The video!

UPDATE 3: The people at Kentucky have informed me that the Q&A stuff will be added to the video tonight. They’re working hard on getting together a high-quality and complete video, and my thanks to those hard-working folks. Meanwhile, just today the Vimeo link had gotten 16,400 hits by 3 pm EST.

And over at Choice in Dying, Eric MacDonald has a long and wonderfully thoughtful analysis of both the debate and Haught’s “explanation”: “The tempest in John Haught’s teapot.

 

UPDATE 2:  I’ve been told that the question and answer session will also be added to the video. Praise Ceiling Cat!  I’ll keep you informed.

 

UPDATE:  The Powerpoint slides have been added to the video site, which has now been moved to the Gaines Center website. You’ll have to download the Powerpoints separately, but I recommend doing that and following them along with the talks.

I’ve updated the link below to reflect the new location. But there are several interesting additions to the Gaines site. Not only is there a link to my own website, but to Haught’s letter to me as well.  Best of all, there’s a statement from the Provost of the University of Kentucky, an estimable man whom I met at dinner:

“The Bale-Boone Symposium series has a rich tradition of providing an open and frank forum for a broad range of compelling issues, ranging from legal and medical ethics to the place of poetry in our culture. This year’s session regarding the compatibility of religion and science was no exception. It led to not only a robust –and even contentious — debate between two distinguished scholars, but a conversation that continued long afterward among the participants and those who attended. That speaks to the heart of what both The Gaines Center and the University of Kentucky hope to foster – a deep dialogue regarding issues past, present and future that impact us all. With that commitment to open and ongoing dialogue in mind, the attached link contains the video of the session, along with continued communication between the two participants afterward.”

- Kumble Subbaswamy, provost

Now where did that come from?  Could it reflect the fact that several of my readers—and I as well—wrote to the Provost, asking him to help release the video?

Good for you, Dr. Subbaswamy! If Drs. Haught and Rabel had only adhered to the principles of open discourse you set forth, this whole mess wouldn’t have happened.

_______________

The Gaines Center sure didn’t waste any time: the talks that John Haught and I gave in Lexington on the compatibility of science and faith are now online.

They’re here. John goes first, then I speak, and there is an audience Q&A, most of which seems to be missing from the video.

Judge for yourself whether Haught’s contentions hold water.

Sadly, the Powerpoint slides that accompanied both of our talks aren’t shown, but the organizers are working on a professional version with the slides. I’ll put that up when it’s done. But if you really must have the slides, just shoot me an email (I can provide only my set, of course).

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you sophisticated theology.

409 Comments

  1. Posted November 2, 2011 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    Congratulations to all involved!!!!

    • Torbjorn Larsson, OM
      Posted November 2, 2011 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

      That was my immediate thought as well!

  2. truthspeaker
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    subscribing now to beat the rush

    • Posted November 2, 2011 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

      Ditto.

    • Evgeny Brud
      Posted November 2, 2011 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

      Yup.

    • Posted November 2, 2011 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

      Subscribing now to follow the crowd.

      • Diane G.
        Posted November 3, 2011 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

        same here

  3. truthspeaker
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

    and checking the box this time.

  4. dunstar
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    nice.

  5. Posted November 2, 2011 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    Science and religion are NOT compatible. It’s fashionable to say they are because of political correctness, accommodationism and the desire to be seen as moderate and tolerant.

    But none of those can overcome the facts: of the claims religion makes about how the world is, many are obviously false, disproven, self-contradictory or contradicting another claim elsewhere, nonsensical or untestable.

    Futhermore, religion has no mechanism for arriving at what is true besides willful cherry-picking doctrines and blind faith. This is why religion does not make any obvious progress, even if it does change over time.

    Science DOES progress, DOES provide methods for sorting out competing truth claims and that this is so is manifestly obvious in what it has accomplished — in the transistors that underpin the modern world (and the computing that makes even this comment possible), in the chemistry that feeds a third of the world’s population on a single reaction (the Haber-Bosch process), in the fact that organ transplants and anti-biotics are here, and that planes fly reproducibly in precisely the same way Mohammed on his horse cannot be shown to have.

    Science and religion are not compatible: they operate differently, both making truth claims along the way, but science furthers understanding; religion does not. It’s last refuge is to claim that it speaks to what is moral and what is not, which is a canard. We can see this from the fact that one doesn’t need to be religious not be good and also from the way religions are persistently abusing their followers and many others besides.

    • Torbjorn Larsson, OM
      Posted November 2, 2011 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

      +1.

    • Kharamatha
      Posted November 3, 2011 at 2:24 am | Permalink

      But but but the subtlety!

  6. FastLane
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    Were the cameras rolling for the Q&A? I would like to ask them to post that portion of the audio/video if they have it.

    Sometimes, that’s the best part of a discussion like this.

    • whyevolutionistrue
      Posted November 2, 2011 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

      Those were good and I’ve written the video guy to see if the Q&A could be included.

      • EvoMonkey
        Posted November 2, 2011 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

        If I remember correctly, it was during the Q&A that Haught used the lame analogy that this discussion was like walking into a kitchen to find someone boiling a pot of water and wondering why. He insinuated that you (and “scientism”) could explain the physics and thermodynamics of why the water was boiling, but his superior perspective of theology could also explain the motive for the boiling water (i.e. the desire to have a cup of tea).

        That was hilarious. He genuinely expected you concede the point that science can only investigate mechanism and not motive.

        • Posted November 2, 2011 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

          His analogy is like the watch -> watchmaker all over again. The set-up implicitly assumes intention behind the water boiling, due to the presence of the pot and kettle kitchen. Water boils all the time in hydrothermal vents and hot springs without anyone intending to make anything at all. For the theologian, it is enough to see that the water is boiling and assume the presence of a tea-maker. The scientist first asks if there is a kettle.

          • Posted November 2, 2011 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

            That is a very good analysis!

        • Torbjorn Larsson, OM
          Posted November 2, 2011 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

          Apparently CSI is the empirical version of Haught, and forensic science our theology.

          That is still about near history of people. No progress from the goat herders that dreamed a polytheist syncretist religion up.

  7. Mike
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    The video skips at 46:03 and maybe one more place. A few seconds are lost.

    • truthspeaker
      Posted November 2, 2011 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

      Those must be the moments when Dr. Coyne was uncivil.

      You can’t prove he wasn’t uncivil during those gaps.

      • Posted November 2, 2011 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

        Ah, the “Coyne of the gaps” argument…

        /@

        • NaturalBornHypocrite
          Posted November 2, 2011 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

          You made me try and laugh soda through my nose with the “coyne of the gaps” phrase. Well done.

        • PB
          Posted November 2, 2011 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

          nimble witty and funny ..
          naught haught

        • Bill Gilliland
          Posted November 2, 2011 at 10:04 pm | Permalink

          If those breaks in the video were when JAC compared his opponent to Hitler, would it be the “Godwin of the Gaps”?

        • Filippo
          Posted November 3, 2011 at 2:55 am | Permalink

          Yes, pardon me for punching you in the fist with my nose.

    • Posted November 2, 2011 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

      I think the lost word is “reality” – which what comes next seems to imply.

  8. lofgren
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    Just finished Haught’s section. It was barely coherent, and spent most of its time on imagery rather than substance. He suggests that religion seeks to understand the purpose of observable material events. If I understand correctly, he’s saying that “Zeus is angry so he shot Steve with a lightning bolt” is an understanding of Steve’s tragedy that is not in conflict with a thorough material description of how lightning is formed, why it took the path it did, and the effects it had on Steve when the charge passed through his body.

    What he doesn’t do is explain what tools we have to determine if the Zeus explanation is true. As long as religion doesn’t discern between truth and untruth, it’s in conflict with a scientific mindset, even if there is no conflict with any specific fact.

    • Torbjorn Larsson, OM
      Posted November 2, 2011 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

      Also, theories are parsimonious for a number of reasons (most likely valid a priori _and, observably, a posteriori, least likely to be reversed, most likely correctly formulated). So any a priori agents/purpose is in conflict with the mindset/working method.

  9. Ray Moscow
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    Watching now!

    • Marella
      Posted November 2, 2011 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

      Me too.

    • Ray Moscow
      Posted November 2, 2011 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

      Wait — Haught just taught me that we’re all ‘lower level’ sort of beings who can’t understand ‘higher level’ stuff. That’s where faith — and apparently ‘higher level’ beings such as theologians — come in to straighten us dimwits out.

      ‘Imagine a monkey looking into a book’. Yep, that’s us poor morons without faith. Not wrong, just unable to understand the higher truths. We need some ‘personal transformation’, and now. Science is just not equipped to tell us this important stuff.

      I can’t imagine who anyone could dispute such wisdom.

      • jose
        Posted November 2, 2011 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

        Really? That’s so new age. Like the higher frequency vibrations you get to grasp if your magnetic soul is conveniently aligned with the Aquarius constellation or something along those lines. Higher spheres of existence for the win!

        First time I hear a catholic say these things. Catholics usually teach that humans are sinners, not inferior beings.

      • Andrew B.
        Posted November 2, 2011 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

        “Wait — Haught just taught me that we’re all ‘lower level’ sort of beings who can’t understand ‘higher level’ stuff.”

        Ah, the old “God may be beyond our understanding, but I’m pretty sure he’d agree with me about: _______” trick. The problem is, if it’s beyond us, it’s beyond Haught as well and he’ll have to give up his precious Catholicism and take up a vague Deism instead.

        • Tulse
          Posted November 3, 2011 at 6:05 am | Permalink

          “The Absolute Ground of Being is an effable mystery beyond all mere human intellect and arid rational discourse…but it’s clear that He hates buttsecks.”

      • truthspeaker
        Posted November 2, 2011 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

        I understand what me means with that analogy. But if we humans are analogous to the monkeys, and Haught and other theologians are also human, how is it that they can see the bigger picture but we can’t?

        Let’s postulate that there is more to existence than we have access to. I readily concede that that is a very real possibility. So what method of inquiry does Dr. Haught suggest will allow us to understand those parts of existence that are inaccessible to us, and how will we tell if it is successful?

        And if it is impossible for us to gain any information about those invisible parts of existence, then why privilege any one speculation over another?

        • AdamK
          Posted November 3, 2011 at 7:26 am | Permalink

          “…how is it that they can see the bigger picture but we can’t?”

          I understood Haught to be saying that this is where mysterious mystical self-improvement comes in.

          They meditate and pray and perfect themselves morally, and we atheists just hang out and use condoms and have gay sex and stuff, so god likes them better and tells them secrets.

          • Phillip Soltan
            Posted November 3, 2011 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

            Wow! All atheists are having gay sex?!?! Does this just apply to you or do you have some statistics about the number of gay atheists to back this up?

      • Diane G.
        Posted November 3, 2011 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

        ‘Imagine a monkey looking into a book’.

        And Coyne’s the one being condescending?

    • daveau
      Posted November 2, 2011 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

      Me three!

  10. sc0ttt
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    “warm syrup of accomodationism” that is some unctuous rhetoric; chapeau.

  11. Posted November 2, 2011 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    I guess technically, some of your arguments went outside of demonstrating that science and faith are incompatible, and into the realm of demonstrating why it’s a problem that they’re incompatible… Particularly since all of the examples you bring up involve the Catholic Church, I can see why he got upset.

    • Torbjorn Larsson, OM
      Posted November 2, 2011 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

      But, still technically, it was all correct.

    • Notagod
      Posted November 2, 2011 at 10:40 pm | Permalink

      Dr. Coyne addresses that here:

      http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2011/11/01/theologian-john-haught-refuses-to-release-video-of-our-debate/#comment-149084

      ….
      3. Haught claims that my attacks on him were unfairly personal. I disagree. I did use his own published words to make my case, but merely as examples of the ludicrous lengths theologians go to when trying to reconcile science with faith. I ask you to watch the video and judge for yourself. And Haught should have known what I would say on the issue, for he told me he’d read my website posts, which I started putting up when reading his books several months before our exchange. Further, I told Robert Rabel in advance that my talk would be “hard hitting,” and he was okay with that. To Rabel’s credit, he did not attempt to steer my talk one way or another. Finally, if you read John’s book, God and the New Atheism: A Critical Response to Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens, you’ll find that he’s quite dismissive of atheist claims—with just as must stridency and harshness as he attributes to me.
      ….

      See also Ray Moscow’s comment at:

      http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2011/11/02/the-video/#comment-149750

      Haught claims that his god promotes him to a higher level, above those that don’t worship his god. It is equivalent to an assertion that he(Haught) is crowned supernaturally and is higher than an atheist.

      I reckon Haught, if morally equal, would be upset by his own words not by Coyne’s.

      • Kharamatha
        Posted November 3, 2011 at 2:34 am | Permalink

        “I’m always right so I’m right when I say I’m always right.”

        Is there an english equivalent of stjärnstopp?

        Well, God Moding, I suppose.

        • Filippo
          Posted November 3, 2011 at 3:01 am | Permalink

          “I am right, I am special because I say so, because I am me.”

  12. JBlilie
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

    Well done Dr. C.!

  13. Insightful Ape
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    Haught was incredibly vacuous. I couldn’t believe it. First he quotes some famous physicists saying they universe has no purpose. He then tells us how vast, and old, the universe is. And then he moves on to…
    Jesus?? What the heck happened? He never even tries to rebut the arguments from the physicists, he just says in order to see the purpose we have to be tranformed, to be able to “read the universe at a higher level” as compared to a book (whatever that means). As for as I see he only highlighted the chasm between science and faith. Seriously, is this the best we can expect from the “sophisticated” theologicians?

    • Ray Moscow
      Posted November 2, 2011 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

      Haught puts himself forward as a spokesman for the Christian, specifically Catholic, position and expounds upon it for a large fraction of his time.

      I don’t see how he can claim that he shouldn’t have been identified with the harm that this worldview has caused.

      • Diane G.
        Posted November 3, 2011 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

        + 1

    • PB
      Posted November 2, 2011 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

      This is the formal catholic position on science. “All’s well, we already know all of it, plus some more that I see is lacking in you..” wink-wink. If the Father is nice, he will joke a bit, and Father Haught did!

      Catholics take the high ground. We are all sinners / low-level, but among all people, those who knows (the catholics) are slightly higher than others.

      Embrace and extend. And they expect the warm-syrupy acceptance for that.

      Haught is pure catholic.

      Alas, his time is over

    • Tulse
      Posted November 3, 2011 at 6:12 am | Permalink

      He then tells us how vast, and old, the universe is.

      If the universe is so vast and so old, then what’s the purpose of all the space that isn’t our infinitesimally small bit of warm dirt in the staggeringly enormous trillions of cubic light years of emptiness at 3K, which has been here for a time that is well beyond normal human comprehension? How can anyone say that the universe has a purpose in which we are the main goal, and not be overwhelmed by the sheer hubris? It’s like an ant bobbing on a cork in the Atlantic thinking that the ocean exists solely for its benefit.

  14. Posted November 2, 2011 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    Far more mild than Haught’s posted letter suggested! You were civil but strong. He was pontifical—spouting claims about the world as if he had a direct pipeline to reality, with no evidence except occasional sophistic word games.
    But since that is the nature of theology, he would hardly have been embarrassed by that–to him, that must have seemed normal. So why was he so deeply opposed to letting this video out? Maybe it was the pedophilia references? I imagine that is indeed a sensitive subject for many Catholics (as it should be).

    • Posted November 2, 2011 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

      On second thought, I am sure he just is not accustomed to having people point out that his vacuous pontifications = “making stuff up”.

      • Filippo
        Posted November 3, 2011 at 3:10 am | Permalink

        Yes, professors, unlike students, are not required to genuflect to other professors (so long as they have tenure). But universities are becoming more and more like corporate private tyrannies, especially private universities, and specifically administrator types. The American Association of University Professors has an academic freedom battle on its hand. To the elite, Everymen are merely human “resources.”

    • PB
      Posted November 2, 2011 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

      I am half way through Jerry’s. I think he is very civil, even a bit shy. Mumbles at the end of paragraphs, giggling towards some out-of-frame point – presumably Haught’s direction – when point out a critic to H.

      Actually, Jerry is acting correctly in front of a catholic elder!

      (dunno, maybe the second half shows athiest ferocity)

      • PB
        Posted November 2, 2011 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

        Yes. The content is becoming stronger and stronger (“making stuff up”). But still the demeanor is something what we usually call “a catholic boy” – one that understand humility and somewhat lower ladder place holder .. :D

        Or, this could be Jerry’s naughtiness against Haught, rather than use haughtiness ..

    • AdamK
      Posted November 3, 2011 at 7:29 am | Permalink

      Haught gave a sermon, and Coyne disrespected it.

  15. Posted November 2, 2011 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    Dr. Haught, you gave a lovely sermon. I’m sure all true-believing Christians would have found it quite pleasant.

    Jerry, on the other hand, you presented a rock-solid assemblage of well-evidenced facts in a coherently-organized manner.

    You both represented your positions superbly. The different approaches are perfectly illustrative of the different approaches to understanding the universe.

    The fact that Jerry wiped the floor with Dr. Haught is a reflection of just how much more powerful a tool science is than religion when it comes to understanding the universe.

    Dr. Haught, you have no cause to be embarrassed by your performance at the vent. You do however, have cause to be embarrassed by your devotion to a failed worldview as well as your attempt at covering up this illustrative comparison of science and religion.

    Cheers,

    b&

    • Ray Moscow
      Posted November 2, 2011 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

      My wife’s comment upon finishing the video: “As Sheldon would say, Bazinga!”

      • Chris Slaby
        Posted November 2, 2011 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

        +1.

    • truthspeaker
      Posted November 2, 2011 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

      Jerry, on the other hand, you presented a rock-solid assemblage of well-evidenced facts in a coherently-organized manner.

      How uncivil.

      • daveau
        Posted November 2, 2011 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

        Yeah, you… you… you atheist!

    • Torbjorn Larsson, OM
      Posted November 2, 2011 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

      Well said.

      Dr. Haught, it is time to lay the zombie to rest.

    • PB
      Posted November 2, 2011 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

      Agree, among theologians, Haught’s speech is very OK. Many do worse presentations. Of course this is not about the contents..

    • Keith
      Posted November 3, 2011 at 6:37 am | Permalink

      Well said! Brilliant talk by Coyne.

    • Diane G.
      Posted November 3, 2011 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

      No need to add a thing–you’ve said it all, excellently.

  16. Posted November 2, 2011 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    I’m wondering if, according to Haught, my recent bout with gastroenteritis counts as a “self-emptying” experience?

    • Marella
      Posted November 2, 2011 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

      Are you “transformed”? ;-)

      • Posted November 2, 2011 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

        It has brought my colon consciousness into a new future within the finite world.

  17. Doc Bill
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    Disclaimer: I am a Coyne Groupie and I attend all his concerts. Rock on, Jerry!

    It’s no wonder Haught didn’t want the video released. His presentation was rambling and filled with appeals to authority, Coyne’s was precise, crisp and to the point.

    I had hopes that Haught was going to pull it together at the end when he started to talk about a purposeful universe, but my hopes were dashed when, like every creationist out there, and I use the term pejoratively, he pulled back and, like Ken Ham and Kent Hovind, asked the audience to put on their Bible Glasses. That’s how you view the universe. Apparently, the universe is Riverdale and it is through the sacrifice of Jughead that there is purpose to the lives of Archie, Betty and Veronica.

    No mention, whatsoever, of other traditions, so, really, your theology could be based on Archie Comics or Gilligan’s Island. Same thing.

    Finally, channeling Deepak Chopra, accuses God of “pulling” the universe rather than “pushing” it. Since this idea has its soul (sic) origin in Haught’s ass, I don’t see whether pulling or pushing makes much difference.

    I keep hoping that theologians will produce something more than Aquinas and I am continually disappointed. And I’m equally sure that Haught is keenly aware and disappointed, too, that his hazy oogity-boogity contrasted so poorly with Coyne’s clear rationality

    • Torbjorn Larsson, OM
      Posted November 2, 2011 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

      +1.

      Why does religion always come back to intestines? I guess it’s because its so full of shit.

      • Doc Bill
        Posted November 2, 2011 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

        Or the divination of entrails. I don’t know.

        Theologians have gotten away with a lot of shit precisely because they haven’t been challenged. As a scientist, I don’t care about Haught and his ilk. Yes, Haught, you are ILK!

        Just don’t give a rat’s ass.

        UNTIL they start messing with politics and changing state education standards which happened in Kansas and Texas, Louisiana and other states. If the theologians don’t come out en masse and protest, then screw them. (the theologians; cowards all) And, that has been the case.

        Where does Haught stand on the criminal Pope’s protection of abusive priests: mute. Oh, I think the “problem of evil” has just been solved. Complicity, right Haught?

        • Marella
          Posted November 2, 2011 at 11:52 pm | Permalink

          “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” Assuming there are any good men in the catholic church that is. I mean, there must be some surely?

          • yam
            Posted November 3, 2011 at 8:48 am | Permalink

            Andy Sullivan?

  18. lofgren
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    Just finished Coyne’s section. His message gets a little lost in the weeds in the middle, but he comes back to it by the end. The part that got a little roundabout for me was a section where he refers to slides, so maybe I would have been less lost if I could see them. I was glad to see that he made my point above (assuming my post ever passes moderation). I did feel that he spent a bit too much time refuting specific religious tenets. His speech was understandably slanted towards Christianity, especially Catholicism, but there are a lot of other religions out there. Ultimately I think he did a good job of showing that theology has not actually accomplished anything and serves NO purpose. If, as Haught claims, religion’s goal is to investigate the “deeper” levels of reality and find “purpose” in observable reality, Coyne showed that it has failed at every turn.

    I can see why Haught felt that Coyne used an ad hominem. He points out that religion has not ascertained any facts about this deeper level of reality it claims to investigate, and that therefore its value can be basically dismissed. Since Haught is a religious person and his argument was not based on the SUCCESS of religious investigation but merely that a person can search for meaning while also studying the physical world, he may have felt that Coyne was saying that because that search for meaning has been unsuccessful we can safely dismiss any claims by the searchers. Of course in my estimation he was actually saying that because that search has not revealed anything and its methods show little improvement, it might be time to try a different approach altogether. But then I am inclined to be kind to Coyne since I started the debate with an expectation that I would agree with him disagree with Haught.

  19. daveau
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    Infinte mystery!(TM). I get it now.

    Haught: “Theology and Science are distinct, in compatible ways, of reading the cosmic story. There is absolutely no contradiction between the two.”

    Well, that’s a seriously defective statement. Any evidence for that? No? Didn’t think so.

    • Posted November 2, 2011 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

      “Theology and Science are distinct, incompatible ways, of reading the cosmic story.”

      LOL – Could have saved Jerry his 25 minutes there…

      • daveau
        Posted November 2, 2011 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

        Maybe I transcribed incorrectly… ;-)

        Seriously, JC’s 25 minutes are the most succinct & cogent argument against religion I have seen in one place. I can’t believe that more people did not try to have this repressed.

        • Posted November 2, 2011 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

          Nah.

          Needs more intestines.

          b&

          • daveau
            Posted November 2, 2011 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

            I kept waiting for him to quote you. Maybe you should write a book.

            • Posted November 2, 2011 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

              I tried that once. Several times, actually. Never got a reply. Figured I should probably stop before it got a restraining order.

              Then again, maybe I just got its address worng.

              b&

              • Bryan
                Posted November 2, 2011 at 11:18 pm | Permalink

                and it never replied to you? That’s rude.

              • Diane G.
                Posted November 3, 2011 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

                If it ever writes back, I just might be inclined to give Haught a second look…

              • Posted November 3, 2011 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

                Isn’t Haught already married? And aren’t you too, Diane, for that matter?

                Not that there’s anything worng with that….

                b&

              • Diane G.
                Posted November 3, 2011 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

                You scientismists will never understand metaphor!

              • Posted November 4, 2011 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

                Maybe not, but we will metamorphize the understanding!

                b&

        • Aratina Cage
          Posted November 2, 2011 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

          Ditto. He also used some arguments from here. :) Kind of fun to see them being employed in a debate.

    • Stan Pak
      Posted November 2, 2011 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

      It is sufficient to show one example which falsifies Haught’s assertion to show this idea as false. He cannot prove it, but we can test it that it is false. Jerry just did it using many examples. No wonder Haught felt as if Jerry put the steel-toe boot on his neck.

  20. madamX
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    That was an amazing argument Dr Coyne. My feelings were so hurt thinking the video was destroyed, I am so happy it wasn’t. Thanks for defending our right to know things.

    • Torbjorn Larsson, OM
      Posted November 2, 2011 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

      +2.

  21. jose
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the video!

  22. murci3lag0
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

    Two minutes in Haught’s speech and already talking about purpose. Why is it so difficult to see no purpose in things? I keep thinking that this is a cultural construction. I grew up in a “secular-skeptic” family and have never felt the need to ascribe purpose to things. Am I a strange beast?

    • murci3lag0
      Posted November 2, 2011 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

      Self-transcending from the inert to the living to the ethical and religious into the infinite. Is that theology? sounds like the astrologer-energetic therapist in the village fair. Is he going to sell me a crystal or an amulet?

    • murci3lag0
      Posted November 2, 2011 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

      Finished with Haught’s presentation. That’s it? faith is one of the steps in our “evolution” to an infinite consciousness? A really void presentation. I now understand why he wanted to hide the video: it really does “fail to meet … reasonable standards of fruitful academic exchange”

      • Posted November 2, 2011 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

        Yes but he won’t see it that way! His books are exactly like that. He won’t see the content of his talk as void.

        He said in his open letter that it was because Jerry quoted him and disputed the quoted bits and so on…but surely that’s just normal academic give and take. Isn’t it?

        I’m baffled.

        • GBJames
          Posted November 2, 2011 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

          Theology seems not to be subject to the rules of normal academic give and take.

          • Marella
            Posted November 2, 2011 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

            No of course it isn’t because “all must have prizes”. Theology is about everybody agreeing that everybody is somehow right. That’s what they do at those ecumenical gatherings, they all sit around agreeing how right they all are using beautiful, poetic, but ultimately meaningless language.

            • Marella
              Posted November 2, 2011 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

              Meant as a reply to no 29, sry.

              • Marella
                Posted November 2, 2011 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

                Something funny going on here regarding replies. I wonder if this will work.

              • Marella
                Posted November 2, 2011 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

                Nope.

              • truthspeaker
                Posted November 2, 2011 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

                testing

        • Chris Booth
          Posted November 2, 2011 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

          Going by content alone, he was made to look a fool. He made unsupported assumptions, and his whole schtick is circular reasoning with appeal to authority as its alpha and omega. With the odd saltatory non-sequitur. His arguments were exposed as risible, and there are two things that people like Haught fear most: the light of day and laughter.

          • Chris Booth
            Posted November 2, 2011 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

            Ooops. Meant as a reply to comment 28….

          • Posted November 2, 2011 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

            But he won’t have seen it that way. I’ve read at least one of his books and I can promise you, he won’t. If he could see it that way he wouldn’t write books like that.

            • Marella
              Posted November 2, 2011 at 11:56 pm | Permalink

              Aaarrrghghgh, really? You’re a better woman than I, that’s for sure. I’d gnaw my own leg off to get out of having to read an entire book of that stuff. And I bet it was a long one too.

        • phhht
          Posted November 2, 2011 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

          And where the heck is the ad hominem-ity he complained about?

          • Steersman
            Posted November 2, 2011 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

            As mikeponders put it in the other thread:

            “Being offended is not a defense – it’s the last resort of those without an argument.”

        • murci3lag0
          Posted November 2, 2011 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

          I’m sorry but I have to see Jerry’s PowerPoint, it must be filled with pornographic pictures, baby eating atheists and a stolen pictures of Haught going to the toilet, because JC’s speech was very polite and interesting. Is Haught going back again at the complaint that “he is so mean because he told me that I believe in Santa..” thing?

          • Aratina Cage
            Posted November 2, 2011 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

            Ah, another instance of the Coyne of the gaps! It’s such a useful device. Thanks Ant Allan!

        • Doc Bill
          Posted November 2, 2011 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

          Simple solution. Haught can lay out the quote mine and devastate Coyne as a propagandist.

          However, it won’t turn out that way. Haught will simply yell OUCH and call the whaambulance. Theologians through out the bafflegab but they don’t like it thrown back at them.

          • Kharamatha
            Posted November 3, 2011 at 2:40 am | Permalink

            Ah, so Haught is a greek football player.

        • H.H.
          Posted November 2, 2011 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

          It must have been “Coyne’s groupies” in the Q&A that rankled. Something tells me the shock came when he realized no one in the audience was impressed with his baffle-gab.

        • Stan Pak
          Posted November 2, 2011 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

          I am not baffled. His career and whole work of life is depending on talking about imaginary things. He will defend it with teeth and claws. He has no real options of exit (assuming he sees that he is vacuous and wrong).

        • Jack M.
          Posted November 3, 2011 at 3:00 am | Permalink

          Haught presented as “nice.” Jerry was not nice. Jerry warned us in his opening that he wasn’t going to be nice. Jerry definitely impugned Haught’s niceness. That’s why’s Haught’s not nice to Jerry.

  23. GBJames
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

    Nice to get to watch this video. My only complaint is the truncation mid-question of the Q&A session. I trust this will be provided in a future version?

    • AdamK
      Posted November 3, 2011 at 7:36 am | Permalink

      It was indeed disappointing. No doubt the Q&A is when the Coyne of the Gaps suddenly turned rude and adhominemy.

  24. Chris Booth
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

    I am listening now. Haught is drivelling. Absolute blither. Stupid, dishonest, self-aggrandizing. His argument ultimately consists of a spectrum of appeals to authority…and meaningless terms–“emptying”, “the Infinite”, “deeper”, “meaning”, “higher purpose”, “mind”, “emergent story”, blah-blah-blah.

    Appeal to authority when there is no basis for the authority itself is nothing more than self-aggrandizement. Haught is a very, very, very poor thinker, and a shoddy scholar. He went into the right field; only in theology could that kind of intellectual dishonesty and slackness be acceptable.

    As a former English major, and as a lifelong amateur poet and dedicated reader, I would like to mention that he didn’t just insult science with his claiming his theology is on a par with it. He insults literature and the arts, as well. No work of theology that has ever been can match the demand for intellectual rigor that Shakespeare, Faulkner, and so on must live up to or fail. No religious text of any religion can match the rigors of, say, Tolstoy’s War and Peace. Imagine the internal consistency of Tolstoy or James Joyce in the Bible. Hah. Right.

    • jose
      Posted November 2, 2011 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

      Man, I would totally be member of a religion that was based based on a text like Finnegan’s Wake.

    • Torbjorn Larsson, OM
      Posted November 2, 2011 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

      Ha, I’ve never thought of it that way, though I believe I have seen the argument before and apparently didn’t get it. Bible, move over as literal source.

      • Chris Booth
        Posted November 2, 2011 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

        Tim Finnegan lived on Walken Street….

  25. Posted November 2, 2011 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

    Hmm. I’m honestly a little puzzled about Haught’s reasons for wanting to suppress the video. I can see why he didn’t like a word Jerry said, of course, but not why he thought it was off the academic charts. I don’t get that.

    • jose
      Posted November 2, 2011 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

      In the last post Haught complains about Coyne attacking the church’s stance on some issues without bothering to ask him what his stance on them was first. He might have taken Coyne’s attacks on christianity personally and come to the conclusion that the whole thing was nothing more than a mockery of him and a smear attack. If it were really so, then indeed the video wouldn’t be worth watching.

      • Kharamatha
        Posted November 3, 2011 at 2:43 am | Permalink

        Oh yes, please save us from less interesting videos. Can’t have useless videos on the internet.

  26. Chris Booth
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

    Oh, Jerry, I do disagree with you on one point. ;-) The Bible is of actual empirical, scientific-ish use in the universe. For example, you can use the Bible to hit and rupture a wrist ganglion, and sometimes that has been known to work (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ganglion_cyst ). If one has a table or stool of more than three legs, it can be used to stabilize the chair or table. It can be burned for fire, or hollowed out to conceal a weapon or drugs without being examined.

  27. Posted November 2, 2011 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    The thing is, Haught himself doesn’t come off all that badly; it’s what he says that does. But he won’t see that the way we do! If you bracket the content, he was very good – he talks well. So he came off well, and he must be happy with the content (he chose it, after all)…so why was he so opposed? I’m mystified.

    • daveau
      Posted November 2, 2011 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

      When you defend the indefensible, you’re bound to look foolish. I agree, he is smart and articulate, and I have no issues with his presentation. OTOH, JC pwns, not Haught, but religion. JC’s 25 minutes are now the prerequisite for anyone who wishes to discuss religion with me. All I have to say is “any questions?”

      • Kharamatha
        Posted November 3, 2011 at 2:47 am | Permalink

        Smart? Didn’t you hear him? He is Ascended beyond mortal comprehension!
        Haught is a god in his own right!

        Any century now, he’ll march against the Far Realm and seal the rift forever, mending the universe. Maybe the Living Gate won’t even be needed anymore.

    • Ray Moscow
      Posted November 2, 2011 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, I don’t think Haught was all that bad, either.

      Perhaps he was just offended to see the Catholic faith, the source of all Truth, getting beat up? Of course, he’s the one who trotted it out there to start with.

      • Posted November 2, 2011 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

        I guess that must be it, but surely he expected that. Baffling, I tell you.

        • Posted November 2, 2011 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

          Jerry said Haught and his kind are just “making stuff up”. That’s got to hurt. He is not the kind of guy who is used to being laughed at, i am sure. Did you see his body language at the beginning of the Q and A session? He seemed furious. Maybe I am reading too much into it—anybody else notice it?

          • Posted November 2, 2011 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

            Yeah, I think you have it pretty much right. It’s a pity that the Q&As were truncated, because Haught really seemed pretty angry at times. He was furious, I think, when he asserted that every quotation I used from him was distorted by being taken out of context.

            If you read Haught, you’ll find that I quoted him accurately, both in the words he used and the sense he used them.

          • Tim Harris
            Posted November 2, 2011 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

            Yes, surely it was the ‘making stuff up’ (rather than the remarks on Catholicism which I suspect provided him with an excuse) that got to him; he was clearly angry at the end.

  28. Laura Norder
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

    Isn’t the problem with the “purpose” and “significance” arguments of the theologians the fact that both purpose and significance are human concepts? If the human race were wiped out tomorrow, the universe would remain, and it’s significance or otherwise would be moot.

    • truthspeaker
      Posted November 2, 2011 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

      Yes. They only make sense from a human perspective. That’s why asking the meaning of life, the universe, and everything is like asking the monetary value of the star Sagittarius.

      Your life probably means quite a lot to you, but objectively it doesn’t mean anything. Even saying “objectively it means nothing” would be inaccurate. “Meaning” is always subjective, never objective.

      • Sastra
        Posted November 2, 2011 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

        I agree. Haught says the important question dividing atheists and theists relates to the question of whether the universe “has a purpose.” Purpose to whom? Talking about things that have a purpose without explaining whose purpose is ripping a concept away from what grounds it.

        This allows Haught to pretend that if the universe doesn’t have some odd sort of cosmic purpose then we humans have no right or ability to think that we ourselves have purposes. It’s the genetic fallacy combined with some odd sort of equivocation in the word “purpose.”

        What if the universe had a purpose that you didn’t like? When you understand the ultimate plan and meaning you are filled with horror or — worse — boredom? Religious believers always assume their purposes and God’s purposes meld together. Which ought to tell them something. Guess which one can go.

        • Tulse
          Posted November 3, 2011 at 6:28 am | Permalink

          The universe is billions of years old, and mostly made up of trillions of cubic light years of nothing at 3K. My guess is that whatever its purpose might be, it doesn’t involve some recently-arrived wisps of damp carbon on a infinitesimally small warm rock. (Or, alternatively, it is really inefficient at realizing its purpose.)

          • Posted November 3, 2011 at 8:27 am | Permalink

            Sorry Tulse. I’ve gotta pick you up on your figures ~ you are being outrageously parochial ~ :)

            Observable universe Radius: 4.6 x 10^10 light years [ly]

            Observable universe Volume: 4.1 x 10^32 [ly^3]

            410,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 cubic light years

            Thus J.B.S. Haldane was wrong ~ God has an inordinate fondness for cold, hard & empty space & not beetles

            • Diane G.
              Posted November 3, 2011 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

              Impressive. :D

          • Steersman
            Posted November 4, 2011 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

            Given that the thread apparently running through some 10,000 years of recorded history is the Ascent of Man it seems that one might reasonably construe that as both a worthwhile purpose and one, indulging in a bit of metaphor and anthropomorphism, that the universe looks upon with some favour if not as the “ultimate” one.

      • Chris Booth
        Posted November 2, 2011 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

        Ha! Got you there! I traded Sagittarius for a bridge and a cup of coffee. I am still waiting for the cup of coffee, but I let people here in Brooklyn use my bridge whenever they want.

        • Laura Norder
          Posted November 2, 2011 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

          I heard Goldman Sachs have already monetized Sagittarius in preparation for trading on horoscope futures…..

          • Duke York
            Posted November 3, 2011 at 8:16 am | Permalink

            +1

      • Diane G.
        Posted November 3, 2011 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

        Sagittarius is a star?

        • truthspeaker
          Posted November 3, 2011 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

          It made sense in my head.

  29. Posted November 2, 2011 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    57:53 says it all.

  30. Posted November 2, 2011 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    Argh, me too, all my attempted replies come out as separate. Sry.

  31. Cor Haagsma
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    From a Dutch family living in Costa Rica,
    Congratulation!!!!

  32. Marella
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

    Haught is amongst those theologians who confuse poetry with reality. When you listen to him talk it’s all very warm and fuzzy and comforting, but it doesn’t mean anything. I really don’t understand how intelligent people can be taken in by this stuff. But Jerry hit the nail on the head, they are merely justifying what they already believe, not trying to discover reality.

    Dr Haught must be very fragile to wish to censor this video, I thought the whole thing was perfectly civil. I’ve seen far more brutal demolitions of theology than that, Christopher Hitchens and Stephen Fry against the Catholics for example(see Youtube).

    • Posted November 3, 2011 at 2:55 am | Permalink

      Yes, listening to Haught was like soaking in a warm bubblebath (“thumb in bum and mind in neutral” we used to say). Feels good but when you try to put your finger on anything (ignoring the above, it’s metaphorical), there’s no substance.

      Whereas Jerry was like watching someone pop bubble-wrap. You and he know exactly what he’s doing and exactly what’s going to happen. And the wrap’s no good for anything afterwards.

  33. dunstar
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

    lol.

    Circles upon Circles of hierarchical levels. lol.

    Yup Haught’s 25 min was just pure Hierarchical Verbal Diarrhea at all levels.

    • Chris Booth
      Posted November 2, 2011 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

      Dante did the Circles better, and a long time ago. But this is the 21st Century, and the comment makes Haught ridiculous.

  34. Steersman
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    Excellent video and portrayal of two largely incompatible ways of looking at the world.

    And Dr. Coyne is to be commended for bringing this issue to the attention of everyone and likewise for everyone responding in support.

    And I certainly have no, or very few, quibbles with Dr. Coyne’s position and the benefits and role of science and its core tenet of relying on empirical evidence.

    And I was even, initially anyway, somewhat sympathetic to Dr. Haught’s general comments at the beginning about purpose and his analogy about layered interpretations of the “book of life”. After all, the mystery of consciousness still seems intractable and may yet be unfathomable if not profound. But when he segued into talk of Jesus I was uncomfortably reminded of Dembski’s view on purpose, that “Christ [is] the telos toward which God is drawing the whole of creation”, and of Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper in Dr. Strangelove with his talk of “the purity of our natural bodily fluids” – birds of a feather.

    While the religious seem to be nonplussed over the question of the purpose of human life and it is obviously a “non-trivial” problem, I am far more comfortable with the idea of humanity deciding – by intent or by default – that question on its own rather some authoritarian, anti-democratic, superstitious, mystery-mongering, inaccessible, immoral ideologues and dictators in some religious ivory towers deciding that for us. Particularly when they arrogantly, as Eric MacDonald cogently put it, “insist on speaking for God” – a “besetting problem for the religious”, and likewise for the rest of us.

    As Dr. Coyne eloquently put it, when people have fooled themselves into thinking that they have a handle on the “ultimate truth”, the inside track to God, then there is an inevitable and problematic, though very human, tendency to want to impose those “truths” on everyone else. Or, in the words Voltaire: Those who make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.

    • truthspeaker
      Posted November 2, 2011 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

      In my opinion the question of the purpose of human life is not a meaningful question. It isn’t trivial, it’s nonexistent.

      • Steersman
        Posted November 2, 2011 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

        For another viewpoint on that issue from some well-regarded, non-Templeton contaminated scientists, you might be interested in this article on Behavior, Purpose and Teleology by Rosenblueth, Wiener and Bigelow, several of the progenitors of the science of cybernetics, which notes that:

        Teleology has been discredited chiefly because it was defined to imply a cause subsequent in time to a given effect. When this aspect of teleology was dismissed, however, the associated recognition of the importance of purpose was also unfortunately discarded. Since we consider purposefulness a concept necessary for the understanding of certain modes of behavior we suggest that a teleological study is useful if it avoids problems of causality and concerns itself merely with an investigation of purpose.

        Purpose itself would seem to be a rather ubiquitous phenomenon with some very credible and useful mathematics behind it as well. How far that principle – “if we wish to have bread on the table tomorrow we know that we have to plant wheat today” – really extends, whether it is “all the way down” or not, would appear to be of some importance and relevance.

        • Sastra
          Posted November 2, 2011 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

          People tend to confuse our human sense of “purpose” with goal-directed behavior in animals and plants – and then confound it with metaphorical talk about inert matter and energy (“the oxygen wants to leave the tube…”) We will anthropomorphize anything more complicated than a rock — and the highly enlightened will then start in on the rocks.

          To a man with a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. To a man with a mind, every problem looks like a story. The stories we know best are the ones about ourselves. We have to watch out for that.

          • Posted November 2, 2011 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

            …and to a hammer with a mind, every nail looks like a solution!

            …or something-or-other like that….

            b&

            • Steersman
              Posted November 2, 2011 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

              Caricatures have their uses. But they don’t necessarily answer any underlying questions. Unless you happen to have one for how it is that we have an awareness of different possible futures – something that Wiener might have called “a cause subsequent in time to a given effect” – and how they happen to influence our choices that lead to one or another.

              • truthspeaker
                Posted November 3, 2011 at 7:18 am | Permalink

                nless you happen to have one for how it is that we have an awareness of different possible futures

                Our brains evolved to model different possible futures. Planning for the future conferred a reproductive advantage.

              • Steersman
                Posted November 4, 2011 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

                truthspeaker said,

                Our brains evolved to model different possible futures. Planning for the future conferred a reproductive advantage.

                Yes, I agree entirely that that ability “conferred a reproductive advantage” – one that I would say trumps virtually every other one.

                But that still does not explain how that process, that ability to “model different futures”, comes to pass or how it operates or why it should exist at all. Dawkins argued in his The Selfish Gene that:

                The evolution of the capacity to simulate seems to have culminated in subjective consciousness. Why that should have happened is, to me, the most profound mystery facing modern biology. [pg 59]

                Is it something intrinsic to nature, something that goes “all the way down”? In which case there would seem to be no reason to discount the possibility of it appearing in other systems, biological or otherwise. Or, opening the door to some form of dualism at least, is it something outside of what is at least currently defined as “nature”?

              • truthspeaker
                Posted November 4, 2011 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

                Neurology tells us a little bit about how it works, and what we know of mammal and primate evolution tells us a little bit about how it came to be that way.

                Is it something intrinsic to nature, something that goes “all the way down”?

                It sure doesn’t seem to be. It only exists in a few species of animals. What reason would there be to think its intrinsic to nature?

                Dolphin brains evolved to be able to model dozens of square miles of open ocean in 3d based on echolocation. Is that something intrinsic to nature?

              • Tulse
                Posted November 4, 2011 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

                “Modelling different futures” does not necessarily require consciousness. Computers do complex modelling all the time, far more complex that the human mind could carry out, and I presume we all agree that computers are not (yet) conscious.

              • Steersman
                Posted November 4, 2011 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

                Tulse said,

                “Modeling different futures” does not necessarily require consciousness. Computers do complex modelling all the time ….

                Yes, I quite agree that that is largely the case, although I might suggest that that is because of putting a lot of horsepower into automating very small segments of the abilities of the human mind. For example the recent contest between a computer program – IBM’s Watson – and human players in a game of Jeopardy!

                But that the tool might be better or more efficient or more powerful for some limited set of tasks than its manifestation in the maker (e.g. steam-shovels and telescopes) – and this isn’t an argument for god, at least an anthropomorphic, literal one – hardly answers the question of where that ability to “model different futures” really comes from in the first place.

              • Steersman
                Posted November 4, 2011 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

                truthspeaker said,

                Neurology tells us a little bit about how it works, and what we know of mammal and primate evolution tells us a little bit about how it came to be that way.

                Yes, I quite agree, but the “a little bit” needs to be emphasized – seems all we have at the moment is some very tentative ideas on the precursors to the light turning on but not much more than the foggiest idea of what the light itself really is. Lots of theories out there including quantum mechanics which still have a basic limitation: nothing in the facts or the theories seems necessarily to lead to consciousness – as suggested by this from the philosopher David Chalmers:

                Nevertheless, quantum theories of consciousness suffer from the same difficulties as neural or computational theories. Quantum phenomena have some remarkable functional properties, such as nondeterminism and nonlocality. It is natural to speculate that these properties may play some role in the explanation of cognitive functions, such as random choice and the integration of information, and this hypothesis cannot be ruled out a priori. But when it comes to the explanation of experience, quantum processes are in the same boat as any other. The question of why these processes should give rise to experience is entirely unanswered.

                An external description of the process is not the process itself: as I think the neuroscientist Gerald Edelman put it, “some equations for a hurricane are not the hurricane itself”.

                It sure doesn’t seem to be. It only exists in a few species of animals. What reason would there be to think it’s intrinsic to nature?

                I have quite a bit of difficulty in understanding the perspective behind that last sentence. It still seems to imply that you – and apparently a great many others – think that whatever process – quantum-mechanical or emergence or new physics or god – undergirds the appearance of consciousness is somehow outside of nature – which looks like a form of dualism at best but which may still have some justification.

                Though, to more directly answer your question about evidence for being intrinsic in nature, you might be interested in this article on quantum level processing in green sulfur bacteria. As you may know several well known physicists (Tegmark, Stenger), at one time or another, swore up and down that there was no way on god’s green earth that quantum coherence could take place in biochemical structures – a central feature or requirement of theories about quantum mechanics being the explanation for consciousness (not that I have much of a handle on the general topic, most of it being quite a bit “outside of my salary scale”). But that article provides several cases of solid evidence that it can. Which would seem to suggest some plausible justification for thinking that such processes – being “intrinsic to nature” – are a significant part of the explanation for consciousness.

                Dolphin brains evolved to be able to model dozens of square miles of open ocean in 3d based on echolocation. Is that something intrinsic to nature?

                The modeling is the manifestation; what is presumably intrinsic is the set of processes undergirding it – and consciousness itself.

            • sasqwatch
              Posted November 3, 2011 at 12:00 am | Permalink

              What a waste it is to lose one’s mind. Or not to have a mind is being very wasteful. How true that is.

          • Steersman
            Posted November 2, 2011 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

            Yes, I quite agree that it is too easy to anthropomorphize nature, putting agency in places where there is no justification for it. You might be interested in this article on the topic.

            However, the other side of the coin is that there is still a question of where that phenomenon comes from in the first place and how is it manifested in humans. And given that humans are part of nature – unless you subscribe to a dualist view of human nature or the human mind (which may have some justification) – the question arises as to what conditions are necessary for that appearance and whether it might manifest itself in other creatures – great and small.

            • MorsGotha
              Posted November 3, 2011 at 3:09 am | Permalink

              The conditions that are needed to arise are predators and natural selection to be present in the environment.

              Whilst ascribing purpose and agency to things might bring a lot of false positives, dismissing a true positive can get you eaten.

              • Steersman
                Posted November 4, 2011 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

                The conditions that are needed to arise are predators and natural selection to be present in the environment.

                Agreed. “Necessity is the mother of invention”.

                Whilst ascribing purpose and agency to things might bring a lot of false positives, dismissing a true positive can get you eaten.

                Likewise agree. Particularly so if, as you suggest, there really is “purpose and agency” in certain phenomena, and not just the appearance thereof. And having evaded that latter outcome one will – eventually, after some thousands of generations and if one is lucky – have the luxury of reflecting on and pondering the processes at play therein.

      • Posted November 2, 2011 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

        In my own opinion I think the “purpose” of human life (either in general or regarding a single life) is completely subjective and not worth bothering with as a “Big Question”. One person’s perceived personal purpose is another’s baffling waste of time; case in point: theology. Similarly, one person’s perceived purpose for humanity is another’s baffling waste of mind; case in point: theology.

        • Steersman
          Posted November 2, 2011 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

          “People who don’t plan for the future [i.e. have a goal in mind] will not have one.”

          • Notagod
            Posted November 3, 2011 at 7:37 am | Permalink

            Of course that isn’t true.

            • Steersman
              Posted November 4, 2011 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

              Try playing chess without having a goal in mind.

              People can carry on their daily lives in the warm and fuzzy assurance that this is the best of all possible worlds and that “the Lord will provide” and that will carry them a certain distance. But the evidence is that having some foresight on what are the consequences of various actions tends to carry many people quite a bit further.

              • truthspeaker
                Posted November 4, 2011 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

                Yes, you have established that the concept of purpose exists in human minds.

              • Steersman
                Posted November 4, 2011 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

                truthspeaker said,

                Yes, you have established that the concept of purpose exists in human minds.

                That was just the opening gambit. More important – IMO – is to establish that purpose – and not just the concept but the actuality – exists in nature which seems necessarily to follow. Unless you want to argue that human minds and consciousness aren’t part of nature.

  35. Sastra
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

    I just watched — and Haught was outmatched because his basic point — all his points, in fact — were crafted to appeal to people who want to harmonize science and religion, who want to believe in God, and who want to think faith is some kind of “awareness of being grasped by Ultimate Reality.” Thus his analogies to monkeys reading books and bare assertions of personal transformations in a hierarchical universe with various levels of dimensional reality are supposed to simply appeal to friendly intuitions. Science isn’t “wired” to detect God because detecting God is so special, so mysterious, so subjective.

    Jerry ripped this view to shreds for the egocentric, self-affirming, arrogant, vague handwaving pap it is.

    Why was Haught so outraged? Jerry used phrases like “religion makes stuff up.” You’re not supposed to be that blunt. You’re supposed to suggest this point obliquely, perhaps, and only with due deference to all the secular values that hover around religion and call themselves religious values. Soft peddle.

    As it was, the debate/dialogue surprised me a bit. Haught didn’t even try to make any appeals to an atheist. Believers have been “transformed” by their connection to higher realities which the unenlightened can’t comprehend. Right. He did worse than I expected. He didn’t really keep to the topic either: like all theologians, he mostly described what he believed. He didn’t defend it. He asserted and waited for the applause.

    After a rather stammering start, Jerry Coyne did rather better than I expected. He kept to topic very well indeed. Hit, hit, hit. But in a very academic sort of way. Welcome to the debate, Mr. Sophisticated Theologian.

    I have no idea what Haught meant by “Coyne’s groupies.”* There was as far as I can tell only one incident of spontaneous applause and it was brief. No shouts or catcalls or Forced Laughter from the peanut gallery.

    *My husband has told me that it’s wrong to refer to any of the gnu atheists having “groupies” because the term has always been traditionally associated with sex. I don’t think so — and I don’t think that this is implied to the average person. Otherwise, Haught himself has made a rather nasty charge against Dr. Coyne.

    • truthspeaker
      Posted November 2, 2011 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

      Wait, we’re not all having sex with Jerry? I shaved and everything.

    • Paul W.
      Posted November 3, 2011 at 8:53 am | Permalink

      Coyne’s “groupies”? Nah.

      How about “Jerry’s kids”?

      That wouldn’t demean or offend anybody, I’m sure.

  36. M31
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

    I have nothing substantive to add, but I’m on the Georgetown campus today and couldn’t resist a quick post to say: Go Jerry!

    (sent via Georgetown wireless)

  37. Eric
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

    When William Lane Craig wipes the floor with atheist of the highest caliber after atheist atheist of the highest caliber in his debates, atheists complain that debates only show who is the better debater. However, when an atheist gets the best of a theist in a debate, it seems to be because of the quality of their respective arguments. Interesting, eh? Oh, I know, I know — Craig is just a sophist and a rhetorician, whereas atheist debaters are substantive and scholarly. Right.

    • truthspeaker
      Posted November 2, 2011 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

      William Lane Craig has never wiped the floor with anybody.

      Please, link to a video or transcript of him doing so. I’d love to see it.

      • J.J.E.
        Posted November 2, 2011 at 10:20 pm | Permalink

        That all depends on what you mean by “wipe the floor”. If you use the standards of fixed format competition debate (like cross examination debate popular in high school and college debate), the Craig can be said to often be the superior debater. In fact, one might even call his command of that format of debate masterful. Indeed, Craig is often a master debater.

        But I digress. Whether this type of debating skill actually rises above point scoring and sophistry is entirely dependent on the format. For example, I have never seen WLC make an argument that didn’t have a non-controversial response already published before the debate was even aired.

        In response to Eric above: That Craig can deploy his arguments and counter arguments so readily that his opponent can’t keep up is certainly impressive in a certain way, but it in no way demonstrates that he is right. This would be obvious to any casual observer of debate and forensics competitions wherein the best competitors in a season consistently win debate after debate regardless of whether they take affirmative or negative on that season’s resolution. Clearly they can’t be “right” on both sides.

        • Kharamatha
          Posted November 3, 2011 at 2:56 am | Permalink

          Indeed, Craig is a masterdebater.

          • Chris Booth
            Posted November 3, 2011 at 8:58 am | Permalink

            :-)

    • Sastra
      Posted November 2, 2011 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

      I don’t think Craig “wiped the floor” with quite so many atheists. He has his failures.

      Keep in mind that one of the major complaints against Craig is that he throws out so many arguments from so many areas: cosmology, statistics, ethics, history, philosophy, etc. It is very difficult to find someone who is already well versed in all those subjects. He can then justifiably point out where they dropped the argument, or failed to address.

      This particular debate/dialogue, however, was limited to a simpler question: are science and religion compatible. And I really think Haught failed to make his case. Do you think he did?

    • Egbert
      Posted November 2, 2011 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

      It’s the nature of the beast. When you take a polemic position, you’re in danger of falling into a bias close-minded view of the world when you start believing your own BS.

      The irony is that good scientific thinking doesn’t work that way at all.

      Which is why I don’t understand what a discussion with a theologian is supposed to achieve, other than self-promotion.

      • whyevolutionistrue
        Posted November 2, 2011 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

        How about exposing the weaknesses of theology to those who haven’t ever seen that, especially when a “sophisticated” theologian is in attendance?

        • Posted November 2, 2011 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

          Were you answering Egbert, or explaining why Dr. Haught really, really didn’t want anybody else to see the debate?

          Cheers,

          b&

      • Dave Ricks
        Posted November 2, 2011 at 11:10 pm | Permalink

        Egbert, I’ll expand on Jerry’s reply. Since 2006, when Dawkins published The God Delusion, one response from apologists was to say the “New Atheism” ignores “sophisticated” theology. And some atheists responded to theology essentially with Hitchens’ line, “What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence.” But Jerry took another approach, by extensively reading theology in general and Haught in particular. Now in 2011, Jerry engaged a respected theologian to let the general public see if there’s anything to that supposedly sophisticated theology supposedly out there. I wrote those two dates in bold to mark this as a second wave. Debating WLC would not have this purpose or significance.

        • Diane G.
          Posted November 3, 2011 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

          Nice summation.

      • Tim Harris
        Posted November 2, 2011 at 11:33 pm | Permalink

        Who are you suggesting is promoting himself: John Haught or Jerry Coyne?

    • Steersman
      Posted November 2, 2011 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

      How he has done against atheists in the past might be debatable, but it would appear that he is afraid himself of meeting a previous student – John Loftus – of his who is now an atheist. Maybe because WLC knows that he won’t be able to snow Loftus quite as easily.

      This is from a website maintained by Eric MacDonald [Choice in Dying]:

      It turns out that Loftus has challenged William Lane Craig to a debate, and WLC has declined. This may remind you of a different dispute about who is or who is not afraid to debate whom! Anyway, it needs to be said that Craig’s reasons for declining to debate his former student are far less substantive than the reasons that Richard Dawkins has given for refusing to debate William Lane Craig. It does raise the question: Is WLC a Chicken?

      And Loftus’ site is Debunking Christianity.

    • Gordon
      Posted November 2, 2011 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

      WLC is effecitively a human chat bot. He regurgitates the same spam over and over. It is doubtful his debate performances would pass the Turing Test, let alone wipe the floor with anyone.

    • Posted November 2, 2011 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

      Noone would deny that Craig talks a good game – but even the mildest scrutiny of his views & arguments reveals them to be either baseless shite, complete misrepresentations/misunderstandings or morally reprehensible (AND baseless shite). Any perceived victories by Craig are hollow precisely because they rest on nothing but hot air, however well-presented.

      Haught lost this debate not JUST because his views & arguments are baseless and he’s rubbish at presenting them; he also did absolutely no research into the counter-arguments for them and no research into how Jerry might present them.

      But let’s put all that to one side.

      Haught, remember, is the one who tried to suppress the video – find me an example of (a) Craig unequivocally wiping the floor with an atheist AND (b) said atheist trying to censor his shameful defeat. If Haught was so upset about Jerry’s conduct, would it not have been better to take the moral high ground, release the video and have Jerry’s alleged poor behaviour writ large for all to see? Why hide a debate in which Haught implied he was wronged, that he was the victim, that he was the one adhering to academic decenct?

      The fact is that Haught was routed; not only does he know it, he also knows why and it’s nothing to do with Jerry being a big ol’ unacademic meanie. His embarrassment at having his views openly ridiculed and exposed for the baseless jetsam they are obviously stung him deeply.

      The only thing more shameful than Haught’s behaviour is that of his own “groupies”, clearly unable to see that their hero let the side down.

    • Torbjorn Larsson, OM
      Posted November 2, 2011 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

      Who is William Lane Craig?

      [I google him as having written a book about "The Kalam Cosmological Argument". Apparently a doofus then.]

      • Kharamatha
        Posted November 3, 2011 at 3:00 am | Permalink

        For example.

        • Kharamatha
          Posted November 3, 2011 at 3:01 am | Permalink

          Oh, right, that thing this site does.

      • Posted November 3, 2011 at 3:08 am | Permalink

        WLC argues that whatever God approves, including genocide, is by definition good, and that the bible is inerrant, therefore God did order genocide (of the Canaanites). Therefore genocide can be good. Religion poisons everything.

    • Aratina Cage
      Posted November 2, 2011 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

      When William Lane Craig wipes the floor with atheist of the highest caliber after atheist atheist of the highest caliber in his debates…

      You mean like the empty chair?

      Seriously, though, Craig has never wiped the floor with an atheist in any substantial way other than being a better debater than some of the lesser known atheists. Whenever the heavy arguments come out, the atheists have always won. See his debates against Kagan (which was about as stunning a defeat for Craig as he suffered when he debated the empty chair), Krauss, Harris, Stenger, and Hitchens, for instance.

    • Chris Booth
      Posted November 2, 2011 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

      Eric, William Lane Craig has never “wiped the floor with an athiest” in a debate, because WLC is a liar. He lies in his “debates”, and he Gish Gallops. If you think that Gish-Gallop lying is the way to win an argument, a debate, or anything else, you are a lying lowlife shill for a lying lowlife shill.

      “Put that in your pipe and smoke it”, as another of WLC’s lying sycophants put it after Craig had lied about physics. After WLC had lied about 140 years of physics, from Maxwell on to the present.

      And if you, too, are stupid enough to think that the value of c is arbitrary, your level of education is well below that of a high school student who pays moderate attention in Earth Science or Physics class.

      Shut your pie-hole and get an education.

      • Chris Booth
        Posted November 2, 2011 at 8:25 pm | Permalink

        Oops, typo. I meant “atheist”.

        Lying about science is the only weapon in WLC’s arsenal, and his only technique is the Gish Gallop. His fallacies and lies are the cheapest and lowest form of intellectual dishonesty. He fills me with revulsion.

        This blog and its exchanges work because Maxwell’s equations work; because Relativity, etc. works, because quantum physics works, because Newtonian physics works (keystrokes, imbecile)…because the Standard Model works. Now, you anti-science lowbrow, knuckle-dragging liar, go back through the tens of thousands of years of prayer to countless “gods” by billions of people, and show us how you’d have posted on this blog by prayer without the science that keeps you fed, alive, comfortable, and trolling. Or how your cell phone would work. Or how your lights would go on when you flick a switch. You can’t? No surprise. All those things work atheistically. Or do you claim the computers link hands and sing kumbaya, and that’s how the Internet works?

    • Bryan
      Posted November 2, 2011 at 11:26 pm | Permalink

      I’ll point out one difference here from the comparison to a WLC debate – I think that Haught was clearly the better speaker of the two, yet he *still* lost the debate.

    • Ichthyic
      Posted November 3, 2011 at 1:06 am | Permalink

      Craig is just a sophist and a rhetorician, whereas atheist debaters are substantive and scholarly. Right.

      wrong.

      show me where the topic of this debate was:

      Theism vs Atheism

      seems to me, it was religion vs science.

      and yes, both Craig and Haught are sophists.

      there indeed was nothing of substance to Haught’s arguments.

      If you disagree, and think there WAS something substantive to his arguments, surely you would have mentioned what those were.

      Right.

      • Kharamatha
        Posted November 3, 2011 at 3:04 am | Permalink

        This dog is a father, and this dog is yours; thus this dog is your father and its pups your brethren; thus you are a son of a bitch.

        Look how intelligent and stratamategical I am, wheee!

  38. Guy Lauten
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

    Nicely spoken, Mr. Coyne. You tore the Deist and Accomodationist viewpoints apart logically and empirically. Very well done, I must say.

    Thank you for your passion about the pollution of the scientific discipline by Accomodation and its proponents. I am of the same mind and greatly appreciate your actions towards showing what Accomodation is really about and what the dangers are in its acceptance.

    Rock on, Mr. Coyne, rock on!

  39. Cody Porter
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

    PWNED.

    Thank you, Jerry.

  40. Mary
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for posting the video.

  41. Joey Frantz
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

    Coyne’s remark on pedophilia in the Catholic church was clearly NOT out of line. Coyne DISsociated the two.

    • Posted November 2, 2011 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

      I actually thought that was a masterful bit of rhetoric. He reminded the audience of the Catholic child rape scandal, but did it in a way that Haught couldn’t possibly object to. And, yet, at the same time, he made Haught’s own position of simultaneously embracing science and religion seem as repulsive as a priest embracing an altar boy — again, in a manner that left Haught perfectly inable to respond to.

      That was some serious major-league pwnage, and I suspect it’s a major contributor to Haught’s rage — the more so because he can’t possibly admit to the fact.

      I’m gonna have to remember this one, though I’ll certainly have to be careful in its application. Jerry pulled it off perfectly…I can only hope to do so well.

      Cheers,

      b&

      • Dean Buchanan
        Posted November 2, 2011 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

        I suspect it’s a major contributor to Haught’s rage

        Haught’s rage is reducible to his haughtiness.

      • J.J.E.
        Posted November 2, 2011 at 10:42 pm | Permalink

        I agree. This was indeed a revelation to me when I watched the video. It is rhetorical judo of the substantive rather than sophistic kind.

        The analogy of

        Catholocism:Pedophilia::Science:Religion

        is indeed masterful. The only way to proceed is to spend time rejecting the analogy. Otherwise the religionist would be left either supporting incompatibility (we win!) or pedophilia (ewww). I think this general tool has a few more applications up its sleeve.

      • Scote
        Posted November 2, 2011 at 11:58 pm | Permalink

        “Ben Goren…

        I actually thought that was a masterful bit of rhetoric. He reminded the audience of the Catholic child rape scandal, but did it in a way that Haught couldn’t possibly object to.

        I hadn’t thought of it that way, but, yes, Haught can’t possibly say “How dare you say that pedophilia and Catholocism are incompatible!”. So, instead, we get his sputtering post hoc rage and attempt at censorship.

        • Diane G.
          Posted November 3, 2011 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

          Game, set, and match to Coyne!

          This tact was actually something Haught might have prepared for, had he spent any time researching his opponent. It’s definitely been used here before.

          Not that it would be easy to come up with a response, even if he had prepared; but he might have been able to better control his rage.

  42. Reg Hody
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

    I just finished watching the video.
    Given the hype, I was looking forward to a good bitch slapping.
    Unfortunately, it was actually quite civilized.
    I found Dr. Haught boring, banal and predictable.
    I found Dr. Coyne interesting, insightful and whimsical.
    I saw no evidence of a personal attack on Dr. Haught by Dr. Coyne.
    I found them quite civil to one another.

    I am somewhat annoyed by the lack of power point slides and the extremely short Q&A.
    This means that I will have to watch the video again when they are added.

    I luxuriate in the clarity of Dr. Coyne’s ideas and good humour.

    However, I find his cat fetish(?) somewhat strange, but the center of the pie is worth going through the crust for.

    Thank you.

  43. Posted November 2, 2011 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

    Dr Haught does present well, and speak well on religion. As a speech to the faithful as to why they should be able to embrace evolution and keep their religion, his presentation is quite good. However, it did not substantially address the question as I would have understood it. I would have thought he would have given an examination of the practices of science vs religion, and how religion does handle facts about the universe when they are in conflict with dogma. Jerry was very much on topic, and smiling all the way.

    So, a lack of purpose in the universe means we have no personal purpose? Dr Haught’s argument is based on consequentialism. In other words, we don’t like the conclusion we draw from our observations, so we ignore them when speaking of matters of faith.

    Theology calls for “personal transformation” which involves revelation, emotions, ego, and dare I say it, self-delusion, non-critical thinking and a lack of intuitively understanding probabilities. These last three attributes are why +70% of the US population believe in personal guardian angels. I was uncomfortable with Jerry calling them idiots as I would have called them deluded or uneducated, but I am not Jerry. Then again, I don’t live in the US, so maybe 70% of the population really are idiots.

    Oh yes, and Dr Haught is much taller than Prof Coyne :)

    A great quote from Jerry on Science: “An assumption of the non-divine causes for natural phenomena.“ If you want to talk of consequences; if we remained with the religious central assumption that there are divine causes that we are never to understand, then we would still be stuck in the dark ages. In fact, for about 1,500 years religion in Europe expressly forbade scientific enquiry that challenged dogma eg: Copernicus, and it is only since we started questioning the assumption of a divine motive force we have made real progress.

    Overall, I quite liked both presentations. They both confirmed, yet again, why I continue to be an atheist, as there is no new argument or evidence today overturns what I understood about the universe yesterday. Dr Haught had only what amounted to pleas for using emotions and thinking of “how do you feel” to determine the nature of the universe. Jerry, on the other hand, had a much more substantial take on the nature of the universe and the way to understand it through “how do we know? Via evidence”.

    It is unfortunate that Dr Haught tried to suppress the video, as he seems to be an otherwise pleasant person. Taking his excuse at face value, he was concerned about Jerry’s reputation for saying unpleasant things (not even nasty, really) about the Catholic Church on the intertubes, which we all know is exclusively a forum for only polite discussion and conversation.

    I hope the Q&A gets published soon.

  44. Dr. I. Needtob Athe
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

    It’s funny how Haught switched from being a philosopher to being a theologian. (6:10 – 6:30) – He switched from questions that may never be answered to answers that may never be questioned.

    • Posted November 2, 2011 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

      Two gaps for god to fit into?

    • Posted November 3, 2011 at 7:18 am | Permalink

      Dr, beautifully said!

  45. theone
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

    So that was it?

    What I’m concerned about is that, rather than releasing the video and allowing people to make up their own minds, John Haught felt it was his place to shield the delicate eyes and ears of the public from something that was supposedly so upsetting. He sees it as his place to hide uncomfortable facts, arguments, and truths (that are really only uncomfortable to him).

    Well, that’s theology.

  46. MadScientist
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

    My pattern matching has gone funny – in the title “2011 Bale Boone Symposium -…” I saw:

    “BALe boONE sYmposium”

  47. Posted November 2, 2011 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

    Haught’s presentation was as I expected, old. Jerry’s was better than expected. I failed to see anything rude or inappropriate. When one goes into a debate or exchange of views, one always takes the chance of being made a fool of like Haught. The applause was definitely heavily in favor of science. I would have loved to hear the questions. Well done Jerry!

  48. Fabio
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

    Is it me, or it is hypocrisy to accuse Jerry of quote-mining while saying that Feynman thought that knowledge of the universe leads to rejection of purpose, when is easy to find videos of him saying that knowledge leads to a hole new level of purpose?

    • Evgeny Brud
      Posted November 2, 2011 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

      Feynman:

      I don’t feel frightened by not knowing things, by being lost in the mysterious universe without having any purpose which is the way it really is as far as I can tell possibly. It doesn’t frighten me.

      There’s a video of Feynman (‘Ode to a Flower’) where he says knowledge adds to beauty at other levels.

    • Chris Booth
      Posted November 2, 2011 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

      Bingo.

  49. Aratina Cage
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

    Oh wow. Where have you been these last few years? We need to get you into the media more often. Your part was beautiful, hard-hitting, and crisp! I hope we see you become active in more recorded debates, because you are really good.

    Haught’s part, well it kind of put me to sleep with its hypnotic “circles within circles”. Listening to him, I couldn’t help but wonder why someone would cling to all that obvious nonsense. I think Haught’s ending may anger a huge majority of non-Christian theists, too, with his arrogant dismissal of all deities except the Christian deity.

    • Posted November 3, 2011 at 1:03 am | Permalink

      “Where have you been these last few years? We need to get you into the media more often. Your part was beautiful, hard-hitting, and crisp! I hope we see you become active in more recorded debates, because you are really good.”

      This is exactly what I thought as I watched Prof. Coyne’s contribution. It was a brilliant 25 min distillation of why science is the very antithesis of theology.

  50. Greg Esres
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

    Jerry’s presentation was devastating. Nothing new in it, of course, but he pulled no punches and the tone of his voice suggested amusement with a hint of outrage, which made it all the more compelling.

    Well done.

  51. Nom de Plume
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

    An interesting moment in the tiny bit of Q&A that made it into the video: Jerry is asked about a very racist Darwin quote (something about “the savage races”). One might say that the question was something of an ambush, and was intended to discredit and insult a great scientist.

    I wish to register my outrage at this ad hominem attack on the great Darwin. I had no inkling that it was coming, and I resent Jerry being ambushed in this fashion. I say we should re-ban the video.

    • Chris Booth
      Posted November 2, 2011 at 8:39 pm | Permalink

      The Q about the “savage races” was not excised as a bit of petty back-handed ad hominem; the Q&As that followed were excised because they went the other way, and that the kids were breaking the empty theologic pinata was the real humiliation. Rather than pulling the video, the whole thing, complete Q&As and the PowerPoint projections, should be posted.

      • Nom de Plume
        Posted November 2, 2011 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

        Rather than pulling the video, the whole thing, complete Q&As and the PowerPoint projections, should be posted.

        Of course. I was indulging in a bit of sarcasm.

      • PB
        Posted November 2, 2011 at 10:12 pm | Permalink

        Yeah. It seems so.. attack to Darwin is included.

  52. Ewan Macdonald
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

    “So there is a kind of evidence for faith…”

    No, there isn’t – not as you describe it. Haught described ‘faith’ as “an awareness of being grasped by the higher level”. What exists is the *feeling* of being grasped by what is *thought* to be a higher level. Peoples’ faith is quite, quite real. But it does not follow – it doesn’t come within a thousand miles of following – that they actually *are* being grasped, or that they are being grasped by a “higher level.” If a child finds a coin under their pillow it doesn’t follow that the Tooth Fairy exists.

    And this is sophisticated theology, is it? The guy thinks he knows the cause of the universe and he can’t imagine a world in which feelings of faith were wholly internal?

    • Posted November 3, 2011 at 9:11 am | Permalink

      He deploys that claim a lot. I would love to be able to ask him how he distinguishes that feeling of being carried away by something bigger from wishful thinking. I would love to be able to ask him how he distinguishes personal transformation (so as to be receptive to the feeling of being carried away by something bigger) from inducing a veridical-seeming fantasy.

  53. Posted November 2, 2011 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

    That was epic. Getting through the first 25min was painful and full of face-palms.

    I thought your arguments were especially effective when you took on Haught directly quoting his books.

    Bravo. Looking forward to seeing the full Q&A.

  54. Posted November 2, 2011 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

    Ok, downloaded and went through the PPT, which is excellent, and probably a good study on the correct use of Powerpoint, where the transition animations actually increase the knowledge of the viewer. (Maybe Ben will have something different to say, at least about the lack of intestines?)

    I love the illustration on the first slide, it set the tone nicely for all of the “nasty” things you were going to say ;)

  55. Sigmund
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

    Great stuff. The one point I think I should add is that, having grown up in a traditional Catholic family, I knew as soon as I heard the line about the compatibility of catholicism and pedophilic priests that this was going to cause trouble. A primary tactic in pro-catholic apologetics is to find something in your opponents argument to be personally offended about and divert the discussion to that point, thereby avoiding the substantive issue. It’s sad to see Haught resort to these sort of tactics, acting as a sophisticated Bill Donohue.

  56. Dean Buchanan
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for participating in the debate Dr. Coyne. I’m glad you went second, I feel much better now.

  57. nick bobick
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

    This should be written up as a case study of how the internet can lend itself to the democratization of decision-making. With the world-wide web, it becomes increasingly difficult for powerful people to hide their shenanigans.

    What was it? 30+ hours from start to finish?

  58. Steve Smith
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 7:41 pm | Permalink

    Great job. Funny fin joke. Still not grateful that Haught tried to protect me from seeing the preposterous and logic-offending way in which you brought your presentation to a close.

  59. Tim
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

    As a 56-year old Coyne groupie (and fellow grubby scientist unable to penetrate the higher levels of meaning in the universe owing to my lack of faith), I thought JC mopped the floor with Haught. But like everyone else here, I don’t understand why Haught was offended or why he claimed JC was uncivil. Perhaps Haught was upset that Jerry appeared to be enjoying himself too much – JC couldn’t suppress a giggle when delivering one of his best zingers, ‘In science when an idea doesn’t comport with evidence, we reject it. In religion, it becomes a metaphor. (chuckle)’

    • Diane G.
      Posted November 3, 2011 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

      I chuckle just hearing (reading) it again.

  60. Sidd
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

    I watched the video and read Haught’s take again. He said,

    You [Coyne] put on the screen a list of all the “evils” you associate with Catholicism: its stance regarding divorce, contraception, priest pedophilia, homosexuality–and I can’t remember what all–as though these have anything at all to do with the topic of the panel or with my own personal views on the relationship of science to theology.

    First of all — and I assume this is merely unintentionally funny — you listed priest pedophilia among the things which are scare-quote-evil. It makes me think of Chris Farley doing that air-quotes gesture while saying, “Oh, so I guess raping children is ‘evil’.”

    To address your concern, the point that Coyne made was entirely relevant because those are examples of the consequences of “truth” arrived at through authority, scripture, and revelation — as opposed to evidence. And personal belief is not simply a private matter.

    The Catholic Church’s not-private-but-public policy on contraception is the direct cause of death and suffering in Africa. The Catholic church acts wickedly and immorally while touting its actions as righteous and holy (as it has done in the past).

    Coyne’s point was that faith and science are not compatible because they arrive at their respective “truths” by totally different means. Those means are not only incompatible but opposing: science focuses on trying not to fool oneself, faith focuses on justifying existing beliefs, etc.

    We cannot persuade the Catholic Church to change its position because it already assumes it has the truth. This is completely the opposite of anything resembling the evidence-based approach of science.

  61. dunstar
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

    lol. From watching the pwnage in its entirety it pretty much seems like what happens when some con-artist or magician or illusionist or theologian has their tricks explained and revealed to the audience.

    lol. So Jerry pretty much reveals these supposed “mysteries” and “other ways of getting to the truth” as just con-jobs that theologians try to wrap up in so much metaphor and “sophisticated” language to fool not only themselves but others.

    • dunstar
      Posted November 2, 2011 at 8:25 pm | Permalink

      lol. So imagine a magician performing a trick on stage and then someone from the Audience comes up and is allowed to show everyone how the trick was done!

      lol. That was pretty much the pwnage that occurred!

  62. Posted November 2, 2011 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

    I liked l’hommage au cinéma français in the last slide ~ which is visible on the Vimeo video

    It’s just the word “FIN” in big letters centre screen & of course a picture of a fish with an arrow pointing to its.. fin

    I also liked the crack about the monkey wrench ~ so well done I thought it was ad libbed

    I guess I’m just an unsophisticated kid ~ untainted by theology
    Well done Jerry

    • ChasCPeterson
      Posted November 3, 2011 at 6:07 am | Permalink

      and not just any fin.
      it’s belobed.

      • Posted November 4, 2011 at 1:05 am | Permalink

        Yes, Coyne gave us his own belobèd fin…

        /@

  63. aspidoscelis
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

    I don’t usually have anything nice to say about provosts, but it looks like UK has found a good one!

  64. Old Rasputin
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for posting the video. I continue to rack (wrack?) my brain in effort to understand Haught’s desire to suppress the release of this material. And his accusation of ad hominem is equally unfathomable.

    It’s true that Jerry repeatedly accused Haught’s profession of “making stuff up”, but there’s nothing really wrong with “making stuff up”, is there? Great novelists, poets, and a few philosophers do it all the time. Why not just admit it? He’s trying to express his own subjective experience of reality in the only way he can: poetic (though largely semantically empty) flights of verbal fancy.

    My best guess is that it was a combination of what Jerry was saying (theology is bullshit) combined with his tone of voice and facial features, which were practically beaming with glee the entire time. It certainly took me a bit by surprise; it wasn’t unwelcome per se, merely unexpected.

    • Steersman
      Posted November 2, 2011 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

      Great novelists, poets, and a few philosophers do it all the time.

      Sure, and more power to them. A source of important insights into the human condition. But they don’t insist that their creations are literally true and that people will literally fry in hell for eternity for gainsaying them. If there was ever a better answer to Dawkins’ question of “Why be hostile to religion” I would sure like to know of it.

  65. Peggy Clancy
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 9:51 pm | Permalink

    Wow, I saw Haught’s power point slides. On #10 he actually got Teilhard de Chardin’s birth and death dates very wrong. De Chardin actually lived from 1881 to 1955, not 1955 to 1981. Didn’t John Haught even notice that when he was giving the presentation? How sloppy is that? It’s like he wasn’t even trying.

    • Sigmund
      Posted November 3, 2011 at 3:45 am | Permalink

      It was a metaphor!

    • Notagod
      Posted November 3, 2011 at 8:33 am | Permalink

      Its because some christ or other has pulled him forward, don’t ‘ya see?

  66. chance
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

    I’m thinking based on his own comments that John wasn’t wanting the video to go up due to the Q&A, which we still have yet to see and probably will never see. I was really starting to get excited when the second questioner came up and started asking John a question.

    Despite the mysterious evaporation of the Q&A, I’m really glad to see their 25~ minute introductions. Jerry, you’ve done us all proud. That was an excellent presentation. There is no recovery from that :)

  67. PB
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 10:05 pm | Permalink

    Finishing the video, a pity the Q&A is not there, wanna see the croupies (coyne groupies).

    Agree with mr.Subbaswamy, provost, this discussion is an important dialogue. Superbly given. This will be a landmark on the open discussions of religion vs. science.

    Still wondering about Jerry’s presentation strategy: deep wound, easy surface?

    Or is it just exactly Coyne’s personal style?

    In any case, we will refer to this video again in the future.

  68. Bryan
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 11:14 pm | Permalink

    Apologies if I’m repetitious – posting my own review before reading others.

    First, Haught’s slides were the most visually offensive PowerPoint slides that I have ever seen, which is saying something (see especially slide 7). This is obviously not a substantive criticism of Haught’s views, but, good lord, get a grad assistant to do your formatting next time! Also, it was strange that Haught’s live presentation seemed to have more slides (you could see the corner of the screen behind him) than did the .ppt file on the web site, whereas Jerry’s presentation seemed to follow along exactly with the slides posted.

    My overall reaction to Haught’s presentation was sincere shock at how *un*sophisticated it was. Sure, some of it was difficult to understand, but at the end of the day it was a fairly pedestrian Christian sermon. He spoke about Jesus quite a bit. The main themes were transparently religious rather than intellectual and there was less of an attempt made to “dress it up” than I expected.

    One point on Haught’s theology: why would anyone attempt to “map” an ancient theology, one that is admittedly based on a complete misapprehension of empirical reality, “onto” a modern understanding of the world? It’s a bizarre project – what on earth could make a person think that such a project has *any* value, even if “successful”?

    I think that Jerry’s mannerisms, such as the rapid-fire delivery and nervous laughter, probably took Haught off guard right from the start and played into Haught’s perception that Jerry was presumptuous and dismissive (Haught used the word “sneering” in his letter). By contrast, Haught’s style was reserved, ponderous, and contemplative. Haught seems to value “dispassionate” academic discourse, as if passion and criticism are somehow “unacademic”. Overall, Haught was probably quite upset at the asymmetric outcome – theologian says nice things about science, scientist says mean things about theology (if the shoe fits…).

    Contra Haught’s accusation, Jerry quite clearly made a positive case for incompatiblism in his remarks around slides 9, 13, and 15 (and probably others).

    One other comment on Haught’s letter: “…I argued in a purely academic way that scientism is simply unreasonable.” Did Haught ever actually make that particular argument? Maybe I missed it.

    Finally, regarding Jerry’s “destructive positions of the Catholic Church” slide, Haught said “I was so offended both personally and as an academic by the vulgarity of it all that I did not want other people to have to share what I witnessed that night in October.” Yeah, well, Jerry is probably offended by the vulgarity of those positions too, but he’s not the one who adopted them – the Pope is.

    • ChasCPeterson
      Posted November 3, 2011 at 6:12 am | Permalink

      wow, I agree–that slide 7 of Haught’s is like a perfect bad example.

      (But I’m not crazy about Dr. Coyne’s slides either.)

      • Lynn Wilhelm
        Posted November 4, 2011 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

        I have to agree with you there. But I did like the use of the red text (kinda reminiscent of the bible’s use of red for Jesus’ words).

  69. Steersman
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 11:33 pm | Permalink

    Haught aught not have sought to stifle free thought hence got caught in a sorry lot and fought for naught.

    • Posted November 2, 2011 at 11:54 pm | Permalink

      and threatened to resort to tort.

  70. Posted November 2, 2011 at 11:43 pm | Permalink

    A quick demonstration of how a theologian will ‘reinterpret’ ideas to better suit his argument.

    In Chapter 5 of John F. Haught’s 1984 book The Cosmic Adventure: Science, Religion and the Quest for Purpose Haught has his own version of the English translation of Tao Te Ching, Chapter 14 [there are many, many versions out there]:

    Gaze at it; there is nothing to see.
    It is called the formless.
    Heed it; there is nothing to hear.
    It is called the soundless.
    Grasp it; there is nothing to hold on to.
    It is called the immaterial.
    Invisible, it cannot be called by any name.
    It returns again to nothingness.

    In Slide 1. Haught takes his own 27yo version above (absolutely identical punctuation & line breaks) & erases a line ~ it now better represents the idea of an evolving, growing universe rather than one that is cyclic:

    Gaze at it; there is nothing to see.
    It is called the formless.
    Heed it; there is nothing to hear.
    It is called the soundless.
    Grasp it; there is nothing to hold on to.
    It is called the immaterial.
    Invisible, it cannot be called by any name.

    For completeness, here is a different source:

    Gaze at it, there is nothing to see.
    It is called the formless.
    Heed it, there is nothing to hear.
    It is called the soundless.
    Grasp it, there is nothing to hold on to.
    It is called the immaterial.
    We cannot inquire into these three,
    Hence they interfuse into one.
    Above, it is not light,
    Below, it is not dark.
    Invisible, it cannot be called by any name.
    It returns again to nothingness…

    • Posted November 3, 2011 at 12:01 am | Permalink

      Taoism FTW!

    • Posted November 3, 2011 at 1:48 am | Permalink

      I should add that this ‘mashing’ of sources is as natural as breathing for Theologians ~ it is a core skill refined in the trade for over 100 generations of God bothering scribblers

  71. Posted November 3, 2011 at 12:34 am | Permalink

    A bit of Haught quote mining ~ taking Václav Havel out of context.

    Slide 2:

    Vaclav Havel: “The crisis of the much-needed global responsibility is due to the fact that we have lost the sense that the Universe has a purpose.”

    See the penultimate paragraph of THIS Haught essay:

    Vaclav Havel, president of the Czech Republic, recently stated that “the crisis of the much-needed global responsibility is in principle due to the fact that we have lost the certainty that the Universe . . . has a definite meaning and follows a definite purpose.” If we lose our trust that the cosmos is at heart an expression of a transcending significance, I would hasten to agree, our ethical aspiration will quite likely wither and die…

    The part of the Václav Havel quote that Haught does not use:

    “…this loss is, of course, accompanied by the loss of the feeling that whatever we do must be subjected to a regard for a higher order, of which we are part, and to a respect for an authority in whose field of vision every one of us is permanently present”

    For the full Václav Havel see HERE

  72. FastLane
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 12:34 am | Permalink

    Well, I do have to somewhat agree with Dr. Haught, that the presentation “failed to meet what I consider to be reasonable standards of fruitful academic exchange[.]” Fortunately, once it got past about 30 minutes, that was remedied.

  73. Posted November 3, 2011 at 1:25 am | Permalink

    Slide 3. Haught slightly misquotes part of the final paragraph of Steven Weinberg’s 1977 book The First Three Minutes: A Modern View of the Origin of the Universe

    “the more [scientifically] comprehensible the universe has become, the more pointless it also seems.”

    Haught has copied his wrong quote from the internet. It indicates to me that Haught has probably NOT READ his science sources

    In the book the words are arranged slightly differently thus:

    “The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless.”

    This is the rest of the final paragraph for those that might care about this stuff (me!):

    “…but if there is no solace in the fruits of our research, there is at least some consolation in the research itself. Men and women are not content to comfort themselves with tales of gods and giants, or to confine their thoughts to the daily affairs of life; they also build telescopes and satellites and accelerators, and sit at their desks for endless hours working out the meaning of the data they gather. The effort to understand the universe is one of the very few things that lifts human life a little about the level of farce, and gives it some of the grace of tragedy”

    This is a man who speaks the truth in a plain & simple language.

    Theologians NEVER speak like this

    • lamacher
      Posted November 3, 2011 at 7:38 am | Permalink

      The final two sentences of the Weinberg quote are are a concise account of the difference between science and religion.

  74. Posted November 3, 2011 at 2:33 am | Permalink

    I loved this line from Jerry
    “When a claim is falsified in science it is discarded. When a claim in religion is falsified it becomes a metaphor.”

    Perfect.

  75. Posted November 3, 2011 at 2:50 am | Permalink

    I thought Haught’s presentation was fine; he actually laid out well a major problem for those who see science and religion as compatible – the stories they tell appear to offer diametrically opposed views of the cosmos. Unfortunately, he never addressed this problem to any depth, and presented no *arguments* for his assertions that they are in fact compatible. The closest we got was a (an?) hypothesis that evolution and self-transcendence are different ways of viewing the same processes. But this is hand-waving if he doesn’t develop the argument to show how that works, and he doesn’t.

    I was also disappointed that there was no argument based on scientism that I could make out, as he stated in the open letter to JAC on the other thread – perhaps that was in the Q & A? Anyway, my summary of Haught’s talk is here, if anyone doesn’t want to listen to it themselves!

    http://goodgrieflinus.blogspot.com/2011/11/haughtiness.html

    • Bryan
      Posted November 3, 2011 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

      Agreed – his letter says that he made an argument about “scientism”, but I didn’t see it.

  76. Kharamatha
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 3:12 am | Permalink

    Purpose? Of whom?
    Perfect? What for?
    Great? In which direction?

  77. Kharamatha
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 3:20 am | Permalink

    Oh, http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/StreisandEffect is listing this example for now. It is however a rather hypermutable site.

  78. PeterKarim
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 3:38 am | Permalink

    Prof. Coyne could also have mentioned the number of exorcisms performed every year by catholic priests. Are the exorcised demons also metaphores ?

    If anything I found the professor not to be abrasive enough. :)

  79. Posted November 3, 2011 at 3:56 am | Permalink

    I am about to start listening to Jerry but, having listened attentively and patiently to the whole of John Haught’s speech, I pause to say this. If this is theology, it reveals itself as not just meaningless mind-rot but DISHONEST meaningless mind-rot. It may not be deliberately dishonest, for the theologian is systematically trained to deceive himself before graduating to deceive others. As the Nobel-laureate Sir Peter Medawar said of Haught’s hero Teilhard de Chardin, he “can be excused of dishonesty only on the grounds that before deceiving others he has taken great pains to deceive himself.” Drunk on metaphor and symbolism, the theologian is quite incapable of distinguishing a good metaphor, which serves to explain something (like the admirable metaphor of the multi-volume book, which Haught uses to explain cosmic time) from a bad metaphor, which serves to do nothing but obscure and confuse (like almost everything else in Haught’s speech).

    Haught has done nothing to dispel my prior impression that, probably uniquely among named academic disciplines, theology is quite simply not a subject at all. Thomas Jefferson, when planning his beloved University of Virginia, said this: “A professorship of theology should have no place in our institution.” His words should be applied to every university in the world. Theology, in the sense of historical or literary studies of the bible, is a respectable academic subject, which a professor might decently pursue. “Theology” (the quotation marks are deliberate) in the sense of the subject pursued by the likes of John Haught, is not a subject at all, and has no place in any real university.

    • MorsGotha
      Posted November 3, 2011 at 4:24 am | Permalink

      Get rid of Theology as an academic subject? Wha!! Next you’ll be saying Fairyology is worthless too.

    • Posted November 3, 2011 at 5:42 am | Permalink

      Bravo Prof. Dawkins! You are, of course, exactly right. Giving theology a seat at the academic table is a mockery to all those subjects which are premised on honest inquiry.

      Permit me to post again a very pertinent quotation from Nietzsche: “Whatever a theologian regards as true must be false: there you have almost a criterion of truth. His profound instinct of self-preservation stands against truth ever coming into honour in any way, or even getting stated.” (from Section 9 of “The Antichrist”)

    • yesmyliege
      Posted November 3, 2011 at 10:45 am | Permalink

      Richard Dawkins:

      ““Theology” (the quotation marks are deliberate) in the sense of the subject pursued by the likes of John Haught, is not a subject at all, and has no place in any real university.”

      Thank you for making this point, as now I don’t have to compose a reference to Hector Avalos. ;D

      I really do think this is the ultimate basis of the rather Haughty umbrage on display, and I am rather happy to see it, as there is a certain ironic historical symmetry of a heretic holding a Christian apologist’s feet to the fire.

      If there is something ‘new’ about “New Atheists”, it may well be this: We are willing, indeed we feel it is our duty, to adamantly demand evidence for religious claims beyond the comfort zone traditionally enjoyed by apologists and the religious hierarchy.

      That Haught, by his own words, has never experienced such epistemic challenge yet in his career is very resonant with the charge that Theology “has no place in any real university”.

      • Posted November 3, 2011 at 11:05 am | Permalink

        If there is something ‘new’ about “New Atheists”, it may well be this: We are willing, indeed we feel it is our duty, to adamantly demand evidence for religious claims beyond the comfort zone traditionally enjoyed by apologists and the religious hierarchy.

        I think you’ll find that that’s a most ancient characteristic of atheists.

        Indeed, the only thing new about the Gnus is their popularity. Pick any of the calumnies lobbed against the Gnus and you’ll find countless examples of great freethinkers of the past committing the exact same blasphemies.

        Hitchens, as wonderful as he is — and I’m sure he’d agree with me on this — can’t hold a candle to Samuel Clemens. The content of Richard’s words is every bit as “strident” as those penned by Sagan; the difference is that Richard sounds like he’s just drank a pot of tea and Sagan sounded like he just smoked a bowl of pot. PZ buried his Bible in a compost pile; Jefferson took a pair of scissors to his.

        Cheers,

        b&

        • Diane G.
          Posted November 3, 2011 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

          That can’t be repeated too often. A good remedy for the idea that Gnus are on to something new is to join the FFRF, just to get their Freethought of the Day emails.

        • PB
          Posted November 3, 2011 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

          Agree. Seems even the very definition of atheist, lack of respect to theists, hence the popularity of the word, negative definition.
          (this is one subconscious reason why other words for atheist are somewhat ring hollow)

          The New thing is because for the theists cannot just dismiss us easily now, as it always were in the past. The newness is from the scale.

          Mostly the religionistas are the ones recognize this newness, create hatred in their holy-hearts (I believe the NA is first coined by religionistas?).

        • yesmyliege
          Posted November 4, 2011 at 7:52 am | Permalink

          I disagree with that, Ben.

          True, atheists in the past have made similar arguments to the ones that we make now. But I think the success of New Atheism – the reason that it is more popular – is that it is, as I said above – adamant about the demand for evidence. This dogged insistence accomplishes three ends – it defines the argument in simple terms that most anyone can find chewy, it confines the dialogue to the real world where the scientific method prevails, and it prevents the apologists from so easily changing the subject.

          Theologians decry the unsophisticated nature of the argumentation of New Atheism, but I would argue that this simplicity is precisely why it succeeds.

          I do also think that the New Atheism is less fearless than previous generations. I think Richard Dawkins really must be commended here. He has made propositions which I don’t recall previous freethinkers having the temerity to put forward – pressing for criminal charges against the Pope, calling religious indoctrination of children ‘child abuse’, and here in this thread (and previously), calling for elimination of Theology departments from secular Universities.

          • Posted November 4, 2011 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

            I’ll stand by it, still.

            Jefferson shuddered in horror at the thought that his university might be blighted by a theology department. Diderot would have used the Pope’s intestines to form a noose for King George’s neck. And the cry for evidence is as ancient as it gets.

            Cheers,

            b&

  80. jose
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 4:56 am | Permalink

    Wow, it’s scary posting just after Richard Dawkins… anyway, just saw the video and I wish Coyne had had the whole hour for two reasons; one, he had to talk real fast to cover everything he wanted to say, and I’m sure he could have elaborated a bit more in a few points had he had time to do it; two, we would have had an hour of saucy, substantive discourse instead of having to listen 25 minutes of hollow, important sounding words.

    It looked to me like two opposites: Haught, big words to talk about hot air; Coyne, casual, informal words to talk about real stuff that is important enough by itself not to need much rethorical help.

    Just one detail that made me grin from ear to ear though: the comparison with pedophile priests to show that coexistence doesn’t prove compatibility in principle. In a way that would piss off Haught for sure but that would leave him no choice but to agree. I see what you did there.

  81. Posted November 3, 2011 at 5:13 am | Permalink

    I must be inured to the stridency of the New Atheists, because Dr Coyne’s arguments seemed entirely reasonable and respectful to my ears, despite his apologies for being pugnacious. I saw nothing that could classify as ad hominem, despite Haught’s fan fluttering histrionics.

    Haught seemed to make nothing but vague, unsupportable assertions that evaporated instantly when Dr Coyne applied the flame of reason to them.

  82. Posted November 3, 2011 at 5:39 am | Permalink

    After listening to John Haught, I read his open letter to Jerry Coyne. Despite Haught’s lamentably unconvincing speech, his letter prepared me to find that Jerry had been unfair, had quoted him out of context, had attacked him *ad hominem* and had raised contentious issues that were irrelevent to the topic under debate. I was prepared, in other words, to dissent from Jerry’s speech on grounds of fairness or good taste, even while expecting to agree with its content. I have now listened to Jerry’s speech in full and found nothing of the kind. Not a trace of *ad hominem* attack, not a trace of unfairness, nothing irrelevant, plenty of articulate assertiveness but always served with good humour.

    Jerry’s speech was a brilliant *tour de force* from start to finish. A magnificent exhibition of rational, well-supported argument, and witty and entertaining withal. Many congratulations, Jerry, on a splendid piece of work, thoroughly well prepared and brilliantly delivered.

    • ChasCPeterson
      Posted November 3, 2011 at 6:19 am | Permalink

      2nded.

    • Keith
      Posted November 3, 2011 at 6:51 am | Permalink

      Agreed. Haught’s complaints are unfounded and hollow, but understandable given Coyne’s clear-headed presentation.

    • Steve Smith
      Posted November 3, 2011 at 10:09 am | Permalink

      Jerry’s speech was a brilliant *tour de force* from start to finish.

      This deserves repeating, especially as attention has been elsewhere on the spectacle of Haught being skooled by teh internets for his laughably self-defeating responses.

      Including his outstanding delivery, Jerry deserves praise for his preparation and strategy. Background reading in theology was combined with subjects of his previous blog posts to explain clearly and efficiently what theologists do when confronted with science and how they fail. The application of Feynman’s caution not to fool oneself was especially effective, as was the bluntly honest and well-documented fact that theologians “make stuff up,”a velvet-gloved phrase concealing an iron fist.

      Post-debate, it’s useful to deconstruct the motivation for Haught’s actions. The only reasonable explanation is that Professor Haught wished to suppress Jerry’s arguments. Haught himself explains that he was trying to “protect the public” from seeing Jerry’s “preposterous and logic-offending” presentation. The video shows this characterization to be outrageously false, to say nothing of the also outrageous censorship.

      When Haught found that he could not conceal the debate, he resorted to deception, making false claims about its content.

      Neither of these motivations, concealment and deception, nor any of Haught’s brazen actions, are consistent with cowardice; everyone, including Jerry, who called Haught a coward is incorrect.

      Professor Haught, who is a former theology department chair, attempted to suppress the arguments of a colleague that were presented in public at an event supported with public money. When this failed, Professor Haught resorted to deceptive language to explain his actions.

      This entire episode—including Coyne’s arguments and Haught’s actions—supports the view that theology is essentially fraudulent, and must be treated as such. Why theology should exist as a subject at intellectually respectable colleges I have no idea.

      • YourName's notBruce?
        Posted November 3, 2011 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

        And Haught had the nerve to demand an apology from Dr. Coyne? I think that any apology owed is in the other direction, given his complete misrepresentation of Jerry’s UK presentation in the open letter posted here. He really should have obeyed the First Law of Holes.

        • Diane G.
          Posted November 3, 2011 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

          Absolutely.

    • Posted November 3, 2011 at 10:51 am | Permalink

      I was prepared, in other words, to dissent from Jerry’s speech on grounds of fairness or good taste, even while expecting to agree with its content.

      My thoughts after reading Haught’s letter were quite different. I read it and expected to find Jerry to be quite fair. As I have seen so many examples of academics like Haught (and people in general) that see unfairness in anything that questions their own points I felt he was likely wrong in his claims. Had I listened to it and found Jerry to actually be unfair I would have changed my mind but thankfully I did not have to.

    • PB
      Posted November 3, 2011 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

      I would say Jerry even too meek, lacking stridency – representing a new faction in contrast to the Strident Ones. Sharp, but inside very soft glove. Cheers!

  83. JBlilie
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 5:57 am | Permalink

    Well done, Dr. Dr. Subbaswamy!

    • JBlilie
      Posted November 3, 2011 at 5:57 am | Permalink

      Make that just: Dr. Subbaswamy

  84. John F. Chamblee
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 6:19 am | Permalink

    For what it’s worth, I posted this on slashdot. It says what I want it to say without further comment.

    Lost in the sound and fury…

    ….over debates that are many centuries old are two smaller, perhaps more relevant, and sad facts.

    1. The first is that the release of this video was apparently, at least in part, worked out by Haught and Coyne themselves. Haught wrote Coyne a letter [uky.edu], asking Coyne to post the letter on his own blog and stating that, if Coyne did so, he would agree to have the video released. Coyne, apparently did so [wordpress.com], complying with the letter, at least, of Haught’s request.

    2. Missing from this action entirely is Dr. Robert Rabel, who, at least according to Coyne, threatened to sue over the incident. Instead, the statement [uky.edu] concerning the release of the video was provided by the Provost of the University of Kentucky. Rabel’s absence from the current drama, in light of his threat to sue (if true), leads me to be concerned on his behalf.

    After reading both Haught’s letter and Coyne’s blog side-by-side, and after stepping back and looking at the situation as a whole, I am of the opinion that we most likely have here is a situation in which what at least one group views as an unfortunate and un-collegial exchange of ideas was blown up into a far more damaging scandal by forces unleashed by one party, that, once released, spiraled out of control. And the scandal could conceivably have lasting impacts on careers — though probably not given the seniority of the dramatis personae.

    While it is impossible to avoid seeing the actions of all tree primary actors (Rabel, Coyne, and Haught), as contributory, I cannot help but think that primary the culprits in the act of throwing gasoline on this already smoldering blaze, were none other than ourselves — the /. subscribers. I don’t know Drs. Coyne, Haught, or Rabel. Because I have work to do (as most of us do), and a lot of it (as many of us do), I don’t have time to watch the exchange between them. Because of that, I am, thankfully, also able to say that I didn’t have time to write the NEH, the UK Provost, or Drs. Rabel or Haught. But again, that’s because I don’t have time and not, I am sorry to say, because I thought doing a bad idea when I read the original post.

    However, admitting my own culpability, at least in terms of what I thought, if not what I did, I do want to take a moment and suggest that the community of IT enthusiasts and professionals has again [theregister.co.uk] been complicit in contributing to one of the uglier aspects of new media — a sort of digital mob justice in which mundanely flawed people and even good people [slashdot.org] are forced into an anti-celebrity roles by strangers. We all want justice folks. And, our new overlords notwithstanding, I know that everybody on this forum wants free speech. But justice doesn’t come over the internet. It happens person to person and face to face. I suspect that the outcome could have been the same if everyone who had written angry, abusive, or profane letters to Drs. Haught or Rabel (or the NEH or the UKY Provost for that matter) instead wrote respectful and collegial letters that explained merely explained their points. It could have been the same, except it wouldn’t have been so painful to the primary players involved. So, that’s my two bits. Maybe now it’s my turn to be /.-ed.

    • GBJames
      Posted November 3, 2011 at 6:38 am | Permalink

      “I don’t have time to watch the exchange between them”

      What? But you have time to compose a lengthy commentary on the response to the attempted censorship of the exchange?

      The release of the video would not have been “worked out” by the two participants if this hadn’t blown up. It was the response of “the mob” (as you describe us) that accounts for the appearance of the video, like a miracle, on the net.

    • lofgren
      Posted November 3, 2011 at 7:18 am | Permalink

      I highly doubt this incident will be damaging to anybody. It’ll be completely forgotten by the internet “mob” by next week. It’ll linger a bit longer for the actual participants, but ultimately it was a disagreement over what should be done with a 1 hour video on a topic that has already been covered. I can’t imagine how it would impact any of the players’ careers.

      I think your tone is a little high falutin’ compared to the actual incident. We didn’t want “justice,” we wanted the video. We got the video. Could some people who wrote to Haught and Rabel been less abusive? Sure, but that’s not an injustice. It’s uncivil, but what are you going to do? Everything happened out in the public, and some of the public are assholes. That has nothing to do with social media.

    • Grania
      Posted November 3, 2011 at 7:55 am | Permalink

      You missed the part, obviously, where this all started with extremely polite letters between the primary players. It could have been settled then, but two of the primary players didn’t want to play ball. And they didn’t want the one guy who did want to play ball to be allowed to have the ball either. Not even his part of it.

      But in any case, no-one at any time exhorted readers to write abusive letters either. Nobody forced anybody to do anything. There’s no damaging scandal here, except that an academic tried to bury a video for no good reason.

    • FastLane
      Posted November 3, 2011 at 8:01 am | Permalink

      I suspect that the outcome could have been the same if everyone who had written angry, abusive, or profane letters.

      Your concern is noted.

    • Kharamatha
      Posted November 4, 2011 at 2:40 am | Permalink

      Are you a Paladin? :)

  85. Julien Rousseau
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 6:28 am | Permalink

    For those who don’t have powerpoint but want to look at the slides without going to the bother to install LibreOffice Impress you can see them on Google doc by using this form:

    http://docs.google.com/viewer

    It gave me the following URLs for the slides:

    John Haught’s slides: http://docs.google.com/viewer?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.uky.edu%2FOtherOrgs%2FGainesCenter%2FHaught%2520%28UKY%29.ppt

    Jerry Coyne’s slides: http://docs.google.com/viewer?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.uky.edu%2FOtherOrgs%2FGainesCenter%2FJerry%2520Coyne%2C%2520Bale%2520Boone%2520talk%2C%2520Kentucky.pptx

    It is not perfect, some of the slides are mangled, but it was good enough for me.

    • Posted November 3, 2011 at 6:35 am | Permalink

      If you use Mac OS X, then QuickLook seems to handle the pptx file well enough, despite there being no native application to view the files in.

  86. Posted November 3, 2011 at 6:45 am | Permalink

    Tell me if I’m missing something….but in a sense Haught is correct to perceive Jerry’s presentation as personal. And that reason is to do with the notions of harm and blame. We (atheists) recognise that religion causes incalculable harm to untold numbers of people and that that harm is directly attributable to the applied effects of religious doctrine to peoples lives. Jerry explained that very clearly. Next, you don’t get a ‘get out of responsibility free’ card just because you’re a theologian. You are someone who maintains that status quo, supports the institutions responsible for those harms and attempts to give them academic credibility and social acceptability.

    Yes, in other words, we are holding you to account for that…you…in person. That’s what you’re doing…and we are calling you on it. It’s actually good if you do take it personally as we want you to realise that what you are doing is harming people. We hold that you have a responsibility NOT to harm, or support the harm, of people in this way. If you don’t like that…hide in your ivory tower, and don’t step up to debate the likes of Jerry, who, imho, has absolutely nothing to apologise for.

  87. Michieux
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 6:47 am | Permalink

    This debate is so last month.

  88. Evgeny Brud
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 7:00 am | Permalink

    Like everyone else, I couldn’t find the ad hominem attacks. Contrary to Haught’s claims, Jerry’s presentation wasn’t centered solely Haught himself. It was about the incompatibility of science and religion that used several quotes from Haught to illustrate the point. Why the theologian thought it alright to distort the event and portray it as an ad hominem smear is puzzling. He must not be used to someone leaving the kid gloves at home.

  89. Grania
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 7:16 am | Permalink

    I’m still a bit (only a bit) perplexed as to why Haught wanted the video suppressed. I know why – he found the whole thing embarrassing and it made him angry. But the reasons he gave are literally unbelievable.

    His charge of the talk being below academic par is just ludicrous. He is obviously one of those “academics” who thinks that academics MUST present their work in turgid, dense and obscure rambling sentences. Of course, it is a style that really suits those fields where to use plain speech reveals the paucity of the underlying content (amongst them, certain modern English Language Studies and Theology). However, even if he does approve of that style only, even he must be aware that it is not the only one, let alone the only legitimate one.

    His accusation of crudeness is also as weak. Jerry was not crude or rude at all. But Jerry made people laugh: they laughed at theology, they laughed at Catholicism and they laughed at Faith. To someone who only occupies the rarefied atmosphere of Catholic Theology schools, that is shocking, tantamount to blasphemy. And of course he found it insulting that Jerry said the woolly approach to knowledge and truth employed by religion was precisely why the Church ended up defending the indefensible. It was a perfectly valid point, but it was none the less shocking for him to hear, perhaps even outrageous.

    The Catholic Church does not encourage its faithful flock to not question or even talk much about the ills of religion. Occasionally some do address it, but only as an attempt to reconcile what they believe to be true (that their Faith is good) with how these admittedly awkward or bad things happened. The answers they come up with invariably fall into categories of either distancing themselves from the wrongdoers (the child abusing priests are not true Believers) or brushing it aside as either a product of the past (the Crusades, Galileo) or as a Metaphor (any item in Faith / Doctrine / Sacred Text that science proves is incorrect). In this way the Faith continues unscathed and unsullied by whatever ills plague it.

    Also, these sorts of conversations do not happen in a normal church with the normal congregation. They happen on the peripheries, amongst theologians, priests with a hankering for academics and a few “sophisticated” members of the faithful. Rarely will these discussions ever make it to Sunday mass, except in the form of a homily that tries to reassure the faithful that the status quo is still okay and that the these serious issues don’t have any real impact on the Church. This hallowed notion of the sanctity of their religion remaining untouchable is disabused by men like Jerry who are plain-spoken about these problems in public; and all those greedy pesky people suing them for abuse and draining their coffers in the process. It must be dreadfully unsettling.

    • Ray Moscow
      Posted November 3, 2011 at 7:33 am | Permalink

      By trying to block the video release, Haught increased the number of people who would view the exchange by at least a hundredfold, and in his baseless accusations against Dr Coyne he has taken theology to new lows in the eyes of countless people.

      Well done, Prof Haught, your efforts were not for naught!

    • Diane G.
      Posted November 3, 2011 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

      The answers they come up with invariably fall into categories of either distancing themselves from the wrongdoers (the child abusing priests are not true Believers) or brushing it aside as either a product of the past (the Crusades, Galileo) or as a Metaphor (any item in Faith / Doctrine / Sacred Text that science proves is incorrect).

      There’s a fourth common response, IME; that of extolling all the good the church does (their opinion) and asserting that it far outweighs “isolated examples” of imperfect humans.(Nuns are never so useful as when they’ve been murdered in El Salvador…)

    • PB
      Posted November 3, 2011 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

      Good summary of the way catholics think. I agree that Haught must be shocked when he heard the meek Jerry said.

      I suspect Haught had very different expectation of what the meeting would be like (he had cred with his anti-ID stance). Of course his collossal ignorance of who Jerry actually is, added greatly. Haught must see the whole thing very unfair to him (funny).

    • Steersman
      Posted November 4, 2011 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

      The Catholic Church does not encourage its faithful flock to not question or even talk much about the ills of religion.

      Probably quite a bit of truth to that – the Comfortable Pew phenomenon, although other segments of Christianity do recognize some other wider obligations.

      It must be dreadfully unsettling.

      Not sporting at all. Damn colonials.

  90. Nicolas Perrault
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 7:18 am | Permalink

    No wonder Haught wasn’t enthousiatic about releasing this video! His theological piñata was pulverized with a sledgehammer. No candies fell to the ground as the vessel was empty. Well done!

    • Diane G.
      Posted November 3, 2011 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

      The “empty pinata”–ooh, great metaphor for religion!

      (Gotten learn diacritics w/o a number pad & alt code.)

      • Kharamatha
        Posted November 4, 2011 at 2:44 am | Permalink

        Remember my old friend the ¨ key?

        Meet the ~ key. They live together. (:

  91. Posted November 3, 2011 at 7:30 am | Permalink

    Wow! Dunno what the kerfuffle was. There was not one ad hominem attack. Simply the laying bare of vacant flap-doodle. As is too common, Haught starts by erroneously factualizing the ponderings of Plato and that, by definition, the postulated hierarchical structure of reality proved that we (in the human strata) can not possibly understand the higher strata. This is apologism 101 to start with an unsupported claim then build on it.

    Coyne then simply stated the obvious [self-evident] strengths and weaknesses of both science and religion in realizing genuine truth.

    Was Haught offended? Dunno and don’t care. “Being offended is not a defence – it’s the last resort of those without an argument.” -John Dale

    Kudos to Mr. Coyne

  92. Marta
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 7:48 am | Permalink

    I’m with Ophelia.

    Now that I’ve watched the video, I can only conclude that it was the Q&A that set Haught off, because I really couldn’t find anything in Jerry’s talk to cause Haught to detonate.

    As for the content of Haught’s remarks, I really did try to pay attention, but his presentation was deadly uninteresting. I mean, it’s not like anyone who’s ever had the misfortune of having their butts pasted to a church pew could possibly be unfamiliar with his material.

    Which makes me agree again with Eric’s earlier post, that Haught’s sense of outrage comes from his walking into the propeller that is an educated, passionate, and articulate opponent who isn’t there to be mealy-mouthed about the incompatibility of religion with science.

    Speaking of mealy-mouthed, where’s Matzke with his usual defense of accommodationism?

  93. Jim Mauch
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 7:50 am | Permalink

    I have never seen such drama going on in the wings. As both parties have paraphrased, “What sound and fury signifying nothing.” This fight will probably not result in a victory for either party, or if an apparent victor comes out of this whole thing it will be seized by the first party smart enough to pull out of this childish cat-fight. After all will the video not speak for itself.

  94. Posted November 3, 2011 at 8:07 am | Permalink

    This is ironic:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-zimmerman/peace-breaks-out-in-the-w_b_1065821.html

    “Peace Breaks Out in the War Between Religion and Science”!

    • Flotsam
      Posted November 3, 2011 at 8:32 am | Permalink

      If the claims being made about all these prestigious scientific organizations are true,
      than the situation is far worse than ‘ironic’.

    • FastLane
      Posted November 3, 2011 at 10:47 am | Permalink

      The comments to that article are face-palm worthy.

  95. Posted November 3, 2011 at 8:16 am | Permalink

    I just got an answer from the UK president’s chief of staff giving us a time estimate about when the Q and A will be put up:

    Mr. Jost,
    Thank you for the follow-up. Given the length of the tape, it had to be broken into pieces for the purpose of putting on-line. We went ahead and worked on the discussion portion to get it on-line quickly. The Q&A should be available in a few days.
    Bill Swinford

  96. Mike
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    I love the fact that the two previous videos on UK Gaines Center website have 150 views each (posted 6 and 8 months ago), and prof. Coyne’s debate video got 13,000 views in just two days.

  97. TJR
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    Excellent stuff, a perfect example of “bad academia” (slow, ponderous, vacuous) versus “good academia” (quick, amusing, rational).

    So, can we now expect Jerry to do a similar job with postmodern criticism of the Jersey Shore conference type?

  98. lofgren
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    Haught spent a lot of time on the book metaphor, but I didn’t grok his point with it. The tiny amount of space afforded humanity in such a massive work would seem to indicate that humanity is NOT particularly connected to the “purpose” of the book. Of course that would depend on content, but for the most part, books do not introduce their primary characters and themes in the last few pages (and presumably include only a sentence or two about them, since that section must also contain everything else that is happening in the universe concurrent with human evolution). Additionally it is worth noting that these are only the last few pages because we happen to be looking at only the first 30 volumes – there will be a lot more where that came from as the series continues and new characters arise. All-in-all, the metaphor suggests to me that humanity and whatever purpose we perceive are really minor side characters in the book of life.

    Yet at the end of the metaphor, Haught claims that religion allows him to read the book more deeply than science. This is not really indicated by the metaphor. Everything we know about the content of each of those volumes that does not deal with written human history we know because scientists are reading them very, very closely, carefully parsing every word and trying to understand them in context. Haught seems to be suggesting that it is possible to, I don’t know, stick the book under your pillow while you sleep and absorb its primary themes and messages without actually ever studying the literal content. This is absurd. If you want to know about the themes and messages of Hamlet, you talk to somebody who has read it multiple times and done research on the English language and Shakespeare’s time in order to understand the proper context of its writing. You don’t talk to an expert on Civil War uniform buttons who only reads in French.

    Further, scientists, those who have spent their lives embedded in the intricacies of this book, have the MOST to gain by claiming that it has an important message and that they understand it. Scientists are always looking for more funding to do an in-depth study on the uses of the word “the” on page 324 of volume 6. Think how easily they could obtain it if they could claim that understanding this word more clearly is integral to revealing a deep abiding purpose to all of our lives. If somebody who is deeply invested in a highly complex book only shrugs and says “Meh, it’s basically gibberish. Interesting gibberish, and very exciting at times, but basically meaningless,” I have more reason to believe that person than, say, your average Catholic who has had this magical transformation but knows diddly about the actual words on the page.

    Anyway, I was just wondering if anybody understood what that section was getting at, because to me it sounded like Haught was working very hard to refute his own point.

    • Bryan
      Posted November 3, 2011 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

      Good analysis. Haught focused more on “shallow reading” and “deep reading” of the books, but the metaphor fails even there – as if “growing up” would make you *more* likely to believe the fairy tales in your books!

  99. Caroline
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    So here’s one aspect of Haught’s letter that might have a kernel of truth in it: “…you agreed to participate with the qualification that you did not want to debate me, but simply to lay out your own way of looking at science and religion.”

    It does seem that during his 25 minutes he laid out his silly view of how science and religion mix while you refuted his view during yours. I think he expected this to be a parallel-play event, where each speaker talks past the other, carefully ignoring what the other has argued.

    Since you do not believe that religion and science mix, I really don’t know what other content besides a refutation you could have provided. How do you fill 25 minutes describing the relationship between two things that have no relationship?

    I guess I’m vaguely sympathetic with his objection. It was a clash of world views essentially – he may have been truly unable to see the train that was headed for him.

    • Sastra
      Posted November 3, 2011 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

      Mayb. But if Haught thought that the forum was supposed to be a “parallel-play event” where neither side directly answers the other, then whence comes his outraged charge that Jerry failed to address his “main” arguments?

  100. Kevin
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    Good grief, people, haven’t we gone over theist code enough? OK, once again…

    In theist-speak, PURPOSE=my place in the after-death.

    Especially when paired with any adjective, including cosmic, ultimate, deeper…and on and on.

    Purpose is nothing more and nothing less than the theist’s belief in an after-death experience. What’s my “purpose” in life? To get a nice apartment in the after-death, with the kitchen upgrade. What is the universe’s “ultimate purpose”? To house billions upon billions of human “souls” in an after-death for all eternity while the material part of the universe blinks out.

    Pure bunkum is what it is.

    I say this to Dr. Haught, Deepity Chopra, and any other theist out there…use the word “purpose” in a debate, and you’ve lost the debate. Period.

    • Steersman
      Posted November 3, 2011 at 10:24 am | Permalink

      I say this to Dr. Haught, Deepity Chopra, and any other theist out there…use the word “purpose” in a debate, and you’ve lost the debate. Period.

      That seems to be a rather wide brush and reminds me of Orwell’s characterization of such usage in his Animal Farm as “Four legs good; two legs bad”. Such simplifications might play well in Haught’s church or O’Reilly’s audience, but I don’t think it should have much play on forums championing the skeptic viewpoint.

      Seems to me, and a great many others, “purpose” itself is a rather ubiquitous phenomenon with some very credible and useful mathematics behind it as well. How far that principle – “if we wish to have bread on the table tomorrow we know that we have to plant wheat today” – really extends, whether it is “all the way down” or not, would appear to be of some importance and relevance.

      But for some details on that issue from some well-regarded, non-Templeton contaminated scientists, you might be interested in this article on Behavior, Purpose and Teleology by Rosenblueth, Wiener and Bigelow, several of the progenitors of the science of cybernetics, which notes that:

      Teleology has been discredited chiefly because it was defined to imply a cause subsequent in time to a given effect. When this aspect of teleology was dismissed, however, the associated recognition of the importance of purpose was also unfortunately discarded. Since we consider purposefulness a concept necessary for the understanding of certain modes of behavior we suggest that a teleological study is useful if it avoids problems of causality and concerns itself merely with an investigation of purpose.

    • lofgren
      Posted November 3, 2011 at 10:59 am | Permalink

      Haught’s definition of purpose was “bringing about something of self-evident value.” That struck me as an uncommon use of the word, and it seems to me that his subsequent quotes from scientists fall into the category of quotemining unless he can show that they were using the same definition.

      His next statement was that we “might think” our lives have a purpose if we contribute to something that outlasts us. That struck me as peculiarly subjective for something that is supposed to be self-evident.

  101. Joel Wheeler
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    Just looking at Haughts “hierarchical principle” slide reminded me of one of my favorite Peter Atkins quotes:

    “The explanation of a lesser entity in terms of a greater one is a perversion of what it means to explain.”

    I think the “heirarchical principle” has it exactly backwards.

  102. Phillip Soltan
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    I watched the interview between John Haught and Mr Coyne and agree with Mr. Coyne that all either can do really is monologue on what they believe because there is no intersection.

    I can’t argue with Mr. Haught because it is impossible to argue with faith. I can argue with Mr. Coyne though, because he claims that his belief system is built on empirical science.

    Mr. Coyne made several fallacious arguments during the presentation that should be addressed. His claim that science keeps people from being fooled is completely untrue. Having even a hundred, or a thousand, people agree with your scientific paper doesn’t make your conclusion true. It just means that other people agree with you.

    Scientific knowledge may advance our ability to manipulate the matter in our universe to our advantage but that doesn’t necessarily relate to any ultimate truth. Newtonian mechanics is still very useful even though it doesn’t take into account relativistic effects. Since our understanding of the universe is constantly increasing it is unwise to treat scientific advances as anything more than useful information.

    Another fallacy is with evolution in particular. It starts with the premise that there isn’t a God so the ONLY way life could have evolved is through natural processes. This axiom is, in fact, a statement of faith and can’t be proven. The single biggest problem with evolution, in my opinion, is the concept of abiogenesis. This has not ever been empirically proven in a lab and thus fails the very test that Mr. Coyne is so adamant about. If a scientist claims that the timeframe required makes the test impossible then science shouldn’t say anything about it. Telling people, “Hey we’re scientists and we understand the general scientific underpinnings for evolution and because there isn’t a God there is no other explanation.”, is as arrogant and self-deluding as the religious leaders claiming authority.

    Mr. Coyne should focus on science that makes the world a better place instead of fooling himself that he is doing the world a favor by trying to rid the world of religion under the banner of science.

    • Posted November 3, 2011 at 11:30 am | Permalink

      Two of you posting with the “Mr. Coyne” at 103 & 104 ~ How typical of ‘your lot’

      You have conflated evolution & abiogenesis. Your only explanation for abiogenesis is “Goddidit”

      You have not read Why Evolution Is True nor anything else that’s unsupportive of your assumptions & you never will

      • Posted November 3, 2011 at 11:34 am | Permalink

        102 & 103

      • Phillip Soltan
        Posted November 3, 2011 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

        I also don’t read books about how to gain muscle without exercising. If science is not up to the task of explaining how humans came to exist, why would I want to waste my time trying to refute every person’s particular delusion. The fact that you don’t consider abiogenesis part of evolution means, in my opinion, that you have already lost the argument.

        • Kharamatha
          Posted November 4, 2011 at 2:59 am | Permalink

          An interesting view. Who else has already lost? Someone who doesn’t consider astrophysics a part of carpentry?

          After all, no spatial expansion, no wood.

    • Posted November 3, 2011 at 11:30 am | Permalink

      See my reply at #104.

    • J.J.E.
      Posted November 3, 2011 at 11:36 am | Permalink

      Your arguments do violence to the conventional meanings of words and/or the actual claims of Jerry and science.

      “His claim that science keeps people from being fooled is completely untrue.”

      He didn’t make such a hubristic absolute claim. He said that science uses tools designed to help us avoid fooling ourselves.

      “Scientific knowledge may advance our ability to manipulate the matter in our universe to our advantage but that doesn’t necessarily relate to any ultimate truth.”

      So, how pray tell did our “ability to manipulate” increase? Exercise? Wishful thinking? Prayer? No. Our ability increased with our knowledge. If your entire argument rests on the word “ultimate” then you are guilty of erecting a straw man, because neither Jerry nor science more generally lays claim to “ultimate truth”.

      “It starts with the premise that there isn’t a God so the ONLY way life could have evolved is through natural processes”

      No it doesn’t. Because this argument is built on this flawed premise, the remainder of it is bullshit.

      Yours are dreadfully poor arguments.

      • Phillip Soltan
        Posted November 3, 2011 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

        My arguments are actually rather good. It is your thinking that is “dreadfully poor”. When I use the term “ultimate truth” it is not some ethereal idea but rather that any particular truth will remain unchanged for the rest of time, which never happens in science. Our understanding is constantly improving so when you stand on a particular body of science, you are standing on shifting sands.

        • truthspeaker
          Posted November 3, 2011 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

          When I use the term “ultimate truth” it is not some ethereal idea but rather that any particular truth will remain unchanged for the rest of time, which never happens in science

          It never happens in any other discipline, either.

          You are working very hard to make a point everyone already understood.

        • J.J.E.
          Posted November 3, 2011 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

          You made no valid points that anybody contests. How is that “rather good”? You are either making erroneous claims or, if we give you the most charitable reading, you are making obvious points that are not in dispute, yet attributing those points to those you want to disagree with.

          * Science neither stakes claim to absolute truth nor claims to be exempt from being wrong (your first point falls);
          * Science doesn’t claim that “any particular truth will remain unchanged for the rest of time”. Science is designed to be continually skeptical and self correcting errors as they become apparent (your second point falls);
          * Evolution lacks any premises that mention god. It neither assumes gods (or fairies, etc) exist nor that gods (or fairies, etc) doesn’t exist (your third point falls).

          You’re wrong. You’ll regain a great deal of credibility if you’d simply admit as much and participate more constructively in this conversation.

          • Phillip Soltan
            Posted November 3, 2011 at 10:13 pm | Permalink

            It’s all about being right all the time isn’t it? Did you even watch the video? As an example of his hubris, Mr. Coyne stated that that the bible story of Adam and Eve can’t be true because the genetic base had to start with thousands of people?
            He was claiming that his truth superseded the bible story because some scientists had done some sort of research (that will probably be overturned next year) which proved that the human population couldn’t have started with just two people.
            He didn’t sound like someone who has really internalized the concept that “Science neither stakes claim to absolute truth nor claims to be exempt from being wrong”.

            When you state that evolution doesn’t necessitate or exclude God are you just being obnoxious? Of course evolution has to exclude God!!! The whole debate was about the incompatibility of science and faith!!! I sure you would consider it a cop-out if a scientist said “God did this part because I have no other earthly explanation for how it could have happened.”

            Why don’t YOU just admit that you don’t have a clue about how the flora and fauna of this planet came to exist. The only possible explanation is Divine but that would mess up your world view so we can’t have that. Better to place fast and loose with logic and denigrate anyone who doesn’t go along.

            • Ichthyic
              Posted November 3, 2011 at 11:34 pm | Permalink

              “Did you even watch the video?”

              Did you even read the papers regarding the genetics?

              no, of course you haven’t.

              you have no idea of the veracity of the pop genetics work, because not only haven’t you read it, you never will.

              why should anyone take your ignorant opinions seriously?

            • Ichthyic
              Posted November 3, 2011 at 11:35 pm | Permalink

              “Why don’t YOU just admit that you don’t have a clue about how the flora and fauna of this planet came to exist”

              because that would be lying.

            • raven
              Posted November 3, 2011 at 11:56 pm | Permalink

              Soltan: “It’s all about being right all the time isn’t it?”

              It’s about being as right as possible at any given time. That isn’t a problem. It’s the whole idea.

              Science is the most successful human achievement ever and the basis of our 21st century civilization because it works.

              This Soltan guy is just babbling and doesn’t know anything about science or theology.

              Soltan: My arguments are actually rather good. It is your thinking that is “dreadfully poor”. When I use the term “ultimate truth..

              Your assertions are all lies and fallacies.
              There is no such thing as ultimate truth anywhere. So what. We can asymptopically approach it and that is good enough for our science and society to progress.

              • GBJames
                Posted November 4, 2011 at 6:26 am | Permalink

                What Soltan lacks in understanding he makes up for in volume.

            • raven
              Posted November 4, 2011 at 12:06 am | Permalink

              Soltan: As an example of his hubris, Mr. Coyne stated that that the bible story of Adam and Eve can’t be true because the genetic base had to start with thousands of people?
              He was claiming that his truth superseded the bible story because some scientists had done some sort of research (that will probably be overturned next year) which proved that the human population couldn’t have started with just two people.”

              More ignorance. All science truths are provisional although some asymptopically approach certainty. But science spends a lot of time trying to falsify and occasionally does falsify theories. It can prove a theory is wrong.

              All the bible myths were falsified centuries ago. There is as much proof for Adam and Eve as there is for the Easter Bunny or Elves. Only the fundies xians try to believe them any more, most xians worldwide don’t bother.

            • raven
              Posted November 4, 2011 at 12:20 am | Permalink

              Soltan:The only possible explanation is Divine but that would mess up your world view so we can’t have that.

              Assertion without any proof or data. It’s just a common claim by a creationist.

              It’s also wrong. The TOE has shown that the gods aren’t needed to explain anything. Acceptance of evolution among scientists runs around 99%. The few who don’t accept freely admit they don’t because of their religion, not any factual basis.

              Soltan: “Better to place fast and loose with logic and denigrate anyone who doesn’t go along.”

              Creationists and other religious fanatics like you seriously harm our society and would destroy it if you can. We oppose creationism and religion for personal and national survival. It was the fundies that drove me out of xianity after nearly 5 decades.

            • GBJames
              Posted November 4, 2011 at 4:33 am | Permalink

              I call “Poe”.

            • truthspeaker
              Posted November 4, 2011 at 5:52 am | Permalink

              And what evidence did the authors of the Adam and Eve stories in Genesis I and II base their stories on? What data did they have that today’s biologists don’t?

        • Kharamatha
          Posted November 4, 2011 at 3:02 am | Permalink

          “I’m smart too! You’re a big meanie! I’m telling you that I’m super smart! Why don’t you just take my word for it?”

    • Brian
      Posted November 3, 2011 at 11:40 am | Permalink

      “His claim that science keeps people from being fooled is completely untrue.”

      The claim is that the scientific method keeps you from getting fooled. The reason being that if the scientists are wrong, they can insist they are true no matter what, eventually evidence will be presented showing that they are wrong. Moreover, the scientific method is build around the well known fact from psychology of just how easy people are to fool and how. Of course scientists could write silly papers and fool people, and indeed that has happened. But the silly results tend to not stick around, eventually the evidence exposes them.

      “Scientific knowledge may advance our ability to manipulate the matter in our universe to our advantage but that doesn’t necessarily relate to any ultimate truth.”

      That’s just a version of NOMA. Jerry Coyne and many others have rejected NOMA. Also, if by ultimate truth you mean stuff about ultimate reality, God, cosmic purpose, etc, there is no such thing.

      “It starts with the premise that there isn’t a God so the ONLY way life could have evolved is through natural processes.”

      WRONG. There is no such “premise” behind evolutionary biology. The only premise is that there is all this evidence for evolution. Note that given all that evidence, evolution is effectively a fact.

      “The single biggest problem with evolution, in my opinion, is the concept of abiogenesis.”

      Evolution has nothing to do with abiogenesis, i.e. how the first single celled organism arose. It has to do with how we got from that single celled organism to all the current diversity of life. This just isn’t a problem for evolution, but for abiogenesis.

      Please read Jerry Coyne’s book. He explains what evolution claims and what the evidence for those claims are.

      • Phillip Soltan
        Posted November 3, 2011 at 11:59 am | Permalink

        You cannot prove that you are not fooled in some particular aspect. How do you know that you aren’t waiting for a particularly insightful paper that proves that evolution is impossible? You’re own arrogance is keeping you from admitting we all have imperfect knowledge of the universe and that science is only more useful than religious claims, not more authoritative.

        How convenient. Just leave out how celled organisms started and start defining evolution as what happens after that. That leaves a really glaring hole in any scientific explanation of how life came about from any purely natural process.
        Since when does Jerry Coyne get to define what evolution is?

        • Tulse
          Posted November 3, 2011 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

          You cannot prove that you are not fooled in some particular aspect.

          You and others can demonstrate that a particular hypothesis is not supported by the observable, objective data. And that’s pretty damned handy, having given us things like antibiotics and airplanes and electricity and the internet and etc. etc. etc.

          You’re own arrogance is keeping you from admitting we all have imperfect knowledge of the universe

          You’ve got it completely backward. Science continually asserts that our knowledge of the universe is imperfect — if we knew everything, we wouldn’t need to do science anymore.

          science is only more useful than religious claims, not more authoritative

          And what definition of “authoritative” do you have that doesn’t involve “useful”?

          • Phillip Soltan
            Posted November 3, 2011 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

            In my original post I gave the example of how Newtonian mechanics are still useful even though we now understand that there are relativistic effects that have to be taken into account at near light speeds. This is an example of a scientific theory that, while being useful, was not authoritative in that it couldn’t completely explain the physics of motion in all domains. Just because a scientific theory might hold true for many lifetimes (think classical 4 elements theory) doesn’t mean that eventually someone will not come up with a better explanation.
            Staking your reputation on the Theory of Evolution might not look ignorant now but in a hundred years may seem very silly.

            • Tulse
              Posted November 3, 2011 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

              Just because a scientific theory might hold true for many lifetimes (think classical 4 elements theory) doesn’t mean that eventually someone will not come up with a better explanation.

              That’s exactly right, and when they do, science will have advanced a little more.

              Staking your reputation on the Theory of Evolution might not look ignorant now but in a hundred years may seem very silly.

              It is never silly to believe what the best current evidence and theory tells you. Science isn’t about not looking silly in the future, it is about trying to understand things to the best of our current ability. I don’t know why this is such a hard concept to understand.

            • truthspeaker
              Posted November 3, 2011 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

              Just because a scientific theory might hold true for many lifetimes (think classical 4 elements theory) doesn’t mean that eventually someone will not come up with a better explanation

              Is anybody claiming otherwise? You seem to be arguing against a straw man.

              Nobody claims science has the complete answer. We just claim that science has a way of finding out parts of the answer, and theology doesn’t. Theology doesn’t have a way of determining anything about reality.

            • Brian
              Posted November 3, 2011 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

              “Staking your reputation on the Theory of Evolution might not look ignorant now but in a hundred years may seem very silly.”

              Newton doesn’t look silly. Newtonian mechanics is entirely right to a certain order of error and under certain conditions, which was what Newton and his contemporaries were studying. Newtonian mechanics can be regarded as a first order approximation of general relativity. We didn’t discover Newtonian mechanics was wrong but rather discovered there was more to the story. That’s the way science works, as new evidence comes in and new circumstances are studied, we learn more about nature and get answers that are more precise and more general.

              NO knowledge is authoritative. Not one iota! You can never explain anything completely, answers lead to new questions. And there is always new evidence coming in. You can’t explain anything completely.

              See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wMFPe-DwULM

              • truthspeaker
                Posted November 3, 2011 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

                And nobody thinks Newton was silly because he didn’t know about General Relativity. He had no way of knowing. He had to figure out the laws of motion before Einstein could figure out General Relativity.

        • Brian
          Posted November 3, 2011 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

          “You cannot prove that you are not fooled in some particular aspect.”

          No, but you can study the various ways that humans are fooled and show how the scientific method avoids or corrects for such folly.

          “How do you know that you aren’t waiting for a particularly insightful paper that proves that evolution is impossible?”

          Oh, I don’t know that. Science works on empiricism which relies on Bayesian statistics. The more and more evidence I accumulate for a claim, the more likely the claim is right. But there is still a small probability of being wrong. For example, why bother with evolution, let’s just study coins. If I flip a coin for you and every time it lands heads, after a large number of flips you can infer the coin is probably a trick coin with both sides heads. But given a large number of N flips, N heads followed by a tail is one possible outcome. Just Bayesian probability implies you can compute the probability of having a fair coin given the evidence of the flips and the probability of a fair coin is small.

          Coyne said in his talk that there could be evidence to show him evolution is wrong. And indeed it could show up tomorrow. Coyne and I are ADMITTING that paper could appear. But it hasn’t and there is such a mountain of evidence for evolution that it is extremely unlike contrary evidence against evolution would appear and if it did we’d all want to then know what happened to give us that mountain of misleading evidence.

          “You’re own arrogance is keeping you from admitting we all have imperfect knowledge of the universe”

          Read above. Jerry and I openly admit to imperfect knowledge. But using statistics and evidence we can determine how imperfect the evidence is and science gives us highly reliable information. Just because knowledge is imperfect doesn’t mean knowledge is impossible or mere opinion.

          “How convenient. Just leave out how celled organisms started and start defining evolution as what happens after that.”

          That’s what the theory of evolution states. It isn’t convenience, evolution only explains some aspects of our origins and not everything. What’s next, biologists can’t explain the Big Bang, how convenient, evolution must be false?

          “That leaves a really glaring hole in any scientific explanation of how life came about from any purely natural process.”

          Yes. And scientists are excitedly studying the matter. But just because science hasn’t explained something important doesn’t mean it can’t or that God is the answer. Throughout history God has been proposed as an answer for things — thunder, eclipse, disease, etc — and every time a nature, not supernatural, explanation has been found.

          “Since when does Jerry Coyne get to define what evolution is?”

          He didn’t, not initially, the community of evolutionary biologists did. But he does have a Ph.D. and professional work in evolutionary biology, so that qualifies him to explain evolution to the public.

        • truthspeaker
          Posted November 3, 2011 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

          You’re own arrogance is keeping you from admitting we all have imperfect knowledge of the universe

          We all admit that. I don’t know of anyone who would deny it.

          and that science is only more useful than religious claims, not more authoritative.</b

          It's more authoritative because it’s more useful.

          • truthspeaker
            Posted November 3, 2011 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

            tag fail on my part

        • Evgeny Brud
          Posted November 3, 2011 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

          How convenient. Just leave out how celled organisms started and start defining evolution as what happens after that. That leaves a really glaring hole in any scientific explanation of how life came about from any purely natural process.

          Evolution is routinely defined as change in hereditary material of populations over time. Why would you expect abiogenesis (non-life giving rise to life) to be part of that field? It’s really a job for chemists. And they are working on it. So it’s not a glaring hole being conveniently ignored by the scientific community…

        • raven
          Posted November 3, 2011 at 11:37 pm | Permalink

          “You cannot prove that you are not fooled in some particular aspect.”

          This is meaningless, an assertion without any proof or data. You are trying to prove a negative.

          “How do you know that you aren’t waiting for a particularly insightful paper that proves that evolution is impossible?”

          This is stupid and astoundingly ignorant. It can’t happen. Evolution has been tested for 150 years by countless scientists trying to falsify it. It has withstood all the new discoveries in biology and all other science fields. It would take more than one paper.

          The US national academy of sciences says it best. After 150 years the TOE is very unlikely to be falsified. The hardest theories to falsify are ones that happen to be true.

          • Phillip Soltan
            Posted November 4, 2011 at 5:29 am | Permalink

            When you talk about the theory of evolution being tested do you even know what you are talking about? The creation of life on Earth was a one time event that can’t be reproduced in a lab! No matter how plausible or rational a theory humans come up with it is still, and will always be, just conjecture. It amazes me that scientists that normally demand empirical evidence will take so much on faith when it comes to the theory of evolution. No theory of evolution will ever have the weight of other reproducible areas of science like chemistry and physics. Science is not up to the task of definitively explaining how life came to exist on the planet. You can rage all you want but unless you can reproduce evolution from barren planet to sentient beings, you don’t have an empirical leg to stand on. Since that is impossible why don’t you move on to something more useful.

            • truthspeaker
              Posted November 4, 2011 at 5:54 am | Permalink

              As opposed to theology?

            • Posted November 4, 2011 at 6:20 am | Permalink

              Phillip Soltan

              Your comments are a delightful smorgasbord of daftness.

              “The creation of life on Earth was a one time event that can’t be reproduced in a lab!”

              And, what? Do you therefore conclude that one time events are immune to any evidence whatsoever? If no, then we can start accumulating evidence for them – science begins. If yes, then do you disbelieve in all the one time events that have occurred? Like the big bang, Jesus’ resurrection, every speciation event, Mary’s immaculate conception, the existence of every individual you’ve not met in your ancestral line? If you believe in any of these things, you’re already committed to an evidence based approach, since you’ve *heard* of them, and testimony in itself is evidence. There really is no getting away from evidence, however fatuous or debased your view of science.

              “No matter how plausible or rational a theory humans come up with it is still, and will always be, just conjecture.”

              You’re in danger of equivocation with the use of ‘conjecture’, because it has two meanings; one is an inference based on guesswork, the other is an inference based on incomplete evidence. Since science is always *contingent*, and the data underdetermined, it could always be said to be conjecture in the second sense. A *dishonest* writer would want a reader to conclude that science is conjecture in the first sense. Which do you mean?

              “No theory of evolution will ever have the weight of other reproducible areas of science like chemistry and physics.”

              Again, and what? Do you conclude that any theory that has less evidence than another is invalid? If yes, then you would have to disbelieve all of science but one theory (which one?). If no, you must then assess the theory’s weight independently of other theories, so your point is, er, pointless.

              “Science is not up to the task of definitively explaining how life came to exist on the planet.”

              That may be true, so what do you suggest? Give up on science, or continue to explore the world around us with all the benefits science brings us? If the first, good luck in your science free world, and you’ll be unable to reply. If the second, then your comment is toothless, and, of course, any reply you make is an admission that your comment is toothless.

              “You can rage all you want but unless you can reproduce evolution from barren planet to sentient beings, you don’t have an empirical leg to stand on.”

              Well I’m not raging, but thanking you for all the laughs your amusing vignettes have given me, Poe or no. Well done!

            • Tulse
              Posted November 4, 2011 at 6:31 am | Permalink

              The creation of life on Earth was a one time event that can’t be reproduced in a lab!

              I wouldn’t place too big a bet on that — research into the origin of life has been making enormous progress of late, both theoretically and in the lab. I think it’s quite likely that we will see completely artificially-created, self-reproducing, metabolizing life forms generated in a lab in the next decade. And that may be hugely conservative.

              Now, if your argument is that even that wouldn’t tell us how life did arise, because that is an historical question, then you are also ruling out huge swaths of other sciences which deal with singular past events, such as geology, cosmology, archeology, paleontology, anthropology, etc. etc. etc.

    • Posted November 3, 2011 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

      “Scientific knowledge may advance our ability to manipulate the matter in our universe to our advantage but that doesn’t necessarily relate to any ultimate truth.”

      Such a critique is explicitly dependent upon the notion that there *is* an ultimate truth. I remain quite skeptical of such, to put it mildly (but saying there is no “ultimate” truth is not to deny the validity of local truths, and more pointedly certainly not to deny obvious fallacies). But within that skeptical framework science’s ability to produce ever more efficacious heuristics is more than ample reason to hold the pseudo philosophical word diddlings of theologians in contempt.

      That you can’t argue with faith is exactly the point of science and what makes it so overtly valuable while faith remains vacant. You can not only argue with any current science, you can challenge it, and even overthrow it if you have genuine evidence that it is wrong. The ongoing investigations of the OPERA results is a spectacular example of the critical openness that science values above any and all of its specific theories, even its most cherished.

      “Another fallacy is with evolution in particular. It starts with the premise that there isn’t a God so the ONLY way life could have evolved is through natural processes.”

      Yes, that’s right. And that theory a-priori absent god has been amazingly successful in explaining a huge volume of observational data and making predictions both broad and microscopically exact (and yes, predictions *before* evidence was found to confirm).

      If you have a god present theory which (distinctively) explains (not rationalizes) a larger body of facts and results in (distingusihable) testable, before the experiment predictions, I’m sure we’d love to hear it. Goddidit and godwants are neither explanations or predictions; heritable variation an natural selection explain without papering over. We await your hypothesis which can do better.

      — TWZ

    • raven
      Posted November 3, 2011 at 11:43 pm | Permalink

      “Another fallacy is with evolution in particular. It starts with the premise that there isn’t a God so the ONLY way life could have evolved is through natural processes.”

      No it doesn’t. You are just Making Stuff Up. Lying.

      Soltan clearly is completely ignorant about science.

      “You’re own arrogance is keeping you from admitting we all have imperfect knowledge of the universe”

      This is another lie and a really dumb one. Science doesn’t know everything and never will. This is good or we would all have to go find other jobs.

  103. Frank Ch. Eigler
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    While Mr. Coyne proclaims the skeptical/atheistic points of view, his logic is frequently lacking in this presentation. Countless non-sequitor, begging-the-question, ad-hominem instances are all over the talk. One might forgive the generally smug tone, but the imperfect logical rigour is IMHO sad.

    • Posted November 3, 2011 at 11:24 am | Permalink

      Two of you posting with the “Mr. Coyne” at 103 & 104

      You don’t know the definition of ad hominem
      You give no examples to support your assertions

      Go home you oaf

    • raven
      Posted November 3, 2011 at 11:26 am | Permalink

      Oh really?

      List a few then.

      Otherwise all you have is a claim without any provided factual basis.

    • Brian
      Posted November 3, 2011 at 11:28 am | Permalink

      Fair enough. But I hope you do realize that Haught and Coyne both were giving talks. In 25 minutes, you don’t have time to get into details and nuances as perfect logical rigour would demand. You have just enough time to explain what you claim, sketch the argument, and explain why we should care. Hence most the talk is honestly hand waving the logic and asserting what seems like non-sequitors.

      That having been said, maybe Jerry Coyne did make a few or a lot of logical mistakes. You are making a serious charge here. What specific logical mistakes did Jerry Coyne make? What specifically were non-sequitors or begging-the-question? And given the controversy, what specifically was ad-hominem?

  104. Posted November 3, 2011 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    Phillip Soltan @102, you said “Another fallacy is with evolution in particular. It starts with the premise that there isn’t a God so the ONLY way life could have evolved is through natural processes.”

    You have it exactly backwards. Darwin, for example, started off believing in God, then discovered a natural explanation (variation + heredity of some kind + natural selection) for how complex forms could arise without a Designer. He eventually realized there was no evidence of any god’s role in this, and gave up his belief. He did not start with that premise.

    • raven
      Posted November 3, 2011 at 11:55 am | Permalink

      “Phillip Soltan @102, you said “Another fallacy is with evolution in particular. It starts with the premise that there isn’t a God so the ONLY way life could have evolved is through natural processes.”

      That isn’t true at all.

      Evolution says nothing about god one way or another. It is a scientific theory about life changing through time, something that is empircally correct beyond any doubt.

      It just says god isn’t need to explain evolution and no evidence that god does anything to direct evolution.

      My old xian sect just said, god invented evolution and left it at that. Presumably by setting up the universe so that the laws of physics made evolution inevitable.

  105. CharlesR
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    Great talk. You should turn it in a Kindle Single.

  106. dunstar
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

    lol. According to the IDiots, Prof. Coyne apparently isn’t holding up his end of the bargain. He’s suppose to honor and respect the sophisticated make-believers in return for the make-believers not asking too many questions about evolutionary theory.

    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2011/11/haught_v_coyne_the_fight_of_th052531.html

    “However the other party in the bargain didn’t keep what the TEs assumed was a promise: to accord them respect and honor in exchange for their not questioning evolutionary theory. In Haught’s “Open Letter” to Coyne you sense the grief of someone who, after selling something of himself, believes he got gypped.”

    • abb3w
      Posted November 3, 2011 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

      …drat; “missed it by THAT much”.

    • Kharamatha
      Posted November 4, 2011 at 3:12 am | Permalink

      “in exchange for their not questioning evolutionary theory.”

      Aww, how cute. They think we’re playmates making little scam castles with them in their little scam box. Pass me a bucket and shovel, will you?

  107. abb3w
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

    Incidentally, reaction from David Klinghoffer of the Disco Toot. He’s not impressed by Coyne’s arguments, but he’s also not overly sympathetic to Haught’s distress.

    • Posted November 3, 2011 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

      Glanced through … he asserts there is supposedly some kind of bargain where science “respects” religion and in return the religious won’t attack evolution. And that the scientists are the ones breaking this august detente.

      And why again, except to ask where we can get some of those drugs, would be pay attention to someone with a more deluded view of reality than the theologically inclined themselves?

      — TWZ

    • Ray Moscow
      Posted November 4, 2011 at 4:43 am | Permalink

      I suppose one really should only worry when the DI approves of what one wrote or said.

  108. DrDroid
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    My thoughts after watching the video: John Haught talks first and will bore you to death with deepities, but eventually you get to Jerry’s talk, which you should follow along with the slides. After watching this you’ll understand why John Haught might want to suppress the video: he got his ass waxed. Theologians like John operate in a rarefied academic atmosphere where deepities pass for great truths and are rarely challenged. Even when theologians speak outside their ivory tower they are accustomed to a certain amount of deference and are not accustomed to having their ideas so forthrightly challenged as Jerry did in his talk. Well worth watching. And thank you, Jerry, for having the courage and taking the time to wrestle with the huge amounts of crap that emanate from the religious in this country.

    • SeanM
      Posted November 3, 2011 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

      Exactly!
      What a great demolition of religion. As a scientist I wish I could have done it that well, given the chance.

  109. Mano Singham
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    I watched the video and I think I know why Haught was upset and did not want the video released. Jerry was direct and uncompromising (which anyone who has read his stuff should have expected) but I don’t think that that was the problem. It was because he used direct quotes from Haught to make his argument that theology can only make science and religion seem compatible by using a fog of language and metaphor.

    By quoting all those passages from Haught’s books, Coyne essentially provided a template and almost all the ammunition anyone needs to effectively debate Haught in the future. This cannot be good for Haught.

  110. Emiliano Heyns
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

    I can see now why he wanted this pulled. “It must be true because I think we need it”. Damn. My kid could have talked this guy into the ground.

    • Diane G.
      Posted November 3, 2011 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

      Too bad Mason wasn’t there.

  111. Christoph
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

    Absolutely stunning presentation Dr. Coyne! Thank you for all your efforts.

    For those who haven’t watched this yet, I strongly recommend that you download the powerpoint presentations first, esp for Dr. Coyne’s. They are essential to the understanding Dr. Coyne’s points and understanding why Dr. Haught wanted to censor him.

    This was probably the first time Dr. Haught had his ideas challenged in such an assertive way. I’ve always felt that that is part of the purpose of a university.

  112. Brandon
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

    Just finished the debate, and I have yet to see the ‘vulgar’ accusations materialize. I simply cannot write off Haught’s initial refusal, and latter criticisms, as anything but sour grapes.

    Perhaps the Q&A session might get ugly in some way, but Dr. Coyne was extremely respectful without being personally offensive in the slightest during the actual debate. It seems that tackling liberal theology head-on is automatically off limits and uncivilized. So be it.

    My hat’s off to you, Dr. Coyne. A very straightforward refutation of the entire accomodationism idea. Thank you for doing what you do.

  113. Posted November 3, 2011 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

    For the record, prolonged vague pomposities swathed in metaphor and misdirection are never logically complete. On the other hand simple demonstrations in relatively plain language are often vastly more complete than theological quackery.

    A good many of us chose Bacon over Aristotle long ago, consider the matter settled, and don’t see reason to revisit it.

    Quack.

    — TWZ

  114. PB
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

    After all of these, than the Q&A videos come out, Haughty Coyne part deux … and all hell broke loose again.

    (I love it! maybe they should release the Q&A in small installments? )

  115. Diane G.
    Posted November 4, 2011 at 12:54 am | Permalink

    Love the way the speaker introducer (Lou Swift?) says that Jerry got his PhD in 1998.

    Just when I was beginning to wonder about the Lost Years, he says JAC joined the UC faculty in 1996…(Neat trick, that.)

  116. Posted November 4, 2011 at 3:33 am | Permalink

    A comment on Eric MacDonald’s blog prompted the thought that this debate was like the famous scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark: Haught was expecting a sword fight, but Jerry brought a gun.

    /@

    • DrDroid
      Posted November 4, 2011 at 6:46 am | Permalink

      LOL

  117. Chris Ho-Stuart
    Posted November 4, 2011 at 8:20 am | Permalink

    Jerry, I think it would be good if you could take the time to write an “open reply” to John’s open letter.

    At present the Gaines Center has links for the open letter, but for you there’s simply a link to “blog postings”. A concise open response would, I think, be more effective.

    I’m glad everyone has now enabled the release of the video.

  118. Stuart
    Posted November 4, 2011 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    The Q&A session is now online at the Gaines Center website. Watching now…

  119. Posted November 4, 2011 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    Just watched the Q&A

    I did not notice any Coyne groupie bias ~ where were those groupies?

    Haught got the most ‘determined’ clapping from a little group (it sounded like) so it seemed to me like there was a little Catholic love-in going on for John

    Some excellent & simple (I love simple) answers from JAC re divine & supernatural
    & a nice backhand return at the end by JAC to Haught saying that HE should also get out more & see what the people believe ~ people believe different stuff to the theologians

    Great. I enjoyed that

  120. Jen
    Posted November 4, 2011 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    First of all, excellent work! Jerry, you were succinct and specific without any chest-pounding, baloney or righteousness. The contrast between your direct presentation and Haught’s analogy-filled, metaphor-laden semantic exercises could not have been more stark. Not to mention, Haught never once came close to showing how religion and science, as they are practiced in the real world not his imagined world of layers, can be compatible. He definitely gets and F- for being able to follow instructions. But his assignment was impossible. The only way to show religion and science as compatible is with smoke, mirrors, theologo-babble and serious self-delusion.

    But I worry that the battle between science and religion gets stuck in the rut of fighting back and forth – who’s got the better arguments, the more strident “leader”, who’s winning – without enough focus on why the battle is so important. It’s not really a matter of “we’re right, you’re wrong – nah, nah, nah nahnah”, it’s more a matter of hope for the future of our country, our planet and all the billions of people who live here. Unless the tide of religions working to stifle rational, evidence based inquiry and application of knowledge can be stopped, we are doomed.

    Jerry touched on this briefly toward the end of his presentation starting when he said:

    “I’m sorry to be so pugnacious. But I’m a scientist and I have very strong feelings about the pollution of my discipline with superstition.”

    So glad this video got posted. Standing ovation from me to you, Jerry!

  121. Posted November 6, 2011 at 11:26 pm | Permalink

    Haught was clearly upset that night, hence the whole diatribe about caricature, and out of context posts. I think it was quite obvious that he was mad. That is his look out though.

    A point about his water boiling-levels of explanation mistake. There may be various levels of explanation for why a particular pot of tea is boiling, but all of his levels were easily verifiable and didn’t require anyone to take the word of an authority to establish any of his “fuller picture.” His analogy fails because it doesn’t take that into account.

    For his analogy to be fair I think it would have to have been like this:
    Why is the water in that kettle boiling?
    Physical explanation of water boiling…

    Why did that happen?
    My wife turned on the kettle…

    Why did she turn on the kettle?
    I wanted a cup of tea.

    Why did you want a cup of tea?
    Because there is a force in the universe that seeks to demonstrate its love by allowing the universe to create itself and transform me during the process.

    Theology is often the action of pretending that an appealling non sequitur is really a profound explanation.

  122. Posted November 11, 2011 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    I unfortunately wasn’t able to get to Lexington for your talk with Haught (I’m in Louisville), but was very glad to finally be able to see the video :-) I can certainly understand why he felt like he was being attacked by what you said, but refusing to release the video was bad form.

    Anyhoo, you mentioned something in your talk about modern humans coming from a group of 12000 “original” human ancestors? Can you point to the journal articles of the studies that came up with that figure? I’d like to find out more details about that.

    Thanks a lot! Keep up the great work.

  123. Posted January 9, 2012 at 4:42 am | Permalink

    ALERT: The Q&A video has mysteriously vanished from the Gaines Center page. Does anyone have a copy to hand?

    (I actually downloaded the debate video, but didn’t keep a copy …)


5 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. [...] Coyne’s supporters rallied behind his cause and managed to pressure Haught into allowing the video’s release. [...]

  2. [...] in the wake of the video suppression-and-unsuppression I’ve been thinking again about the “what” of theology. I’ve been thinking [...]

  3. [...] deny that he has a lot to say about both science and religion, much of it valuable, I agree with Jerry Coyne (as well as Eric MacDonald) that his fundamental views about the intersection of science and [...]

  4. [...] kettle argument by John Haught that we can approach questions of reality at different levels (see The video! and Q&A added to “The Video” for the debate with Jerry Coyne where Haught uses this [...]

  5. [...] kettle argument by John Haught that we can approach questions of reality at different levels (see The video! and Q&A added to “The Video” for the debate with Jerry Coyne where Haught uses this [...]

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