Sufficiently Militant to be the Fourth Horseman

Atheist Brandon Robshaw liked Jerry Coyne’s extreme views so much that he reached the following conclusion:

Jerry Coyne is the perfect candidate to replace the late Christopher Hitchens as the fourth Horseman of the New Atheist Apocalypse.

Well,….Coyne’s views are militant enough to merit a position as fourth Horseman. In another interview, Coyne outlines his vision of victory in his culture war:

I don’t care if a religious person accepts science and practises their own private faith. The problem is that this acceptance of faith — which means belief without substantial evidence — as a useful means to ascertain truth has invidious social consequences. In my country, it’s opposition to abortion, it’s opposition to gay marriage. Creationism is the least of our worries. It’s this enabling of faith, this untoward respect for belief without evidence, that has caused so much mischief. If religious people just kept to themselves, just went to church, respected the findings of science and a) didn’t teach it to their kids (which I think is a form of child mistreatment) and b) didn’t try to take their religious beliefs into the public sphere and make them law for everybody else, than I wouldn’t care so much.

That’s a nice and clear summary of the demands of the New Atheist culture warriors.

That is, they will not be happy until religious people keep their religion a secret. They can express their views, but only in church (and, of course, the churches need to be taxed!). They are not allowed to bring their religion-based views into the public sphere (sort of like outlawing hate speech, I suppose). And above all, they are not allowed to teach their religion to their kids, which would mean the kids can’t go to church with their parents. That would be “child mistreatment,” or as Dawkins claims, “child abuse.” It’s not surprising that Coyne would include this demand given he is on record as wanting to make it illegal to teach your kids religion.

It is amusing to watch Gnu atheists complain when someone refers to their strain of atheism as militant. But clearly, the vision that Coyne advocates is a vision of militant atheism.

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18 Responses to Sufficiently Militant to be the Fourth Horseman

  1. Kevin says:

    He was probably listening to the B-52s or something when he had the epiphany that parents shouldn’t teach religion to kids.

  2. Doug Evans says:

    “belief without substantial evidence” – definition of Evolution and Global Warming

  3. TFBW says:

    Doug, that kind of bald scepticism is no better than what New Atheists have to offer, don’t you think?

  4. UpstateIslandersFan says:

    @ TBFW I agree completely. I think there is a more than decent case that the earth’s climate is changing and that it is likely impacted by the activities of human beings. Whether the impacts will be as severe of if there’s much that can be done about it is a whole other question…But back to the Jerry Coyne for a moment…After reading a little bit about eliminativism lately, I really think that the New Atheists need to be a little more honest and take their thinking where it should probably lead them, which is that all thought is meaningless and really the result of a chain of physical interactions all the way down. No intentionality. No volition. Actually, no real intrinsic meaning in the words they use. For as crazy as eliminativism seems, it really seems to express more honestly what Coyne claims he believes, but is either too naive to realize or too cowardly own up to, which is that his thoughts are no more rational than anybody else’s thoughts, just the result of blind chance in meaningless universe – perhaps, and despite a lack of confirmation – many universes. Perhaps the newbies need to clean house. It’s like a baseball club going out in the off-season and acquiring new talent. Maybe Dennett can be retained but Dawkins and Harris put out to rest. Dennett denies consciousness as a result of his scientism. I’m sure there are some eliminativists who could be picked up, who at least seem to follow materialism to its most logical conclusion…There’s an English neuropsychiatrist named Peter Fenwick who made an interesting point once about materialism, which is that what most people don’t know is what Daniel Dennett and others actually believe. How many of Dawkins’s followers actually understand the implications of a scientistic worldview in which matter is all that exists and consciousness and qualitative experience are illusory? I think even most atheists would find that a bit abhorrent, and not only counter to their own experience of reality but lacking in its own coherence. I think they might pause for a moment to wonder what the logical conclusion of materialism is.

  5. Dhay says:

    Jerry Coyne, in the Five Books interview:

    [The Boston Marathon bomber] didn’t have a choice about what he did, no matter what the situation was. It was the result of his genes and his environment. Therefore, and Alex [Rosenberg] talks about this, you shouldn’t punish someone based on the false assumption that they can choose to do good or bad, because they can’t. You can only do one thing at any one time in your life and if that’s bad, that’s not because you made the choice to be bad. It’s because all your environmental and genetic history impinged on you to behave in this way at that time. That has enormous consequences for how we treat people, for punishment and reward, as well as how we regard our own lives. Our feelings of sorrow (I should have behaved this way!) will all vanish, as well as invidious social consequences like the theory that people are poor because they deserve it, or that people get what they deserve in this life. That’s the basis for conservative politics. And it’s all wrong. People don’t get what they deserve, they get what they get because of the laws of physics.

    Interesting. Jerry Coyne is telling us that the consequences of thinking as Coyne already does include those people with conservative politics ceasing to hold them, and everyone presumably adopting liberal politics.

    And Jerry Coyne is telling us that the consequences of thinking as Coyne already does also includes no longer having “feelings of sorrow (I should have behaved this way!)”; in Jerry Coyne, the advanced and practiced skilled eliminative materialist we have that rare person, someone who feels he cannot have done anything morally wrong, and has no regrets.

    Is there a name for people like that?

    Hopefully the interview was off-the-cuff enough that that was a simple bludner.

  6. Crude says:

    What are these ‘enormous consequences’ for how we treat people? It can’t, because the laws of physics are what act – not ‘persons’. According to Coyne anyway.

    Same with ‘good’ or ‘bad’. What we call those things just happens to be the mutterings of yet more physics, indicating nothing. (In fact, Alex Rosenberg would also tell Coyne that all this ‘good’ and ‘bad’ talk is also a load on his views, but apparently Coyne overlooked that part. Wait, no, sorry. The physics did it.)

  7. Dhay says:

    Heuristics > It has already started to be illegal to teach children your faith.

    No, it hasn’t. The Children Act 1989 states that children’s welfare should be the paramount concern of UK courts. Judges must take into account the child’s wishes; physical, emotional and educational needs; age; sex; background circumstances; the likely effect of change on the child; the harm the child has suffered or is likely to suffer; parent’s ability to meet the child’s needs.

    Where there is a conflict between parent A and parent B over a child (or sometimes Social Services is one of the protagonists) the court will always decide in favour, not in the interests of one parent over another, nor of one faith over another or atheism over faith and vice versa, but in the best interests of the child.

    If you think that you see other narratives at work — such as the judge appearing to favour one religion over another, or (as in a recent similar case which got Jerry Coyne declaring his outrage) Catholicism over atheism — you don’t: the welfare of the child is the paramount consideration overriding all others.

    Jerry Coyne applauded this judgement (and was outraged at the other). In both cases, Coyne quite missed the point of what was really going on, and so did his followers. That’s interesting: with my local knowledge I can tease out all sorts of information about the people and situation, information implicit in the details of what the newspaper reports say, and omit to say; the reports are, in the jargon of Malina etc, “context-rich”; looking on as strangers to British culture, practice and case-law, Coyne and co. just don’t get it.

  8. Heuristics says:

    Dhay, as far as I can tell you didn’t actually write anything in your text.

  9. Billy Squibs says:

    How do you reach that conclusion?

    Two things to note.
    1) Whether Dhay wrote the above or not is ultimately irrelevant (though I suppose it is always worth highlighting plagiarism when it occurs). The content is what is important and that is what you should be responding to.
    2) The article you linked to paints a far more complex picture than “not being able to teach children your faith”. It’s actually misrepresentations of stories like this that damage the credibility of anyone who is making a genuine claim of persecution. “Boy who cried wolf” and all that.

  10. Dhay says:

    @Billy Squibs: Heuristics reached that conclusion by using a lovely sense of humour, Heuristics and I understand each other perfectly.

  11. Dhay says:

    Over at ‘The Verbose Stoic’ blog, VS recently promised to read (or in some cases re-read) Coyne’s five recommended books. He has started with Coyne’s own FvF, and his first installment, in which he discusses the preface and first page from a philosopher’s perspective, is out already. it’s called, “Early Foul Trouble …”

  12. Michael says:

    Thanks. I’ll check it out. BTW, has anyone read FvF or know someone who has? I would really like to know if Coyne makes any effort to survey the history of the “science and religion are incompatible” argument.

  13. verbosestoic says:

    So far I’ve gotten through about half of the book, and he does trace at least some of the history of the debate. He references a few books that discuss it in some detail — from the argument that they are at least in conflict — and talks about NOMA and accommodationism in some detail. How rigorous his examination is probably needs to be left to people who have done more direct study of that than myself. I’m also not sure if for his argument an examination of the history of the argument is really necessary, as his views seem to be about conflicts either between claims or of methodologies/worldviews, which doesn’t really need a historical perspective if he can pull off his arguments.

    Just a note on Coyne’s five recommended books, I’ve in general been meeting the challenge Coyne makes for theists to read the recommended atheistic books. Of the five, I had already read “Breaking the Spell” a number of years ago and was going to comment on it then, but while re-reading it I concluded that its main point was “Let’s start thinking about thinking about religion”, which didn’t leave much to say. I was already reading Philipse’s book, but am stuck on commenting on Chapter 7 because it’s just a terrible, terrible chapter. So I picked up the Sagan and the Rosenburg, and am ignoring the last one — which is actually about the history of the conflict — because Coyne himself said that there are valid criticisms of its arguments, and as a philosopher I’m more interested in the arguments and wasn’t interested in starting from ones that are known to be wrong.

  14. Michael says:

    So far I’ve gotten through about half of the book, and he does trace at least some of the history of the debate. He references a few books that discuss it in some detail — from the argument that they are at least in conflict — and talks about NOMA and accommodationism in some detail.

    Thanks. Does he ever address the way the Soviet Union used the “science and religion are incompatible” argument in their anti-religious propaganda?

  15. verbosestoic says:

    No, I don’t think he does.

  16. Michael says:

    Thanks. This just confirms his book is not a scholarly work. How can he justify ignoring the way the Soviet’s used this argument when he is using it the very same way – as justification for his crusade to rid the world of religion (because of all the “harm” religion does)?

    For anyone interested, here’s another source for the Soviet use of the Incompatibility Argument:

    Socialization objectives. The atheistic socialization agenda included a wide
    range of positive incentives. Proper behavior and attitudes were
    reenforced by legitimate authority and thus carried a positive emotional
    charge. Atheistic socialization had as its ultimate goal what Soviet writers
    called “a scientific atheistic worldview,” which included the following

    (1) Strong scientific training awaited all students, starting from the
    earliest grades. Science was always taught as the indubitable and entirely
    sufficient way of understanding the world that left no room for alternative
    orientations. All other perspectives, most notably religion, were said to be
    incompatible with science and distorting of reality.

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