In the event, the video has appeared, but it was made public on condition that Jerry Coyne publish an open letter to him from Haught explaining the latter's reasons for being reluctant. You can find this here along with Jerry's briefer response; in any event, here is the substantive part of Haught's letter where he sets out his motives:
Why then do I hesitate in this case? It has to do with you alone, Jerry, not anyone else, including myself. I have had wonderful conversations with many scientific skeptics over the years, but my meeting with you was exceptionally dismaying and unproductive. I mentioned to you personally already that in my view, the discussion in Kentucky seldom rose to the level of a truly academic encounter. I agree that it was probably entertaining to the audience who gave us a standing ovation at the end. Nevertheless, instead of being flattered by this I went away terribly discouraged at what had just taken place. I wish to emphasize that I do not exempt myself from criticism.Since reading this, I've watched the video.
The event at the University of Kentucky did not take place in the way I had expected. My understanding was that each speaker was to provide a curt 25-minute presentation of how he understood the relationship between science and theology. I did just this, and I have no objection to having that presentation made public. People who attended the event, moreover, can testify that in my presentation I avoided talking about or criticizing you personally. Instead I was content to make some very general remarks about why I consider science completely compatible with theology as I understand it.
When Robert Rabel of the Gaines Center at the University of Kentucky, a true gentleman who remains far above reproach in all of this, contacted me last summer and invited me to participate in the event, he asked me for names of people who would differ from my own position. I recommended you as someone who would definitely have a different perspective, to say the least. Prof. Rabel informed me that you agreed to participate with the qualification that you did not want to debate me, but simply to lay out your own way of looking at science and religion. I took this to mean that you would do something parallel to what I did in my presentation.
Instead, you used the event primarily to launch a sneering and condescending ad hominem. Rather than using your 25 minutes as an opportunity to develop constructively your own belief that science and religion are always and inevitably in conflict, you were content simply to ridicule rather than refute several of my own ideas, as you interpreted them. On the other hand, my own presentation, as those who watch the video will see, was a dispassionate attempt to have the audience understand some of the reasons why the new scientific picture of the universe is so troubling to many traditionally religious people. I don’t believe that at any point in that presentation I resorted to ridicule, or that I focused on, much less misrepresented, anything you have written. Instead, I argued in a purely academic way that scientism is simply unreasonable. This was clearly my main point, and I was expecting you to respond to it in an academic manner as well.
Rather than answering my point that scientism is logically incoherent–which is really the main issue–and instead of addressing my argument that the encounter with religious truth requires personal transformation, or for that matter instead of responding to any of the other points I made, you were content to use most of your time to ridicule several isolated quotes from my books. I was absolutely astounded by your woeful lack of insight into, or willingness to grapple with, the real meaning of these passages. Sophisticated argument requires as an essential condition that you have the good manners to understand before you criticize. Your approach, on the other hand was simply one of “caricature and then crush.” Citation of a few isolated sentences or paragraphs, the meaning of which requires reading and understanding many chapters, is hardly useful criticism. You grossly distorted every quotation you used, and then you coated over your [mis]understanding of these statements with your own uncritical creationist and literalist set of assumptions about the Bible and theology. There was no room for real conversation, as impartial viewers will notice.
Instead of trying to convince the audience of the logical coherence and philosophical finality of your belief that science is the only reliable guide to truth, you began by arbitrarily announcing to the audience that John Haught is the chief representative of theology in the conversation of science with religion. You gave no evidence for that, and in fact it is by no means evidently true. I am but one of a great number of theologians involved in the discussion, and many others do not share my views. But your strategy was to show that if the principal figure is stupid, then you need not take his subordinates seriously either. This is a convenient method for shrinking the territory that needs to be covered, but it is hardly a fair way of dealing with all the other theological alternatives to your own belief system.
But let me come to the main reason why I have been reluctant to give permission to release the video. It is not for anything that I said during our encounter, but for a reason that I have never witnessed in public academic discussion before.
I’m still in shock at how your presentation ended up. I was so offended both personally and as an academic by the vulgarity of it all that I did not want other people to have to share what I witnessed that night in October. I still don’t.
I’m referring to the fact that your whole presentation ended up with a monstrous, not to mention tasteless, non sequitur, to give it the kindest possible characterization. You put on the screen a list of all the “evils” you associate with Catholicism: its stance regarding divorce, contraception, priest pedophilia, homosexuality–and I can’t remember what all–as though these have anything at all to do with the topic of the panel or with my own personal views on the relationship of science to theology. The whole focus of your presentation was on me, but when you came to your conclusion you never bothered to find out what my own position regarding your list of Catholic evils might be. I have never witnessed such a blatant smear or malicious attempt to impute guilt by association in all my years in university life.
Your list of Catholic evils, contrary to what you were suggesting, has absolutely nothing logically to contribute to your argument that science is opposed to religion. But even if it did, you never asked me whether I dissent from some or all the items on your list of “evils,” as many Catholics do, and whether such dissent might, in your twisted way of arguing, perhaps make my own position more credible. Your insinuation could only have been that somehow the priest sexual abuse crisis, for example, discredits my views on science and theology. You should be grateful that I have tried to protect the public from such a preposterous and logic-offending way of bringing your presentation to a close.
There is much more to be said, but this is all I will have to say to you or others on this matter. If you are willing to post this letter on your blog, go ahead and ask the Gaines Center to release the video as well. I have no objections now that I have had the opportunity to present my reservations to possible viewers.
Okay, before I go too far I'll admit a bias. Jerry Coyne is a personal friend of mine - but that doesn't mean we never have disagreements. Again, my views are much closer to his than to Haught's - though that doesn't mean we agree on all issues of substance. We don't, and we sometimes exchange jibes over points of disagreement (such as in our approaches to the problem of free will). I do agree with most of what Jerry says in the video, but I could probably find some points to quibble about. Be all that as it may, I have a bias and you might, by all means, try to discount for that.
On the other hand, you can watch the video for yourself and see how much it matches Haught's description. I submit that Haught did not put much in the way of an argument against what he calls "scientism". He said a fair bit about why we should take seriously the question of the compatibility or otherwise of religion and science, he said something about how they were reconciled historically, and he briefly sketched his own position about how they can be reconciled today. However, he developed no concerted argument as to why so-called "scientism" is intellectually untenable or "simply unreasonable".
In fairness to Haught, he had only about 25 minutes. That allows for only about 3000 words, so of course there was no way he could have developed the actual arguments in the way he does in his books (most of which I've read). I accept that there was little he could do in that time to dig deep into the arguments pro and con - though I'm sure that some of his speech, as delivered, could have been cut to make room for argumentative meat. There could have been less ingratiation with the audience, less provision of historical context, etc. The bottom line is that, while his approach and balance were reasonable ones to choose, the downside for him is that his speech did not contain a sustained argument for his position.
Reading the long quote from Haught above, you'd expect, prior to viewing it, to find that Jerry Coyne's presentation was uncivil or even abusive. In fact, it was not. There was a touch of aggression and certainly some satire, but it was all quite good-humoured and certainly well within the normal bounds of civility for a debate or even an academic disagreement falling well short of a formal debate. It was most certainly not an exercise in "sneering and condescending ad hominem" - that is a massive distortion of how Jerry went about developing his position.
Admittedly, Jerry's speech did not contain a blow-by-blow refutation of Haught's. That would have been inappropriate for a number of reasons. One is that there really wasn't that much in Haught's speech to refute. Once again, it contained little of the detailed argument that appears in his books, and did little more than contextualise and then sketch out a position. Second, Jerry had every right to concentrate on his own positive reasons for considering religion and science to be incompatible. He needed time to explain what he really means by that - he does not mean something crude or even straightforward, despite Haught's assertions to the contrary - and to say why he considers the issue to be important.
There may be a third reason. In public debates there is often a problem with the participants attempting to refute each other in detail, all the way down. Often they are developing their arguments from different underlying premises, and there is just no time to dig into what these may be, how the deep disagreements can be settled, etc. That can be done to some extent in books, where more words are available, but in oral argument it is often (not always, but often) most useful if the participants concentrate on stating their positive cases, making clear as they go along what sort of presumptions they are relying on. The audience can judge for itself which of these are most reasonable.
In developing his case, Jerry quoted from Haught's books, but he did so to illustrate points about theology and the sorts of claims that (according to Jerry) it makes about reality. While there could be a further debate as to whether the quotes demonstrated what he said they did, and as to whether the conclusions drawn about theology were correct, this tactic was fair and reasonable. There were no obvious cases of words being taken out of context to suggest that Haught holds views which he actually rejects. Nor were there obvious misrepresentations of their meaning. Even if errors were made (and if so they were not obvious to me ... someone who has read most of Haught's books and thought about them carefully), they were surely made in good faith. I should add that Haught is not the clearest writer; if his words are sometimes misunderstood, he should direct some of the blame at himself and perhaps modify his style.
Even the criticism of Catholic moral teachings was fair in context - it was clearly advanced to illustrate Jerry's point about how theological thinking can lead to (or tend to preserve) cruel teachings that have real-world consequences. Again, there could be further debate about whether that argument was made well, whether the conclusion is actually true, and so on. But it was neither a gratuitous attack on the Catholic Church nor an ad hominem attack on Haught himself. It played a legitimate role in Jerry's overall argument.
Haught says (once again):
Your insinuation could only have been that somehow the priest sexual abuse crisis, for example, discredits my views on science and theology. You should be grateful that I have tried to protect the public from such a preposterous and logic-offending way of bringing your presentation to a close.But that is itself a preposterous thing to say. It was quite clear how Jerry's argument fitted together and what role this conclusion was playing, whether you agree with it or not. It is false - preposterously false - for Haught to say: "[the] insinuation could only have been that somehow the priest sexual abuse crisis, for example, discredits my views on science and theology."
I emphasise that you don't have to agree with any of Jerry's conclusions, even though I more or less do agree with them. I've said nothing in this post to defend them. Nor need you think that his arguments were cogent, even though I more or less do - I've said nothing here to reconstruct and support them. That isn't the point. The point is that Jerry's speech was absolutely fine. It was fine in the sense of taking a legitimate approach to the topic; in staying well within the normal bounds of civility for this kind of public discussion; and in avoiding ad hominem arguments and unfair tactics such as quote mining.
Again, watch the video for yourself. You'll see that Jerry's speech was actually rather mild, despite being painted by Haught as if it were extreme ("sneering", "monstrous", "vulgarity", "preposterous", "blatant smear or malicious attempt to impute guilt by association", etc.). I can only conclude that this is a case where an absurdly high standard of civility is being demanded of anyone who criticises religious or theological viewpoints. It is a standard required of no one else involved in public debate over issues of importance.
The comments directed at Haught were far more genteel than what we typically see from Christian debaters such as William Lane Craig. I've seen Craig far more openly mocking than that in the way he deals with his opponents. However, you might say that Haught did not use any mockery or even any direct criticism of Jerry's views as expressed elsewhere (such as in articles and posts at Why Evolution Is True). That's correct. Haught chose to concentrate on sketching his general worldview, putting it in historical perspective, and so on. Still, I've seen him, in his books, engage in forms of condescension, mockery, and outright abuse that go far beyond anything we can see Jerry Coyne doing in the video. Haught is not Mr Nice Guy, even if he played that role on the day. He can be as nasty as any nasty "New Atheist". Indeed, his open letter, with its continual use of emotive, angry language, is nastier (and far more obviously unfair) than anything in the speech that it denounces.
This incident reminds me of the earlier fracas over Jerry's New Republic review of a couple of books by, respectively, Kenneth Miller and Karl Giberson. Though the review contained some strong criticisms of the books, it was well within the proper bounds of civility for a book review.
And yet, it led to claims (notably from Chris Mooney and apparently Barbara Forrest) that such books should not be reviewed in such a manner - that doing so is uncivil. Once again, the proposal seems to be that religion, or at least "nice" non-fundamentalist religion, should be treated with a special deference that would not be given to, say, economic theories or political ideologies. Anything less than a solicitous attitude to religion counts as incivility.
Finally, none of what I've written here is meant to support the idea that actual incivility and bullying are fine in public debate. Nor is to deny any claims that some atheists, some of the time, engage in actual incivility - some doubtless do, and indeed I have been known, myself to say things in anger that I've later regretted. That's an issue of some importance, no doubt, but tangential to what I'm on about here.
The point is that people like Jerry Coyne are likely to encounter over-the-top reactions even when they engage in thoughtful, and appropriately civil, critiques of theological or religious views. Perhaps some of the reaction to that, in turn, then becomes hurtful or unseemly (Haught claims to have received very abusive emails over the current fracas, for example), and I don't condone that. But let's be blunt: Haught needs to get out more if he thinks there was anything remotely inappropriate about the way Jerry conducted himself at the University of Kentucky. It is Haught's outraged and outrageous open letter that merits our condemnation.