Biologist Jerry Coyne Mentioned My Deconversion Story on his Blog

No, he didn’t write a post about my vast knowledge of science. That would have taken all of eight words: not much, but more than I knew yesterday. In the post, Why I Stopped Believing, I mentioned five of the books that played an instrumental part in my deconversion. Coyne’s book, Why Evolution is True, was one of the books I mentioned. The book was quite helpful when I was trying to hang on to some sort of God who created. One chapter in particular, Remnants: Vestiges, Embryos, and Bad Design, had a profound effect on how I viewed the natural world.

In a post titled, In Which I Help Deconvert Someone, and on What Works, Coyne writes:

I’ve always said that the definition of “success” in mentoring graduate students is “producing a student who can replace you.” And though I’ve had very few students, I’ve replaced myself in that sense at least three times, so I’m quite happy.

And I consider the definition of “success” as an anti-theist to be “turning at least one person away from the delusions of faith and towards the virtues of reason.”  After all, if theists can boast about bringing people to Jesus, why can’t atheists take pride in helping people go in the reverse direction?

Now I can’t claim full credit for doing that to any one person, but I claim partial credit for helping quite a few—or so they tell me. And I’ll add those partial successes up to assert that N > 1.

The latest partial convert is Bruce Gerencser [sic], a former Christian minister, who explains on his website what led to his leaving the church. As is nearly always true for the deconversion of ministers (or anyone else, for that matter), it is a long, tortuous, and complex process involving many inputs…

…But read Gerenser’s [sic] whole piece (it’s short), because he traces the roots of his apostasy back to the very virtues instilled in him by his religious parents, including a love of reading and having the courage of one’s convictions.

The other point this makes is that it’s better, if you want to advance reason, to write and publish (if you have that privilege) rather than to give lectures and have debates. That is because in the quietude of authorship, you can polish and fully express your views, and people can read them at leisure and compare them with contrary views. In a public talk, I often find that the audience comprises people who are already on my side, and have come out of curiosity or to seek affirmation. Those are both fine reasons, and, after all, we all need affirmation (except perhaps Christopher Hitchens!), but in truth I’d prefer a higher titer of opponents when I speak. But again, I prefer to write, and that’s why I wrote The Albatross (soon to be available in fine bookstores everywhere)…

You can read the entire article here.

faith vs fact

Coyne has a new book coming out in May, Faith vs. Fact: Why Science and Religion are Incompatible. You can pre order the book here. (I receive a few shekels if your order the book through this link)

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7 Comments

  1. Heather Holbert

    How neat, Bruce!

    Reply
  2. Heather Holbert

    And not to mention that you have had an educating effect through your writing too, so in a way he helped convert me to reason and logic through you. One never knows the legacy they leave behind from the lives they have touched.

    Reply
  3. Geoff

    Hey Bruce that’s great. I’m reading Why Evolution is True solely on your recommendation (I’m 21% through, oh the joys of kindle!). I decided to read it because I realised in discussion with Marfin that, although I felt I understood it, I didn’t have a ready response for a lot of the detail I was being asked. I’m finding Coyne quite an easy ride after Dawkins, and getting to the stage where I could readily handle most doubters.

    Your reference to the vestiges etc chapter is interesting, because that’s what I’ve just read and I commented to my wife (who I’m boring silly, poor lady) that, were I in a conversation with a creationist, vestiges, bad design, and atavisms would be my central argument. Hopefully I’ll have even more by the time I’m finished, so thanks again for suggesting this book.

    Reply
  4. Kittybrat

    Bruce,

    I, too, read that book of Coyne’s, and was thrilled to hear him speak with Dawkins at an event not too long ago. He has a good way of putting things into the vernacular without dumbing it down so much one feels spoken down to.

    Glad he mentioned your reconversion story, as it is a good one and a great example of the amazing power of the brain to triumph over life-long bullshit!

    Reply
  5. Pingback: Pastor Hates Jesus after Reading Coyne’s Book | The Skeptical Zone

    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      Wildly inaccurate story and headline.

      Reply
  6. Geoff

    What a ridiculous article. The telling part is that he says he’s a creationist, yet still boasts about his ability to think critically. I’m afraid that’s an oxymoron; no creationist has allowed themselves to think critically, indeed little thinking of any kind. The comments as well were pretty pathetic, someone saying Jerry Coyne hates himself. One thing I feel fairly sure of is that he doesn’t hate himself; he actually seems a very positive, cheerful kind of guy. His love for cats gives that away.

    And following on from Kittybrat I’m booked to see Jerry Coyne and Richard Dawkins in London in February. Really looking forward to it.

    Reply

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