Jerry Coyne is a professor of ecology and evolution at the University of Chicago. He is virulently anti-religion. He despises any hint of religion. When the Museum of Natural History in Los Angeles, Calif., displayed a plaque that included the phrase “to celebrate all of God’s creatures,” he sprung into action.
Dr. Coyne was indignant:
“I recognize that Museums are strapped for funding, and do think that Nature Lab is a good thing. But I don’t think it’s worth kowtowing to religious sentiments, and polluting the nature of science, simply to get money.
“The very existence of the sign, in fact, undercuts the mission of Nature Lab: to teach people how science is done. I needn’t remind you that science is done by ignoring God, and has never given the slightest bit of evidence for the intercession of God in the origin, evolution, and diversification of life.”
As a result, officials at the Museum of Natural History removed the plaque in honor of someone who had given a monetary gift to the museum.
Dr. Coyne’s latest attack is to maintain that there is no appreciable difference between Islamic and Catholic beliefs:
“ISIS has an extreme and fundamentalist interpretation of Muslim doctrine. But in exactly the same way, dogma about the immorality of abortion, homosexuality, premarital sex, and divorce have become part of Catholicism. They are theological interpretations of scripture that appeal to some people’s sense of morality.”
Anybody with any knowledge of evolution knows that we all caught here by the most severe cruelties. “Nature, red in tooth and claw” is the only way to explain evolutionary theory. Eat or be eaten. There is no way that an evolutionist can maintain any fixed morality.
In addition, science was birth in the womb of the Christian religion. A quick reading of James Hannam’s The Genesis of Science, that carries the subtitle How the Christian Middle Ages Launched the Scientific Revolution, makes the case quite well.
If Dr. Coyne were consistent with his evolutionary beliefs, he would be thankful for the spread of Ebola since its infectious character is eliminating the weakest among us. To fight it would be a disservice to natural selection.
In the defense of his views, Dr. Coyne makes reference to the Inquisition, but he doesn’t mention anything about the great atheist regimes of the 20th century that left 100 million dead.
On the atheist foundation of Marxist Communism, see Religion in Soviet Russia: 1917–1942 (1942) by N. S. Timasheff, the doctoral dissertation The Role of Atheism in the Marxist Tradition (1979) by David B. T. Aikman, Storming the Heavens: The Soviet League of the Militant Godless (1998) by Daniel Peris (a summary of the movement can be found here), and the three-volume A History of Marxist-Leninist Atheism and Soviet Anti-Religious Policies by Dimitry V. Pospielovsky (1987). For the most comprehensive study of the philosophical roots of Communism, take a look at Francis Nigel Lee’s Communist Eschatology (1974). There are 120 pages of chapter notes with 30 to 50 notes per page in the 1100-page volume.
Dr. Coyne, who claims that Muslims and Christians “cherry pick” their holy books, he does the same with history.
He mentions the Inquisition. The problem with raising the Inquisition in defense of the atheist scientific method is that he does not have a fixed moral place to stand given the philosophical foundations of his position.
There is another factor. The Inquisition has been badly misrepresented by historians. Consider Rodney Stark’s chapter “The Shocking Truth About the Spanish Inquisition” in His The Triumph of Christianity.
“Astonishing as it may seem,” Stark writes, “the new historians of the Inquisition have revealed that, in contrast with the secular courts all across Europe, the Spanish Inquisition was a consistent force for justice, restraint, due process, and enlightenment.” (337) The entire chapter is helpful in putting history of the period in perspective.
But let’s take all the exaggerations and misrepresentations of the Inquisition as fact. How does the distorted view of the Inquisition compare to atheistic Communion and the 100 million dead, the gulags, war mongering, the iron curtain, the Berlin Wall, and other atrocities?
Communism viewed the atheistic State in religious terms — God walking on earth — and had no problem eliminating tens of millions of non-compliant citizens to advance its worldview in the name of its materialistic evolutionary religion:
“A large percentage of the generation that knew Joseph Stalin died as a result of his directives. These were purely political killings, ‘exterminations,’ ‘liquidations’ of ‘the enemy class’ and ‘undesirable elements.’ How many were involved? Solzhenitsyn’s estimates reach as high as sixty million. Robert Conquest, author of The Great Terror, fixed the number at well into the millions. It is doubtful if we well ever know the true total — God alone knows.”1
In The Black Book of Communism, the total number killed by Communist regimes around the world approaches 100 million.2 Former Communists have described Communism as “the god that failed.”3 Even though millions were offered on the altar of atheism, Communism still had its apologists.4
Like so much of secular histories about religion and science, there has been a great deal of myth making. One of the biggest is the claim that religion and science were mortal enemies. The grand Flat Earth Myth is one of the biggest historical lies. Medieval scholar Jeffrey Burton Russell, author of Inventing the Flat Earth: Columbus and Modern Historians, writes:
“This vast web of falsehood was invented and propagated by the influential historian John Draper (1811-1882) and many prestigious followers, such as Andrew Dickson White (1832-1918), the president of Cornell University, who made sure that the false account was perpetrated in texts, encyclopedias, and even allegedly serious scholarship, down to the present day. A lively current version of the lie can be found in Daniel Boorstin’s The Discoverers, found in any bookshop or library.”
Dr. Coyne needs to figure out a way to account for morality given that matter is not moral.
- Lloyd Billingsly, The Generation that Knew Not Josef: A Critique of Marxism and the Religious Left (Portland, OR: Multnomah Press, 1985), 37. [↩]
- Stéphane Courtois, et al., The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999), 4. [↩]
- Richard H. Crossman, ed., The God That Failed (Chicago, IL: Regnery Gateway,  1983). [↩]
- S.J. Taylor, Stalin’s Apologist: Walter Duranty—The New York Times’s Man in Moscow (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990). [↩]