Saturday, February 16, 2019

Jerry Coyne is not really the best judge of who is a misogynist

I'm unsure of whether or not to classify Jerry Coyne as a member of the "Intellectual Dark Web" - he's not mentioned in the Bari Weiss article and he tends to avoid writing for right-wing media like Quillette, although he is a fan, but if he's not actually a member of the IDW he is certainly its biggest cheerleader.

He also appears to be Steven Pinker's publicist. Last week Coyne was sharing with the world Pinker's views on an article critical of the work of Steven Pinker (spoiler alert - Pinker & Coyne agree the criticism was bad and wrong and driven by nefarious motives) and this week he's pondering whether "New Atheism" is dead. Of course Coyne shares Pinker's thoughts with his blog audience.

Coyne shares his own thoughts:
Three articles bashing New Atheism have recently been published (here, here, and here). I already criticized the Guardian piece, and am not going to waste my time on the others. After all, we know the tropes, which have been repeated ad infinitum: New Atheism used to be a lively and going concern, then four old white men (Dennett, Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris [who’s not old]) arrogantly proclaimed themselves leaders of the movement, with at least three of those men being bigoted and/or misogynistic, as well as adherents to the alt-right (Dennett manages to escape those labels). That, goes the narrative, drove people away from New Atheism, an egress that could have been avoided if New Atheism had properly aligned itself with social justice. Now, because of the fault of its leaders and its rejection of wokeness, New Atheism is dead. 
I don’t agree with this narrative on several grounds. Dennett, Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris never proclaimed themselves “leaders of New Atheism”. They became spokespeople for atheism because they all had bestselling books and were also eloquent speakers.  They are not bigots or misogynists, though I admit that Dawkins was sometimes hamhanded in his use of Twitter.
It seems to never occur to Coyne that there's a good reason why Daniel Dennett has escaped being called bigoted and/or misogynistic - because he isn't on the record making bigoted and/or misogynistic statements.

It doesn't occur to Coyne because he doesn't know what bigoted and misogynistic statements are.

Hitchens is most famous outside of New Atheist circles as the guy who said women aren't funny. His long-time colleague at The Nation, Katha Pollitt made clear how much contempt Hitchens had for women - and he was anti-abortion too.

Dawkins is infamous as an Islamaphobe, going so far as to suggest that Christianity is superior to Islam, in spite of Christianity being, you know, a religion that also glorifies crimes against humanity in its sacred texts.
“There are no Christians, as far as I know, blowing up buildings. I am not aware of any Christian suicide bombers. I am not aware of any major Christian denomination that believes the penalty for apostasy is death. I have mixed feelings about the decline of Christianity, in so far as Christianity might be a bulwark against something worse.”
Richard Dawkins is old enough to remember the IRA blowing up buildings for the sake of Catholic Ireland against Protestant England.

The Christians predictably loved Dawkins comments about Christianity. Dawkins doesn't mind giving aid and comfort to Christians in exchange for bashing Islam.

It's very likely Dawkins will be remembered as much for his part in Elevatorgate as anything else. The vicious threats against Rebecca Watson from Dawkins' fanboys gives plenty of evidence of the fundamental misogyny at the heart of the "New Atheist" movement.

And then there's Sam Harris, named as a member of the IDW, along with Pinker, in the Weiss article. I have blogged about his Islamaphobia, his misogyny and his support for Charles Murray and race science

Coyne gives the whole misogynist game away when he doubts that Muslim women are able to make their own choices:
Today’s Jesus and Mo strip is a good one, particularly timely, and speaks directly to the notion of the degree to which Muslim women “choose” to be covered. When a Western Muslimah (not one in Iran or Saudi) declares that she wears the hijab “by choice,” I never accept that claim at face value. Was she brought up wearing one? Did she go to school where other girls wore them? Are her friends mostly hijabis? This whole notion of “choice” in Islamic dress needs to be examined, yet I haven’t seen a single article on it. It’s the rhino in the room.
I was brought up Catholic and sent to Catholic school and told not to use birth control. I was able to decide to quit the Catholic church and use birth control. So yeah,  if I can make decisions in spite of my upbringing, then I guess I can accept that Muslim women can make their own choices. Even if I don't agree with their choices.

If women are forced to wear something then yeah, we need to fight for their right to make their own decisions. Otherwise it's not our business.

Coyne is unable to understand why feminists in a pluralist society support Muslim women's rights to wear something that signifies their religion - even if the feminists in question don't agree with some of the things the religion says. In a free society we must accept some people will make personal choices we don't like. Coyne is not comfortable in such a society. Because he believes women who make choices he doesn't like are incapable of making their own choices.

Because Jerry Coyne is a bigot. And a misogynist.
So no, I don't think Coyne is a reliable source of who is and is not a bigot and misogynist.