Thursday, April 17, 2014

Jerry Coyne's Precambrian Rabbits

When last we left Jerry Coyne, we had coined the term "coyning, v." to mean attempting to disprove the arguments in a book without having read it. Apparently determined to clear his name, Coyne has been reading David Hart's new book and writing about it, to somewhat comic effect.

Coyne's arguments are deeply premised in his facile understanding of religion, despite his claim to have spent years studying theology. For example, Coyne identifies the claim that God refers to the "Ground of All Being" (Coyne's words) is a notion that begins with modern theologians such as Tillich. This claim is, of course, falsifiable--and false.

Just as a pre-Cambrian rabbit would falsify the current account of evolutionary history, so a statement by a pre-Modern theologian would disprove Coyne's "history of dogma." And Coyne's pre-Cambrian positively teems with rabbits.

John of Damascus, born in 676 AD, said of God:
God does not belong to the class of existing things: not that he has no existence, but that he is above existing things, nay even above existence itself.
And John of Damascus offers this as a summary of the Christian theologians who lived before him. This is well known to anyone who has studied the history of theology. One of the most famous aspects of the theology of Augustine and Aquinas is their claim that God is Being, the ground of all beings. In fact, the view that God is a particular being is a distinctively modern view, peddled by the likes of William Lane Craig and Alvin Plantinga.

So the question is this: will Coyne revise his position in light of the evidence falsifying it? Or is his ignorance indefatigable? Will he hold on to his faith that the notion of God as the ground of being is modern, in spite of the evidence disproving it?

My suspicion--and I am happy to shown wrong--is that Coyne faith is so desperate that he will hold onto his beliefs even after they have been falsified. And if he does so, he will have proven that his supposed commitment to evidence is a smokescreen that hides a blind faith.

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