My New Republic piece on the Pope and evolution

The New Republic has already published a slightly edited version of my post on Pope Francis’s views about evolution, and you can find it there under the title: “Stop celebrating the Pope’s views on evolution and the Big Bang. They make no sense.” As always, go over and see it, if for no other reason to see how people react. (I have a new policy of not reading comments about stuff I publish in places other than this site—a dictum I got from Stephen Fry.)

I’m already getting hate email about it, as people can’t stand to have Pope Francis criticized (note that I criticized his views, not the man himself), for he’s the Good Pope, who rides the bus and doesn’t wear fancy shoes.

I have a particularly lovely specimen of such mail that I’ll post later.


  1. Posted October 29, 2014 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    Gad, they´d better It was so well written!

  2. Posted October 29, 2014 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been a reader of the NR for many years, even agreeing occasionally with Leon Wieseltier. Although I read the paper version of the magazine, I always go to the website when Prof. Coyne publishes an essay there. But today, just now, is the first time I scrolled down to look at the comments. Ignorant indignation was all I found, with but a single stalwart person trying, time and again, to call that willful ignorance what it is: stupidity.

    Much lower than I expected the level of NR commentary to be, and hopelessly lower than that on WEIT. I guess I was naive.

    • Posted October 29, 2014 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

      Hey, how did you know exactly what I was going to write! Well said, sir.

      Like you, I had no idea TNR was read by such nitwits.

  3. Posted October 29, 2014 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    I blasted a comment over there for the clickbait, but doubt I’ll pay any further attention to it. It’s already toxic with intestine fondlers….


    • Posted October 29, 2014 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

      That’s two ‘stalwarts’ now, with your comment, Mr. Goren. Thanks for it. I’m still sitting here stunned from having breathed all that toxic ignorance.

    • reasonshark
      Posted October 29, 2014 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

      Yours and protoatheist’s comments were a necessary palliative to get through the conspiracy-theory-esque nonsense elsewhere. Just seeing a guy go through the “silly atheist you think we believe in bearded man in the sky our belief is more s’phisticated than that” drivel nearly drove me to despair. Heck, I even saw the “you just refuse to see the evidence” line and the “evolution is only a theory” line directed at Jerry.

      It’s depressing to know that the Pope Francis of reality is nothing like the fictitious Pope Francis these people rush to defend as a great progressive man. It has the whiff of desperation about it, either because the defenders themselves are desperate, or because they’ve been misled by a spin doctor who is.

      • Mark P
        Posted October 29, 2014 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

        And you can’t forget the “you can’t get something from nothing” nonsense!

      • Posted October 29, 2014 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

        There is even a Ground of Being and a Little People comment.

      • Bob J.
        Posted October 29, 2014 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

        Ya. I almost want to do a Venn diagram of the possible responses as many commentators hold multiple nonsensical views.

  4. ricardomenacuevas
    Posted October 29, 2014 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    “Pope Benedict was a more equivocal, occasionally flirting with intelligent design and claiming that evolution was “not completely provable”.

    Should have read Bertrand Russell’s essay before deciding on something all scientists accept:

    Reading your book. Regards from Southern Spain.

    • Timothy Hughbanks
      Posted October 29, 2014 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

      It is always amusing to read Bertrand Russell because of the way modern theists generally include him among the Sophisticated Atheists™, the standards of whom modern Gnu Atheists simply can’t meet. But his writing, like that of Robert Ingersoll, is actually very similar to the Gnu Atheists. No surprise, of course. The only advantage Gnu Atheists have is the accumulation of even more evidence that demonstrates, with even greater redundancy, the utter ridiculousness of theism.

      • Marella
        Posted October 29, 2014 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

        Yep, the main reason they like Bertrand Russell is that he’s dead, and can no longer cause trouble. That he lived before the internet makes a big difference too.

  5. Paul Clarke
    Posted October 29, 2014 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    I read your first article and thought it was very clear and fair showing how the popes still hold to the soul theory while saying they accept evolution. The new pope says he has new clothes, but the article shows he still has none. Well done.

  6. Sidd
    Posted October 29, 2014 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    “Pope Benedict was a more equivocal” needs copy editing.

  7. John Harshman
    Posted October 29, 2014 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    In order to criticize the Pope’s statement properly, you would have to understand what he was saying. Does anyone at all understand what he was saying? I sure don’t. A lot of it sounded like gibberish to me. Come to think of it, a lot of sophisticated theology sounds that way to me too.

    There seems to be a great confusion about evolution, creation, human evolution specifically, and individual development that’s beyond my ability to untangle.

  8. kieran
    Posted October 29, 2014 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    There is nothing new in what Francis said, it’s been policy since Pius 12. Nothing new at all and today he’s praising the work of the exorcists.

  9. Posted October 29, 2014 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

    You describe natural selection as a “deterministic” process. I thought it was probabilistic. No?

  10. KP
    Posted October 29, 2014 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    God is not a magician??? What’s behind that whole resurrection from the dead thing?

    • reasonshark
      Posted October 29, 2014 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

      The irony of their “god is not magic” assertion is that it shows they really don’t understand what it’s about. They switch God from an empirically demonstrable entity (hence the “Big Man with a Beard” jibe) to some kind of philosophical abstraction (hence the “Ground of Being”). The problem is that they don’t have a shred of justification, much less evidence, for either assertion, so it’s a distinction without a difference. Saying God is magic and saying God created the world through mysterious creative powers is merely a cosmetic different, like painting bull turds two different colours.

      • Posted October 29, 2014 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

        And that’s the definition of religion 🙂

  11. Posted October 29, 2014 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

    Makes you seriously wonder if it’s a wasted effort trying to debate with people who not only can’t do joined up thinking but actually seem proud of their handicap, as though it’s a virtue.

  12. Marella
    Posted October 29, 2014 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    Looks like a pretty robust sharing of opinions at the moment. A lot of religious nonsense, but plenty of blow-back from rationalists too.

  13. Grania Spingies
    Posted October 29, 2014 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

    Summary of the TNR comments so you don’t have to read them:

    Atheists don’t understand sophisticated religion
    That totally isn’t MY religion that you are talking about
    Scientists aren’t allowed to talk about religion because of NOMA
    Atheists are dogmatic
    Atheism is just another religion
    Atheists are fundamentalists
    Atheists are extremists
    Why you no like the Pope?
    Science is just another religion
    Scientists are arrogant

    Basic strategy: if you don’t have a coherent rebuttal; just fling out accusations and names hoping that something will stick.

    • Posted October 29, 2014 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

      “Why you no like the Pope?” Well, he oversees an organization that systematically covers up raping children for starters. Of course, that’s not due to religion…

  14. Posted October 29, 2014 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

    I really appreciate that you do this Jerry. Stephen Fry’s advice is sound. Reza Aslan has plenty of parallel apologists for Catholicism. No matter how many times you say that criticism of Islam or Catholicism’s doctrines are not criticisms of individual Muslims or Catholics, it doesn’t matter. I got into a discussion tonight with some coworkers who insist ISIS isn’t motivated by religion. It truly boggles the mind…

    • Posted November 1, 2014 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

      Next you’ll say Nacionalcatolicismo is a myth! 😛

      • Posted November 2, 2014 at 7:51 am | Permalink

        Of course, due to recursive western influence or something.

  15. Diane G.
    Posted October 29, 2014 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

    The Onion’s “American Voices” reaction:,37315/

    • Gordon
      Posted October 30, 2014 at 12:02 am | Permalink

      The Daily Mash is also quite good on this.

  16. Posted October 30, 2014 at 12:18 am | Permalink

    “Did I say “Evolution”?? Oh my, I really meant Exorcism!” For those of you who can read German:
    Maybe someone can provide an English version of this news flash (incidentally: can one call this but of information “news”??)

    • Posted October 30, 2014 at 12:19 am | Permalink

      “but” –> “bit” … or “butt”, you decide.

  17. scottoest
    Posted October 30, 2014 at 1:03 am | Permalink

    I think Francis is a marked improvement over the last Pope, but I really don’t get the fanclub around him.

    Not wearing fancy shoes, taking public transportation, toning down the judgemental rhetoric, and eschewing some of the lavish, absurd comforts Popes have taken advantage of in the past (in a religion that is supposedly about casting off material wealth in the first place), makes him some kind of heroic, revolutionary figure? Isn’t this a trademark example of the soft bigotry of low expectations?

    • Reginald Selkirk
      Posted October 30, 2014 at 7:17 am | Permalink

      I think Francis is a marked improvement over the last Pope, but I really don’t get the fanclub around him.

      It reminds me of Barack Obama being awarded a Nobel peace prize for the accomplishment of ‘not being George W. Bush.’

      • scottoest
        Posted October 31, 2014 at 5:46 am | Permalink

        Definitely. I’d go so far as to say that Obama getting the Peace Prize sort of permanently tarnished the standing of that award, and what it was supposed to be for.

  18. TJR
    Posted October 30, 2014 at 3:11 am | Permalink

    The new Pope reminds me a lot of David Cameron. His job is to make his organisation’s brand look a bit less toxic, without changing anything in what it actually does.

  19. Reginald Selkirk
    Posted October 30, 2014 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    @ io9: The Creationist Freak Out Over The Pope’s Evolution Speech Has Begun

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