Over at this web site, someone named Eddie wrote:
You’re saying the TE leaders should never have feared the reproach of the secular scientists. Well, tell that to Francis Collins, whose appointment to the NIH was originally opposed, or loudly groused about, by Jerry Coyne. Coyne said that no one who could believe a man rose from the dead should be the head of a publicly funded scientific organization. (I paraphrase.) So the attitude that Christian scientists are smart when they do good science, but dumb when they affirm miracles, is out there, whether you care to admit it or not.
Patrick quoted Eddie and wrote the following for Jerry Coyne:
I know that you opposed Francis Collins for NIH Director. Now that he has been on the job for a long time, how would you rate him as an NIH Director? Compared to V.P. Pence, Ben Carson, and other YEC in the current Trump administration, I consider a Christian Francis Collins as doing a great job.
I’m sorry but you are making it up. I never opposed Collins being director of the NIH. I said I opposed his actions using his position as head government scientist to proselytize for theology and Christianity and to make statements about fine-tuning and the like. And I believe I said several times that I didn’t think he should be removed as director, and that he was a good scientist.
I have criticized the man strongly for mixing faith and science but have never called for his resignation; in fact, I have said the contrary.
It looks like Coyne is trying to rewrite history to cleanse his opposition to Collin’s nomination to head the NIH. First of all, Coyne did indeed call for Collins’ resignation. In July of 2010, he wrote:
A while back I wrote about Francis Collins’s new edited collection, Belief: Reading on the Reason for Faith, and, deciding he had crossed the line between science and woo, recommended that he step down as director of the National Institutes of Health.
He was referring to something he posted on February of 2010:
Enough is enough. Collins is director of the NIH, and is using his office to argue publicly that scientific evidence—the Big Bang, the “Moral Law” and so forth—points to the existence of a God. That is blurring the lines between faith and science: exactly what I hoped he would not do when he took his new job.
Collins gets away with this kind of stuff only because, in America, Christianity is a socially sanctioned superstition. He’s the chief government scientist, but he won’t stop conflating science and faith. He had his chance, and he blew it. He should step down.
As you can see with your own eyes, when Coyne claims he “never called for his resignation,” he is not telling the truth.
As for Coyne never having opposed Collins being director of the NIH, it is true that he never wrote the exact words, “I oppose the nomination of Collins.” But the evidence clearly indicates he did oppose the nomination.
In May of 2009, Coyne wrote:
Well, we thought we’d seen the last of the theocracy of George W. Bush, but it apparently ain’t so…..I am funded by the NIH, and I’m worried…..We are just recovering from the theocracy of G. W. Bush, and I was happy that federally-funded stem-cell research was allowed to go ahead. Now what will happen? This is NOT a presidential appointment designed to smooth the waters roiled by our previous administration. Collins may indeed be a good administrator, but this appointment is a mistake.
Let’s add this up. According to Coyne, the appointment was a “mistake.” It’s safe to assume that, for Coyne, it should therefore have been opposed, as all reasonable people would be opposed to allowing mistakes to remain uncorrected. What’s more, the appointment is supposed to represent the continuation of a theocracy. Are we to believe that Coyne does not oppose the continuation of a theocracy? Finally, the appointment is supposed to represent a threat to science funding. Should we not all oppose threats to science funding?
Look, according to Coyne, the nomination of Collins was a mistake that would allow a theocracy to continue while threatening science funding. And he now wants us to believe he was never opposed to such things. Some defender of science, eh?
In July 2009, he added:
Think about this: would a nonbelieving scientist who was as vociferous an atheist as Collins is a Christian have any chance to get the NIH spot? I don’t think so. And a Scientologist who publicly espoused his belief in Xenu and thetans would be considered too much of a lunatic to have responsibility for the NIH. But of course Christianity is a publicly acceptable form of superstition, and Scientology is not.
I had hoped that Obama might end governmental coddling of faith, but it doesn’t look like a lot has changed.
Note again that the nomination of Collins was “governmental coddling of faith” that was supposed to have ended. This is the type of observation that comes from someone who opposed the nomination from the New Atheist “no tolerance of religion” perspective.
What’s more, think about the Scientologist analogy. Coyne would make this argument several times. For example, about three weeks later, he posted:
Look at it this way: suppose Collins gave a talk sketching the evidence for evolution, and then went on to say how “evidence” points to the past existence of a space alien ruler named Xenu, who kidnapped some of his people, preserved them in antifreeze, and transported them to Earth, where they were stored in volcanoes. The souls later escaped and are now wandering around, clinging to humans, and this is what causes all the trouble of the world. Only by detecting this soul-infestation with a fancy instrument, and subsequent deprogramming, Collins might say, can we root out these disembodied vestigial souls and find happiness.
If Collins said this, you might well think he’s a wack-job, too ridden with crazy ideas to hold down an important government job. But of course the beliefs I described constitute the theology of Scientology, and are no different in kind from the beliefs of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, or of any other faith. The reason why it’s ok for Collins to profess evangelical Christianity is because Christianity is a superstition that is common and socially sanctioned.
It’s clear Coyne is trying to make the case that Collins’ religious views are so absurd that they disqualify him from heading the NIH. That’s the whole point of the analogy. It’s only because “Christianity is a superstition that is common and socially sanctioned” that everyone didn’t rightfully demand his nomination be withdrawn. This again, is the argument of someone opposed to the nomination.
In 2009, Coyne was working with his other fellow New Atheists trying to spark a climate of opposition to the nomination. Sam Harris would get his “concerns” published in the NYT, and asked:
Must we really entrust the future of biomedical research in the United States to a man who believes that understanding ourselves through science is impossible, while our resurrection from death is inevitable?
In today’s New York Times you’ll find Sam Harris’s op-ed piece on Francis Collins’s appointment as director of the National Institutes of Health, explaining why he thinks Collins is a bad choice.
Coyne also hosted Steven Pinker’s hostile opinions about the nomination (which I dismantled over 6 years ago).
The evidence clearly indicates that Coyne opposed the nomination of Francis Collins to head the NIH and even called for his resignation. Today, Coyne is trying to backpedal from such extremism given that none of his extremist “concerns” materialized. It’s interesting that Coyne (and S. Joshua Swamidass) thought Eddie and Patrick needed to apologize. The only people who should be apologizing here are Jerry Coyne, Sam Harris, and Steven Pinker. Their thinly veiled smear campaign against Collins, conducted when the New Atheist movement was near the peak of its popularity, was erected on anti-Christian bigotry and propped up by sloppy, emotional thinking.