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Censorship Science

Theologian Attempts Censorship After Losing Public Debate 943

Posted by Soulskill
from the evolved-sensibilities dept.
RockDoctor writes "Theologian John Haught publicly debated prominent evolutionary scientist and atheist Jerry Coyne at the University of Kentucky back in October. Before the debate, both parties agreed to the debate being video-taped. Coyne is of the opinion that he convincingly won the debate over Haught. But we'll never know, because Haught, with the assistance of staff at the University of Kentucky, who sponsored the debate, is banning publication of the video of the event. They are even refusing to release the half of the debate containing Coyne's comments and questions."
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Theologian Attempts Censorship After Losing Public Debate

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @02:19AM (#37916568)

    Facts are facts, and debating them with someone whose world-view is predicated on the existence of an imaginary friend offers no opportunity to increase our knowledge.

  • by religious freak (1005821) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @02:34AM (#37916638)
    I think I speak for many /.ers when I say... "Oh Jesus". Honestly, if you attempt to justify religion on anything resembling logic you lose. Speaking of "faith" at least gets you out of the logic trap, assuming the person you're speaking to accepts faith as a viable substitute for logic - and of course atheists do not.
  • Its pretty hard to win a debate where the creationist cites a very old book written by countless of authors at a time when they thought the earth was flat, sickness was evil spirits and a invisible dude run around killing people because they dont worship him properly. The whole story is much more insane than anything David Lynch could ever dream up in a LSD induced trip.

    On the other side you have the atheist who cites facts, proof and logic.

    How the heck could a creationist win except by hypnosis of the audience or successful brainwash?

  • by turbidostato (878842) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @02:43AM (#37916680)

    "A truly scientific worldview would lead to opinions such as: we don't know, there is no proof one way or the other." ...therefore, till new proofs appear, we'll stick to the simplest explanation, the one without the imaginary friend, that is.

    Occam's razor, they call it.

  • by troff (529250) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @02:44AM (#37916690) Homepage Journal
    A "literal interpretation of Genesis" tells the reader that God lied to Adam and Eve; punished them for disobedience; and then chose to throw them out because their disobedience had made them more like God, so they had to be prevented from living forever and becoming even more like God.

    (Chapters 2 and 3, if you want to cross-check that for yourself.)

    You really sure you want Genesis to be literally interpretable? Because it makes your God out to be evil, selfish and kinda insecure.
  • by fyngyrz (762201) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @02:47AM (#37916702) Homepage Journal

    See, here's the problem with that. The ideas of god or no god, santa or no santa, unicorns or no unicorns is not some 50/50 odds thing. There is literally zero evidence of any of them. So on the one hand, we have an emerging scientific worldview that does a very good job of either accounting for things as they are, or tearing itself apart in very short order such that it can find a new explanation that fits the data, and on the other, we have a fairy story that fits no data at all.

    Giving the truth/myth sides equal weight on these subjects, which are all identical in nature, is ludicrous, either the act of the deluded or the deceiver. When you have evidence for any of them, bring it forth, and that'd be of huge interest. Until then, it's just fairy stories, no matter how many people believe them.

  • by perpenso (1613749) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @02:58AM (#37916764)
    Wow, you sound like the open minded leading scientists who rejected the big bang theory back in the day because it was developed by a priest and "smelled of creationism".

    As demonstrated by the priest referred to above, the religious may also use facts, proof and logic. They just don't do so on religious matters, there they have articles of faith. Of course some atheists seem to have articles of faith themselves, their faith is merely of the opposite polarity. When true scientists are asked about God the answer tends to be: I don't know, there is no evidence one way or the other.
  • by Big Hairy Goofy Guy (866523) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @02:58AM (#37916766) Journal

    Ah, but you're all just ACs. Just trolling, I guess, rather than interested in learning any new truths. For everyone else reading this, I thought I'd include a standard rejoinder about the nature of scientific 'proof', just in case.

    When one does not have proof, one need not avoid any conclusions; evidence is sufficient. Most of the evidence suggests that there is no imaginary friend; all of the evidence otherwise is provided by anecdote, fallacy, fraud, or fiction. There is evidence that his friend is imaginary, in one sense of the word. There are indicators in the brain that are associated with religious activity; literally faith is all in your head.

    I'll believe in god when there is more evidence in favor of its existence than there is against it. I won't do it because some random clown on the the street with a bullhorn (or on the Internet) yells about it. That isn't evidence. You believe; too bad for you. If I knew more about you, I might even be able to explain why you believe (probably because you were raised with the notion of god as a child, but perhaps not). But your belief is not evidence.

    See? An open mind that evaluates evidence and comes to a conclusion using the best data available. That's how you have to deal with the scientific worldview.

  • Attempts? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mysidia (191772) * on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @02:58AM (#37916770)

    Sounds like he succeeded. Didn't publish a video is not merely an 'attempt'. Now then... you can call it an 'attempt' as soon as we see the content available despite their efforts.

    Actually it sounds like the University itself is responsible for the censorship... specifically Mr. Rabel, and I would say based on the article... it sounds like the uni is a biased venue that would choose to publish or not publish based on who won. Shame shame.

    The participant decided he didn't want it published after the fact, but since he had already granted his permission, the ball rests totally in the uni's court....

  • by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @03:05AM (#37916802)
    I believe they are, but only if you water down the religion side so much it's barely a religion at all.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @03:10AM (#37916830)

    Not this granola bullshit again. Science has methods to revise the wrongs. I haven't seen anyone updating the bible with new info. Hell, try it. A lot of fanatics would burn you at the stake for "desecrating" their "holy works".

    Both wrong does not mean equally wrong.

  • by theLOUDroom (556455) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @03:20AM (#37916870)
    It's not simpler because now you have to explain:
    Who is god?
    Why did he make the world?
    Why 7 days?
    What made god?

    That last one is important, because whatever your answer just was, could probably be applied to the original question.
  • by tempmpi (233132) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @03:41AM (#37916950)

    I believe they are, but only if you water down the religion side so much it's barely a religion at all.

    Some religions claims are incompatible, yes. But even when you water these down, it is still religion. Stuff like wonders and virgin birth are a really small part of what religion is all about. Religions care way more about stuff like values, morals and rituals. Sciene can never be incompatible with these because science describes things, it doesn't assign moral values to them.

  • You talk of proof. If you tell me something insane (my imaginary friend created the universe), the burden is absolutely NOT upon ME to prove it correct. That's on YOU. Otherwise, YOU are the one who is insane. Not me.

    Playing devil's advocate for a minute:

    If you tell me something insane (the universe popped into being all by its self and life evolved through no external design), the burden is absolutely NOT upon ME to prove it correct. That's on YOU. Otherwise, YOU are the one who is insane. Not me.

    Note: I'm actually an agnostic, but I can easily see how someone who has faith in a god can use *exactly* the same argument as someone who has faith in there being no god.

    As an agnostic, I don't really have any faith either way. But to me, the existence of a god doesn't actually answer any meaningful questions (i.e. if we decide that intelligence couldn't possibly come about without design then how did the designer come into existence? It just pushes all the questions back a level). Also, by definition, there can be no evidence either for the existence or nonexistence. So since the whole thing is a fundamentally unprovable question that doesn't meaningfully answer any questions, I don't really worry about it.

  • by perpenso (1613749) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @03:55AM (#37917028)

    When true scientists are asked about God the answer tends to be: I don't know, there is no evidence one way or the other.

    Because they know ...

    Article of faith #1.

    ... the guy asking the question will react irrationally to any reasonable answer. The scientific answer is - obviously not, ...

    Article of faith #2.

    ... there is no evidence whatsoever for anything like that.

    Both theism and *atheism* require faith in the face of a lack of evidence. Faith in the face of a lack of evidence is not very scientific.

    Once you refuse to dismiss outlandish, untestable ideas because there is no evidence against them ...

    Agnosticism is a position of logic based upon a lack of evidence. Logic is more characteristic of science.

    ... you may as well start giving the benefit of the doubt to Nigerian email scams.

    And that's just a straw man, and not a very good one at that. There is no benefit of the doubt when the opinion is I don't know. Both theism and atheism are systems where one gives the benefit of the doubt, they merely differ in the boolean state assumed to be correct.

  • by gmhowell (26755) <gmhowell@gmail.com> on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @04:03AM (#37917058) Homepage Journal

    So God is the original troll? Given how the universe feels, your explanation makes me MORE inclined to believe in God.

  • by recrudescence (1383489) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @04:05AM (#37917068)

    That somehow one party legitimately won a debate of factual, unemotive series of arguments, over his opponent, is a pretty big assumption here. There's many other reasons why the poor fool may have decided to censor it - blatant ad hominem attacks that would get the guy in trouble with friends / family / job being the first that comes to my mind. (And no, you don't have to be 'guilty' for such attacks to work)

    Seriously, when was the last time you watched a debate, and it was a civil exchange of factual, unemotive, sincere argumentation? Richard Dawkins, for instance, who is by now a champion of atheism, and has absolutely no need to do so, *still* resorts almost continuously to ad hominem attacks in his debates; the man does his homework (and rather seems to enjoy it, in fact). And I'd expect most people in debates with a known opponent would too, since the point of a debate is usually 'to *win' the debate, and not to obtain a mutually improved selection of arguments, (where no winner exists as such).

    In fact, I'd say the fact that the slashdot response to this has been so stereotypical -- a witchhunt, and very quick to label this guy as a religious nut with dangerous delusions and now a sore loser --, rather justifies his decision, even at the risk of a Streisand Effect (which his opponent was very quick to pursue).

  • Um, this thing you call "belief"? Science doesn't use it.

    Of course it does. There are frequently no absolute answers (especially at the leading edge of science) and scientists base their work on what they believe to be true. Occasionally, someone comes up with a new hypothesis and gets hell from the other scientists for their crazy theories. Sometimes those crazy ideas are shown to work better than the established theories and everyone has to shift their belief. Scientific belief is a lot more fluid than religious belief, but don't kid yourself - it is a fundamental part of science and there is always a lot of resistance to changing it.

  • by mykos (1627575) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @04:24AM (#37917152)
    If he'd just let this public debate be viewed by the public, we wouldn't have to assume anything. We could make our own conclusions. If he's going to great lengths to hide it, we're going to assume the worst. It's a pretty big leap of logic to assume that everything was all unicorns and flowerbeds when he's flipping out about it like he is.
  • by Patch86 (1465427) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @04:47AM (#37917276)

    I've always found it a worrying concept that someone can, for one, claim that the Bible is the verbatim word of God, Jesus, and the prophets, and represents the kernel around which to build their world view, while for another happily write off or ignore any part of the Bible which has either been proved wrong (e.g. literal young earth creationism) or is inconvenient (dietary restrictions, money lending rules, circumcision).

    Surely it's either the words and instructions of the almighty, omnipotent creator who will judge your immortal soul (and you really should listen to it very carefully), or it's not (and you should pick a more stable basis for your life philosophy)?

  • by otopico (32364) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @04:51AM (#37917292)

    The problem is that they claim their book is the word of their god. If they can discard parts as allegory, but others as truth, then how do they decide? At whom's whim does the decision rest?

    That people need to create new explanations for why the Bible says something that they decided it doesn't mean to say anymore makes me think that the book wasn't right in the first place and people are desperate to keep it relevant. If 'god' didn't want people to think the world was 6,000 years old, why say it was in the book? Seems like 'a long long time ago' would have conveyed the same idea, but prevented people that believe the book to be true from running around with obviously flawed information. Even George Lucas figured out it was easier to be vague, one would think the creator of all things would at least be at that level. That some are 'quite comfortable' with their ever changing assumptions regarding the content of their book doesn't make them enlightened, it makes them look like they would rather change the entire meaning of the book rather than admit it might not be true.

    Making one's faith fit science seems to be a lesser evil that forcing the science to the faith, but in the end you are still forcing something to be 'true' when an entirely different conclusion could reached by throwing away the requirement that the answer hold to a bronze age religion.

  • by tempmpi (233132) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @05:15AM (#37917414)

    "If you accept that the world wasn't made in seven days, when the genesis story says it was, then... how can you trust any of it?"

    If you find a error in a textbook, would that cause you to loose all trust in its whole content?
    But the more important question is:
    Is that even a error or isn't it just a completely wrong way to understand a biblical text? Most of time literal interpretation seems to completely miss the point. They are like claiming "The Fountainhead" is a book about modern architecture. Some answers aren't much smarter either, they are like claiming "There is no real Stanton Institute of Technology, therefore Any Rand's objectivism is proven to always wrong."

    Also: The hebrew word used for day in the genesis story can be translated to both "day" and "time span".

  • by buybuydandavis (644487) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @05:43AM (#37917574)

    As I noted on the web site, this is likely actionable by Coyne.

    He expended time and effort to prepare for and engage in the debate with a justified expectation of having the video posted. An agreement, with consideration given. Sounds actionable to me. Haught should be made to deliver on the agreement, or give compensation.

  • by something_wicked_thi (918168) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @06:06AM (#37917692)

    The difficulty is that the bible has no claim to truth other than it being based on revelation. If the bible is not the word of god, then how does one begin to choose which parts are true and which are not? If some parts are false, then you have no basis to claim the rest is true.

  • by Gorshkov (932507) <admgorshkov AT yahoo DOT com> on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @06:16AM (#37917760)

    "God made the world in 7 days" sounds far simpler than anything science has come up with.

    Occam's Razor says the simplest explanation that fits all known facts is the one most likely to be correct.

    All those niggly details about things like fossils and evolution and stuff can be soooooo inconvenient ........

  • by Your.Master (1088569) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @06:32AM (#37917842)

    No, the scientific answer is to definitely not assume the existence of a creator.

    You're confusing "scientific" with "ontologically consistent". It is not scientific to posit any entity which is neither observed directly nor necessary to explain observed behaviour, and it is not unscientific to posit that such an entity does not exist on the basis of parsimony.

    It's perfectly scientific to say there is not a mirror universe Earth which is totally inaccessible from our Earth which is currently the exact same as here except that Obama has a goatee, even though there is no evidence and there cannot be any evidence. Don't get caught up in the fact that the statement appears absolute. Consider a case where there can eventually be evidence: it's also possible that the first monkey given a typewriter after 2127 will produce the complete works of Shakespeare on that typewriter, but it's perfectly scientific to say that monkey will not, even though you can say that technically this is possible and you can argue that we won't really know until 2127 at the earliest.

    Likewise, there could be a creator, but until you come up with any evidence then no is a valid scientific answer. "Maybe" is also somewhat valid, but only in an extremely unuseful sense, like "maybe Stonehenge was build by leprechauns, which left the world 300 years ago and erased all evidence of their existence save for their legends and stonehenge" or "maybe the universe was created last tuesday with our memories intact" or "maybe the entirety of modern history was an extreme random anomaly that appeared consistent by sheer chance, and we'll start getting more probable results now, basically resetting modern physics to square 1 (if we don't abandon it entirely)". The scientific answer to those is, no, that didn't happen, until and unless you give a good reason for these hypotheses.

    I also don't give a shit whether somebody believes so long as they don't hurt anybody else, and I'm not going to try to "convert" them to atheism or anything, but you cannot usefully claim that science is neutral here. If somebody believes in god, fine. You don't have to go and drag science into it and try to claim that the belief is scientifically valid. Everybody is wrong about some things, so if you disagree, leave it at that. Science doesn't have a lot to do with why you believe a lot of other things either, eg. which book you believe is most entertaining (well, unless it's a science textbook...).

    Honestly, you're pushing agnosticism pretty hard here, which seems a little contrary to your thing about pushing beliefs on other people.

    Ontologically, I would agree that *any* reasonable person is strictly agnostic in the semi-useless sense that we're talking about. It's pretty much my definition of a reasonable, non-fundamentalist person, whether theist or atheist. That doesn't mean they haven't also taken a position, theist or atheist, and I that very few people truly, truly have not to at least some extent. And that doesn't mean it's scientific to entertain the positive and negative notions equally.

  • by gatkinso (15975) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @07:46AM (#37918192)

    On a debate on which the outcome is going to be framed on logic, tautologies, and proof... there is no way that a faith based position can prevail.

    If a faith could be proven, it is no longer a faith. It is a fact.

    I am not sure why God places so much emphasis on faith... my theory is that if one is incapable of faith then one is incapable of existing at a higher level of being. In other words, if one can't accept reality despite the fact that the nature of said reality is unprovable in human logical constructs, then one is incapable of evolving (interesting choice of words) to the next level of being. Many seeds planted, not all sprout.

    I can accept such a thing.

    What I can't accept is that an all loving God - who supposedly loves us far more than a doting parent loves their child - would toss his kids in an oven (forever!) simply because they didn't blindly follow (his) word. Which incidentally is spread by humans, some of whom are massive assholes.

    Oh yeah another thing: how is heaven supposed to be a great place if a loved one, say a sister or child, goes to hell? Are you supposed to enjoy yourself up there in the cloud while your kid roasts while simultaneously being raped with a pitch fork? Just asking.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @07:54AM (#37918238)

    You're heading into some serious incoherence there Marcello. I'm sure you were trying to make a point of some sort, but the vague half-sentences that trail off into disconnected other statements without connections don't really make any sense.

    The closest you come to making a comprehensible statement is:

    If a theologist cannot explain that (in his own way of course), the fact that he refused to release a video is not the biggest problem. If a science guy or whoever did basic math cannot understand that, we have an even bigger problem.

    Which is pretty much the opposite of the truth of the matter. The debate was set up with an understanding that it would be video recorded, and that the recording would be released publicly. The debate happened, and the theologist was incompetent (as the majority of them are), and is now reneging on what amounts to a contractual obligation, because he feels that the rules only apply when he wants them to. That is the entire problem. The science guy didn't need to do "basic math", or "understand nonsense", he was merely attempting to fulfil his end of an obligation, which the theologist then reneged on because he discovered that the world wasn't working the way he wanted it to. The theologist was acting like a spoiled five-year-old, and is the one who lacks understanding, nothing transcendent about it.

  • by AmiMoJo (196126) <.ten.3dlrow. .ta. .ojom.> on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @09:16AM (#37918964) Homepage

    What made god?

    The typical response is that God is eternal, but if you are willing to believe that then why not simply believe that the universe itself is eternal?

    You only have to look at the world to see how ridiculous the Christian notion of God is. Imagine you were a student living on campus. Your room is cold and damp, the heating is broken, the mattress has springs poking out, mud comes out the taps, there are large cracks in the windows. You ask faculty staff if the landlord can do something about it, and they tell you "Yes, he is well aware of the situation and could fix everything with the wave of a hand. And most of all he loves you, he wants you to have a good life. Thing is he doesn't get involved directly, you have to fix everything yourself. If you keep texting him he might offer some words of encouragement, but you still have to do all the work."

    You sigh and spend months cleaning, fixing and tidying the place, making it liveable and saving yourself from hypothermia. Just as you are re-painting the last damp stained corner the faculty staff member turns up again and says "Wow, you must be thankful that the landlord provided all this stuff and helped you with all this work by sending ambiguously worded emails to us. You didn't get cc'ed in? Well, take our word for it, none of this would have been possible without his support. Don't forget to thank him if you don't want to spend your post-student life flipping burgers for eternity."

  • by Tom (822) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @09:41AM (#37919330) Homepage Journal

    Sciene can never be incompatible with these because science describes things, it doesn't assign moral values to them.

    But ethics, moral values and how they come to be, why we feel what about them, what the psychological foundations are, etc. etc. are coming into the part of knowledge that science is checking out.

    Even if science doesn't assign moral values, it is good at discovering which moral values are bullshit. And that's a great deal of progress for society. Many of the prejudices against blacks or gays, for example, were based on faulty "knowledge" about them. With the debunking of that crap, science did its share in dismantling the prejudices. In finding out why we have prejudices and what purpose they used to have and which part of that we don't need anymore, we open our minds.

  • by tnk1 (899206) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @09:58AM (#37919576)

    It's still all how you turn a phrase. You can make dogma sound like a bid for world domination easily by simply importing motives to that dogma that may or may not exist.

    For instance, the Catholic church is not too fond of gays or at least, not too fond of practicing homosexuality. Is this because the hierarchy hates gays or is it because there's a few Bible quotes that say that being gay is bad? I'd say that it is because of the Bible quotes. Even if the people in the Church all really liked gay people, if God says that you aren't really supposed to approve, and you accept God as well... God, then you pretty much have no choice. On the other hand, there are other quotes which describe God as someone who doesn't like homosexuality, but he's pretty fond of sinners as people. So I am sure there are Catholics who hate gays, but does that make Catholicism bad or are those people bad Catholics?

    The problem that arises when people who are very skeptical about religion evaluate dogma is that they tend to assign the same thought processes to the believers as they do to themselves. They see all the possible ways that dogma could be used to reinforce power structures or oppress undesirable groups, and of course, they're absolutely right, they can be and have been used for that. That doesn't mean that even a large minority of the clergy thinks that way. And even if ALL of the clergy AND the believers think that way, it doesn't prove or disprove the existence of God or even the correctness of any of the propositions laid down. It just means that everyone is a hypocrite.

    I agree with many posters on one thing: the debates are worthless. The existence of God or any omnipotent, omniscient entity can't be proven or disproven by science. You can't use logic to logically disprove the entity that sets the axioms. There is no puff of smoke (sorry Douglas). Sure, you can say that Pope Fred said that heliocentric theory is wrong or and prove that he was wrong instead, but all that proves is that Pope Fred is wrong. If you are trying to use those arguments to sway public opinion, you'll certainly make some converts, but ultimately you are attacking the believers and not the proposition. At best, you are making a case for a serious reform of the Catholic Church, at worst, you are being hypocritical yourself.

    In other words, in the current mindset with current attitudes, God as outlined by dogma may seem like a gigantic asshole. Anyone who makes that case convincingly in a debate is probably going to seem to win. Anyone who makes belief seem ridiculous will also win rhetorically (ie. "imaginary friend", "flying spaghetti monster", etc.). But none of that actually proves the truth of the assertion.

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