Prof. Jerry Coyne recently posted an article on his Why Evolution is True website defending euthanasia for severely deformed or doomed infants. This provoked a predictable enraged response from right wing and Christian websites. Prof. Coyne responded to these attacks here. There’s nothing surprising about any of this except for the fact that one of the attacks on Prof. Coyne was posted at Milo News, edited by Milos Yiannopoulos. In view of Prof. Coyne’s consistent defense of Yiannopoulos’ freedom of speech, I found it particularly incongruous that one of the attacks should appear on his website. I left the following comment.
I’m also an atheist, like Prof. Coyne, but more to the right than average. In fact, I recently defended Milo’s book on my blog:
However, I also agree with Prof. Coyne’s view on euthanasia of infants. Unlike the furious zealots of the left and the right, however, I don’t assume the right to stuff my views on morality down anyone else’s throat. It’s odd that many of the commenters on this thread defend their pious hatred of Coyne in the name of Judeo-Christian morality. There seems to be something of a disconnect between their rage and what is taught in the Bible, such as “judge not, lest ye be judged,” “Blessed are the peacemakers,” “Blessed are the meek,” etc. In view of the fact that Christians have used their religion to justify killing tens of millions in religious wars, a million witches, give or take, in the Middle Ages, hundreds of thousands of Jews in pogroms over the centuries, most notably whenever a body of troops left for the Crusades, and murdered tens of thousands more as “heretics,” it seems absurd for them to imagine they’re standing on the moral high ground as they foam at the mouth about Coyne’s views on euthanasia.
As it happens, it’s particularly incongruous in view of Prof. Coyne’s consistent and effective defense of freedom of speech in general and Milo’s freedom of speech in particular. See, for example,
In Dangerous Milo places the University of Chicago at the top of the list of his college “heroes,” noting that the “Chicago Principles on Free Expression” are the “gold standard in the fight against campus censorship.” Prof. Coyne has consistently and strongly defended those principles. These are a few things to consider as you work yourselves up into orgasms of pious indignation.
I would love to see Milo sit down and have a beer with Coyne sometime. They are both individuals who can actually think. The results of the exchange might be interesting.
Prof. Coyne is certainly on the left of the ideological spectrum, but he is decidedly not a Social Justice Warrior, nor is he a regressive leftist of the authoritarian persuasion who is determined to stuff his version of morality down anyone’s throat, nor is he intolerant of opinions that differ from his own. He will have nothing to do with the ludicrous love affair between the SJW left and radical Islam, in spite of the usual specious accusations of “Islamophobia.” I find it unfortunate that in this “four legs good, two legs bad” world where so many have chosen to confine themselves in ideological strait jackets, there are so few who seem willing or able to make the distinction between someone like him and, say, a garden variety SJW whose tastes run to fascism.
The comment quoted above still hasn’t made it out of moderation at Milo News, and may have been consigned to the memory hole there. Be that as it may, I reiterate my support for Prof. Coyne’s position on infant euthanasia. This is a case in which it’s very important to consider why your moral emotions are pushing you one way or the other on the issue, and what paying heed to them (or not) will actually accomplish. I personally would prefer that the issue be regulated by law, with euthanasia allowed up to the age of, say, a week, with the decision left strictly to the parents. After that the usual laws dealing with murder would apply. I do not think my opinion is capable of rendering itself independent of the neurons that gave rise to it, clothing itself in the odor of sanctity, and then fobbing itself off as a “moral law” to my unsuspecting fellow citizens. However, I do think it should be given as much weight as any other opinion, preferably in some rational process of deciding what “ought” or “ought not” to be done that has been made as free from blatant attempts to manipulate moral emotions as possible.
As for Milo, I know he rejects the notion of apologizing for anything, and I don’t blame him. However, according to his own principles as set forth in Dangerous, there is much “good” in Prof. Coyne. It would be nice to see him recognize the fact instead of simply relegating him to the same circle of hell as, say, octogenarian establishment Republicans, hideous third-wave feminist scolds, and craven, back-stabbing book publishers.