Friday, March 10, 2017

Friday traditio- Jerry Coyne

Last weeks Friday traditio turned out to be a big hit, so I will keep doing them weekly. Since the blog, as I mentioned before, is about philosophy, science, religion, and politics, each traditio will be about one of those four topics.

In the last traditio, William Lane Craig and Antony Flew debated the existence of God (as a theist, I personally found Flew more convincing, maybe because Flew is a fellow Humean, but I digress). This week, after posting a quote by my friend and mentor Steven L. Peck about how evolution and theology are intertwined, a few of my friends who do not believe in Darwinism said that the two were not compatible.

For their sake, I wanted to share a video from a top biologist explaining why evolution is true. Jerry Coyne is an emeritus professor of biology at the University of Chicago and is one of evolution's staunchest advocates; Thomas Henry Huxley is Darwin's bulldog, Richard Dawkin's is Darwin's chihuahua, Tarik D. LaCour is Darwin's python, and Coyne is Darwin's alligator (I coined the last two myself). He blogs personally here, and is the author of the books Why Evolution is True and Faith vs. Fact: Why Science and Religion are Incompatible  (Edward Feser wrote a scathing review of the latter book here). In this video, Coyne explains what evolution is, why it true, and debunks common objections to it. Enjoy.


  1. Tarik,

    I appreciate you posting this. I think that religion and evolution are compatible. Or, it is possible to believe in both rationally. I think that most of evolution is true.

    But I have been researching evolution, intelligent design and creationism on and off for 15 years. My opinions are not made out of ignorance of Coyne's arguments. Before I watch an hour long talk, most of which I probably agree with, maybe I could ask you to review some of my favorite videos or articles on intelligent design? Have you reviewed the intelligent design literature? Has Dr. Peck? Has Mr. Coyne? I have heard that he has a tendency to straw-man and dismiss intelligent design.

    I promise to watch as much of this video of Dr. Coyne as you watch of this video of Dr. Behe.

    I will also read an article of yours, if you read this article by geneticist John Sanford.


    1. Collin,

      As always, thanks for your comments. This traditio was not primarily about you, I have many friends who are against Darwinism for various reasons.

      I will watch you video, and read the article, after all you are one of the blogs greatest advocates.

      I have looked into Intelligent Design extensively, and I have several books on the subject authored by Stephen Meyer, who is the head of the Discovery Institute.

  2. Tarik, I want to thank you for reviewing my material. You didn't have to and it was probably not very polite of me to ask you to do it.

    So I've begun watching the video, and I will finish it. But after about 20 minutes here are my thoughts.

    Dr. Coyne gives 5 parts to evolutionary theory. I don't have much of a problem with any of them. But I do think he leaves something vital out of it: the source of variation.

    Ever since high school I've been told that natural selection is the engine of evolution. That never made much sense to me. It's like saying that death is the source of life.

    If natural selection is to act on anything, it must be variation in life. Now, maybe he touches on this later in the video, but even if he does, he should have included it in one of the 5 major parts of evolution, namely, random mutation leading to novel features of life upon which natural selection can work.

    This is, in my opinion, the weakest part of evolutionary theory which is maybe why Dr. Coyne leaves it out.

    In every complex system that humans bring about, random mutation leads to failure. In automobiles, computer software or books, random mutations make it worse. I even saw an interview with Richard Dawkins where he admitted that most mutations are bad.

    But if we see a new feature in an automobile or a piece of software that works, it is due to the thoughtful intervention of an engineer. We even have a fossil record of cars where new features appear. We have diversification, going from simple cars (or proto-cars: wagons) to sports cars, trucks, mini-vans and motor boats, each filling an ecological niche. Sometimes we have "convergent evolution" where a feature appears in two different "species" of automobile, just as we have convergent evolution in life.

    My own speculation is that we created life in our pre-mortal forms. God could have snapped his finger and made life, but he let us create it and guide it along through trial and error (natural selection) thinking up new features to try out and tinker with. I think that Edward Feser objects to a "tinkering God" which is understandable. So I would solve that problem by saying that God allows us, as pre-mortal spirits to create life, learning as we go. So we are the tinkerers, not God. But that's just my speculation.