It was painful listening at NPR this morning on the Brian Lehrer Show interview with U Chicago evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne plugging his new book. Faith Versus Fact: Why Science and Religion Are Incompatible is not much more than additional grist for the New Atheist mill. From what I heard from the interview, it represents the kind of caustic idiocy about religion by experts from other academic fields who don’t know anything about the phenomenon.
About religion, Coyne proceeds with far too much “faith” in his own capacity to assess religion. But against the scientific grain, he does so with arguments that have no discernible relationship to a set of observable “facts” organized in a credible academic/scientific way. Responding to a question about the evolutionary origins of religion, he simply shrugged it off. Admitting that he gets asked this question a lot, it seemed as though he hadn’t given it much thought.
About Coyne, I don’t actually wonder anywhere near as much as I do about Brian Lehrer. As a regular and devoted listener, I expect more informed debate and conversation from the The Brian Lehrer Show at WNYC, our local NPR affiliate. Lehrer hosts some of the best talk-radio around. A scholar actually versed in the history of religions, the sociology and psychology of religion, and the history of ideas, including ideas about the relationship between religion and science, might have done a better job presenting “religion” as a complex, evolving or emergent human phenomenon.
Very sad, it is as if more than 100 years of scholarship has made no impact on the public discussion.