November 01, 2011

More evidence that religion has lost the argument

I have said many times before, especially in my series on Why atheism is winning, that religion has lost the argument. Modern science has revealed the poverty of even the most sophisticated arguments for god. As further evidence, Jerry Coyne shares the extraordinary events that followed his debate with theologian John Haught.

On October 12 at the University of Kentucky, I debated Catholic theologian John Haught from Georgetown University on the topic of "Are science and religion compatible?" It was a lively debate, and I believe I got the better of the man (see my post-debate report here). Haught didn't seem to have prepared for the debate, merely rolling out his tired old trope of a "layered" universe, with the layer of God and Jesus underlying the reality of the cosmos, life, and evolution. I prepared pretty thoroughly, reading half a dozen of Haught's books (you need read only one: they're all the same), and watching all his previous debates on YouTube. (Note that he's sanctioned release of those videos.)

Haught seemed to have admitted his loss, at least judging by the audience reaction, but blamed it on the presence of "Jerry's groupies," an explanation I found offensive. I'm not aware of any groupies anywhere, much less in Kentucky!

The debate, including half an hour of audience questions, was videotaped. Both John and I had given our permission in advance for the taping. I looked forward to the release of the tape because, of course, I wanted a wider audience for my views than just the people in the audience in Lexington. I put a lot of work into my 25-minute talk, and was eager for others to see why I found science and religion to be at odds.

Well, you're not going to see that tape—ever. After agreeing to be taped, Haught decided that he didn't want the video released.

I am deeply angry about this stand, and can see only one reason for what Haught has done: cowardice. He lost the debate; his ideas were exposed for the mindless theological fluff that they were; and I used his words against him, showing that even "sophisticated" theology, when examined under the microscope of reason, is just a bunch of made-up stuff, tales told by idiots, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

The only good thing to come from this affair is that it exposes not only the follies of "sophisticated" theology, but the cowardice of a famous theologian. (Haught is the most prominent American theologian who writes about evolution and its comity with religion.) If Haught can't win a debate, then he'll use all his God-given powers to prevent anyone from seeing his weaknesses. I've written to other well-known atheists who have debated theologians, and not one of them is aware of anything like this ever happening.

This is shameful behavior by Haught.


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