We’re #1!

May 9, 2015 • 1:33 pm

Well, at least in this small field:

Screen Shot 2015-05-09 at 10.47.15 AMBefore there are any reviews, I will now predict the two most common tactics the faithful (and faitheists) will use to go after it (both of which are discussed and dismissed in the book, but the petulant won’t notice).

1.  “Coyne attacks a caricature of religion, one that nobody believes in. It’s typical New Atheist strawmanning.”  This is what I call the Eagleton/Armstrong Gambit. People who use it need to get out more.

2. “Coyne assumes that religion is largely based on factual propositions: beliefs about what is true. That’s an old-fashioned and obsolete version of religion. Religion isn’t about truths; it’s about community and morality and feeling.” Sadly, the data show that while religion does have these other functions, it’s simply not the case that truth is irrelevant. Even theologians (the honest ones) admit that without an underpinning of beliefs about what’s really true about the universe, religion crumbles. Where would Christianity be if adherents thought that Jesus’s divinity, crucifixion, and resurrection were just a fictitious but convenient framework on which to hang their emotions? Would Mormons wear their sacred underwear if they knew Joseph Smith was really a con man who fabricated those plates? Do the Sophisticated Critics really believe that if Muslims knew for certain that Muhammed didn’t get the Qur’an from the mouth of God, via an angel, but made it up himself, that Islam would have the sway it does? Get serious.

Bring ’em on (but take a number)!

And feel free to add your own predictions.  After all, the reactions to books that criticize religion are almost 100% predictable.

148 thoughts on “We’re #1!

    1. I have a long section about NOMA in the book. Conveniently, it’s been largely dismissed by theologians on the grounds that it restricts religion from making any statement about what is real in the universe. The theologians have done my work for me! In fact, more scientists seem to accept NOMA than do theologians, for NOMA doesn’t restrict the domain of science.

            1. You need the National Organisation of Mis-shapers of Acronyms.
              Down the corridor on the left.

              1. “You came here for Abuse?”
                “No, I wanted an argument!”
                “No you didn’t!”
                [Exit stage left, playing hopscotch with a bear.]

      1. Conveniently, it’s been largely dismissed by theologians on the grounds that it restricts religion from making any statement about what is real in the universe. The theologians have done my work for me! In fact, more scientists seem to accept NOMA than do theologians, for NOMA doesn’t restrict the domain of science.

        Ha, ha, that’s great!

    2. Not only do I also predict NOMA, I specifically predict there will be at least a few who argue from an ostensibly “progressive” point of view that the book is politically dangerous because it will hamper religious acceptance of science or something, i.e. the classic NCSE line.

  1. will be getting on kindle

    our (New Atheism) existence itself has done and does so much good. they (at least post-modernist apologists) now know that we know about their bullshit. they will have to work harder and think twice before spouting their nonsense.

      1. How do you extract the square root of a subscription? My calculator just says “Error”.

  2. You haven’t read so-and-so’s analysis of somebody-or-other’s interpretation of Aquinas’s thoughts on Jesus’s words about Adam and Eve; ergo, you lack the requisite sophistication to understand the true subtleties of the arguments demonstrating the Truth™ of religion.

    b&

    1. Ya know, it wasn’t easy for the religions to build houses of cards out of smoke and mirrors upon a firmament of BS over a basement of wishful thinking.

      1. It occurs to me: probably all of the reaction to the fleas can be summarized with a phrase: didn’t actually bother to read the book….

        b&

        1. Why would they read the book? It’s written by a God damned atheist! Probably a pinko-commie-sympathiser fellow-traveller too.

  3. I won’t predict what particular species of nonsense the barons of bloviation will unleash against your expatiation on the weaknesses of their “reasoning,” but I can tell you that Richard Dawkins has already responded once and for all to the first criticism you anticipate:

    “You always attack the worst of religion and ignore the best. You go after rabble-rousing chancers like Ted Haggard, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, rather than sophisticated theologians like Tillich or Bonhoeffer who teach the sort of religion I believe in.”

    If only such subtle, nuanced religion predominated, the world would surely be a better place and I would have written a different book. The melancholy truth is that this kind of understated, decent, revisionist religion is numerically negligible. To the vast majority of believers around the world, religion all too closely resembles what you hear from the likes of Robertson, Falwell, or Haggard, Osama bin Laden or the Ayatollah Khomeini. These are not straw men, they are all too influential, and everybody in the modern world has to deal with them. The God Delusion, second edition, p. 15

    1. Oh that reminds me, I should have included a slur against Richard Dawkins in my prediction. Everyone likes to insult Dawkins when engaged in a discussion with an atheist about religion because they think he’s our god and since we’re supposedly insulting their god, they want to give us our just desserts & insult ours.

      1. “Everyone likes to insult Dawkins when engaged in a discussion with an atheist about religion”
        I think the disheartening thing about that is that the insults against Dawkins aren’t even on the mark. It’s amazing how people just form the worst possible view of Dawkins and what he’s saying without even the slightest engagement with the material on offer.

        You’d think with just how dim a view they have of Dawkins and The God Delusion that they’d be able to offer an on-topic criticism every now and again. From what I gather, The God Delusion is meant to be the work of a barely-literate amateur who has fundamentally misunderstood the topic he’s attacking, yet ask these same people to demonstrate how TGD does this and they retreat to general comments about the errors of Scientism and Logical Positivism. It’s quite pathetic, really.

  4. #1 in Religious Studies! Does that mean it will be displayed in the Religion section of bookstores where the people who most need (if not want) to read it will be most likely to stumble upon it?

    1. Let’s hope it’s on the New Releases table, and the Employee’s Picks, and the Best-selling Nonfiction, etc., as well! 🙂

  5. I’ve been leaving some comments at the Alternet posting of the Chomksy/Harris debate. For some people there, the discussion has moved on to religion, to which I’ve been told the following:

    Some background in theology would be useful to you now, since you’ve failed in your efforts at theological debate here. You’ve resorted to sophomoric claims, e.g., anyone who truly understands evolution will not believe in God. I knocked that into a cocked hat by providing you with the names of some evolution-teaching academics at prestigious universities who DO believe in God. Your understanding of God is no doubt at a primitive anthropomorphic level, like a child’s vision of a white-bearded man. Paul Tillich’s description of God as the ground of being is above your pay grade.

    You also don’t know what existential thinking is. It’s actually the areas of thought that explore fundamental concerns of human existence, the meaning of life and death, etc. You tried to equate existential thinking to existential philosophy, referring to Sartre.

    So philosophy, like theology, does not interest you. You should go back to trying to defend Sam Harris, or whatever you were doing. There are some interesting, semi-plausible arguments that can be made to the effect that God does not exist, but you aren’t making them.


    And when I mentioned Greta Christina’s article at Alternet on why you can’t reconcile God with evolution, I got this:

    The only thing she nails is that she’s stuck in the trap of binary thinking. God is either incompetent or malicious, she wrote. Either/or, black/white, all or nothing–she can’t get past it. Clearly she’s not read any theology. Maybe, like Dawkins, she would admit this almost proudly, like Dawkins, dismissing it as fairyology. In that case, she won’t progress beyond preaching to the choir of low-information atheists who read her blog because she’s telling them what they want to hear.

    Dr. Simon Conway Morris, professor of evolutionary palaeobiology at Cambridge, has no patience with unschooled atheists who pretend evolution is some sort of proof that there’s no God. He’s a religious man, and a scientist. So’s Martin Nowak, professor of math and biology, director of the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics at Harvard, and devout Catholic. Dr. Francis Collins, head of the NIH and former director of the Human Genome Project, is a Christian. Does it baffle you that people who have spent their entire academic careers studying science can still find reason to believe in God?

    I do love this charge of being guilty of “binary thinking.” That’s a new one, Jerry. I wonder if you’ll receive that as well.

    1. What an arrogant prat! Who does he think he is? FFS.

      Appeal to authority is all this person has. I suspect he frequently manages to win arguments simply because his opponents get frightened off by his education and articulation, but there’s actually not a lot of substance there, and even less logic.

      1. I followed up by mentioning some philosophers I have read: Isaiah Berlin, Bryan Magee, Simon Blackburn, A.C. Grayling, Andre Comte-Sponville, and Colin McGinn.

        There was no reply.

        And wasn’t it (I asked him) Teilhard de Chardin who originated the “Ground of Being” argument? No reply to that either.

        1. The “Ground of Being” argument isn’t an argument, it’s an assertion in answer to an incoherent question.

          1. I think we can grant that it is an argument, just one with a ridiculously undersupported premiss: that is – that the universe would somehow lapse into nonexistence if it weren’t for *something*.

      2. Yes, it might be rather amusing to ask him to lay out his positive case for the existence of (any) god, rather than just whining that his critics are smarter than he is.

      3. I was actually having the same argument earlier this week, and the funny thing about people who make this argument (“but [well-credentialed academic] believes is both!”) is that for all their puffery about nuance, they are actually the ones being unnuanced most of the time, because they seem to be implying that the mere fact that someone smart can affirm belief in two things shows “compatibility” in some more substantial sense between those two things.

        The strategy relies on muddling together questions like “does belief in evolution magically cause people to be atheists” or “does being religious necessarily affects one’s scientific competence?” where pointing out religious scientists is a reasonable response, with questions like “is religion up to epistemic muster?” and “does evolution constitute significant evidence in favor of atheism, as an integral piece of the cumulative case making religious and supernatural models vanishingly unlikely?”

        For all the talk of nuance and rejecting “binary thinking,” they – deliberately or otherwise – obscure this kind of fine-graining by going “but Fisher was an Anglican, gotcha!” or something to that effect.

    2. A very interesting account of the battles in the trenches of Alternet, which is a place that I have not visited.
      Of course you will never make headway with people who have already decided a priory that these things are decided either by white bearded philosophers who have been dead for centuries, or by whos’ PhD is Piled higher but Deeper.
      For every point based on facts and observation there will be a useful idiot that they can refer to to make a pointier point about the point they want to point to.

      1. a priory betraying their religious roots, I take it?

        (Sorry ’bout that, couldn’t resist it 😉

    3. The afterlife in Christianity is an eternity in either Heaven or Hell. That’s pretty fucking binary if you ask me.

      As for the rest of that yammering, it’s riddled with arguments from authority about people who accept science and God (something Jerry has covered extensively already). Then, there’s the theologian/philosopher’s notion that something can be argued into or out of existence. Some plausible arguments about the nonexistence of God? God exists or he doesn’t (there’s that damn binary problem again!). No argument on either side is going to change the truth of the brute fact about his existence (granting that we have a coherent notion of what he is to go with).

    4. Interesting this concept of “binary thinking.”

      Logical and rational thinking == 1
      Illogical and irrational thinking (or non-thinking) == 0

      However, you can have people (some scientists) that are in a superposition state, both 1 and 0, in other words, they are Schrödinger cats. And challenging them (opening the box) results into falling back to the 0 state more frequently.

    5. Last time I had someone accuse me of not reading theology, I pointed out that I had read theology. Then the criticism was refined to that I had not studied theology. You just can’t win with faith-heads!

  6. Yes, congratulations, Jerry. I predict there will also be hard-core criticisms from fundamentalists, declaring that the bible is proof of jesus and that you are going to hell. That will be good, because it will disprove both of those other tactics.

    1. An important idea to keep in mind!

      It is actually a good thing for us that the fundamentalists are easily able to drown out the Sophistimicated Theologicans™ and their useful idiots half-dozen followers. Well, good in the argumentative sense, not in the effects on society, but you know what I mean…

    1. Yes indeed, “Why do these New Atheists have to be so shrill.” I.e. why don’t they shut up and stay hidden under a rock where they belong.

      1. See? You learned something here today! Well, something besides early bird fossils, and the superiority of cats to d*gs…

  7. VERY much looking forward to the release. I went for the Kindle version; my house is a sea of paper, and I’m reluctant to add to it even for Professor Ceiling Cat.

    There will be a few people who have valid criticisms. Appreciate them. The rest are dreck, and should be ignored.

    1. If Jerry really wants a challenge, it will be to find the valid criticisms. Since the dreck will be so plentiful, wading through it all should be just about as pleasant as reading all the Sophisticated Theology™ he read before writing the book.

  8. Congratulations Jerry! I’m looking forward to the arrival of my copies – book + Kindle.

    I think a few will go down the well worn track of: “… atheists have no meaning in their lives. They are completely soulless. This focus on Facts emphasizes the lack of focus and feeling in their lives. Without a spiritual dimension, life has no purpose and we should pity Coyne and those of his ilk.”

    This will translate on Twi**er in two ways:
    1. I will pray for you to let Jesus into your heart;
    2. Why dont you just kill yourself. Your a moreon.

      1. electrons, protons, neutrons, bosons, fermions, phonons, magnons, mesons, photons, gluons, …, moreons, …

        This is your lesson for today.

  9. Here’s my prediction. Notice the sophistry and wordiness of it all mixed with an insulting whiff of condescension. I almost felt bad writing it because I think it is realistically insulting:

    Coyne may be an expert in evolutionary biology but he lacks the philosophical background to understand religion and effectively deconstruct it. It would behoove him to invest more time not only in reading the more sophisticated theologians and early church fathers, but also to studying philosophy extensively, in particular Aristotle and Plato. It takes years of formal, guided training before one can begin to understand religion and its role in the daily lives of human beings. Unfortunately, this work stands as an example of the vicious scientism many of the New Atheists push to their followers.

        1. Alas, the cognitive dissonance would kill me but if I could get past that, I’m sure there would be money in it.

      1. I actually felt bad writing it because I was insulting Jerry. I guess that might mean it was close to what these boneheads will write.

        1. Well, insults, that’s all they’ve got really. Like the “lack of credentials” guy a few days ago.

    1. ‘Scientism’. I see that word more and more often. And not in a conplimentary sense. When people can’t argue from reality they invent stuff like this to deflect the choir. Good comment.

      1. It’s a very good weasel word to avoid scientific challenges to preconceived ideas. A similar phrase is “We are concerned about the role science plays and scientists play in policy-making…”

        In fact, most variations on the “concern about science” tend to be code for “My position isn’t supported by the evidence, so I’ll fudge the issue under the pretence of being reasonable.”

        1. Another weasel word, not as common lately is ideology. “You’re just espousing ideology. Nothing but ideology!”
          It can be used to dismiss a comment, an essay, or an entire book which was never actually read. Very handy.

    2. I suspect this one is right on the money. Jerry will be able to use it to mockingly accuse a critic of plagiarism, which would be fun.

    3. Oh Diana, that is so spot on! Would have loved to have written that myself, I’m jealous. And the ‘scientism’ note: brilliant!

    4. Excellent!

      Don’t forget the addendum to that statement though. Later on, behind closed doors…

      “You accepted Jesus into your heart? Hallelujah! Praise his name! Always stay strong for the evil one will cunningly tempt you. Take great care and say St. Michael the Archangel’s prayer should you venture off to read the works of Harris, Dawkins and their ilk. If you feel you don’t have the strength, it’s best to avoid these books. (Because when it comes to religion, you can neither read enough to reject it, nor too little too accept it.)”

  10. I fully predict on onslaught of rebuttals similar to the email you received a couple days ago. What right and training do YOU – a wealthy white male biologist with a penchant for cats – have to judge the intricacies of religion and the human heart? Not that it’s ever stopped a Christian chiropractor from commenting on thermodynamics but, well, cognitive dissociation is the hallmark of people who live between real and make believe worlds.

    1. Oh yes, the white privilege argument. You think you’re too good to believe in God, but just wait until you have an accident – I bet you’ll be praying then! Lucky for you God loves you and all you have to do is ask him back into your heart.

      1. “Oh yes, the white privilege argument.”
        I didn’t really think that applied to theology. It’s not like the pro-theology camp is awash in diversity…

    2. You know, if you have to have specialized education to criticize a religion, shouldn’t you have to have the same education to be able to really accept it?

      1. O O, gooood ‘ne ! ( ‘nd within that ‘education’ … … to include one or three or ten lessons on how to learn the splellin.g of words, not?! )

        Blue

        1. should you not have a specialized education in all religions before joining so that you know best what to choose?

  11. Looks like the good ones are covered, and I’m sure we’ll see lots of banal, less sophisticated™ critiques involving your anger at God and lack of morality.

    On a semi-related note, I hear CJ Werleman has a book coming out on May 20th called:

    “Belief and Actuality”

    Can’t wait!!

  12. Like Diana, I’ll try my hand at sophisticated babble: “What Coyne doesn’t realize is that he too evinces belief: Belief in reason and the scientific method, and that those are a better way of achieving knowledge about reality, than the belief of the religious person. However, the use of reason to proof the primacy of reason constitutes a classical circular argument.”

      1. So…um…have you left anything out of the book, or are we all condemned from this point henceforth to limit all our conversations with the religious to identifying page numbers from the book?

        b&

              1. Ah, but see Dawkins in 7:18 says things slightly differently, so now I do not know what to think.
                See? It saves time. Comments will be a lot shorter and easier to write too.

              2. But, Harris 41:14 and I’m sure you’ll give me Hirsi Ali 21:5 on your first point.

              3. Must we refer to the first big book, Speciation? Then it would look like 647:78

              4. (Hopefully, this will appear right under the comment by mkgjones)

                How cool would it be to go a baseball game in a rainbow-colored wig, and hold up a “Coyne 3:16” sign every time the camera panned by?

    1. Very good. And we’ll hear a very close cousin to that, just substituting “faith” for “belief.”

  13. I don’t think your Jewishness will be a major line of attack but nor do I think it will go unmentioned. Something condescending about how you can’t even get Judaism right so why should anyone listen to you about other religions.

  14. I think a common response will be to tilt the head back slightly, exposing the nostrils, and saying things like “My God is a God of ______, a God who is ________, and a God who _______.” This will carry on for some time.

    Another reaction will be to say “I didn’t have enough *faith* to be an atheist.”
    And Deepak Chopra will say that quantum physics has proven that matter doesn’t exist.
    Oh yes, and “preaching to the choir”.

    1. Yeah, I don’t get why only anti-religious books get that “preaching to the choir’ accusations. It’s actually more appropriate to pro-religious books like “Heaven is For Real.” And why aren’t pro-Republican books like Ann Coulter’s criticized for “preaching to the choir”?

      1. The point they are trying to make, I think,is that there are hardly any atheists (so they either think or want others to believe). It is the logical fallacy of “almost no thinks that so it can’t be true”. In this view, atheists can only preach to the choir because the choir is all we have.

        Whereas pro-religion books are preaching to that enormous universe of believers. Pay no attention to the fact behind the curtain that they mostly disagree with each other.

      2. These are perhaps Thought Terminating Clichés: memes or stock phrases that tell certain audiences they are fine. They may have the faint feeling that a thought could be threatening, but the cliché reassures them just enough to not look further.

  15. I imagine Jerry that as much as you will appreciate the thoughtful reviews you will be entertained much more by the nonsense, as predictable as they may be proven to be.

  16. I am looking forward with great excitement to picking up my copy; and I am sure there will be many critical comments along the lines that others have already identified. I also expect to see attempts to damn PCC by association, eg ‘Dawkins/Hitchens/Harris are wrong/naive/evil, therefore Coyne is as well’. No arguments; just smears.

  17. Stalin was an atheist! Pol Pot was an atheist! Hitler was an atheist! (Hitler wasn’t, but they’ll say he was.) And Darwin caused the Holocaust!

  18. Somebody will inevitably remind us that you are a sneaky Jew, who wish to undermine the true faith (which is, of course, Christianity or Islam or Hinduism or…). If we are lucky, he will add something about this being part of some evil Jewish plot.

  19. other ways of knowing, unless that’s been mentioned.

    Well, here’s hoping for a new and original pile of effluent instead of the same ol’ recycled crap. counting down the days until my copy arrives…

    1. I remember going through a phase in the 1970s of ‘other ways of knowing’ re women, and thankfully, used philosophical skills to come out of it. It was seductive for a few months (that’s a confession from me!)

      1. I’m sure we’ve all been enticed by some form of woo in our lives. The point is, we’ve moved on. I’ve dated several women who had not, and it’s really uncomfortable to realize that no, they really do believe in ghosts, reiki (sp?) healing crystals, and moon times or whatever it was. I really wanted to be able to buy into native american religio-spiritual stuff, but in the end I had to admit it was just as bogus as other religions, and the books were all written by “indians” whiter than me! I admit to having had more than a passing fondness for “Rolling Thunder” and his brand of new age mystic native crappola.

  20. Jerry, you could invite the most articulate critics to guest-blog their review here on WEIT as long as the promised to engage with the commentariat’s critique of their critique.

  21. Damn! Your book is out and I’m stuck in the desert (literally) for the next week. So I’ll only be able to order my 5 copies in a week’s time. And then I’ll still have to wait until they arrive. I really can’t wait to read it. Bhuddistic equanimity is required here, me seems :).

    I’m sure (knowing a bit about your lines of thought) you have most of the criticisms that will come up covered, but as said, that will not stop them (the critics). They will say you are not qualified, as if the study of sophisticated theologians and other religious apologists will. You will go to hell, where I would be honoured to meet you (I’ve heard they are kind of good with braai’s -meat on the hot coals- there, just hope the wine is dry).

    I normally really like to be in this desert town, but now is an exception.

    1. Well I read that – “Jerry Coyne’s Book, “Faith Vs. Fact,” is Incompatible with Science” – what a rant – and then I read the comments. The second one was a lulu: ‘Speaking of straw men, writing a hardly coherent screed attacking a book you haven’t read is incompatible with rational conduct.’

      Nice.

    2. Wow. That’s a lot of mileage to get out of just the Amazon synopsis.

      Though the comments there are a good place to look for arguments we haven’t come up with yet (and probably never would!). Just a couple:

      Coyne’s an abuser of science, plain and simple. The fact that he’s upset because Americans don’t accept his, frankly, unscientific view of evolution does nothing to excuse that.

      Here’s a man writing an anti-faith book, “Faith Vs. Fact”, whose formative “moment I became an atheist” was during a period of physical and mental abnormality.

  22. The three responses I predict:
    1. You’ll be challenged on credentials. Who are you to be criticising religion? Are you a theologian? Are you a philosopher? Are you a biblical historian? If you don’t know your exegesis from your hermeneutics, then you aren’t qualified. If you haven’t been touched by the holy spirit, then you aren’t qualified. If you haven’t mastered Latin and grappled with Aquinas, then you’re not qualified. If you haven’t read obscure theologian X, then you aren’t qualified. And so on.

    2. You’ll be challenged on personal bias. That you aren’t the right sort of critic because you hate religion. Your tone can and will be used as evidence against you in the court of theistic responses. More than anything, it doesn’t matter what you write because you aren’t the right kind of critic. You aren’t a sincere seeker of Truth, and your contemptuous tone will mean your criticisms don’t even warrant a response.

    3. You’ll be accused of scientism. That science is a limited way of viewing the world, and that you are relying on science well beyond what is warranted by the discipline. That you are guilty of every problem with logical positivism, and that you don’t give any credence to other ways of knowing. Because if you did, obviously, you wouldn’t have written the book to begin with. Indeed, your case will be described as a “faith in science”.

  23. Strident militant atheist Jerry Coyne is clearly angry at God, presumably because he was jilted by a Christian/mugged by a Muslim/bored in religious education classes/humiliated by a priest/brought up theist*.

    * delete as appropriate

    1. I have been shown recently, by someone who would know that some religious do believe stuff like that.
      They are literally incapable of understanding someone not believing in god.
      The evidence for them Is just incontrovertible and there belief so strong that they know god makes himself known to them but is rejected for those and other reasons. Like an atheist is someone who thinks they are better than god.
      And so can ask a question, seriously, if scientists are so smart why do they die.
      See Lee Lemon, she’s good.

  24. Your ‘favorite’ site Salon used attack #2 on ‘New Atheists’ on Saturday (with Maher and Dawkins in the title and pictures as clickbait – they are mentioned briefly in the text, but nothing they actually say is used – it just relies on an unstated “we all know what New Atheists are like” assumption).

    http://www.salon.com/2015/05/09/new_atheisms_fatal_arrogance_the_glaring_intellectual_laziness_of_bill_maher_richard_dawkins/

    A typical claim in it is:

    “Religious convictions, in many cases, are held not because they’re true but because they’re meaningful, because they’re personally transformative”

    There’s a lot of “earlier atheists were serious, unlike ones today” guff. Unbelievably, the writer starts by saying ‘New Atheism’ is different from Voltaire because it argues religion is potentially corrosive. Has he never read what Voltaire said about Christianity?

    1. I was about to post a similar comment, calling Jerry’s attention to this baloney, another shaking finger, by a supposed atheist trying to show us the way. A snip:

      It’s perfectly rational to reject faith as a matter of principle. Many people (myself included) find no practical advantage in believing things without evidence. But what about those who do? If a belief is held because of its effects, not its truth content, why should its falsity matter to the believer? Of course, most religious people consider their beliefs true in some sense, but that’s to be expected: the consolation derived from a belief is greater if its illusory origins are concealed. The point is that such beliefs aren’t held because they’re true as such; they’re accepted on faith because they’re meaningful.

      Tell him, Jerry, tell him!

  25. And for the response to all these criticisms…

    How about a collection of articulate, well-written responses that we could quickly use to respond to these anticipated attacks?

    These responses could be both with attribution from Jerry and others as well as public domain statements to clearly refute their points.

    1. I’m sure we’ll find all those in Faith vs. Fact.

      But it might be nice to pull out the responses to classic theological/philosophical assertions the same way TalkOrigins has a handy list of creationist-rebutting answers.

      1. Also, I like to wordsmith and have an editor for major responses. Questions I would have for an Amazon review I’d write include, “How should I refer to the author (“the author”, “Dr. Coyne”, “Jerry Coyne”, or JC with a long list of letters after his name)”?

        1. Not sure it’s my place to answer…but if it were, I’d say that typical practice is to use the author’s full name at first reference, with some indication of his/her relevance to the book’s topic–i.e., Jerry Coyne, professor of evolutionary biology* at the University of Chicago–with subsequent references simply using the author’s last name.

          * Jerry might let us know if and when we should use “professor emeritus.”

  26. I’ve argued in similar ways in outline to much of what Jerry has put to print (thanks!). The “but some scientists are religious” card is what I get the most, in two versions – contemporary and historical.

    It occurs to me as I write this reply that this sort of move is similar in a way to the people who cannot see that criticism of Islam is not the same thing as personal (as a person, IOW) criticism of a Muslim or class of same.

    Both involve too close a coupling between the ideas taken in themselves (as a convenient fiction, for analysis purposes) and the holders of same.

  27. Jerry, I read your blog every day and really love it. I live outside of Portland, OR and I have to say that the fundamentalist view of religion is, as you know, absolutely epidemic. It may seem to folks who live in the big US cities or teach at big universities that the mainstream of religion is “sophisticated” and can be reconciled with science, but that has not been my experience. When you get outside of the liberal bubbles of urban America, the picture is quite different. I don’t know if some brands of religion can be reconciled with science, but the type of religious faith practiced in much of the US plainly cannot.

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