Intelligent Design

Darwinian fundamentalist Jerry Coyne responds to “Atheist Fairytales”

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U Chicago prof here:

First of all, Weikart doesn’t recognize the irony of his implication that “See? Atheists believe in fairy tales. They’re just as bad as we are!” Well, he might respond that his Christianity is certainly not a fairy tale, because it’s not only based on empirical truths like Jesus Man being resurrected, but also gives us an objective morality and an objective purpose in our lives. But why is his Christianity true and Islam and Hinduism, which inspire different purposes, false?

But step back and consider the question: what is that meaning and purpose? As we know, one can discern an infinite number of meanings and life-purposes from just the Bible alone, for its “objective” lessons are debatable. Is the lesson to do what God tells us to do? In that case, let us stone adulterers and kids who curse their parents, and let us forsake our families and homes to follow Jesus. And how do we follow Jesus? Does our purpose include fighting against abortion and gay marriage, not to mention the Evil Materialism of Evolution? (To my mind, any purpose that makes its adherents tell lies about science, as does the Discovery Institute and Weikart himself, is a nefarious purpose.) Discerning purpose from the Bible is at best an act of pure subjectivity, and one that comports, as Plato realized, with a pre-existing and non-Goddy set of values.

And which scripture should the faithful pick to give them purpose, and which faith should they follow? What about Muslims? The Qur’an and its interpretations can lead to purposes completely different from those of Christians, and include exterminating unbelievers and scrupulously following the dictates of the Holy Book itself—something that Christians have learned to turn into malleable metaphors. More.

See also: Do atheists find meaning in life from inventing fairy tales?

12 Replies to “Darwinian fundamentalist Jerry Coyne responds to “Atheist Fairytales”

  1. 1

    Notice that Coyne doesn’t defend the charge that a/mats embrace their own mythology (fairy tales), which was Weikart’s point all along.

    Weikart 1
    Coyne 0

  2. 2
    Dick says:

    The question is not, as Coyne would have it, which morality or which meaning is the right one. The question is whether there can be any objective morality or objective meaning if there is no God.
    Coyne is being disingenuous when he tries to recast the question of whether God is necessary for objective morality and meaning to a question about which religion is “right”.

  3. 3
    tribune7 says:

    When reason and logic no longer work what do you do?

    Coyne et al are men of faith not men of science.

  4. 4
    bornagain77 says:

    It seems that Coyne himself would be very wise to first establish that he himself is not a fairy tale before he tries to discern what else is or is not a fairy tale in reality:

    Eagleton on Baggini on free will
    Excerpt: “What you’re doing is simply instantiating a self: the program run by your neurons which you feel is “you.””
    Jerry Coyne
    https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2015/04/04/eagleton-on-baggini-on-free-will/

    Ross Douthat Is On Another Erroneous Rampage Against Secularism – Jerry Coyne – December 26, 2013
    Excerpt: “many (but not all) of us accept the notion that our sense of self is a neuronal illusion.”
    Jerry Coyne – Professor of Evolutionary Biology – Atheist
    https://newrepublic.com/article/116047/ross-douthat-wrong-about-secularism-and-ethics

    The Confidence of Jerry Coyne – Ross Douthat – January 6, 2014
    Excerpt: But then halfway through this peroration, we have as an aside the confession (by Coyne) that yes, okay, it’s quite possible given materialist premises that “our sense of self is a neuronal illusion.” At which point the entire edifice suddenly looks terribly wobbly — because who, exactly, is doing all of this forging and shaping and purpose-creating if Jerry Coyne, as I understand him (and I assume he understands himself) quite possibly does not actually exist at all? The theme of his argument is the crucial importance of human agency under eliminative materialism, but if under materialist premises the actual agent is quite possibly a fiction, then who exactly is this I who “reads” and “learns” and “teaches,” and why in the universe’s name should my illusory self believe Coyne’s bold proclamation that his illusory self’s purposes are somehow “real” and worthy of devotion and pursuit? (Let alone that they’re morally significant: But more on that below.) Prometheus cannot be at once unbound and unreal; the human will cannot be simultaneously triumphant and imaginary.
    http://douthat.blogs.nytimes.c.....oyne/?_r=0

    “I think the idea of (materialists) saying that consciousness is an illusion doesn’t really work because the very notion of an illusion presupposes consciousness. There are no illusions unless there is a conscious experience or (a conscious person) for whom there is an illusion.”
    Evan Thompson, Philosopher – author of Waking, Dreaming, Being

  5. 5
  6. 6
    Origenes says:

    How is the view that consciousness does not exist compatible with rationality? No one, including the materialist, can accept his own non-existence and remain rational. In fact, one cannot accept one’s own non-existence at all: even in positing one’s own non-existence, even in merely considering it as a bare possibility, one must presuppose that one exist.
    – – – –
    TWSYF @5 I agree.

  7. 7
    Belfast says:

    There was an A-mat named Deal,
    Who said, “Although pain isn’t real,
    When I sit on a pin,
    And it goes all the way in,
    I dislike what I imagine I feel.”

  8. 8
    Origenes says:

    There is no alternative: our existence and rationality is our starting point. These are presuppositions with which we must begin any inquiry, including the inquiries into whether we exist and are rational.

  9. 9
    Seversky says:

    Dick @ 2

    The question is not, as Coyne would have it, which morality or which meaning is the right one. The question is whether there can be any objective morality or objective meaning if there is no God.

    I would ask two questions: first, can there be objective morality even if there is a God – why isn’t it just another opinion – and, second, why is a God’s purpose any better or more meaningful than anyone else’s?

  10. 10
    Dick says:

    Seversky @9:
    “I would ask two questions: first, can there be objective morality even if there is a God – why isn’t it just another opinion – and, second, why is a God’s purpose any better or more meaningful than anyone else’s?”

    I think the answer to both questions is inherent in the nature of God. If God is an omniscient, omnibenevolent, transcendent being who created the universe, loves each of us individually, and will ultimately hold each of us accountable then His isn’t “just another opinion”. He’s a uniquely qualified moral authority and ground of all existents.

    The same answer, mutatis mutandis, would serve, I think, for the second question.

  11. 11
    EvilSnack says:

    There is only one logical course of action left when it is accepted that there is no objective reality, or that determinism is true, and that is to shut up.

  12. 12
    Axel says:

    And I think your ferociously demotic turn of phrase in conclusion, EvilSnack, introduces a welcome level of intolerant didacticism, in the face of a folly as transparently obvious, as its authors seem tediously incorrigible.

    Excuse me now, won’t you ? There appear to be some gentlemen in white coats at the door. No doubt pharmaceutical salesmen or some such.

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