Jerry Coyne’s Crusade

By Keith Kloor | April 24, 2013 1:42 am

In my previous post, I took issue with how Jerry Coyne crudely indicted an entire religion (Islam) based on the murderous actions of a few adherents. (And that was a perversion of the faith’s tenets, Islamic leaders say.) The way Coyne made his blanket generalization was lame. He referred to this passage in a CNN article (specifically the part I bolded):

Boston bombings suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev conveyed to investigators that no international terrorist groups were behind the attacks, a U.S. government source told CNN’s Jake Tapper.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev indicated his older brother, Tamerlan, was the driving force behind the attacks and wanted to defend Islam from attack, the source said.

Even though this is paraphrased, let’s take the surviving brother at his word. Coyne does so and opportunistically pounces:

Well, Islam now seems to really be behind what happened in Boston.

Really? Or is this just a wee bit simplistic?

Here’s a more accurate characterization from the New York Times (my emphasis):

The portrait investigators have begun to piece together of the two brothers suspected of the Boston Marathon bombings suggests that they were motivated by extremist Islamic beliefs but were not acting with known terrorist groups — and that they may have learned to build bombs simply by logging onto the online English-language magazine of the affiliate of Al Qaeda in Yemen, law enforcement officials said Tuesday.

Just so we’re clear, I’m not the only one who recognizes what Coyne is up to. A contributor at the blog Panda’s Thumb does an excellent job of dismantling the logic of Coyne’s post. 

My dig at Coyne was a mild poke compared to the thorough fisking he got at Panda’s Thumb. Yet for some reason my poke is what he responds to. I’m thinking that maybe the guy who accuses someone of being an “accommodationist” in every third sentence of a blog post doesn’t appreciate being called a “fundamentalist atheist.” Bullies never like it when they get hit back.

Regardless, here’s Coyne trying to backpedal in his rejoinder to me:

Actually, I didn’t say that Islam was behind the bombings—Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, one of the bombers, did!

This is disingenuous tripe. That it springs from a first-rate scientific mind–someone I respect a lot–is disappointing.

Look, we can have an honest debate about this. Numerous Collide-a-Scape readers (such as this one) have made an argument very similar to what Andrew Sullivan has been arguing this past week, including here:

All religions contain elements of this kind of fanaticism. But Islam’s fanatical side – from the Taliban to the Tsarnaevs – is more murderous than most.

Sullivan is getting his share of blowback for this view, which I think is contestable. But I admire the forthright manner he’s been making his case. Like Coyne, Sullivan seems to think the Boston bombings can be blamed on Islam. The difference between them is that Coyne, unlike Sullivan, goes one step further and sees religious faith as the real evil that needs to be stamped out.

As I’ve said before, good luck with that crusade.

 

CATEGORIZED UNDER: atheism, Islam, religion, select
  • http://www.theaunicornist.com Mike D

    What an astounding mess of straw men. I suppose your greatest accomplishment is that this nonsense fits in neatly with the recent spate of straw-manning regarding “Islamophobia” that certain prominent atheists are apparently guilty of.

    Nobody who falls under this “new atheist” label, least of all Jerry Coyne, has at any time claimed that:
    - Religion inevitably leads to terrorism
    - Islam was the sole cause of this man’s actions
    - The actions of terrorists are representative of religious believers in general

    It’s remarkable though that you don’t seem to consider that what this guy believed may have actually influenced his actions. The 9/11 terrorists were convinced that they were martyrs in a holy war whose actions would land them in paradise. But nah, let’s not blame religion! That’s bigotry!

    You, sir, are symptomatic of the problem. Religion is a factor here, and a very significant one, whether you like it or not. The preponderance of moderate believers does not change this fact; to the contrary, moderate believers give tacit approval to fundamentalist epistemology: faith is okay, just not when it makes you do bad things.

    Well, atheists are getting to the root of the problem: thinking that it’s okay, even noble, to believe in ridiculous dogmas devoid of evidence. Were there a litany of sociocultural and psychological factors influencing the bombing? Of course, and no one has argued to the contrary or attempted to place the blame solely on religion. But to discount the importance of what the bomber actually believed about reality as a motive is the height of naivete.

    Let’s not pretend that religion is deserving of some sort of special protection from open criticism, or that the criticism of religion is tantamount to racism or ethnocentrism. Dogmatic ideas are just that – ideas – and if you can’t stomach their criticism, it’s probably best that you remove yourself from the discussion entirely.

    • jh

      “The 9/11 terrorists were convinced that they were martyrs in a holy war whose actions would land them in paradise. But nah, let’s not blame religion! That’s bigotry!”

      Man, are you alive or awake? Do you really think religion – or Islam – is the only movement to ever be used to advocate violence? :( It has nothing to do with bigotry. It has to do with understanding the cause of violence. You won’t find it in religion.

      What was America’s excuse for attacking Iraq in 2003? To save “freedom”? What a joke.

      “Religion is the cause of all problems” – the hallmark of ignorant atheism.

      • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

        You won’t find it in religion.

        -Why not? The Boston bombing does seem to have been caused solely by religion. Also, who says “Religion is the cause of all problems”? Not any prominent atheist I know.

        • jh

          ‘Also, who says “Religion is the cause of all problems”?’

          That’s exactly what Keith is pointing out above. It’s frequently inferred in a way that allows the atheist to say “no way! I didn’t say that!” Hilarious.

          • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

            What’s hilarious?

        • jh

          So Eno, buddy, when chimps raid other chimps and kill them, is that “caused” by religion? :)

          • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

            I think you know the answer to that question, so I’m not even going to bother answering it.

      • https://delicious.com/robertford Robert Ford

        How about when Army of God destroys an abortion clinic? is that violence not caused by religion?

        • Buddy199

          No, it’s a perversion of Christ’s message of non-violence. Even if it’s well meaning, as he said “those who take up the sword, die by the sword.” You don’t accomplish a good goal by evil means.

          • https://delicious.com/robertford Robert Ford

            Ah, so no TRUE christian would do bad things, right?:))

          • Buddy199

            Sure they do, we’re all weak, stupid and very human. That’s where forgiveness comes in, if you are genuinely repentant for screwing up. As I see it, Christianity isn’t about being perfect, it’s about being better than your would have been otherwise and always trying to become better than what you are now. But blowing up an abortion clinic is just premeditatively evil, it’s beyond day to day screwing up.

        • jh

          No, it’s not “caused” by religion. It’s caused by people that wish to impose their will on others. If religion wasn’t handy, they’d find some other justification.

          • https://delicious.com/robertford Robert Ford

            wow, i didn’t know that was a fact. you should publish a paper on that “fact.”

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1174860069 Jake West

            Isn’t it strange, then, that an atheist has NEVER threatened to blow up an abortion clinic. I wonder why that is?

      • http://www.theaunicornist.com Mike D

        Are YOU? Who said that Islam is the only movement to be used to advocate violence? I didn’t! Jerry Coyne didn’t! Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins haven’t either. Who has ever said that religion is the “cause of all problems”?

        Geez. For some reason, pointing out that religion is used for violence and ought to be criticized accordingly always becomes “you are attacking all religion and all religious believers”. You can’t straw-man atheists any harder than that, buddy.

        • jh

          “pointing out that religion is used for violence..”

          Ohhhhh!! Now it’s just “used” for violence, it’s not the cause of violence! OK, you’re backing down already. Good move.

          Take another step back: “violent people use whatever excuse they can find, be it religion, nationalism, atheism, environmentalism….”

          Then you’ll be on the right track.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1174860069 Jake West

            You have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about do you? Actually, don’t answer that, as I KNOW you have no idea what you’re talking about. How do I know, you ask?

            Well, Brian Levin is the Director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, and he literally studies exactly what we’re discussing. Here’s is what he has to say about “extremist aggressors:”

            “The three main categories of extremist aggressors are listed below, and usually one is the primary element with an offender, with at least one other playing a secondary supporting role:

            . The Ideologically Motivated (Religious, Political or Hybrid)

            . The Psychologically Dangerous (Sociopath or Cognitively Impaired)

            . Personal Benefit or Revenge”

            Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/brian-levin-jd/radicalization-dzhokar-tamerlan-tsarnaev_b_3116466.html

            Read, “IDEOLOGICALLY MOTIVATED (Religious, Political or Hybrid)”

            Here is the definition of “motivation” from Google:

            “1. The reason or reasons one has for acting or behaving in a particular way.

            2. The general desire or willingness of someone to do something.”

            Here is the definition of “ideological” from Google:

            “1. of or pertaining to or characteristic of an orientation that characterizes the thinking of a group or nation.”

            So, what does “ideologically motivated” mean? I’ll let you figure that one out.

            Actually, why don’t you just go and read that entire article, as that article was written specifically in response to the Boston terror attack. Do note, however, that this article was written before the article by CNN which stated,

            “Preliminary interviews with Tsarnaev indicate the two brothers fit the classification of self-radicalized jihadists, the source said. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, wounded and held in a Boston hospital, has said his brother — who was killed early Friday — WANTED TO DEFEND ISLAM FROM ATTACK, according to the source.”

            Is that not ideologically motivated enough for you?

            See: Dunning-Kruger effect

          • jh

            Note: “religious, political….etc”

            So, no, I don’t see that religion is a “cause” of violence. I see that there are a number of different philosophies associated with violence. In fact, just about every philosophy you can name can, has been, or probably will eventually be associated with violence.

            Do you really think Talibs throw acid in the face of women because of religion? :) Seems more likely to me that the cause is deep-seated misogyny or a desire to control. Seems to me that these individuals would use anyavailable philosophy (remember: religious, political dot dot dot) to justify whatever they wish to do.

            I’m sure Brian Levin is an intelligent person with substantial research experience. But I most vehemently disagree that any particular philosophy is the cause or motivator for extremists. A philosophy may be the justification, but it isn’t the cause.

          • http://nonrandomevolution.wordpress.com/ Jake West

            Unless you can produce some source material for your claims, I don’t really care what you believe as it’s fallacious logic (See: Illogical) to just state, “I don’t see that religion is a “cause” of violence,” or “seems more likely to more,” without citing a source. We call that the appeal to belief fallacy, hence why “I don’t really care what you believe.”

            In science, as I have a science background, we call that pseudoscience or “crappy science” or “not actually science.” (Actually, we just call it pseudoscience. The other two are sarcastic cracks.) You may not see it as pseudoscience, but since we are discussing the psychology of extremists, it falls in the domain of psychology, a science. Presenting a scientific claim without evidence is pseudoscience. Here’s a Wikipedia page for ya: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pseudoscience

            “I’m sure Brian Levin is an intelligent person with substantial research experience. But I most vehemently disagree thatany particular philosophy is the cause or motivator for extremists. A philosophy may be the justification, but it isn’t the cause.”

            This, this is just ridiculously sad. I like that your a self-proclaimed expert, though. You “know more” than the person the FBI turns to in cases of “extremist aggression” such as terrorism. Congratulations on that.

          • http://www.theaunicornist.com Mike D

            If by “backing down” you mean “saying what every well-known atheist has said in the past decade on the matter”, then yes, that’s exactly what I’m doing. Look man, if you don’t want to actually read what atheists are saying, that’s your willful ignorance. But don’t straw man them to death just to thump your chest in righteous indignation.

          • jh

            First Comment: “But nah, let’s not blame religion! That’s bigotry!”
            Second Comment: “pointing out that religion is used for violence”

            Blaming religion, or saying religion is “used” for violence? Which is it, man, make up your mind. But of course, literally, you haven’t said that religion is to blame, have you? :) No way! You haven’t said that! You’d never say that! No atheist would ever say that!

            I don’t think I’m ignorant, but I confess I’m puzzled by your claim to be blaming and not blaming religion at the same time. Is that an atheist thing too? You can say it and not say it?

  • prasad

    Sullivan is getting his share of blowback for this view, which I think is contestable. But I admire the forthright manner he’s been making his case. Like Coyne, Sullivan seems to think the Boston bombings can be blamed on Islam. The difference between them is that Coyne, unlike Sullivan, goes one step further and sees religious faith as the real evil that needs to be stamped out.

    This is a really bizarre argument to make. Sullivan is “admirable” for wondering as a Catholic if Islam is unusually bad. Meanwhile Coyne is a “fundamentalist” for making the same argument as an atheist. So apparently if you’re religious you get to wonder if another religion you don’t belong to is bad, but if you do this from a position of disbelief, you’re trafficking in “missionary zeal.” Kloor doesn’t begin to justify this position which is prima facie rather odd. Just what, I want to ask him, is so awful about a human being thinking religion makes us worse off on the whole? Plenty of people think the opposite without attracting his ire.

    I am generally a fan of Kloor, whose blog I read faithfully. I quite admire his writings on GMOs, nukes, “organic” and so on. I also liked Coyne’s evolution book, but haven’t followed his blog closely since the topic list isn’t one that interests me as much.”

    But this post is simply a train wreck.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1174860069 Jake West

      I’m glad you noticed the hypocrisy as well. When an atheist/agnostic criticizes religion, they get accused of all sorts of different things.

      When Islam is criticized, for example, we (I say we, but I’m an ex-Catholic, so I’m not sure how much ridicule I deserve in response) get accused of Islamophobia, “anti-Muslim animus,” bigotry, racism, etc.

      When we criticize Buddhism, well, no one really cares when we do that. (Wonder why that is…)

      When we criticize Christianity, specifically Catholicism, people complain a bit, but they don’t go berserk with strings of argumentum ad hominem attacks as with Islam.

      When we criticize Judaism, well, the Jews are already criticizing themselves, so they don’t really care. (That was a joke.)

      But, when an ex-Muslim criticizes Islam, as in the case of Tauriq Moosa here: http://bigthink.com/against-the-new-taboo/to-criticise-islam, there is hardly a peep. The middle and upper middle class white (and usually) progressive journalists don’t say a word. (If that’s racist, well, I’m white as you can see in my photo, [and middle class as it so happens] so I’m apparently being racist against myself). Tauriq Moosa made note of it himself in a Tweet here: https://twitter.com/tauriqmoosa/status/325962819600273408

      Here is the Tweet:

      Tauriq Moosa @tauriqmoosa

      @DJGrothe @RichardDawkins Because I was once Muslim, I seem to be getting less ad hominems defending @SamHarrisOrg http://bigthink.com/against-the-new-taboo/to-criticise-islam

      Funny how that works, no?

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    In my previous post,
    I took issue with how Jerry Coyne crudely indicted an entire religion
    (Islam) based on the murderous actions of a few adherents.

    -Or was it with how Jerry Coyne crudely swallowed a dozen puppies and a baby? Because that happened as much as his crude indictment of Islam based on the murderous actions of a few adherents, i.e., it didn’t.

    (And that was a perversion of the faith’s tenets, Islamic leaders say.)

    -Religion is infinitely malleable. Just ask a fundie about slavery.
    And how is “extremist Islamic beliefs” not a subcategory of “Islam”?

    Yet for some reason my poke is what he responds to.

    -Perhaps because he became aware of it first?

    I’m thinking that maybe the guy who accuses someone of being an “accommodationist” in every third sentence of a blog post doesn’t
    appreciate being called a “fundamentalist atheist.”

    -Because “accomodationist” has a meaning, while “fundamentalist atheist” is a meaningless slur.

    Regardless, here’s Coyne trying to backpedal in his rejoinder to me:

    -Regardless, here’s Kloor trying to quote the good Jerry Coyne out of context in his rejoinder to him.

    As I’ve said before, good luck with that crusade.

    -Japan, anyone?

  • https://delicious.com/robertford Robert Ford

    Wow, Keith, these two posts have been nothing but pure cowardice on your part. I’m glad you took it upon yourself to stick up for group that is uniquely violent and also not much value added all because someone failed to criticize them in your exact favorite way. Did you even read the comments of your last post? Because there are several that, again, show why what you just said is invalid. I hate to break it to you but an extremist Muslim or Christian is still part of each of their respective groups.
    Just like a “radical environmentalist” isn’t a “true” environmentalist, right? No true Scotsman puts sugar on their porridge! Be sure to let all those enviros you’re usually battling know that they’re not “true” environmentalists and that environmentalism is not, in any way, responsible for their actions. ELFront might be confused tho.

  • Bern Neary

    The problem is that it is the fundamentalists (whether Islamic or Christian) who adhere most closely to the foundational texts of their religions. The moderate majority cannot really criticize them without also attacking the plain intent of the Bible or Quran.

  • jh

    The comments here are startling, but I do I agree with others that your comment on Sullivan is inconsistent.

    Does anyone remember the 1960s and 1970s when it was the radical left that was blowing things up? Or the rest of the 20th century? Remember Stalin? Didn’t he act under the banner of the left? So is the socialist movement then inherently violent?

    People that want to be violent will find an excuse to do so. The excuse may be in Islam, Christianity, Atheism, Nationalism, Environmentalism – whatever. There’s always some nutmeg somewhere advocating violence under some banner or flag. Regrettably for Muslims, it happens at the moment that there is a small – very small – violent movement justifying its barbarous behavior under the banner of Islam. But wait 10 years or 20 years and that will change. A new excuse to be a criminal and seek power over others will emerge.

    It’s sad that so many intelligent people are so easily duped by their own fear and prejudice.

    • Keith Kloor

      JH,
      “It’s sad that so many intelligent people are so easily duped by their own fear and prejudice.”

      Yes, I quite agree and you make good points in your comment. However, could you elaborate on how my comment on Sullivan is inconsistent.

      • jh

        “Islam’s fanatical side – from the Taliban to the Tsarnaevs – is more murderous than most.”

        From the context it seems that you’re agreeing with this view. OTOH, you’re also calling out people for blaming Islam.

        I guess my point is – and I thought your point was – that it’s not “Islam’s” fanatical side that’s the source of the problem – the fanaticism doesn’t “belong” to Islam. Like many violent movements, “Islam’s” fanatical movement is like a parasite embedding itself in a convenient host.

        So what makes the host convenient? Is it the religion itself? I think not. I think it’s the general political turmoil in Islamic regions of the world, which is only enhanced by the fanatical elements. Like all parasites, they seek to create an environment in which they can thrive.

        • Keith Kloor

          Actually, I don’t agree with Sullivan–perhaps I should have been clearer on this, instead of saying his take was “contestable.”

          I was trying to highlight the similarity in the positions between Sullivan and Coyne, which the former makes a stronger case for–in part because he’s not doing it in wishy-washy manner.

          But I also wanted to point out that Sullivan would part company with Coyne’s larger goal.

          • jh

            OK, yeah, I got that part, and I guess you can see that I agree with that!

            Anyway, overall, I think it’s a good deed to call out the myopia of some elements of the atheist movement with respect to religion. Its exactly this kind of paranoid myopia that leads to terrorism and violence in the first place.

            Atheists don’t need an “evil empire” to battle against to justify their beliefs.

          • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

            exactly this kind of paranoid myopia that leads to terrorism and violence in the first place.

            -Elaborate, please.

    • https://delicious.com/robertford Robert Ford

      an imaginary future scenario is your “proof” that you are correct? what’s really sad is that you think that, because there are many religions, NONE of them are therefore responsible for what they preach.

    • http://twitter.com/vsaluki Tilo Reber

      “Does anyone remember the 1960s and 1970s when it was the radical left that was blowing things up?”
      So, your argument is that the leftists of the 60s and 70s were not motivated by their ideaology, but were simply bad people?

      • http://nonrandomevolution.wordpress.com/ Jake West

        He doesn’t understand his own argument. That’s what makes it so darn funny.

        • jh

          My argument is, again, that violent people will use any excuse to be violent, whether it’s Islam or Atheism or Socialism or Nationalism.

          • http://twitter.com/vsaluki Tilo Reber

            So, again, you are saying that the leftists of the 60s and 70s were just violent people looking for an excuse to vent their violence.
            Tell me jh, why are there no Buddist suicide bombers? Why are there no Jewish or Hindu or Taoist suicide bombers?

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1174860069 Jake West

      “Does anyone remember the 1960s and 1970s when it was the radical left that was blowing things up? Or the rest of the 20th century? Remember Stalin? Didn’t he act under the banner of the left? So is the socialist movement then inherently violent?”

      Yes, bad things happened in the past. The Catholic Church was a genocidal monstrosity throughout much of history. But, that is the past. This time right now, this is called the present, and I’m not worried about the “radical left” at this very moment. The radical left, at this very moment, isn’t blowing things up. The Catholic Church no longer burns “witches” at the stake or murders atheists for thought crimes. If they the radical left starts blowing things up again, or the Catholic Church starts burning witches and murdering atheists, then I’ll start worrying about them a little more.

      And before you say it, I’m still criticizing the Catholic Church at this moment for the cover up of pedophilia in the priesthood along with the “banning” of contraception in Africa (among other things).

      I just don’t understand what it is with people who are stuck in the past…

      • jh

        “stuck in the past”

        Perhaps you’d be more thoughtful if you understood the patterns in history rather than just the list of events.

  • Steve_Reilly

    Crusade? Ugh. This false equivalence is really getting tiresome.

    • http://twitter.com/vsaluki Tilo Reber

      In more ways than one, Steve. The first crusades where when the Muslims attacked Europe in the 8th century.

  • http://jonathan-peterson.com/ Jonathan Peterson

    I think Islam needs a lot more moderates and secular states, but let’s rethink shall we?

    “Dzhokhar Tsarnaev indicated his older brother, Tamerlan, was the driving force behind the attacks and wanted to defend the grey aliens living under the Denver airport from attack, the source said.”

    Do we blame the grey aliens, or the person who allowed conspiracy theories to twist his psyche into mass murder?

    • https://delicious.com/robertford Robert Ford

      this is a stupid argument as it assumes there is a “default morality” ingrained in humans. and that our morals are somehow separate from our respective religion (code of ethics.) How are you making the judgment that what he did is wrong if you aren’t going to make a judgment about what he believes? When a computer has bad code I generally tend to blame that bad code. Sure, there are lots of bad codes but I still blame the one that’s causing the problem *because that’s what caused it.*
      your argument assumes that these two would’ve done this regardless even though you have no evidence of it nor is there a way to prove that. the actual evidence shows the opposite, anyway.

      Would a neo-Nazi be so violent if he were not raised as one? according to you, he would. Guess we’d better cancel all those diversity seminars as they have no effect on anything, right? make sure you stick up for Nationalism next time a neo-Nazi murders someone! Cuz it’s not Nationalism that’s the problem.

      • http://jonathan-peterson.com/ Jonathan Peterson

        You’re doing a lot of projecting about my beliefs. As for “default morals” not existing, I suppose atheists have no morals?

        Extremist Islamicism was pretty clearly a big motivator in these attacks, but how many people who’ve read those same web sites or gone to those same mosques have built a bomb?

        Every religion has been twisted for evil means.
        While Islam has a long way to go to become as pluralistic and open-minded as most Christian nations today – 1,000 years ago you’d have been treated far better as a non-muslim in a muslim nation than non-christian anywhere in europe.

        • http://twitter.com/vsaluki Tilo Reber

          “Every religion has been twisted for evil means. ”
          Can you be a little clearer and specify which tenants of Islam are being “twisted by evil means”? I mean, hand waving generalities are fine. But let’s try some facts for a change.

          • http://jonathan-peterson.com/ Jonathan Peterson

            You can find plenty of people willing to play “pick apart the religious documents to find evil/hypocrisy/proof that my religion is better” – I’m not one of them.

          • http://twitter.com/vsaluki Tilo Reber

            So you argree that your assessment is based on nothing. First of all, I have no religion. So proving mine is better is another bad assumption of yours. Second of all, the problems of Islam are not an issue of “pick apart”. They are a fundamental cornerstone and basis of the religion. And third of all, you cannot explain how the behavior of the bombers is inconsistent with the behavior of their prophet. You have decided to have an opinion and you have no wish of upset that opinion by actually learning anything about Islam.

        • https://delicious.com/robertford Robert Ford

          yes, atheists do have morals: ones they’ve decided on themselves instead of religion. and that is precisely why atheists aren’t as violent. i’m sure you’re aware that humans create their own morals.

          yes, there are people who seek their violent fate and those that have been raised in a violent environment. you’re seriously arguing that a person’s environment has no effect on their behavior? because that’s, in essence, what you’re saying. being raised in a violent environment doesn’t exacerbate a violent person’s tendencies? you say that “extremist Islamicism” is to blame. So are those extremists not muslims? They don’t count?

          your third paragraph (if it’s even true) is simply a repeat of the same thing everyone else says: all religions can be equally bad/Xtians used to be just as bad and soon muslims will get there – a meaningless conjecture.
          Has Buddhism ever been as bad as Islam? Probably not. Quakers? Nope.

          • Buddy199

            FYI, the “X” used in Xmas, etc. originated as an abbreviation for the Greek for Christ, XTOS. So, ironically it’s not a slur although it is incorrectly used that way by many people.

          • http://jonathan-peterson.com/ Jonathan Peterson

            You’ll find people who will argue that Nazis were atheists, though I think they’re idiots.

            And I agree 1000% percent on the violent environment, that violent environment has more to do with extremist than islam. Inner-city black on black crime is all about violent environment, not about the fairly conservative, protestant churches that serve those communities – wouldn’t you agree?

            Seems to me that finding out more about the life events, geographic/cultural backgrounds, religious leaders and websites that inspired these criminals would be more useful than arguing that 2.2 billion humans are more evil than the rest of us because of the broadest possible description of their faith.

          • http://twitter.com/vsaluki Tilo Reber

            “because of the broadest possible description of their faith.”
            Again, you are hand waving. What broadest possible description are you talking about. Tell us exactly how that broadest possible description disagrees with what their religion teaches.

          • http://twitter.com/vsaluki Tilo Reber

            “and that is precisely why atheists aren’t as violent.”
            Tell it to the 35 million that Mao Tse Tung killed.

          • https://delicious.com/robertford Robert Ford

            no need to respond as atheism is only a “thing” by default. you should know that

          • jh

            And Stalin. And the Khmer Rouge.

    • http://twitter.com/vsaluki Tilo Reber

      Jonathan, what is the source of your quote?

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1174860069 Jake West

      Your comment is literally the definition of a straw man argument. Congratulations.

      If you’re unfamiliar with a straw man argument, which you must be or you wouldn’t have posted such drivel, here is what it is:

      1. Person A has position X.
      2. Person B presents position Y (which is a distorted version of X).
      3. Person B attacks position Y.
      4. Therefore X is false/incorrect/flawed.

      (http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/straw-man.html)

      Let me break it down for you:

      1. Jerry Coyne presents his position X: (paraphrase) Bombings caused by Islam.
      2. You present your position Y: Bombings caused by influence of grey aliens. (distorted version of X)
      3. You ask whether we should blame the grey aliens. (Attacking position Y)
      4. You, metaphorically, conclude that we should not blame Islam, but rather the Muslims leaders who [brainwashed] the bombers.

      But, I’ll answer you anyways. We should blame both Islam and the people (religious leaders) responsible for brainwashing the bombers. This should be completely obvious, but it wouldn’t have been possible to brainwash the bombers into a twisted version of Islam if Islam did not exist to begin with.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=634768901 Matt Anderson

    with all due respect keith, you are absolutely incorrect about this one. the problem with islam is that it is in desperate need of reform, because the very things the koran dictates enable its adherents to justify violence in the name of their religion. i hesitate to link it, but sam harris is amazingly lucid, and honest about this here: http://www.samharris.org/site/full_text/response-to-controversy2/

    “For instance, a dogmatic belief in the spiritual and ethical necessity of complete nonviolence lies at the very core of Jainism, whereas an equally dogmatic commitment to using violence to defend one’s faith, both from within and without, is similarly central to the doctrine of Islam.”

    • Kotrova

      With respect, please do not pollute this discussion with references to Sam Harris, who in my opinion is an anti-Muslim bigot who specifically and ridiculously singles out Muslims for ethnic profiling and torture.

      Agree with this opinion or not, Harris’s poisonous views are irrelevant to this discussion, unless you’re holding up Harris as an awful example that should be avoided.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=634768901 Matt Anderson

        i’m sorry you feel that way.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1174860069 Jake West

        I hardly see how Harris’ hypothetical thought experiments regarding torture and profiling makes him an “anti-Muslim bigot.”

        Should he have kept those hypothetical thought experiments to himself?

        I believe he should have, and in hindsight, he does as well. The reason being, of course, the ease with which those hypotheticals can be quote mined and used to convince religious apologists of his “Islamophobia, racism, and bigotry.”

        And, of course, that’s exactly what happened.

  • http://twitter.com/vsaluki Tilo Reber

    So, ask yourself, if Tamerlan had been a Buddhist, or Taoist, or Hindu, or atheist, would he have bombed the marathon.

    • http://www.facebook.com/flonk.bob Flonk Bob

      He would have if he fully adhered to the tenets of his religion. Have you NEVER read of violence associated with these other faiths? If that’s the case I suggest you do some research and post again later.

      • http://twitter.com/vsaluki Tilo Reber

        “Have you NEVER read of violence associated with these other faiths?”
        Of course I have. But there is a difference between some violence and a lot of violence. That difference lies directly in what the faith teaches. Name for me an American Buddhist or Taoist or Hindu who has bombed his fellow Americans and claimed that he was motivated by his faith. It is simply inconceivable. Or give me an example where this has happened in Europe. You can’t. But you can find Muslims who have bombed Europe with the claim that it was for their faith.
        Frankly, I’m trying to find a logical path that someone can follow to conclude that the marathon bombing was not inspired by Islam. There is non. It requires a degree of willful blindness that is shocking.

  • http://www.facebook.com/flonk.bob Flonk Bob

    Actually the worst of Islam, or Christianity, or Hinduism, or any other religion can always be traced back to their ‘holy’ books. The more radical behavior is always supported by the older tenets of whichever faith. Killing a god’s enemies is something that has always been a ‘good’ thing. I really think the only honest religionists are the radical religionists. The rest of them are merely the support structure that allows them to exist.

    Religion is the problem folks. Start thinking for yourselves and ignore the foolish superstitions of our ancestors.

    • Buddy199

      Same could be said of the other fanaticisms of the 20th century, communism and fascism.

      • http://www.facebook.com/flonk.bob Flonk Bob

        You’ll get no argument from me. Humans will follow any -ism if it makes them feel better about their ignorance and bigotry. I see religion as one of the biggest problems with humanity. The other is humans. I can’t wait for our rat overlords to arrive.

        • Buddy199

          Take a trip up to Wall Street, they’re already here.

          • http://www.facebook.com/flonk.bob Flonk Bob

            I find it hard to understand why any ‘radical’ would bomb an event like the Marathon, when Wall Street with its vile bedbugs of civilization still stands. Not that I’m suggesting it be bombed, but clearly it is NOT good for the vast majority of humans to allow such rampant inhumanity continue. A corporation is a person? Even my most conservative friends can see the illogical nature of that statement. Oh, drat, I see I’m standing on that damn soapbox again…I’ll get down before I bore you to tears.

          • Buddy199

            I completely agree. Crony to-big-to-fail, too-big-to-jail capitalism has done far more damage to our country, and the world, than Al Qaeda ever did the past 12 years.

      • http://twitter.com/vsaluki Tilo Reber

        I don’t think that the problem is with Jesus, Buddy. I think the problem is in the Old Testament, where some of its heroes were nothing more than mass murderers.
        But your point about communism and fascism is a good one.

        • Buddy199

          Can’t argue there. Judiasm pretty much evolved out of that archaic mentality many centuries ago. I know, I know…the Palestinians. But does anyone believe if attacks on Israel stopped tomorrow, Israel would not immediately sign a peace treaty with all comers?

          • http://twitter.com/vsaluki Tilo Reber

            Buddy, Judaism as it is represented in the Torah and the Old Testament is as violent as Islam. But there is one important difference. Judaism is not built on a foundation that includes the idea that the rest of the world must be made Jewish. It’s more of an exclusive club kind of thing than it is a global imperialism kind of thing. For that reason Judaism is not as dangerous as Islam. When you read Islam carefully, you discover that most of the rules that Mohammed made are designed for the expansion of the religion. Even when the rules were not explicity violent, his motivations were the same. For example on the subject of marriage and reproduction:

            Abu Dawud
            Book 11, Number 2045:
            Narrated Ma’qil ibn Yasar:
            A man came to the Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) and said: I have found a woman of rank and beauty, but she does not give birth to children. Should I marry her? He said: No. He came again to him, but he prohibited him. He came to him third time, and he (the Prophet) said: Marry women who are loving and very prolific, for I shall outnumber the peoples by you.

          • Buddy199

            And what a wonderful world that would be, if the conditions in the Middle East are any indication. At least until everybody who obeys the “correct” interpretation of Islam kills everybody else who follows the “incorrect” version. Who’s who? Just ask, they all follow the correct version.

    • http://twitter.com/vsaluki Tilo Reber

      “or any other religion can always be traced back to their ‘holy’ books.”
      Your brush may be a little too broad Bob. Show me any example or invocation to violence in the teachings of Lao Tzu or Chung Tzu or Buddha.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1174860069 Jake West

        +1.

        Not “all religions” have terrible things hidden away in their “holy books.” Buddhism, while not having “holy books” comparable to the Bible or Islam, has the Dhammapada which is supposed to be the word of mouth teachings of the Buddha himself. I challenge you to read that and find violence in it.

        • http://twitter.com/vsaluki Tilo Reber

          You are right Jake. The same is true for the Tao Teh Ching and the Chung Tzu. You will find no hatred or advocacy for violence in them anywhere. That doesn’t mean that Tao and Buddhism do not end up with ritual and dogma attached to them that is an abuse of the ideas of their founders. And in that sense people have a point about abusing religion. But with Islam that is simply not the case. Both by design and by example, the founder of Islam created a violent and imperialistic religion. If Mohammed lived today he would be in prison in most nations of the world for a plethora of crimes against humanity.

  • Buddy199

    A stereotype is an inaccurate characterization, not actually reflective of reality. On the other hand, a pattern is reflective of reality.

    Stereotype: Chis Matthews cracking the case wide open last Tuesday, pinning the guilt on Tea Party conservatives, followed by his like-minded colleagues at the NYT, HuffPo, DailyKos, MSNBC, Salon, etc.

    Pattern: Terrorists proclaiming inspiration from Islam.

    If the Boston bombers had been political conservatives – even worse, fundamentalist Christian conservatives – does anybody with a gram of sense believe the Chris Matthews – Maureen Dowd types would be bending over backwards NOT to connect terrorism to conservative politics and Christianity, as they are now doing with Islam? Seriously. It’s laughable how the “progressives” who pontificate against small -minded bigotry eagerly embrace their own cartoon character stereotypes at every opportunity when it comes to political conservatives and Christians.

    Islam could very well be a religion of peace and tolerance, the meme we have heard incessantly since 911. I’d be more inclined to believe that were it not for multiple passages in the Koran such as: “The last hour will not come unless the Muslims fight against the Jews and the Muslims kill them until the Jews would hide themselves behind a stone or a tree and a stone or a tree would say: Muslim, oh the servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me; come and kill him.” A passage first pointed out to me by my American citizen, naturalized Pakistani computer consultant.

    Or, instead of the “Arab street” going berserk when a Mohammad cartoon is published or on the false rumor of a Koran being desecrated, they protested en masse against terror attacks against civilians done in the name of Islam, or school girls getting acid thrown in the face or noses cut off done in the name of Islam, etc.

    Or if tolerance was actually extended to the Christian minorities across the Middle East, rather than demolishing every last Christian church in Afghanistan or conducting a pogrom against the Coptic Christians in Egypt.

    Are all Muslims, every single one of the 1.6 billion, terrorists? No. And I’ve never heard anyone claim that. But the notion of Islam-inspired terrorism is no stereotype. It’s a pattern, based on real events. many real events. And you can bet the FIB and every other national security agency in government is looking exhaustively into that possibility. As well, the intolerance and terrorism visited by Muslim governments and populations at large in the Middle East against Christian and other religious minorities shows that Islamic inspired hate is not limited to a few wild eyed individuals.
    Fanaticism has been the cause of human suffering and death throughout history. Christians, Athiestic Communists, Nationalistic Fascists, they’re all had their fair share of blood. But these days, the problem is mainly with Islam and the lack of widespread self-examination among its world wide adherents to fix it.

  • Kotrova

    There is absolutely no question that the Boston bombers were motivated by Islam — mainstream Islam in Makhachkala, Dagestan. Even the mainstream mosque sited in the anecdote at Panda’s thumb is tainted with support of violence — see the MSM links below. Of course we must be vigilant to make sure that blameless Muslims aren’t targeted for the heinous acts of a tiny minority, but clearly
    there’s “overwhelming evidence” that the heinous acts of this tiny
    minority are motivated by their belief in Islam.

    Denying the plain facts is nonsense, and that’s what Kloor continues to do. I’ll provide more links to the that flatly contradict Kloor’s post, as he hasn’t yet addressed the evidence from your previous post that controverts your statements.

    Here are four facts about the bomber’s motivation and background. Please explain why it is intolerant to conclude from these facts that the Boston bombers were motivated by Islam:

    1. The bomber’s mainstream mosque in Dagestan:

    The branch of Islam that apparently motivated Tamerlan Tsarnaev is mainstream Islam in Makhachkala, Dagestan. According to TIME, the Russians were watching Tamerlan because of his involvement at the Salafi Kotrova Street Mosque (http://goo.gl/xh55P, مسجد كوتروفا). Using Google translate, here’s a taste of the sort of sermon delivered at this mosque (http://goo.gl/6aPZD) in July 2010:

    “God does not accept pure filth, shirk mixed, and the desire to communicate with claim outweigh the infidels on God in judgment, and legislation. Do not fool yourself and do not fool others. … in spite of the victims, which are inevitable in war, those who want to join the ranks of the Mujahideen is increasing every day. The best good guys are sacrificing their lives for God and do not bargain [with] polytheism and Juggernaut authorities. … God will accept nothing but the Quran and Sunnah … Therefore all the talk ho tolerance, such as tolerance with immorality and infidelity, and the multiplicity of the right, Kaljma between Sharia and the laws of the idol, and the rights of human beings, Kadaa one succumb to the laws of superstitious, and democracies, as arbiter of the majority, even if they are an infidel and other terms the many is not only a reference and life according to the law Juggernaut , unacceptable to unify Muslim. So must all the Muslims of the Caucasus, to accelerate the establishment of Sharia, and follow the Muslim ruler, and obedience to the judge in the Islamic Shariah is obligatory.
    Jamaat Shariat”

    Read this mainstream Islamic sermon delivered at a major mosque in the Dagestani capital city, and then explain why anyone concerned about this widespread problem is “intolerant.”

    This mosque is listed as one of the capital’s main mosques on all the
    official and tourist websites, with sermons so popular that they run out
    of room inside and the crowd spills out onto Kotrova Steet (http://goo.gl/y6rHh). You can see photos of this on Google a earth and Wikimapia, as well as the link provided. It’s a mainstream popular mosque.

    2. The bomber’s mainstream mosque in Cambridge MA:

    USA Today: Mosque that Boston suspects attended has radical ties (http://goo.gl/oPjSr)

    “Several people who attended the Islamic Society of Boston mosque in
    Cambridge, Mass., have been investigated for Islamic terrorism,
    including a conviction of the mosque’s first president, Abdulrahman
    Alamoudi, in connection with an assassination plot against a Saudi
    prince.

    “And its sister mosque in Boston, known as the Islamic Society of
    Boston Cultural Center, has invited guests who have defended terror
    suspects. A former trustee appears in a series of videos in which he
    advocates treating gays as criminals, says husbands should sometimes
    beat their wives and calls on Allah (God) to kill Zionists and Jews ….”

    3. NYT: “Boston Suspect Cites Islamic Extremist Beliefs as Motive”
    (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/24/us/boston-marathon-bombing-developments.html)

    4. Boston Globe: “Bomb suspect influenced by mysterious radical”
    (http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/2013/04/23/bomb-suspect-influenced-mysterious-radical/PcWEwG3XtsXlxinV2lFAzN/story-1.html)

  • http://twitter.com/vsaluki Tilo Reber

    On the one hand, I agree that the crusade against religion by atheists is waste of time. On the other hand, statements like this by jh:

    “Like many violent movements, “Islam’s” fanatical movement is like a parasite embedding itself in a convenient host.”

    Only a person who knows nothing about Islam and who likes to make generalizations based on nothing to support his forgone prejudices would make such a statement. And I think that Keith probably agrees with jh’s statement.

    So let’s look at the idea that such people are just “looking for an excuse for violence”. Would someone be a suicide bomber as an excuse for violence? Why are there not an endless stream of suicide bombers coming from other religions?

    Islam considers the world to be divided into two camps. There is the land of the Muslims (ruled by Muslims), and the land of war. There is nothing else. Jihad is a cornerstone of Islam, and its objective is to turn the land of war into the land of the Muslims. Let’s look at the founder of Islam, and compare him to the founder of other religions.

    Mohammed led 17 major military expeditions in his lifetime. Most of them were offensive. He had people murdered for disagreeing with him. He raped women captives. He beheaded all the men of some tribes that he beat in war and sold all of the women and children into slavery. He married a girl at the age of 6 and had sex with her at the age of 9. He was a slave trader who owned 27 slaves. He attacked and robbed caravans. He told his followers that it was proper to lie for Islam. He created Quranic verses that were explicitly bigoted and sexist. The list goes on. All of these things can be found in either the Quran or the Hadith. Both being canons of the religion.

    So, the idea that jihaddis and terrorists are abusing their religion is absurd. They are, in fact, no worse than their prophet. Basically, the Muslims that do not engage in violence are, by the standard of their religion, not as good as those who do.

    Quran:
    [4.74] Therefore let those fight in the way of Allah, who sell this world’s life for the hereafter; and whoever fights in the way of Allah, then be he slain or be he victorious, We shall grant him a mighty reward.

    [4:95] Not equal are those believers who sit (at home) and receive no hurt, and those who strive and fight in the cause of God with their goods and their persons. God hath granted a grade higher to those who strive and fight with their goods and persons than to those who sit (at home). Unto all (in Faith) Hath God promised good: But those who strive and fight Hath He distinguished above those who sit (at home) by a special reward,-
    Then I have to take issue with the jh argument that if violence happens and is clearly not associated with Islam, then that proves that Islam is not responsible for any violence. That argument is so absurd and so irrational that one can only laugh at it.

  • https://delicious.com/robertford Robert Ford

    it’s weird that all of a sudden all of these liberals are arguing that your environment has no affect on you at all!

  • Tom Scharf

    I confess to be confused by what you are exactly trying to say here. You simply avoid the issue because you find it distasteful to think about, or something. Splitting hairs between if someone puts the word “extremist” in front of Islam when reporting the motivation for the attacks is semantics.

    Let’s apply science:

    1. Correlation: Most terror attacks are carried out by Muslims.
    2. Causation: Muslim terrorists directly state their attacks are inspired by their religious views.

    Why is this controversial?

    Maybe this isn’t the world you wished you lived in, but it is the world as it is. Semantics aside, the real questions is what, if anything, we should do about it.

  • Buddy199

    Not so much a problem with religon itself being bad (except for when the scripture explicitly condones violence) so much as it’s the problem of adherents not following the instructions properly.

    My microwave isn’t bad because I tried to dry my cat in it after a bath.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1174860069 Jake West

      “Not so much a problem with religon itself being bad (except for when the scripture explicitly condones violence) so much as it’s the problem of adherents not following the instructions properly.”

      First, your comment is a sublime example of ‘reductio ad absurdum.’ How is one to “follow the instructions properly” in regards to religion? Unless you’ve been living under a rock your whole life, you’d notice that in the Christian religion alone there are hundreds of very different denominations with different interpretations of the Bible. Islam has the Shia and Sunni sects who, I might add, aren’t big fans of one another, and they tend to murder each other from time to time because of it.

      Why is this?

      I went to Catholic schools K-12. I’ve read the Bible cover to cover once, read the New Testament multiple times, and read the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) more times than I care to think about. One of the the first things an intelligent person notices in the Bible in regards to organized Christianity is that there isn’t a “set of instructions” for the followers of Christ to follow.

      Where, for example, is the section in the Bible which proposes a hierarchy of priests, bishops, cardinals, etc., and where exactly does it specify an infallible Pope who “rules” Christianity from what basically amounts to a fortress? Well, the Pope was an interpretation of a conversation Jesus had with Peter in Matthew 16:18 where Jesus says, “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

      “The rock” apparently means “Pope,” and “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it,” apparently means “build a fortress for the Pope.”

      That’s just one line out of the entire Bible. You can now, I hope, imagine what happens when one attempts to interpret the entire Bible.

      • Buddy199

        I wouldn’t agree. The core of Christ’s teaching revolves around one thing: love. Everything he taught was an extension of that; forgiveness, charity, non-violence, valuing the human dignity of yourself and others as reflections of God himself, etc. It is an extremely difficult path to follow because it is at odds with much of human nature. To my mind, judge everything nominally associated with Christianity against that simple core message and reject accordingly if it is not now or was not in the past true to the message.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1174860069 Jake West

          You just made my argument for me. You said, “I wouldn’t agree,” and then gave YOUR interpretation of Christ’s teaching. You even used the phrase, “To my mind.”

          My argument was, of course, that there are many different ways to interpret the Bible, and that’s how you interpret it, well at least the Gospels. Jesus isn’t in the majority of the Bible after all.

          (I would add, though, that “love” is an appropriate characterization of Christ’s teachings, but it’s overly simplistic. One cannot base a religion off a single word, and if it really were that simple, the Spanish Inquisition, the Crusades, etc., would not have happened.)

          P.S. You didn’t state what you disagreed with me about. Nothing in your post refutes anything that I said.

          • Buddy199

            Actually, he did base it off that single word, everything he is quoted as saying in the New Testament is an elaboration on that single core concept. And a powerful concept it is, to the degree that it has survived and thrived for 2,000 years despite Christians being in charge of it (see Crusades, Inquisition, pedophilia, etc.).

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1174860069 Jake West

            You till haven’t addressed the original issue.

            And, I agreed with you, and I quote from my last response, “that ‘love’ is an appropriate characterization of Christ’s teachings.” It’s just overly simplistic to sum up a teacher’s entire doctrine with one word. Yes, the base unit of his teachings can be called “love,” but that’s not all there was to it. Love does not require faith, yet Jesus asked his followers to have faith in “God, the father.”

            Also, you’ve deluded yourself if you think Christianity has survived for so long because of the “concept of love.” Christianity survived by the sword. If you don’t believe that, I suggest you study Christianity’s history post-Constantine.

          • Buddy199

            Pre-Constantine, Christianity had nothing going for it in the conventional sense of what makes for a great, lasting empire. No wealth, not many followers, no power, and a philosophy based on non-violence. It should have disappeared days after Christ was crucified. But it didn’t, instead it spread like a fire and in spite of the evil and faults of it’s caretakers (and boy were there many), thrived as the longest lasting human institution in history. Pretty unlikely outcome for some uneducated, lower class tradesman from a boondock outpost of the Roman Empire.

            As the rule for living your day to day life, his message had that one word as it’s core. He said to base all your other actions by that standard. Which is actually the best of all ways to go, as any civilized humane person, believer or non-believer, would likely agree.

            He also said that, in addition to making your and others’ lives better in the here and now, the additional and greatest reward for following that path would be after death, that this was God’s plan for how to gain that reward. But that’s for people who choose the additional element of faith, which everyone is free not to do.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1174860069 Jake West

            “As the rule for living your day to day life, his message had that one word as it’s core. He said to base all your other actions by that standard. Which is actually the best of all ways to go, as any civilized humane person, believer or non-believer, would likely agree.”

            It IS an excellent concept to base your life upon. But, a good plurality of Christians don’t live that way because (a) different denominations teach different things, (b) Christians generally do not read the Bible themselves, so their interpretation is the interpretation given to them by their priest, pastor, etc., and (c) it’s a difficult concept for many people to live by unfortunately.

            Mahatma Gandhi (or somebody, the quote is in dispute) said it best, “I like your Christ; I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1174860069 Jake West

    Kevin, I already wrote a lengthy response to your other recent post regarding Dr. Coyne, so this one is going to be a bit more succinct as I really only want to address one point in this piece. Here goes…

    Coyne wrote, “Well, Islam now seems to really be behind what happened in Boston.”

    You responded: “Really? Or is this just a wee bit simplistic?”

    Yes, taken at face value it IS overly simplistic. However, someone such as yourself who is familiar with Dr. Coyne, his work, and his blog, not to mention this love/hate (like/dislike) thing you’ve got going on with him right now, have likely read his other posts regarding Islam, terrorism, extremism, etc. You, then, should understand that when Dr. Coyne simply states “Islam [responsible] for bombings,” he doesn’t mean ALL of Islam or ALL Muslims. Truly rational people, those people who aren’t flirting around with the Dunning-Kruger effect, do not claim that Islam is wholly awful, or that the actions of radicals are indicative of the actions of the whole. That’s common sense. Why, then, are there so many journalists out there so quick to place the anti-Muslim title “Islamophobe” on those who have and do recognize this? You should really think about that.

    Should he have spoken more clearly? Probably, but I imagine, no, I don’t imagine because I also happen to have this discussion far more often than I want to, I know that explaining the entirety of your views every time you criticize something gets old really quick, and in the case of Sam Harris, it happens to be an exercise in futility. People simply do not care. They hear three quotes out of context and boom, he’s anti-Muslim, an Islamophobe, a racist, and a bigot. [Aside: I've always found the charge of racism hilariously ignorant considering there are more Muslims in Indonesia (and India for that matter) than in any single country in the Middle East.] We call that, as you know, “yellow journalism.” Quote mining is an excellent way to get yourself labeled as one. (Not referring to you here, Kevin, just got a bit off track as I’m wont to do…)

    Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. seems appropriate to quote here:

    “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

    With that, I’d ask that you and your fellow journalists take that advice. Ridicule and nonconstructive criticism doesn’t progress the discussion that needs to be had, it regresses the discussion into something similar to the types of arguments teenagers have with each other. Throwing around this “Islamophobe” title reeks of the “poisoning the well” fallacy and is easier recognizable as argumentum ad hominem. It’s easier to dismiss someone once you’ve labeled them a racist or accuse them of prejudice or hate, but it doesn’t make any of the ACTUAL problems go away.

    - Jake

    P.S. Turns out it wasn’t as succinct as I’d hoped. Apologies.

    (I’m going to post something similar to this on my blog: nonrandomevolution.wordpress.com)

  • Anthony McCarthy

    I came across this while researching a post about Jerry Coyne. After looking at his scientific publication, his magazine writing and his blog, it is clear that his writing is only as coherent as is required by its context. His blog is frequently unhinged and entirely irresponsible. That’s not a problem with a blog, it’s the inflammatory and irresponsible that gets a larger following, just like with talk radio and cable. Though I think his basic ideology and theophobia are present all through it, those find their least concealed form when he has no referee but himself. He is entirely irresponsible unless forced to be.

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Collide-a-Scape

Collide-a-Scape is a wide-ranging blog forum that explores issues at the nexus of science, culture and society.

About Keith Kloor

Keith Kloor is a NYC-based journalist, a senior editor at Cosmos magazine, and adjunct professor of journalism at New York University. His work has appeared in Slate, Science, Discover, and the Washington Post magazine, among other outlets. From 2000 to 2008, he was a senior editor at Audubon Magazine. In 2008-2009, he was a Fellow at the University of Colorado’s Center for Environmental Journalism, in Boulder, where he studied how a changing environment (including climate change) influenced prehistoric societies in the U.S. Southwest. He covers a wide range of topics, from conservation biology and biotechnology to urban planning and archaeology.

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