Jerry Coyne, In Murray Ky. 2


I will tell you it is difficult to get a pic of Prof. Coyne that isn’t blurry, or undignified in some manner. He moves around a lot, and gestures with his hands. As a result I only got a few that were focused well, or didn’t catch him forming some word that left him with mouth agape, or lips pursed. There were a few pics that focused ok, but his arm was moving with a blur. I only got 2 pics out of several, that I would deem publishable. This is the one I went with. Even this one isn’t as well focused as I’d like, but you take what you can get. It’s strange, and I know this is cliche, but I thought he would be taller. I also kept getting the odd impression, that if he was wearing a Fedora, he would resemble Indiana Jones. I in no way mean any disrespect here, it is just one of those odd human tendencies to associate new things with things you already have an impression of…Oh, anyone who follows JC’s website will know about his boot thing, so I made sure to get a shot with boots.

No trouble finding the event this time, as in my post on the first talk that outlined the drama we had to endure, I knew exactly where to be this night. I did not see my airplane tossing friends this evening.

The talk was everything I was expecting, and I must admit I am in agreement with most of it. How science relies on peer review, falsification, converging lines of evidence, and having the tendency to throw out that which has proven to be no longer credible. All of these things religion does not have going for it. In fact religion is the exact opposite, it lies in a static state for the most part. Their supposed truths unreachable, non falsifiable, and lacking any tangible evidence of their existence. He also elaborated on the never ending assertions from theoligans who consistently, and often self refutingly, attempt to either reconcile religion with science, or try to put religion upon some pedestal, untouchable, unknowable by science. I thought he did a magnificent job of making his case.

The Q & A after the talk, was interesting. One of the first question-eers was a gent sitting on my left, who announced that he was a Dr. and a x-ian (though being a medical Dr. shouldn’t one be aware of evolving viruses?), then he proceeded to stammer and stumble about, trying to ask a question that I never did really figure out myself, but JC, grasped some intent of a question in there and refuted the guy handily.  There was another self proclaimed believer who admitted he accepted evolution, but maintained a belief in god, JC let him know, in as nice a way as possible, that was an untenable position. That is probably the biggest thing I took away from this, that JC has an incredible ability to make, what many would consider crass remarks about religion, but he has the capacity to do it in a very non confrontational way, almost with a smile on his face, that left me very appreciative of his style. I have great respect for someone with an ability as that. Myself, I would likely descend quickly to a “you are full of shit, and you know it, and you have no evidence whatsoever to back up your claims” kind of response. Which I know is not a diplomatic way to handle these touchy subjects. So I gotta hand it to him, he has the gift.

In one of his replies to a question I don’t remember this morn, JC touched on the free will argument. This is one I am slow to warm up to. I understand that we are all subject to physical laws, and neurons firing back and forth in our brains, and I find it interesting the modern studies that show scientists can predict the way a person will answer a question, before the subject actually answers the question. Fascinating. I just have trouble believing this concept of free will, is an illusion, when I thought my whole lifetime I had the ability to choose. That is a hard one to accept. I am a determinist for the most part, feeling that most situations (non social) are unforseeable, unknowable occurence of events. We have to duck and jive to stay alive. The boulder that falls from the mountain, and crushes a man, no one saw that coming. Fate has no concience. The earthquake or the tsunami has no remorse, and no choice in its effect on us puny humans. These things happen, the best we can do is try to stay out the way. Or survive the event.

When it comes to social circumstances I tend to lean towards a neccessitarian point of view. During the Q & A, I asked this question last night, it comes off as a joke, and there was a good laugh in the room, but in all seriousness, if we have no free will…how does a man answer his wife to the question: ” do I look fat in this dress?”  I made a comment recently at Mak’s blog “Random Thoughts” where I posited the same question on a post about free will, and followed with: “Social situations can and do pivot on decisions made in the here and now. Social situations can end in a moderately upset wife, or a nuclear war, depending on the situation. (admittedly sometimes a moderately upset wife borders on nuclear war) So, I truly believe in fate, in that it is an unkowable, unforeseeable, circumstance of events. I also believe that using great wisdom (which I would think an opportunity for free will) when faced with social settings, a cautionary way to proceed through life.”

This is how I have to see things at this point in time. As much as I would like to buy into the science behind “free will is illusory”, it just defies my perception so broadly, it is hard to accept, for now. As always I am open to new evidence, and logical arguments.

…as I understand it, both of the talks were recorded and will be made available at either youtube or here  how soon, I have no idea. I do know, at last nights talk, the mic used was having multiple issues of failing for some reason, and when it was working, when JC turned his head away from the mic, his words became unintelligible, I was close enough I could hear most of what was said, but last nights recording may have some difficulties with audio.

That wraps up my experience with the Jerry Coyne talk at Murray State University. I really enjoyed the event, and I thank JC, as well as  for putting on this talk. Usually these things happen so far outside of my location, it would take an endeavor similar to an Arctic expedition for me to attend. It was indeed fortunate, and fateful, that this even occurred a mere 40 min drive from home. Again, thanks Prof. Coyne, and