I Am Spartacus: Haught/Rabel v. Coyne

“I am Spartacus”

Those words bring to mind the climatic scene from the 1960 film Spartacus.  Spartacus had led an unsuccessful slave revolt, and the victorious general was offering leniency for the other slaves if they would identify Spartacus.  Before Spartacus can respond, the other slaves all proclaim themselves to be Spartacus, even knowing that they will be executed.

The purpose of this series is to call out those who threaten or file lawsuits against people just because they speak their minds.  So for the first installment:

Biologist Jerry Coyne had a debate with theologian John Haught at U of Ky last month.  The topic was “Are science and religion compatible?” and was part of a series of debates that have been taped and made public.  Both participants have participated in similar debates in the past, which have been taped and made available, and both agreed to the taping.  But Haught apparently didn’t like something about the debate and is refusing to release it.  Now, the debate itself was one person talking for 25 minutes, then the other, then a 40 minute Q&A session.  It would have been a simple matter to release just the parts that Coyne spoke in.  But the moderator, Robert Rabel, refused to do so.

So far, nothing worth mentioning in this series – Haught and Rabel may have been cowards, but to that point, they weren’t trying to prevent people from speaking their minds.  Here’s where it becomes worth mention.  When readers of Coyne’s blog contacted Dr. Rabel to complain about the refusal to release the the edited tape, he contacted Coyne and threatened to sue because some of them called him names, such as coward.

Dr. Rabel, you not only are a coward, you are a bully.


Haught may have agreed to permit the tape to be released.  While I applaud Haught’s decision to let the tape be released, I still feel my criticism of D.r Rabel is justified.


Jerry Coyne’s original post

John Haught’s response (with a sur-reply one comment later from Coyne)