Pilate personally ordering Jesus’s execution? Do you assert that the Sanhedrin didn’t act like a bunch of drunken monkeys at Jesus’s trial? Is it your position that Jesus never performed any of the very public miracles attributed to him? Do you believe that, rather than preaching to vast multitudes, only a small, close circle even knew who he was?

          If so…why would you bother worshipping a random unknown mortal about whom everything we are supposed to believe is a lie?

          Who, exactly, was Jesus, and how do you reconcile him with his perfect omission from the contemporary and near-contemporary record?



      2. Luke even opens with an explicit statement that the author is relating a third-hand friend-of-a-friend story.

        Jesus–an ur-urban legend.

    6. Sorry, Dr. Groothuis, you have not answered Dr. Coyne’s challenge.

      There is no way to test the claim that Jesus was resurrected (or even that the gospels represent an accurate account of history. So, as a Christian, you have nothing to fear regarding your “disprove the resurrection and disprove Christianity”. Your test is not a test with any risk.

      Dr. Coyne’s objections remain intact.

  8. Can we have a biological blog story JC? I am sick of the religious nutters this week.. how about this –
    “The discovery puts back by 10 million years the colonisation of land by plants, and suggests that a diversity of land plants had evolved by 472 million years ago” –

    or this extraordinary new carnivore species from Madagascar – (Salanoia durrelli) –

  9. I’m terribly sad I won’t be able to make the drive to Lexington! I’m sure there will be plenty of godless heathens in Lex who are excited for the opportunity. I’m glad you’ll be enjoying the nuances of our great Kentucky culture.

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