“Faith vs. Fact” at Revolution Books Chicago

January 25, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


From a reader:

Faith vs. Fact book cover

Revolution Books Chicago welcomed evolutionary biologist and author Jerry Coyne on January 16 to discuss his latest book, Faith versus Fact: Why Science and Religion Are Incompatible. The event drew a standing room only crowd of more than 50 people, some longtime supporters of the store and Revolution Club members, and many who were new to Revolution Books and the movement for revolution, including members of science meet-ups and other atheist and secular groups. One man drove from central Wisconsin and a young man who said he grew up in a creationist family came from Indiana.

The moderator opened the event by situating Coyne’s book in the context of the battle going on in society today between religion and science, a battle about how to think, whether the scientific method can be applied to analyze and probe reality to get to the underlying truth, whether there IS an objective reality beyond our individual experiences and, if so, whether and how we can understand it with any certainty. She explained that Bob Avakian has done a lot of work on these questions because they are so vital to getting beyond the horrors of this world—from police murder with impunity to mass incarceration, the war on women, the U.S. wars OF terror, a world of sweatshops and ecological devastation that only enriches a handful of capitalist imperialists. She explained, “We can’t change this world unless we understand it as it actually is, and that includes not only scientists and academics but everyone who wants to see a radically different and better world.”

Coyne is a professor emeritus in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago, with a concentration in speciation and ecological and evolutionary genetics. He is the author of dozens of scholarly articles and the 2010 New York Times bestseller, Why Evolution Is True. He is also the recipient in 2011 of the Emperor Has No Clothes award from the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

A New Theoretical Framework for a New Stage of Communist Revolution What is New in the New Synthesis? An Explorer, a Critical Thinker, a Follower of BA; Understanding the World, And Changing It For the Better, In the Interests of Humanity Some Thank Yous That Need To Be Said Aloud Order the book here Download the full interview in PDF format here

In some informal remarks before a very lively Q&A session with the audience, Coyne explained that he wrote Faith vs. Fact when he observed that some people refused to accept evolution even after admitting that they found his evidence convincing. Why? Because it contradicted their religious beliefs. So he set about writing a book to explain why the scientific method is the means to acquire reliable information about the world, a method based on facts that are testable, repeatable, and subject to refutation as more knowledge is acquired or previously held positions found wanting. The book contrasts this to religion’s reliance on dogma, authority, and scripture, all of which are beyond refutation because they are not “of this world.”

Coyne tore apart various attempts to insert a god or some external purpose into the thoroughly natural process of evolution, which has no “purpose” at all.

In his book, Coyne quotes a passage by Karl Marx that includes the important insight that “To abolish religion as the illusory happiness of the people is to demand their real happiness.” From Coyne’s perspective, this is illustrated in statistics showing that income inequality and general insecurity of life correlate with religiosity, contrasting secular Western and Northern Europe’s relatively greater income equality and universal health care with their opposites in the U.S. His comments opened up a conversation about the complexity of factors that contribute to the phenomenon of religiosity.

The Science, The Strategy, The Leadership for an Actual Revolution, And a Radically New Society on the Road to Real Emancipation, by Bob Avakian

Perhaps the most controversy was provoked by Coyne’s contention that Islam is more violent, anti-democratic, and anti-woman than Christianity (which is the main target in his book) and his assertion that the left treads lightly in criticizing Islam because it views Islam as “the religion of the oppressed.” The responses were varied and lively. One person objected strenuously that Muslims ARE targeted, even assassinated, in this country, and labeling the entire religion (not just fundamentalists) as “dangerous” contributes to that deadly climate of hate. Another person pointed to Bob Avakian's scientific approach to religion in Away With All Gods, where he gets into the truth that both Islam and Christianity are thoroughly reactionary and extremely harmful, and he struggles with people to break out of the chains of all the major religions as part of radically changing the world.The ideological struggle must be waged to free the mind from all religious superstitions and we must unite with religious people in political battles that are also part of that process. There was much for future discussion.

It was exciting to participate in a discussion with a leading evolutionary biologist who could marshal complex and often cutting-edge developments in the field in his arguments in ways that were nonetheless accessible to people not versed in the science. His books are the product of a passion to help more people understand evolution and give them the tools to make the case for it themselves, and that passion enlivened the discussion of Faith versus Fact: Why Science and Religion Are Incompatible at Revolution Books.



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