Did Eddie Need to Apologize to Coyne?

As Mike Gene makes abundantly clear, your memories about Coyne’s views of Collins were correct, Eddie:


4 posts were merged into an existing topic: Comments on No need to apologize to Coyne, Eddie

The context was that @Eddie paraphrased him incorrectly without providing quotes. That still stands as a valid complaint. @Jerry_Coyne should look at this article though.

Just to get the facts on the table, @eddie wrote:

@Jerry_Coyne responded:

It seems to me that both things are true. @Jerry_Coyne did oppose the nomination of Collins. @Eddie offered up a very bad paraphrase, that didn’t explain Coyne’s position well at all. He did this without a quote to support it.

@Eddie, to his credit, apologized:

That is a good thing for which to apologize. He did not apologize for saying @Jerry_Coyne asked Collins to step down. @eddie apologized for not checking Coyne’s exact words.

As for the rest, rather than demanding something from @Jerry_Coyne, let us see how he responds first.


As for this quote from @Jerry_Coyne:

These are the quotes offered from Coyne in the blog post:

Collins gets away with this kind of stuff only because, in America, Christianity is a socially sanctioned superstition. He’s the chief government scientist, but he won’t stop conflating science and faith. He had his chance, and he blew it. He should step down.

Enough is enough. Collins is director of the NIH, and is using his office to argue publicly that scientific evidence—the Big Bang, the “Moral Law” and so forth—points to the existence of a God. That is blurring the lines between faith and science: exactly what I hoped he would not do when he took his new job.

Collins gets away with this kind of stuff only because, in America, Christianity is a socially sanctioned superstition. He’s the chief government scientist, but he won’t stop conflating science and faith. He had his chance, and he blew it. He should step down.

Well, we thought we’d seen the last of the theocracy of George W. Bush, but it apparently ain’t so……I am funded by the NIH, and I’m worried……We are just recovering from the theocracy of G. W. Bush, and I was happy that federally-funded stem-cell research was allowed to go ahead. Now what will happen? This is NOT a presidential appointment designed to smooth the waters roiled by our previous administration. Collins may indeed be a good administrator, but this appointment is a mistake.

Think about this: would a nonbelieving scientist who was as vociferous an atheist as Collins is a Christian have any chance to get the NIH spot? I don’t think so. And a Scientologist who publicly espoused his belief in Xenu and thetans would be considered too much of a lunatic to have responsibility for the NIH . But of course Christianity is a publicly acceptable form of superstition, and Scientology is not.

I had hoped that Obama might end governmental coddling of faith, but it doesn’t look like a lot has changed.

Look at it this way: suppose Collins gave a talk sketching the evidence for evolution, and then went on to say how “evidence” points to the past existence of a space alien ruler named Xenu, who kidnapped some of his people, preserved them in antifreeze, and transported them to Earth, where they were stored in volcanoes. The souls later escaped and are now wandering around, clinging to humans, and this is what causes all the trouble of the world. Only by detecting this soul-infestation with a fancy instrument, and subsequent deprogramming, Collins might say, can we root out these disembodied vestigial souls and find happiness.

If Collins said this, you might well think he’s a wack-job, too ridden with crazy ideas to hold down an important government job . But of course the beliefs I described constitute the theology of Scientology, and are no different in kind from the beliefs of Christianity , Judaism, Islam, or of any other faith. The reason why it’s ok for Collins to profess evangelical Christianity is because Christianity is a superstition that is common and socially sanctioned.

I suppose it is up to @Jerry_Coyne to square these statements.


To conclude this thread, I start by thanking @Bilbo, @jongarvey, and the blogger to which the link for bringing this to our attention.

Looking this over, I note a few things:

  1. It is seems that Conye never opposed Collin’s appointment because Collins believed the Resurrection, as @eddie has said.

  2. In responding to @eddie, it seems clear Coyne misspoke on saying he never opposed Collin’s appointment. From these quotes it seems he did.

  3. Nonetheless, it seems Coyne opposed Collin’s appointment, it seems, because he was concerned Collins was publicly mixing faith and science as a government employee.

So, in my opinion, @eddie was right to apologize, and that is to his credit. It was also right to be clear that he has opposed Collin’s appointment in the past, though I’m not sure it deserves an apology. It is just a fact he got wrong, and to focus on that distracts a bit from something more important, the third point.

Did Collins publicly mix faith in science as a government employee? That is an important point of discussion. I want to emphasize that this is a legitimate question and concern, that we may have different opinions about. There is a large rift: The Rift Between Atheists and Christians. Part of what we are doing at Peaceful Science is finding ways to span this gap. This is an opportunity to do so, for those who care to understand the nuances of why Coyne:

  1. did not oppose Collins for affirming the resurrection.
  2. but, nonethless, feared he would inappropriately mix faith and science

Thanks again @bilbo and @jongarvey for bringing this to our attention. Thanks again @eddie for being humble and wise enough to apologize. Peace.