We have seen that both Sam Harris and Jerry Coyne have condemned Lawrence Krauss for his sexual harassment of women. Harris said that he believes the women, that Krauss needs to apologize, and that he is in a position to “know enough to want to step away from this whole business.” Coyne wrote , “In my view, then, Krauss had a propensity to engage in sexual misconduct. I therefore disassociate myself from the man.” He also wrote, “All I can do, and which I do here, is publicly disassociate myself from Krauss, declare that the behaviors I know of are reprehensible, and hope that he owns up to his behavior.”
Apart from being the two leading New Atheist activists who have publicly condemned Krauss, Harris and Coyne have something else in common – they are both the two leading advocates for determinism.
According to Coyne and Harris’s determinism, Krauss could not help but do what he did. His genes and environment made him do it. So we can’t hold him morally responsible for his actions. He is a victim here. And it is nothing but shear luck that keeps Coyne and Harris from putting their hands all over women they don’t know.
We’ve now seen with our own eyes that those deterministic postures are empty bluster. When the time came for both Coyne and Harris to live their determinism, they both failed. Gloriously. We have Harris wanting an apology for actions that could not have been otherwise. We have Coyne expecting Krauss to “own up” to actions he is not responsible for. But let’s make the hypocrisy even more clear than this.
Both Harris and Coyne like to use the brain tumor example. The idea is that we would not hold people personally responsible for misdeeds that were caused by a brain tumor and determinism is just a modest extension of this point – brain chemistry is deterministic whether caused by a tumorous growth influencing neuronal behavior or by some other factors (genes and environment) influencing neuronal behavior.
Well, what if Krauss has a brain tumor that made him sexually aggressive around women? Would Harris be wanting an apology for what the brain tumor did and promising he would be stepping away from Krauss because of it? Would Coyne be dissociating himself and demanding Krauss “own up” to what his brain tumor made him do?
Coyne and Harris love to talk about determinism in a purely abstract, almost platonic, manner. Not surprising, because that is all it is – mental masturbation. We can all see this because when it came time for them to implement it in the real world, when they had a chance to walk the walk instead of merely talking the talk, the brain tumor logic, along with all the other deterministic posturing, was easily thrown overboard. Instead, Coyne and Harris clearly come across as people who think Krauss was morally responsible for his actions, so much so that they have cut him off. They didn’t even think to defend Krauss with their determinism because they knew it become too obvious that determinism was just a word game.
So we end up with two guys preaching about how the rest of us need to radically change the legal system so it recognizes that murderers and rapists are not responsible for their actions which they couldn’t help but do, but when it came to their own friend and accusations of creepy sexual conduct, they were quick to hold him responsible and acted accordingly. Determinists expect us to live a philosophy that they themselves are incapable of living. So why would any rational person take them seriously?