Has Jerry Coyne connected with a big tub of sticky marshmallow goo?
Recently, he took it upon himself to brag in The New Republic that some of his buddies had done a number on Chopra’s Web site. They had, Coyne also boasted, done the same to Rupert Sheldrake.
I have a suspicion that readers of The New Republic aren’t aware that skepticism has become a bullying, strident movement redolent of the worst aspects of the Internet. Jerry Coyne tosses around the term “pseudoscientist” as if it were a given when applied to Rupert Sheldrake and by implication to me. He, then, must represent real science, a standard that his article doesn’t meet.
I can’t speak for my respected friend Rupert Sheldrake, although it’s typical of Coyne’s slash-and-burn tactics that he refers to Sheldrake as having trained at Cambridge University while leaving out that he held respected senior positions in biology there. In my own case, to be sneeringly tagged as a pseudoscientist is an absurd allegation.
Readers can peruse his considerable credentials there; here is a source for some of his articles. You decide.
The bulk of his article is riddled with defamatory remarks, and the links he provides are to the same sort of fellow skeptics. They are proud of their underhanded tactics. They operate from the same basic ethics as their leader, Richard Dawkins: “I know I’m right, so why be fair?” No doubt Jerry Coyne will wriggle out of this embarrassing episode, but The New Republic, without being a science journal, should respect the fairness principles of accurate reporting. It owes that much to its trusting readers.
Then Coyne fires back (same venue)
He apparently sees me as part of an establishment bent on silencing his profundities—a group of what he calls “militant skeptics” who have the temerity to purge the woo from his Wikipedia page. Ours is, he says, a “bullying, strident movement,” and in response parades his credentials like thoroughbred horses before a race. In light of his education and honors, how dare we question things like telepathy, minds without bodies, and “quantum consciousness”?
Actually, if you look into it, you will soon discover that people like Coyne and his wikitroll buddies simply insist, beyond the reach of evidence, that telepathy is false. Not so, it exists as a low level effect greater than chance but not nearly enough to justify the claims of typical psychics (see The Spiritual Brain).
In any event, a better encyclopedia than Wikipedia would long since have found a way to protect its entries from organized assaults of such as Coyne’s troll buddies.
Among others, Coyne singles out as “pseudoscience, pure and simple” Chopra’s statement that
Intelligence doesn’t “appear” at a late stage of evolution. It seems to be inherent in nature.
announcing that “no set of credentials, however impressive, can launder it into real science.”
Curious, because great physicists have frequently said similar things to Chopra’s comment.
Coyne did not like the term “new atheist,” so he promoted, for a while, gnu atheist. Perhaps there also needs to be a new term for an evolutionary biologist whose attachment to Darwin is so strong that he actually doesn’t see the problems that other atheists recognize.
Is it possible that The New Republic has set Coyne up to say this stuff? Then he’ll be defending himself a while. One big fat tub of marshmallow comin’ up.