Dr. Jerry Coyne is a professor at the University of Chicago in the Department of Ecology and Evolution who might prove to be an excellent defense witness for Ariel Castro.
Coyne is a critic of all anti-evolution belief systems, including creationism, theistic evolution, and intelligent design, which he calls “the latest pseudoscientific incarnation of religious creationism, cleverly crafted by a new group of enthusiasts to circumvent recent legal restrictions.” Coyne is an atheist.
“Our brains are simply meat computers that, like real computers, are programmed by our genes and experiences to convert an array of inputs into a predetermined output.”
Real computers have to be designed, built, and programmed. Coyne does believe in intelligent design when it comes to computers, but he does not believe in intelligent design when it comes to the brain (mind) that designed, built, and programmed the computer. Real computers do not evolve.
So the question is, How did our genes get programmed to do anything?
Coyne goes on to write:
“[W]e are biological creatures, collections of molecules that must obey the laws of physics. All the success of science rests on the regularity of those laws, which determine the behavior of every molecule in the universe. Those molecules, of course, also make up your brain — the organ that does the ‘choosing.’”
If I were the Cleveland kidnapper who held women (nothing but bags of meat and bones animated by electricity)1 as sex slaves for more than 10 years, I would call on Dr. Coyne to testify for me at my trial.
Computers don’t know anything about morality. So how does a “meat computer” know the difference between right and wrong? Actually, how does a “meat computer” conceptualize the categories of right and wrong? How does an atheist like Coyne account for morality given the fact that the only things (which aren’t really things) we must obey are the “laws of physics”?
Physics is not about morality. “Physics . . . involves the study of matter and its motion through space and time, along with related concepts such as energy and force.” Physics has nothing to say about whether is right to steal material things or how we should use “energy and force” in an ethical way. Physics can study the restraints Ariel Castro used to bind his kidnapped victims, but it can’t say that what he did with those restraints was moral or immoral.
“Everything that you think, say, or do,” Coyne claims, “must come down to molecules and physics.”
This is a perfect lead in to preparing a defense for the man being charged with kidnapping and sexual abuse. What laws of physics did he violate? Not one. Coyne again:
“Decisions’ . . . aren’t conscious ones. And if our choices are unconscious, with some determined well before the moment we think we’ve made them, then we don’t have free will in any meaningful sense.”
Castro was directed by his unconscious genetic mechanism. His meat machine of a brain had determined what was going to happen before the action took place. Castro’s body followed the instructions of the agitation of molecules in his brain. Sometimes those molecules agitated to feed the female meat machines, and sometimes they were agitated to rape them. Physics can’t say that either one of those actions is moral or immoral. A physics or biology teacher could make the case that both feeding and raping are ways to perpetuate the human species. Keep the female receptacles alive so their reproduction chambers can reproduce offspring.
Were the aliens in the Alien film trilogy really monsters that should have been exterminated? They were only doing what their genes had programmed them to do via evolutionary development that took a different course from human evolutionary development.
Who’s really teaching pseudoscience? It’s Dr. Coyne. Who’s making it easier for people like Ariel Castro to justify his actions? It’s Dr. Coyne’s meat computer analogy.
The molecules in Ariel Castro’s brain made him kidnap, rape, and torture.
Here’s how Coyne concludes his article:
“[B]y losing free will we gain empathy, for we realize that in the end all of us, whether Bernie Madoffs or Nelson Mandelas, [or the Cleveland kidnapper Ariel Castro] are victims of circumstance — of the genes we’re bequeathed and the environments we encounter. With that under our belts, we can go about building a kinder world.”
Mindless molecules and the laws of physics don’t know a thing about “empathy” or kindness. Ariel Castro was just following his genetic makeup.
- “Kill Switch, X-Files (Season 5, Episode 11). [↩]