Questionable Motives

November 1, 2011

Why is John Haught an intellectual coward?

Filed under: accommodation,Debate,Jerry Coyne,John Haught,Religion,Science — tildeb @ 11:51 am

Back on October 12, 2011, Dr. Jerry Coyne debated theologian John Haught at the Gaines Center. Coyne describes it here. Prior to the event, both agreed to have it videotaped by the University of Kentucky where the debate was held and many of us have been waiting to see and hear it for ourselves. That’s not going to happen. No, Haught is refusing to release this tape and the Gaines Center is being particularly helpful in going along with Haught’s change in mind to have it suppressed from the public domain. This raises the question of why. Coyne has responded to this, as has PZ Myers, MacDonald, and Benson. By the few accounts I have read of the debate, Coyne who was well prepared was particularly effective in dismantling Haught’s accommodationist position that science and religion are compatible methods of inquiry by using Haught’s own words against him. Haught in contrast seemed to give a standard talk and was very ineffective addressing Coyne’s pointed criticisms.

It is perfectly understandable for someone not to want to advertise a debate in which they have done so poorly. But to change one’s mind after the fact and censor the publication of the videotape is intellectual cowardice and for the Gaines Center to go along with this cowardice is ethically shameful.

UPDATE (Nov 2): after much activity and a cascade of emails, Haught has allowed the video to be released here.


  1. I wish this were a shock. I wish my expectations were high enough that I routinely expected religionists to behave ethically. I don’t and they won’t. One can have a little compassion though, it’s a little like a two bit magician opening for Steve Jobs at a new ixxxxx unveiling. Just plain weak.

    Comment by davidtink — November 6, 2011 @ 9:43 am | Reply

    • If it were only the singular effect of showing this religionist or that one to be intellectually dishonest and an ethical coward, then I think your point is right on. But I also think that the cumulative effect of taking on all publicly promoting religionists and showing their intellectual dishonesty over and over again – thus undermining the oft-repeated claim that ethical behaviour and morality comes from religious adherence – has far greater returns for how the next generation – and all those willing to honestly consider that claims from faith-based beliefs might be wrong in fact – considers the appropriate role for faith-based beliefs in the public domain…which I think is really the important audience to reach over a very important political issue.

      Comment by tildeb — November 6, 2011 @ 10:43 am | Reply

  2. …and showing their intellectual dishonesty over and over again…

    Nothing makes that point clearer that capturing it all in living colour and posting it all on youtube.
    Back in the old days, people had to dig up books and read text and laboriously compare one collection of handwaving with another.
    The internet brings all their apologetics out into the open and instantly comparable at the click of a button.
    My personal favourite it is to compare Muslim apologists attacking “Darwinism” with the fundies attacking “Darwinism”. Only the beards are different.

    Theory anyone?

    Dr. Zakir Naik – Lying about evolution

    Comment by Cedric Katesby — November 6, 2011 @ 3:33 pm | Reply

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