Coyne: AAAS and Swamidass in WIRED Article

You are getting hammered in the comments on the Coyne site.

I didn’t mean to imply that he banned you. The word I used was “silenced” which I think describes the following comment he made on his blog:

“Okay, I think this is enough. You’ve left two very long comments–equivalent to another post. If you want to say more, please put it on your own website. Thank you.”

And thanks for the welcome.


Coyne replied to my comment, disagreeing with my position. Does he understand the difference between accommodation and not pissing off people who are otherwise accepting of science?


No, he doesn’t.

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Apparently not so much. Coyne is a great scientist, but he also wants to spread atheism around, and is distrustful of anything religious.

I’m not too concerned that commenters on Coyne’s blog are hammering at me. @Patrick seems concerned, but I’m not sure why it matters. The article by Coyne was speculating, incorrectly, about what happened. They haven’t even read up to understand what the Genealogical Adam is, yet they can’t help but ignorantly critique it. Their right of free speech, sure, but I’m not sure why it matters.

What do you think @Dan_Eastwood and @nwrickert?


I agree. It’s not worth worrying about.

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This is an odd comment. It is clear that @swamidass thinks that his work on GA is important. He has the prerogative to define what to him are “real problems”.

You might think that his work on GA is a waste of his talents, but in doing so you are assuming a value judgement axiomatically, one that @swamidass might not hold.


But of course. That’s what the site is for.

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Sure it is completely his decision. But when you see trouble coming for a friend, you have an obligation to tell the friend what you see. That is what a friend does. I may be completely wrong. And yes it is my personal opinion, but I don’t see anything good coming for anyone with GA. But I am still his friend and I will support his decision whatever it is.


There are far too many bad science books on the market. It would be refreshing to have a good science book out there. Joshua should publish.

That sounds like it’s right up my alley!

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It is NOT a science book. I have been reading it. There are no errors in the science but there is no science in it. The only thing scientific in it so far is a short summary of the current state of knowledge of the evolution of humans from other primates. It is accurate today but will be outdated in the matter of weeks or months when a new publication by David Reich or others comes out. It doesn’t even mention intermixing of human species which kills any notion of a Homo Sapien Adam and Eve. This book is just the musing of some guy who got down on himself because a blog kicked him out because they didn’t agree with him. Not a good reason to cause self-inflicted wounds to a promising career in science.

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I didn’t get the Genealogical (not Genetic) Adam at first either. The crowd at WEIT probably doesn’t get it at all. I find GA an interesting idea. That doesn’t mean I agree, only that I see no need to object. :slight_smile:

I’ve never interacted with Coyne before, but he seems to like getting in the last word. Let him. My educated guess is he attracts a lot of trolls who like to post long screeds in his comments, or people trying to promote their own sites. He is justified in preventing that sort of behavior. Free speech means you get to say what you want in public or YOUR private space, not in someone else’s space.


Okay, if you put it that way I can understand where you are coming from.


From Templeton’s list of grants from the Public Engagement section of Science & the Big Questions area I found many grants related to Science and Christian faith, but also (since 2016):

Your line that Templeton is just an evangelical propaganda machine is just simply not true. They have given millions of dollars to liberal Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and other faiths.

As far as AAAS’s efforts, here is what they say on the website:

AAAS established the program of Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion (DoSER) in 1995 to facilitate communication between scientific and religious communities. DoSER builds on AAAS’s long-standing commitment to relate scientific knowledge and technological development to the purposes and concerns of society at large.
AAAS has sought to advance science and to relate scientific knowledge and technological development to the purposes and concerns of society at large for over 150 years. Issues of value and ethics are raised by the appearance of technologies not even imagined by earlier generations. Questions of meaning and religion emerge from our deepening understanding of the natural order. Issues of value and meaning are grounded in the disciplines of ethics and religion. The scientific community needs to be in dialogue with both fields in order to understand the cultural context within which science operates and to respond to the societal issues opened up by scientific discovery and technological development. AAAS provides a uniquely credible forum for that engagement because of its disciplinary breadth.

@Patrick, your view of science seems awfully sterile, contextless, and inhuman. That is not reality. Scientists are human beings who do more than science. Because quite often science is “neutral” regarding philosophical, theological, political statements, people rely on other ways of knowing to fill in meaning, etc. You use secular humanism (I think that’s right, feel free to correct me), others use Christianity, or Judaism, Islam, etc. It’s useful for scientists to be able to engage with other human beings (from a variety of thought traditions) in order to promote science in “real” societies.

If scientists want to actually engage with the public they have to actual engage with the public – e.g. finding ways to speaking to each other from a place of understanding, common ground, and of course being able to politely disagree without creating enemies all the time. That seems a benefit for science as an enterprise. It’s kinda hard to convince a majority of the voting population to give billions in tax-payer funds pay for science if those scientists then berate them, misrepresent their deeply-held beliefs, and talk past them.


@Jordan I agree with this entirely.

I think these exchanges can be difficult for some well meaning atheists. The last generation of atheists (Dawkins, Coyne, Krauss, Dennet, Hitchens) were and are agressively anti-religious but they also did a lot of good for atheism, helping them come out of the shadows. So it will always be cognitive dissonance when one of these giants comes out against Peaceful Science.

In the end, I think most people agree that science is neutral, welcoming both atheists and religious folk. Science is greater than atheism. Moreover, we tried ridiucule as a strategy and it fractured society. We need better ambassadors all around. Atheism is no exception.

It will always be difficult for some when things like this happen, but ultimately I think we all want a better way.

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@Jordan Thanks for showing me that Templeton does fund an array of Public Engagements. I was not aware of these. Thanks. Also the AAAS’s efforts does seem within the mission of a secular AAAS. It is really that current culture has to be taken into account when addressing new science. Thanks again.

Regarding my view of science. It is not at all sterile, context less and inhuman. It is quite the opposite as I believe that it is the responsibility of science and all those working in science to develop technologies for the betterment of humanity. I guess I am leery of religion trying to put a stop to good research like what I remember about the arguments over stem cell research. I would like to see partnerships in science and the public to work on real problems we face today: climate change, cancer, opiod addiction, heart disease and diabetes. Let’s pour money into CRISPR Cas9 and fix the errors of evolution instead of arguing on whether evolution is God creation, is Godless or isn’t true.


I would love to be an agnostic again. I was a Catholic agnostic most of my life and it was really easy to work in science and be a cultural cafeteria Catholic. I would even like to become an apathatheist so that I can concentrate on solving secular humanist problems. I’ll make a deal with all of you here, if your can get Ark Encounter to close up, I’ll convert to non-Catholic agnostic apathatheism. Deal?


No need to go back to agosticism Patrick, in my opinion, just apatheism is great. :grin:

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