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. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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?

  4. 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.

  5. CharlesR
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    Great talk. You should turn it in a Kindle Single.

  6. 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?

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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

  14. 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? )

  15. 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.)

  16. 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.

    /@

  17. 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.

  18. Stuart
    Posted November 4, 2011 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    The Q&A session is now online at the Gaines Center website. Watching now…

  19. 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

  20. 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!

  21. 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.

  22. 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.

  23. 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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