Thursday, June 9, 2011

An intro to "Why Jerry Coyne is False" OR why his thinking needs to evolve a lot more


Here, I'm going to spend extended time on Coyne's introduction and chapter 1-- piece by painful piece.  

"Evolution gives us the true account of our origins, replacing the myths that satisfied us for thousands of years."

I'd like him to define "true". The term "account" tries to mask but alludes to the vast narrative aspects of his claim (along with the implied comparison to "myths"). And of course, he'll have little or nothing of value to offer on the origins of life-- and nothing close to a full-blown explanation for the origins of human life.  


"Why teach a discredited religiously-based theory (myth)...alongside a theory so obviously true?" 

I thought religious theories, creationism and intelligent design could not be tested, but Coyne makes the claim that they have been discredited. Hmmm... Then he follows that up with the conflation between evolution which is true and Evolution which is largely narrative and not "true" in nearly the same sense. Later, he makes false claims about ID-- and again, implicitly, asserts that the two can be tested against each other. If he's not careful, he's going to have his Master Evolution debater card taken away. 

Later, he sidesteps the claim that Darwinism can predict how things will evolve in the future. I hadn't thought about that previously, but a.) why not?; and b.) theories that come from ex post observations are not nearly as impressive as those that can make ex ante predictions. 

He uses "creationism" freely, but doesn't define it (at least early-on). He takes great pains to define aspects of evolution and Evolution carefully. That said, throughout the opening, he conflates evolution as "process" and Evolution as the claim/narrative that "all of life was the product of evolution". Only a moron, a demagogue, or a fundamentalist would do this.  

He notes that trouble with evolution (or Evolution) is "spreading to other countries", but he has no explanation for this-- other than the other side is very good at propaganda. Maybe it's because reasonably bright people don't like to be jerked around on basic definitions, Jerry?!

He plays fast and easy with the impact of beliefs about Evolution's worldview, morality, and so on: 

"It does not inevitably lead to the dire consequences that creationists always paint...needn't turn you into a despairing nihilist...won't make you immoral...nor need it promote atheism"

Coyne chooses wiggle words to distinguish between the straw man of determinism and the (prospective) incentive effects (tendencies) of holding a belief in the Evolution narrative (over and above belief in the fact of evolution).

Finally, this gem from the end of chapter 1:

"The theory of evolution is more than just the statement that 'evolution happened': it is an extensively documented set of principles that explain how and why evolution happens."

Actually, Jerry, most people do a lot of hand-waving with evolution-- as much as the average theist in pointing to a creator God. (And you've done a good bit of hand-waving yourself, even through chapter 1!) And again, Jerry is confused-- or trying to confuse his readers-- that having a set of principles on how and why evolutionary mechanisms might have done something is not the same as an explanation for how those mechanisms did those things in any given context.

In a word, check out Shubin, but don't waste your coin on Coyne.

2 Comments:

At January 8, 2014 at 6:29 PM , Blogger SocioSam said...

Shubin is excellent. But we warned that you will have to close your mind or end up believing in the theory of evolution.

 
At January 8, 2014 at 9:22 PM , Blogger Eric Schansberg said...

everyone believes in evolution...

 

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