Sunday, January 30, 2011

Jerry Coyne's wish list

Jerry Coyne said:
Some day I would love to see a list of questions that science can't answer but other methods of inquiry can - especially religion. So far, despite loud and frequent denunciations of "scientism," I've never seen anything resembling that list.
For starters:


Finally, fellow scientist and atheist Massimo Pigliucci offers Coyne some advice.


  1. I'm pretty sure that Jerry Coyne also ends up redefining "science" to basically mean "reason".

    From Coyne's 11/28/10 entry:

    That is, I construe science broadly—as “empirical investigation combined with reason,” while Russell takes a narrower definition of traditional scientific investigation (chemistry, biology, physics, etc.).

    He has a nasty habit of playing fast and loose with the word "science". So he can say "science shows us that (x)" and conjure up images of lab coats, double-blind experiments, and more. When in reality he just means "I, Coyne, have decided based on my a prioris and various other factors, that (x)."

    He's kind of a slow-wit, even among the gnu herd.

  2. Crude said:
    He's kind of a slow-wit, even among the gnu herd.

    Don't worry. He more than makes up for that with his arrogance.

  3. Don't worry. He more than makes up for that with his arrogance.

    I had a prof who knew Dr. Coyne personally, and she was incredibly defensive about him. I mentioned a few times during class that much of what he says amounts to unprovable philosophical assumptions.

    She flipped her lid and essentially ignored me for the rest of the semester. I did get a good mark, but many of my assignments had no explanation for the grade.

    Why is it that atheists are so touchy? Is it possible that they are terrified that what they believe about the way the world works is simply untrue? And, as such, they excoriate anyone who forces them to contemplate the obvious.

  4. It's like hero worship, wherever it exists. People have a defensive reaction about those they look up to. But woe to the hero after his worshipper finds out his hero is just another zero!

  5. Cory said: "Why is it that atheists are so touchy?"

    If they are Darwinistic atheists, there is a reason. If natural selection works to 'evolve' biological organisms, by prejudicing against selection by favouring the most fit (organism), the same must be true of the evolution of ideas.

    So its natural for atheists, who presuppose their philosophical position "more fit", to resent having to compete against lesser positions, such as that held by theists.

    The irony, of course, is that their position is clearly the less rational (less fit), but even so .. it still has to compete (in the market place of ideas) for selection to occur; hence they are naturally touchy.

  6. Cory said: "Why is it that atheists are so touchy?"

    Whenever I see this question I think of the comments of a philosopher of science who argued for a closed system because he was uncomfortable with the alternative.

    So, not only are atheists touchy they are also possibly uncomfortable.