Jerry Coyne’s op-ed on secular morality

Jerry Coyne recently wrote an op-ed for The USA Today on the subject of being good without God. He concisely lays out the arguments for why morality is not only possible without God, but makes more sense without God as well. Check it out.

Coyne also has a post on his blog highlighting some negative responses to the article from religious commenters. In addition to comments on The USA Today’s website, Coyne writes, “I’ve also received about two dozen private emails, most of them incredibly hostile and pitying me for my lack of faith in Jesus.” This highlights a phenomenon that I’d like to write more about in the future: how rational arguments on the subject of religion are so often followed by emotional responses. One wants to ask the Christians who have written to Coyne – if his arguments are so obviously flawed, why can’t you just point out the flaws in a logical way and be done with it?

There is one point on which I disagree with Coyne. In his post, he writes the notion that morality comes from God “defies even a few moments of rational thought.” But this phrasing makes it sound so simple. “If you just thought about it rationally for a few moments, you’d understand!” That may be true if you define “rational thought,” as Coyne must, as some kind of pure logic unfettered by bias or preconception. But if that’s your requirement, I think it’s no surprise that many people haven’t met it. I do agree that the argument in Coyne’s article is both simple and accurate, but that doesn’t mean that understanding of it is arrived at simply. Especially when strong biases are acting to counter rationality.

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2 Comments

Filed under Atheism, Evolution, Morality, Religion

2 responses to “Jerry Coyne’s op-ed on secular morality

  1. I think you are right in pointing out the fact that it doesn’t come simply, but at the end of the day we have got to go with what is more reasonable.The thing is, even though many religious people do not attempt to refute reason with reason, I think the progress of reason itself is inevitable. It may sound too optimistic, but I think even strongest of biases are chalanged throgh the course of time. Quoting Sam Harris “If my reasons are good, you will hopelessly agree with me.”

    P.S: this is my first comment ever!
    I hope I’m not off topic.

    • Thanks for commenting!

      Yes, I agree. I wasn’t saying that we shouldn’t do the reasonable thing, I was just pointing out that being reasonable can be very difficult. Coyne’s phrasing didn’t seem to acknowledge that. But I think it was a minor point in both of our posts.

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