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Fear and Trembling: Jerry Coyne Says No, I Won't Debate

Meyer Darwin's Doubt.jpgWell, at last, Dr. Coyne couldn't be clearer in his refusal to confront or familiarize himself with the best evidence for intelligent design. Earlier, I asked his readers to ask him to sit down and read Darwin's Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design -- we'd gladly send a free copy -- and tell us in detail where he disagrees. I expected that at least some Coyne fans would be impatient with his hiding behind Nick Matzke's phony, obfuscating "review," already thoroughly debunked by Casey Luskin. However in a new post, Coyne responds to me: "Now why on earth would I do that? I can discuss ID and the Hedin case right here, and, unlike the [Discovery Institute], I allow readers to comment."

Having previously pretended that he wasn't aware of the invitation, Coyne again kicks the responsibility off to specialists, though Stephen Meyer's book is very broadly interdisciplinary, and he adds the fresh excuse of being too busy with other projects: "I’ll leave the assessment of the Meyer book to the paleobiology pros, as I have my own book to write." Funny, for such a busy guy he's got a lot of free time on his hands available for trying to silence Eric Hedin, that is when he's not posting endless videos of cute cats.

It never mattered whether he responds substantively to Darwin's Doubt here or at Why Evolution Is True. He complained about our comments policy, so we offered to open our pages to him. Well, no deal. Brave Sir Jerry ran away.

I'm not shocked. Coyne, who claims to make the definitive case for Why Evolution Is True, refuses to engage with the primary challenge to Darwinian evolutionary theory, the one from the theory of intelligent design. In fact he's admitted that he published his 2009 book, Why Evolution Is True, after having stopped "follow[ing] the creationist wars too closely," by which he means controversies touching on ID, in 2004 with the Dover decision. Note well: he wrote a book defending an idea the criticism of which he had already ceased paying serious attention to some five years earlier. He continues that policy today.

I am surprised that, for running from a fight, Coyne's readers are giving him pretty much unanimous accolades. "I commend you for your decision," says one lady in the comments thread. "Going would be like responding to the 'flat earth society' or the 'gravity deniers' and that would be absolutely ridiculous." The ignorance of these people! They too, it appears, only want to see critics silenced, not properly answered. For a similar refusal to debate, just a couple of years back a fellow atheist and Oxford professor suggested that Richard Dawkins could be criticized for cowardice. Perhaps it's a measure of the devolution of Darwin activism that no one on his side calls out Dr. Coyne.

Again, it makes no difference whether he engages the relevant issues in his own space or ours. We issued that invitation to join us at ENV only after Coyne complained that we don't allow a comments free-for-all -- a policy motivated by the Darwinist predilection for character assassination conducted behind a veil of anonymity. Instead, we've offered interesting critics with something substantive to say an opportunity to debate us with signed posts before our own readers. That's what we offered Coyne.

So here's another sense in which Coyne is the American Dawkins: He champions Darwinism, the sick man of science, without ever daring to meet the opposition head-on. Enough of this.