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Jerry Coyne: “…adherence to ID… should be absolute grounds for not hiring a science professor.”

Michael Egnor

Commenting on proposed state laws to protect scientists from discrimination, University of Chicago biology professor Jerry Coyne sums up the Darwinist approach to academic freedom:

“… I abhor discrimination against hiring simply because of someone’s religion, but adherence to ID (which, after all, claims to be a nonreligious theory) should be absolute grounds for not hiring a science professor.” (emphasis mine)

Actually, Coyne has no problem with discrimination against a scientist because of religous belief. Coyne took strong exception to NIH director Francis Collins’ public discussion of his Christian beliefs:

Collins gets away with this kind of stuff [i.e. publicly stating that science is compatible with belief in God] only because, in America, Christianity is a socially sanctioned superstition. He’s the chief government scientist, but he won’t stop conflating science and faith. He had his chance, and he blew it. He should step down.

Collins is one of the most distinguished basic scientists in the United States, and his career is even more remarkable in that he is also one of the nation’s most accomplished science administrators. In 1989, Collins and his team identified the gene for cystic fibrosis, and Collins and his team subsequently isolated the genes for Huntington’s disease, neurofibromatosis, multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1, and the M4 type of adult acute leukemia.
In 1993 Collins succeeded James Watson as Director of the National Center for Human Genome Research, and directed the Human Genome Project, which under his leadership was accomplished ahead of schedule and under budget.
Collins has been elected to the Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences. He recieved the Kilby International Awards in 1993. In 2007, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In 2008, he was awarded the National Medal of Science.
Jerry Coyne is a biologist at the University of Chicago who studies the genetics and evolution of fruit flies. He is known to the public and to most of the scientific community only because of his fervent advocacy of atheism and Darwinism.
Yet Coyne insists that Collins is unfit to serve as director of the National Institutes of Health. Coyne’s reason for demanding Collins’ resignation: Collins has spoken publicly about his Christian beliefs.
It’s noteworthy that Coyne blogs frequently about his personal belief that science proves atheism, but obviously considers himself eminently employable. But when the director of the NIH, an extraordinarily qualified scientist who is a Christian, publicly expresses his belief that science and Christianity are compatable, Coyne demands his resignation.
It’s worth noting that Collins has taken a strong public position against ID. So Coyne believes that Collins is unfit to serve as NIH director not because Collins endorses ID (he doesn’t), but merely because Collins publicly discusses his Christianity. Coyne’s filter for exclusion of scientists from the scientific profession seems designed to catch not only ID advocates but Christians who publicly discuss their beliefs.
If this is Coyne’s ‘abhorrence of religious discrimination in science,’ what would Coyne’s advocacy of religious discrimination look like?
Coyne asserts that scientists who infer design in nature should not be employed in science. Coyne, an atheist biologist who is critical of ‘accomodation’ with any metaphysical viewpoint except atheism, fails to provide a single bit of evidence that a scientist’s ‘adherence’ to ID in any way diminishes the quality of his scientific work. Coyne proposes that scientists who believe that nature reveals evidence of intelligent agency are disqualified for any scientific work only on the basis of that belief.
Is there a rational basis for disqualifying scientists for employment simply because they believe that there is evidence for design in nature?
The United States leads the world in scientific productivity, and among developed countries has the largest percentage of population who doubt the adequacy of blind Darwinian mechanisms to account for life. Large majorities of Americans believe that nature manifests evidence of design, as do many working scientists today, and as did the vast majority of scientists in the past few centuries who led the scientific revolution.
Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Faraday, Maxwell, and Einstein all believed that nature revealed intelligent agency. In fact, the firm conviction that intelligent agency was to be found in natural laws was perhaps the prime motivating factor in the Scientific Revolution. Atheism’s role in the Scientific Revolution was nil. Can Coyle name the scientists who were guided by atheist metaphysics during the Scientific Revolution? Atheists today who wish to make an accounting of atheism’ s contribution to science should look to the history of science in the Soviet Union, North Korea, or to Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge for evidence of scientific advancement under state atheism.
Coyne need not merely daydream about the progress of science in an atheist society. The 20th Century was the heyday of atheism as state ideology. My question for Dr. Coyne: how did science fare in atheist societies?
‘Evidence-based’ atheists are loathe to examine the clear evidence that science flourishes in cultures steeped in Judeo-Christian metaphysics, and science dessicates in cultures in which atheism holds sway. The advancement of science during the Scientific Revolution and subsequently in Europe and in the United States since the 18th Century has taken place in a culture saturated with the conviction that nature manifested intelligent design.
Coyne has failed to provide a shred of evidence that adherence to ID is associated in any way with bad science. How many of the scientists who have signed the Discovery Institute’s “A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism” — all of whom, according to Coyne, should be unemployable in science — practice bad science in any measurable way? Where is Coyne’s objective evidence that these scientists who support ID are substandard scientists, let alone so substandard that not a single one of them should be employed in science?
Yet Coyne insists that scientists — not just evolutionary biologists but any scientists — be banned from employment merely for affirming the evidence for design in nature.
Coyne provides no evidence that adherence to ID is associated with substandard science. He makes no argument at all for discriminating against scientists who recognize design in nature. He merely asserts that such scientists (mostly scientists who don’t share his atheist metaphysics) must not be allowed to work as scientists.
For Coyne, and for his atheist comrades who exert disproportionate influence in the scientific profession, actual evidence of scientific skill or accomplishment are of less importance in hiring a scientist than whether the scientist passes the materialist/atheist litmus test. An atheist who is an utterly undistinguished biologist can gain international renown as a defender of science, whereas a superbly accomplished astrophysicist is denied employment because he has expressed doubts about the adequacy of Darwinism to explain all aspects of living things and has expressed a willngness to take ID seriously.
Jerry Coyne’s inquisition is a small part of a fervent crusade on the part of (mostly atheist) scientists to eliminate scientists who acknowledge design in nature from the scientific profession. But most of this science is paid for by taxpayers, who ultimately decide whether or not such discrimination is acceptable in science.
Coyne’s explicit metaphysical litmus test is clear evidence that we need legislation to protect academic freedom for scientists.
Please contact your legislators to ask that scientists who support the design inference in nature be protected from discrimination in employment. You might consider using Coyne’s explicit litmus test, as well as the egregious discrimination against scientists such as Richard Sternberg, Guillermo Gonzalez, JPL computer specialist David Coppedge, and Martin Gaskell, as evidence for the pressing need for legislation to protect academic freedom.

Michael Egnor

Senior Fellow, Center for Natural & Artificial Intelligence
Michael R. Egnor, MD, is a Professor of Neurosurgery and Pediatrics at State University of New York, Stony Brook, has served as the Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery, and award-winning brain surgeon. He was named one of New York’s best doctors by the New York Magazine in 2005. He received his medical education at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and completed his residency at Jackson Memorial Hospital. His research on hydrocephalus has been published in journals including Journal of Neurosurgery, Pediatrics, and Cerebrospinal Fluid Research. He is on the Scientific Advisory Board of the Hydrocephalus Association in the United States and has lectured extensively throughout the United States and Europe.