Jerry Coyne

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Not to be confused with George Coyne.

Jerry Coyne is a Professor Emeritus of biology at the University of Chicago who specialised in speciation (how species separate) and ecological and evolutionary genetics before retirement in 2015.[1] He is also increasingly prominent as a public skeptic, writer and atheist.

Coyne claims the invention of the neologism "sophisticated theology".[2]

Summary of beliefs[edit]

Jerry Coyne is a New Atheist who claims religion and science are incompatible, in the same way astronomy and astrology, or medicine and homeopathy are incompatible. He thinks NOMA is unreasonable, and believes trying to reconcile religion (Christian, Islamic or other) with science is futile.[3] It is a recurring topic on his blog site, and he since has co-authored a paper in philosophy no less,[4] and written a book on the subject, "Faith Vs. Fact" (2015).[5] Coyne fears the Templeton Foundation money has a corrupting influence on science.[6] He argues that religion fails the test of scientific scrutiny and that religious dogma harms science.[7] In his writings on religion, Coyne has challenged theology, questioning its place as an academic field.[8][9] Coyne believes that evolution is completely unguided.[10]

Coyne is an incompatibilist, who believes that free will is illusory and that the notion is incompatible with determinism.[citation needed]

Coyne is a liberal but is strongly critical of what he calls the regressive left or extreme liberalism.

Any working class person who voted for Trump probably wasn’t thinking, for Trump is also rich, favors the rich (as does his party), and his pandering to the working class was largely an appeal to prejudice and nativism. But it was still an alternative to the status quo. We, the Left, need to offer something tangible to the poor, both black and white, and not just demonize Republicans or sneer at working-class whites, people who are generally seen by RLs as racist and sexist—and therefore unworthy of consideration.
—Jerry Coyne[11]


Coyne is the author of standard text Speciation[12] (with H. Allen Orr, 2004) and science popularisation Why Evolution Is True (2009). The latter has spawned a regularly-updated website (he dislikes the term "blog") of the same name, which contains much top-quality skepticism and atheism (and tangling with other bloggers, theist and atheist) to go with the stuff on evolution. In 2015 Coyne published Faith VS. Fact: Why Science and Religion Are Incompatible in which he argues that any attempt to reconcile religion and science is doomed.

Coyne writes daily on his WordPress blog Why Evolution Is True, named after his first book for a general audience. He covers a wide range of recurring topics, and cats. Greg Mayer, Matthew Cobb and Grania Spingies support him regularly.

Debates and disputes[edit]

Coyne vs. Haught (On science and religion)[edit]

Coyne took on theologian John Haught in an October 12, 2011 public debate[13] at the Gaines Center, University of Kentucky over whether science and religion were compatible. After Coyne decisively won the debate, Haught tried to suppress the video of the event.

I am deeply angry about this stand, and can see only one reason for what Haught has done: cowardice. He lost the debate; his ideas were exposed for the mindless theological fluff that they were; and I used his words against him, showing that even “sophisticated” theology, when examined under the microscope of reason, is just a bunch of made-up stuff, tales told by idiots, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

After approximately the entire skepticsphere flooded UKY (and the Gaines Center's funders) with complaints, Haught begrudgingly agreed[15] to the release of the video[16] and ensuing Q&A (having already destroyed his reputation[17]). It's worth the hour's viewing. Never debate a theist without a signed release in advance.

Coyne vs. Thornhill and Palmer (On evolutionary psychology and rape)[edit]

See Rape and evolutionary psychology

Coyne became part of a larger debate surrounding Randy Thornhill and Craig Palmer, the biologist-anthropologist duo who authored A Natural History of Rape. Coyne gave the book a scathing review in the journal Nature and argued against them on a radio debate hosted by NPR. Although Coyne supports the idea of evolutionary analyses of psychology and behavior, he is a critic of much current evolutionary psychology.[18] PZ Myers has criticized Coyne for what evo-psychology he does support.[19]

Coyne vs. Pigliucci (On new atheism, the nature of science, and free will)[edit]

Coyne and Massimo Pigliucci have disagreements on a number of issues that have led to some blogospheric debating (and navel-gazing), such as the legacy of Christopher Hitchens and "new atheism."[20][21] However, their most recent dust-up has been over the issue of free will. Coyne has argued on the basis of scientific findings (the laws of physics, genetics, and neuro-imaging) that free will is an illusion.[22] Pigliucci responded that Coyne's arguments were flawed in two ways: (a) presupposing certain debatable positions such as causal closure, denial of emergent phenomena, and physical determinism, and (b) misinterpreting Benjamin Libet's neuroscience experiments.[23] Coyne replied by re-iterating his original position.[24] Pigliucci added that his issue with Coyne's claims is that they are philosophical or metaphysical rather than scientific, as he claims. Pigliucci contended that Coyne was advancing an eliminativist argument that he had failed to justify.[25] Considering that these criticisms are being leveled by someone who thinks that free will is an incoherent concept,[26] Coyne might benefit from brushing up a bit on the arguments for and against free will.

Coyne vs. Pigliucci (On the extended evolutionary synthesis)[edit]

Coyne has been very critical towards the idea of an extended evolutionary synthesis proposed by Massimo Pigliucci and others.[27] Pigliucci has responded.[28]

Coyne vs. haters[edit]

Coyne feels labeling people as "haters" is a way that sloppy thinkers avoid addressing the reasons people criticise something. Antitheists are written off as people who hate religion. Opponents of Islam are called haters, as are critics of Roman Catholicism - and the same goes for others who criticise anything. Terrorists are described as haters without analysing the reasons for terrorism.[29]

Coyne vs. Templeton[edit]

Coyne dislikes the Templeton Foundation. He thinks there is too much money and not enough Science.[30][31] Basically Coyne feels vast sums of Templeton money are used to bribe journalists and scientists to think in warm fuzzy ways about religion and spirituality and also to write warm fuzzy material about religion.[32]

Coyne vs. Myers (on the correct animal to post pictures of)[edit]

Coyne and his cats hold firm against the cephalopodic forces of PZ Myers.

Coyne vs. psychiatry[edit]

Coyne became convinced, after reading a book review in the New York Times, that the medical field of psychiatry is a scam.[33] His prime target is antidepressants, which he believes are ineffective. He also argues that psychiatrists frequently portray them as effective, and pretends to know their mechanism of action. He does not address other drugs with similar low efficacy (statins), other drugs which mechanism of action is unknown (acetaminophen), or other psychiatric drugs with demonstrably high efficacy (antipsychotics). Coyne attributes this scam partly to "the desire of pharmaceutical companies to milk the public out of as many dollars as possible" (see Big Pharma). However, he doesn't explain why other countries, many of which lack pharmaceutical industries and for-profit medicine, also continue to practice psychiatry in roughly the same way.

Coyne vs leftist college students[edit]

Coyne memorably wrote several long posts defending Bret Weinstein as Evergreen University's controversial Day of Absence unfolded. Some of his posts linked to Benjamin A. Boyce, a Youtuber who said he was a student with inside information about what was really happening at Evergreen because he was a student there. It later emerged he was a reactionary propagandist and a reactionary whose most recent tweet as of this writing attacks "the Privilege Game."[34]

Rabidly anti-woke, Coyne linked to Boyce's video in 2017, signal-boosting him before he blew up online.[35] Boyce would later go on to change his major from "Early Childhood Development" to journalism, and film a long documentary series that white nationalists keep linking to as propaganda titled, "the Truth about Evergreen University." Attending Evergreen doesn't mean Boyce wasn't a white nationalist in the fold, and statistically speaking there had to be a few at a university of a couple of thousand students. (Boyce happens to be white and a middle aged 40-year old who obsessed over students briefly protesting Bret Weinstein for ten minutes in a video before leaving him alone to march past his classroom.)

Coyne vs deplatforming[edit]

Coyne has repeatedly criticized students for the practice of deplatforming, and a non-exhaustive list of examples includes Richard Dawkins,[36] Dave Rubin,[37] and for when students helped revoke an honorary degree for Ayaan Hirsi Ali[38] or Richard Spencer.[39] He also condemned a progressive for shaming Sarah Huckabee Sanders, (Trump's then-White House propagandist press secretary) while she was eating at a restaurant.[40]

Coyne vs the Intellectual Dark Web's critics[edit]

Coyne constantly supports grifters from the Intellectual Grift Dark Web, but not their critics who he usually calls "the authoritarian left."[41] He routinely signal boosts reactionaries, and insists he is a liberal Democrat even though he almost always attacks left. To the initiated, he is best thought of as an "Enlightened Centrist," or a Dave Rubin style "classical liberal." Without Trump he would probably be a pro-science Republican, except there's a bigger audience to be had from saying you're a Democrat even though you keep attacking the left. If you say you're a conservative you limit your audience to conservatives. He still insists he is a Democrat even though he even attacked the left for criticizing Charles Murray and his friend Sam Harris.[42] He has appeared on the Rubin Report, and defended Dave Rubin from controversy.[43]

Coyne vs the Squad[edit]

Coyne still insists he is a liberal, though he loathes "the squad," from Ilhan Omar[44] to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez,[45] to Ayanna Pressley,[46] to Rashida Tlaib.[47] It's funny how for so many years he said he was in favor of reforming Islam, but then showed such hatred of prominent progressive Muslims politicians like Ilhan Omar. He appears to have unmasked himself.

Coyne vs Millennials[edit]

He really hates Millennials in general and routinely rants against them. (How dare they use "OK Boomer!").[48] He has easily acquired his share of "old man yells at the cloud" moments (but don't you dare call the retiree a conservative or he'll ban you from his blog).

Regressive left's Antisemitism and Israeli moral superiority over Palestinians[edit]

For example, in his view, regressive leftists are best represented by those from the left who support Palestinian rights, or considered Islamophobia to be a racism, or calling out people for stereotyping and generalizing identity groups, or Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) for hypocrisy.[49] Just recently his site posted an article decrying "regressive leftists" take on Gal Gadot "activism".[50]

In the context of these events he posted that the Israeli Army "has killed Palestinian children in military operations", but he knows that this was just collateral damage, a fluke, the IDF does not kill Palestinian kids deliberately - only the "ignorant" could say such a thing.[51][52] On the other hand, those well-informed and knowledgeable, like he is, know for a fact that the opposite is true: it's Palestinian children who kill and/or attempt to kill, because, you see, these little monsters so often do get imprisoned by Israel for terrorist acts.[53] In this light he's defending Gal Gadot from "regressive left" criticism in the following words: "Gadot had no part in this; her crime was solely to be Jewish, to be Israeli, and to be in the IDF."[54] He then compiled a list of examples where Palestinians kids killed Israelis, or Palestinians killing Israeli kids, while the general Palestinian population "relished acts and celebrated murderers".[55] The post is followed by numerous comments, almost in unison agreement with Coyne, but when one poster strayed[56] from the pro-Israel, anti-Palestinian, pro-Coyen path he - Coyne - decide to plunge himself into debate. On the matter of ethnicities, religions and nations propensity for violence and child murder, some commenter who was not actually against Coyne's claims in the article per se simply wanted to point out that he was against blood libel, generalization and stereotyping, and that he, Jewish himself, won't "stay silent while anybody claims that a particular ethnicity, religion or culture, have a greater propensity for child killing (or any other atrocity) than others", and more clearly that "an individual’s membership of a “race”, ethnicity, culture, nationality, does not give them an inherently greater propensity to commit atrocities",[57] to which Coyne respond that all that is exactly how things are, and why Palestinian Muslims eagerly want to kill Israeli Jews, through developing "murderous instincts" in their children as a result of their culture. There is no doubt on moral superiority of Israeli Jews over Palestinian Muslims in Coyne's mind.[58]

Coyne vs Bill Nye[edit]

Coyne is not at all fond of Bill Nye and has several blog posts criticizing him over the years. He feels that Nye deliberately spends most of him time as a "buffoon who will engage in any shenanigans that keep him in the public eye and help him retain the fame he desires-fame accrued as 'The Science Guy'."[59] However Coyne admits that he never watched Nye's show The Science Guy and concedes that he might have been outstanding in teaching science to kids back in the day, before his "comeback" which Coyne has not been a fan of, to say the least.[60] Coyne also criticized Nye for debating with Ken Ham.[61]

Coyne vs Rationalwiki[edit]

Coyne is not a huge fan of Rationalwiki. He says that while this site appears to be mostly rational, it is also tainted with "authoritarian leftism" and has "swung too far in the opposite direction" while trying to counter Conservapedia.[62]


  • Coyne, Jerry A.; H. Allen Orr (2004-06-30). Speciation. Sinauer Associates Inc., Sunderland, Mass. ISBN 978-0-87893-089-0.
  • Coyne, Jerry A. (2009-01-22). Why Evolution is True. Viking, New York (USA); Oxford University Press, Oxford (UK). ISBN 978-0-19-923084-6.
  • Coyne, Jerry A. (2015-05-19). Faith vs. Fact: Why Science and Religion are Incompatible. Viking (USA); Penguin (UK). ISBN 978-0670026531.

External links[edit]


  1. I retire today, Sep 30, 2015
  3. Jerry Coyne. U of C doc touts NOMA. Why Evolution Is True. 2010 December 28.
  4. I’m a philosopher! I haz a paper with Maarten Boudry on religious belief, Coyne, 2015
  5. Faith Vs. Fact site
  6. Jerry Coyne. Martin Rees and the Templeton travesty. The Guardian. 2011 April 6.
  7. PZ Myers. Coyne on the compatibility of science and religion. Pharyngula. ScienceBlogs. 2009 January 23.
  8. Jerry Coyne. Scientists debate philosophers and theologians at CERN—but why? Why Evolution Is True. 2012 October 15.
  9. Jerry Coyne. Why am I reading theology? Why Evolution Is True. 2011 July 4.
  10. Alex Tsakiris. Outspoken Atheist Dr. Jerry Coyne Sees No Connection Between Consciousness Research and Evolutionary Biology. Skeptico. 2012 February 14.
  11. Nick Cohen pins some blame on liberals for Trump’s election on the Regressive Left
  12. Speciation (publisher page)
  13. My debate with John Haught in Kentucky Why Evolution Is True, 2011-10-13)
  14. Theologian John Haught refuses to release video of our debate (Why Evolution Is True, 2011-11-01)
  15. Under pressure from blogosphere, Haught explains and relents (Why Evolution Is True, 2011-11-02)
  16. Science and Religion: Are They Compatible? October 12, 2011 with Jerry Coyne and John Haught Debate, Q&A
  18. Evolutionary Psychology for the Masses, Jerry Coyne, Why Evolution Is True
  19. Jerry Coyne is trying to defend evolutionary psychology again
  20. In Defense of Hitch, Why Evolution Is True
  21. Jerry Coyne Loses His Cool, Dawkins His Style, Massimo Pigliucci, Rationally Speaking
  22. Why You Don't Really Have Free Will, Jerry Coyne, USA Today
  23. Jerry Coyne on Free Will, Massimo Pigliucci
  24. Am I Unsophisticated About Free Will?, Jerry Coyne
  25. On Free Will: Response to Readers, Massimo Pigliucci
  26. The Incoherence of Free Will, Massimo Pigliucci
  27. Are we ready for an “extended evolutionary synthesis”?, Coyne (2009)
  28. Jerry Coyne and the Extended Evolutionary Synthesis, reply by Pigliucci (2009)
  29. A new catchphrase for the Regressive Left—and other simple thinkers The reactionary right are also of course problematic.
  30. Templeton wastes $11 million in attempt to change evolutionary biology
  31. More ill-gotten gains: Templeton gives $1 million to BioLogos
  32. The Templeton Bribe
  33. Is Medical Psychiatry A Scam?
  34. [1] [2] Benjamin A. Boyce's most recent random tweet on "The Privilege Game."
  35. Why Evolution is True: "More on the Evergreen State situation."
  36. Richard Dawkins
  37. Why Evolution is True
  38. [ Why Evolution is True
  39. punching white supremacist Richard Spencer
  40. Sarah Huckabee Sanders
  41. [3]
  42. Why Evolution is True
  43. Why Evolution is True
  45. "authoritarian leftist" AOC]
  46. Why Evolution is True: Ayanna Pressley
  47. [[4]] Rashida Tlaib.
  48. Why Evolution is True
  49. Israeli Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman poses a dilemma for regressives: feminism vs. Israeli “genocide”?
  50. The left eats its own: The demonization of Gal Gadot
  51. The left eats its own: The demonization of Gal Gadot
  52. Israeli strike kills four children playing on the beach
  53. The left eats its own: The demonization of Gal Gadot
  54. The left eats its own: The demonization of Gal Gadot
  55. The left eats its own: The demonization of Gal Gadot
  56. Two readers engaged in discussion on violence and moral superiority equivalence, before Coyen jumped in to reply to one of them
  57. In comment discussion Coyen expresses his beliefs that North Koreans are more violent than Swedes
  58. When Coyne discovered Palestinian children's "murderous instincts through miracle of science & philosophy"