Posted on Oct 21, 2012 by Tom Gilson
Soon after I posted on “While Atheists Accuse Christians of Hatred” yesterday, Crude asked me to write a commentary on it. I didn’t, because I didn’t have anything more substantial to say about it. It hit me on a purely emotional level, or so I thought. With the help of some more of the comments I’ve been able to sort out what really bothered me about it. Thanks go especially to TFBW and to Kevin for helping me figure myself out on this.
Here’s what’s hateful about that graphic. In short, it’s idiotic, as TFBW said, and it’s also slanderous. (More on those two assessments below.) Further, in the case of Jerry Coyne, it’s idiotic when he ought to be smart enough to know better. Rather than caring to know better, though, he prefers to perpetuate slanderous idiocy. That led me straight to the feeling that there was hatred in it.
What was mindless about the graphic? Almost everything. TFBW explained some of it yesterday. First, it sets off “science” against “religion” as doing different things. This is wrong on multiple levels. It confuses capabilities with motivations, for one thing. Science is a methodology for discovery, which leads to capabilities like a spectacular sky dive. Science didn’t motivate the sky dive, however; a human drive for exploration and adventure did.
Of course it took science to accomplish it—but it takes science to make a gun, too. The graphic could have just as accurately said that while science was dropping a man for a record breaking sky dive, science was shooting a girl for wanting to go to school. Now, before you react and tell me that’s idiotic, that’s the point. The original was just as idiotic. That’s only obscured by the fact that in one case the science is more recent and therefore more salient.
By the way, if the idea was to set off science (still in the illegitimate usage of the term that the original employed) against a human motivational force, the graphic could have said that while the human drive for discovery and adventure accomplished an amazing sky dive while science was shooting a girl. It’s obviously wrong isn’t it? But it’s not more wrong than the graphic.
Perhaps one difference between the original and my inversion of it is that it’s setting the pursuit of knowledge against the enforcement (with a gun) of ignorance. I’ll come to that, but I have to cover some other things on the way there.
The second important way in which the graphic erred was in its undiscriminating use of the term “religion.” It treated all religion as one thing, which is breathtakingly silly. Not all religions believe in shooting girls for wanting to go to school. How obvious is that!? Islam is inherently misogynistic, whereas Christianity remains history’s greatest motivational force for improving the condition of women, including educationally.
That’s a too-little-known reality of history, and in Coyne’s case it’s knowledge he would prefer not be advanced. And that, by the way, sets up my answer to those who would say that the drive for discovery is a purer force than “religion.” It’s only as pure as the person. Coyne’s drive for discovery stops cold at the point of learning anything positive about Christianity or any religion. On such things he prefers to play a schoolyard-ish taunting game.
So while (ahem) “science” is safely dropping a man from space, Jerry Coyne is on a campaign to inhibit and to distort knowledge about one of the world’s most historically significant social phenomena. He’s not using a gun to enforce this ignorance, but he’s using every non-violent resource at his disposal.
And among those resources are mocking, taunting, and slandering: not only of religion, but of the millions who practice it.
Finally Coyne pronounced that the graphic contained all that needed to be said. He rejected dialogue, he rejected listening.
That’s what I reacted to as hateful.