New Atheist Asks: Why are they allowed to speak?

As you probably know, Gnu activist Jerry Coyne has a reputation for banning people who dissent on his blog (in fact, I think he even bans people who refer to his blog as a blog). This is not surprising, as Gnu activists thrive in echo chambers. The echo chambers are needed to sustain the steady diet of straw men they feed on. But what if someone like Coyne was given the power to ban people from other venues aside from his blog? Would he use it? If you pay attention to his language and complaints, I think it rather obvious Coyne would love to control the free speech of others.

For example, he is once again complaining about Francis Collins with a blog entry entitled, “National Geographic allows Francis Collins to spout theology in its pages.” Did you catch that? Collins was “allowed” to “spout” in the pages of a magazine and that made Coyne angry. He even asks, “Why did National Geographic publish this kind of stuff, using theology to answer scientific questions? ”

Why was Collins allowed to speak? Why did the magazine dare to publish this stuff? Clearly, Coyne believes Collins should not have been allowed to be published in the magazine. Just as Coyne thought Collins should not have been allowed to head the NIH.

The same attitude was seen in another case from a couple of days earlier.

This time he is angry because Trevor Noah is going to replace Jon Stewart and Noah has previously mocked atheists on his twitter account. Coyne summarizes his complaint: “When so many young people watch this show to get not just news analysis, but news itself, it would be nice if they didn’t hire someone who osculates the rump of faith.” In other words, Noah should not be hired.

And then a few days before this, we again see Coyne making the same type of angry complaint. This time he is angry at CNN for publishing a religious piece and asserts, “Read it—it’s short. And after you do, I’ll be you’ll wonder why CNN would not only publish such a thing, but even pay somebody to write it.” He even ends his blog entry with the familiar complaint: “But the question of whether Judas is in hell is far less important than this question: Why did CNN publish such a ridiculous piece?” (BTW, David Heddle has some fun with Coyne here).

Notice a pattern? Why was the religious person allowed to speak? Why was this mocker of atheists hired? Why was this religious article even published?

Does it surprise anyone that someone who regularly asks such questions would also routinely ban all dissent from his blog? After all, once you deny free will, why think such a thing as free speech should exist, right?

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20 Responses to New Atheist Asks: Why are they allowed to speak?

  1. Bilbo says:

    That’s why the irony makes me laugh so hard. LOLOLOLOLOL!

  2. GeoffSmith says:

    What’s funny is that they hate and fear Christians so much because of the Inquisition and think that we’re capable of suddenly just doing another one (which wouldn’t happen). But if they really accept their beliefs, they shouldn’t be making fun of Christians. They should be trying to destroy them. So they either have incredibly faulty risk assessment abilities or they don’t hold their beliefs.

    Neither would surprise me.

  3. Jakeithus says:

    My favourite part was his assertion that National Geographic would publish Francis Collins but wouldn’t publish his answers because obviously they are just biased in favour of religion; completely missing the fact that maybe he just gives bad answers. The fact he thinks we can answer the question “Why are we here?” by making life in a lab shows just how out of touch he is with what the vast majority of people truly consider to be important about our world.

  4. mechanar says:

    And still i am angry at comedy central for not letting me watch the daylie show cause im am from europe

  5. Dhay says:

    It’s not so long ago that Jerry Coyne was fully in support of free speech, and was urging that the thought-provoking — but for some offensive — cartoons concerning Islam and its prophet should be reproduced in every newspaper; Coyne called the editors “cowards” if they decided not to.

    In his April 16, 2015 blog entry entitled, “The Daily Kos publishes an anti-vax cartoon”, Coyne reproduces said cartoon for his readers. This thought-provoking cartoon raises several issues, none of which does Coyne actually address, discuss, or show to be mistaken: his response is, instead, “What a mushhead!”, which is immediately enlarged but not justified by, “When it comes to public health (or children’s welfare), there is no choice. Should Typhoid Mary have had a “choice” about whether she was quarantined? What about people with Ebola?”

    Odd response that! The cartoonist never so much as mentioned quarantine, let alone recommended that quarantine for public health (or children’s welfare) should be a matter of choice; the cartoonist was concerned to recommend that whether or not to vaccinate your child should be a matter of choice, particularly in view of the different treatment accorded to vaccines viz-a-viz other medications, and the too-common denial that vaccines have harmful side-effects; he was also concerned to point out that voices dissenting from the vax consensus are immediately and angrily put down, finishing with, “Welcome to the new McCarthyism”.

    In Coyne’s blog next day, entitled, “Daily Kos removes anti-vax cartoon”, Coyne rejoices that the cartoon has been censored and has vanished, saying, “A small victory for rationality, and a sign that the anti-vax tide is turning.” Actually no, rationality should consider all the evidence and arguments: the retention of the cartoon would have been “a small victory for rationality.”

    There are heated arguments from both sides about vaccination. I don’t intend to take sides.

    What I want to draw attention to is that Coyne supports free speech and the publication of thought-provoking cartoons when it is eg Muslims who object to the cartoons, but is in favour of censorship and the removal of thought-provoking cartoons when it is Coyne himself who objects to the cartoons.

    To be consistent, Coyne should be criticising The Daily Kos for its cowardice. Coyne wouldn’t want to be two-faced and hypocritical, would he?

  6. Dhay says:

    In his April 22, 2015 blog entry entitled, “Another cowardly university bites the dust: Queen’s Uni in Belfast cancels Charlie Hebdo symposium”, Jerry Coyne quotes, adding high praise, the Spectator’s Nick Cohen, and by so doing “owns” the words as his own:

    The only justification for censoring opinion is when it incites violence. You can use every other weapon a free country gives you to confront speakers you oppose. You can fact check them, mock and undermine them, expose their fallacies and overwhelm their defences. But you cannot ban them. Give up on that principle, and you lay yourself open to every variety of dictator and heresy hunter rigging debates and suppressing contrary opinions.
    [My emboldening]

    What I want to draw attention to is that Coyne supports free speech and the discussion of thought-provoking cartoons when it is eg Muslims who object to the cartoons, but is in favour of banning and the removal of thought-provoking cartoons when it is Coyne himself who objects to the cartoons.

    Coyne wouldn’t want to be a “heresy hunter rigging debates and suppressing contrary opinions”, would he. To be consistent, Coyne should be criticising The Daily Kos for its cowardice. Coyne wouldn’t want to be two-faced and hypocritical, would he?

  7. TFBW says:

    Coyne was awarded Discovery Institute’s Censor of the Year on Darwin Day 2014. I find him to be entirely consistent in his attitude towards censorship: he is pro-censorship regarding material he intensely dislikes, and anti-censorship in other cases — no exceptions.

  8. Dhay says:

    Looks like, had the Discovery Institute a ‘Bully of the Year’ award, Coyne would have won it.

  9. Michael says:

    In Coyne’s blog next day, entitled, “Daily Kos removes anti-vax cartoon”, Coyne rejoices that the cartoon has been censored and has vanished, saying, “A small victory for rationality, and a sign that the anti-vax tide is turning.”

    He was gloating about the censorship:

    I guess the liberal website The Daily Kos got a lot of heat for publishing Keith Knight’s anti-vax cartoon, which I highlighted yesterday. Readers here, like those at the site, were rightly appalled. Well, now the cartoon is gone. It rests in peace and sings with the choir invisible: it is an ex-cartoon.

    Of course, when it comes to one of his allies in the New Atheist Hate Movement, Coyne takes a much softer stand:

    stop dismissing Maher’s complete corpus for his ill-advised comments about vaccination.

    And, as we can see, he is still bothered by certain articles that get “published”:

    I am frankly amazed that National Public Radio (NPR) would publish this mushy reconception of religion, for it’s worse than that purveyed by apophatists like Karen Armstrong.

  10. UpstateIslandersFan says:

    This man does not have very good insight into how he comes across – which is not good at all. I think most people accept the evolutionary process, but people such as Coyne think that raising new issues about how it may work is heresy. His response to Rupert Sheldrake’s TED talk a few years ago was the perfect example of his emotive, knee-jerk reaction and his own intolerance. Regardless of whether you agree with Sheldrake, Coyne and P.Z. Myers completely misrepresented what he spoke about. Anyone who simply watched the video would know something wasn’t right in their assessment. What people should be frightened about is the censoring nature of Western society right now. It’s funny how we think we are free because we can have sexually suggestive advertisements or television with explicit themes, but when it comes to simply sharing an idea outside of the orthodox understanding of science, you are a knuckle dragger. These people are incredibly condescending. Anyone who is this wedded to an exact orthodoxy is going to be the last person to rely on for accurate information. What’s frightening is that they see no problem with shaming people into not talking about subjects they don’t like.

  11. Dhay says:

    It continues: in Jerry Coyne’s blog dated April 27, 2015, entitled, “Offended PEN members refuse to participate in annual gala because Charlie Hebdo got an award”, Coyne refers to those PEN members who objected to Charlie Hebdo’s award, and who refused to participate in the PEN annual gala as “the roll of shame”, and “the shameful six”.

    Coyne holds up Charlie Hebdo as an exemplar of a defender of free speech and freedom of expression, which ideals Coyne claims to hold very highly.

    Of course, what the six have done is, they have disagreed with the judges’ decision, and in refusing to attend (and saying why) have exercised their own free speech and freedom of expression — which Coyne doesn’t like them doing and is vocal in attempting to, not just persuade but deter them from: he attempts to to shame them.

    Not that anybody’s going to listen to, heed, or even know about, the views of an obscure university professor, least of all on a subject he lacks qualifications in; but he tries to deter them.

    Coyne wouldn’t want to suppress opinions contrary to his own, would he. Coyne would surely wish to be consistent. He wouldn’t want to be two-faced and hypocritical, would he?


    Coyne has just banned “Explorer” — see his blog dated April 27, 2015, entitled, “Misunderstandings about determinism” — for “a rude and arrogant comment” [on an earlier ‘determinism’ blog by Coyne], “one that went too far over the line of civility (thus removing “Explorer” from further discourse).” I, too, find Coyne’s inconsistencies regarding determinism to be “hilarious” and “funny”, but no doubt Coyne finds this to be the language of shaming, worthy of an instant and irrevocable ban.

    Coyne’s real objection, his tipping point, is dissent; he allows very virulent and in-your-face offensive language when the virulence and wish to offend coincides with Coyne’s own views.

    In that earlier blog, Coyne did not announce Explorer’s ban, he silently imposed it; then Coyne responded to Explorer, leaving Explorer no opportunity of reply, and leaving the no doubt deliberate impression amongst his acolytes that Coyne had slapped down Explorer, and that Explorer had crawled away in defeat, with no good reply giveable and with his tail between his legs. Coyne seems to do this often.

    For someone so keen on free speech and freedom of expression, and quite happy to dish out offensive shaming language, Coyne certainly has a hair-trigger attitude to censorship, and some nasty practices, when it comes to his own blog.

    Coyne, “the shameful one“, should change his practices. He wouldn’t want to be two-faced and hypocritical, would he?

  12. Dhay says:

    Not everything on Jerry Coyne’s blog is worthy of adverse comment. I particularly like the first of today’s cat graphics, which says:

    If it’s good enough for my cat
    It’s good enough for me.

  13. Dhay says:

    Jerry Coyne is so keen on free speech and freedom of expression that he defends Pamella Geller in his May 5, 2015 blog entry entitled, “CNN host attacks Pamela Geller on the Muslim art exhibit, but only embarrasses herself”:

    I know Pamela Geller is a controversial figure, and that her group, the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), has been labeled an anti-Muslim “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center. I also have objections to her political conservatism, her misguided attacks on building an Islamic center near the 9/11 attack site, and I don’t sympathize with her religiosity (she’s Jewish).

    But until now I’ve done what many of us do, which is to go with the tide of liberal opinion and simply accept what we hear about her (and others who are demonized) from vocal Leftists. They may well be correct in calling Geller an “Islamophobe”—that is, somebody who hates Muslims rather than just Islam—but I’d rather find out if that’s true from reading her statements rather than from listening to liberals who dislike her. After all, we’re supposed to be skeptics. The failure to exercise proper skepticism, for example, is what led liberals like Garry Trudeau into misguided denunciations of Charlie Hebdo.

    And he criticises Geller’s interview:

    Note that at about 2:02 Camerota says the fateful words that damn all liberals: “But what people are saying [i.e., what Camerota thinks] is that there is this fine line, you know, between, freedom of speech and being intentionally incendiary and provocative.”

    There you have it: the fine line—the same line that, according to many, was crossed by Charlie Hebdo and everyone said to engage in “hate speech.”
    [Emphases original]

    So there’s no ‘fine line, you know, between, freedom of speech and being intentionally incendiary and provocative’ for Coyne. That’s odd, because at the PEN Awards “the French satirical magazine’s editor-in-chief Gérard Biard and its film critic Jean-Baptiste Thoret distanced themselves from the cartoon exhibit and its organizer, Pamela Geller.

    Speaking with Suzanne Nossel, the executive director of PEN American Center, the Charlie Hebdo pair stressed that their job was to start a global debate while those hosting the Garland show simply aimed to provoke.

    “Comparing this Pamela Geller thing and Charlie Hebdo is nonsense,” Thoret said. “It’s an anti-Islamic movement, and she said it’s an anti-Islamic movement, fighting against what she called the Islamization of the U.S. …”

    Wrong, Coyne. There is a fine line: Charlie Hebdo’s leadership insists there is a “fine line, you know, between, freedom of speech and being intentionally incendiary and provocative”, and insists that Geller, likewise what they term her “anti-Islamic movement”, routinely crosses that fine line.

    When even free-speech champion Charlie Hebdo denounces the AFDI and Geller, what need do I have to be skeptical about whether I, too, should denounce them.

    Coyne doesn’t like “accommodationists”, and thinks National Geographic should balance an article by the acknowledged brilliant “accommodationist” scientist that Francis Collins is, by giving equal space to the provincial relative-nobody that “New Atheist” Jerry Coyne is — though I suspect his beef is that Collins’ article was published at all. Yet for Coyne it seems there is in principle no fine line for Geller & co to step over, and that for him the AFDI cannot possibly, cannot as a matter of principle, be beyond The Pail.

  14. Dhay says:

    In his blog post dated May 8, 2015 entitled, “Circling the drain, the New York Times labels the Texas cartoon exhibit “hate speech””, Jerry Coyne continues to defend Pamela Geller against the many who think that “there is this fine line, you know, between, freedom of speech and being intentionally incendiary and provocative”.

    One way to look at Coyne’s denial that there can be such a line, or that other people may judge where, in their opinion, that line should be drawn, is to suppose that Coyne is so socially inept, perhaps pathologically so, that he cannot respect others’ boundaries because he doesn’t have proper boundaries himself. I think, rather, that Coyne does have boundaries, boundaries which are flung to the extreme.

    Many a racist operates on the ‘contamination model’, whereby a person who has one part in 32 of their ancestry being black or Native Indian is one of those (yeuk!) blacks or breeds.

    We see something similar with Coyne when he castigates “accommodationists” and even “accommodatheists“; his boundaries are so far out that even the mildest accommodation of anything but the most hardline materialist views arouses his immediate strong condemnation.

    We see it with free speech, where for Coyne there is no possibility of qualifying 100% free speech or of weighing it in the balance with competing values.

    And we see it with Coyne’s (and Sam Harris’ and Richard Dawkins’) hatred of religion — not just of the worst excesses of the violent few, but hatred of all religion.

    Coyne says of Geller:

    She is clearly afraid of what will happen to the U.S. if too many believers in Islamic doctrine (yes, they call them “Muslims”) gain political or civil power. She may be misguided, but one cannot simply dismiss her, or try to muzzle her, simply because she’s motivated by intense dislike—hatred if you will—for Islam.

    I think that with a few substitutions of “he” for “she”, and of the religion, this could summarise quite well what seems to be Coyne’s own paranoia about Christianity.

    While we are on the subject of anti-Muslim bigots, I note that in 2012 Sam Harris gave consideration to running a “Muhammad” cartoon contest; looks like it would have been similar to the one that Geller and her hate group are now being so strongly criticised for running:

    Not long ago, the cartoon controversies came back around as a news item, and I thought, I should have a cartoon contest online.

    So, Sam Harris, decades of Buddhist training in compassion (karuna) has given you how much empathy, would you say?

    Coyne continues:

    In fact, I hate the more extreme forms of Islam, too.

    No, Jerry Coyne. If you are anti-religious you are anti-Islam and anti-Muslim, in all of its forms — all extremist forms, and all “moderate” (as you so pointedly parenthesise it) forms too. You are a bigot, and any claim you may make that you (and Geller) are not against Muslim people washes about as well as the claim of an anti-Semite that they are not actually against Jewish people.

  15. UpstateIslandersFan says:

    Up until not so long ago, I thought that it was crucial to be able to draw Muhammed in order to defend our Enlightenment tradition of freedom of expression. But it cuts both ways. To be respected is to be respectable. Part of my vitriol about restricting images of Muhammed was seated in my own personal anger and self-righteousness. I understand why people don’t want to have their freedoms curtailed, but I think people need to pause and ask themselves why it is that they need to draw Mohammed or desecrate the Koran. Is it really about expression or something deeper, less idealistic, more pompous. Granted, it’s strange to me why Muslims are offended at their prophet being depicted, but I realize it does really upset people and so in my view, why bother? One of the things that occurred to me recently was how much people caricature each other. Christians may see atheists as bitter and hate-filled, Catholics may see Baptists as backwards, Atheists may see believers as unthinking and insane. Sometimes I think I may have a caricature of Muslims in my head, fed as it was by things in the news or hearing an old Maronite acquantance of mine describing the horror he went through in the Lebanese civil war (where the blame can be quite evenly spread). But there’s a fundamental decency that I think exists in many if not most people. Last fall I remember reading a story in the NY Times about a young Shia soldier in the Iraqi Army who barely managed to escape the fate of his comrades who were put to death after their outpost on the Syrian border was overrun by ISIS. The man had a baby girl back home in the south and wanted nothing more than to return to her. In an utter moment of weakness and vulnerability most if not all of us can only imagine, he approached a stranger along the way, so desperate he was for water and shelter. He knew the stranger was a Sunni, but desperate for something so mysterious and beautiful as his bond as a father, he risked being informed on. The Sunni took him in, fed him, and assured he would find other places to land along his trek home filled with decent people who would not hand him over. He made it back home after several weeks to the relative safety of southern Iraq. Reflecting on this, I realize that if the Christians, Kurds and Yazidis are to survive it will doubtless be the result in no small part of people not of their creed or ethnicity willing to sacrifice their lives, their hopes and ambitions to drive out ISIS. I think something can be learned by that and applied to this. There is a dignity every human possesses. You may not have to agree or believe what he does, but it helps to recognize what he values and as reasonably as possible to respect it. I don’t think the Muhammed cartoons are as much a statement of Western values as they are a poke in the eye of Islam. It’s attacking a caricature but offending everyone caught in the crossfire – in this case Muslims who may not carry out violence over a depiction of their prophet – but nevertheless will be embittered and alienated. Free expression and decency are a delicate balance. Neither Coyne nor Geller is particularly even headed. In the end, this adds nothing to advancing decency.

  16. Michael says:

    More evidence that Coyne gets upset when opposing views are published:

    At any rate, a friend who will remain unnamed told me that I should pay attention to the website The Conversation, which, he said, published good and thoughtful stuff. Well, it might, but he then pointed me to an article called “Morality requires a god, whether you’re religious or not,” by Gerald K. Harrison. My friend, who’s an atheist, thought the article deserved a look, but it was so dreadful, so ridden with holes, that it’s put me off the whole website. What kind of intelligent website would publish an argument that I’ll present briefly below, and argument that would be graded “F” by a first-year philosophy student?

  17. TFBW says:

    Facepalm. Like Coyne could grade a philosophy paper. In the same post, he says, “Plato’s Euthyphro Argument kills dead any claim that morality derives from God.” He links to Wikipedia on the subject, and, sure enough, the argument does exactly what he claims it does, so long as one accepts it and dismisses all the available responses to it (some of which predate Plato). I’ve read Euthyphro twice now. The first time I thought, “that’s a perfectly valid argument in the context of Greek polytheism.” The second time I thought, “wait — I understood this the first time?”

    But hey, if Coyne is willing to defer to the opinion of a first-year philosophy student, I can happily say that I have been there, done that, and earned the degree. In my view, the “Morality requires a god, whether you’re religious or not” article which he dismisses so lightly is a well-argued piece of philosophy which would take considerable care and attention to rebut. One might attack its premises, such as the idea that “moral commands are commands”, but one would need to build the case carefully, lest one strip the whole concept of “morality” of all normative force. Coyne dismissively waves Euthyphro in the direction of this argument, and yet this argument is a very good response to Euthyphro. One wonders what the dialogue would have been like if Socrates had interrogated Harrison rather than Euthyphro.

    Coyne’s criticism of Harrison reminds me of Bugs Bunny chuckling, “What a maroon! What an ignoranimus!” but replace the levity with anger, and the book title with, “Victory thru Hate Power”.

  18. Dhay says:

    The ‘Thomistic Bent’ blog has recently looked at flaws in the Euthyphro Dilemma, over four posts, the last of which links to Edward Feser’s own look.

    Jerry Coyne > “Plato’s Euthyphro Argument kills dead any claim that morality derives from God.”

    I observe that “Plato’s Euthyphro Argument” appears to deal with piety and the many Greek Gods rather than with morality and the Abrahamic God.

    I also note Wiki’s quote, “In 2005, Jonathan Sacks wrote, “In Judaism, the Euthyphro dilemma does not exist.””, which is explained in the ‘Jewish Thought’ section.

    Although Coyne says, “I identify with Judaism, for instance, as that’s my background, but I don’t believe a word of its doctrine”, he doesn’t seem to have a good grasp of its doctrine.

    (Quote from Coyne’s blog post dated March 18, 2015, entitled, “Elaine Ecklund still taking Templeton cash to show that science and religion are compatible”.)

  19. Gerald says:

    Yes, I must admit I was a bit startled by the colossal rudeness and arrogance of the man. I managed to leave a quick reply to his silly rebuttal. But I think I am now banned as I’m unable to post any follow-ups .

  20. Michael says:

    Hi Gerald,

    There is a long list of people who have been banned or prevented from posting a single comment just because they dissent on his blog. You’ll notice he has many people who comment, but the comments section is pure echo chamber. You don’t get large echo chambers without a heavy ban hammer. Maybe he’ll let your replies through later today.

    I liked your quick reply. Interesting how you turned the dilemma on him.

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