As I pointed out in the previous posting, the smear techniques being used against New Atheist Steven Pinker are just the same techniques New Atheists have been using against religious people for years. So there is a certain element of poetic justice watching the atheist activist community lash out at each other with those very techniques.
And don’t think of Pinker as some innocent bystander who just happened to get caught in the rhetorical crossfire. Back in 2009, he tried using the very same smear techniques against Francis Collins. For those who don’t know, Collins was a leading scientist who also happened to be a Christian. Obama appointed him to head the NIH and many in the New Atheist community (Harris, Coyne, Pinker, and others) attempted to derail the nomination by generating some form of outrage through their activist writings.
So let’s take a trip down memory lane.
I have serious misgivings about Francis Collins being appointed director of NIH.
There you have it. In essence Pinker and his allies were trying to “deplatform” Collins. Told ya there isn’t that much difference between a New Atheist and a Social Justice Atheist.
It’s not that I think that there should be a religious litmus test for public science administrators, or that being a devout Christian is a disqualification.
Of course not. 😉
Here Pinker is trying to rationalize things to disguise his anti-religious bigotry.
But in Collins’s case, it is not a matter of private belief, but public advocacy.
In other words, Collins, should have kept his Christian views completely private.
The director of NIH is not just a bureaucrat who tends the money pipleline between the treasury and molecular biologists (which is how many scientists see the position). He or she is also a public face of science, someone who commands one of the major bully pulpits for science in the country. The director testifies before Congress, sets priorities, selects speakers and panelists, and is in many regards a symbol for biomedical research in the US and the world. In that regard, many of Collins’s advocacy statements are deeply disturbing.
The words of someone are “deeply disturbing.” This is the language of a social justice atheist. By trying to deny the nomination to Collins because of his words, how is this all that different from the way social justice atheists work?
Now, let’s get to the meaty hypocrisy. Pinker wrote:
For example, I see science as not just cures for diseases and better gadgets but an ideal for how to think about the most important issues facing us as humans– in particular, the ideal that we should seek truth through reason and evidence and not through superstition, dogma, and personal revelation. Collins has said that he came to accept the Trinity, and the truth that Jesus is the son of God, when he was hiking and came upon a beautiful triple waterfall. Now, the idea that nature contains private coded messages from a supernatural being to an individual person is the antithesis of the scientific (indeed, rational) mindset. It is primitive, shamanistic, superstitious. The point of the scientific revolution was to do away with such animistic thinking.
Whoa! Pinker just engaged in some serious cherry picking by making it sound like Collins’ decision to become a Christian was rooted in nothing more than “animistic thinking.” This is misrepresentation. So in other words, when the New Atheists are complaining and whining about the way the social justice crowd is twisting Pinker’s words, how is that any different from the way Steven Pinker himself represented Francis Collins?
It gets even better. In trying to defend his ally, Jerry Coyne just wrote:
Even after realizing that these outrage mongers had been played by others—or by themselves—they continue to occupy their Faulty Towers, arguing for example, that Pinker is still a “useful idiot” to the alt-right or is “liked” by the alt-right.
He provides some examples:
I’m not saying Pinker is a fascist. I’m saying he’s not a leftist. And the alt-right would find *a lot* to like in his work. Which clearly is a big problem for him.
— Giovanni Tiso (@gtiso) 11 January 2018
Well, “giving ammunition to the enemy” is the very same argument Steven Pinker himself used against Collins:
That is far more than just expressing an opinion. That is advocacy, which gives incalculable encouragement the forces that have been hostile to science for the past eight years. And this is not just a theoretical fear: a number of right-wing, religious apologists (e.g., Dennis Praeger, in his debate with Sam Harris) used Collins as a stick to beat secularists: “Here is a famous scientist who takes an interventionist God and the Bible seriously; who are you to contradict him?” This is going to be multiplied if Collins becomes an even more prominent face of science.
So the professor who accused Collins of encouraging forces “hostile to science” is now being accused encouraging the alt-right. What goes around comes around, right Steven?
Look, to this day Pinker has never admitted he was wrong about Collins. Pinker warned:
Also, the human mind and brain constitute one of the frontiers of biomedical science. Cutting-edge research treats intelligence, morality, and religious belief as products of evolution and neuroscience. The idea that there is divine design and teleology behind these functions, on the basis of Iron Age and medieval dogma, is antithetical to this vibrant research area. How will Collins preside over the allocation of research priorities if he believes in ““the certainty that the claims of atheistic materialism must be steadfastly resisted”?
Again, it’s important that there not be an atheist-litmus-test for science administrators. A person’s private beliefs should not keep him from a public position. But Collins is an advocate of profoundly anti-scientific beliefs, and it is reasonable for the scientific community to ask him how these beliefs will affect his administration of the Institute and his efforts on the behalf of the scientific enterprise in Congress and in public.
Yet none of these “deeply disturbing” concerns were rooted in reality. Collins has done nothing in the last 9 years to think Pinker was right. Yet Pinker, who claims to champion the search for truth through reason and evidence, has been unable to admit he was wrong. He and Coyne would rather make believe they never raised such stupid arguments.
Given that Coyne and Pinker think very much like social justice activists, we can no more expect the social justice crowd to admit they were wrong about Pinker than we can expect Pinker and Coyne to admit they were wrong about Collins.
As for us, we get to sit back and enjoy watching the hypocrites rip each other apart. Just deserts include lots of popcorn. That’s what happens when men without principles lose their common enemy.