Coyne Denies He Ever Opposed Francis Collins’ Nomination to Head the NIH

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.

Coyne replied:

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?

Coyne would draw attention to Harris’s article.

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.

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36 Responses to Coyne Denies He Ever Opposed Francis Collins’ Nomination to Head the NIH

  1. hikayamasan353 says:

    Collins never intended to use his position as a director of NIH to preach for intelligent design, fine tuned universe or Christian theology. Being a part of NIH is not being a priest or a guru.

  2. Dhay says:

    Jerry Coyne (quoted) > 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. … the beliefs I described … are no different in kind from the beliefs of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, or of any other faith.

    Says the wack-job whose conversion to atheism was the result not of rational deliberation but of a religious irreligious revelation, a “moment” of imparted utter certainty which has stayed unchallenged by him throughout his life:

    One of the more colorful scientific de-conversion stories comes from Jerry Coyne, a professor of genetics and evolutionary biology at the University of Chicago. It happened in 1967 when Coyne, then 17, was listening for the first time to the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album while lying on his parents’ couch in Alexandria, Va. [JAC: it was ARLINGTON, Virginia].

    Suddenly Coyne began to shake and sweat. For reasons he still doesn’t understand, it dawned on him at that moment that there was no God, and he wasn’t going anywhere when he died. His casual Judaism seemed to wash away as the album played on. The crisis lasted about 30 minutes, he says, and when it was over, he had left religion behind for good. He went on to study how new species evolve, and found the Darwinian view of nature perfectly in tune with his abandonment of faith.

    https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2011/03/30/holiday-snaps-2/

    He’s such a wack-job he put this story in the introduction to his Faith vs Fact, he’s such a wack-job he didn’t realise what a wack-job the story reveals him to be.

  3. nsr says:

    Interesting to see once again how little truth and personal integrity matter to a New Atheist.

  4. Geoff Smith says:

    One of the New Atheist books, Superstition, I think, was written by an aging physicist. I read it, but it was largely just ranting about Collins.

    They were all that way.

  5. Thanks for the well researched article. Great job. I pointed Coyne to it, and hope he will respond to you here: https://discourse.peacefulscience.org/t/did-eddie-need-to-apologize-to-coyne/5145

  6. Bilbo Baggins says:

    My prediction of Coyne’s response either here or at PeacefulScience:

  7. Just like Behe refused, I do not think Coyne will respond.

    Here is my take on it: Coyne did misstate he never opposed Collin’s appointment. He did. Do not, however, forget the larger context. He did not oppose Collins for affirming the ressurection as Eddie claimed. From his point of view, I’m sure he is feeling baited into a no win and disrespectful argument. Though I think setting the record straight here is important. Thank you for doing so in this post.

    https://discourse.peacefulscience.org/t/did-eddie-need-to-apologize-to-coyne/5145/8?u=swamidass

  8. Bilbo says:

    What do you think, Mike? Should Eddie have apologized to Coyne because Eddie (in paraphrase) claimed that Coyne opposed Collins’ appointment because he affirmed the resurrection?

  9. I want to clarify two things too.

    First, Patrick is an atheist supporter of Coyne. He was not asked to apologize, and was drawing attention to Eddie’s (not his real name) posts.

    Second, I did not demand Eddie apologize, Coyne did. I suggested he do it quickly unless he could produce a quote. He couldn’t (and nor could this blog post) produce a quote connecting the Ressuection to Coynes opposition. To his credit, Eddie apologized. He took the high road.

  10. Bilbo says:

    1. Coyne claimed that he did not oppose Collins’ appointment. Clearly that is false.
    2. Coyne claimed that he did not call for Collins to resign. Clearly that is false.
    3. Eddie paraphrased Coyne’s opposition to Collins’ appointment as based on Collins’ belief in the Resurrection. If you want to be picayune, then yes, Eddie’s paraphrase was false. Coyne opposed Collins’ appointment based on Collins’ religious beliefs, which Coyne described as being irrational. Since belief in the Resurrection would be part of those religious beliefs, we could say that Eddie was just being too specific.
    4. Eddie took the high road.
    5. By refusing to hold Coyne accountable for his clearly false statements, you are not taking the high road.

  11. Bilbo you are pretty entertaining. I did “hold him accountable” by agreeing he was wrong. Not much more to see.

  12. Bilbo says:

    Swamidass, holding Coyne accountable would be informing him Coyne that he owes everyone, especially Eddie, an apology.

    The fact that you allow Coyne to be held to a lower bar of accountability than Eddie is not a healthy sign. I decided to avoid your blog a while ago, because I had already experienced enough signs that something is wrong. The fact that you find me “entertaining” just raises another red flag for me. I will avoid your blog completely from now on.

  13. Bilbo says:

    Swamidass, I’m keeping my word to stay away from your blog. Your repeated request that Eddie apologize to Coyne means that you were in fact insisting that Eddie apologize. It turns out that there was no good reason for Eddie to apologize. There is very good reason for Coyne to apologize. Misrepresenting himself in public is not acceptable behavior. He does not have a “right” to do so.

  14. Very entertaining Bilbo. When you are ready to have a conversation that might lead to understanding come join us again. You are always welcome. Peace.

  15. Bilbo says:

    I really don’t want to have a conversation with you Swamidass.

  16. Michael says:

    What do you think, Mike? Should Eddie have apologized to Coyne because Eddie (in paraphrase) claimed that Coyne opposed Collins’ appointment because he affirmed the resurrection?

    Personally, I don’t think he needed to apologize. But again, that’s just me. First, I notice he admitted up front that he was merely paraphrasing. Most people who misrepresent with paraphrasing never admit they are paraphrasing. Second, I think you can make a good case the paraphrasing accurately conveys Coyne’s core reasoning. To see this, focus on his scientology analogy and ask yourself, what is the point of his analogy? To me, he is arguing

    a) that we would not allow a vocal scientologist to run the NIH because he is “a wack-job, too ridden with crazy ideas to hold down an important government job.”

    but

    b) Scientology is “no different in kind from the beliefs of Christianity”

    therefore

    c) we should not allow Collins to run the NIH for the same reasons we would not allow a scientologist to run the NIH

    but

    d) we don’t follow through on this conclusion only because “Christianity is a publicly acceptable form of superstition, and Scientology is not.”

    If we can agree that this is his argument (and no one has offered an alternative interpretation), then we are left asking a question about point b – when he says “the beliefs of Christianity,” what beliefs is he talking about? What are the Christian analogs of the “wack-job” Scientology beliefs? I think it perfectly safe to assume that one such belief Coyne has in mind is the resurrection of Jesus. And there ya have it – the accuracy of Eddie’s paraphrase.

    But all of this is kind of a side issue. The main point to take away is that after opposing Collins’ nomination to head the NIH, and even after calling for him to “step down,” Coyne these days is trying to deny he ever did this. That Coyne is backpedaling on this issue that was so important to the New Atheists in 2009-10 is further evidence of the decay of the New Atheism movement.

  17. I agree Mike. This is a significant change, which tells us something about the New Atheists. More than (lack of) an apology, there is a bigger and more interesting story. Coyne opposed Collins nomination and failed to prevent it. None of his fears about Collins were realized, and he has even spoken in support of Collins at least one time now. He doesn’t want to be known as the Collins opposition any more. My how times have changed since 2009.

    I would say though that Coyne’s opposition to Collins is more nuanced than the reasoning you give. It is important to understand him.

    Coyne doesn’t think a vocal atheist would be allowed to be NIH director. He doesn’t think a vocal scientologist would be allowed either. He thinks that Collins was given special privilege because he was a Christian. That is what is so irksome to him. The fact that “vociferous” atheists like Coyne and Dawkins would be ruled out from the start (this is very likely), but Collins is celebrated for his faith in this role…well, doesn’t seem fair to Coyne. He isn’t saying Christianity is equivalent to Scientology. Of course, he thinks they are both superstition, that is what atheists think. But Christianity is acceptable and and Scientology isn’t. That difference is just as important part of his logic.

    It seems most Christians do not fully appreciate the extent to which atheists feel like an oppressed minority. It seems most atheists do not fully appreciate the extent to which most Christians feel like an oppressed minority. It appears that gap in perceptions is what drives the conflict on both sides, even in this exchange. Reducing that gap in understanding also might be the key to resolving the conflict too.

    Thanks again for the fortuitous article. Glad you cleared up the record. Peace.

  18. TFBW says:

    Coyne doesn’t think a vocal atheist would be allowed to be NIH director. He doesn’t think a vocal scientologist would be allowed either. He thinks that Collins was given special privilege because he was a Christian. That is what is so irksome to him.

    Coyne perceives this privilege because he thinks that there is a scale of reason/superstition; that atheism is at the “reason” end of that scale; that the others are at the “superstition” end of the scale; and that being at the “reason” end is the appropriate quality for an NIH director. Thus, Coyne believes that Collins has exactly the wrong properties to be an NIH director, and attributes his selection to religious nepotism, or “Christian privilege”. The same framework would explain why a vocal atheist would not be granted the position, despite having the appropriate rational mindset for the job.

    It seems most Christians do not fully appreciate the extent to which atheists feel like an oppressed minority.

    If my analysis is correct, or near enough for the social sciences, then it’s no wonder you feel like that: it’s a world-view rife with nepotism and bigotry in which the poor atheist is constantly marginalised despite his obviously superior rational faculties; an Idiocracy world dominated by superstitious idiots oblivious to their own superstition and idiocy, and who prefer other superstitious idiots in cases where atheists would do a much better job.

    I have an alternative theory, and I’ll appeal to your rational faculties with brutal disregard for your feelings of victimhood: maybe it’s just that you have a really fringe world-view when it comes to this whole equivalence of religion and superstition, or fundamental incompatibility of religion and science (whichever way you prefer to put it). That’s not to say it’s wrong, but that regardless of its factual accuracy, it’s an extreme minority view. Whether or not this view applies to “you”, for some generic “you”, it certainly applies to Coyne, who is so obsessed with the idea that he wrote a book about it.

    Now, if you are deeply committed to the idea that science and religion are fundamentally incompatible, then you are certainly going to experience the malaise associated with living in an Idiocracy world, because “religious” is more commonplace than “not religious” in the relevant sense. As such, you’re likely to act out some variant of the stereotyped evil genius who incessantly complains about being surrounded by idiots and incompetents.

    My suggestion is that you take a step back and recognise the incompatibility model as exactly that: a model. We all have lots of models: low-resolution approximations of how we think reality behaves, which guide our actions and thinking. If you recognise that the incompatibility model (which gives us “Faith vs Fact”) is a wildly unpopular, fringe model, then you should understand that the kind of people who think that Francis Collins would make an appropriate NIH director have a mental model of NIH-director-appropriateness which is nothing like yours. It may even be the case that their model severely discounts the relevance of religion (relative to yours), while granting significance to various social factors that some people with doctorate degrees in STEM fields (myself included) may not even consciously perceive.

    In other words, it’s possible that other people think that Francis Collins is a perfectly fine candidate for NIH director, and that religious nepotism actually has nothing to do with that judgement. If you can appreciate that other people might be working with a mental model that produces a result like that (and not get too hung up on the idea that your model is RIGHT; their model is WRONG — that way lies the ranting evil genius), then you’ll be less inclined to think that you are immersed in a world of persecution and bigotry, and this will be better for your mental well-being than the alternative.

    In summary, even if you commit to the maxim that “religion is nothing but superstition,” don’t let it drive you to being a bitter paranoiac; all it takes is the recognition that most people don’t think that way, so don’t project it onto them.

  19. Well, to be clear, I am a Christian. I don’t feel like a victim. I’m certainly not a bitter paranoaic, but the world does seem full of them. I’m just observing what I see both among many Christians and atheists, whether or not it is justified. Collins is a great NIH director, and now it seems that Coyne also agrees.

  20. Michael says:

    S. Joshua Swamidass,

    It’s possible that the “more nuanced” interpretation you offer applies, but doubtful. After all, when it comes to this topic, Coyne is not exactly well known for a nuanced approach. We’re dealing with someone who actually believes G. W. Bush’s presidency was a theocracy.

    I would agree its “important to understand him.” To do so, we would need to recognize that when it came to this topic in 2009-10, Coyne came to the table as an activist and not a scholar. And his signature, activist argument was about the incompatibility of science and religion.

  21. Michael says:

    Coyne doesn’t think a vocal atheist would be allowed to be NIH director. He doesn’t think a vocal scientologist would be allowed either. He thinks that Collins was given special privilege because he was a Christian. That is what is so irksome to him. The fact that “vociferous” atheists like Coyne and Dawkins would be ruled out from the start (this is very likely), but Collins is celebrated for his faith in this role…well, doesn’t seem fair to Coyne. He isn’t saying Christianity is equivalent to Scientology. Of course, he thinks they are both superstition, that is what atheists think. But Christianity is acceptable and and Scientology isn’t. That difference is just as important part of his logic.

    Gave this some more thought and I don’t think it applies. When you write, “Coyne doesn’t think a vocal atheist would be allowed to be NIH director. He doesn’t think a vocal scientologist would be allowed either,” you make it sound like Coyne thinks it is a bad thing that a vocal scientologist wouldn’t be allowed. I think it pretty clear Coyne doesn’t think a vocal scientologist should be allowed to head the NIH. Thus, his point is that if a vocal scientologist should not be allowed, a vocal Christian should not be allowed. You say, “He isn’t saying Christianity is equivalent to Scientology,” but he clearly writes, “But of course the beliefs I described constitute the theology of Scientology, and are no different in kind from the beliefs of Christianity.” Which is why opposition to a scientologist should be extended to Christians.

    The point is that he is not complaining about “Christian privilege.” He is trying to justify his opposition to the nomination.

    But you are probably right that someone like Coyne or Dawkins would have a hard time securing such a nomination. And you are probably right that Coyne and Dawkins would say this is because they are vocal or “vociferous” atheists. But in reality, the problem is not being a “vocal atheist.” It’s being an anti-religious bigot. Dawkins stood before a crowd of tens of thousands and encouraged them all to go out and publicly mock and ridicule religious people. He would go on to mock such people as “faith heads.” Coyne wrote the following on his very popular blog:

    What about the many of us who feel that the best thing for science—and humanity as a whole—is not respectful dialogue with evangelical Christians, but the eradication of evangelical Christianity?

    and

    Somehow—and this will never happen, of course—it should be illegal to indoctrinate children with religious belief.

  22. Bilbo Baggins says:

    I’m sure Swamidass just thinks you’re very funny, now, Mike.

  23. Mike, I see where you are coming from. I myself am a Christian, so obviously I have my disagreements with Coyne. I still find it most interesting that a decade later, Coyne no longer wants to be seen as the Francis Collins opposition. That is interesting and important. Why do you think that is?

  24. Michael says:

    Mike, I see where you are coming from. I myself am a Christian, so obviously I have my disagreements with Coyne. I still find it most interesting that a decade later, Coyne no longer wants to be seen as the Francis Collins opposition. That is interesting and important. Why do you think that is?

    Yes, that is the interesting development. Coyne not being truthful or being unwilling to admit being wrong is not news to me. But Coyne no longer wanting to stand by his opposition to Collins is news. I think is simply signals the complete collapse of the New Atheist movement. In a sense, Coyne is trying to return to the pre-New Atheist glory days, where he can ally with religious scientists in battle against the “Religious Right.”

  25. Bilbo says:

    Or perhaps in battle against Behe. For before 9/11 there was ID.

  26. TFBW says:

    Bilbo raises an interesting point. Folks like Collins were Coyne’s allies in the fight against the Creationism bogeyman. Then political winds shifted, giving political atheism more self-assurance, and the bogeyman became the Theocracy, in which Collins was seen to be on the wrong side of the divide. With the splintering of political atheism and the failure of “Trump Theocracy!” to act as a unifying rallying cry, Coyne does appear to be falling back to the old battle lines.

    Funny thing is it won’t be the ID theorists or even Creationists who invade science: that conquest will be claimed by the Far Left with gender and race anti-realism. It will be interesting to see if Coyne shifts again when the state of that battle becomes more clear. or whether he doesn’t really care about the fate of science so much as the threat that Theism might regain some intellectual respectability if Theism-friendly theories are admitted into the Overton Window of scientific discourse.

  27. Bilbo says:

    To digress, I’m reading Behe’s new book. He discusses Koonin’s book, The Logic of Chance, and brings up something that he says Koonin claimed in the book: that similar copies of all genes that exist today can be traced back to bacteria or archaea. I immediately thought how well that would fit in with your idea of Front-Loaded Evolution, Mike.

    Of course, Behe has a much more pessimistic view of the abilities of random mutation and natural selection than you do. He argues that there would be a need for intelligent agency to build additional molecular machinery since the origin of life.

    Perhaps Swamidass and his buddy Coyne can enlist your support in their battle against the evil Behe. Wouldn’t it be funny to see Coyne mention you approvingly in his blog?

  28. Dhay says:

    S. Joshua Swamidass MD PhD > I still find it most interesting that a decade later, Coyne no longer wants to be seen as the Francis Collins opposition.

    Jerry Coyne is the best qualified to answer that. He has, however, often posted about Collins from time to time on his blog, and entering “Francis Collins” in Coyne’s Search combox will pull up those posts. As far as I can tell, Coyne has always attacked Collins as an “accommodationist™” in very strong terms and at probably every opportunity.

    It’s nuanced, though: here’s a December 2018 response of mine pointing out Coyne’s current support for Collins, linking onwards to the original Coyne sources quoted; Coyne is currently unambiguously supportive of Collins in his role as NIH head:

    That was April 2012; now, six and a half years later, Coyne is thoroughly complimentary about Francis Collins’ leadership of the NIH, and is very, very anxious that he should continue in that role:

    “I never would call for him to resign,” said Jerry Coyne, a former critic who is a prominent evolutionary scholar and an atheist. “He’s a good scientist and a good administrator. I admire him for sticking up for something that is actually going to help humanity.”

    And the article’s bottom line, from the (December 2018 again) Washington Examiner:

    Coyne said “there would be an outcry” if Collins were to be fired. “Almost every scientist says he has done a good job … I feel there is something sacrosanct about the NIH,” he said. “It is such a good influence for the U.S.”

    https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2012/04/15/collins-vs-gnus-2/#comment-29357

    As a distant observer I speculate that Coyne was (and is?) deeply concerned that Donald Trump might easily have chosen (or choose) to dispense with Collins and appoint in his place someone with no better qualifications than, say, they’re a weatherman.

    Coyne can also point to his August 2010 “Collins is OK” blog post:

    I’ve been pretty hard on Francis Collins, what with his mixing faith and science and telling people that there’s empirical evidence for God’s existence. But that makes it extra incumbent on me to give him kudos when he does something right. I mentioned the other day his support of stem-cell research, which is discussed in a new article, “The Covenant,” in The New Yorker. Maybe I was too eager to get in a lick against Christianity, so let me say that I much appreciate his going to bat for good science and humanitarian medicine. …

    I’m not going to pull my punches if Collins continues his public harmonizing of science and faith, but [Collins] is a Christian I can appreciate—and live with.

    https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2010/08/31/collins-is-okay/

    But yes, Coyne did call for Collins to resign (“step down”) as NIH Director, and Michael has linked to those calls in the OP above.

  29. It is important not to call Behe evil, or even privately believe he is evil. He is not. He is a fellow believer who is doing what he thinks is right. I see no indication that he is intentionally deceptive. I appears instead that we have a legitimate and honest disagreement, on both sides. The exchange between mainstream scientists (including me) and Behe is NOT a struggle between good and evil. Behe is giving his account of how he understands the science. In our assessment, he his understanding is wrong, and we explaining in detail why that is. There are theatrics on both sides, but the core of this is a rather mundane misunderstanding of evolutionary science. Behe argues against a version of evolution that was determined inadequate and replaced/extended in 1968, when he was still in high school. At some point I look forward to how he engaged with our current understanding of evolution, but this cannot be found anywhere in his book. Behe is NOT evil. He just may need to catch up.

  30. Bilbo says:

    Swamidass, did you bother to read his section on Neutral theory?

  31. Bilbo says:

    Writing a review of Darwin Devolves for the most prestigious science journal in the U.S. without reading all of the book…yeah, I wouldn’t expect you to admit to something like that…not in public.

    So, Swamidass, when you say that you “look forward to how he engaged with our current understanding of evolution, but this cannot be found anywhere in his book,” what you meant was…?

  32. TFBW says:

    It’s going to take more than a smug, condescending attitude from someone who likes to parade his letters about to persuade me that Behe is ignorant.

  33. Bilbo says:

    I’m still reading Behe’s Darwin Devolves. Best set-up line:

    “Perhaps you have read that Darwin’s theory also explains politics, the law, literature, music, love, the universe – even mind itself.
    It just has trouble accounting for a disulfide bond.”

  34. Dhay says:

    Possibly Jerry Coyne’s memory is failing:

    Here’s a van Dyck portrat of James Stuart, the Duke of Richmond and Lennox with his cat. This was painted some time between 1633 and 1635:

    [Picture of James Stuart with a greyhound (only).]

    https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2020/03/22/sunday-hili-dialogue-280/

    Evidently Coyne is losing it and cannot tell a cat from a greyhound nowadays. Not even when his link to The Met Museum and its description of the painting says:

    … The greyhound resting its muzzle on the duke’s hip alludes to the virtue of loyalty as well as the noble pastime of the hunt.

    https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/436252

    But Coyne has been emphatic that he has credentials in Philosophy, which presumably means he must be right in this matter as in the so many other matters he pontificates about.

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