UPDATE: I have heard from John Haught, who says that he’s satified with my posting his response, and he’ll now okay the release of the video.
Yesterday was quite a day. I never expected the inundation of emails and support I received for my post about John Haught’s refusal to release the video of our debate on science and religion. That post has now garnered nearly four hundred comments. The students at the University of Kentucky started an online “free-the-video” petition that’s accrued almost 400 signatures, there were nearly forty thousand views of my site, and l’affaire DebateGate made the front page of Slashdot and appeared on reddit christianity. Someone even amended John Haught’s Wikipedia page to describe the kerfuffle.
Readers apparently fired off emails to all and sundry: the President of the University of Kentucky, the National Endowment for the Humanities (who funds the Gaines Center, which hosted the debate), and various other officials at the University of Kentucky—and, of course, to John Haught and Robert Rabel, who was forced to deep-six his email address. Rabel also threatened me with legal action because of the “abusive” emails he received. But I was deeply gratified that two awesome lawyers, readers of this website, offered to defend me pro bono should that transpire. (I’m sure there will be no need for that: Rabel was just blustering and has no legal basis for action).
I also learned what the “Streisand effect” was, and for the first time fully appreciated the power of the internet to effect change, especially change that I desired.
I do regret, though, any abuse or name-calling that came down on Haught and Rabel. I did not ask readers to write anyone—indeed, I had no idea that this would blow up as it did, nor that people would take it upon themselves to rectify the matter. For that I am grateful, and have learned something. But I would ask that until this blows over—and that seems imminent—you remain courteous in all your communications with officials you’re trying to persuade. And that also goes for any comment attached to this post.
Perhaps most gratifying was the support I received from the skeptical blogosphere. P.Z. Myers posted on this, as did Ophelia at Butterflies and Wheels (twice), Miranda Hale, Jason at EvolutionBlog, as well as Eric MacDonald and erv. It’s heartening that, despite our differences, we can all come together when there’s an important issue—free speech and the dissemination of our message—that concerns us all.
The good news is that John Haught has apparently relented, or so I think. He wrote me an email yesterday saying he would okay the release of the video if I posted his three-page “explanation” on this site. He also asked me to apologize publicly for distorting the facts (he claimed that I said he’d given his permission to post the debate, a claim that’s completely false), for bringing down opprobrium on The University of Kentucky and Dr. Robert Rabel, and for the damage that my approach has done to the notion of free and open debate.
Needless to say, I won’t apologize for those things. I stated the facts accurately, and if those facts angered people and made them want to do something about this censorship, then that’s all well and good. Although I don’t consider myself responsible for any vitriol associated with those attacks, I do regret whatever intemperate behavior resulted from my post, and ask readers, for the sake of civility, to stick to the issue at hand: the censorship of a video, the reasons for such censorship, and the issue of science versus faith.
Nor will I give Haught a long post to “explain” himself. That is not my habit, since this website belongs to me. But I do think it’s fair to allow him to explain his actions, which, he claims, were not motivated by cowardice or by having “lost” the debate. Haught has in fact put his explanation in a long comment on the previous thread, which you can find here (it’s comment #122 for those with cellphones). He’s seems to be angered by my comments on Catholicism.
I have responded very briefly to John’s comment immediately after it was posted (the reply to comment #122). My own words are fewer because I think readers themselves need to judge the veracity of Haught’s claims by watching the video. I hope that John will honor his promise to release the video immediately. My hope has always been for readers to watch it and draw their own conclusions. When that becomes possible, I will either put the video on this site or link to it.
If you would like to comment on what John or I said, it might be best to add the comments to this post rather than the previous one: the earlier post has so many comments that it’s prudent to start a new discussion. Again, try to be civil.
Thanks to the readers for all their help and solicitude, and watch this space! I expect to hear from John and Robert Rabel shortly that the video has been released and posted.