UPDATE: R. Joseph Hoffman has responded to me on his blog, proving something else: Despite his desperate attempts to be humorous, he’s not funny in the least. Here’s his withering comment on my first book, which he forgot to mention when he claimed that (in contrast to himself) I’d written only a single book:
[Jerry] reminds me that he has written two books. One of which, Speciation, “has become the standard text on modern views about the origin of species.” Damn, I wish I’d written that.
Move over, Oscar Wilde: there’s a new wit in town!
I’m sorry if this seems pompous and incoherent. Accommodationists are a little like theologians that way, I guess. I sometimes find it hard to finish my thoughts in a jealous rage.
I will try to do better in 2012. I plan to study the blog sites of all the headlights and sidelights and use them as models of how it’s done. Whatever it is.
I don’t have the heart—or the need—to further criticize Hoffmann, since he parodies himself so effectively.
Let me first note that although this is an award, it is not an honor. Consider it like the “Razzies” given out for the worst performance in a movie. R. Joseph Hoffmann get the 2011 Mooney for several reasons:
- Extreme pomposity
- Obvious jealousy of the writings of other atheists, most particularly the New Atheists
And, most important:
- Willingness, as an avowed atheist, to spend all his time going after other atheists instead of religion. He is the New Atheist Nanny.
Like the Nobels, I give the Mooney Award for a particularly odious piece of accommodationism rather than a whole body of work. If I must choose one for Hoffman, let it be the one he’s just published at The New Oxonian (oy, what a blog name): “Made in America: Remembering the new atheism (2006-2011).” And so, for R. Joseph Hoffman:
This year’s prize goes to Hoffmann’s largely incoherent rant about how ineffectual and stupid all the New Atheists are. He doesn’t spare a one, save Christopher Hitchens. Here’s his evaluation of me:
Jerry Coyne. Coyne is a biology professor at Chicago. His only book, Why Evolution is True (2009), is his contribution to the anti-intelligent design debate and carries endorsements from Dawkins, Sam Harris, Stephen Pinker and others in the atheist-neo-Darwinist klatch. Dawkins reviewed the book for Atheist News in 2009. Hardly anyone would fault Coyne for his attempts to combat the anti-evolution fever that grips the establishment that is failed American science education. I for one think Jerry Coyne has struck a blow for rationality and common sense by writing this lucid book. It’s a shame therefore that Coyne buys into the Dawkins incompatibility model that makes religion the sworn enemy of science and science the salvation of the race. It is frankly embarassing [sic], after two hundred years of the scientific study of religion, to hear a scientist saying things like this:
In the end, science is no more compatible with religion than with other superstitions, such as leprechauns. Yet we don’t talk about reconciling science with leprechauns. We worry about religion simply because it’s the most venerable superstition — and the most politically and financially powerful.
Just a flash: While leprauchauns [sic] didn’t copy the books that were turned into the books that led to the science Dr Coyne eventually studied, monks and rabbis did. Why does the perfectly reasonable opposition to religious craziness have to descend to this caricaturing of the history of religion? And some information: the University of Chicago Divinity School, one of the most venerable in the nation–after which the Chicago School of Religionswissenschaft got its name (and turned Europeans green with envy at its methods)–one notably lacking in Irish elves–is located at 1025 E. 58th Street. Any number of evolution-accepting scholars–including Martin Riesebrodt would be happy to have a chat and set you straight. Of course, if you really believe that a degree in biology trumps every other discipline, then why bother?
Let me first note that, after taking Eric MacDonald to task for misspelling “foreword,” Hoffmann himself misspells both “embarrassing” and “leprechauns” in his own post! Glass houses, R. Joseph. . .
Oh, and R. Joseph, I have written TWO books: the other, co-written with H. Allen Orr, is Speciation, which has now become the standard text on modern views about the origin of species. You could have found that simply by going to Wikipedia. (I am trying hard here not to call you names.)
Here Hoffman completely misses the point. The point isn’t whether leprechauns have become an object of religious veneration, complete with scripture. After all, so have the science fiction fantasies of L. Ron Hubbard and the completely bogus story of Joseph Smith and the golden plates. The point is that there is no more evidence for God than there is for leprechauns. New Atheism, if it is about anything, is about the evidence to warrant our beliefs. You don’t have to read Duns Scotus or Eriugena to find out that they have no more evidence for God than a superstitious Irishman does for little green men.
As for my connections with the Divinity School here, perhaps Hoffmann doesn’t know that I spent hours over there talking to several theologians and Biblical scholars (certainly more hours than any Div School prof has spent in my department [i.e., zero]), especially when I was reading Robert Wright’s book on God. I count Rick Rosengarten, the former dean of the Div Schook, as a friend, though we disagree on many issues. Hoffmann simply doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
But I’m not dissing Hoffmann just because he’s thick about me. He’s thick about everyone: he dismisses the venerable Eric MacDonald as “just another horn in the bagpipe blown by Coyne and [P. Z.] Myers, as well as for his ignorance of theology (can you imagine?), and waves away P. Z. himself, adding that,”to his credit, Myers has published no book of popular or scientific merit though if his rep holds up as the sun goes down on new atheism he does have a collection of his favourite anecdotes and outrages coming out in 2012.” To his credit????
Needless to say, Dawkins, Dennett, and Harris also get it in the neck.
Greta Christina, who’s written some great pieces on atheism (I particularly like her “Atheists and anger” piece), is simply dismissed because “she sees everything as a weird sexual joke.” (Has he read her?). Jason Rosenhouse, one of the most thoughtful young atheist bloggers, is criticized because he “essentially does book reviews of things that cross his path and passes judgment on what he doesn’t like, usually anything that rises an inch beyond cultural Judaism.” That’s a low blow, and is completely unfair. Jason comments on books, on other blog posts, and lays out his own thoughts on important atheist issues like scientism and morality. He also writes about chess and mathematics. Hoffmann, in contrast, merely whines about New Atheism.
In the end, Hoffmann discredits himself because he tries to gratuitously discredit every New Atheist except Hitchens, and on completely ludicrious grounds. And in the background you can hear this constant refrain in Hoffman’s brain: “Me! Me! Why don’t they pay attention to ME? I have read Duns Scotus and yet I am not popular and have written no popular books. Something is wrong in the atheist community.”
I notice that P.Z. has also taken on Hoffmann, and Eric MacDonald has a two-part response: a thoughtful dissection of Hoffmann’s nonsense, and then a response to a stupid, snarky comment that Hoffmann left on the first post. And this is about as mad as Eric can get; he’s completely on the mark here:
As for being a horn (or, more correctly, a drone) in the bagpipe played by Myers and Coyne, I think for myself, thank you, Dr. Hoffmann, and when you have put 2 + 2 together and recognise that the issues we are concerned with are not simply what PhD candidates are qualified to discuss, but what, as men and women, we feel constrained to discuss, and endeavour to understand, then perhaps you will recognise why I feel so embarrassed for you, and for the pitiful criticisms you try to make. It won’t do simply to snipe at us. You must respond to what we say, and if you do not have the time to do that, then you should just get out of our way, because your criticisms invariably miss their mark, and we have places yet to go.
R. Joseph: does it bother you that nobody takes you seriously? Have you ever pondered the reasons why?
With atheists like Hoffmann, who needs religious opponents? The man richly deserves the Mooney Award for 2011.