Re: Of PhDs, priests and logic

Brian D. Harper (
Sat, 15 Jun 1996 23:56:19 -0400 (EDT)

At 06:43 AM 6/9/96 +0800, Steve wrote:


>BH>One should not be embarrassed about being wrong. Refusing to admit
>>to making an argument that the record clearly shows you did make
>>and then trying to switch the blame to someone else is something
>>which should be embarrassing. That you are not embarrassed by this
>>is truly amazing.

>You miss the point Brian. I am not "refusing to admit" anything. If
>you can show me where I am wrong, I will "admit" it. There is
>nothing "amazing" about me not being "embarrassed", for "trying to
>switch the blame to someone else" because I don't believe I did! I
>do not concede that "the record clearly shows" that I was "the one
>who introduced chance vs. intelligent design". However, since you
>claim to have "back-tracked through the thread in question", please
>post an extract from the message where I allegedly "introduced chance
>vs. intelligent design". If you are right I will have no problem
>whatsoever apologising for my mistake, and seeking your forgiveness.

This is a very interesting request considering that I have
already posted the results showing where you introduced chance
and intelligent design into the discussion.

I must say that this has been one of the most amazing (and
frustrating and irritating) conversations I've ever had.
On the one hand the context of our conversation shows you
clearly arguing that chance and intelligent design are
mutually exclusive alternatives and on the other I have
your (seemingly sincere) insistence that it is not your
argument. How am I to interpret this?

I had already typed up another reply to this going back
through the threads in question, however, to give Loren's
suggestion a try, I've decided not to post it. Instead,
I'll just mention that what irritated me more than anything
else was your accusation that I had tricked you somehow
and put words in your mouth. I'm quite willing to drop this
whole business if you will retract that accusation.

>>BH>My main reasons for switching views were:
>>1) I learned the difference between the science of evolution and
>>2) I found out that almost everything I knew about evolution was
>>wrong. Some of what I'm learning now makes sense to me.
>>3) I like the theology. Sorry, I don't mean to shock people ;-).
>>4) I think the actions of many creationists are doing great harm
>>to the church and I want to oppose those as best I am able.
>>There's probably more but this will do for now.
>>SJ>Hmmm. Thanks for being so frank. I now understand why your
>>posts are so antagonistic towards "creationists"! :-)
>BH>Antagonistic only towards certain creationists.

>You are "antagonistic" towards *this "certain creationist" Brian, and
>I am neither a YEC, nor am I doing "great harm to the church"! :-)
>It seems to me that your antagonism is more towards creationists in
>general and is based on your committment to your newfound "theology"
>than it is to any "great harm" being done "to the church".

The record will show that I am not antagonistic towards
creationists in general but only towards certain creationists.
You may be surprised to know that I was just as antagonistic
towards "certain creationists" before I changed my position.
I'm pretty sure Walter ReMine was surprised. One of my
proudest moments was when Walter accused me of being an
evolutionist. ;-).

Now, about your comment regarding my 'newfound "theology"',
(a comment that I find very insulting, BTW), I think
you mis-interpretted my statement that I liked the
theology of TE. The reason I liked it is that it agrees
very much with the theology I already had, I just never
realised it.

>>SJ>It appears you have been convinced by the non-theists on
>>"" of the error of your "progressive creationist" ways
>>and now see yourself as a guardian of "the church", with a mission
>>to "oppose" those "creationists" who you now believe "are doing
>>great harm to" it?
>BH>This is a lie. Try to do better.
>I make mistakes but I don't "lie", Brian. You seem to be too ready
>to assume the worst in those with whom you disagree. In particular
>youy appear to be too quick to assume moral fault (ie. "lie") in
>creationists rather than intellectual fault (ie. mistake). I
>prefaced my summary of what it seemed to me you were saying. If I am
>wrong, please indicate where I am wrong.

First of all, my assessment was not made quickly, nor am I anxious
to assume the worst in people with whom I disagree. In fact, I
generally assume the best and let their actions prove otherwise.

Now, there will obviously be differences of opinion on exactly what
constitutes a lie. Here are some definitions I pulled from Websters
on the WWW:

3. lie

1: to make an untrue statement with intent to deceive
2: to create a false or misleading impression : to affect by
telling lies mean to tell an untruth. LIE is the direct term,
imputing dishonesty; PREVARICATE softens the bluntness of LIE by
implying quibbling or confusing the issue; EQUIVOCATE implies
using words having more than one sense so as to seem to say one
thing but intend another; PALTER implies making unreliable
statements of fact or intention or insincere promises; FIB
applies to a telling of an untruth that is trivial in substance

4. lie n

1a: an assertion of something known or believed by the speaker to
be untrue with intent to deceive 1b: an untrue or inaccurate statement
that may or may not be believed true by the speaker 2: something that
misleads or deceives 3: a charge of lying

So, depending on which definition is used your statement may or may not
be a lie. So, I will give you the benefit of the doubt and drop the
word lie. Instead, I will tell you why I objected so strongly to your
statement. BTW, I have the same objections to your earlier statement:

'It seems to me that your antagonism is more towards creationists in
general and is based on your committment to your newfound "theology"


1) The statement is derogatory and insulting.
2) It is unsupported by any evidence.
3) There is no way you could possibly know whether it is true.
4) It is not true.
5) You seem to think that you can say whatever you want about someone
provided you qualify it with "It appears ..." or "It seems to me ..."

Now, you say above "I prefaced my summary of what it seemed to me you
were saying". I am curious where you got the following idea
*from what I said*:

'It appears you have been convinced by the non-theists on
"" of the error of your "progressive creationist" ways

When I listed the various influences on my decision, where did I
mention being convinced by non-theists on There is
no way you could possibly know who I talked to and who I didn't
and who if anyone had any influence over me. This is the main
reason (together with the fact that it is untrue) that I called
your statement a lie.

>>SJ>Perhaps you would be kind enough to state what exactly is that
>>"great harm" that "creationists" (including progressive
>>creationists") are doing to "the church"?
>BH>This applies to certain individuals and certainly not all
>That's a relief! :-) You originally said "many creationists", so I
>assumed you meant a large number of creationists. Who are these
>"certain individuals" that are doing "great harm" to "the church"?

I did mean a large number. I made the qualification "certain individuals"
to make it clear I was not making a blanket statement applying to all
or even to most creationists.

>BH>1) Causing internal strife within the church by distorting (either
>>deliberately or out of ignorance) the science of evolution.
>How do you propose to distinguish between "deliberately" and "out
>of ignorance"?
>BH>2) Causing non-believers to turn away from the church in disgust
>>due to public mis-representations and blatant lies.

>There appears to be a bit of a contradiction here. In point 1) you
>concede that this "internal strife within the church" may be caused
>"out of ignorance". Yet in point 2) you only mention that
>"non-believers turn away from the church in disgust" due to "public
>mis-representations and blatant lies". It seems to me that although
>you concede theoretically that the problem may be caused "out of
>ignorance", in practice you are going to mostly assume it is
>"mis-representations and blatant lies".
>Have you thought that your plan to "oppose those as best I am able"
>may actually increase this "internal strife within the church"? You
>grante that some of this "harm" may be "out of ignorance". YECs in
>particular may be wrong, and a few of them may even be charlatans,
>but how will you know that others are making "public mis-
>representations and blatant lies", rather than honest mistakes "out
>of ignorance"?

The reason I divided into two categories is that I believe these
two situations require completely different approaches. Within
the church what is needed is peace making and reconciliation.
I congratulate Hugh Ross for his efforts in this regard. Some
peace makers on this reflector who deserve commendation are
Loren Haarsma and Bill Hamilton. Also, Gordie was very good at
this however he hasn't been participating lately :-(.

When we go public the situation changes entirely, IMHO. What
is of primary importance is the damage being done and not
whether someone is being knowingly dishonest or just making
an honest mistake. Of course, I would always try to distinguish
these two cases, using different approaches, however, the
most important thing is to publicly correct mistakes whether
they are honestly made or not. IMHO, people are a bit too
squeemish when it comes to publicly challengeing those who
they think are wrong. I think all of us want to give
someone the benefit of the doubt and to bend over backwards
before making a challenge. Within the church I think this
is entirely appropriate. For errors made in public, it is
not IMO.

>My personal experience with you on this Reflector is that you are too
>ready to put the worst possible construction on honestly held beliefs
>from the creationist side. In view of this tendency, IMHO you are
>the wrong person to attempt this task - you are more likely to
>exacerbate the situation, than resolve it. My advice to you is to
>try a more even-handed conciliatory approach by pointing out that
>there are errors on *both* sides of the Creation-Evolution
>controversy? In the long run this may be more effective than direct

This is interesting advice, Steve. As a matter of fact, I think I
have a pretty good record of presenting both sides. For example,
in a recent post in the macro-evolution thread I wrote:

BH>You are starting to catch on ;-). Go back and read again the
>distinction between fact and theory and you just might get it. I
>think most of the difficulty here is that "fact" and "theory" mean
>something quite different in science than they do in everyday
>conversation. Its very easy to play word games and mislead the
>average layman. Individuals on both sides are guilty of this I

To which you replied:

SJ: No. "Individuals on" *one* sides "are guilty of this I think"! :-)

Perhaps its time to invest in a mirror?


Brian Harper | "The beginning of thought is in
Associate Professor | disagreement --not only with others
Applied Mechanics | but also with ourselves." --Eric Hoffer
Ohio State University |