Re: Destructive criticism of Christian apologists (was Denigrating falsehood)

Stephen Jones (
Thu, 28 May 1998 20:11:58 +0800


On Mon, 25 May 1998 16:42:48 -0400, Ed Brayton wrote:


>>EB>I have not been on this particular reflector long, but I have interacted
>>>with Glenn for a long time on other mailing lists and other forums.

>SJ>This probably explains what you wrote to me privately about soon after
>>you joined the Reflector! How about you sharing it now with all
>>Reflectorites, or give me permission to post it, since it bears on what we
>>are debating.

EB>I have never intentionally sent you a private message on this or any
>other subject. If I did so, it was because I neglected to hit the "cc"
>button and send a copy to the entire list. Since I don't know what
>message you are referring to, please forward it to the list.

My mistake! All along I assumed this was a private message and I
responded to you privately. But in re-reading it, I see that it was to
the Reflector. Here is the relevant bit:

Date: Sat, 18 Apr 1998 13:36:55 -0400
From: Ed Brayton <>
Subject: [Fwd: Re: What do you mean by the "theory of evolution"?
(was A new subscriber)]


When I received the first message from you after I posted my brief
introduction, I received an e-mail message from one of your fellow
Christians on this list (No, I'm not going to say from whom) who told me
that it would be futile to try and hold a discussion with you.

If this was from Glenn, it would explain a few things. If you or Glenn deny it
was from him, then I apologise in advance to Glenn. Whoever it was, I
consider it unethical to post private messages to new subscribers
denigrating fellow Reflectorites. But presumably you think it's OK?

EB>And what we are debating here is ONLY your accusation against Glenn,
>which you are refusing to substantiate or retract.

As I have said, I don't have the time to research 2-3 years of Reflector
messages, to "substantiate" my claim that Glenn has constantly engaged
in ad hominems. The archives on this list up to August 1997 (from memory)
are at You can read Glenn's
messages to me for yourself, if you think that researching 2-3 years of
Reflector messages is not a problem!

But I don't need to "substantiate" it. Everyone who has been on the Reflector
any length of time presumably knows it is true (since no one, including Glenn,
has denied it)! And since it is true, I won't (indeed can't) "retract" it.

I am sure that other Reflectorites are becomimng bored with this issue of me
substantiating Glenn's past ad hominems (I know that I am), so unless you raise
anything new on this point, in future I will just delete that part of your messages.

>>EB> I have never - repeat never - seen Glenn be anything but gracious to
>>>those he communicates with. And Burgy, who has been on this list a
>>>very long time (and invited me to join it as well) says the same thing.

>SJ>I do not necessarily claim that Glenn is not "gracious", in some sense of
>>that word. My argument is not so much with how Glenn says it, but with
>>what he says.

EB>So someone can be "gracious" while making an ad hominem attack on
>someone else? Stephen, it is becoming quite obvious that you don't have
>the vaguest notion of what an ad hominem attack is. Did you just throw
>it out there because it sounded impressive?

Read what I said again: "My argument is not so much with how Glenn says it,
but with what he says."

>>EB>In fact, I would challenge you and anyone else out there who thinks
>>>that Glenn has engaged in ad hominem attacks to either support the
>>>charge or retract it. Is that not the ethical thing to do?

>SJ>I could dredge up examples of Glenn's "ad hominem attacks" but I
>>haven't the time or the inclination. But I have started a thread called
>>"Glenn's ad hominems FAQ" where people can in future add to same.

EB>Well, you DID post the first message in the "Glenn's Ad Hominems FAQ",
>and it wasn't even close to actually being one.

And here's the rub! I could spend weeks listing Glenn's ad hominems and
you would deny every one of them was an ad hominem! I've got better
things to do with my time.

>>EB>An ad hominem attack is a fairly simple thing to define and identify.
>>>If in fact Glenn has made ad hominem attacks, they should be very easy
>>>to point out. Why don't you do so?
>>Because I haven't got the time or the inclination. But to keep you happy,
>>I will start recording them from now on in the FAQ.

EB>If you think that it is a reasonable thing to accuse someone of doing
>something in the past, refuse to substantiate it, then say that you will
>point it out in the future, then I'm sure you won't mind when I claim
>that you have, in the past, repeatedly and flagrantly threatened the
>life of the Pope. When you respond that you have never done so, I will
>simply say that I do not have the time or inclination to support my
>charge, but I will begin a "Stephen Jones' Deaththreats on the Pope FAQ"
>in which I will point them out in the future.

I can't be bothered even responding to this.

>>EB> And while you are at it, perhaps you could explain the causal link
>>>between acceptance of evolution and an inability to identify ad hominem
>>I did not say there necessarily was a "causal link between acceptance of
>>evolution and an inability to identify ad hominem statements." My point
>>was that you and Glenn are both evolutionists and can be expected to be
>>biased in favour of each other in debates with creationists like me.

EB>Isn't that amazing? We evolutionists are biased in our views of your
>creationists, but you creationists are objective about us. So objective,
>in fact, that you accuse someone of doing something and refuse to
>support it or retract it. I bow before your amazing objectivity.


>>EB>and tell me what the distinction is between "destructive criticism"
>>>and "pointing out factual errors"? You seem to think that "destructive
>>>criticism" means "disagreeing with someone I agree with".
>>By "destructive criticism" I mean a criticism that is entirely negative and
>>has no constructive elements.

EB>And you don't think that pointing out their factual errors serves any
>constructive purpose? How objective.

See above.

>>EB>Well, Stephen, you didn't say "Glenn will engage in ad hominem
>>>attacks in the future". You said that he regularly has engaged in ad
>>>hominem attacks on this list in the past. Surely it is not too much to ask
>>>that you support or retract that statement?

>SJ>See above. It *is* "too much to ask". I have *megabytes* of mail from
>>Glenn and it would take me *weeks* to go through it all looking for ad
>>hominems and listing them all. Glenn hasn't denied that he has "engaged
>>in ad hominem attacks". And no one else (evolutonist or creationist) who
>>has been on the Reflector and in a position to know has denied it either.

EB>Whoops. Perhaps you don't read close enough. Burgy has, in fact, firmly
>denied your claim, twice. But no one has supported your claim, either.
>Surely if his use of ad hominem attacks was so blatant and repeated,
>someone out there should be able to show an example of it, right? Or
>perhaps you are just wrong?

Burgy has not "in fact, firmly denied" my "claim." All he has said is that
he has not observed Glenn's ad hominems. I suppose not beeing on
the receiving end of them, he has not noticed them. Or maybe he and
I have a different definition of what is an ad hominem.

>>>SJ> I would have absolutely *no problem whatsoever* stating my
>>>>Christian "bona fides"! And I am not worried in the slightest (for
>>>>myself) that you a deist, do not take my "claim of being a Christian
>>>>seriously." According to your worldview, claiming to be a Christian
>>>>would not mean all that much factually.

>>EB>How on earth do you know how I would deal with the question of
>>>who is a Christian "from my worldview"? You really are amazingly

>SJ>It is not "presumptuous" at all. If you really are a "deist" (as you claim to
>>be), then you must deny that God could (or would) supernaturally
>>intervene in the world, including His giving a special revelation in the

EB> <snip definitions of deism>

>SJ>If you reject "supernatural revelation" including "the Scriptures", and the
>>"supernatural doctrines of Christianity", then by definition you would not
>>do not take my "claim of being a Christian seriously", at least in the sense
>>that I mean it.

>I'll take non-sequiturs for $1000, Alex (you can look up "non sequitur"
>in a list of logical fallacies while you're looking up "ad hominem").
>Why does it follow that because I reject the validity of Christianity, I
>would not take the CLAIM of BEING a Christian seriously? One can BE a
>Christian even if Christianity is false, just as one can BE A Hindu if
>Hinduism is false.

You make my point. Because you "reject the validity of Christianity", to you
a Christian has no more "validity" than "Hinduism" . So what meaning is
there in your statement about taking my "claim of being a Christian

>>EB>For the record, I do not doubt that you are a Christian, nor would I
>>>think to challenge your claim to be one. But your behavior here is
>>>certainly not Christ-like, either in dealing with Glenn or with me a few
>>>weeks ago. When even your fellow Christians think you've gone too far,
>>>it's time to look in the mirror.

>SJ>Let's face it Ed, If you are a deist then you must think that "Christ" is
>>either a fraud or a mental case:
> <snip standard "liar, lord or lunatic" quote>

EB>That would still have nothing to do with whether I take the "claim of
>being a Christian" seriously.

But then "being a Christian" on your view would be following either
a "liar" or a "lunatic".

>SJ>So your idea of what is "Christ-like" would not mean anything flattering.

EB>Actually, I am a great admirer of Jesus. Like Jefferson, I reject the
>claim that he was divine while admiring many things that he said,
>especially the basis of his ethical system. But this really is beside
>the point. I don't think Jesus would make an accusation and refuse to
>support it.

Why not? On your view "Jesus" was either a fraud or a madman.

>SJ>The Jesus I read in the gospels made many enemies by his straighttalking
>>and was eventually crucified because of it. All I did with you was ask you
>>what you meany by "the theory of evolution" which you claimed to be a
>>"staunch advocate" of. To date you have never answered that simple

EB>Your "simple question" was "WHICH theory of evolution do you advocate",
>which I answered, even while bristling at the rude tone of your
>statement that I was "attempting to deflect" your question. Once you
>refused to back off of your stance, I concluded that it was pointless to
>discuss the matter further with someone who was so presumptuous. Anyone
>who read the original exchange can see clearly that you rudely jumped to
>the conclusion that was dodging your question, when in fact I was
>answering it the way it was asked. By your curious definition, this
>might even be considered an ad hominem attack, but since it was offered
>by a creationist, I'm sure you don't think so. How objective of you.

You still haven't answered that "simple question"! Here it is again:

Date: Fri, 27 Mar 1998 19:38:48 -0500
From: Ed Brayton <>
Subject: A new subscriber


A quick and basic introduction to my position on the subject at hand: I
am a staunch advocate of the theory of evolution (I prefer Plantinga's
phrase "Theory of Common Ancestry (TCA)", and a deist.

To which I responded:

From: "Stephen Jones" <>
To: "" <>
Date: Fri, 03 Apr 98 06:07:39 +0800
Subject: Re: A new subscriber


Which "theory of evolution" in particular are you a "staunch advocate

If you keep refusing to answer that "simple question" then I will
have no alternative but to assume that you cannot answer it.

>>>SJ>Indeed, your support of Glenn actually helps my argument. Non-
>>>>Christians would like Glenn's attacking of Christian apologists. What
>>>>Glenn apparently fails to realise is that his desteructive attacks on
>>>>Christian leaders just confirm non-Christians like your in their existing
>>>>views. No non-Christian would ever become a Christian because of
>>>>Glenn's destructive criticism of leading Christian apologists.

>>EB>Nonsense. I find far more merit in the behavior of Glenn than I do in
>>>your behavior.

>SJ>This proves my point. You find "merit" in Glenn's "behavior" of
>>destructively criticising Christian apologists."

EB>No, I deny that his criticism of the men you mentioned is at all
>destructive. And so have some of your fellow Christians. Then again,
>perhaps they aren't "real Christians". I'll leave that to you to judge
>(since you seem to enjoy it so much).

AFAIK, none of my "fellow Christians" have denied that Glenn has
engaged in "destructively criticising Christian apologists." Burgy
(for example) has not denied it, because he thought

>>EB> But when your fellow Christians find your attitude embarrassing,
>>>isn't it time for a little self-evaluation? Wait, let me guess...they're not
>>>"real Christians"?
>>Ed, I try to have a "time for a little self-evaluation" every morning.
>>And I've *never* said of anyone who claims to be a Christian on this
>>Reflector that "they're not `real Christians'".
>How slippery. Demanding that someone give you their "Christian bona
>fides" along with "If you don't answer these questions, I will be forced
>to make the conclusion..." is not claiming that they're not real
>Christians, but don't you think it is implying the same?

I didn't even say "If you don't answer these questions, I will be forced
to make the conclusion...". What I said was, "You don't have
to answer this but I will draw my own conclusions if you don't."

I did not say what my "conclusions" were because I wanted to give
Glenn the benefit of the doubt. But whatever Glenn's answer, I
would not conclude that Glenn was not a Christian.

>SJ>No doubt a small number of the more evolutionary minded Christians on
>>this Reflector may find my pro-creation/anti-evolutionism
>>"embarrassing", but if they do, that is *their* problem.

EB>It is your behavior toward others that is appalling, not your views.

The more you bluster on Ed, the more I am persuaded that this is
all a bluff to avoid you answering the really hard question:

Which "theory of evolution" in particular are you a "staunch advocate

>SJ>Christians who are
>>anti-creation/pro-evolution are a tiny minority within Christianity and I
>>have absolutely no doubt whatsoever that the vast majority of my "fellow
>>Christians" in the real world would support me rather than them.

EB>Do you have anything to support your claim that pro-evolution Christians
>are a "tiny minority"? Let me guess, you'll point them out when they
>occur in the future?

I actually said "anti-creation/pro-evolution". I have been a active Christian
for over 30 years, regularly attending church in four different denominations,
and I have never even heard of ( let alone met), even *one* Christian who
was "pro-evolution". I have met a few Christians who *reluctantly* accept
evolution as God's way of creating, but not one who is actually "pro-
evolution". I therefore assume that "Christians who are
a tiny minority within Christianity".


"Evolution is the greatest engine of atheism ever invented."
--- Dr. William Provine, Professor of History and Biology, Cornell University.

Stephen E (Steve) Jones ,--_|\
3 Hawker Avenue / Oz \
Warwick 6024 ->*_,--\_/ Phone +61 8 9448 7439
Perth, West Australia v "Test everything." (1Thess 5:21)