Is Jerry Coyne’s New Book a Flop?

It’s beginning to look like Jerry Coyne’s new book, Fact vs. Faith, is a flop. It has been over five weeks since it was published and since then, we have seen only one review in a mainstream publication – the very negative review that appeared in the WSJ. The larger culture is clearly ignoring the book.

When we look to Amazon, sales are not that great (and have been progressively declining). As I write this, it is listed #8 in the Science & Religion section, but Francis Collins book from 2007 is listed at #7. And The New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha: New Revised Standard Version published in 2010 is listed as #6. Both Collins and the Bible are beating Coyne’s book. That’s gotta sting.

Finally, there isn’t even much buzz about the book in the atheist blogsophere. When the book came out, there were the obligatory book promo blog postings from Coyne’s fellow culture warriors, but since then, it’s been silence.

Any ideas on why Coyne’s book was a flop?

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6 Responses to Is Jerry Coyne’s New Book a Flop?

  1. John says:

    Maybe it’s because this is connected to the New Atheism itself failing.

    I remember reading an article at the beginning of this year about how in December 2014 there were Pew Polls that suggested up to 80% of questioned adults believed many if not all of the elements of the traditional Christmas story really did happen.

    The article stated that this is evidence that Christianity was going to be visibly back on the culture scene later in 2015,after the years of other polls suggesting it was declining.

  2. TFBW says:

    I’m not sure that I would call it a flop (I’d be congratulating myself if I wrote a book which ranked that well), although it certainly hasn’t set the world on fire. I lack the interest to find any really solid data on its success, and I’m inclined to reserve judgement given the data we have. Having said that, I would vaguely gesture in the direction of three possible reasons for its lack of impact, should the data back that up.

    First, Coyne just isn’t all that famous relative to Dawkins or Bill Nye, say. The book is not going to pick up much in the way of sales just because of who wrote it. A fan base only counts for so much.

    Second, the further we get from 2001, the dimmer and more narrowly burns the anti-religious outrage. That is, I expect this to be part of an overall pattern of decline in interest for anti-religious polemics (outside the core who live and breathe the stuff).

    Lastly, expectations were never particularly high that Coyne would have anything original or insightful to say on this subject. If you’re a hard-core fan, you lap up what he says because it validates your opinions, but the rest of us can recognise his severe lack of depth when it comes to matters philosophical. If he’d exceeded expectations and actually said something philosophically original or insightful, we probably would have heard about it — it would have been newsworthy. Evidently, however, what he produced was a standard rant — book-length, granted, but sheer quantity can only generate so much excitement. “Predictable” is not a good selling point for a book like this.

  3. Michael says:

    I’m not sure that I would call it a flop (I’d be congratulating myself if I wrote a book which ranked that well),

    Good point. I should have clarified that I’m thinking in terms of advancing their agenda. Coyne had things going for him – fresh face, former book a NYT bestseller, wears his credentials and science experience on his sleeves, prolific writer, owns very popular blog. So from the agenda perspective, it’s a flop. At least, so far. Of course, it could still have slower, long-term effects. We’ll be able to tell over the next year or two.

    Your reasons sound good to me. I would simply add that we could also be seeing the results of the fractured gnu community, as the social justice wing doesn’t seem interested in buying and promoting the book.

  4. Dhay says:

    On December 20, 2014 Jerry Coyne’s proxies — he was away then, too — posted a blog entitled, “Woo, quackery and pseudoscience, oh my…”, and including a poster of “The red flags of quackery”: “Consult this handy guide to pseudoscience, scams and quack medicine. Remember, it only takes one match to be considered suspect.”

    One of the sixteen signs of “Woo, quackery and pseudoscience, oh my…” depicted there is, “Buy My Book”, deconstructed as “For when they can’t say, ‘Read my peer-reviewed journal article’”.

    Coyne’s proxies reckon publishing a book (such as FvF) instead of a “peer-reviewed journal article”, is a sign of “Woo, quackery and pseudoscience, oh my…”.

    The relevant question, then, is not how well Coyne’s book has been received, but how well has been received Coyne’s peer-reviewed paper on the topic, published in a reputable science, philosophy or philosophy of religion journal.

    My woo, quackery and pseudoscience alarm just went off again.

  5. Dhay says:

    To drum up enthusiasm in people who might buy his book, Jerry Coyne has been running a “photograph FvF in an incongruous place” contest.

    Here are the rules for the new contest:

    Send a photo of yourself (or a member of your family) holding Faith versus Fact in the most incongruous place or situation you can think of. Be creative.

    I’ll give people a whole month to think of cool photos. Deadline: August 20, 2015; one entry per person. NO PHOTOSHOPPING. If you have the book on Kindle, you can still find a way.

    The contestants get their picture on Coyne’s blog, thereby proving to all their mates that they are real card- (or FvF-) carrying New Atheists; Coyne gets a possible (though not probable, unless he can stir up enthusiasm in those not enthusiastic enough to have bought it already) extra book sale or two.

    In the latest round of selfies:

    Pliny the in Between, who regularly creates satirical cartoons on a variety of secular and atheist related subjects, and who is no stranger on this site, sent us in this one.

    Technically, I don’t think you excluded virtual selfies… (Did too, under “no photoshopping!” ~Grania)

    Very nice cartoon. Very nice satirical cartoon.

  6. Dhay says:

    I see, from Jerry Coyne’s blog post dated September 12, 2015 and entitled “Last of the Ninjas: FvF photo contest”, that the competition has now closed.

    The photos are in general rather lacklustre, though Pliny’s is rather funny, and one picture — some contestants sent in more than one photo of their location — of the Ten Commandments Monument is reproduced mirrored, which I suppose is also rather funny.

    The competition was evidently highly successful, attracting a massive twenty-three entries.

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