An apology

After rereading the piece I wrote on Krauss yesterday, and considering the readers’ comments as well, I realize that I was indeed overly splenetic and intemperate in my criticism.  I don’t think Krauss is an accommodationist, and greatly appreciate his efforts to popularize science and to push the faithful toward a materialism that does explain the universe.

All I can plead is that, as Larry suspected, I did get up on the wrong side of the bed yesterday, and I took it out on a man who didn’t deserve that invective.  So I apologize to both Larry and the readers, and have to say that since I started posting three years ago, this is the only piece that I regret having written. Consider it retracted, and mea culpa.

91 Comments

  1. Duncan
    Posted February 8, 2012 at 4:25 am | Permalink

    You’ve just gone up in my estimation even further Jerry.

  2. Ray Moscow
    Posted February 8, 2012 at 4:27 am | Permalink

    Well said, Jerry.

    Krauss is one of the good guys.

  3. Posted February 8, 2012 at 4:35 am | Permalink

    I’m sorry, this just won’t do. This isn’t shrill or strident at all! ;-)

    Have a kudo or two.

    /@

    • Posted February 8, 2012 at 4:51 am | Permalink

      :-) Apostasy! Rank heresy!

    • GBJames
      Posted February 8, 2012 at 6:00 am | Permalink

      +1

    • Grammar Police
      Posted February 8, 2012 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

      “Kudos” isn’t a plural–it’s a Greek singular noun meaning “honor” or “praise.”

      • Posted February 8, 2012 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

        Do you also know the origin of the word “facetious”?

        :-D

        /@

  4. Mike Herron
    Posted February 8, 2012 at 4:36 am | Permalink

    Wow, impressive. I am glad you said this.

  5. Fernando
    Posted February 8, 2012 at 4:47 am | Permalink

    You’ve just gone up in my estimation even further Jerry. (2)

  6. Bret Bearup
    Posted February 8, 2012 at 4:48 am | Permalink

    Good stuff, Jerry. Further, kudos on the use of the term “splenetic”. It’s a rarely used word and I delight when I see it pop up from time to time.

    • Papalinton
      Posted February 8, 2012 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

      ‘Splenetic’
      But it parks the spleen (an honourable organ) in an unwarranted and thoroughly undeserved position not of its own making, akin to hate speech.

      However, I too delight in the use of the word.

      :o)

  7. Posted February 8, 2012 at 4:52 am | Permalink

    Classy, even by non-internet standards!

    h/t Jerry (now that I know what it means)

  8. Posted February 8, 2012 at 4:56 am | Permalink

    Good show!

  9. Posted February 8, 2012 at 5:02 am | Permalink

    Nobody’s ever always right.

    And why a zygote is a monumental deal shouldn’t be that perplexing. Not when a person’s failure to conceive, month after month after month, is a matter of piercing sorrow, and not when the opposite happening–the first inklings of a baby in the works–elicits ecstasy. (Or else–case in point–nightmarish anxiety.)

  10. Gary Bates
    Posted February 8, 2012 at 5:04 am | Permalink

    It certainly wasn’t the usual Jerry! Great that you realised this however and made amends :)

  11. sasqwatch
    Posted February 8, 2012 at 5:06 am | Permalink

    Yet another reason we (Butter, Terri & I) love this oasis. Thank you for what you do. – Steve

  12. Christopher
    Posted February 8, 2012 at 5:11 am | Permalink

    Damn you Jerry, I thought you were infallible!
    ;)

    • Chris Booth
      Posted February 8, 2012 at 9:43 pm | Permalink

      Now he is.
      ;-)

  13. Occam
    Posted February 8, 2012 at 5:16 am | Permalink

    The quality of the debate, including the gutsy but measured response by Lawrence Krauss, and especially Jerry’s spirited apology — it takes real guts to acknowledge a splenetic error of appreciation, in public, on one’s own website! — is, in my view, a vindication of the best that WEIT stands for.

    Well done, everybody, and thank you, Jerry!

    • Matthew Cobb
      Posted February 8, 2012 at 5:38 am | Permalink

      +1

  14. Posted February 8, 2012 at 5:37 am | Permalink

    Jerry, if anything this re-emphasizes your integrity. Being able to say “I got it wrong” requires no excuse and you have done exactly the right thing.

  15. Matt G
    Posted February 8, 2012 at 6:06 am | Permalink

    You people are going waaay too easy on Jerry. He should be required to say ten ave marias. If he refuses, he gets…the comfy chair!!

    • Chris Booth
      Posted February 8, 2012 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

      Oh, no! Not the Comfy Chair!

  16. Daryl
    Posted February 8, 2012 at 6:19 am | Permalink

    Good heavens! Jerry’s an apologist now!

    But seriously Jerry, thank you for demonstrating what a person should do when they think they’ve gotten something wrong. Everyone makes mistakes sometimes.

    Re. your claim that the post was the only one you’ve regretted writing, for me it was the only post of yours I ever found disappointing. Considering how often you post, that’s remarkable!

    • chance
      Posted February 8, 2012 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

      It is remarkable, and I feel the same way.

  17. rich sammons
    Posted February 8, 2012 at 6:35 am | Permalink

    Where else can we find one falling on the sword for a “…splenetic…” diatribe? No doubt the result of a splenial cramp causing acute cerebral atrophy – usually only lasts a few moments, but certainly can lead to obsessing splenetically. Congrats on the quick recovery!

  18. Knuckle Pushups
    Posted February 8, 2012 at 6:40 am | Permalink

    Gone tabloid?

  19. Posted February 8, 2012 at 6:43 am | Permalink

    Now Ceiling Cat will never permit you to be Pope.

  20. Lynn Wilhelm
    Posted February 8, 2012 at 6:44 am | Permalink

    Great job Jerry.
    You set an excellent example to everyone.

    It’s also honorable that you’ve left the post up. I suppose you could unpublish the post and pretend it never happened (if you were a dishonest person). I know if you had, I’d have trouble coming here daily.

    (It might be nice to change the title of the post to reflect your current feelings and your apology.)

  21. Steve
    Posted February 8, 2012 at 6:56 am | Permalink

    Roses are red, violets are blue,
    your post is quite beautiful,
    and all feel that you’re true.

    All except one, who when reading the part,
    -…the only piece I regret having written-
    it struck Massimo in the heart.

    • chance
      Posted February 8, 2012 at 9:34 pm | Permalink

      roooooofl

  22. Astro Nj
    Posted February 8, 2012 at 6:59 am | Permalink

    Damn.. Its good to see this. I was losing hope yesterday.

  23. TJR
    Posted February 8, 2012 at 7:00 am | Permalink

    Good stuff all round.

    Illustrates why so many of us come here, not just the quantity and quality of the postings, but also the unusually high signal-to-noise ratio in the comments.

  24. Llwddythlw
    Posted February 8, 2012 at 7:16 am | Permalink

    And now you get to read Krauss’ excellent book with additional gusto.

  25. Jerrold Alpern
    Posted February 8, 2012 at 7:24 am | Permalink

    Jerry,

    “Class is grace under pressure.”

    Thank you.

    – Jerry

  26. Tulse
    Posted February 8, 2012 at 7:38 am | Permalink

    Very classy, Jerry.

    A suggestion: you might want to update the original post to note this one.

    • whyevolutionistrue
      Posted February 8, 2012 at 7:43 am | Permalink

      Good suggestion, and I’ve done that. Thanks.

  27. Jack van Beverningk
    Posted February 8, 2012 at 7:42 am | Permalink

    Excellent!
    I must admit you had me scratching my head with that post.
    (I started to wonder if you weren’t slowly going .. and it pains me to say this .. the way of P.Z., who, I think, lately has developed a tendency to go WAY overboard -at least to my taste-).

    I have a deep respect for people who can see their wrongs, confront them, apologize where needed and move on.Chapeau!

  28. hazur
    Posted February 8, 2012 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    “…this is the only piece that I regret having written.” Well, that’s what happens when you exercise your free will.:)

  29. Steve Zara
    Posted February 8, 2012 at 8:08 am | Permalink

    Krauss isn’t an apologist for faith, but I did find the end of his piece rather strange. It does support the idea that it is acceptable for religion to speculate about areas of knowledge that science hasn’t reached yet, and perhaps may never reach. If religion stuck to being science fiction, there would be no problem.

    • Posted February 8, 2012 at 8:58 am | Permalink

      If religion stuck to being science fiction, there would be no problem.

      FIFY!

      /@

      • Posted February 8, 2012 at 8:58 am | Permalink

        :-( blokcquote fail

  30. Posted February 8, 2012 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    Last night I went to bed with a distressed mind and “heart;” this morning I am SO relieved! J.A.C., you are a GOOD MAN!
    _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

    First chance you get, do read Krauss’ A UNIVERSE FROM NOTHING from cover to cover (including Dawkins’ epilogue); you’ll be glad you did.

  31. MAUCH
    Posted February 8, 2012 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    We should commend Jerry Coyne for reconsidering his comments. Both writers while being uncompomising in their ideals use different approaches to attack the problem. Hopefully with both effective approaches out there god’s faithful will be jared into using that organ that has evolved between their ears.

  32. Posted February 8, 2012 at 8:42 am | Permalink

    I had begun composing my own “spendic” rant before I saw this post. In my view, the word “accommodationist” has become so divisive and easily employed that it comes to alienate even our allies. I’m glad you walked this usage back in this case.

    • Dominic
      Posted February 8, 2012 at 8:59 am | Permalink

      For “accommodationist” substitute “hotelier”! ;)

  33. Dominic
    Posted February 8, 2012 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    Let he who has not sinned etc…

    The trouble with electronic media! Write that annoyed e-mail for example then hit send and regret it instantly… in the good old days a letter would be half way through the writing process and one would have thought better and binned it!

    You did well.

  34. RFW
    Posted February 8, 2012 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    Three phrases you don’t see too often on the intertubes:

    “I was wrong”

    “I apologize”

    “I don’t know”

    To use any of these phrases gives one credibility – not that Professor Coyne lacked credibility before, but an extra swipe with the brush never hurts.

  35. Posted February 8, 2012 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    Bravo.

    • S A GOULD
      Posted February 8, 2012 at 11:34 am | Permalink

      Damn! An actual, sincere, classy apology!

      It’s been YEARS since I saw one of those, I was quite sure they were extinct!

  36. Posted February 8, 2012 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    It seems that the hardest words to speak are
    “I don’t know”, “I was wrong”, and “I’m sorry”. Kudos for admitting error and offering an apology.

    • Posted February 8, 2012 at 9:58 am | Permalink

      In which film did Fred Astaire say (something like), “I seldom apologise… but then I rarely make mistakes”?

      (If not Fred, someone from that era…)

      Again, kudos to Jerry for doing so on one of those rare occasions.

      /@

      • Posted February 8, 2012 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

        Btw, it was Fred who said, “I don’t often try to apologize ’cause I seldom make any mistakes,” in Follow the Fleet (1936).

        /@

  37. Don
    Posted February 8, 2012 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    I thought your observations may have been a little off the mark. I had just finished reading “A Universe From Nothing” the day before your comment, and I liked it. I didn’t feel Krauss was accommodating, and I am so glad you apologized.

  38. Yi
    Posted February 8, 2012 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    The greatness of a scientist lies at her/his willingness to change her/his mind (and apologize) in the face of evidence or better understanding of the evidence. Well done!

  39. Maria Jinich
    Posted February 8, 2012 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    Good for you, Jerry. We did not expect less from you!

  40. Posted February 8, 2012 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    eh, a little stridency for the truth is ok…

    always wundered, wot side of bed is rite one or wrong?

  41. neil
    Posted February 8, 2012 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    You were having a bad day. Everyone is entitled to a bad day now and then. If Santorum becomes prez, we atheists will be having a lot of them.

    • GBJames
      Posted February 8, 2012 at 10:59 am | Permalink

      No kidding. And if Santorum places second in the 1012 primary race, he’ll probably become the automatic Republican front-runner in the 2016 competition. It boggles the mind.

      • Posted February 8, 2012 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

        Santorum’s views would probably have been very popular in 1012.

        • Posted February 8, 2012 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

          Hmm.

          Not that they aren’t right now.
          :(

          • GBJames
            Posted February 8, 2012 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

            lol

            Someday I’ll learn to read it before hitting the “Post” button.

        • Posted February 8, 2012 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

          Nah, he’d’ve been too progressive…

          /@

          • Chris Booth
            Posted February 8, 2012 at 9:34 pm | Permalink

            Santorum is a wizard (aka Raggedassed the Brown). All his thinking is done in his Sanctum Santorum….

        • chance
          Posted February 8, 2012 at 9:38 pm | Permalink

          lol

  42. Bjarte Foshaug
    Posted February 8, 2012 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    I like Lawrence Krauss (and highly recommend his book btw.), but if Jerry’s initial post was “intemperate” enough to need a retraction, then most accommodationists should certainly refrain from writing another sentence (at least on the topic of atheism) ever again. Anyway, keep up the good work, Jerry. There are days when I think you are the only voice of reason left.

    • FastLane
      Posted February 8, 2012 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

      Yes, but that would require the same level of integrity and self reflection…qualities that seem to be missing in most apologists and accomodationists.

  43. George
    Posted February 8, 2012 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    I guess it is proper to apologize and leave the post. I ignored your views anyway, but you did get me to download the book – I love Larry’s talks on youtube and read snippets of the book. Now it is third on my iPad Kindle. I think I will read on my next trip to Europe.

    So thanks for bringing the book to my attention – and as you know you could have done that better.

  44. DV
    Posted February 8, 2012 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    I’m surprised you’re taking responsibility and apologizing for a past choice of action when you could not have chosen otherwise. :)

    • piero
      Posted February 8, 2012 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

      Pithy observation! Indeed, Jerry could not have chosen otherwise. But then Lawrence Krauss’s measured and indeed almost affectionate reply, plus the reaction of commenters, acted as inputs to Jerry’s yesterdays’ brain, reshaping it to his current brain.

      When I say I feel very happy both for Jerry Coyne and Lawrence Krauss, what I mean is that the current state of my brain reacts positively to the realisation that both Jerry’s and Lawrence’s current state of their brains is such that they can be described as “gentlemanly”.

      In short, well done Jerry and Lawrence! I would have hated to see you two being anything but allies, and even friends.

      • DV
        Posted February 8, 2012 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

        >>Pithy observation!<<

        Thank you!

  45. Mandrellian
    Posted February 8, 2012 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    I appreciate this Jerry – to be honest I thought you must’ve had you Accom-o-meter in overdrive!

    I must point out that, to your credit, I can’t think of an actual accomodationist who’d 1) take others’ criticisms on board 2) act on them appropriately instead of flaming out and, crucially 3) leave the post up. It shows integrity, which is in short supply elsewhere.

  46. Nathan Hevenstone
    Posted February 8, 2012 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    Jerry! How are you an Lawrence supposed to start an internet rivalry with fan-made flame wars if you make apologies like this?!?

    Shame on you!!!!!!!!!
    :D

    Seriously, though… this is why you’re my favorite online blogger… integrity. I was quite… erm… “put off” by your post yesterday on Krauss, and am so happy to read this.

  47. Posted February 8, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    Now how often does Glen Beck, O’Reilly, FOX news, or any politician admit they are wrong???

    What a day that would be…

  48. Papalinton
    Posted February 8, 2012 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    Yes, Jerry, my brow too, creased as I read your OP on Krause. It just did not seem right, as though we were in self-eviscerating mode.

    Your retraction simply demonstrates the honesty with which atheists are able to engage in public discourse, and are prepared to personally wear egg-on-face in safeguarding the higher interests of honesty and integrity.

    That’s why I read this site every day.
    A big positive tick from me.

  49. ador
    Posted February 8, 2012 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    Thats the best of you. It add to the point that still you are human after all. I will drink to that. Cheers.
    ador

  50. Phosphorus99
    Posted February 8, 2012 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    Very commendable to apologize.

    We can all learn something from that attitude.

  51. MosesZD
    Posted February 8, 2012 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    I applaud.

  52. Posted February 8, 2012 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    *puts away popcorn*

    Ahem… I always knew you had integrity ;)

    Well, here we are with evidence of it. Admitting to be wrong is one
    of the hallmarks of good character and professionalism, and something
    that I struggle to do, much
    to my shame, which I have written about on my blog in the past.

    I am relieved that the Old Jerry is back, and the Grumpy Jerry has gone away.

    Cheers and thank you for your shining example of intellectual honesty
    and integrity :)

  53. Dunstar
    Posted February 8, 2012 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

    Lolz. Ur not gettin’ soft are ya?

  54. Dave Ricks
    Posted February 8, 2012 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    SIROTI — Something Is Right On The Internet

    I can go to bed early tonight!

  55. Diane G.
    Posted February 8, 2012 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

    That was big of you.
    :)

    Also, kudos to Krauss for such a diplomatic response in yesterday’s post.

  56. chance
    Posted February 8, 2012 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

    Jerry,

    You’re such a champion. I can’t believe it. I read that piece yesterday and worried you might have gone off your rocker, but I never expected you to fully recant! I’m thoroughly impressed by your agile and strong character :)

  57. Chris Booth
    Posted February 8, 2012 at 9:35 pm | Permalink

    Thank you, Jerry. I was surprised at your post, and simply turned my mind away from it. Lawrence Krauss is truly one of the good guys, and so are you.

    I am gratified at the honor and integrity of your apology, and…as others have said…if anything, my regard for you is even higher for your acknowledgment and apology.

    And a thank you to the gracious Professor Krauss, also, whose online lectures and interviews have been delightful, informative, and entertaining.

    Both of you have enriched my life in many ways, and the lives of many others.

  58. Posted February 8, 2012 at 10:17 pm | Permalink

    Jerry, you are a gentleman and a scholar. I was so surprised to see this today, and I truly appreciate it. Very much. For what it is worth, I woke up on the wrong side of the bed today.. :)

    Lawrence

  59. ingemar oseth
    Posted February 9, 2012 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    Dear Jerry:

    The best among us are usually the quickest to admit when they are wrong, and learn from their mistakes.

    Well done……!

  60. marvol19
    Posted February 12, 2012 at 6:52 am | Permalink

    I must say when I read your comment on the Kraus piece I thought you were a bit harsh and strongly suspected you might have misunderstood or misinterpreted (I never assumed any malicious intent or deliberate belligerence from your side).

    Good to see this was indeed the case, and of course only the wise admit to their faults!

  61. Posted February 14, 2012 at 6:04 am | Permalink

    Spoken like a true scientist. Well done!


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