In “Whatever Happened to Jerry Coyne’s Sensus Divinitatis?” (The Best Schools, 17 December 2011), James Barham discusses the two kinds of atheists, the new atheists and the traditional atheists, in more detail. (He himself is the second kind and, in what appears to be a trend, has little use for the “new atheists.”). The occasion is another mouth off from Jerry Coyne:
First, he claims he has read “some of Plantinga’s books” and was not “terribly impressed” by them. That’s interesing. I would love to know which ones, and I can’t help feeling curious about what, precisely, the verb “to read” means to Coyne in this context. But let that pass.
He goes on to discuss a number of points from the new book with which he takes issue. I don’t have space to discuss them all here, so I will focus on Coyne’s discussion of the sensus divinitatis. Here is what he has to say on this topic:
“Sensus divinatis” [sic] is a fancy term for “lots of people believed and still believe in God.” But in that case the sensus divinatis [sic] is not working properly in more and more people all the time. In fact, it’s almost disappeared in Scandinavia and much of Western Europe, and is waning in the US.
What is fascinating is that Coyne—who of course thinks he’s being cleverly ironic—has hit the nail on the head. Just not in the way he thinks.
How is that? This will take a little explaining.
First, I must note that I am myself an atheist …
Barham’s got this right, of course, but from a media perspective one senses somehow that there is more to the story. Jerry Coyne, like Richard Dawkins, does not need to make sense. Dawkins doesn’t even need to respond to legitimate challenges. Neither needs to do science, let alone philosophy. They need only front new atheism to an eager media.
Does anyone with genuine social power hold them to account? Not only do few do so, but listen to this PR hackery from Darwinist philosopher Michael Ruse (who appears in key opinion leader media) on their behalf:
However, Dawkins is simply the most brilliant science writer of his generation, a person whose writings are so good that they infiltrate right up to the highest levels of professional thought. The selfish gene metaphor changed our way of thinking about natural selection. Coyne is arguably the best evolutionary biologist in America today. His work on speciation is ground-breaking; his demolishing of Sewall Wright’s shifting balance theory is definitive; and he can write brilliantly for the general reader. Why Evolution Is True was probably the best book published celebrating the 200th anniversary of the birth of Darwin (in 2009).
Indeed? Let us look at the evidence: Coyne and Dawkins are clearly losers and has-beens, most recently heard grousing in unison because the New York Times had just published a tribute obituary of Lynn Margulis. Why Evolution Is True may not be a bad book, but even with Ruse’s recent puffery, it just hasn’t taken the field by storm. During which decade did Dawkins last do any serious science, as opposed to science writing?
Ruse knows perfectly well what he is doing: Right there on page one of the guide to media coverage of science, Fast Science Facts for Hair Models, we learn, “Science facts are hard to understand. Fortunately, some people have been identified as brilliant Top Scientists, so we can treat whatever they say on any subject as fact. Dissenters are just talking heads or even creationists so, if needed, we just find someone to say something negative about them.”
Ruse knows that he is catering to this hungry market, and he knows full well the consequences.
Does everyone know? Now consider, reader: Ruse has been made welcome at gatherings of ID scientists because he claims that he is not “friends” with these people? Scientists, as it happens, are not usually politicians, but it’s still not clear to some of us why the ID theorists shouldn’t smarten up and look for Darwinist discussion partners who offer challenges other than treating the ID theorists as obvious dupes of some very simple media tricks, repeated again and again.
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