More Censorship From Jerry Coyne

Recall that last month, Gnu activist Jerry Coyne found a way to merge his need to censor opposing views with his desire to bully other people:

So Coyne, who postures as a Champion of Free Speech, asks his readers to comment. A reader with a dissenting view comments, but the comment is censored and never sees the light of day. Instead, Coyne turns the comment into a blog entry several days later and decided to “make an example” of the dissenting voice by never allowing him/her to respond to all the nasty replies that come from Coyne and his echo chamber. Gnu atheist ethics on display.

Surprise! He’s at it again. Here’s something recently posted on Amazon.com that describes something that happened a couple of weeks ago:

Much ado about 5 pages? Sure. But Coyne is manipulative here, so one wonders where else in the book this may be so. My initial complaint about the 5 pages was emailed privately to Coyne. Without asking my permission he posted my email on a website of his (WhyEvolutionIsTrue) that I had never heard of. A day later he emailed me to say that he had posted my email, and that his 30,000 readers would “school” me. The site looked interesting and I wrote some 22 responses (several hours work) to his reader’s comments, all of which said “in moderation”. Little did I suspect that he would censor all my comments (some of which were just “thank you”). So sending me the site URL was not an invitation to participate in the comments, but one to be a “guest piñata”! Nice guy! Neither scholar nor gentleman!

I actually didn’t mind that he did not ask permission, but he did NOT attribute my words as my intellectual property. I complained to him about this, and it was only after I suggested I would take the ethical issue up with U. Chicago that he added my name.

Beyond this indiscretion, Googling one finds a dozen or so instances of “Silent Banning” by Coyne, and he is apparently reputed to be a zealous censor. This “gossip” I tend to believe BECAUSE it exactly parallels my experience, in details.

Censorship? Check.

Sneaky, bullying behavior? Check.

What can you expect from someone who insists he cannot be held morally responsible for his actions?

BTW, there is an easy way to tell that Coyne’s blog is built on the foundation of banning/censorship – read the comments section. Large blogs don’t become cheer-leading, echo chambers without the heavy-handed guidance of the ban hammer.

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14 Responses to More Censorship From Jerry Coyne

  1. woctor says:

    Mike,

    Your hypocrisy is amusing.

    Will you let my comment through, for a change? Or will you continue to censor as always, while condemning others for the same behavior?

  2. Dhay says:

    > piñata

    A hung-up party-game bag of sweets: something hung up to be to be bashed at and knocked down.

    > Prisig (see Amazon review)

    Robert Pirsig, author of “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”. Pirsig was claimed to be, by a 2006 interviewer, “probably the most widely read philosopher alive”. Here’s a couple of quotes from that interview, where Pirsig seems to anticipate and deprecate Jerry Coyne’s views on science being the only game in town:

    He says that ever since he could think he had an overwhelming desire to have a theory that explained everything. As a young man – he was at university at 15 studying chemistry – he thought the answer might lie in science, but he quickly lost that faith. ‘Science could not teach me how to understand girls sitting in my class, even.’

    · Traditional scientific method has always been, at the very best, 20-20 hindsight. It’s good for seeing where you’ve been. It’s good for testing the truth of what you think you know, but it can’t tell you where you ought to go.

    http://www.theguardian.com/books/2006/nov/19/fiction

    > Without asking my permission he posted my email on a website of his (WhyEvolutionIsTrue) …

    Jerry Coyne’s offending blog post is the June 24, 2015 one entitled, “A letter from an angry climate-change denialist: give your response”.

    https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2015/06/24/a-letter-from-an-angry-climate-change-denialist-give-your-response/

  3. Dhay says:

    Jerry Coyne > I won’t write more, or discuss the stupid “credentials” card played by the writer (except to note that the vast majority of scientists with equally good or better credentials than his disagree with him) …

    This shows an abysmal lack of understanding. “The writer” — Bernard Arthur Hutchins Jr — didn’t play a stupid “credentials” card, didn’t claim climatology credentials, but was very clear (in block capitals, for emphasis) that Coyne, Al Gore and he himself had the same credentials — that is, no relevant credentials; Coyne evidently has reading comprehension difficulties, or simply can’t be arsed to read and understand what he finds disagreeable:

    Do I have any climate scientist credentials from which to speak? I have a degree in climatology fully equivalent to the one Al Gore has and the one you have – NONE.

    Hutchins then defended himself against any charge of himself having no credentials by stating he had studied the issue for over twelve years; and stating he took the same attitude as Noam Chomsky does to credentials:

    I have however studied the issue for over 12 years. How important are credentials? Google “Chomsky, Credentials, Substance” for my view.

    If you actually do the Googling, you will find variations on a theme, the best of which is probably found at http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/557481-in-my-own-professional-work-i-have-touched-on-a — including, “No one has ever objected to my right to speak, asking whether I have a doctor’s degree in mathematics, or whether I have taken advanced courses in the subject. That would never have entered their minds. They want to know whether I am right or wrong, whether the subject is interesting or not, whether better approaches are possible… the discussion dealt with the subject, not with my right to discuss it.” — which I think tells us that Chomsky (and Hutchins) reckons credentials are irrelevant if you actually know your stuff.

    Coyne was recently dismissive of a “flea” who questioned Coyne’s credentials — reading between the lines, because having heard Coyne speak, he thought Coyne doesn’t know his stuff — dismissing the “flea” with the statement that he had studied theology for over two years. Coyne and Hutchins therefore evidently are in close agreement on the lack of need for credentials, differing in that Hutchins claims twelve years of study of global warming to Coyne’s two years of studying theology.

    This is so simple, so obvious. Why does Coyne not understand it?

  4. Dhay says:

    One fanboy reports in the comments:

    The funniest thing is that I just Googled “Chomsky, Credentials, Substance”. I got two hits. Both were this WEIT post!

    A witless or witless fanboy, I’d say.

  5. Michael says:

    Mike,
    Your hypocrisy is amusing.
    Will you let my comment through, for a change? Or will you continue to censor as always, while condemning others for the same behavior?

    It’s not the same. For it to be the same, the following would need to happen: An atheist sends me an email, strongly objecting to some point I made. I then post his email, without permission, on my blog, where I lash out at the atheist and encourage dozens of hostile anti-atheists to join in on the attack. Then, I send a email back to the atheist, informing him that he was being “schooled” on my blog. The atheist then finds my blog, spends hours writing replies to me and several anti-atheists, only to find that none of his replies are allowed to be posted.

    Of course, nothing like that happens here. Your posting a brief comment that ignores my blog entry and tries to turn me into the topic, is just not the same.

    Look, this blog is not advertised as some free speech zone nor do I hold myself up as some champion of free speech (as Coyne does). Trolls, stalkers, and people who demonstrate an unwillingness to engage the points I raise and questions I ask are not worth my time here. What I can say is that this blog is far more open to dissenting views that Gnu atheist Coyne’s blog. And this is something anyone else can see for themselves. Christians who comment here know that they have interacted with dozens of atheists over the years. That is, despite the fact that this blog is much smaller than Coyne’s blog, there are far more dissenting viewpoints here than on Coyne’s large blog.

  6. Dhay says:

    Sam Harris has the basic courtesy to ask and get permission before publishing the contents of private e-mails. If you look at the Harris-Chomsky interaction, you will see how careful Harris was to get permission to publish their exchange, how reluctant Noam Chomsky was to give it, and how extraordinary Chomsky thought it was that Harris should want to publish private e-mails; and you will see that the default position, the normality, is that one does not publish the contents of private e-mails without permission.

    Bernard Hutchins’ was a private e-mail, not a public comment on any public blog post of Coyne’s. Coyne lacks the basic courtesies.

  7. Dhay says:

    The leopard doesn’t change its spots:

    The comment was from someone named “Casey” and Coyne admits he did not publish it. Instead, he used it to make a blog posting so his acolytes could focus in and pile on to attack Casey. The thread generated 100+ comments and for some unknown reason [wink], Casey did not participate.

    https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2012/11/03/more-gnu-hypocrisy/

  8. Dhay says:

    Back in his June 25, 2015 blog post entitled, “Business Insider: Atheists are doing it wrong”, Jerry Coyne provided a long and ranting response to an article by philosopher Patrick O’Connor.

    https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2015/06/25/business-insider-atheists-are-doing-it-wrong/

    In his article, O’Connor had set out his vision of what an ethical, and socially and politically engaged atheism would and should look like: eg it “must turn to address questions about economic causality, belonging and alienation, poverty, collective action, geo-politics, the social causes of environmental problems, class and gender inequality, and human suffering”; it could learn how to do so from philosophers — “There is a whole other philosophical vocabulary for atheism to explore. Both Nietzsche and Sartre observe a different atheism, one embedded in the context of genuine questions of cruelty, economic alienation, anxiety and mortality.”

    Sounds like a very positive vision to me, but Coyne evidently misread it just as a criticism of atheism, and went into his all too frequently displayed knee-jerk antagonistic uncomprehension mode. I despair of Coyne — if he makes such an utter mess-up of understanding such a clear and easy to read short article, what chance that he could possibly have understood the “sophisticated theology” books which (“Uncle”) Eric MacDonald, his former Theology tutor had him read in preparation for writing FvF.

    If you look in the comments of Coyne’s blog post, you will find MacDonald commenting there:

    Jerry, you seem to have read a completely different article than the one I read. There is nothing anti-atheist about it, nor is it either poorly written or poorly thought through. If you read it carefully, you will see that O’Connor’s article is clear, makes some suggestions as to how to expand the scope of atheism, which will help it to fill some lacunae in its thought, and is generally a fair assessment of the limits of atheism today. An exceedingly unfair critique of a perfectly reasonable point of view. If you disagree, you should explain why, instead of tearing its author to shreds. Very disappointing.

    MacDonald responded to another commenter:

    … I can see no reason whatever why atheism should leave out the very important social dimensions of our lives, which tend to be given such short shrift amongst atheists today, and the failure to respond to O’Connor’s perfectly reasonable concerns about atheism and existentialist issues are very carelessly and pointlessly dismisssed both by Jerry and by other commenters here. …

    After a few more exchanges, Coyne himself chips in:

    I’m sorry, Eric, but I did provide a critique; you just didn’t read it. I have no idea why you’ve acquired a newfound dislike for atheism and a sneaking respect for religion, but I’m truly ticked off that you don’t even see the response I provided. The point of view he advances is reasonable only to those who share his love of goddiness, which apparently includes you.

    You’ve had your say; if you want to criticize me from now on, please do so on your own website.

    [My emboldening.]

    To which MacDonald replied:

    Sorry your answer is simply a refusal to consider the fact that you may be wrong, Jerry, as well an unwillingness or inability to engage with disagreement. If what you want is a cheering section, certainly I don’t belong here. It’s not, by the way, that I have found a newfound dislike for atheism. I simply think that atheism is heading down towards a dead end. O’Connor is proposing another direction, and you have attacked him as though he were a theist. However, I now, regretfully, take my leave of Why Evolution is True, and return you to your cheerleaders. Don’t bother expelling me. I won’t be back.

    MacDonald followed Coyne’s instructions, and to say what he wanted to say, which he was no longer allowed to on Coyne’s blog, he re-opened the blog he had closed in August 2014; it’s a long post entitled, “Patrick O’Connor’s Business Insider article on atheism and Jerry Coyne’s Response”, and I recommend you read it.

    http://choiceindying.com/2015/06/27/patrick-oconnors-business-insider-article-on-atheism-and-jerry-coynes-response/

    If you read the first comments on MacDonald’s post, you will see that another expellee write, “… I see that he has issued a veiled threat of expulsion to you in this post.” MacDonald replied, “I don’t think it’s a veiled threat. It’s quite clear that he doesn’t like criticism, is unwilling to engage with criticism, and therefore, if you want to make a comment, it should be in the nature of unqualified support for his take on things. Considering that he is a scientist, this not only puzzles me, but alarms me. But it does answer one question: What would happen if scientists were in charge?!” [My emphasis.]

    So, even “Uncle” Eric MacDonald, Coyne’s former Theology tutor, has now been expelled from Coyne’s blog.

    Now there’s censorship of dissenting views writ huge.

  9. Dhay says:

    Here’s another one:in Jerry Coyne’s blog post dated July 23, 2015, entitled, “Readers’ beefs: I’m a “New Atheist embedded in the political right””, Coyne writes:

    A few weeks ago, Neil Godfrey, who writes the website Vridar and has criticized New Atheists for being Islamophobes who consistently misrepresent the roots of Muslim terrorism, sent in the following comment on my post “A Muslim-basher becomes an atheist-basher“:

    Jerry, what concerns me about the various statements made by yourself along with Dawkins and Harris is that they are not informed by specialist scholarship — sociologists, anthropologists, political scientists et al — in Islamic and terrorist studies. Rather, they seem to be fueled by visceral reactions without the benefit of broader understanding and knowledge that comes from scholarly investigations into these phenomena.

    It almost appears to some of us that your criticisms are willfully ignorant of the scholarship. I find these visceral responses coming from trained scientists difficult to understand.

    https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2015/07/23/readers-beefs-im-a-new-atheist-embedded-in-the-political-right/

    (It seems to me that many might judge that Godfrey’s last paragraph has a more general applicability to Coyne than to just his attitude to Islam and Muslims.)

    So, Godfrey sent in that comment, did he. Let’s follow Coyne’s link to the blog post commented on, and see what else Godfrey wrote in his comment, and how the exchange continued: no, as one expects of Coyne by now, you cannot.

    Once again Coyne has silently banned a commenter from discussion, then set him up as a piñata — a hung-up children’s party-game bag of sweets, something hung up to be to be bashed at and knocked down.

    And there’s Coyne’s …

    I would maintain that this “scholarship” we ignore (and, in fact, I’ve read it) ….

    … which willfully ignores that Godfrey referred to willful ignorance of the scholarship. Once again, Coyne willfully — or perhaps quite innocently, through lack of reading comprehension ability — misunderstands his critic and goes after a straw-man different criticism. Godfrey never claimed Coyne had not read the scholarship, but that Coyne was willfully ignorant of it.

    And once again, having silenced Godfrey in the original blog post’s comments and hung him out for a beating in a second, Coyne has silenced Godfrey in the follow-up, and gives Godfrey no opportunity to reply.

    The pattern of censorship repeats endlessly.

  10. Larry Olson says:

    “Atheists are at each other’s throats again.”

    Kind of like Theists are at their throats non stop. Islam hate jews, christians don’t like islam. It’s called being a human forming your tribe. All attempts to disassociate from tribalism generally fail, like Sam Harris’ attempt to disassociate from new atheism. Really, Sept. 11 2001… 9/11 wasn’t anyone at its throats now was it. Or the crusades days.. that wasn’t a theist at someone’s throats. No, no, Islam is a religion of peace, as is christianity, as is Judaism. Each religion racist-ly believes they are the chosen people, more chosen than the other people.

  11. Dhay says:

    In his blog post dated October 4, 2015 and entitled “Feser to Krauss: Shut up because of the Uncaused Cause”, Jerry Coyne criticises Edward Feser’s critique of an online article by Lawrence Krauss.

    https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2015/10/04/feser-to-krauss-shut-up-because-of-the-uncaused-cause/

    It’s yet another example of something which has become very familiar * : Coyne launches into a rambling attack which so totally misses the mark it’s not clear he has read Feser’s article properly, and he certainly has not understood it. Feser has his own website, so cannot be silenced by banning, and there Feser spends much time pointing out Coyne’s many philosophical blunders. In particular Coyne, who boasts of spending “more than two years” studying theology, and to now have philosophical credentials, hasn’t the beginning of a clue as to what Aristotle, Aquinas, Leibnitz and others were arguing – Coyne just doesn’t get it, and obviously doesn’t want to bother to find out.

    But I’ll link to one of Feser’s commenters:

    Daniel Joachim said… I actually tried to post the link for this post over at whyevolutionistrue, gently suggesting that the visitors over there could judge for themselves whether their hero Coyne did justice to the previous post.
    Needless to say, 20 comments have been approved since then, but not mine. God forbid one should allow people to test their prejudices. …

    http://edwardfeser.blogspot.co.uk/2015/10/why-cant-these-guys-stay-on-topic-or.html?showComment=1444054604954#c3474329974784479731

    Yes, once again we have Coyne censoring views contrary to his own. Michael puts it nicely > Large blogs don’t become cheer-leading, echo chambers without the heavy-handed guidance of the ban hammer.

    Coyne isn’t the only one who doesn’t bother to read through and understand what he is criticising: if you scroll up, you’ll find Coyne fan and cheer-leader Ben Goren commenting:

    Ben Goren said… Professor Feser, I’ll admit I haven’t read your entire response to Jerry here. It’s quit [sic] long, even for long form blog posts. But that’s okay…for the same reason that I wouldn’t need to read an entire screed published by somebody promoting a geocentric model of the Universe with a flat Earth. …

    And it doesn’t get better after that; Goren is certainly a wilfully – and proudly – ignorant Coyne clone as regards theology and philosophy.

    (* If you want another example of Coyne utterly misunderstanding the person he’s criticising, and missing the mark by miles, read this very critical blog post by Coyne’s former theology tutor, Eric MacDonald: http://choiceindying.com/2015/06/27/patrick-oconnors-business-insider-article-on-atheism-and-jerry-coynes-response/)

    (PS: Eric MacDonald, said Coyne in 2011, “makes serious arguments against the fatuity of theologians like Feser” – see https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2011/08/13/macdonald-takes-down-fesers-theology/ ; but MacDonald has since removed his New Atheist period posts, including that post criticising Feser, saying “As for some of the things that I said, when I looked back at them it seemed to me then, and still seems to me now, that I had bought into a kind of new atheist dogmatism, and I was acutely ashamed that I was led into that kind of know-nothing response to religion and theology, because I know better.” – see http://choiceindying.com/2015/06/02/jerry-coynes-reply-to-michael-ruse-and-the-difficulty-of-thinking/#comment-41383; and recently four of the ten posts in MacDonald’s re-started blog have made serious arguments against the fatuity of Jerry Coyne, New Atheists and New Atheism, and scientism.)

  12. TFBW says:

    Thanks for the links, Dhay — good reading for a slow weekend. Feser does a good job of spelling out the philosophical incompetence of Coyne and Krauss. A stand-out quote for me was this one from “Why can’t these guys stay on topic? Or read?”

    … to think that Coyne’s questions are serious objections is like thinking that the question “How could one biological species give rise to another biological species?” is a devastating objection to Darwinism. For of course, the whole point of Darwinism is to show how that question can be answered, so that to raise this question is to miss the whole point rather than to pose a challenge to Darwinism.

  13. Dhay says:

    An update on my last post above: in his next post, entitled “Walter Mitty Atheism”, Edward Feser continued to criticise Jerry Coyne’s cluelessness.

    http://edwardfeser.blogspot.co.uk/2015/10/walter-mitty-atheism.html

    And if you look down the comments, you’ll find Eric MacDonald, “having left the narrow confines of Coyne’s outlook”, making his peace with Feser there, and adding to the criticism of Coyne, eg:

    Professor Feser (or Ed, if I may?) Thank you so much for your warm welcome. As you say, there are still points of disagreement between us, but one thing that we do not disagree about is the sloppiness of the New Atheism, a sloppiness that I once illustrated in some of my own dismissive language about religion. (I have in fact taken down all my posts, except a few that were published within the last year or so. I have saved them as an archive, and reading them I often find myself very ashamed of my haste to judgement on occasion, and my simple lack of judgement in others!) Of course, I never accepted the scientistic approach to epistemological issues, and that was undoubtedly the breaking point for me, the fact that the New Atheists are so hopeless at doing philosophy, even though they put on airs of such authority when they try.

    Another update is that Coyne fan and cheerleader Ben Goren, who in Feser’s first post (linked by TFBW) denied causality in quantum mechanics because “There isn’t any cause that effects a particular radioactive atom to decay at a particular moment in time …”, and has often posted similarly at Coyne’s blog, not only shows himself clueless about answering a maths question set at a level which is the basic starting point for studying physics (and quantum mechanics) or any other science at university level, he lacks basic general knowledge about crocodile habitats.

    It depends…is the crocodile African or European [sic], and in which general direction does it fart?

    https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2015/10/09/a-crocodile-a-zebra-and-an-equation-can-you-find-the-answer/

  14. TFBW says:

    … he lacks basic general knowledge about crocodile habitats.

    I think that the charitable interpretation of that remark is that it was simply a failed attempt at humour by reference to Monty Python’s Holy Grail.

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