Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Actually, In Some Ways I Find Something Admirable About Jerry Coyne Though I Don't Like Him

Though I really do rather dislike the man, rather intensely, there are certainly things I agree with Jerry Coyne about very strongly.  Looking at the recent items at his blog, I certainly condemn the putrid Theresa May and her unspeakable Tory party for even thinking about allowing the sale of elephant ivory in Britain as part of their campaign to allow the 1% their traditional luxuries and ways of making money and depravities like fox hunting.

I certainly agree with him that Sharia Law should not replace civil law and that it contains unacceptable evils and barbarities, most of all that such barbarities as stoning and dismemberment are absolutely evil and should never be practiced by any government or society, anywhere.  I will point out that I believe many contemporary Muslims would certainly agree with that, probably far more than who would articulate that position.  Many, even some quite devout Muslims are as civilized as even many university professors, somehow, manage to be.

I think Jerry Coyne's dependence on opinion polling to come up with figures on that is rather blatantly superstitious.  That kind of opinion polling is roughly the modern equivalent of reading a horoscope.   I have no confidence that the actual percentage of a population who favors something like that, especially as an abstract instead idea instead of an actual fact can be discerned or that it would be a consistent number that you could depend on being the same day to day, never mind over the course of months or even years during which those phony numbers are cited.   The volatility of the American and French electorates are certainly indicative of the unreliability of that stuff.  

But when Jerry Coyne takes a moral stand like that he is not doing so out of his materialist-atheist-scientistic faith, he has to exit it temporarily to listen to his better angels and take a moral position. Materialism, scientism, atheism, none of those have anything in them that you could begin to make any moral stand out of, nor anything to base a call for other people to either adopt or constrain their own behavior on.   Materialism-atheism-scientism have everything in them that weakens a call for any position of morality because all of them either deny the possibility of durable, moral absolutes or to say that they are irrelevant to anyone who doesn't want to accept them. 

As an ultra-Darwinist even his entirely laudable calls for halting the extinction of elephants is inconsistent with both Darwin and the way of current evolutionary psychology, another massively held superstition among the sciency, educated class of the English speaking peoples.  Darwin certainly had no problem with human caused extinction, there is that infamous passage in The Descent of Man which I've cited a number of times, the one in which he, so far as I've been able to discover, he lied about what Hermann Schaaffhausen said so as to claim that there would be some great benefit to the extinction of the great apes and many racial groups of human beings at the hands of superior human groups.  

I will not get far into the relationship of scientific vivisection to these issues, right now, though I don't see how you cannot at least think about the morality of how animals are used, tortured and killed in the millions in the name of science - quite a bit of it of rather obvious bogosity, done so someone can get published or paid by industry.  Much of it is all about the scientist-sadist making money. 

The current alleged origin and character of morals  by Coyne and his fellow atheists under the Just-so story telling of evolutionary psychology and sociobiology, that it is some kind of trait that has survived in the human species because it confers some kind of advantage in human survival and reproduction is complete nonsense.  Again, it is nonsense that you can also find in The Descent of Man.  The extinction of the mega fauna and so many other species of the Americas and elsewhere was mostly at the hands of human beings.  Considering that natural selection not only allows for but, in its classical elucidation, consists of imaginary struggles for existence in which not only sub groups within species but entire species are wiped out by those who are able to kill them, it never did make any sense to attribute even the most unambiguous aspects of morality to it.  The emotional attachment of the atheists who came up with that nonsense to the requirements of maintaining their materialism blinded them to the absurdities of what they were arguing.   I've found that when pressed on these issues they will not appeal to any kind of evidence, they will insist that it has to be that way because, in the end, as in the beginning, it MUST be like that because.... materialism has to be the answer to everything.  

I am glad that on those things we can agree, Jerry Coyne is as passionately, emotionally, devoted to his moral positions.   I don't think there's anything wrong with that so long as the preservation of animals and the rights of human beings are the goal.  After my criticism of him over several days, I think it's only right to praise his moral passion for those things we agree on, entirely.   I wish so many of his fellow atheists weren't led by their slacker, lazy assed and more vulgar materialism into amoral libertarianism instead.   But, it's clear that their amorality is more in keeping with materialism, scientism and atheism.   

Not everyone who adopts those can be counted on to have a moral passion that overrides the typical positions of materialism. the personal hedonism attributed to Carvarka and some other Indian schools of atheist materialism, that is found in some European schools of materialism, as well.   I can't find the quote but in the recent enthusiasm over Lucretius it seemed to be the real motive behind the university prof who promoted it.  The appeal of pleasure is intrinsic to much of evil.  After all, that is a temptation which is very hard to resist even for those whose claims of Christianity should provide them with far stronger reasons to resist temptation but which they often give into.  They should have every reason in the world to do what Jesus taught.  I have come to believe that politically, in societies, it is exactly the percentage of people who do take those moral absolutes as binding obligations on everyone which provides the margin of difference in whether or not there is a decent, democratic government or not.   I think in the depravity of the British upper class which has obviously duped the majority of voters in England is demonstrating what happens to a quasi-democracy when that margin which takes Christian morality as serious and morally binding declines.  I think that we have seen in the alleged Christians who voted for Trump, largely at the urging of the Aussie-Brit Rupert Murdoch imported to do exactly that during the Reagan years and others like him, something similar.

Update:  I was referring to that meat-head Stephen Greenblatt's ridiculous and absurdly popular book, "The Swerve" which is a combination of long ago debunked "dark ages" mythology which was always motivated, not by historical accuracy but by anti-religious, much of it anti-Catholic polemics.

This review in not the NYT but in the LA one, by Jim Hinch is a critique of some of Greenblatt's blatant distortions and that of his fans, high placed and lower ones as well.  Personally, I think Greenblatt was just cashing in on the anti-religion, atheism fad.  You can always count on good reviews for bashing religion by idiots who never fact check or have the first idea of what they're talking about.  Especially the kind who are on book juries and who spend their time writing reviews and doing interviews.

Rereading this update, OK, I admit it, I originally didn't use the word "meat".  I changed three letters. 


  1. I liked (still do) Greenblatt's biography of Shakespeare, but lordy, his "Swerve" is a load of dung! Even without the detailed information in that review, just reading the excerpted passage about the discovery of De Rerum in the 15th century and knowing what I know about the "Dark Ages" (mostly the British poetry mentioned in the review, and the work of Aquinas using Aristotle, as well as the sheer preservation of literacy which, contrary to Greenblatt's presumption, was not universal under Roman rule, and didn't become universal in Europe until the 19th century, mostly due to American influence), I could tell his thesis was for shite.

    Honestly, public intellectualism in America is an embarrassment. It's of no better quality than the "Christianity" championed by mega-churches and "community churches" around the country. Which is to say, it is of no quality or value at all.

    1. It's always dangerous to say "Shakespeare" in front of me.

  2. Sorry, I'm gonna use your comments to quote from that excellent review:

    "Like modern research universities, medieval monasteries were wealthy centers of learning and power whose leaders rotated into and out of careers in secular government. Waves of monastic reform efforts testify to a perennial complaint in the Middle Ages that religious authorities, far from enforcing an ascetic, pleasure-hating discipline, in fact were too luxurious, too cozy with the rich, too willing to dispense with their religious vows."

    Which takes us back to Chaucer, already cited for his poems about pleasure (and not just the Miller's Tale; the Wife of Bath enjoys her husbands' favors, too; and her story is about such pleasures between loving, insightful adults). Chaucer's characters include more than one "religious" who is anything but ascetic; indeed, the most ascetic religious character in Chaucer's entourage is a married parson who lives in penury because he's merely a pastor of a church, and so least important of all (the sarcasm and irony cuts still, 7 centuries later).

    I've found literature to be a marvelous window into a living, breathing past.

    1. You figure that Chaucer at least was there to experience what his time and milieu were like, as were John Scotus Eriugena and Gregory of Nyssa and whoever wrote all those bawdy drinking songs, obscene double entendre epigrams, etc. which constitute such a large part of the surviving secular literature, much of it, of course, written by monks and clerics because they could write.

      Greenblatt .... Well, I'd better leave it at what the review said.

  3. Better than a strong cup of morning coffee:

    "Instead, The Swerve’s primary achievement is to flatter like-minded readers with a tall tale of enlightened modern values triumphing over a benighted pre-modern past. It’s no accident, I think, that The Swerve’s imagined Middle Ages bears a strong resemblance to America’s present era of superstitious know-nothing-ism. Or that Lucretius’s secular, principled-pleasure-minded values bear an equally strong resemblance to the values of Greenblatt’s cultural peers — including, presumably, the jurors who awarded him two national literary prizes. The Swerve presents itself as a work of literary history. But really it is a salvo in the culture wars; an effort to lend an aura of historical inevitability to the idea that religious faith has no place in a modern democratic society."