University of Michigan Professor Admits She is a Hater

Susan J. Douglas is a professor of communications at the University of Michigan. She writes:

I hate Republicans. I can’t stand the thought of having to spend the next two years watching Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Ted Cruz, Darrell Issa or any of the legions of other blowhards denying climate change, thwarting immigration reform or championing fetal “personhood.”

Wow. This professor admits publicly she is a Hater. She hates. Yes, she has her rationalizations for her hate, as all haters have their rationalizations for their hate. But what is striking is that this person is a professor of communications. You would think a person in such a position would be enlightened enough to eschew hate and take a more nuanced approach to life.

After confessing she is a hater, Douglas then tries to posture is if she is an objective scholar:

party identification and hatred shape a whole host of non-political decisions. Iyengar and Westwood asked participants in their study to review the resumés of graduating high school seniors to decide which ones should receive scholarships. Some resumés had cues about party affiliation (say, member of the Young Republicans Club) and some about racial identity (also through extracurricular activities, or via a stereotypical name). Race mattered, but not nearly as much as partisanship. An overwhelming 80 percent of partisans chose the student of their own party. And this held true even if the candidate from the opposite party had better credentials.

How did we come to this pass?

Given her hatred of Republicans, I think we can safely predict who she is going to blame:

Obviously, my tendency is to blame the Republicans more than the Democrats, which may seem biased. But history and psychological research bear me out.

LOL! It “may seem” biased. Er, professor….it is biased. After all, haters are not well known for their ability to approach the subject of their hate in an objective fashion, now are they?

Let’s watch her rationalize:

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Precedence

Jerry Coyne reports:

You may have forgotten the case of Emerson T. McMullen, the Georgia Southern University (GSU) history professor (actually, an associate professor) who proselytized both Christianity and creationism in his history/science classes. (For relevant posts, go here.) Such pushing of creationism and religion in a public university violates the Constitution’s provisions for separation of Church and State.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation and the Richard Dawkins Foundation then sent a complaint to GSU (I drafted the scientific critique of McMullen’s arguments for Biblical creationism), and the University said it would investigate.

The University did investigate and sided with the FFRF. Coyne writes:

The FFRF (and I, too) see this as a hands-down victory for the First Amendment, an amendment specifically cited by Georgia Southern. Kudos to the university for acting promptly and strongly.

The letter to McMullen is given below; as it’s from screenshots of pdfs, please forgive the blurriness. It’s only 2.5 pages long, and I urge you to read it in its entirety. This outcome will no doubt serve as a precedent of sorts about how public universities should deal with First Amendment violations by faculty.

You can read the letters and links on Coyne’s site. He concludes:

I am proud to have worked with the Dawkins Foundation and the FFRF on this issue, though we’ll no doubt be denounced as “censors.” But passion in the defense of the First Amendment is no vice.

I think Coyne is right this outcome will serve as a precedent of sorts about how public universities should deal with First Amendment violations by faculty. I’m just not sure he’ll like it.

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Overreacting much?

This one cracked me up.

Jerry Coyne might move his blog to Patheos and asked his readers for feedback. So one of his readers sent him a simple email to let him know – “If you move to Patheos, I will stop reading you.”

Now, if I had received such an email, I would have welcomed it as another data point. But not Coyne. It actually infuriated him, as he seems to read a whole lot into the 10 tiny words. He writes:

I woke up this morning to find this nugget of sunshine from a clueless reader who will remain unnamed:

If you move to Patheos, I will stop reading you.

That is the entire message.

A clueless reader?? Ten matter-of-facts words, constituting feedback that Coyne solicited, means the reader is “clueless?” Doesn’t look good.

Coyne’s temper begins to simmer:

I swear, some people have no idea how they come across to another human being. Rather than take the time to write politely, or leave a comment explaining this rather drastic decision, the reader simply makes a threat to flounce if I move.

Huh? Can you imagine the poor Coyne fan, not having the time to write an essay justifying his decision, sending in his feedback and Coyne responding about receiving some impolite threat? And drastic? Who in the world would think of a decision to read or not read a blog as being “drastic?”

Coyne apparently began to furiously type away at his keyboard:

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More on the Dark Side of Gregg Caruso’s Free Will Denialism

Let’s continue to explore the dark side of Gregg Caruso’s free will denialism. We have already seen that it turns rapists and murderers into victims while turning the true victim of a murderer/rapist into an unfortunate casualty. But there is more.

Note that Caruso, after dismissing all concepts of moral responsibility, feels the need to justify imprisoning murderers/rapists to ensure their well-being and provide opportunities for rehabilitation. He calls is quarantine. That is, we are not putting criminals in quarantine because they are responsible for wrong-doing; we are doing it for “the safety of society.” Sounds to me like the Soviet ideal of sacrificing individual freedom for the public good.

Caruso is thinking like an insect, focused on the well-being of the Hive. Bad insects are not really bad; they just represent a threat to the Hive. So we separate the threat from the rest of the Hive, trying to “rehabilitate” them so they better fit within the Hive. The focus is all on the Hive and the individual’s action only mean something in relation to the Hive.

Of course, with this mindset, there is nothing to stop us from quarantining more than just murderers and rapists. If the majority of people embrace Caruso’s hive mentality, with no substantive concern about individual rights and freedoms, why not quarantine other threats to the Hive?
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The Dark Side of Gregg Caruso’s Free Will Denialism

Gregg Caruso, a philosophy professor at Corning Community College, gave a talk about the “Dark Side” of Free Will. In doing so, I think he lets the cat out of the bag, showing that free will deniers come to us with a socio-political agenda.

Caruso has a slide that outlines the “Dark Side” (shown around 3 minutes into the talk). It reads:

The Dark Side

Free will beliefs are correlated with

Religiosity
Punitiveness
Just World Belief
Right Wing Authoritarianism

Whoa! “Religiosity” is the “Dark Side.” It looks like the professor is peddling the “Religion is Evil” talking point of the New Atheist movement. As for “Right Wing Authoritarianism,” does this mean Left Wing Authoritarianism is correlated with a lack of belief in free will? Or maybe for the professor, there is no such thing as Left Wing Authoritarianism.

Anyway, the professor didn’t want to talk about those two little hand grenades and instead focused on punitiveness and just world belief. I didn’t watch the just world belief part of the talk, so I can’t comment on that.

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Posted in atheism, free will, New Atheism | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

The Incompatibility of Science and New Atheism: Case Study #1

Atheist activist Jerry Coyne writes:

The thesis of “New Atheist” books like The God Delusion and God is not Great is that the net effect of religion has been bad, both in ancient times and today. Yes, the authors argue, religion has sometimes motivated people to do good things, but that is far outweighed by the misery, death, and divisiveness produced by religion since it arose thousands of years ago. And certainly, the argument continues, religion today is not a force for good; we have science and secular philosophy to turn to.

Indeed. In fact, Coyne understates the New Atheist position. Dawkins describes religion as “one of the world’s great evils, comparable to the smallpox virus,” Sam Harris declared, “If I could wave a magic wand and get rid of either rape or religion, I would not hesitate to get rid of religion,” and Coyne himself has insisted, “Our writings and actions are sincere attempts to rid the world of one of its greatest evils: religion.”

After a decade or so of this vitriolic rhetoric, Coyne finally comes to notice the obvious:

Although I agree with that thesis, I can’t say that there are data that make an airtight case for it. After all, how do you weigh any beneficial effects of religion (making people behave charitably and so on) against the repression it’s caused, the deaths that have accrued in inter-religious wars, and other malfeasance? All we can do is make a judgment call, and although to me religion comes down as harmful on balance, I couldn’t prove it. One can only cite anecdotes, and the other side has their anecdotes too.

Coyne admits that his extreme position – religion as one world’s greatest evils – has been a “judgment call” based on nothing more than anecdotes. In essence, he has conceded the weakness of his position. What’s more, anecdotes don’t count as scientific evidence. In science, we don’t make bold claims without evidence, demonstrating one way in which New Atheism is incompatible with science.

So what does Coyne do?

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The Incompatibility of Politics and Science: Case Study #1

As we have seen, politics and science are incompatible. Let us begin a series of case studies to help demonstrate such incompatibility.

Today, let us consider how scientist Jerry Coyne sought to explain the recent disasterous defeat of Democratic candidates in the 2014 congressional elections. Coyne explained it as follows:

This represented a vote against Obama by an electorate who votes on their own pocketbooks and not on principle. I truly don’t understand the demonization of Obama. He’s gotten healthcare through, largely pulled our troops out of the Middle East (though he tends to waffle on foreign policy), and had sensible policies on immigration. I can’t help but think that those Republicans disaffected by his victories, and the fact that he’s black, are striking back in a big way when they have the opportunity (if you think Obama’s race makes no difference, you’re living in Cloud Cuckooland). Obama, whatever you may think of him, had decent policies but was blocked by a truculent Republican faction in Congress.

I really do despise the Republic Party and all that it stands for.

There are many elements of this explanation that are incompatible with scientific thinking.
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Richard Dawkins Wants a “truly anti-Darwinian society”

Recent quotes from Richard Dawkins:

“Study your Darwinism for two reasons: because it explains why you’re here, and the second reason is, study your Darwinism in order to learn what to avoid in setting up society. What we need is a truly anti-Darwinian society. Anti-Darwinian in the sense that we don’t wish to live in a society where the weakest go to the wall, where the strongest suppress the weak, and even kill the weak.”

and

“I don’t care what’s against the evolution principle. I’m all for going against the evolution principle.”

Two questions.

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Science and Politics are Incompatible

One of the core arguments of the New Atheist movement insists that science and religion are “incompatible.” Scientists are not supposed to be religious and if anyone truly values science, they are supposed to abandon their religion. The argument is convincing only to New Atheists simply because it is more of a talking point for their anti-religious propaganda than any type of robust argument. In fact, we can tell it’s only a talking point because of the unjustifiably selective nature of the comparison. That is, if science is incompatible with religion, might it not also be incompatible with other forms of human expression?

Jerry Coyne once wrote a post rationalizing his use of ad hominems and inflammatory language:

You know what? I don’t care a whit about the tone of those statements. This is exactly what is to be expected on websites (not in academic journals, note) in a case that is not purely academic, but political.[….]
The DI’s invective rolls off my back. At one time they—I think it was William Dembski—posted a picture of me next to one of Herman Munster, pointing out the resemblance. They eventually removed it, but it didn’t bother me at all. Satire is one of the weapons in this battle between rationality and superstition.

Sure. In politics, invective and satire have a place. In politics, we seek to change opinions and behavior with the use of invective, satire, and other forms of propaganda. But here’s the thing.

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Famous Scientist Notes that Richard Dawkins is Not a Scientist

The Gnus think Dawkins is some world famous scientist. But in reality, he is not much of a scientist. EO Wilson agrees:

Although Wilson has much to be arrogant about, few who have met him would accuse him of it. But the criticism must have hurt, and Wilson was evidently still feeling stung by it when writing his latest book, in which he rather waspishly describes Dawkins, a distinguished Fellow of the Royal Society and retired Oxford professor, as an “eloquent science journalist”.

“What else is he? I mean journalism is a high and influential profession. But he’s not a scientist, he’s never done scientific research. My definition of a scientist is that you can complete the following sentence: ‘he or she has shown that…’,” Wilson says.

“I don’t want to go on about this because he and I were friends. There is no debate between us because he’s not in the arena. I’m sorry he’s so upset. He could have distinguished himself by looking at the evidence, that’s what most science journalists do. When a journalist named Dawkins wrote a review in Prospect urging people not to read my book, I thought the last time I heard something like that I think it came from an 18th-century bishop.”

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