Helpless Hypocrisy

Jerry Coyne continues to wallow in his helpless hypocrisy as he tries to defend his infamous claim, “I will act as though I have free choices even though I don’t.” He starts with a dig at David Heddle:

In response, the unknown blogger simply levels a criticism of my remark made by David Heddle, a Calvinist physicist in Virginia who has something of an obsession with watching and criticizing my words.

LOL! When Coyne brags about the popularity of his activist blog, apparently he doesn’t want to be noticed by anyone but his fans and acolytes. Sorry Jerry, but as you become a more famous atheist activist, you will be noticed by those of us who value critical thinking. So Coyne links to Heddle’s observations and responds:

What a mishmash of garbled thinking! Acting is not a volitional process of the type I’m denying; where is the evidence that it is “volitional,” presumably in the dualistic sense implied by Heddle and the Theo-Sophist. As for “freely choosing” to act as if I have free choices; that’s simply wrong. I don’t choose that feeling, freely or otherwise. My feeling of volition—that there is some “I” apart from my genes and environment that can make choices—is not freely chosen. It’s instilled in me—and almost certainly by my genes, since nearly all humans have it regardless of their experience.

Oh, the helpless hypocrisy.

Jerry doesn’t believe he has free will, but will act that way because his genes make him do so. End. Of. Story. So there! Like I noted before, if atheism is true, truth no longer matters. Dawkins will eat meat even though his atheistic ethics tells him not to. Coyne will act as though he has free choices even though his atheistic worldview says he doesn’t have such a thing.

Interestingly enough, such convenient nihilism doesn’t seem to be in play in other arenas. For example:

That is this: I favor the notion of holding people responsible for good and bad actions, but not morally responsible. That is, people are held accountable for, say, committing a crime,because punishing them simultaneously acts as a deterrent, a device for removing them from society, and a way to get them rehabilitated—if that’s possible.

To me, the notion of moral responsibility adds nothing to this idea. In fact, the idea of moral responsibility implies that a person had the ability to choose whether to act well or badly, and (in this case) took the bad choice. But I don’t believe such alternative “choices” are open to people, so although they may be acting in an “immoral” way, depending on whether society decides to retain the concept of morality (this is something I’m open about), they are not morally responsible. That is, they can’t be held responsible for making a choice with bad consequences on the grounds that they could have chosen otherwise.

That said, all the strictures and punishments I mentioned yesterday still hold, and retributive punishment is still out. But moral responsibility implies free choices, and those don’t exist.

What happened to the helpless hypocrisy? Those same genes that instill in us the sense that there is some “I” apart from our genes and environment that can make choices give us the same sense of moral responsibility. Somehow, Jerry has found the mysterious power to rise above his instilled sense of free will and declare we should not hold people morally responsible for their actions. And of course, retributive punishment is out.

So it looks to me like the helpless hypocrisy is just a fancy excuse that is invoked when convenient. Y’see, Jerry Coyne will continue to act as though he has free choices while the rest of us are not allowed to do so. We’re supposed to give up holding people morally responsible along with retributive punishment. And while Jerry can act as if he has free will, we can’t act as if he is morally responsible for his actions. How convenient.

If Jerry Coyne can act as though he has free will, so can I and so can you. So can all of society. So we can all act as if morally responsibility exists and it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t exist. We can all act as if retributive punishment is justified and it doesn’t matter if it is not.

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3 Responses to Helpless Hypocrisy

  1. The Deuce says:

    He’s too much of a philistine to realize it, but Coyne has implicitly shown that the denial of free will implies the nonexistence of reasoning in general, not just of moral reasoning. In fact, he’s just come out and denied HIS OWN rationality.

    Look at what he’s telling us here. He’s claiming that even though there is no free will, he lacks the capacity to make rational decisions about how to act based on the nonexistence of free will, because the lack of free will means that his decisions are actually made for him deterministically by his genes and environment, and reason is powerless before them (or more to the point, “reason” doesn’t exist, just the genes and environment).

    Of course, if that’s the case, it applies to *all* his decisions and conclusions, not just his conclusions about how to behave given the nonexistence of free will. It means that nothing he says, thinks, or does has any rational foundation whatsoever, including his conclusions about “why evolution is true.” If there’s no free will, then that belief is no more or less rational than the beliefs of any YEC, or even a flat-earther or geocentrist. All those reasons he thinks he has for his belief, which he thinks is so rational, are mere illusions. It was all decided for him by his genes and environment, just like their beliefs.

    His denial that there is any “I” (that is, no rational agent) also leads to the same conclusion. Nothing my computer does, for instance, is rational or irrational, precisely because there is no “I” there to do any reasoning. It’s just a bunch of circuitry that reacts to electric pulses in deterministic ways, and blindly produces output pulses. There’s no “I” in there looking at premises and using logic to form rational conclusions about what to output. Calling it rational or irrational would be as nonsensical as calling a boulder being pushed uphill rational or one being pushed downhill irrational.

    The only reason militant materialists like Coyne are even capable of doing science at all is that they’re too determinately ignorant and anti-intellectual to actually figure out the implications of their own bullshit, much less to reason and act consistently with it.

  2. Dhay says:

    Jerry Coyne > “I favor the notion of holding people responsible for good and bad actions, but not morally responsible. That is, people are held accountable for, say, committing a crime, because punishing them simultaneously acts as a deterrent, a device for removing them from society, and a way to get them rehabilitated—if that’s possible.”

    Coyne (and Sam Harris likewise) puts great emphasis on how what a person does is wholly determined by their genes, by their upbringing, by their childhood (and adulthood) traumas – or simply by the arrangement of leptons and bosons in the universe at some previous time; that is, they were wholly determined and had no choice in the matter of what they did. Here’s Harris, ‘agreeing’ common ground with Daniel Dennett:

    We agree that a human being, whatever his talents, training, and aspirations, will think, intend, and behave exactly as he does given the totality of conditions in the moment…

    …We agree that given past states of the universe and its laws, we can only do what we in fact do, and not do otherwise.
    http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/the-marionettes-lament

    But what Coyne (and Harris, and presumably Dennett) doesn’t seem to realise is that under strong determinism it is not only free will which is an illusion, but also the arrow of time: if we run the relevant deterministic laws with decreasing time values (“backwards”) we find that broken pieces of pottery, powered by a sudden flick of the pile of a hot, wet carpet, cause a cup of hot tea to rise up and land perfectly gently in my grasp above a bone-dry carpet. A miracle? – No, because given any past, present or future state of the universe, all other states of the universe are wholly determined by the inescapable railroading of natural law. If we can be sure that we got from state A to state B entirely by natural laws – naturalism – we can be sure that we can get from state B to state A entirely by those very same natural laws: if, given A, B was inevitable, then given B, A must have been inevitable. A synechdochal example is: given the state of the universe as it is now, the mass extinction of the dinosaurs was inevitable.

    The consequence of this is, it can not only be said that my genes, or my traumatic upbringing, or whatever, deterministically caused me to brutally murder someone and be punished, it can equally be said that my punishment caused the brutal murder, or that the murder caused me to be born with psychopathic genes, or that my adult punishment caused my childhood trauma.

  3. Kevin says:

    Unless we can discover and tap into parallel universes and observe whether the same decision for identical circumstances is made over and over (or not), it seems to me that determinism is not scientific. How do you test it?

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