Jerry Coyne then: Rules for life:
If two friends tell you the same thing about yourself, it’s probably true.
Jerry Coyne now: thinks the several friends saying the same thing about him must be wrong:
more Gnu Atheist-bashing from fellow atheists… inspired by Michael Ruse’s rants equating Gnus with Tea Partiers… Jacques Berlinerbrau at the Chronicle of Higher Education… R. Joseph Hoffman at his own website… Both level the same old charges at Gnus: we’re strident…, politically impotent, and motivated solely by a desire for publicity, fame, and money.
But they also level a new charge (I’m amazed at how many things we’re guilty of): we don’t know anything about the history of atheism!
It’s almost shocking that Coyne and the gnus would keep doing the same thing, and his friends would keep making the same critiques.
The analogy to the teabaggers has been bubbling away in my own mind for a while. For instance, this post from October, about how less agreeable followers preferred angrier leaders was posted partly as a backhanded critique of the gnus, but commenters immediately saw it as being about the teabaggers.
“But Josh,” I hear you thinking, “the teabaggers think President Obama is a s3k1t Mussulman who must hide his Saracen faith in order to fool the infidel voters. Surely no gnu atheist would endorse such preposterous conspiracy theories.”
Sadly, no! Despite fairly straightforward statements in the Presidents’ books, speeches, and actions over the years, Coyne insists that the President is really an atheist who only goes to church and says nice things about Christianity to fool the godbothering voters.
And I continue to be struck by how easily this comment from Steve Benen about the teabaggers also applies to the gnus:
We’re talking about an amorphous group of activists with no clear agenda, no leadership, no internal structure, and no real areas of expertise. Its passionate members, while probably well meaning, appear to have no idea what they’re talking about. Genuine political movements have, as Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C) put it, a “coherent vision.” The Tea Party has rage and a cable news network, but that’s not much of a substitute.
Tea Partiers may struggle to appreciate this, but real movements that make a difference and stand the test of time are about more than buzz words, television personalities, and self-aggrandizement. We knew exactly what the civil rights movement was all about — they highlighted a systemic social injustice and presented a moral/legal remedy. Similarly, labor unions created a movement. Women’s suffrage was a movement. The ongoing struggle for equality for gays and lesbians is a movement. In each case, the grievance was as clear as the solution. There was no mystery as to what these patriots were fighting for, and their struggles and successes made the nation stronger, better, and more perfect.
…Their demands are usually contradictory, and the activists don’t even agree with one another over what their alleged agenda includes. …
Delusions of grandeur notwithstanding, for the hysterical GOP base [or gnu atheists] to equate itself with abolitionists, women’s suffragists, and civil rights activists is ridiculous.
Of course, gnus haven’t even got a TV network, but they have got blogs and a couple books which Coyne insists (based on nothing in particular) have reached lots of non-atheists, and they also have Sam Harris’s stubble. And he points again to anecdotal nonevidence to back the claim that gnus have totally been effective. Neither he nor any other gnu have taken up the challenge of the simple experiments I suggested they attempt to test their hypotheses.
He also proudly wears the “marketing strategy” label, which is funny given how averse gnus usually are to the suggestion that they tailor their message based on effectiveness (a key part of any marketing strategy). Then again, marketing strategies also usually come with some clear metric for success. Gnus haven’t got that, either, and what evidence they offer is so weak as to be laughable even if it weren’t offered by scientists trained to take evidence seriously. And I’ve yet to see any offer a reason to doubt the empirical research I’ve cited showing that the accommodationist strategy works.