It boggles my mind and frustrates me when anyone engages in denialism, whether in science, history, or any other area. But when someone who has worked hard to combat denialism does it, it can seem downright baffling.
But Jerry Coyne has done precisely that in the past, and continues to do so. In a recent blog post on statistics which the BBC shared about popular opinions in the UK concerning Jesus, Coyne wrote:
What’s more galling is that the BBC is taking what “many scholars believe” as the gospel truth—pardon the pun—despite the fact that close scrutiny gives virtually no extra-Biblical evidence for a historical Jesus. I’m still convinced that the judgement of scholars that “Jesus was a real man” comes not from evidence, but from their conviction that the Bible simply couldn’t be untruthful about that issue. But of course we know of cases where myths grew up that weren’t at bottom derived from a historical individual.
How can someone who sees the problem with this kind of conspiracy view about experts in science when articulated by creationists, not see it when articulated by himself about experts in history? Perhaps the answer may be found in his dogmatic adherence to a false dichotomy between religion and science. Coyne has shown himself in the past to have a greater allegiance to his atheism than to critical thinking, dangerously coupled with the assumption that to be an atheist means one is by definition a critical thinker, and if one is religious one automatically is not. If a text ended up in the “Bible” then it is by definition dubious, never mind that when it was written it had no such status. If something is the view of religious believers, it is suspect, no matter if it is also the conclusion of secular historians.
Biologists face a tougher time from denialists than historians typically do. And so that ought to make them sympathetic to those who argue against denialism in other fields, rather than leading them to join their ranks.
I’m reminded of this SMBC cartoon on that last point…