Forgive me if I’m not playing well in the sandbox, but I want to point out two errors and a slur that Karl Giberson made in the articles I mentioned yesterday.
First, over at BioLogos, Giberson chastises me for my theological unsophistication:
Caricaturing the [theodicy] argument Coyne writes:
Evolution by natural causes in effect emancipates religion from the shackles of theodicy. No longer need we agonize about why a Creator God is the world’s leading abortionist and mass murderer… No longer need we be tempted to blaspheme an omnipotent Deity by charging Him directly responsible for human frailties and physical shortcomings … No longer need we blame a Creator God’s direct hand for any of these disturbing empirical facts. Instead, we can put the blame squarely on the agency of insentient natural evolutionary causation.
Coyne concludes: “If evolution is to become a “welcome partner” to religion, the faithful will have to accept that evolution and natural selection were God’s plan for creating life.
There’s a slight problem here. The quote in italics, attributed to me, is not mine. It is in fact a quote by John Avise in the PNAS article that Giberson is praising, “Footprints of nonsentient design inside the human genome”
(you’ll find it on p. 7 of Avise’s piece). So hurt is Giberson by the atheists’ refusal to play, and so eager is he to rush his criticisms of the New Atheists into print, that he doesn’t even notice that what he claims is my “caricature” of theodicy is actually the argument that Avise is making and that Giberson himself is defending.
I know Giberson reads this website, so I expect him to fix this forthwith.
And, while we’re fixing the record, let’s look at one statement Giberson makes while playing nice with Dan Dennett in the USA Today piece:
Tufts University philosopher and leading atheist Daniel Dennet no doubt finds all this mystifying, since he thinks seminary education should ultimately terminate one’s faith: “Anybody who goes through seminary and comes out believing in God hasn’t been paying attention,” he told The Boston Globe.
Now let’s forget that he misspells “Dennett” (and it’s not a typo, because he does it in the next sentence, too). Here’s what “Dennet” told the Boston Globe:
DENNETT: It’s true, here are these young people in seminary, they have come with the purest of hearts and the noblest of intentions and they’re going to devote their lives to God. And one of the first things they learn is textual criticism. They’re looking at all the existing papyruses and scrolls and so forth and learning about the recension of the texts — the tortuous and often controversial historical path from Hebrew, Greek, and Latin versions of the books of the Bible — and all the Apocryphal books that got rejected — to the King James Version and all the later English translations. And that’s not what they taught you in Sunday school. That’s the joke that we often provoke from people when we talk about this: Anybody who goes through seminary and comes out believing in God hasn’t been paying attention. [My italics.]
Yes, Dennett said it, but it’s clear that he’s describing other peoples’ reactions. This quote in fact comes from p. 23 of the study by Dennett and Linda LaScola, “Preachers who are not believers,” (download it here), examining the curious case of active clergy who don’t accept God:
A gulf opened up between what one says from the pulpit and what one has been taught in seminary. This gulf is well-known in religious circles. . . Every Christian minister, not just those in our little study, has to confront this awkwardness, and no doubt there are many more ways of responding to it than our small sample illustrates. How widespread is this phenomenon? When we asked one of the other pastors we talked with initially if he thought clergy with his views were rare in the church, he responded “Oh, you can’t go through seminary and come out believing in God!” Surely an overstatement, but a telling one.
This statement was made not by Dennett but by a pastor, and although that’s not completely clear in the Globe piece, what is clear is that the words don’t represent Dennett’s own thoughts—in fact, he and LaScola characterize them as an “overstatement” in the original article. I guess Giberson didn’t read that.
And finally, there’s this little bit of nastiness from Giberson’s USA Today piece:
Sam Harris described Collins’ personal religious journey, unfolded in his best-seller The Language of God, as an account of “nothing less than an intellectual suicide.” Harris, who finally completed his Ph.D. in neuroscience at UCLA, apparently believes that neurons used for religious belief simply won’t work if applied to science.
Finally completed his Ph.D? What’s that all about? It can be nothing other than a slap at Harris for taking too long to get his doctorate. Absent the intent to slur, the word “finally” is superfluous. But jeez, Dr. Giberson, given that Harris is producing big books, running a website, writing a lot of popular articles, dealing with a new mouth to feed, and doing graduate work, all at the same time, it’s amazing that he could get a Ph.D. at all.
Since Giberson is playing Joe McCarthy, accusing New Atheists of being “un-American” in their criticism of faith, let me play Joseph Welch: “Have you no sense of decency, Dr. Giberson? At long last, have you left no sense of decency—or scholarship?”