An apology

February 8, 2012 • 4:22 am

After rereading the piece I wrote on Krauss yesterday, and considering the readers’ comments as well, I realize that I was indeed overly splenetic and intemperate in my criticism.  I don’t think Krauss is an accommodationist, and greatly appreciate his efforts to popularize science and to push the faithful toward a materialism that does explain the universe.

All I can plead is that, as Larry suspected, I did get up on the wrong side of the bed yesterday, and I took it out on a man who didn’t deserve that invective.  So I apologize to both Larry and the readers, and have to say that since I started posting three years ago, this is the only piece that I regret having written. Consider it retracted, and mea culpa.

91 thoughts on “An apology

  1. Good stuff, Jerry. Further, kudos on the use of the term “splenetic”. It’s a rarely used word and I delight when I see it pop up from time to time.

    1. ‘Splenetic’
      But it parks the spleen (an honourable organ) in an unwarranted and thoroughly undeserved position not of its own making, akin to hate speech.

      However, I too delight in the use of the word.


  2. Nobody’s ever always right.

    And why a zygote is a monumental deal shouldn’t be that perplexing. Not when a person’s failure to conceive, month after month after month, is a matter of piercing sorrow, and not when the opposite happening–the first inklings of a baby in the works–elicits ecstasy. (Or else–case in point–nightmarish anxiety.)

  3. The quality of the debate, including the gutsy but measured response by Lawrence Krauss, and especially Jerry’s spirited apology — it takes real guts to acknowledge a splenetic error of appreciation, in public, on one’s own website! — is, in my view, a vindication of the best that WEIT stands for.

    Well done, everybody, and thank you, Jerry!

  4. You people are going waaay too easy on Jerry. He should be required to say ten ave marias. If he refuses, he gets…the comfy chair!!

  5. Good heavens! Jerry’s an apologist now!

    But seriously Jerry, thank you for demonstrating what a person should do when they think they’ve gotten something wrong. Everyone makes mistakes sometimes.

    Re. your claim that the post was the only one you’ve regretted writing, for me it was the only post of yours I ever found disappointing. Considering how often you post, that’s remarkable!

  6. Where else can we find one falling on the sword for a “…splenetic…” diatribe? No doubt the result of a splenial cramp causing acute cerebral atrophy – usually only lasts a few moments, but certainly can lead to obsessing splenetically. Congrats on the quick recovery!

  7. Great job Jerry.
    You set an excellent example to everyone.

    It’s also honorable that you’ve left the post up. I suppose you could unpublish the post and pretend it never happened (if you were a dishonest person). I know if you had, I’d have trouble coming here daily.

    (It might be nice to change the title of the post to reflect your current feelings and your apology.)

  8. Roses are red, violets are blue,
    your post is quite beautiful,
    and all feel that you’re true.

    All except one, who when reading the part,
    -…the only piece I regret having written-
    it struck Massimo in the heart.

  9. Good stuff all round.

    Illustrates why so many of us come here, not just the quantity and quality of the postings, but also the unusually high signal-to-noise ratio in the comments.

  10. Excellent!
    I must admit you had me scratching my head with that post.
    (I started to wonder if you weren’t slowly going .. and it pains me to say this .. the way of P.Z., who, I think, lately has developed a tendency to go WAY overboard -at least to my taste-).

    I have a deep respect for people who can see their wrongs, confront them, apologize where needed and move on.Chapeau!

  11. “…this is the only piece that I regret having written.” Well, that’s what happens when you exercise your free will.:)

  12. Krauss isn’t an apologist for faith, but I did find the end of his piece rather strange. It does support the idea that it is acceptable for religion to speculate about areas of knowledge that science hasn’t reached yet, and perhaps may never reach. If religion stuck to being science fiction, there would be no problem.

  13. Last night I went to bed with a distressed mind and “heart;” this morning I am SO relieved! J.A.C., you are a GOOD MAN!
    _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

    First chance you get, do read Krauss’ A UNIVERSE FROM NOTHING from cover to cover (including Dawkins’ epilogue); you’ll be glad you did.

  14. We should commend Jerry Coyne for reconsidering his comments. Both writers while being uncompomising in their ideals use different approaches to attack the problem. Hopefully with both effective approaches out there god’s faithful will be jared into using that organ that has evolved between their ears.

  15. I had begun composing my own “spendic” rant before I saw this post. In my view, the word “accommodationist” has become so divisive and easily employed that it comes to alienate even our allies. I’m glad you walked this usage back in this case.

  16. Let he who has not sinned etc…

    The trouble with electronic media! Write that annoyed e-mail for example then hit send and regret it instantly… in the good old days a letter would be half way through the writing process and one would have thought better and binned it!

    You did well.

  17. Three phrases you don’t see too often on the intertubes:

    “I was wrong”

    “I apologize”

    “I don’t know”

    To use any of these phrases gives one credibility – not that Professor Coyne lacked credibility before, but an extra swipe with the brush never hurts.

    1. Damn! An actual, sincere, classy apology!

      It’s been YEARS since I saw one of those, I was quite sure they were extinct!

  18. It seems that the hardest words to speak are
    “I don’t know”, “I was wrong”, and “I’m sorry”. Kudos for admitting error and offering an apology.

    1. In which film did Fred Astaire say (something like), “I seldom apologise… but then I rarely make mistakes”?

      (If not Fred, someone from that era…)

      Again, kudos to Jerry for doing so on one of those rare occasions.


      1. Btw, it was Fred who said, “I don’t often try to apologize ’cause I seldom make any mistakes,” in Follow the Fleet (1936).


  19. I thought your observations may have been a little off the mark. I had just finished reading “A Universe From Nothing” the day before your comment, and I liked it. I didn’t feel Krauss was accommodating, and I am so glad you apologized.

  20. The greatness of a scientist lies at her/his willingness to change her/his mind (and apologize) in the face of evidence or better understanding of the evidence. Well done!

  21. You were having a bad day. Everyone is entitled to a bad day now and then. If Santorum becomes prez, we atheists will be having a lot of them.

    1. No kidding. And if Santorum places second in the 1012 primary race, he’ll probably become the automatic Republican front-runner in the 2016 competition. It boggles the mind.

          1. Santorum is a wizard (aka Raggedassed the Brown). All his thinking is done in his Sanctum Santorum….

  22. I like Lawrence Krauss (and highly recommend his book btw.), but if Jerry’s initial post was “intemperate” enough to need a retraction, then most accommodationists should certainly refrain from writing another sentence (at least on the topic of atheism) ever again. Anyway, keep up the good work, Jerry. There are days when I think you are the only voice of reason left.

    1. Yes, but that would require the same level of integrity and self reflection…qualities that seem to be missing in most apologists and accomodationists.

  23. I guess it is proper to apologize and leave the post. I ignored your views anyway, but you did get me to download the book – I love Larry’s talks on youtube and read snippets of the book. Now it is third on my iPad Kindle. I think I will read on my next trip to Europe.

    So thanks for bringing the book to my attention – and as you know you could have done that better.

  24. I’m surprised you’re taking responsibility and apologizing for a past choice of action when you could not have chosen otherwise. 🙂

    1. Pithy observation! Indeed, Jerry could not have chosen otherwise. But then Lawrence Krauss’s measured and indeed almost affectionate reply, plus the reaction of commenters, acted as inputs to Jerry’s yesterdays’ brain, reshaping it to his current brain.

      When I say I feel very happy both for Jerry Coyne and Lawrence Krauss, what I mean is that the current state of my brain reacts positively to the realisation that both Jerry’s and Lawrence’s current state of their brains is such that they can be described as “gentlemanly”.

      In short, well done Jerry and Lawrence! I would have hated to see you two being anything but allies, and even friends.

  25. I appreciate this Jerry – to be honest I thought you must’ve had you Accom-o-meter in overdrive!

    I must point out that, to your credit, I can’t think of an actual accomodationist who’d 1) take others’ criticisms on board 2) act on them appropriately instead of flaming out and, crucially 3) leave the post up. It shows integrity, which is in short supply elsewhere.

  26. Jerry! How are you an Lawrence supposed to start an internet rivalry with fan-made flame wars if you make apologies like this?!?

    Shame on you!!!!!!!!!


    Seriously, though… this is why you’re my favorite online blogger… integrity. I was quite… erm… “put off” by your post yesterday on Krauss, and am so happy to read this.

  27. Yes, Jerry, my brow too, creased as I read your OP on Krause. It just did not seem right, as though we were in self-eviscerating mode.

    Your retraction simply demonstrates the honesty with which atheists are able to engage in public discourse, and are prepared to personally wear egg-on-face in safeguarding the higher interests of honesty and integrity.

    That’s why I read this site every day.
    A big positive tick from me.

  28. Thats the best of you. It add to the point that still you are human after all. I will drink to that. Cheers.

  29. *puts away popcorn*

    Ahem… I always knew you had integrity 😉

    Well, here we are with evidence of it. Admitting to be wrong is one
    of the hallmarks of good character and professionalism, and something
    that I struggle to do, much
    to my shame, which I have written about on my blog in the past.

    I am relieved that the Old Jerry is back, and the Grumpy Jerry has gone away.

    Cheers and thank you for your shining example of intellectual honesty
    and integrity 🙂

  30. Jerry,

    You’re such a champion. I can’t believe it. I read that piece yesterday and worried you might have gone off your rocker, but I never expected you to fully recant! I’m thoroughly impressed by your agile and strong character 🙂

  31. Thank you, Jerry. I was surprised at your post, and simply turned my mind away from it. Lawrence Krauss is truly one of the good guys, and so are you.

    I am gratified at the honor and integrity of your apology, and…as others have said…if anything, my regard for you is even higher for your acknowledgment and apology.

    And a thank you to the gracious Professor Krauss, also, whose online lectures and interviews have been delightful, informative, and entertaining.

    Both of you have enriched my life in many ways, and the lives of many others.

  32. Jerry, you are a gentleman and a scholar. I was so surprised to see this today, and I truly appreciate it. Very much. For what it is worth, I woke up on the wrong side of the bed today.. 🙂


  33. Dear Jerry:

    The best among us are usually the quickest to admit when they are wrong, and learn from their mistakes.

    Well done……!

  34. I must say when I read your comment on the Kraus piece I thought you were a bit harsh and strongly suspected you might have misunderstood or misinterpreted (I never assumed any malicious intent or deliberate belligerence from your side).

    Good to see this was indeed the case, and of course only the wise admit to their faults!

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