The Wit And Wisdom Of Jerry Coyne
Taking offense at John Gray’s takedown of Richard Dawkins, Jerry Coyne, again, prattles on about matters of which he knows nothing:
“Even I, a lowly biologist, know that many of the “church fathers,” including Augustine and Aquinas, took the Genesis story literally (including Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden); only after you accepted the historicity of these events, they said, could you also read into them other meanings. And get your story straight, you faitheists! […] It’s time to dispel the trope that nobody took Genesis literally until recent times. For millennia, theologians and believers have seen it as historical truth, and you don’t have to do much research to find that out.”
Of course Coyne means to say that biblical literalism isn’t solely a fairly recent phenomenon within the church, and evidences this by implying Augustine and Aquinas, perhaps two of the most influential thinkers of classical Christian theism, are literalists. Coyne obviously wants to be able to shriek “look, 6-day creation, Adam and Eve, an apple and a talking snake! — what utter codswallop!”
Only, St. Augustine was not a literalist. Ditto Aquinas. He –they– definitely took some parts literally, but that’s mainly because they were men of their time, and those were the parts of the bible they, being men of their time, had no reason to read otherwise. Someone from 3rd century Palestine, say, who’s never encountered a whale, or any scientific literature showing that the anatomical structure of whales precluded the possibility of humans surviving in them for periods of time, may well be justified in taking that part of the story of Jonah literally. There is, after all, no reason for him, as far as he can see, to take it otherwise. That they (Augustine and Aquinas) aren’t literalists in the sense Coyne wants them to be should be obvious to anyone who’s had a moment to acquaint himself with their writings. So Coyne’s bandying about of Augustine’s or Aquinas’s literal reading of some parts of the bible as evidence that they were literalists only further demonstrates Coyne’s incompetence on the matter. In trying to refute John Gray, Coyne only succeeds in doing the opposite of what he intended, making John’s broader point, which is that Dawkins, and, by extension, Jerry Coyne, love to, and ought to desist from, pontificating on matters about which they know bupkis.
What’s becoming abundantly clear is that neo atheists like Coyne are only competent inside the lab, if they can be said to be competent at anything at all. Outside it, they show a laughable ignorance of not only philosophy, but of history, by making assertions any competent historian, philosopher, or anyone else who has the time to take a cursory glance at wikipedia for that matter, can easily dispel.
Coyne is a prat who should seriously stick to cataloging fruit flies.