My USA Today op-ed: Science and religion aren’t friends

I got tired of Uncle Karl and those of his ilk filling the pages of USA Today with accommodationist tripe, so I wrote my own op-ed: “Science and religion aren’t friends.” It’s up now though it’ll appear in the paper tomorrow (Monday).  It pulls no punches.

The fact that I can even write a 1200-word piece on this topic and have it published in such a widely-read venue is a testament to the success of Gnu Atheism.

UPDATE: The piece appears to be one of the 5 most popular on the site today (Brett Favre’s peccadilloes are in the lead).  That’s further testimony to the societal change produced by Gnu Atheists.  The piece, after all, was written on the shoulders of giants: Harris, Hitchens, Dennett, and Dawkins, who softened up society for body blows like this.  I’ve also had a look at the comments, which are surprisingly heartening,—further testimony to the presence of a large but normally silent group of American atheists.

171 Comments

  1. Insightful Ape
    Posted October 10, 2010 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    Bravo Dr Conye.
    But as you said, I am surprised that you could get this published.

    • Insightful Ape
      Posted October 10, 2010 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

      Incidentally, does this mean we are in for a treat? It has been awhile since we were last greeted by hordes of trolls.

  2. TrineBM
    Posted October 10, 2010 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    That was a good read! Thank you.

  3. Stewart
    Posted October 10, 2010 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

    Good to get something so forthright out where it will be seen by many. If I have a quibble, it’s my unfamiliarity with the notion that Jews regard Jesus as a prophet. There may have been some who did so, but I’m not aware that he holds any such position in any version of the religion per se.

    We really do need more people stating the anti-accomodationist position without pulling punches.

    • Dave
      Posted October 10, 2010 at 8:40 pm | Permalink

      Well, except in the “Jews for Jesus” crowd. OK, not a version of the religion, per se, and I don’t know how big that group is but they gots buses!

      • Stewart
        Posted October 11, 2010 at 1:40 am | Permalink

        There are also fewer groups hated as much in organised Judaism as “Jews for Jesus.”

    • Posted October 11, 2010 at 5:39 am | Permalink

      I’ve the conjecture that “maybe Jesus was a prophet” from people who claimed to be Jewish, so I suppose it’s within the range of Jewish religious opinion. It’s the “Jesus is God” assertion that just that contradicts basic Judaism.

      Actually, I think practically everything is within the range of Jewish religious opinion, since most Jews I’ve known seem to be freethinkers.

    • Josh
      Posted October 12, 2010 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

      In Orthodox Judaism (in which I was raised) Jesus is considered to be a heretic. The Talmud calls Jesus wicked and an “enticer” to idolatry, for which the punishment is death. Basically he was up there with Hitler in the list of history’s worst dudes (crazy, I know).

  4. s. pimpernel
    Posted October 10, 2010 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

    I’m also tired of pulling punches. It hasn’t done any good for many years. Maybe this will convince more fence sitters to look at the real evidence in this matter and not just following what they’ve been fed since childhood. Keep up the good work.

  5. Posted October 10, 2010 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    Damn.

    Do you have any idea how refreshing it is to read something so straightforward, honest, and true?

    Congratulations on writing such a simple-yet-eloquent essay and on getting it published in such a prominent newspaper.

    Cheers,

    b&

  6. Stu
    Posted October 10, 2010 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

    Ha! Had to smile when you made honest use Ecklund’s numbers.

  7. Posted October 10, 2010 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    Your op-ed piece is nicely worded.

  8. Posted October 10, 2010 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    YAY!

  9. Posted October 10, 2010 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

    But…[wrinkles brow]…will it WORK?

    Is it HELPING?

    • Stewart
      Posted October 10, 2010 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

      It is helping, because it will tell people truths some other people desperately don’t want them to hear.

      • Posted October 10, 2010 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

        But is that HELPING? Will it WORK?

        • Stewart
          Posted October 10, 2010 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

          I could just say “aha!” but instead I’ll say that the other way has been tried since time immemorial and it definitely doesn’t help or work.

        • Saikat Biswas
          Posted October 10, 2010 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

          I dunno. Just wish he were a little less certain of his position. After all, where’s the nuance or the subtlety in certainty?

        • articulett
          Posted October 11, 2010 at 12:07 am | Permalink

          it probably won’t help those attending a conservation event…

          :p

      • Posted October 10, 2010 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

        Not only that, I’m sure it’ll embolden plenty of fellow travelers to step up and join us.

        Never mind, for the moment, the specifics of Jerry’s essay. What he’s done is say, publicly and in a calm, clear, projecting voice, that the emperor is naked.

        It may seem like a small thing, but it is exactly the sort of pebble that can start a landslide.

        Thanks again, Jerry.

        Cheers,

        b&

        • Stewart
          Posted October 10, 2010 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

          Quite. I deliberately called it a quibble, because I in no way intended it to detract from the force of the piece as a whole.

  10. Penman
    Posted October 10, 2010 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

    Fantastic! Glad to see such a no-apologies lucid summary in a mainstream publication.

    Kudos, Jerry.

    • Posted October 10, 2010 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

      Quite – no apologies. That’s what makes it a milestone.

  11. Posted October 10, 2010 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

    As for getting it published, having a bestseller that has won lots of awards presumably helps a lot. Jerry is a Name and a Star so even USA Today is happy to have him dressing up the paper.

    And of course that’s exactly why the gnu atheists piss off the old theists – they keep having bestsellers and so getting into big newspapers with their pesky unapologetic frank noneuphemistic aytheeizm.

    • whyevolutionistrue
      Posted October 10, 2010 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for the encomiums, but I must point out that my book didn’t win any awards! It’s selling okay, though.

      • Posted October 10, 2010 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

        Didn’t it? Wasn’t there something awhile ago?

        Oh maybe I’m thinking of the Newsweek 50. Well that’s a kind of award – anyway an endorsement.

      • Divalent
        Posted October 10, 2010 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

        Yeah, who needs a stupid book award when you’ve won both the Nobel prize for Medicine and last season’s American Idol?

      • articulett
        Posted October 11, 2010 at 12:13 am | Permalink

        Why, WEIT was curator’s choice at the USNM!

        Maybe that’s not a technical “award”, but WEIT certainly has been honored in many ways.

        • Posted October 11, 2010 at 9:40 am | Permalink

          Yes that’s what I meant! Or would have been if I’d slowed down and remembered more carefully.

    • Posted October 11, 2010 at 5:47 am | Permalink

      Jerry writes well and explains the main issues clearly. That’s one reason he gets asked to write these op-ed pieces and reviews.

      Plus, he knows the subject matter and can explain it to just about anyone. That’s exactly what we need in communicating science to the public.

      Bravo, again.

  12. J.
    Posted October 10, 2010 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    Small quibble – as far as I am aware, Jews do not views Jesus as a prophet, at least not in the main denominations.

    • David Leech
      Posted October 10, 2010 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

      It’s Islam that views Jesus as a prophet.

    • Posted October 10, 2010 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

      Correct, while Muslims see Jesus as a prophet, Jews do not. Under most standard forms of Jewish theology prophecy ended at the beginning of the second Temple period (around 300 BCE). Some Jews say that they regard Jesus as a “wise teacher” or something similar, but this is really limited primarily to the US. This is really something that has been mainly adopted by Conservative and Reform Jews in the US as a way of being somewhat more polite to Christians (policy some sort of Stockholm Syndrome?). There’s no way that any mainstream Jewish group considers Jesus as a prophet.

      Frankly, this is a pretty glaring error that a) Coyne should have caught b) should have been caught by editors and fact checkers at US News c) is exactly the sort of thing that leaves one vulnerable to the courtier’s reply. Not cool.

      • stvs
        Posted October 10, 2010 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

        Yeah, that’ll leave a mark. Jews have spent the past 2k years refuting any special status for Jesus. Talmud (Sotah 48b):

        “when Malachi died the Prophecy departed from Israel.”

      • Diane G.
        Posted October 10, 2010 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

        …b) should have been caught by editors and fact checkers at US News…

        Mostly this one. (Wonder how many non-Jew theists will notice?)

        • Posted October 10, 2010 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

          Well, if the recent Pew study on religious knowledge levels is an accurate guide, this will probably be caught more by people who already agree with the essay.

      • Posted October 10, 2010 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

        If my understanding of Futurama is correct, they believe that he was built and well-programmed.

      • Stewart
        Posted October 11, 2010 at 1:51 am | Permalink

        The Courtier’s Reply is often good shorthand to use, but I’m not sure it’s applicable in this case. Meaning: the Courtier’s Reply gets used even when every stated fact is correct in order to claim that the argument is lacking because the author has not studied theology sufficiently to make a rejection. In the case of Jerry’s slip-up with Jesus’ status among believing Jews, he has made an error that doesn’t or shouldn’t detract from his main argument (how Jews regard Jesus is a completely peripheral issue to his main thrust), but will be used as an excuse by anyone who prefers not to engage with his main argument. We’re all only human, even Jerry, but we’ve got to try to make our cases as watertight as possible. That said, I don’t think it’ll finally matter a lot either way. Those who will use it to disqualify the whole piece would never permit themselves to look at the argument honestly anyway.

        If one mistake in an op-ed by Jerry is damaging to the Gnu Atheist position, where is religion after all the contradictions in its scriptures?

        • Posted October 11, 2010 at 5:49 am | Permalink

          Let he who can write a longish article without a single mistake cast the first stone.

          **Ouch** Hey, that hurt!

          • Stewart
            Posted October 11, 2010 at 5:53 am | Permalink

            Well, it certainly wasn’t me who threw it :)

        • Posted October 11, 2010 at 11:19 am | Permalink

          I’m not arguing that the Courtier’s Reply is valid in this context (if I did would I have labeled it the Courtier’s Reply?) The point is that it leaves Jerry vulnerable to that reply. That’s an observation about rhetoric, not an observation about actual logical validity.

          (I think there are probably more contexts where something resembling the courtier’s reply might be more valid than many New Atheists think, but this isn’t one of those circumstances.)

      • truthspeaker
        Posted October 11, 2010 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

        “b) should have been caught by editors and fact checkers at US New”

        I see you’re unfamiliar with modern American journalism. Fact checking, when it’s done at all, is done on news stories, never opinion pieces, or even on quotes in news stories.

    • stvs
      Posted October 11, 2010 at 4:13 am | Permalink

      Nonstampcollector underlines how a mistake like this reinforces the real point.

      “You want to talk about evidence? If I understand it correctly you guys unquestioningly believe in an ancient book that says some carpenter named Moses dies and came to life at a Christmas party, or something.”

      “WHAT!? It was Jesus nailed to a cross at Easter!!”

      “… Okay, I heard you—I was wrong. Why won’t you admit you were wrong about <litany …>”

      “Because I wasn’t wrong. Let’s move on now …”

  13. Thomas Cochrane
    Posted October 10, 2010 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    This is absolutely great–especially given the venue!

    I want to point out one minor issue, in case this gets adapted/reprinted elsewhere. I think you can’t use the fact that most scientists are atheists as evidence that science and faith are incompatible. (For the same reason that defenders of faith can’t use Francis Collins as evidence that they’re compatible.)

    At best, it’s just a correlation, and although we all suspect we know why most scientists are atheists, the correlation alone isn’t enough.

    • legal9ball
      Posted October 11, 2010 at 5:08 am | Permalink

      This mistake dissapoints me a bit more than it might have because it’s in such an otherwise gratifying piece.

  14. Posted October 10, 2010 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    Sweet like chocolate, Jerry! I’ve FB’d this and blogged it to my pals in Northern Ireland. If ever there was a place that needed to hear this, NI is it. My old Prof of Genetics has just set up a UK Intelligent Design centre in Glasgow. Oh, the shame!

  15. Posted October 10, 2010 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

    [Incidentally, there are some Jews who are rather keen to get Jesus reinstated as a properly recognised Jewish prophet. Good luck to 'em - I can't see it happening myself, much as I regard myself as a *Christian* atheist ;-)]

  16. Ichthyic
    Posted October 10, 2010 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

    Fuck Sarah Palin!

    Jerry Coyne for Prez!

  17. Scott
    Posted October 10, 2010 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    Looks like someone has been reading some Moral Landscape. ;-)

  18. Jake Jaramillo
    Posted October 10, 2010 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

    Ahhhh… a long draught of cool, clear water in the desert, that was.

  19. Teh Merkin
    Posted October 10, 2010 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

    What a nicely written essay. Thank you for pulling no punches, and kudos for getting it published in USA Today, of all places. I am sure it will make some small heads asplode.

  20. jose
    Posted October 10, 2010 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

    “Many Christians believe that if you don’t accept Jesus as savior, you’ll burn in hell for eternity. Muslims hold the exact opposite: Those who see Jesus as God’s son are the ones who will roast. Jews see Jesus as a prophet, but not the messiah.”

    Actually, all of them will reincarnate into this wheel of pain.

  21. John
    Posted October 10, 2010 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

    awesome! someone on the usa today website already inoculated the comments from christians that say hitler/nazis were atheists! – that rules

    • stvs
      Posted October 10, 2010 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

      wuz me. usatoday registration is busted, so bugmenot is your friend. There’s still opportunity for other comments.

      Congratulations, Jerry — superb job.

      • John
        Posted October 10, 2010 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

        good job – that will set the tone for the entire rest of the comments-

  22. Andy
    Posted October 10, 2010 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

    Jerry’s clarity stands extremely tall next to Uncle Karl’s puny nonsense.

    This op-ed is something we should all bookmark and hang on to, as it explains the heart of the issue elegantly and, indeed, without pulling punches. I’ll be forwarding it to a couple people, that’s for sure. Thanks Jerry.

  23. Ken Pidcock
    Posted October 10, 2010 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

    Whether or not it’s effective, this is an clear and understandable summary of why religion cannot be considered to have equal standing with science when it comes to the search for truth.

    I do wish, though, that Professor Coyne had resisted the temptation to recycle the marriage and adultery thing. That’s an excellent analogy, but an unnecessarily alienating argument.

    • Diane G.
      Posted October 10, 2010 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

      LOL. As if likening leprechauns to religion & some of the other trope are going to go down like gourmet chocolate.

  24. DiscoveredJoys
    Posted October 10, 2010 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

    Nice article.

    I’m beginning to wonder if we should avoid using words like ‘true’ and ‘truth’ because they may be seen to include the meaning of ‘religious truth’ (i.e. dogma or beliefs).

    It might be more forthright to talk of scientific ‘facts’ and scientific ‘explanations’ (Theories) for those facts.

    Still a nice article.

    • jose
      Posted October 10, 2010 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

      In the use of the word “truth” to mean “scientific fact” there is an assumption: that nature is going to show itself to us the way it is, no more no less. Though it’s not the tired mantra “What we see is what there is”, but rather “All that there is can eventually be seen”.

    • Posted October 10, 2010 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

      Never let the woo-meisters steal perfectly good words like ‘true’ and ‘truth’. Just be very specific in what you mean about them. Science takes an epistemologically pragmatist meaning of ‘true’, which I think can be understood easily if we think of an arrow flying true to its target.

      I wrote something a while back explaining this pragmatic and predictive meaning of truth: http://www.atheistnexus.org/group/wonderism/forum/topics/wonderism-pragmatism-and

    • Dave R
      Posted October 10, 2010 at 10:04 pm | Permalink

      If writing about science will be so PC (Philosophically Correct) to avoid the words “true” and “truth” — then you concede ownership of those words to religion.

      I support Coyne claiming the words “true” and “truth” — e.g., Why Evolution Is True. My head snapped back when I read this one sentence: [Science and religion] “are different forms of inquiry, with only one, science, equipped to find real truth.” I felt the shock value that sentence will bring to the American Christian public that speaks and writes about Christianity being “the Truth” with a capital “T”.

      Tomorrow morning the American Christians I know are going to read that sentence and spit their coffee. Coyne pwns their pet word! It’s going to rock them back on their heels, and they’ll need to think. Maybe they’ll scurry to wedge chairs under their doorknobs to keep these ideas from coming into their houses. But that much will be progress — to have them on the defensive — and a sign of how far the Gnus have come.

      • Posted October 11, 2010 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

        I don’t think we should feel bullied into giving up on using ordinary English words like “true” and “truth” (or “belief”, “believe”, and “beliefs”, to take another example that is sometimes raised). These words have down-to-earth meanings and we’ll sound like idiots if we go around trying to avoid using them. The religious do not have a monopoly on these words.

  25. Posted October 10, 2010 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

    Leprechauns. Awesome.

  26. Swulf
    Posted October 10, 2010 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

    Great article, thank you. Very clear and concise.

  27. J.J.E.
    Posted October 10, 2010 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

    Wow, Jerry read my mind. I was thinking that all of those social scientists publishing surveys saying “OMG, less than 100% of scientists are atheists. Religion FTW!” could easily be rebutted by someone simply using the same data to make the opposite point. Good job Jerry.

  28. Posted October 10, 2010 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

    Huzzah for Dr Coyne. That is a beautiful piece to have published, and I hope that it is widely read. It is one more push into the public domain that “It is OK to be an atheist,” and that has to help.

  29. Neil
    Posted October 10, 2010 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

    Good job! Take it where it is needed. Today, USA Today. Tomorrow, Fox News!

    • Diane G.
      Posted October 10, 2010 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

      …Fox News!

      So you DO believe in Armageddon, eh?

    • Posted October 11, 2010 at 7:41 am | Permalink

      My wife had a short interview published in the Daily Mail last week. Hey, it’s free publicity, so why not? It’s not like she’s going to refuse to talk to anyone until the “right” newspaper offers.

      For the first time ever, I bought a Daily Mail — 3 copies, in fact.

      The circulation of USA Today is over 1.8 million — with about 3 million readers, they claim. Not a bad venue.

      • Posted October 11, 2010 at 9:43 am | Permalink

        Ohhhhhhhh – so you’re Ray Moscow. I didn’t know that!

  30. MadScientist
    Posted October 10, 2010 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

    That was an excellent article Jerry, and you didn’t even pull a Giberson and put in arrogant dismissals of other people as being naive etc. Karl Gibberish’s accusing others of being strident and naive seems to be a Jungian projection (not that I support Jung – like Freud I treat him solely as a source of jokes).

    • Posted October 11, 2010 at 5:06 am | Permalink

      Like this one?

      When the new patient was settled comfortably on the couch, the pychiatrist began his therapy session, “I’m not aware of your problem,” the doctor said. “So perhaps, you should start at the very beginning.”
      “Of course.” replied the patient. “In the beginning, I created the Heavens and the Earth…”

  31. Diane G.
    Posted October 10, 2010 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

    Wonderful salvo, Jerry, superbly readable, non-compromising, bracing & heartening. And just the right, middle-brow platform–am eagerly awaiting the blowback.

    Interesting how so many of us have our own little, minor quibbles, which don’t match each others…For me, it’s the statement, “We now know that the universe did not require a creator;” probably because I don’t want to find myself trying to answer how science has proved this. :D (I’m not even entirely sure I understand Hawking’s reasoning. But why should I? [Prayer: god, please give me a brain like Hawking's. I'll let everyone know if it's answered.])

    • Neil
      Posted October 10, 2010 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

      Yes, I am uncomfortable with that as well. To say we “know” that the universe does not require a creator, which I do not think we can really say, Hawking not withstanding, reduces the credibility of statements about things we do know, at least in the minds of those who do not know.

      • CW
        Posted October 10, 2010 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

        Hawking notwithstanding you say? That’s taking a pretty big bite. On what grounds exactly (other than that it makes you “uncomfortable”) do you so casually dismiss Hawking?

        • Neil
          Posted October 10, 2010 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

          Because I read the book and it is not convincing to me. I do not take arguments on authority.

          • CW
            Posted October 10, 2010 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

            Argument from authority? Hawking did not say “I am terribly famous and ever so clever and so you must take my word for it, the universe didn’t need god to light the fuse.” He (along with Mlodinow) wrote an entire book explaining exactly how and why the evidence leads them to that conclusion.

            Feeling uncomfortable about it isn’t a refutation.

        • Neil
          Posted October 10, 2010 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

          To answer your question more fully, it is because their (Hawking and Mlodinow’s) conclusion is based on a logical argument that assumes an M-theory multiverse.

          First, M theory is not a consistent theory, but a conjecture. Second, there is not one shred of evidence for a multiverse.

          It does not seem wise to me for atheists to argue against god on the basis that there is no evidence and then invoke a multiverse, for which there is no more evidence.

          The only thing the multiverse has over god is a loose and unproven connection to physical theories for which there is evidence. That is not enough for me to buy the argument.

          • Neil
            Posted October 10, 2010 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

            Moreover, I think I reject their argument far less “casually” than you seem to accept it casually. Have you read their book? Can you adduce evidence for their argument? They don’t.

          • Diane G.
            Posted October 10, 2010 at 9:44 pm | Permalink

            Thank you, that’s exactly what I would have said, had I had enough confidence to say so. <:-[

            Your penultimate paragraph sums up the inherent problem most succinctly, IMO.

            While I'd be happy to be able to rule out deism (and maybe we will someday, who knows?), and while I find it simply illogical to jump to a supernatural explanation after explaining "all the rest" scientifically, I also think it's not too difficult to coexist with…No claims can be made about some putative non-natural entity that just sort of kick-started the universe & then disappeared…

          • CW
            Posted October 10, 2010 at 9:54 pm | Permalink

            Now that’s a better argument, but there’s still a quibble. Hawking did not argue that gods do not exist, merely that science has provided explanations that eliminate any need to invoke gods as a/the cause of the universe.

            As Jerry suggested, actually arguing against gods, no matter the basis, makes no more sense than arguing against leprechauns. To do so would be misplacing the burden of proof.

            • Neil
              Posted October 10, 2010 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

              I would argue that there was never a reason to invoke god even in the absence of H-M’s book. Absence of a scientific explanation is not a reason to invoke god–it is simply a statement of our ignorance.

            • Diane G.
              Posted October 10, 2010 at 10:24 pm | Permalink

              Yes, but the original quibble was not about the question ‘do gods exist’ but rather, whether “we know that the universe did not require a creator” is as solidly supported as, say, evolution by natural selection…which was mentioned in the same paragraph, and thus might seem to give the two equal worth.

          • Posted October 11, 2010 at 11:02 am | Permalink

            Hi, Neil,

            I haven’t read Hawking’s latest, nor do I understand M-theory very well, but I think his previous argument that the universe need not have a beginning was pretty solid. There’s no need to invoke a “creator”.

            Of course scientists and naturalists are pretty much always going to prefer plausible natural explanations for things over supernatural ones.

  32. Posted October 10, 2010 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

    Well done sir.

  33. Posted October 10, 2010 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

    Excellent article! I don’t usually read USA Today, but lots of people do. Glad it’ll be in the print copy. Thanks so much for saying what needs to be said and getting it into the popular press.

    One tiny quibble though, you said:

    And, although to be an atheist in America is still to be an outcast, America’s fastest-growing brand of belief is non-belief.

    These words about belief are going to be prime targets for quoteminers who claim atheism is a religion. Love the statement, though.

    • Michael Kingsford Gray
      Posted October 11, 2010 at 4:01 am | Permalink

      I hope that it does become a “religion”.
      Then we can claim the same instant tax-exemptions that the faith-frauds do.

      • Posted October 11, 2010 at 9:47 am | Permalink

        Plus we can demand lashings of respect, and tolerance, and deference, and White House prayer breakfasts, and a slot on Thought for the Day, and all sorts.

        • Diane G.
          Posted October 11, 2010 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

          And especially, government handouts to Reason-Based organizations.

  34. Posted October 10, 2010 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

    Great op-ed all around! It was positively satisfying to see religious belief in gods compared to superstitious belief in leprechauns in the USA Today online. My favorite line was the one about how religions are allowed to claim to know the truth yet are actually completely unable to find it–leading to all kinds of immoral/evil behaviors by their adherents.

  35. Posted October 10, 2010 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

    Fan-Damn-Tastic!!! This comes off not as a defense, but as a leading stake in the sand… a framing statement, if you will.

    We are too often responding to the other folks. The shoe is on their mystical foot now.

  36. Diane G.
    Posted October 10, 2010 at 8:40 pm | Permalink

    And BTW, the cartoonist really captured you! :D

    (Interesting illustration–not totally sure what it’s saying, tho…Scientist finds weird-shaped beaker insubstantial?)

  37. sasqwatch
    Posted October 10, 2010 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

    I’m outraged. Incensed, even. Science and religion NOT friends?!?

    I suppose you’ve never heard of Scientology.

    Just kidding. I am still a bit amazed at seeing this in this venue, at this early date. Check your calendar just in case this requires a bit of follow-up. Sometimes things like this go *pif*, and sometimes they go kerfuffle-zizz-kabow-gaboom. It drew together enough salient points to do the latter, methinks. Good job.

    • sasqwatch
      Posted October 10, 2010 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

      Anybody have any guesses as to why “USA Today”, why now? A very general question, I know – but it seems very strange and out of place compared to their normal fare.

      • Diane G.
        Posted October 10, 2010 at 9:51 pm | Permalink

        I may be alone, here, but I don’t find this all that surprising. Media’s primary raison d’être is to sell their product, and nothing whips up sales like fanning a little controversy. When you throw in that Jerry’s a Big Name, it sounds like quintessential editor bait to me.

        • Michael Kingsford Gray
          Posted October 11, 2010 at 4:04 am | Permalink

          A minor correction, if I may:
          Media’s primary function is to get eyeballs to meet adverts.
          Their customers are not the readers, but the advertisers.

          • Diane G.
            Posted October 11, 2010 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

            I stand corrected. :) Though there are, in fact, a few ad-free organs around; and wow, does one notice it when writing the subscription check.

  38. gillt
    Posted October 10, 2010 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

    Coyne: “But don’t just take my word for the incompatibility of science and faith…”

    You plugged Ecklund’s book by undercutting her thesis with her own data?! Excellent move.

  39. Intrachresodist
    Posted October 10, 2010 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

    That was a wonderful piece, Jerry!

    I am looking forward to reading strident denials and faith-based claptrap in response.

  40. Art Rigsby
    Posted October 10, 2010 at 10:40 pm | Permalink

    Keep pounding’em Jerry!!!! Great article.

  41. Hempenstein
    Posted October 10, 2010 at 10:44 pm | Permalink

    Excellent! The real fun starts in a few hrs, I guess.

  42. articulett
    Posted October 11, 2010 at 12:03 am | Permalink

    Awesome.

    I’m sure it will strike a nerve.

    But I also think it will move many people closer to reason.

  43. Screechy Monkey
    Posted October 11, 2010 at 12:14 am | Permalink

    Science isn’t religion’s friend yet, but the Templeton Foundation keeps buying it drinks in the hopes of getting the occasional sloppy hook-up.

    • Andy
      Posted October 11, 2010 at 12:48 am | Permalink

      Oh you win Metaphor of the Day!

      • whyevolutionistrue
        Posted October 11, 2010 at 4:16 am | Permalink

        I agree!

      • Posted October 11, 2010 at 10:01 am | Permalink

        I was going to add something about Templeton slipping the public a roofie, but I think SM’s original is best untainted.

    • steve oberski
      Posted October 11, 2010 at 11:40 am | Permalink

      Date rape would be another analogy.

  44. articulett
    Posted October 11, 2010 at 12:34 am | Permalink

    There are tens of thousands of religions and sects and there have been many more through the eons. If any one of them are true, then the rest are wrong on some fundamental level. Of course there is no evidence that there is such a thing as divine truths nor any evidence of invisible beings. Until or unless there is such evidence, I don’t think rational people need to concern themselves with claims made about such things.

    Should there ever be actual evidence for the supernatural, I am sure it will spread rapidly so that scientists can test, refine, and hone the information like they have with everything else we have come to know about reality.

  45. Posted October 11, 2010 at 12:42 am | Permalink

    It would not be justified to reject some claim outrightly; the theories have been very recently published and any comments without going through the theories would not also be justified. Please go through the theories then pass comments.

    • articulett
      Posted October 11, 2010 at 1:33 am | Permalink

      Do you reject Scientology outrightly or have you studied it thoroughly? Do you reject belief in fairies outrightly or have you done in-depth investigations? What about the Greek Myths?

      When things are true, the evidence accumulates.

    • John Phillips, FCD
      Posted October 11, 2010 at 1:46 am | Permalink

      Come back and tell us when they have been properly peer reviewed and accepted by the physics community at large. Until then I have better things to waste my time on.

    • Michael Kingsford Gray
      Posted October 11, 2010 at 4:07 am | Permalink

      Have you studied the theories behind lsgoerihwergtluoism?
      Please go through the theories then pass comments.

    • madamX
      Posted October 11, 2010 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

      Thank you and thank goodness for you, Shafiqifs! Finally some objectivity! Clearly you are a student of the enlightenment and lover of reason.

      Yes, thank you for asking; I have tested many of the theories dictated by scripture with a special emphasis in Islamic theory – the religion I was born into. My tests began very young in life because I, like you, am a lover of truth and have been from a young age. I quickly came to realize at a very tender age that many of the theories like fresh water and salt water not mixing (stated in the Quran, but you knew that) were simply not true (and of course you knew that too). It did not take long to realize that many of the claims made by the Quran lacked any kind of evidence and were stabilized and maintained through authority, tradition, and dogma. I left that ridiculous, and dangerous, belief system and am glad I did.

      But alas, Shafiqif, just like you, not only was the truth important to me but also I could not bear the thought of accepting something on blind faith alone and then accusing others of not having looked into the structure of their belief system. What a hypocrite I would be, how base in character! You and I are truly kindred spirits and I thank you for you refreshing post.

  46. Posted October 11, 2010 at 2:34 am | Permalink

    Science is truth and truth requires thorough investigation keeping every possible option open. Yes I have two masters degrees; one in physics and second involves boilogical science and have upto date information about these two fields wherein philosophy of life and matter is involved. Let you read the articles and the book mentioned in the articles and I am confident you will have no doubt that science has been misled by Darwin and Einstein.

    • Michael Kingsford Gray
      Posted October 11, 2010 at 4:10 am | Permalink

      “…I have two masters degrees; one in physics and second involves boilogical science…”

      Show me the evidence, or I with-hold belief that you possess such things.

    • AdamK
      Posted October 11, 2010 at 6:13 am | Permalink

      Finally, a boilogist! I have so many questions about my morning eggs.

      • Diane G.
        Posted October 11, 2010 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

        I thought he meant that thing on your bum…

    • Posted October 11, 2010 at 6:54 am | Permalink

      Don’t lie about your qualifications. You’re too stupid to get away with it.

  47. Posted October 11, 2010 at 3:14 am | Permalink

    Great article. Congratulations!

  48. maddoxflower
    Posted October 11, 2010 at 3:51 am | Permalink

    Great article, very well argued, outspoken and non-accomodating; just what I needed to start my day.

    And you gotta love the way one of these tooltips pops up when you hover your mouse pointer over “Abraham” in the second sentence, promising “More news, photos about Abraham” ;-)

    • Stewart
      Posted October 11, 2010 at 3:58 am | Permalink

      Click on it to see Abraham’s wonderful legacy to civilisation: Mid-East conflict, burning Qurans, the threat of interfaith marriages. Sure doesn’t hurt Jerry’s point.

  49. Sigmund
    Posted October 11, 2010 at 3:54 am | Permalink

    I think I can see where religious apologists will attack you on this piece.
    First they will criticize the claim that you are 100% certain that there is no God.
    Then they will attack the claim that science can answer every single question.
    Finally they will maintain that the claim that every single religious person is a stupid fundamentalist is quite simply wrong.

  50. Stephen P
    Posted October 11, 2010 at 4:04 am | Permalink

    I downloaded the first one. One doesn’t need to go further than the first few paragraphs to see that it is utter drivel. The author is as well informed about science as most people here are about medieval Mongolian folk-dancing.

    Apart from anything else, the paper has no reference list, and the only references I could find on a quick scan of the text were to … wait for it … Harun Yahya.

    Say no more.

    • Stephen P
      Posted October 11, 2010 at 4:58 am | Permalink

      Something weird has happened; my first comment was a reply to the first comment of shafiqifs, which has now disappeared.

      • articulett
        Posted October 11, 2010 at 8:30 am | Permalink

        My reply above was to shafiquifs too.

        • Diane G.
          Posted October 11, 2010 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

          I guess this is why dsmvwlng is helpful…

  51. Posted October 11, 2010 at 4:23 am | Permalink

    Yes! Indian Journal of Science & Technology is a peer reviewed journal and the articles are available on http://www.indjst.org (under popular articles column) free.

    • Posted October 11, 2010 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

      Not indexed by JCR; that’s an immediate “quack alert” for me (hell, plenty of things that are indexed there are borderline). So, no. Fail.

  52. ambulocetacean
    Posted October 11, 2010 at 5:13 am | Permalink

    Jolly good show, Jerry. I think it’s important that the Gnus continue to make use of old media. That’s still the best way to reach people who have little/no/passing interest in science and atheisms and stuff.

  53. Håvard
    Posted October 11, 2010 at 5:36 am | Permalink

    That was a thing of beauty. Thank you.

  54. Andrew
    Posted October 11, 2010 at 5:41 am | Permalink

    Jerry Coyne…I would totally be gay with you for a day.

  55. David Orenstein
    Posted October 11, 2010 at 6:25 am | Permalink

    Excellent! I thought the Op-Ed was perfect. I hope you don’t mind but I’m putting it on my Facebook page.

  56. Donovan
    Posted October 11, 2010 at 6:46 am | Permalink

    As usual, nice article, Jerry. I hate the idea of religion claiming the moral “why” as their domain. They’ve had thousands of years to refine society’s morals and have reached, without the aid of enlightenment secular morals, the point where instead of killing your daughter when she’s raped, throwing acid in her face or convincing her to kill herself.

    Would the world be better if we gave our moral philosophy over to science and reason? I honestly don’t know, since I don’t know all the variables. Perhaps there are deeper differences between Denmark and Afghanistan that I don’t know of that could confound such a prediction. But what I do know is religion has been an utter failure and should be rejected. Religion doesn’t inspire good works, humanity does.

  57. Chuck O'Connor
    Posted October 11, 2010 at 8:21 am | Permalink

    Dr. Coyne,

    Thanks for this Op Ed, your blog and your book. You’ve helped me come out of the closet as an atheist and move past the cognitive bias of my Christian superstition.

  58. Thomas Hsieh
    Posted October 11, 2010 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    The author states, “We now know that the universe did not require a creator…..Science and faith are fundamentally incompatible, and for precisely the same reason that irrationality and rationality are incompatible.”
    =========
    And how is this “Science”? The Author makes absolute facts that are not “Prove-able” according to definition of science. What could be possible does not make it so; nor mere conjecture of what is impossible make it true. One must factor in the reality that “Religion” nor “Science” (Man’s Understanding) are right 100% of the time; as such, each side can point out fringe explanations and accepted theories from either side to refute, but those arguments will never prove the other’s fundamental position is absolutely false….at least not until it’s too late for both – when earthly life ceases.

    • articulett
      Posted October 11, 2010 at 8:55 am | Permalink

      Thomas Hseih

      “How is this science?”, you ask? It’s science in the same way that we can say that the appearance of the sun moving across the sky does not need gods as an explanation. It’s science in the same way that we can say, “we know that the universe did not require magic or fairies.” It’s science in the same way that we can say that demons are not necessary to explain bad things.

      And this comes from a Stephen Hawking quote– so he’s the scientist you want to aim your verbiage at.

    • Posted October 12, 2010 at 6:23 am | Permalink

      Since we have plausible natural explanations, supported by models and evidence, for the universe that do not require any “creator”, no creator is required.

      See — it’s easy! It need not be “Prove-able”, just supported by reason and evidence.

      Most religious doctrines that can be tested have failed those tests and are therefore “disproven”. Science strives to create such tests for itself, whereas religion generally tries to avoid them. That’s one of many reasons why science is superior to religion as a path toward knowledge.

  59. JBlilie
    Posted October 11, 2010 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    Jerry: Bloody well done! I too am surprised they ran it. I think this may be the best summation of the basic science-religion conflict that I’ve read. I’m writin’ this down …

  60. Posted October 11, 2010 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    Yee-ha! About the popularity and the comments. Tolja so, tolja so, tolja so (that’s for Mooney and Kurtz and Wright and all the other “but how is this helping?” types, not our host).

    Theists don’t need more people speaking up for the theist point of view – they already have A LOT of those. Atheists do. That’s how this is Helping.

    • Diane G.
      Posted October 11, 2010 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

      Theists don’t need more people speaking up for the theist point of view – they already have A LOT of those. Atheists do. That’s how this is Helping.

      QFT.

      Should be our stock answer whenever that stupid question arises.

  61. Posted October 11, 2010 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    Excellent, more then usually excellent.

    Thank you.

  62. Posted October 11, 2010 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    Yikes, Jerry, your comments have gone nuts – mine just appeared above one that’s nine hours older.

  63. Greg
    Posted October 11, 2010 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    Hi Jerry,

    I read your Op-Ed and I have a 3rd option for you. I see no reason that science and religion are incompatible. The issue is “organized” religion.

    My search for the truth started with the premise that no organized religion has a monopoly on the truth. But that there is truth is all of them.

    After many years my conclusions are that a God exists, that we live forever or effectively so, and that we choose to come to earth and inhabit earthly bodies in a quest for enlightenment.

    This equates to doing “hard time” to speed up the process, but the fact of reincarnation is optional for us. That goes a long way towards explaining why wars, famines etc exist. Without trials, people do not grow emotionally or intellectually.

    I think there are yet undiscovered scientific explanations on how this is possible in terms of energy, and wavelengths but there is little doubt in my mind that this is the real truth or a close enough version of it.

    • Josh Slocum
      Posted October 11, 2010 at 10:56 am | Permalink

      After many years my conclusions are that a God exists, that we live forever or effectively so, and that we choose to come to earth and inhabit earthly bodies in a quest for enlightenment.

      That’s not a “conclusion.” That’s a “I wanna believe this real real bad because it comforts me” assertion.

      And it’s deeply silly. You should be embarrassed.

    • truthspeaker
      Posted October 11, 2010 at 11:06 am | Permalink

      Do you have any evidence to support your conclusions?

    • steve oberski
      Posted October 11, 2010 at 11:51 am | Permalink

      That goes a long way towards explaining why wars, famines etc exist. Without trials, people do not grow emotionally or intellectually.

      Ah yes, billions of people have suffered so you can grow emotionally or intellectually.

      That is not only wrong, it’s morally repugnant.

      That puts you on the same ethical footing as Francis Collins, who claimed that God let his daughter be raped to make Francis Collins a better person.

    • Notagod
      Posted October 11, 2010 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

      Can, haz cheezburger?

  64. David Evans
    Posted October 11, 2010 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    “But how can you be sure you’re right if you can’t tell whether you’re wrong?”

    Best-ever one-liner on this topic. The rest of the piece is great too.

    • Diane G.
      Posted October 11, 2010 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

      Yes. A gem of a sentence in a gem of a paragraph in a gem of an article. Becomes more of a tour de force with each re-reading.

  65. Daniel Hochberg
    Posted October 11, 2010 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    Rabid rantings of people who are trying desperately to ignore God.

    As a Christian, I thought Mr. Coyne’s book on “Why Evolution is True” was quite convincing, and wonderfully free of the type of atheistic cant that his USA Today article contains.

    I feel there is some possibility evolution is true; God-guided or planned, if it is. But evolution does not disprove the existence of God, it merely disproves the doctrine of biblical inerrancy. Even the great Christian apologist C.S. Lewis felt that the Genesis creation account was “mythopoetic”, as I do.

    Yet the evidence for God is everywhere. Coyne is mistaken if he thinks we are believing something that cannot be proven. God shows himself in various ways. Certainly the strong sense of right and wrong most human beings possess is one. I know evolutionists think they are going to prove that sense is a product of evolution, and they will prove that, to themselves, because they don’t want to see the truth.

    Also, if you pay attention, God shows himself in the circumstances of your life. To many coincidences happen to be coincidence.

    This format does not allow for an exhaustive treatment of the reasons for belief in the existence of God. If those of you who are atheists are indeed open-minded, I would recommend the salutary exercise of reading opinions outside your belief system. Certainly read C.S. Lewis (“Mere Christianity”, “A Mind Awake”, others), Tim Keller (“The Reason for God”), and Lee Strobel’s “The Case for…” series.

    You may find something you are actually looking for. At the very least, you will find that the arguments advanced by most atheists against the existence of God are not terribly good ones.

    • Kevin
      Posted October 11, 2010 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, no kidding, if CS Lewis and Lee Strobel is the best you’ve got, then you’ve got nothing.

      Seriously, we’ve read all of that drivel, and more.

      Thin gruel.

    • Posted October 11, 2010 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

      All you have done is wave your hand over a collection of familiar apologetic writings and provided us with your opinion (which many of us do not share) on how morality is walled off from scientific investigation while overlooking how remarkable coincidences occur often because there are so many things happening all the time. You could at least tell us what arguments against the existence of God are “not terribly good”, such as…?

    • sasqwatch
      Posted October 11, 2010 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

      I’m afraid it’s YOU who haven’t been paying attention, Daniel. Witness the sea of cogency in this thread that surrounds your baseless twaddle.

    • Chuck O'Connor
      Posted October 11, 2010 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

      Look Daniel,

      Many of us here were once vested in our inculcated religions. I assume you are a Christian by your apologetic choices and wonder how you live with yourself in certainty that your version of God is true or, for that matter, your version of Christianity is true. I’ve read all you say and think all is a product of either skilled rhetoric (Lewis and Keller) or dishonest scholarship (Strobel). Strobel has been falsified very well in Robert Price’s new book “A Case Against the Case for Christ”. You sound like most people I’ve known within the Christian Church; confidence bordering on smugness relative to the mythic preference you’ve adopted to lend meaning to the unknown. If you are seriously interested in Philosophy of Religion or advanced theology I’d suggest you bring something more serious than the latest pop-theology or the tired “Moral Law” argument (Did the Christian Church KNOW right from wrong when they burned witches in Salem or did the theological over-ride compromise their in-dwelt moral mechanism)? At least give us the benefit of the doubt and cite Plantinga’s Free Will defense, Alston’s Epistemology of Religious Experince or Craig’s appropriation of the Kaalam Cosmological argument. Lewis, Keller and Strobel – thin gruel indeed. I doubt you’ve investigated or understood any atheist arguments and don’t have a moral philosophy outside of your church community’s insular agreements (I base this on your choice of Christian apologetics not, on the fact you are a believer).

  66. Kevin
    Posted October 11, 2010 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    Bravo. Spot on.

    I especially like your using Ecklund’s data against her conclusions.

    • KP
      Posted October 11, 2010 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

      Yes, I caught that too. Most excellent.

  67. KP
    Posted October 11, 2010 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    Great job.

  68. Smith Powell
    Posted October 11, 2010 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

    I’m glad someone else was a bit puzzled by the cartoon in USAToday. If somebody can explain the symbolism to me, I would appreciate it.

  69. Carol Haskins
    Posted October 11, 2010 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for such an inspiring article!

  70. Posted October 11, 2010 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

    Some of you may think that a peccadillo is a small sin or moral vice, or something of the kind. It is, of course, actually a cross between a peccary and an armadillo, and makes a fine pet. Maybe Jerry should buy some to go with his cats, and then he’d be as famous as that Brett Favre guy … or maybe USA Today could just publish an article about the cats.

    Just some small, helpful PR suggestions. ;)

  71. Terry Sandbek
    Posted October 11, 2010 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

    Jerry

    I have a mailing list of several dozen people who are interested in skepticism and related topics. I recently sent the list a copy of your op-ed piece, “Science and religion aren’t friends.” One person on the list is the token accomodationist. He sent me a return comment that I am forwarding to you (below) hoping it might give you a chuckle. Please feel free to respond to it if it is worth your while. The writer signed his name.

    Thanks,
    Terry Sandbek
    P.S. Sorry for the two earlier non-comments. I used RoboForm for filling in the blanks and it insisted on sending them prematurely without my comments.
    —————————–

    My, my, Professor Coyne sure doth protest too much!

    Same old arguments.

    There will be peace in the valley only when extremists at both ends truly understand and accept where those at other end are coming from. Using one’s own metric to measure the worth of someone else’s world view is folly.

    All this religion-bashing is counter-productive if the objective is to get the theists to see the light. However, if atheists are serious about ridding the world of religion, then I suggest a two-pronged attack:

    Prong One: Top-down. Atheists meet with the leader of the free world and convert Barack Hussein Obama from Christianity to atheism (or at least agnosticism). He publicly proclaims his conversion, then his disciples do likewise and spread the word.

    Prong Two: Bottom-up. Pairs of atheists go door-to-door throughout the nation proselytizing, handing out copies of The God Delusion, and leading neighborhood weekly group study meetings. The best converts are trained to be local leaders of the atheist movement. Atheism spreads house by house, neighborhood by neighborhood.

    If something akin to the above does not take place, and if the rise in secularism does not accelerate, then, according to my calculations, atheism will not be the dominant ism before we enter the next ice age!

    Richard Kowaleski

  72. Pascal Nelson
    Posted October 11, 2010 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

    Word!

    From a not so silent atheist in Texas (of all places!).

    Take cheer that there are more of us out here than one would think.

  73. Rick Rutel
    Posted October 11, 2010 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

    Your article titled “Science and Religion Aren’t Friends” in the October 11th issue of USA Today was positively brilliant. I can not think of any other published viewpoint so truthfully stated and remarkably easy to comprehend. I believe in science. I believe that the world’s continued existence will rely on the backs of scientific research and discovery. Thank you ever so much for speaking the truth about science and religion.
    Rick Rutel

  74. Ricardo
    Posted October 11, 2010 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

    Great article!!! I’ll buy your book; I’ve been interested in these topics for years now…

  75. ~Opus~
    Posted October 12, 2010 at 3:29 am | Permalink

    I gotta hand it to the non-believers. Their faith in science, and their determination to turn others from their personal beliefs is admirable. CONVERT THE BELEIVERS!

    While you condemn people of religious faith with such fervor, you sound just like them. The only difference is WHERE your faith is, not whether or not you have any.

    Of course more people have murdered and died because of religion, but at least they make a stand. Scientists, on the other hand, make it more efficient to kill, then stand back and observe the results, all the while snikering at the motives of the fools that use the technology that they provided.

    I will show you proof of God when you show me proof of a black hole, or a quark, or any other unproven scientific theory. Of course I mean undenible video evidence.

    Does the scientific explanation of a miracle make that miracle any less miraculous?

    I guess every belief has it’s radicals that make no room for other ideas or thoughts. Most of the postings on this board remind me of the Christian crusades and the imbeciles of the Spanish Inquisitions as well as the morons who flew planes into buildings.

    • Michael Kingsford Gray
      Posted October 15, 2010 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

      Opus:
      “I will show you proof of God when you show me proof of a black hole, or a quark, or any other unproven scientific theory. Of course I mean undenible video evidence.”

      I take it then that you have undeniable video evidence of a god, but are strangely electing to not reveal it until Jerry dances to your tune?
      Why not reveal this truly Earth-shattering video evidence at once?

  76. Ann Erli
    Posted October 12, 2010 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    I am astonished that as an apparently educated scintist and ex-believer Mr. Coyne makes no distinction between God and the Church, no refernce to the historic multitude of ‘councils’ through which the early Church (Church officials and monarchs with some very ungodly agendas) imposed a human view on worship and doctrine. There are only 2 commandments – love God with all your heart etc and love your neighbour as yourself. This does not seem unduly difficult, but man’s urge to oraganise and his own agendas have taken us a long way from basics.
    How far science is based wholly on the belief that there IS an answer to X is a ‘conviction of things not seen’It seems there is no room for the idea that the language and logic of the spirit and indeed God, is so far removed from from everyday language and logic as to be inaccesible – to those who do not seek it with an open mind. Any difference in expression will inevitably give rise to a different array of questions. Think about it.
    Science can dissect a flower, explain how the seed germinates etc, but is all you are left with is bits of dead foliage, a disconnected heap that still does not edxplain ‘Why’. This Universe is like Russian dolls, there is always another layer and even when you have got to the last doll, you can ask, ‘Why all the other dolls?’ – without answering the core question. Science does not have all the answers and different scientific disciplnes/theories do not all agree with each other, though they may work in specified fields.
    Scientists do not kill each other over their hypotheses (though professional jealousy has led to some career assinations), but science (with no regard for consequences, or maybe because of them) has created bombs, poisons etc and unreasonably raised the expectations of the less educated about its promised gifts.
    One thing, I feel is that in the absence of God we have only ourselves and each other to impress – a sitaution that would suit many scientists, but one that would leave us poorer and much less adventurous than we are. A believer has one fixed point and can cope with every wobble the world throws at them, science is so insecure it has to have the manual for life. I know where I stand and so does He.

    • Diane G.
      Posted October 12, 2010 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

      SpellCheck is your friend.

  77. Chuck
    Posted October 15, 2010 at 4:50 am | Permalink

    Why do believers like this Opus guy continue to parade their irrational defensiveness as argument. Just because you can’t interpret the predictive evidence science provides for quarks and black holes doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Your demand that video evidence be offered is only a testament to the conspiracy ignorance and narcissism enjoy with religious superstition.

    Also, your illustration of rationalists standing back and laughing at holy warriors is a strawman. Provide some evidence please.

    Lastly, if you are going to argue by analogy amd state that rationalists are like the Spanish Inquisitors then complete the analogy beyond your sense of persecution. Yes, you feel persecuted but it is a fallacy to ascribe responsibility for that feeling to those of us who simply don’t endorse your superstition. To add actions to our disdain by analogy is silly. Unless of course we are organizing tribunals that lead to torture and murder for the illogical like yourself. Don’t worry, we aren’t.


2 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. [...] Jerry Coyne: here is his op-ed on how science and religion are incompatible: [...]The religious approach to understanding inevitably results in different faiths holding incompatible “truths” about the world. Many Christians believe that if you don’t accept Jesus as savior, you’ll burn in hell for eternity. Muslims hold the exact opposite: Those who see Jesus as God’s son are the ones who will roast. Jews see Jesus as a prophet, but not the messiah. Which belief, if any, is right? Because there’s no way to decide, religions have duked it out for centuries, spawning humanity’s miserable history of religious warfare and persecution. [...]

  2. [...] The Gnu Atheists position seems to be popular. That’s a relief. Not every hit is friendly, but every hit counts. [...]

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