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Evolutionary debate released
Not sure if many or any of you heard about this. It was a heated issue for several weeks.
"On October 12, 2011 Theologian John Haught publicly debated prominent evolutionary scientist and atheist Jerry Coyne at the University of Kentucky. Although both agreed to a videotaping of the event, Haught later prohibited its release because he felt he had been treated unfairly. Coyne released blog posts addressing the matter as an offense to free speech. Reviewing their new status in the blogosphere, Haught and his associates at the University of Kentucky have decided to release the video."

I have seen many debates between Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchins and friends against many non-evolutionists, but I have never seen a beating this bad. Jerry Coyne really smashes John Haught's face into the mud and he does not do it Christopher Hitchins style. He is actually rather passive aggressive about it. If you have an hour give it a watch. FF to 5:33-ish and that is the first speech given by Haught then followed by Coyne.

That's right, I said it...
This is an interesting discussion.

This is basically Haught’s argument:

The need to undergo personal transformation allows a “lower” creature to interact with and begin to be aware of the "higher" through faith. This then acts as an argument for the existence of the “upper” levels aka god. Then, a purpose to the universe is evident, though incomprehensible. The human mind must use simple metaphor and faith in order to explain theological experience, which is a sign of the greatness of god because it is unexplainable.

So what he's saying is that since complex things can be unexplainable, god is purported to be complex, and no one has a rational explanation for the existence of god, so since god is unexplainable, therefore god exists? WTF?

He goes on to claim that if a person doesn't understand the metaphorical, if you don’t perceive the greatness of god and that wonderful tapestry of multiple interpretation of literature, you are like a monkey, ill-equipped to perceive that wonderfulness, inadequate and unwise to not appreciate the fantastic mindfuck that is faith. Poor stupid monkey atheists.

He then talks about purpose, namely if happy accidents and natural selection lead to humans, doesn’t it remove purpose? Does god make sense anymore? Apparently, in a Christian sense, yes, since god is not a designer or magic-user, but rather if you think of Jesus as a god-man, read the gospels and allow yourself to be transformed, then yes, purpose is evident. A grand mysterious truth that gives meaning to suffering and death. There is a purpose, based on a transformative view, through divine revelation. The self-giving love of god transcends life and gives glimpses of the infinite.

So basically, when you believe, you find things that confirm your belief. When you believe the metaphor, then the metaphor reveals its truth. This is putting the cart before the horse. If you have to believe the proposition before it will indicate its truthfulness to you (rather then by objective evidence), then how can anyone separate this from confirmation bias, or using desires for things to be true to form themselves into your "true beliefs"? Damn, doesn't that seem kind of elementary? Self-reinforcing fantasies can be rich with texture and metaphor, beauty and grace. But that doesn't make them true. Jebus.

Haught says theology is compatible with science then, because the story of the evolution of the universe, and then life on this planet, is just like evolution if you think of god as inviting the universe into a new future. Faith is the way that the universe opens itself to a new future, faith is the way that mankind continues to evolve.

This is new age-y vacillating equivocating crap. I'm surprised he didn't bring up quantum mechanics and energy auras.

Coyne comes on and eviscerates Haught’s positions. He's not a great speaker, but given the time constraints, he covered a lot of ground.

I think his point about religionists discarding facts as a common practice in resolving conflicts between science and religion, deferring to religion preferentially, is quite poignant. Not liking the apparent lack of a cosmic purpose doesn’t make this lack of a cosmic purpose incorrect. Desires for a purpose don’t make that purpose real.

Of course, faith is not a virtue, it is the antithesis of scientific investigation. Believing something without evidence, or in spite of contradicting evidence, is exactly the opposite of the scientific process which proceeds by falsification of hypotheses. In science, an hypothesis that is found to be in contradiction to reality is discarded, but when a claim of religion is falsified, instead of being discarded, it becomes a metaphor.

Exactly. When you can believe or say anything to be true, but fall back when it is disproven to claim that it was only metaphor, and then have a history of doing this again and again for thousands of years, doesn't it eventually sink in that the original claims are not truthful?
Photon - Just a slight nit to pick, Haught actually starts with the old "the universe must have a purpose which implies God" argument but he is so quick to assume it (he essentially states the premise in his first sentence then assumes it so it is easy to miss). Sadly though this makes the argument more coherent it does not help the validity of the argument at all.

Basically Haught is saying the universe must have a purpose and once you are transformed (ie religious) you can be aware that there is a purpose. I find it really comical that he then goes on to say that even with the super power that religion provides the actual purpose is still unable to be divined.

Coyne does a beautiful job of methodically breaking down the difference between faith and science. My favorite moment came when he suggested, and here I am poorly paraphrasing, "when the question comes up of why God doesn't manifest in any perceivable way the one possibility a theist cannot admit is the likelihood is that God simply isn't there".
"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." - George Santayana
I could not watch the whole thing because of some problem either with my equipment or the video. So I am only commenting on Photon and Seeker's comments.

Religion has so many purposes, to explain the difficult, to provide guidance to the morally challenged, to provide purpose for those without, to take away the mysteries of life.

We live by some accident. To try to explain that is a human weakness not a need. To accept a god because of your own weakness and make that an argument for the existence of a god is some twisted logic.
John - You pretty much summed up a good deal of Jerry Coyne's argument.
"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." - George Santayana
I do like the quote "Science destroyed my world, and I love it for that reason.".

As for a theologian not making money, I have seen many in videos wearing top-notch suits, selling thousands of books - and all for having 'produced' nothing for humanity. I did enjoy the quip about 'breaking out in fits of happy' having ruined his career as a psychologist.
Bob of QF
Indeed: Preachers have the ultimate scam-- their 'product' does not exist apart from fantasies.

All they needs do, is evoke a similar emotional-fantasy response in the customer's mind, and viola! Instant product.

It's a scam PT Barnum could have envied.
Quantum Junction: Use both lanes

Reality is that which is left, after you stop believing.
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