The Hypocrisy and Nihilism of Extreme Atheism

When Coyne, the extreme determinist, criticizes Dan Dennett for doing something that was “unnecessary,” we get to witness the intellectual bankruptcy of his extreme ideology. Interestingly enough, someone on his blog noticed the hypocrisy and Coyne actually let that comment see the light of day:

“Dan’s tone in his original paper was peremptory and snide, and that was unnecessary.” But he didn’t have a choice!

Coyne then tries to rationalize his hypocrisy:

Although Dan had no choice, and was not morally responsible for being mean, he was responsible for being mean.

Coyne’s distinction is defeated with two words – So what?

If Dan is not morally responsible for being mean, why is it worth noting that he was responsible for being mean? Isn’t that like noting he is responsible for using the English language to convey his thoughts?

Also, is it really true that “he” was responsible for being mean? In Coyne’s extreme ideology, there is no “he.” “He” is an illusion. It would therefore be far more accurate to say, “the environment and genes that control the output of the entity we label “Dan Dennett” are responsible for the entity being mean.”

And, given that he’s subject to influence (I hope!), our calling him out is an environmental influence on his neurons that could, in principle, turn him toward incompatibilism!

Notice how Coyne seeks to justify his response, as if he had a choice in “calling him out.” The proper response from Coyne would have been to blame his environment and genes for his action. Of course he is a hypocrite, but you can’t hold him morally responsible for this. What a convenient ideology he has there.

What we are seeing here is the manner in which the Extreme Atheism of Coyne and Harris collapses into a black hole of nihilism. And while they try to mask this nihilism by stealing from language that assumes free agency, they concede in the end that they are not trying to communicate with another human being. On the contrary, they just admitted they are trying to manipulate and control Dan Dennett to make him more like them. In Coyne’s world of atheism, people are just entities to be manipulated and controlled. The end justifies the means. Move on people, no nihilism there. 😉

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8 Responses to The Hypocrisy and Nihilism of Extreme Atheism

  1. Crude says:

    I suppose, as well… why, exactly, does it matter if the selfless amalgamation of blind processes that is Dan Dennett is turned towards incompatibilism anyway? To satisfy the illusory notion of self that would be momentarily pleased with the transition?

    And I guess this goes into the argument from reason too. Is Jerry saying that reason isn’t really playing a role in Dan’s possible changing of mind, but just the blind shifting of a process from one state to another?

  2. Bilbo says:

    Interestingly enough, someone on his blog noticed the hypocrisy and Coyne actually let that comment see the light of day:

    Coyne’s genes must be slipping.

  3. Dango says:

    No freedom and no self….why do people want to believe such things? Do they really hate the idea of God that much?

  4. Flying Areopagiticus Monster says:

    What’s actually going on here is a significant progression of atheist morality. After Sam Harris invented utilitarianism, it now turns out that this is in itself limited and the actual standard of morality is being an incompatibilist. Hence, actions may be justified with reference to this, which thus justifies hurting theists’ feelings, as opposed to earlier moralities based around not hurting people’s (scientifically tested) feelings.

  5. TFBW says:

    Dennet and Coyne’s little spat signifies nothing. They are only doing what any other similarly-arranged collection of molecules would have done in their situation — namely, obey the laws of physics. There seems little point discussing any higher-level aspect of it (e.g. the rational coherency of the concepts under discussion), given that such aspects are epiphenomenal at best, illusory at worst.

  6. The Deuce says:

    It would therefore be far more accurate to say, “the environment and genes that control the output of the entity we label “Dan Dennett” are responsible for the entity being mean.”

    Even that doesn’t make sense under Coyne’s worldview. Saying that Dennett is responsible for being mean is like saying that water is “responsible” for flowing downhill. It’s just pure illogical nonsense.

    The denial of free will is the denial of responsibility period, and of specifically moral responsibility by extension.

  7. cl says:

    @The Deuce,

    That’s right, Coyne can’t make a principled distinction between “morally responsible” and “responsible” to escape this criticism. On determinism, there is no responsibility – period.

    The charge of hypocrisy, inconsistency, etc… they all stand.

  8. Dhay says:

    In his June 4, 2012 blog entry entitled, “Victor Stenger and Janna Levin on (our lack of) free will”, Jerry Coyne says:
    http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2012/06/04/victor-stenger-and-janna-levin-on-our-lack-of-free-will/

    Where Victor and I part company is that, like nearly all New Atheists who write on this topic (Alex Rosenberg is an exception), Stenger appears to be a compatibilist: that is, he thinks we can salvage our notion of free will by using a different definition…

    Lets see, “nearly all New Atheists” disagree with Coyne, Sam Harris, and Alex Rosenberg. Not to mention most of everybody else in the world, which rather puts these three out on a limb.

    When a very few people think that everybody else in the world is wrong — including thinking that the “nearly all New Atheists” (who in so many other respects are in substantial agreement with the few) are likewise wrong — it’s probably the other way round. The ones with the way-out ideas are rarely correct.

    I think Carl Sagan put this point nicely: “They all laughed at Einstein. They all laughed at Columbus. Unfortunately, they also all laughed at Bozo the Clown.”

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