Ross Douthat provides a very thoughtful response to Jerry Coyne’s anti-religious rant. Coyne must feel threatened by the response, given a) he goes into “rapid response” mode, with a reply already posted on his blog early the same morning and b) his rapid response is nothing more than Coyne stamping his feet on the ground while re-asserting the same arguments. Most telling are the parts Coyne purposely does not quote.
For example, when Coyne tries to defend his convoluted thinking about purpose, he omits a very key point of Douthat’s argument:
Prometheus cannot be at once unbound and unreal; the human will cannot be simultaneously triumphant and imaginary.
It’s true that even if the conscious self is an illusion, human beings would still have purposes in the sense that any organism has purposes, and our movements — all that travel and reading and dining, in Coyne’s case — wouldn’t just be random or indeterminate. But just as nobody would describe a tree growing toward the sun or a bee returning to the hive as “forging their own purposes” in life, so too Coyne’s promethean language about human agency implies a much higher conception of what a human being IS — both in terms of the reality of consciousness and the freedom afforded to it — than his world-picture will allow.
That Coyne omitted this in his “response” and did not address it signals just how weak his position is.
It’s also interesting to note that Coyne files Douthat’s thoughtful reply as “atheist bashing.” That he perceives such a mild, thoughtful reply as “bashing” tells us just how thin-skinned the bomb-thrower is. Given the heavy-handed way that he censors dissenting views from his own blog, I am not surprised he over-reacts to Douthat.