Jerry Coyne at BHA 2016—Part 2: NOPE.

(Part 1 is here.)

[CONTENT NOTE: While this post contains no graphic descriptions or images of violence, it does contain discussion of: child sexual assault, abuse and death; suicide; hostility to consent, bodily autonomy and agency; homophobia; sex- and gender-based discrimination.]

Just a reminder: in the intro to Part 1, I noted that while atheist Big Willie Dr. Coyne may communicate some very useful and interesting things in this lecture (and elsewhere) that readers here may find worthwhile, he is exasperatingly prone to poo flinging, and I fully respect the decision of anyone who decides to pay him no attention whatsoever on this basis alone. As I said, FWIW I do not allow Coyne’s poo flinging in the remaining portions of the transcript to go unrebutted.

When we left off things were going so well! Coyne had just announced he was at the end of his presentation, in which he had made a compelling case for universal healthcare and economic equality as the means to eradicate religion (whereas I view these things as ends in themselves, with the diminishment of religion—and likely conservatism as well—as additional benefits that would support a virtuous cycle). But then, right after the last section I transcribed, at 1:09:50 he goes on to say this:

Oh, I want to say one more thing and then give you a nice quote here. WE WON. Okay, religion is on the back foot, creationism is no longer an acceptable thing to believe in American public schools, religions cannot impose their will, at least in Western societies, and so it’s just a matter of waiting. It’s not going to happen in our lifetime, but our grandchildren are going to see a far more secular world, and that means a world in which evolution is appreciated far more than it is now.

WHAT.

What kind of bubble do you have to live in to seriously claim that “religions cannot impose their will” in Western societies—namely, the US? I’ll tell you what kind of bubble: an economically secure, able, white, male privilege bubble so opaque you can barely make out the dim likeness of Jerry Coyne inside of it.

Let us count the ways, shall we?

  • Religious education. It starts in infancy. Unlike their secular counterparts, religious day cares in many parts of the country operate with little to no regulation, and with predictably tragic results (TW: child abuse, neglect and death). The religious day care exemption trend is increasing, particularly in swaths of the country where churches preach the gospel against government interference. In Alabama and Indiana, for instance, nearly half of all day care centers have a religious exemption. (Strangely, they’re not adverse to government funding, to the tune of hundreds of millions in taxpayer subsidies. This must be some of that “sophisticated theology” I’ve heard about, but am obviously too unsophisticated to understand.) In grades K-12, religious schools are exempt from all sorts of regulations from the mundane to the wildly outrageous. And don’t get me started on religious homeschooling—a trend that is also increasing, even if it’s no longer acceptable to teach creationism in public schools. As a bonus, corporal punishment at home or in schools—including public schools, where black children with disabilities are disproportionately affected—is justified almost exclusively by religion, despite the fact that the jury’s in on the harms it causes.

But enough about raping, beating, neglecting and killing children with impunity because of religion. Not that Jerry Coyne has noticed, but religions also routinely impose their will on women.

  • Catholic hospitals refusing treatment. Life threatening ectopic pregnancies are left to fester until women get close to dying. Women who are miscarrying have to risk infection, excessive bleeding and death, rather than receive an emergency abortion. (One doctor said “We often tell patients that we can’t do anything in the hospital but watch you get infected.”) All forms of birth control including tubal ligations are banned, even in cases where a pregnancy would prove fatal; rape victims are denied emergency contraception. Infertility treatments are banned. Patients’ living will requests to be taken off of life support are ignored. Oh, and here’s a real doozy: “many states allow religious hospitals to discriminate against gays and lesbians, both as employees and as patients.” And it’s only getting worse, affecting more and more people:

Between 2001 and 2011, the number of American hospitals affiliated with the Catholic Church grew 16 percent, even as the number of public hospitals and secular nonprofit hospitals dropped 31 percent and 12 percent, respectively, according to an upcoming report by the American Civil Liberties Union and MergerWatch, a nonprofit that tracks religious health care mergers… Ten of the 25 largest nonprofit hospital systems in the country are Catholic, and Catholic hospitals care for 1 in 6 American patients. In at least eight states, 30 percent or more of patient admissions are at Catholic facilities.

[See also: Ireland.]

  • Pharmacy conscience laws. Sanctimonious panty sniffers can refuse to fill prescriptions they don’t personally approve of. Guess who is affected, almost exclusively? Women.
  • Taxpayer funded Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs). While budgets for reproductive healthcare are slashed mercilessly, governments (state and federal) lavishly fund fake clinics to deliberately deceive, defraud and coerce women into continuing unwanted pregnancies for Jeezus. Nationwide, CPCs outnumber abortion clinics roughly five to one; in some places (like Texas) it’s eight to one.
  • Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. It was less than two years ago that the US Supreme Court decreed that not only are corporations people, they can be religious people, who are entitled to impose their factually wrong, retrograde, explicitly Christian views about birth control on their female employees—and only their female employees. Because RELIGIOUS FREEDOM™.

Of course Jerry Coyne is not a kid dying needlessly from a treatable illness, denied a decent education, routinely assaulted for existing while black and disabled, nor in all likelihood was he ever raped as a child by a priest. He will never find himself in a hospital waiting around for treatment until he’s been declared close enough to dying to deserve medical intervention, or outright denied any treatment at all because he looks like a lesbian. I highly doubt he’ll ever have to jump through extra hoops to avoid reproducing, just because his employers happen to be Christian assholes. He’ll never have to drive around to different pharmacies hoping to find someone to fill his prescription, let alone travel for hours multiple times (or to another country altogether) to access a time-sensitive medical procedure. Needless to say, he will never need to resort to performing medical and surgical procedures on himself, and his doctors will never be required by the state to lie to him, subject him unnecessary medical “tests”, or put him in time out like a child for a day (or three) before allowing him to access the medical care he is seeking. And his tax dollars aren’t being used to coerce, defraud and force him into giving birth against his wishes.

Religions impose their will all the fucking time—just not on Jerry Coyne.

How…convenient.

More broadly:

  • $83.5 billion in annual taxpayer subsidies to religion. That’s a very conservative estimate, by the way; for example, that number does not include local tax exemptions for income, sales or property. In New York City alone, local income tax ranges from 2.907% to 3.876%, purchases above $110 are subject to a 4.5% local sales tax, and more than 9,500 churches, synagogues and mosques evade at least $626.9 million a year in property tax (that is a 2011 estimate—as real estate values have soared, so has that number). A lowball number for religious real estate holdings nationwide is $600 billion, and that figure doesn’t include properties that are not specifically houses of worship. Some religious organizations own what can only be described as massive real estate empires—off of the tax rolls.

This is hardly a complete list of religions imposing their will on US citizens; for example, I suspect a strong case can almost certainly be made that the recent spate of bathroom bills allegedly intended to protect cis people against the (nonexistent) dangers of peeing in proximity to trans people have their roots in conservative Christianity, as do “gay and trans panic” defenses to murder.

So I am not exactly holding my breath for the grand opening of the White House Office of Reality-Based Initiatives under the next president, no matter who it is. Because contra Coyne, religions imposing their wills in myriad ways on at least half of the US citizenry doesn’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon—if anything, quite the opposite.

Tl;dr:

palacefuckyou

FUCK YOU, JERRY COYNE.

__________

I’m presently deciding whether or not to do a Part 3. I transcribed for our infotainment another section from the Q&A, where Coyne says some more really cool stuff…and then goes into full mansplain-to-the-feminists mode and pulls a Dear Muslima. It’s darkly comic, if you enjoy mocking and snorting derisively at that sort of thing (I know I sure do!), and frankly this shit’s so easy to debunk. And it ought to be debunked and/or mocked every time it rears its irrational little head. (I am envisioning Whack-a-Mole, but with squirrels. Or possibly, douchebro atheists.) Unfortunately, it does not appear that anyone else is stepping up to do it with this lecture. Thus are the heavy burdens of Your Humble Monarch™.

5 thoughts on “Jerry Coyne at BHA 2016—Part 2: NOPE.

  1. My dear Iris – This commentary is, to paraphrase Harriet Hall, a rant that caused my flabber to become thoroughly gasted. Sheesh – you are an original insofar as my life experience is concerned. I have not previously encountered, despite an astonishing numbers of years on the planet, one of whom I am so very fond and with whom I am so very aligned in so many – BUT DEFINITELY NOT ALL ways, who so excoriates those who are (or should be viewed as) treasured allies.

    That was a long sentence, I know, but I could not pause to breathe before getting on “paper” the point I wanted to make.

    Which, I think, is that IMHO, you are waaaaay too hard on your friends.

    Jerry Coyne is a freethought hero, as are others who have incurred your creative, learned and as often as not, somewhat earned criticisms but, never appropriately in my view, vitriol. I dare speak their names, though I have close friends who are also FOI (friends of Iris) who, somewhat pusillanimously, never mention their names around you or the Palace. Alas, being reckless in guarded attempts at fearlessness, I shall, for to me these men are also freethought heroes who have and continue to make inroads toward the consummation devoutedly to be wished that Dr. Coyne believes is in our grandchildren’s future – a near godless time when the horrors of theocratic inroads have evaporated in truly civilized societies.

    And so I ask more respect for Coyle and other grand and celebrated inspirational figures like Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and all the rest who have done so much for reason, liberty and the demise of superstition. Disagree whenever for whatever reasons, but with a bit more kindness, sympathy or maybe just gentility, knowing our common cause is more consequential than any differences.

    Point them out, work to persuade changes but go lightly on the ad hominem. Again, great piece. Many thanks.

    • My dear Don —
      I wish to address the gasting of your flabber, which may be the result of some confusion and misapprehension on your part and/or failure to communicate on mine.

      you are an original insofar as my life experience is concerned.

      Yeah, I get that a lot.

      I have not previously encountered, despite an astonishing numbers of years on the planet, one of whom I am so very fond and with whom I am so very aligned in so many – BUT DEFINITELY NOT ALL ways, who so excoriates those who are (or should be viewed as) treasured allies.

      Ooof. Don, Don, Don.

      That’s not how allies work. An ally listens and learns when those less privileged speak up to tell him (or her) how his words and actions are failing and harming them—and not incidentally, thwarting him from achieving his own stated goals (such as less religiosity in American society). An actual ally will apologize, and (this is the important part) make a sincere attempt to avoid doing that harm again in the future. This is how and why, for example, despite being raised by open racists in a White supremacist society, I continue to listen to people of color, use what they say to interrogate my insidious White privilege and work to subvert White supremacy.

      Here’s the thing: I do not get to simply declare my grand aspirations to be an ally to people of color, and then not do that work. Likewise, neither does Richard Dawkins get to declare himself a feminist while shitting all over women and promoting vicious anti-feminist Christina Hoff Sommers. And neither Jerry Coyne nor Don Ardell get to tell me who my allies are (or should be).

      If someone is, say, harming women by their words and actions and driving them away from movement atheism, despite this being pointed out to them repeatedly (kindly, even) FOR YEARS, and they neither listen nor learn (to say nothing of apologizing and doing better) then they are not my ally. Ironically enough, if they want to build movement atheism they are not even their own allies—unless of course what they really want is for only men (and sexist women) to be part of movement atheism. In that case (a) they deserve a fuckton more vitriol than they’re presently getting from feminist quarters, and (b) they can have their fucking movement atheism. The rest of us will simply put our considerable energies elsewhere—for example, fighting for universal health care and reducing economic inequality. According to Jerry Coyne himself, these two things alone would do far more to eradicate religiosity than his and his friends books and blogs and lectures about atheism.

      you are waaaaay too hard on your friends. Jerry Coyne is a freethought hero, as are others who have incurred your creative, learned and as often as not, somewhat earned criticisms but, never appropriately in my view, vitriol.

      Just as you don’t get to decide who my allies are, you sure as hell don’t get to decide who my “friends” are, or who my freethought heroes are. I decide that.

      I dare speak their names, though I have close friends who are also FOI (friends of Iris) who, somewhat pusillanimously, never mention their names around you or the Palace.

      *ugh* This is not the first time you have referred to our wonderful mutual friends as cowardly—and this is not the first time that I am pointing out that it is possible that your hypothesis is wrong, and that they just might actually agree with me after I point out harmful sexism and outright misogyny emanating from people that they (and I) otherwise respect and admire. We are all blind to our own privilege. That is the nature of the privilege beast. Again, the critical difference between allies and non-allies is step 1: listening and learning from those who do not share ours. Or, you know, yours.

      Alas, being reckless in guarded attempts at fearlessness, I shall, for to me these men are also freethought heroes who have and continue to make inroads toward the consummation devoutedly to be wished that Dr. Coyne believes is in our grandchildren’s future – a near godless time when the horrors of theocratic inroads have evaporated in truly civilized societies.

      …where the Palestinian genocide is finally complete, and women are still second class citizens. Because that is what Coyne’s positions entail. And you would have me refrain from skewering him for that? Hahaha no.

      And so I ask more respect for Coyle and other grand and celebrated inspirational figures like Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and all the rest who have done so much for reason, liberty and the demise of superstition.

      Disagree whenever for whatever reasons, but with a bit more kindness, sympathy or maybe just gentility, knowing our common cause is more consequential than any differences.

      Point them out, work to persuade changes but go lightly on the ad hominem.

      People get my respect only to the extent that they earn and deserve it, Don. In these Coyne posts for example, I do not simply excoriate him by pointing out his insulting, nearly comical privilege-blindness; I say some very positive things about him and highlight excellent sections of his talk that I thought were so good I took the trouble to transcribe them and write about them. There are more than a dozen amazing Dawkins quotes in my library, while he simultaneously resides in my Abattoir for viewing women as incubators in service to society without the same human rights he enjoys as a man. That fucking infuriates me. And frankly, I am hurt that it doesn’t infuriate you. You seem to think certain people deserve my deference and respect no matter what they do. (IIRC, you felt the same way about my harshly criticizing Obama before the 2012 election.) Moreover, you think I should just suck it up when it comes to atheist d00ds who write books, and kindly and calmly explain why I deserve human rights—as if no one’s ever patiently tried using evidence and rationality with these grand and celebrated Paragons of Reason and Defenders of Liberty before. Please.

      And no, I do not know that “our common cause is more consequential than any differences.” You haven’t defined what “our common cause” is, but let me be crystal clear: I am not interested in “less religion” for its own sake. A 100% secular society that upholds patriarchal and colonialist values is of less than zero interest to me. I am interested solely in a more just and humane world, which according to the research Coyne discusses (and others) would result in the demise of religiosity, and likely extinguish conservatism as well—a virtuous cycle.

      I have a serious question for you: why are you not over at Coyne’s or Harris’s or Dawkins’ blogs right now demanding that they cease from spewing dismissive and contemptuous vitriol toward their “allies, friends and freethought heroes” who are women? Like, say, Katha Pollit? Or Melissa McEwan? Or gawdsferbid Rebecca Watson?

      I think the answer is because you equate the harm that they do to women and to the atheist movement— consistently and unrepentantly—with my calling it out and being angry about it. No—actually, I suspect you think what I am doing is worse. And that is a big problem. :|

      • Oh well, much to consider here, including links to explore. Glad we offered our current thinking to each other, and interested parties, on vital matters at hand. Still convinced it’s best to communicate frankly, provided it’s in countries where it’s safe to do so, no high paying jobs or royalty payments are at stake and the other person is unarmed and not unhinged. The future lies ahead.

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