Comments on Does Coyne Need to Apologize to Eddie?

Continuing discussion from: Did Eddie Need to Apologize to Coyne?

I seem not to be a scholar, so can’t comment on any threads in that category (Even when they are about my work!).

But on the question of Jerry Coyne, Eddie, Patrick and apologies, check out this post, which is sourced.

I might just add that a well respected occasional poster here declined to post on the Hump of the Camel for a considerable period when working for the NIH, specifically because he feared repercussions for his employment from the same quarter. Paranoid, no doubt - should never have been appointed.


Coyne was correct. The director of the NIH should not use his position to proselytize for religion.


@jongarvey has already linked to this.

I think you might be right @Bilbo.

@swamidass, I “might” be right? How about demanding that Coyne apologize for his bad memory?

1 Like

What are the chances that Coyne will post an apology to Eddie here, I wonder?

1 Like

@jongarvey, I’m ROTFLMAO just thinking about it!

1 Like

See my final comment here.

Do you agree or disagree?

From a blog post on Coyne’s blog, written by Harvard professor Steven Pinker:

I have serious misgivings about Francis Collins being appointed director of NIH. It’s not that I think that there should be a religious litmus test for public science administrators, or that being a devout Christian is a disqualification. But in Collins’s case, it is not a matter of private belief, but public advocacy. The director of NIH is not just a bureaucrat who tends the money pipleline between the treasury and molecular biologists (which is how many scientists see the position). He or she is also a public face of science, someone who commands one of the major bully pulpits for science in the country. The director testifies before Congress, sets priorities, selects speakers and panelists, and is in many regards a symbol for biomedical research in the US and the world. In that regard, many of Collins’s advocacy statements are deeply disturbing.

Pinker claims that he is not supporting a religious litmus test. In theory, it is OK for Collins, as director of the NIH, to be a Christian. Yet he views Collins’ “public advocacy” of his religious beliefs as objectionable. What amounts to “public advocacy”? Would simply saying on Facebook or public blog that “I am a Christian” constitute advocacy? Would Josh’s writings on PS count as public advocacy? What do you think, @Patrick?

On the flip side: would it be OK for Richard Dawkins to be director of the NIH, yet still serve as leader of the Richard Dawkins Foundation? (Of course, I know that he’s not American. But assuming he were.)

1 Like

At least for US Constitutional law, things get a bit stickier when it comes to government positions which the director of the NIH is. I can understand the basis for Coyne’s outrage, but a christian still has the right to proselytize. There has to be a happy middle ground. I suspect that Dr. Collins would be more than happy to sit down with Coyne or others and discuss possible solutions.


Well a few years ago I complained to NIH that the Director of the NIH was being advertised as the keynote speaker at the Biologos “Christ and Creation Conference”. Biologos said he was coming as a private citizen. It took many letters between NIH attorneys and FFRF attorney to get it resolved.

I don’t think that Josh is in this predicament Josh is not setting health policy for the entire United States.


Richard Dawkins is not a US Citizen, I believe that to be at a top level official of the US Government one must be a US Citizen.


@Patrick What if Dawkins were a US citizen?

1 Like

Do you still think Coyne needs to apologize? Why?

If Dawkins were a US citizen, I am not sure if he would be qualified to be Director of the National Institute of Health. Dawkins is a retired professor of Zoology. I would think that the NIH director would need to be an MD and/or a researcher in public health issues. I am not aware of Dawkins doing anything in the public health field. Compared to Dr. Collins who lead the Human Genome Program.

1 Like

I think the founding of Biologos does amount to public advocacy of Christian Theistic Evolution which is certainly creationism and certainly not allowed to be taught in the public schools. I think publication of the Book “The Language of God” is public advocacy of a particular religious viewpoint.

I don’t think that just stating your religious affiliation on Facebook amounts to public advocacy.

Josh’s writings on PS does count as public advocacy of Josh’s own religious beliefs but Josh is an American who have a right of free religious expression. However, as Dr Swamidass moves foreword in his career at WUSTL he must be mindful that if he gets in a position where he can be speaking on behalf of a secular university or a secular institution that his speech must be neutral on religion and not give the impression that his religious beliefs are favored in any way by him or the institution.


This is the key point. Impressions are important, but they are also subjective and can be managed. The fact that PS is housed at WUSTL and welcomes atheists (and all sorts of other scientists) will always keep many of these doors open for me, if I want them.


@swamidass, yes Coyne needs to apologize. He opposed Collins’ appointment, even though he now claims that he did not. Further, he opposed Collins’ appointment because he considered Collins’ religious beliefs to be irrational, on the same level as a Scientologist’s. Further, Coyne did indeed call for Collins’ resignation, even though he now denies it. Either Coyne has had a terrible memory lapse, or he is trying to rewrite history.

Your insistence that Eddie still owed Coyne an apology because Coyne did not say specifically that he opposed Collins’ appointment because Collins’ believed in the resurrection is rather picayune. What religious beliefs of Collins’ do you think Coyne was referring to?

Further, as Mike Gene pointed out, Coyne did quote Sam Harris, who opposed Collins’ appointment because he believed in the resurrection. I see no indication that Coyne thought that was a bad reason for opposing Collins’ appointment.

So, no, Eddie does not owe Coyne an apology. But Coyne owes everyone here an apology.

1 Like

Can you make a bulleted list to consider each point one by one please?

Dr. Collins is the Director of the NIH and therefore works for the people of the United States. No American should have to apologize for expression his opinion of or his criticism of a Government official. Dr. Coyne as an American has the constitutional right to critique, criticize, any person for appointment to a high office in the US Government.