I must be a woman because I like cats?

May 13, 2020 • 3:45 pm

Here’s an amusing attempted comment from someone named “forsoothredux”, trying to weigh in on my recent post “I get emails from loons.”

I’m confused…I thought you Whyevolutionistrue
were a woman, not a man because…cats?


Well, I won’t parse the grammar, especially the absence of two commas and the hanging “because”. But how accurate was this person’s guess?

Actually, although I spent only five minutes trying to find out which sex is more likely to own cats—I didn’t try to find data on sex differences among those who like cats—that ownership information isn’t readily available. In fact, given my five-minute time limit to suss out the answer to a question of minimal importance, I found one statistic, published only a short while ago, that says to “forsoothredux”, NOT SO FAST.

It’s from a piece in Psychology Today, which also notes that finding demographic data on pet owners is hard, for most surveys are conducted by the pet products industry, and the data are private.. But  . .  . we have one bit of data (my emphasis):

The good news is that new data from the National Opinion Research Center offers a more accurate perspective on pet ownership in the United States than industry-sponsored polls. Every two years since 1972, the center conducts the General Social Survey. On the website, the GSS is described as “the only full-probability, personal-interview survey designed to monitor changes in both social characteristics and attitudes currently being conducted in the United States.” Some of the items vary from year to year but the questions focus on the demographics, health, lifestyle, and political views of a representative sample of Americans. These data are publicly available. In 2018, the survey included questions about pet-ownership.

One of the surprises in the GSS data concerned sex differences in pet ownership. I would have predicted that men would be more likely than women to have a dog in their life and women more likely to live with a cat. Wrong. According to the GSS, 51% women in the United States have a dog compared to 41% of men. But in contrast to conventional wisdom, there was no sex difference when it came to cats; 25% of males and exactly 25% females in the survey had a feline animal companion.

Now I haven’t looked at the data, but another survey I saw (but then couldn’t retrieve after it became paywalled during my second look) had pretty much she same result.

The words above don’t tell me what percentage of the “owners” (i.e., staff) had a partner of the opposite sex, since one might want to know what percentage of people living alone or with a same-sex partner had dogs vs. cats.

But it hardly matters. If the stereotype of “single women own cats” were true, there would be a substantially higher percentage of women owning cats than men. And this doesn’t seem to be the case.

Bottom line: The claim that I must be a woman because I like cats and have owned cats (but no dogs) appears to be false, not only factually, but also through statistical inference.


I get emails

March 20, 2019 • 10:00 am

The volume of comments I have to deep-six has increased, and I’m not sure whether it’s because the moon is full or because the volume of traffic has increased over time. Either way, I thought I’d put up two that were especially striking.

Here’s a comment from “The Knot Specialist” whose website is, unsurprisingly, private. Kerissa (gravitar is a female, and she signed the attempted contribution) is commenting on my post “NYT goes soft on astrology” She thinks that I am criticizing newspaper columns on astrology when I actually linked to a paper in Nature that was a double-blind test of the readings of professional astrologers. (They failed.) This is like my posts on theology being criticized because I am not going after the Most Sophisticated Types of Theology. My own comments are in bold.

To wit:

The Knot Specialist

I respect and honor each person’s free will and the accompanying tangents of thought that may spring up in the process, but in this day and age of technology, when one can gather enough information to confirm what they want to be true, I find it terribly sad how many people decide to cement their confirmation bias. I find it sadder still when those same people pass it along like Mono.

(“like Mono” — get it? No? OK: 1) cause the group of tweens that always start the outbreak never seem to know where they got it; and 2) serious cases of Mono have led to terrible, life-changing outcomes. It’s the perfect example here.

I have no intention of raining on your parade [Passive-aggressive; of course she does!], but when WP suggested I check out the astrology tag on this feed, sadly, this was at the top of the results page.

My first reaction was to roll my eyes, shake my head, and move on. But, I don’t believe in coincidences, only synchronicities. OOOOoooooh, yeah, I said that. [I’m sorry for you.]

See, I haven’t been on WP very long, haven’t posted anything or even finished my page, so WP’s suggestion of astrology has no obvious cause. Yet there it was and here this was.

So here I am. Aloha.

I didn’t read your entire post, only the parts where you weren’t referencing someone else’s opinion, research, or – excuse me – bullshit. So it didn’t take me long to get to the comments section.

I don’t have a problem with people who have differing opinions, beliefs, sexual preferences, sexual genitalia, political views, etc., etc. I have a problem with people who don’t do their homework and then proceed to spread, sorry, bullshit. Not just about astrology, I mean half-assed, televangelist-worthy bullshit about anything. But since you brought it up…

If you did your homework you’d know that most serious astrologers think newspaper horoscopes are like a G rated movie (cute, but not really at the top of an adult’s list of Must Sees).

That’s not to say that non-horoscope writing astrologers hate on those that fill the Culture section with 2 sentence entertainment-only prophecies. No, no, the astrology community is a hugely diverse group. You know what has a lot to do with that? No, silly, not voo-doo. [Yes, they are a diverse community, but they’re all peddling bullshit.]

Well, a little voo-doo, but I’m guessing mostly in Louisiana.

The melting pot of astrology is largely due to the sheer volume of it. Did you know that there are dozens of different schools of astrology, from all over the world. There’s traditional, Evolutionary (my fave), Hellinistic, Jyotish, Chinese, Psychological, Esoteric, Neo-classical, Predictive – and that’s only a few of the many. [Again: all bullshit. The motions and positions of stars and planets have no influence on your personality or life.]

You say astrology is harmful…harmful how? Because it what? It “tricks people” into believing something that makes them smile or gives them the motivation or whatever other push they needed to help themselves or find a solution? You’re right, happiness and motivation and reasons to not give up are the real causes of harm in this otherwise perfect plane of existence. [Yes, it tricks people into giving astrologers money for fake predictions. It may give the credulous a useful opportunity to talk to someone, but if you really want to help someone, go into therapy rather than astrology. Oh, I forgot: therapy takes training.]

I just threw up a little in my mouth. But I’m okay. No harm done.

I could point you to an endless amount of places that would blow any of the shit in this post out of the water…but I don’t plan to. [Curious that she can’t even name one site that verifies any form of astrology.]

Although it is objectively, thoroughly, and continuously well-researched, [and continuously disproven] I’m not trying to project my opinion *cough*KNOWLEDGE*cough* of astrology and other topics of a similar nature on you because I respect your right to your confirmation biases and the void that they create.

Rock on with your biases.

So why did I take 20 minutes that I’ll never get back to write this lengthy bit which you may have already tuned out of so you can start thinking of – what are they called – burns? That you could whip back at me? I think of it as my own little PSA [Prostate-specific antigen????]; doing a little to help the lot.

By the way, don’t waste your time with that burn thing, if that’s what you really are thinking of. I meant it when I said that my first response was to just move on and I won’t be baited into a back and forth about something like this. I know what’s real for me and that’s enough.  [Ah, the frequent assertion that “what is real for me” is “real”. That’s what religious people say, too.]

That said, you’re welcome to email me directly to discuss, if you were, say, interested in some objective information and personal experience. [I’ve read enough about astrology, thank you. She doesn’t want a back-and-forth; she wants to tell me why I’m wrong. No, thank you.]

To me? Your post is an example of how social media and the Opining Operatives that feed there can be harmful and obstruct people’s freedom of choice.

It’s like this: wen you represent a poorly researched and marshmallow-filled post like this in a way that implies you know what you’re talking about, when you clearly don’t, you potentially cause harm to someone looking for answers. [Translation: I’m hurting the pocketbooks of professional astrologers and woo-peddlers]

Like, say, someone who followed WP’s suggestion and clicked on that tag for astrology and found this.

Someone who is not a person well-versed in the ENTIRETY (good, bad, ugly, and awesome) of astrology, like me. [LOL]

This post drips with the acid of shaming and I wouldn’t be surprised if that questioning soul, sensitive to such acid, is shamed into not doing more research than just your post; shamed into letting you and your fellow skeptics and this string of half-assed assumptions decide for him or her whether it’s something that speaks to them or not.

You don’t have the right to THEIR opinion. [Yes, but I have a right to give my opinion, which is apparently an opinion you don’t like because you know SO MUCH about astrology.]

To be clear: I’m not here to defend astrology and I’m not offended by your comments about it because I honor and respect your right to your personal opinions.

I’m here to remind you that people have the right to decide for themselves – not just about astrology, about anything. [What kind of nonsense is this? Have I ever forced my opinion on anyone, saying, “You must believe this or else”?]

Go ahead, say what you want, but don’t say it as if you KNOW when you don’t. Leave a door that readers feel comfortable walking through to do their own research. Leave their rights to them. [I will criticize astrological bullshit as much as I want, thank you, and I know more about it than you think, and more than was evinced in my post.]

Basically: Dude, do your homework or stick to things you could actually be an expert about because a passionate opinion does not an expert make. [She’s very close to being a Sophisticated Theologian® here. She apparently knows tests by skeptics that show that astrology works, though she can’t be arsed to cite any.]

And finally, make good choices founded in respect for others and their rights. Maybe you don’t believe in Karma, but she believes in you. [Wow! A Deepity!]



And evolution hater Raegan commenting on my post “More email from evolution-haters.” The “about me” page on his website (I’ve omitted it) notes that he is home-schooled and 12 years old.


why do you think evolution is true? I want to know cause i can prove that evolution is not true are wold is to complex for evolution to be true PS not trying to hate telling the truth and I love your kittens!!!

I think Raegan needs to go to public school. I won’t go after him because he’s so young, but I feel sorry for him and all his ilk who are denied the chance to learn the truth about biology.


I get emails from Christian creationists

March 10, 2019 • 10:45 am

The email below arrived this morning from a retired officer in the U.S. Air Force who had read my critical review of Michael Behe’s new Intelligent-Design book in the Washington Post. (I am, by the way, pleased that virtually all the commenters at the Post accept evolution and reject ID—something I didn’t expect). Re the email: it always surprises me when somebody who doesn’t seem to know much about evolution or biology (or biochemistry in this case) decides to lecture me about The Way Things Are.  Even more presumptuous is that they think they’re going to make me a Christian without knowing much about my views and personal history. But of course that’s what evangelical Christians do.

Read and weep. Please feel free to comment (politely, please), as I’ve told this person that I’m posting his email and will send him the link in a bit.

Professor Coyne

After reading your Sunday Washington Post book review of “Darwin Devolves,” I can only ask you:  you would presume that there is a creator for the wrist watch on your arm, the computer on your desk … why would you not similarly presume that our world, with all its complexity, variety, functionality, and even beauty, that there would not be a Creator—God—for our world … the universe?

Who is the crazier and off-base?  The person who thinks that such variety, complexity, functionality and beauty just ‘evolved’ out of primordial mush (where did the primordial mush come from anyway?)  Or, the person who believes and understands that such characteristics of ‘creation’ could not have come about without design and creation?

How does that logic flow?  Order implies functionality; functionality implies design; design implies intelligence; intelligence implies a Creator?

I would think the clear solution to your dilemma is that ‘evolution’ since the world’s creation is a corollary to the larger plan of creation set in motion by God.  Once the original creation was complete and God’s plan set in motion, evolutionary events and activities take place as part of that larger divine plan.  Heck, the complexity—yet functionality—of genes and DNA that so much of your book review talks about needed ‘design’ for all that to work in some orderly fashion.

And as to your statement about “the Christian belief that homo sapiens is a special creation of God,” it is.  Humans are the only sentient beings, “created in the image of God” (“imago dei”) with both a soul and a corporal body.  Quite simply, God did not promise the cocker spaniel population (or any other creature on this earth) eternal life with Him after their time on this earth is finished.  If anything, the “spark” of life and the inevitability of death for us all should have you at least thinking a little more profoundly.

I offer you the famous quote from Saint Anselm, the father of modern scholasticism: “Lord, let me not understand so that I may believe; let me believe so that I may understand.”

Deo gratias

I could adduce Hume’s principle about miracles about the issue of “who is the crazier and off base” here, but I did that in a response to this person, also pointing out sources of information about how life could have evolved from chemicals. I also asked this person, since he seems to know that there is a Christian God, why that god would work through evolution instead of creating everything de novo, as it so plainly states in Genesis.

But I am vastly amused at his assurance that we have souls but cocker spaniels don’t, and therefore dogs don’t go to Heaven. This, of course, was the deranged conclusion of Edward Feser that I wrote about in 2015. The Argument from Dogs is the silver lining in this cloud of ignorance.

The Credentials Canard, and readers write in defending homeopathy

December 21, 2016 • 9:15 am

Very often I get emails or posts from readers incensed that I dare post about anything other than evolutionary biology. This first person, a professor who will remain unnamed to protect the benighted, has, as I recall, written this same email to me a while back. Apparently he thinks I have no credential to post about Islam when I haven’t held a post in philosophy as an Islamic specialist. I guess that means that nobody can discuss any religion if they haven’t held an academic post dealing with that religion. So much for all the New Atheists, including Christopher Hitchens. And how dare you pronounce on politics if you haven’t served in a legislature?


Dr. Coyne,

Greetings. I see that you have written on Islam recently. I wanted to ask you what your area of specialization is within Islamic scholarship?

Have you ever held any positions within a department of philosophy as an Islamic specialist? Are you proficient in classical arabic? Please point me to your work in that area.


[Name and University Redacted]
Professor of Philosophy

The next person tried to put up a post implicitly arguing that I shouldn’t talk about religion:


From reader dfgdfg dfgdfgdcommenting on my post “HuffPo goes after Donald Trump’s taste in steak

Michio Kaku has a PhD doctorate degree. in physics, therefore when he speaks about physics he can be credible. While you….what is your degree on? Doctor on Bible studies…Mythology?

I wonder who embarrasses himself more here the scientist or the ignoramus?.

My answer: the person who wrote this comment, and of course was too cowardly to give his/her name.  Anonymity breeds contempt!



I got several critical posts (or attempted posts) defending homeopathy. It’s amazing how people will make such pronouncements based on anecdotes rather than controlled clinical trials, which is the only way to establish that homeopathy works. And all the proper trials have, of course, failed. In fact, a regular MD once called me on the phone from Hawaii to try to convince me that homeopathy works. “How do you know?” I asked him. “Because I’ve seen it work!” he replied. More anecdotes. Of course there may be placebo effects, and many maladies disappear on their own. And so to several comments that arrived this morning:

“On November 19 I reported that the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) ruled that homeopathic “medicines”, to be advertised as …”

Bunch of morons down here..I am a practicing surgeon in Pennsylvania and have seen wonders of homeopathy, it’s as scientific as surgery or any other modern medicine allopathic branch and works better in many medical conditions, downfall of them is that anyone can walk to the store and buy them, they are supposed to be prescribed by trained homeopaths..research trials ? Trial in homeopathy involves experiment on humans and involves drug proving rather than telling if it works against this pathology versus another..FDA should ban selling of those drugs on amazon so population does not treat themselves..it’s role is as important as allopathic, each have their divisions. Enough said !! Use your brains and personal comfort and experience rather than blaming any particular field.

As scientific as surgery or scientific medicine? If so, where are the clinical trials? As for a drug “proving rather than telling if it works”, well, I have no idea what that means, unless “proving” has something to do with faith.


Reader Michael Walker commented on the same post:

They [CVS or Whole Foods] sell coffee, too.

Does coffee have any proven health benefits?

That might be a joke, but I don’t think so.


Reader Bala Lodhia on homeopathty:

It is a known fact that the Royal family has been using homeopathic remedies and has had a Homeopathic doctor on their call to treat various illnesses.
It is quite obvious that big pharma is behind this attack on Homeopathy.

Yes, but the Royal Family, particularly Prince Charles, is no paradigm of  good judgment! As for “Big Pharma” being behind attacks on homeopathy, that’s bunk. Big Pharma doesn’t include all the governmental tests on homeopathy showing it’s worthless, nor people like Orac who is a surgeon and has nothing to do with Big Pharma. These defenders, instead of looking at the data, simply support their faith by attacking the people supposedly denigrating it. And if homeopathy worked, why wouldn’t Big Pharma be in on that game?


Reader Traci says that my priorities are misplaced:

Why do you have such a beef with homeopathy? If you think it’s quackery, don’t use it. Let the people who have used and greatly benefited from it continue to. I applaud CVS for giving its consumers choices. People are not idiots if something doesn’t work for them they won’t continue to use it. Why not take on more important issues like air pollution, water pollution, legal pharmaceutical drug abuse, gmo foods, etc.

The answer is clear. My beef is because people are being duped, and am I supposed to let them be duped if the science says that they’re credulous. The benefits, compared to placebos, are nil.

And if Traci applauds CVS for giving its consumers choices, does she also criticize CVS’s decision to stop selling cigarettes? Her notion is that if there are greater wrongs in the world, then I should be going after the greatest wrong and leave the rest alone. Sheesh.


And this comment just arrived from reader Ace Biswas:

I exactly can’t make out what’s the writer’s problem. Does he say homoeopathic remedies acts upon health when it contains no molecule in most frequently used potencies? Even no one is forced to try it. I have several times applied it on myself and its been effacious [sic] on many occasions.

The “writer” here may be Orac rather than I, but no matter. Orac’s article is crystal clear, and if those remedies work when they contain no active drug, then yes, that is a problem. And once again we have people believing in homeopathy because they’ve had a healing experience with it. But where’s the control?

A creationist writes in

July 12, 2013 • 7:32 am

I can’t help but post occasional comments from creationists—just to remind us what we’re up against. This comment, sent in response to my post about declining ticket sales at Kentucky’s Creation Museum, goes above the fold, for the writer, one “Lynette,” is just so uninformed, so willfully ignorant, that it makes me despair of America.

How many mistakes or lies can you spot in this post? You’ll surely recognize The Darwin Deathbed Canard:

I was very distraught when I read your uneducated and rude comments toward the people in this country who do believe in creation. I know many doctor, lawyer’s [sic] and business owners, who absolutely do believe in creation and further more [sic] believe in God. You might also want to further examine the very man who came up with the ridiculous theory, lie, of evolution and relie [sic] he actually died rejecting his own theories, and became a Christian. He ended up not only believing in creationism, but also believing that God sent His Son to die for Him, and accepting Him as his savior. So maybe you should get a little more educated. It is also true that many European countries, who believe themselves extremely well educated, teach both creation and evolution in their public schools. To be honest I don’t know what people are so afraid of, evolution is taught as a theory, so why not creation. THERE IS NO SOLID PROOF FOR EVOLUTION, YET HAMS [sic] THEORIES MAKE MORE SENSE than anything I have ever read. By the way the percentage of how many Americans believe in creation is hopeful on your part, I know it’s not factual. There are many people that don’t claim Christianity, that still believe in creation. Sorry but the truth of the matter is wether [sic] you like it or not it’s probably at least 70 percent.

My point here is twofold. Our country is full of people like this: over 40% of Americans believe in young-Earth creationism and the de novo appearance of species that have remained unchanged ever since. Second, these people have had ample opportunity to inform themselves about evolution. Unless they’re some of the few that have never been exposed to evolution on television, in books, or in school, we have every right to deride their ignorance.