The Faith of the New Atheist

Gnu activist Jerry Coyne gives a motivational speech to the troops:

So yes, the debate can be “won”, not when religionists admit that their beliefs are unsupported and untestable, but when religion passes away from the world, as it is doing now. The fight will be long, and we won’t be alive to see the victory of secularism—make no mistake, a reliance on reason and observation will ultimately defeat superstition—but win we will.

This is hilarious.  The unsupported and untestable claim is this blind belief that one day religion will cease to exist in the world.  In fact, notice how Coyne courageously predicts victory long after he is dead and long after everyone reading his words is dead.  By placing his bold prediction so far into the future, Coyne shields his prediction from testing.  That is, his belief in a world where there is “victory for secularism” is unfalsifiable, as the secularist will always be able to promise it’s coming long after we all are dead.

What Coyne is unintentionally recognizing here is the motivational value of faith.  Without faith in their godless future, the New Atheists would throw in the towel.  If they had to rely purely on reason and observation, there would be no room for such bold optimism.

One more thing.  Notice the warfare imagery that is inherent in Coyne’s thinking.  It is inconsistent with objectivity and intellectual honesty.

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11 Responses to The Faith of the New Atheist

  1. Kevin says:

    Not to mention that they have zero evidence that their mission will benefit humanity even if they succeed. Just a bunch of thoughtless anti-religious bigots.

  2. Mark Plus says:

    Religions do disappear. The Zoroastrian religion, a faith older than christianity that had millions of adherents at one time, probably won’t last the 21st Century:

    Christians understand on some level that this vanishing could happen to their own religion some day. We see this in some sects with their nonsense about the rapture.

  3. John says:

    ”Religions do disappear.”

    Yes.Religions do indeed dissappear.The original Ancient Egyptian religion has all but dissappeared.Zoroastrianism might most likely not survive this century.

    But they still do persist in some way or another.

    Ancient Egyptian religion is,in one sense,revived and is in a way practiced by the Fellowship of Isis.

    Zoroastrianism still exists in the world and is practiced.

    Even Paganism is still being practiced in countries like Greece.

    And even though some religions do definitely dissappear,the religious nature of man does not.

    ”The Zoroastrian religion, a faith older than christianity”

    So is Judaism.

    ”Christians understand on some level that this vanishing could happen to their own religion some day.”

    Most Christians don’t worry about that.

    And there isn’t any data to support that Christianity globally or even in some places locally is going down.

    ”We see this in some sects with their nonsense about the rapture.”

    Some of those sects aren’t completely sects but still Christians who are part of Christianity.

    Sects may decline,but if we talk about the Christian religion as a whole,the impact more or less not there.

  4. mechanar says:

    Wow This is so much nonsense I alsmost cant comprehend it.

    Every year 80-82 million people are being born (by 2050 its going to be 10 BILLION people numbers still growing) each and everyone different! Differen cultures, parents , genes ,levels of intelect, personality, different vies on sport, art , science, politics , culture etc.

    The history of communism has Proven that it is just not Possible to get people to agree on one ideology let alone one single thing! You have people that Disagree just to be different.

    Its hard to overlook that its desperation that speaks out of coyne he knows very well that the new atheist movment has failed its mission and that “new” atheism has proven to be nothing more than a simplistic emotional response to the 9/11 attacks and could thrive only because of the fear and anger culture that the western world has build up, a culture that only RESPONDS and wants simpel answers someone or something you can point your finger at never asking the hows or whys.

    Some choose to blame conservatives, some choose to blame left wingers, some muslims and some choose religion in general there is nothing special about that its a overreaction to a tragedy and ironically exactly that what terrorists wanted in the first place.

    Richard Dawkins and many others are guilty of fuelling this atmosphere of cold indifference that is so busy blaming and puting others down that there is no energy left to tackle the real Problems.

  5. stcordova says:

    Not only does Coyne make untestable claims that are hilarious, some of the claims that he’s made that are testable have been falsified! He made a schoolboy type error on one. He should be majorly embarrassed:

  6. Ratheist says:

    There is a lot of confusion regarding the question of the inverted retina.

    I think it may be formulated in the following way:
    The reasons that the retina is inverted are the physiological constraints imposed by the photoreceptors – they must be close to the choroid at the bottom of the retina since they have extra requirements in comparison to the retinal neurons. This is the reason that the retina is inverted.
    The optical function of Muller cells, tunneling light from the upper part of the retina onto the photoreceptors at the bottom of the retina is a beautiful compensation for this inverted structure. This is not the reason for the inverted structure.

  7. The original Mr. X says:

    Religions do disappear. The Zoroastrian religion, a faith older than christianity that had millions of adherents at one time, probably won’t last the 21st Century:

    Religions certainly do disappear. Religion, as far as we can tell, doesn’t.

  8. Dhay says:

    In his blog post dated August 25, 2015 entitled, “I’m a philosopher! I haz a paper with Maarten Boudry on religious belief”, Gnu activist Jerry Coyne gave another motivational speech to the troops, this time trumpeting that he has got credentials, after all:

    At long last Massimo Pigliucci—who (along with others) has criticized my lucubrations about philosophy on the grounds that I have no credentials in the field—can cease and desist. For, along with a genuinely credentialed philosopher, Maarten Boudry, I have a paper in press in a real peer-reviewed philosophy journal (Philosophical Psychology). It’s coauthored with Belgian philosopher Maarten Boudry. Street cred!

    As I responded earlier, regarding Coyne’s blog post dated May 7, 2015, entitled, “A flea goes after my credentials” – which “flea”, a Philosophy professor, seems to have given Coyne a really nasty bite (resulting in outraged protest at the time and presumably also resulting in due course in this paper) – qualifications and other credentials are not strictly necessary; though if you want to be taken seriously it really, really, really helps if you don’t demonstrate incompetence in your claimed area of expertise.

    The Boudry/Coyne paper is a critique of a previous paper by Neil Van Leeuwen; the speed of the internet being what it is, Van Leeuwen has already critiqued that critique; Boudry and Coyne are now preparing their critique of Van Leeuwen’s critique of their critique; I guess it will go back and forth for a while. The first three papers or documents are available online, and Coyne provides links.

    Coyne is proclaiming he now has a peer-reviewed philosophy paper, hence credentials – one credential, anyway: “Street cred!”, he crows.

    Well, call me a cynic, but I couldn’t help noticing and reflecting on this small detail:

    Maarten is first author …

    The ‘first author’ is typically the person who carried out the research, wrote and edited the paper; therefore it looks like it was Boudry who carried out the research, wrote and edited the paper. Did Coyne actually contribute anything, anything at all, and how can we tell? The paper itself does not tell us: it is written in “We …” terms throughout (by Boudry), with nothing to tell us who contributed what, so we have no recourse but to best-guess.

    That cynic in me tells me Coyne probably moaned that he was being criticised for lacking credentials, whereupon his mate Boudry offered to tag Coyne’s name onto a paper Boudry was publishing, not because Coyne could contribute fully or usefully at a professional philosophical level, but as a favour or kindness, and specifically to get Coyne a “credential” Coyne could crow about.

    Coyne realistically had no likelihood whatsoever of getting a peer-reviewed philosophy paper published on his own account; but by becoming an alleged contributor to Boudry’s paper, he could, by hanging on to Boudry’s shirt-tail, justify a claim to having been peer-review published, hence now credentialed.

    This is not to say that Coyne contributed nothing whatsoever: I would say that the passage that includes, “In principle, such beliefs can be confirmed or refuted by observation. If there were strong evidence for a God, such as the stars arranging themselves to spell “I am that I am” in Hebrew, religious believers would surely trumpet this to the skies (and rightly so).” – that passage has Coyne written all over it, though I suspect it could have been lifted straight out of FvF without any direct collaboration with Coyne whatsoever.

    That passage also bears the marks of Coyne’s typical preference for flights of rhetoric over clarity of thought: in a sufficiently large universe one should be able to find any number of “I am that I am”’s spelt out in Hebrew, especially if one is either generous or vague as to what qualifies as valid character definition, and especially if one does not fix the place one views from; and far from being “strong evidence for a God”, if the stars were discovered to have arranged themselves – themselves, note – that would rule out God or a god (or aliens) arranging them, hence be no evidence at all for a God.

    Sloppy language, sloppy thinking, so yes, probably Coyne at that point, and probably at some other points, too, though one has to best-guess which. My best-guess is that Boudry simply pulled out from FvF some few passages which seemed relevant to Boudry’s argument, and used that as a rather spurious justification for a claim that Coyne “coauthored” a peer-reviewed philosophy paper.

    It might not be thus; but it looks suspicious; indeed, to me, Coyne’s claimed credential stinks.

  9. Dhay says:

    I have now spotted, and in fairness to Jerry Coyne must point out, Coyne’s blog post dated November 1, 2014 and entitled “Tonia Lombrozo at NPR: Factual and religious “beliefs” may differ”. In it, Coyne announced that:

    … a colleague and I are writing a scholarly critique of the paper, and it’s wearisome to state the arguments twice. But the paper needs to be called out, for it makes the claim (not supported by its contents) that belief in religious “facts” (like that of Genesis or the Resurrection of Jesus) is completely different from belief in other kinds of facts, so you can believe in contradictory facts simultaneously. You can, for example, simultaneously accept that the Earth and its species are 6,000 years old and also billions of years old.

    The paper, published by Neil van Leuuwen [sic], appeared in Cognition (reference at bottom) and is behind a paywall, though judicious inquiry might yield a copy. What you can read is an accurate popular summary written by Tonia Lombrozoa on the National Public Radio (“Faith is Our Middle Name”) website culture & cosmos“: Are factual and religious belief the same?”

    What this tells me is that Coyne was collaborating on the critique of Neil Van Leeuwen’s paper as far back as November 2014, and was doing so because Coyne felt that that paper “needs to be called out”; so the critique was definitely not the knee-jerk reaction (to the “flea” and to Massimo Pigliucci) which I had suspected, and was definitely not a faked-up attempt to gain spurious credentials.

    While I can see flaws in parts of the critique which look characteristically Coyne-ian, I can give Coyne credit (or “Street cred!”) for a serious attempt at serious philosophy, collaborating on a paper academically serious enough to get peer-review published.

    Congratulations are in order, and the hope that Coyne will keep on practicing real philosophy, including continuing to take the rare (for him) opportunity to practice arguing with people who (probably only because he cannot silence them by perma-banning) can and do argue back.

    Well done.

  10. Isaac says:

    Well, I can make a prediction that WILL come true in our lifetime. In countries like Norway, Great Britain, and others with a very recent and fast-growing shift to majority atheism…if that trend continues, then those countries will decline, socially and culturally, in very noticeable ways. The atheist wave in Norway is so recent that it’s really only concentrated in younger people at the moment. So I give them about 30-40 years to grow old, attempt to teach their appropriated Christian morals to their children, and fail, because outside of a theist context said morals are not logical or convincing. Equally likely: religious people will overrun Europe (Muslims in particular) because atheism won’t sustain a culture. Either by slowly killing itself or being killed by a stronger predator…it’s not going to last.

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