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← Jerry Coyne's 'Seeing and Believing' with responses

Jerry Coyne's 'Seeing and Believing' with responses - Comments

Grantaire of JC's Avatar Comment 1 by Grantaire of JC

The reconciliation never works, and yet the attempts go on. Education, awareness and time will slowly shift the popular thought, but will it ever end?

Tue, 03 Feb 2009 11:54:00 UTC | #318131

mordacious1's Avatar Comment 2 by mordacious1

There is soooo much here to comment on. I find myself agreeing with Lawrence Krauss on this issue.

Tue, 03 Feb 2009 12:06:00 UTC | #318136

maton100's Avatar Comment 3 by maton100

Ken Miller is insane.

Tue, 03 Feb 2009 12:10:00 UTC | #318138


Sam Harris was irrecognisable. What happened to him? Is he OK?

Tue, 03 Feb 2009 12:12:00 UTC | #318139

brian thomson's Avatar Comment 5 by brian thomson

Sam Harris's comment took some careful reading on my part, to be honest - and I'm still only 90% sure than he's actually putting out some multi-layered sarcasm there. I mean, asking "Why is the world organized in such a way that we can walk upon it?"... that's heavy, dude!

I don't hold out much hope of any comprehensive reconciliation between science and religion. That's not to say that individual people can't do both, but I think its epistemologically correct to say that if you're doing science, you're not doing religion - and vice versa. You can do just about anything in your head, but once you get out of your head in to the real world, you soon find yourself getting down to basics: what works, or not?

ps: in a weird coincidence, I'm listening to an interview with Jerry Coyne right now: not on the topics of science or religion, but regarding a botfly maggot he had embedded in his head ... in the Radiolab Podcast episode "Yellow Fluff".

Tue, 03 Feb 2009 12:13:00 UTC | #318140

Caudimordax's Avatar Comment 6 by Caudimordax

Sam Harris' comments have me stumped. Several times I wanted to yell, "Poe!" I'll have to come back and read it again later.

Tue, 03 Feb 2009 12:20:00 UTC | #318141

Gregg Townsend's Avatar Comment 7 by Gregg Townsend

This made my day. Sam is such a card...

Clearly, men like Coyne and Dennett have averted their eyes from the answer—an answer that is plainly obvious to over ninety percent of their least educated neighbors. The universe is rationally intelligible because the God of Abraham has made it so.

Tue, 03 Feb 2009 12:22:00 UTC | #318143

zpiff's Avatar Comment 8 by zpiff

Sam Harris!
When he writes a piece like that, I realise how much i've missed him! This was probably my favourite piece:

"This Edge exchange has been a feast for the mind! Consider Lisa Randall's moving account of having traveled by airplane in the company of a "charming young actor" who just knew in his heart that our species descended, not from apelike precursors, but from the biblical Adam. I urge readers to linger over these points, as Randall's prose is condensed nearly to the Planck scale. Just picture what it must have been like to be at thirty thousand feet in the company of a man who studied molecular biology at the college level. Next, consider that this prodigy is both a working actor and an enthusiastic supporter of Barack Obama. Finally, realize that the stranger at your side believes evolution to be nothing more than a sinister piece of secular propaganda. I can dimly imagine how Coyne and Dennett felt upon reading Randall's tale this far. "

Absolutely top drawer humour and what a way to utterly wipe the floor with the opposition! Well done!

Tue, 03 Feb 2009 12:30:00 UTC | #318146

designsoda's Avatar Comment 9 by designsoda

Oh, Sam. Such a prankster!

Tue, 03 Feb 2009 12:31:00 UTC | #318147

JasonG's Avatar Comment 11 by JasonG

This made my day too. I especially enjoyed Sam Harris' parodies of the "militant atheist" label:

- fundamentalist rationality
- militant neo-rationalist
- neo-secular militants
- neo-fundamentalist rational neo-atheist
- militant secularist atheist neo-dogmatist
- neo-militant rationalist
- fundamentalist atheist rationalist neo-humanistic secular militants

Tue, 03 Feb 2009 12:33:00 UTC | #318149

BinkyBonks's Avatar Comment 10 by BinkyBonks

Harris' piece was obviously sarcastic. I thought it was hilarious. Why don't people read these essays properly before publicly commenting on them?

Tue, 03 Feb 2009 12:33:00 UTC | #318148

Robert Maynard's Avatar Comment 12 by Robert Maynard

Sam Harris's was a brilliant bait and switch. Really threw me off for the first few paragraphs. Once you've finished it though, even the first paragraphs flip like a magic eye.

"He demolishes the intellectual pretensions of militant atheists like Coyne and Dennett in the most elegant way imaginable: by merely divulging the title of a 17th century work by the great Robert Boyle. When I was a militant neo-rationalist, I had a sinking feeling that my colleagues and I had not fully reckoned with Boyle on the argument from Design and were, as a result, risking public humiliation." Ice cold burn, sir.

Tue, 03 Feb 2009 12:36:00 UTC | #318150

mordacious1's Avatar Comment 13 by mordacious1

I'm sure Sam gets tired of the same old arguments and has to let the sarcasm out occasionally, just to stay sane.

Tue, 03 Feb 2009 12:39:00 UTC | #318152

Richard Dawkins's Avatar Comment 14 by Richard Dawkins

Jerry Coyne's opening, and Sam Harris's brilliant satire constitute a pincer movement that utterly destroys the mealy-mouthed, accommodationist appeasers, the pathetic 'believers in belief', the 'I'm an atheist but-heads'. We really do have the best writers on our side. By miles. Congratulations to Jerry and Sam. And Dan in the middle


Tue, 03 Feb 2009 12:40:00 UTC | #318153

Art Vandelay's Avatar Comment 15 by Art Vandelay

it is now becoming a common practice in Afghanistan and Pakistan to blind and disfigure little girls with acid for the crime of going to school. When I was a neo-fundamentalist rational neo-atheist I used to criticize such behavior as an especially shameful sign of religious stupidity. I now realize—belatedly and to my great chagrin—that I knew nothing of the pain that a pious Muslim man might feel at the sight of young women learning to read. Who am I to criticize the public expression of his faith? Bateson is right. Clearly a belief in the inerrancy of the holy Qur'an is indispensable for these beleaguered people.

Sam Harris is wicked!

Tue, 03 Feb 2009 12:42:00 UTC | #318154

Quine's Avatar Comment 16 by Quine

Comment #333672 by Richard Dawkins:

the 'I'm an atheist butt-heads'.

Now Richard, you are starting to sound like us unruly Front Pagers.

Tue, 03 Feb 2009 12:44:00 UTC | #318156

Laurie Fraser's Avatar Comment 17 by Laurie Fraser

Brilliant piece by Harris - that's true highbrow satire. But I agree with Krauss - there is no room left for religion to bump its way into the inquiry. It has nothing to contribute, and needs to be shown the door.

Tue, 03 Feb 2009 12:45:00 UTC | #318157

Laurie Fraser's Avatar Comment 18 by Laurie Fraser

Comment #333676 by Quine

Wash your mouth out with soap, young man!

Tue, 03 Feb 2009 12:48:00 UTC | #318158

EnlitnD99's Avatar Comment 19 by EnlitnD99

Sam Harris is my hero; Steven Pinker is a close second.

Tue, 03 Feb 2009 12:53:00 UTC | #318160

BinkyBonks's Avatar Comment 20 by BinkyBonks

Jerry Coyne's opening, and Sam Harris's brilliant satire constitute a pincer movement that utterly destroys the mealy-mouthed, accommodationist appeasers, the pathetic 'believers in belief', the 'I'm an atheist butt-heads'.
"Butt-heads"? You're calling respected academics such as Lisa Randall, George Dyson, Lawrence Krauss and Ken Miller "butt-heads"?

Tue, 03 Feb 2009 13:02:00 UTC | #318163

aquilacane's Avatar Comment 21 by aquilacane

Science and religion have nothing to do with one another. Science isn't an opinion you can change, it's a process, a process you can hinder, but not change. Religion is neither a process nor an opinion; it is an unquestionable command void of evidence. There is nothing to reconcile. They aren't even in the same genre of existence. That they sometime try to answer the same questions makes them competitors for peoples attention, but that's like saying literature and hockey need to reconcile. Stupid. And what is up with Harris, did he have a midlife or something?

Edit: never mind about Harris, took the time to read it all

Tue, 03 Feb 2009 13:03:00 UTC | #318164

Nuspirit's Avatar Comment 22 by Nuspirit

I have to agree that I didn't expect Sam Harris' commentary to be as it turned out and I don't know whether the satire is a sign of frustration or something else. Nevertheless, it's brilliant and "I've often wondered why walking works" is going to be one if my standard responses to similar claims.

Tue, 03 Feb 2009 13:05:00 UTC | #318165

Diacanu's Avatar Comment 23 by Diacanu


Now Richard, you are starting to sound like us unruly Front Pagers.

*Happy gasp!*

I've been a bad influence!!

My life DID matter!

*Blushes, warm sigh*

My heart is filled with blood.

Tue, 03 Feb 2009 13:05:00 UTC | #318166

lvpl78's Avatar Comment 25 by lvpl78

You can derive a contradiction only if your rules are logic.

Do you think Lisa Randall sees the inherent irony in this sentence?

Tue, 03 Feb 2009 13:07:00 UTC | #318168

alabasterocean's Avatar Comment 24 by alabasterocean

Sam Harris is the most entertaining guy I know in the scientific world: I have not yet picked a favorite in the world of Jesus or Muhammad. I keep those one's open for know, but it will be a life time commitment, I can tell.

Tue, 03 Feb 2009 13:07:00 UTC | #318167

designsoda's Avatar Comment 26 by designsoda

"Butt-heads"? You're calling respected academics such as Lisa Randall, George Dyson, Lawrence Krauss and Ken Miller "butt-heads"?

I think it comes from saying "I'm an atheist but..."

Maybe it should have read "I'm an atheist but-heads?"

Tue, 03 Feb 2009 13:10:00 UTC | #318170

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 27 by Steve Zara

If Francis Collins wants to believe that the historical Jesus was actually raised from the dead and still exists in an ethereal form which renders him both clairvoyant and mildly disapproving of masturbation, these beliefs do not even slightly detract from his stature as a scientist.

Harris is hilarious, and savage.

Tue, 03 Feb 2009 13:13:00 UTC | #318171

BinkyBonks's Avatar Comment 28 by BinkyBonks

Maybe it should have read "I'm an atheist but-heads?"
No, I doubt it was a typo. His post contained a surprising amount of vitriol. In addition to "butt-head", there was also "pathetic" and "mealy-mouthed".

Tue, 03 Feb 2009 13:14:00 UTC | #318172

Popinjay's Avatar Comment 29 by Popinjay

It is interesting how quickly commentators like Lawrence Krauss are to have their heads ceremoniously buried in sand.

I think he's a very engaging and witty communicator of science, but he seems to be saying that people believing in miraculous explanations of natural events doesn't matter at all to scientists. Science is breathtaking, what use is this if it is just for an enlightened few?

Have I got this wrong?

Tue, 03 Feb 2009 13:15:00 UTC | #318173

lvpl78's Avatar Comment 30 by lvpl78

Well said Popinjay.

Belief in belief is patronising in the extreme.

Tue, 03 Feb 2009 13:17:00 UTC | #318174