This is the most-people-believe-what’s-false-therefore-it’s-false fallacy, or the Coyne fallacy, named after its most frequent user, Jerry Coyne. This fallacy is used to reject a proposition because most people misunderstand or hold false beliefs about that proposition. So that if the average church or temple goer has a definition of God that suffers certain inconsistencies, therefore God doesn’t exist. If you accept that then you’d have to believe that since the average citizen has mistaken ideas about evolution (holding to Intelligent Design, say), therefore evolution is false. Truth is not a vote.



Jerry Coyne laughs and tries to dismiss it but he has a very poor understanding of philosophy. He engages in "foolosophy" (love of foolishness) rather than philosophy (love of wisdom).


FROM philosopher Edwad Fesser.

People have asked me to comment on the recent spat between Jerry Coyne and Ross Douthat. As longtime readers of this blog know from bitter experience, there’s little point in engaging with Coyne on matters of philosophy and theology. He is neither remotely well-informed, nor fair-minded, nor able to make basic distinctions or otherwise to reason with precision. Nor, when such foibles are pointed out to him, does he show much interest in improving. ...

Naturally, his incompetence is coupled with a preposterous degree of compensatory self-confidence. As I once pointed out about Dawkins, Coyne may by now have put himself in a position that makes it psychologically impossible for him even to perceive serious criticism. The problem is that his errors are neither minor, nor occasional, nor committed in the shadows, nor expressed meekly. He commits a howler every time he opens his mouth, and he opens it very frequently, very publicly, and very loudly. His blunders are of a piece, so that to confess one would be to confess half a decade’s worth -- to acknowledge what everyone outside his combox already knows, viz. that he is exactly the kind of bigot he claims to despise. That is a level of humiliation few human beings can bear. Hence the defense mechanism of training oneself to see only ignorance and irrationality even in the most learned and sober of one’s opponents; indeed, to see it even before one sees those opponents. And so we have the spectacle of Coyne’s article last week on David Bentley Hart’s The Experience of God, wherein he launches a 2800 word attack on a book he admits he has not read. The sequel of self-delusion, it seems, is self-parody.

Still, it is worthwhile responding now and again to people like Coyne, so that bystanders who wouldn’t otherwise know any better can see just how pathetic are the “arguments” of New Atheists. ...


FROM philosopher Bill Vallicella.

The Abysmally Ignorant Jerry Coyne
Jerry Coyne complains:

Another problem is that scientists like me are intimidated by philosophical jargon, and hence didn’t interrupt the monologues to ask for clarification for fear of looking stupid. I therefore spent a fair amount of time Googling stuff like “epistemology” and “ontology” (I can never get those terms straight since I rarely use them).

This is an amazing confession. It shows that the man is abysmally ignorant outside his specialty. He is not wondering about the distinction between de dicto and de re, but about a Philosophy 101 distinction. It would be as if a philosopher couldn't distinguish between velocity and acceleration, or mass and weight, or a scalar and a vector, or thought that a light-year was a measure of time.

Despite his ignorance of the simplest distinctions, Coyne is not bashful about spouting off on topics he knows nothing about such as free will. Lawrence Krauss is another of this scientistic crew. And Dawkins. And Hawking and Mlodinow. And . . . . Their arrogance stands in inverse relation to their ignorance. A whole generation of culturally-backward and half-educated scientists does not bode well for the future.

FROM philosopher Massimo Pigliucci.

But when it comes to writing for the general public, I suggest that scientists stick to what they know best, unless they are willing to engage the literature of the field(s) that they wish to comment upon. When Coyne makes statements of the type “anybody doing any kind of science should abandon his or her faith if they wish to become a philosophically consistent scientist”, he literally does not know what he is talking about because he does not have a grasp of what it means to be “philosophically consistent” in this context. He has of course no obligation to study philosophy, but then he should refrain from writing about it as a matter of intellectual honesty toward his readers.