Unbelievable Project: The “New Atheism” – Barry Duke and David Marshall Debate

The New Atheism – 03 November 2007 — The “New Atheism” – Barry Duke and David Marshall Debate

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Description of Episode

  • Full Title: Unbelievable? 3 Nov 2007 – The New Atheism – 03 November 2007 — The “New Atheism” – Barry Duke and David Marshall Debate

    Christianity is under attack as never before by a wave of militant atheists, led by Richard Dawkins. Atheist Barry Duke is all in favour of it, while Christian David Marshall’s book “The Truth behind the new Atheism” rejects it. They join Justin on the show as he asks whether Christianity is really as bad as the New Atheists are making out. 

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  • Justin Brierley – Christian Moderator
  • David Marshall – Christian
  • Barry Duke – Atheist
  • Gordon Livesey – Atheist


Barry – There is nothing new about the atheism. What is new is the response. This is partly because of 9/11. This event made people realize what some people would do for their religion. And partly because of the perception that the US was hijacked by a fundamentalist and given power through the neo-cons.

David – Critical of evolution on social development of religion. Dennett believes that if you can explain religion then you can “explain it away”.

Me – What is the difference between explaining something and explaining it away? I’d say this is just model-comparison with different words. When you have something, like a UFO sighting, and then someone explains it with mundane events, like a trick of the lights, that is typically described as explaining it away – you’ve replaced an extraordinary explanation with one that is more plausible. This is what Dennett typically does – he demonstrates a more plausible description of how certain religious behaviors and experiences can arise from more mundane phenomena. In this way, explaining it is explaining it “away”. It’s just that people who believe the extraordinary explanation don’t like the mundane explanation, so the term “explaining away” has negative connotations for them.

Justin – Religion more harm than good? That attitude seems to be new. Also, this “militant atheism“. Is it just against fundamentalism?

Me – When I hear the term “militant atheist” I can’t help but think of this cartoon. If you campare what you think of with the term “Miltant Islamist” with “Militant Atheist”, it is quite clear there is a double-standard at work. The only “militant” part of atheists, even the most dogmatic ones, is that they have forceful arguments.

Barry – No. There is a general feeling that enough is enough or we will get railroaded by religion in government, education, etc… The new atheists want to galvanize those people who are effectively non-believers, bring them to the stand and we can then effect political change.

David – It’s ironic not to have religion in the marketplace of ideas or in education. The university was a religious idea itself. Christianity has informed society mostly for the good. Separation of church and state is a Christian idea.

Me – I believe he is referring to Mark 12:17 – “Then Jesus said to them, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” And they were amazed at him.”. There is a long way from that to “separation of church and state”. If the separation was truly was a Christian idea, then I’d expect a totally different European history from 0 AD to 1700 AD! What a ridiculous claim.

Barry – Slavery was supported by Christians and then brought down by some Christians.

David – Slavery is a natural idea and has been part of nearly all civilizations. Christians have undermined slavery from early on, not directly but indirectly. Beginning in the fourth century slaves were set free so that by the eleventh century there were areas of western Europe free of slaves. This was not imposed on the rest of society. Sixty percent of anti-slave organizers were Christian pastors.

Me – It is faint praise indeed that the best you can say about the Christian stance on slavery, historically, is that some slaves were freed so that 700 years later (!!!) some small areas in the world, that didn’t feel that they needed slaves anymore, didn’t have slaves. Again, the Bible is quite clear on its perspective with respect to slavery – it either commands it or condones it, both Old and New Testament. There is never even a hint of condemnation for the practice.

Gordon – Concerns about Intelligent Design (ID) in the classroom

David – The ID people just want to have an open forum to discuss their ideas and that it is legitimate to question scientific ideas, even parts of evolution. That ID isn’t a problem most of the time, the issues often exaggerated. I don’t see it as standing in the way of any science or progress currently.

Me- David’s view of ID is completely at odds with the facts on the ground about the movement. The clearest description of this was the Judges ruling in the Dover PA case. Here ID had a chance to present its best arguments to a jury, and was found wanting at every level. From the Wikipedia page: “The ruling concluded that intelligent design is not science, and permanently barred the board from “maintaining the ID Policy in any school within the Dover Area School District, from requiring teachers to denigrate or disparage the scientific theory of evolution, and from requiring teachers to refer to a religious, alternative theory known as ID.”” The full ruling showed the ID proponents for what they are: a group of people who do not shirk from lying and distortions to achieve their religious-motivated goals.

Justin. Do you believe that raising a child as religious is child abuse?

Barry. There are rare cases where this is definitely a problem. In my own case I was beaten in South Africa for not participating in Christian rituals.

Gordon. My daughteer is six years old, and was upset one day when she was told off by a teacher. She said “We all have to say grace, and I didn’t say it.” Then the lady in the lunch room pushed her head down and said “Say your prayers!”

David. Entirely on Barry and Gordon’s side. However, in the US it has been shown that going to church makes people in ghettos less likely in crime. Yes, there are people who use Christianity to abuse people, but this goes against what the gospels say.

Me – I certainly would not call all religious education “child abuse”. Corporal punishment (Biblically motivated, or otherwise), yes. Psychological torture (Biblically motivated, or otherwise), yes. Raising a child to call themselves Christian, not. As for the benefits, I am interested in the truth. I imagine that the reduced-crime benefits described would come from any kind of group membership, regardless of its religious or secular affiliation. It does not speak to the specific truth of Christianity.


About brianblais

I am a professor of Science and Technology at Bryant University in Smithfield, RI, and a research professor in the Institute for Brain and Neural Systems, Brown University. My research is in computational neuroscience and statistics. I teach physics, meteorology, astonomy, theoretical neuroscience, systems dynamics, artificial intelligence and robotics. My book, "Theory of Cortical Plasticity" (World Scientific, 2004), details a theory of learning and memory in the cortex, and presents the consequences and predictions of the theory. I am an avid python enthusiast, and a Bayesian (a la E. T. Jaynes), and love music.
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39 Responses to Unbelievable Project: The “New Atheism” – Barry Duke and David Marshall Debate

  1. Tim says:

    I think there is a difference between “explaining” and “explaining away”. “Explaining away” means to explain an event in such a way that the original meaning or significance of the event disappears. Consider the following two events that seem wonderful and magical:

    1. The gifts I find under my Christmas tree each year are delivered by a jolly elf in a red suit who visits the home of every child on earth once a year.
    2. I have a tiny device in my pocket that allows me to instantaneously (and even simultaneously) communicate with people all over the world any time I want.

    It’s easy to see that an explanation of how the presents really arrive “explains away” the Santa Claus explanation. Once you know what really happens, the wonder and magic of Santa Claus disappears.

    However, one can go on and on and on explaining in great detail how the cell phone works without ever taking away from the wonder or meaning or power of statement #2.

    Thinking about the a little more, it occurs to me that what’s really happening is that statement #1 is false, and statement #2 is true. “Explaining away” therefore, really has to do with revealing the falsehood of something. In that sense, there really is a big difference between “explaining” and “explaining away”.

    • brianblais says:

      That’s a very good distinction. It also follows why “explaining away” has negative connotations – for those that believe in the false claim. It reminds me of something Richard Feynmann said, where he claimed that explanations in science only add to the enjoyment of the phenomena, not take away. Knowing the detailed biological machinery of a flower doesn’t detract from ones enjoyment of the flower, but adds a deeper appreciation for it.

  2. John Smith says:

    When someone claims to be writing a book about “The Truth,” it would be nice if that person would actually tell the truth. Unfortunately, David Marshall seems to be one of those evangelical Christians who simply can’t be trusted to tell the truth.

    And that raises an interesting question: If today’s evangelical Christians can’t be trusted to tell the truth, then why should we trust what the earliest Christians, i.e., the evangelists, said? Far from making the case for Christianity stronger, Marshall’s book may very well make the case for Christianity much weaker. I have suggested that possibility on several other forums, including some where Marshall himself was a participant. I’m still waiting for a convincing response from anyone.

    In any case, I’m not kidding about Marshall’s dishonesty. Here’s a summary of some of the whoppers in his book “The Truth Behind the New Atheism.”

    1. Marshall falsely accuses Dawkins of being inconsistent in claiming that the search for irreducible complexity (IC) is both scientific and unscientific. (63)

    Marshall concocted this false accusation by taking Dawkins’ statements out of context. Dawkins’ actual argument is that IC is: (i) scientifically relevant in trying to *falsify evolution;* but (ii) scientifically irrelevant in trying to *prove ID.* Since Dawkins’ two statements relate to two different functions (disproof vs. proof) and two different theories (evo vs. ID), it’s obvious that they are no more inconsistent than reporting that the Yankees won their first game and lost their second game. Those baseball scores are not logically inconsistent, because they refer to two different contexts. Dawkins’ statements are not logically inconsistent either, for exactly the same reason.

    Interestingly, when Marshall was challenged on this point in another forum, he defended his false accusation by concocting yet another falsehood, claiming that Dawkins had basically said that it’s OK for evos to point to biological structures that disconfirm evolution, but not for creationists to do the same thing. Marshall never provided a citation for this remarkable claim, perhaps because he knows it’s an outright falsehood, just as his original accusation was.

    Incidents like that make Marshall look like an unrepentant, serial liar.

    2. Responding to Dawkins’ comments about blind faith, Marshall implies that Dawkins doesn’t cite any actual Christians (16); but in reality Dawkins cites several prominent Christians, including McGrath, Swinburne, Unwinn, and Martin Luther. (“The God Delusion,” 54, 65, 105, and 190) Marshall’s claim is an outright falsehood.

    3 – 4. Marshall excoriates Dawkins for defining “faith” as meaning “in the teeth of evidence and reason.” “I’ve done the research,” Marshall proclaims, and “For 2000 years Christians have defined faith as inseparable from reason and evidence.” (21-22)

    Despite Marshall’s boasting about his “research,” he cites both the wrong author and the wrong book at one point. Hilarious.

    Even worse, he blatantly misrepresents Dawkins’ statement in two key ways.

    First, Marshall treats Dawkins’ statement as if it were an actual definition, but in reality the statement is just a hypothetical example. It’s not a definition at all.

    Second, Marshall treats Dawkins’ statement as if it referred specifically to Christianity, but in reality the quote refers only to unspecified religious memes.

    Mangling a footnote makes Marshall look like a pompous fool. Misrepresenting Dawkins’ statement and then using those misrepresentations to launch a vehement attack on Dawkins makes Marshall look like a liar.

    5. Marshall blasts Dawkins again, because “Dawkins … said nothing at all in response to McGrath’s argument about faith.” (23)

    But in reality Dawkins has a very pointed response to McGrath’s argument. (TGD, 54-55) Marshall’s claim is an outright falsehood.

    6. Marshall says that even the highly respected skeptic Michael Shermer “recognized” that some of the most common justifications that Christians give for believing in God are “essentially rational.” (24)

    In reality, Shermer gave a detailed explanation for why he does *not* recognize those justifications as rational. Marshall just blatantly twisted Shermer’s opinion into pretty much the exact opposite of what he actually said.

    7. Implying that scientific evidence is no more reliable than the evidence for religious faith, since both are contained in secondhand reports, Marshall says, “In fact, scientific evidence *is* based in faith – exactly the same sort of faith as informed Christians have in God.” (29) (Emphasis in original.)

    Granted, both religion and science use hearsay reports, but the key aspects of scientific reports generally refer to observable events that can be and frequently are independently replicated, while the key aspects of religious reports generally do not; so only a fool or a liar would argue that the two types of evidence are “exactly the same” as Marshall does.

    8. Marshall quotes Harris’ statement that “Some propositions are so dangerous that it may even be ethical to kill people for believing them.” (42)

    Marshall makes Harris’ statement seem more objectionable by taking it out of context in two different ways.

    First, Harris explicitly linked his statement to *wartime* situations, like the hunt for dangerous believers like Osama bin Laden, the targeting of whom would undoubtedly be quite acceptable to many Christians. Marshall’s failure to disclose that context seems deliberately deceptive.

    Second, in a book implicitly comparing atheism and Christianity, Marshall’s failure to disclose Jesus’ arguably even more offensive comment in Luke 19:27 also seems dishonest. In comparing atheism and Christianity, it is simply dishonest to exaggerate the offensiveness of atheists’ claims while simply ignoring similar Christian claims.

    9 – 10. Marshall says, “Karl Marx convinced a third of the world … that money was the real problem”; and, “Communism then proved conclusively that people can hate one another in a cashless society.” (55)

    When challenged, Marshall angrily refused to provide documentation for either claim, perhaps because he knows they’re both outright falsehoods.

    11. Marshall implies that scientific evidence confirms that life appeared in roughly the pattern reported in Genesis. (61)

    But Genesis 2 says that humans were the first animal life form on Earth. I don’t think scientific evidence confirms that!

    12. Marshall implies that he’s successfully shown that Christianity does not ask for ‘unjustified belief.’ (198)

    In reality, Marshall hasn’t shown that at all. What about Mary’s perpetual virginity? Transubstantiation? Papal infallibility? Marshall doesn’t even mention those beliefs, much less justify them.

    13 – 14. Marshall says that Dawkins’ responses to the creationist challenges, “What is the use of half an eye?” and “What is the use of half a wing?,” don’t answer the real question about missing half of the parts. (74)

    Marshall’s twin accusations are both false. Dawkins does answer the “half of the parts” question for both eyes and wings. Part of Dawkins’ response directs readers to his book “Climbing Mount Improbable,” where his discussion of eyes and wings covers over 100 pages and includes stages in both cases having far, far less than “half of the parts.” The real problem here isn’t that Dawkins’ explanation is missing half of the parts, but rather that Marshall dishonestly leaves out half of Dawkins’ explanation.

    15 – 16. On two occasions (76 and 189) Marshall falsely implies that Christians invented science.

    In reality, astronomy was studied for several centuries before Christ was born, and Wikipedia indicates that Islamic, not Christian, scientists were the first to use the basic, experimental approach used today.

    Also, Marshall’s argument implicitly excludes both pre-Christians and early non-Christians from “Le Club Scientifique,” which seems highly inconsistent, given Marshall’s criticism of evos who do the same thing to the creationists at the Discovery Institute. (63-64) Marshall seems to be talking out of both sides of his mouth here.

    Also, some of Marshall’s “scientists” at the DI insist that both astrology and geocentrism count as science. (E.g., see Michael Behe’s testimony in the famous Kitzmiller trial.) Both of those theories, of course, arose *before* Christ’s birth, which poses even more problems for Marshall’s claim about Christians inventing science.

    17. Marshall says, “Species do not … change as gradually as Darwin anticipated – something dramatically new appears, then remains much the same for long periods.” (77)

    In reality, Marshall’s description of evolutionary change closely follows Darwin’s own description in “Origin” that, “… each form remains for long periods unaltered, and then again undergoes modification.” (6th ed., pp. 119-120)

    If Marshall wants to criticize Darwin, THEN HE OUGHT TO READ HIS DARN BOOK FIRST! Sheesh!

    18 – 19. Marshall accuses Dawkins of misrepresenting both the story of the Levite’s concubine (Judges 19-21) and the story of Jephthah, who sacrificed his own daughter to God (Judges 11). Marshall argues that neither story can validly be used as an indictment of religion, because the last verse in Judges says: “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (97-98)

    But in both cases it is actually Marshall who misrepresents the Bible.

    Many of the actors in the first story were clearly devoted to God, and many of them committed further acts of violence after first praying to God.

    In the second story, Jephthah made an explicit deal with God, promising a human sacrifice to Him in return for a military victory; and God demonstrated His acceptance of the deal by granting the military victory Jephthah had prayed for. Only a fool or a liar would claim that God played no part in that transaction and in the resulting human sacrifice.

    20. Responding to Harris’ gibe about God making Shakespeare “a far better writer than Himself,” Marshall says, “Even Nietzsche thought Luther’s Bible the best thing in German.” (111)

    Marshall provides no citation for that claim, perhaps because it’s an outright falsehood.

    21. To emphasize how miraculously prescient the Bible is, Marshall implies it was written in the Stone Age. (114)

    I’m not kidding, Marshall really does say “Stone Age,” a falsehood so blatant it would make the Father of Lies himself blush.

    22. Marshall’s claim that Dawkins “interviews a Lutheran terrorist who shot an abortion doctor” (173) is simply false.

    23. Marshall says, “Some old folks in ‘progressive’ Holland now die involuntarily at the hands of their own doctors” (182), implying that Holland allows doctors to deliberately kill old people against their will.

    Naturally, Marshall provides no citation for what appears to be yet another monstrous lie.

    Indeed, a 2005 study published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine reports: a) Dutch law *explicitly* requires doctors to get patients’ consent; and b) there may have been some borderline cases where “explicit consent” was lacking, but there were *no* reported cases of doctors euthanizing patients without any consent at all, much less against their will.

    Furthermore, Holland is only about 50% irreligious, so any legislation passed there – and the Euthanasia Act reportedly passed quite easily – would probably need some support from theists, so Marshall may be scapegoating atheists here for something that theists supported too.

    Marshall’s sleazy disregard for the truth really appears to know no bounds.

    24 – 25. Packing two falsehoods into a single sentence, Marshall says: “After telling us he ‘dislikes unfairness even more’ than religion, Dawkins says that being brought up Catholic is ‘undoubtedly’ worse than child abuse!” (185)

    In reality: a) Dawkins was not talking about disliking religion in general, rather he was talking about disliking the Catholic Church, which was deeply enmeshed in a child sex abuse scandal; and b) he said that being raised Catholic is “arguably” worse than child abuse, especially in particular cases, not “undoubtedly” worse in the global sense that Marshall implies.

    In context, neither of Dawkins’ statements seems all that outrageous. I suspect Marshall knew that if he told the truth here, many readers might agree with Dawkins on one or both points, and so Marshall simply lied to make Dawkins’ statements seem more objectionable.

    26. Marshall says the cause of the Holocaust was “simple,” i.e., “Having rejected Christian morality, some of Darwin’s followers derived their ethics from evolution….” (194)

    The brazenness of Marshall’s dishonesty here is indicated by the fact that, among other things, the only source he cites for the key facts in this section is Weikart’s “From Darwin to Hitler;” but Weikart explicitly disavows conclusions like Marshall’s. “It would be foolish to blame Darwinism for the Holocaust ….” (FDTH, p. 232)

    27. Marshall specifically cites Kaiser Wilhelm II, implying that he’s one of the atheistic Darwinists who espoused racist beliefs (195); but Wikipedia says Kaiser Wilhelm II was Christian. It seems utterly contemptible for Christians like Marshall to blame atheism for something a Christian did. And since Marshall himself brought up the Holocaust, it’s interesting that Marshall’s scapegoating tactics here resemble some of the Nazis’ scapegoating tactics against the Jews.

    28. Marshall says Weikart argues that the Holocaust was the result of eight decades of the corrosive action of Darwinism. (195) In reality, Weikart explicitly states that, “It would be foolish to blame Darwinism for the Holocaust ….” (FDTH, p. 232)

    29. Marshall cites a Hubert Yockey e-mail about an origin-of-life issue and then says, “Therefore (Yockey doesn’t suffer fools gladly), Dawkins and his ilk were the real religious fanatics.” (65)

    But Yockey’s e-mail never even mentions Dawkins. Marshall’s implication that Yockey is specifically criticizing Dawkins is highly misleading, if not downright false.

    30. Marshall implies that Harris suggested that killing humans with a low IQ or other cognitive deficits might be ethically justifiable. (196)

    But in reality Harris actually *opposed* that proposal. For Marshall to twist Harris’ opposition into advocacy is just contemptible.

    31. Marshall says, “Harris blames America’s high rates of abortion, teen pregnancy, and sexually transmitted disease on Christianity.” (204)

    Marshall’s claim is a brazen falsehood. Harris doesn’t say that at all.

    32 – 33. Marshall says, “Dawkins tells us we must not ask questions about ‘purpose’ and ‘meaning.’” (215)

    That’s two brazen falsehoods. In reality, Dawkins himself discusses what he obviously thinks are important questions about purpose, and the word “meaning” appears nowhere in the section Marshall cites.

    34. Marshall continues, “[Dawkins] refers to the asking of such questions [i.e., about purpose and meaning] as ‘childish teleology.’” (215)

    That’s another falsehood. Dawkins does *not* use that term to refer to “the asking of such questions,” rather he uses it to refer to naively (i.e., childishly) attributing purpose to inanimate objects; e.g., “Pointy rocks are so animals could scratch on them when they get itchy.”

    There are many other falsehoods and deceptions in Marshall’s book, but I think that’s enough to demonstrate my point.

    So to conclude, many modern Christian apologists have a reputation for dishonesty, and Marshall’s relentless falsehoods certainly seem to fit that pattern. Why are so many Christians so dishonest? And why do other Christians tolerate that dishonesty? Even prominent Christians, like Harvest House Publishers, Ralph Winter, Paul Griffiths at Duke Divinity School, Tim McGrew at Western Michigan University, Carson Weitnauer of the Christian Apologetics Alliance, and Tom Gilson of the Campus Crusade for Christ, don’t seem to mind Marshall’s blatant falsehoods. I think that’s just really sad.

    • Tim says:

      Umm… I haven’t read all of this well-written, very interesting post yet, but I feel I must comment on your mention of Luke 19:27. I have seen this before. If you read Luke 19:1-27 carefully, you will find that verse 27 is part of what a hypothetical “king” says to his subjects who question him in a fictional, allegorical story Jesus is telling. I think it’s pretty clear from the context that the king, the subjects, the money he gave them, the place he went away to, and everything everyone said and did in this story is intended to be highly allegorical (as are all of Jesus “parables”).

      So, in comparing that passage directly to Sam Harris statements, you may have committed the same error you are accusing Marshall of committing — namely, taking statements made by those who disagree with you out of context in order to make them seem worse than they are.

    • brianblais says:

      I, too, have not read it all yet (I’ve been pretty busy with other things), but I hesitate calling someone a “liar” – it is very difficult to prove motive. I prefer to believe they may be mistaken, self-deceived, unwilling or unable to see certain points. They may be “reading” more into Dawkins than we might agree, but that just might be Christian-colored glasses.

    • Also, I started losing interest at point 11, where Mr. Smith says that the Bible says that “humans were the first animal life form on Earth”. There he’s seriously taking a passage (Genesis 2) out of context. And the thing is, I’m certain he knows what Marshall was referring to (the order of creation in Genesis 1). I have read and re-read the creation accounts in Genesis 1 and 2, and they are easy to reconcile. The Bible never claims that humans were the first creatures God made.

      This post is kind of weird. He seems to be genuinely angry about this guy Marshall’s “falsehoods” and “lies”, yet all through here he’s taking Marshall and the Bible way out of context, and making people who I strongly suspect are (at least it can be said) honest, good-hearted people out to be some kind of malevolent deceivers.

      Mr. Smith, the reason why “prominent Christians” such as the ones you name “tolerate” the things Marshall says, is that they don’t see the dishonesty you are seeing. When they read Dawkins and Harris, they *do* see the things Marshall describes. As Brian says, they may be mistaken, they may be self-deceived or just deceived in an abstract sense by a worldview that severely filters all input, but they are not liars. At least, I don’t think so. I know a lot of Christians.

  3. John Smith says:

    1. Regarding the story/parable/allegory/dream/fiction or whatever in Luke 19:27, Jesus told stories like that to illustrate the kind of behavior he wanted his followers to engage in. So call it whatever you want, the point remains that if Marshall wants to compare Christianity and atheism, but he should do so honestly; and citing Harris’ statement while leaving out this story/parable/allegory/dream/fiction or whatever makes Marshall’s comparison seem highly misleading.

    2. Regarding the order of creation, if someone thinks he can harmonize Genesis 1, in which humans are the last animal life form created, with Genesis 2, in which humans are the first animal life form created, then he might just as well come right out and admit that the Bible’s factual statements are so flexible that they don’t have any real meaning at all. And again, the issue here is honesty. Marshall clearly implies that there is only one Genesis account. As Tim’s response points out, there are two Genesis accounts, and on their faces, they are diametrically opposed to each other *precisely* on the issue that was the focus of Marshall’s argument. Marshall’s failure to disclose that seems highly misleading at the very least. Harmonizing is one thing, but ignoring the elephant in the living room is something else!

    3. Some of the responses here seem to rely very heavily on taking poetic license with a very small number of carefully selected allegations, while just as carefully avoiding the vast majority of the allegations that disclose what can only be called undisputable falsehoods. It would take a pretty massive dose of poetic license to explain away the blatant falsehoods in Allegations 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 9, 10, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 23, 24, 25, 30, 31, 32, 33, and 34! In many of those cases, Marshall just blatantly misrepresented what the new atheists said and then used those very same misrepresentations as the basis for attacking them – sometimes in pretty vehement terms! And in other cases, Marshall appears to be blaming atheists for what Christians actively participated in. No matter what poetic terms are used, scapegoating like that strikes me as being pretty contemptible.

    4. You’re absolutely right that calling someone a liar is a serious charge which requires serious evidence, and proving motive can indeed be difficult sometimes, but people do get convicted of perjury, making false official statements, and similar charges on a regular basis, so it’s not impossible. In this case, when Marshall resorts to such blatant falsehoods over and over and over again, when his arguments in one place are inconsistent with arguments he made elsewhere, when he angrily refuses to provide documentation for challenged claims, and when he defends one blatant falsehood by concocting yet another blatant falsehood the way he did on Allegation 1, then I think it is quite reasonable to conclude that Marshall is in fact being deliberately dishonest. (I think it’s also important to note here, that Marshall himself accused Dawkins of dishonesty based on much, much, much less evidence than what I’ve presented here; so Marshall can hardly complain, if he’s hoist on his own petard.)

    Of course, I could be wrong, and I’m open to further discussion, but I would like this to be a serious discussion. Poetic license run rampant just doesn’t seem very serious to me.

    P.S. I know a lot of Christians too. In fact I am one myself. I don’t know the other people in this blog, but for myself, as a Christian, I don’t think it’s inappropriate to suggest that Christian leaders should tell the truth. Some former Christians report that they lost their faith precisely because they found out that Christian leaders had lied to them. That is really, really sad, and I would like to reassure everyone that not all Christians are as dishonest as others seem to be.

    • Sigh. Jesus told lots of stories that had characters in them that did not illustrate the behavior he wanted people to engage in. The rich man and Lazarus, for example. See, you are doing precisely what you fault others for doing.

      • John Smith says:


        Are you really trying to argue that Jesus was *not* offering the nobleman in Luke 19 as a model to follow? If the nobleman wasn’t the model, then who was? Your argument is so vague, it’s meaningless.

        Also, I’ve heard quite a few sermons on that parable where the pastor seemed to think that the nobleman *was* supposed to be a model to follow. Are you saying that all those preachers were wrong?

        I think I’ll stick with the traditional interpretation of the parable. Your interpretation seems pretty unrealistic, like your claim about the alleged harmony between what are actually two diametrically opposed sequences of creation in Genesis 1 and Genesis 2. Your wildly imaginative reconstructions make it look like the actual words of the Bible are largely meaningless and that anyone can take pretty much any verse anytime and twist it into anything he or she wants. I’m not impressed with that approach.

        Also, I notice that you still have little or nothing substantive to say about Marshall’s numerous other falsehoods. You seem to be working hard at keeping your eyes averted. I’m not impressed with that either.

        I know that the allegations I listed are quite specific. If you don’t have the specific data needed to respond to them, by all means feel free to contact Marshall, Griffiths, or McGrew. Marshall can be contacted at his “Christ the Tao” blog, where he loves to boast about how easily he demolishes objections to his arguments. Strangely, I don’t think he’s ever responded in any substantive way to the above allegations, even though he’s probably known about most of them for years. (He did angrily refuse to provide a reference to substantiate some of his claims, but I don’t think that refusing to provide references counts as a “substantive” response. He also conjured up an additional falsehood in responding to another allegation. I don’t think conjuring up additional falsehoods counts as a substantive response either.) Griffiths and McGrew can be contacted at their respective universities. Both of them have collaborated with Marshall on one or more projects, so they should be willing to help out.

        Like I said before, I’m very open to the possibility that I could be mistaken about one or more of the original allegations, but it’s going to take more than poetic license run wild to convince me to retract anything. But give it a shot. I’m willing to listen.

  4. John Smith says:


    I’m also curious about another aspect of your argument about Genesis. Your argument seems to imply that if we limit our focus to Genesis 1, then all of Marshall’s “Genesis” problems will be solved. I’m not so sure about that.

    Genesis 1 says that birds were created before land animals. At least that’s what the words appear to say. Perhaps with your poetic imagination you can make them say something else. But taking the words at face value, I think they pose a serious problem for Marshall, because I don’t think mainstream science confirms that birds came before land animals. So Marshall’s statement would appear to be false even if we completely ignored Genesis 2.

    Unless of course, you can find a mainstream science source that confirms that birds preceded land animals. But I doubt that you can.

    And you may want to take a look at the information about this issue put out by the Institute for Creation Research. According to the ICR, there are quite a few radical differences between the sequence of creation given in Genesis and the sequence proposed by mainstream science. So I’m not the only one who disagrees with Marshall’s statement. The ICR is a very prominent Christian apologetics group, and it seems to be pretty strongly against Marshall’s view as well.

    • Hmmm. I don’t know what to say. I’m not a believer in a literal interpretation of the book of Genesis — or any interpretation for that matter. I was raised a Baptist, and still retain a few shreds of my faith, but I’m not going to argue with you about how the book of Genesis ought to be interpreted. The only thing I was trying to say, was that I don’t think there’s a real contradiction between the so-called “two creation accounts” in Genesis. It’s more like one is a grand overview, and the other focuses in on one or two characters. I don’t think chapter 2 actually says the animals were created after Adam. It says something like “Now God had created all these animals, and he brought them to Adam to see what he would call them”. It doesn’t say he created them right then, it just says that he brought them to Adam.

      I will say this too. I don’t give a fig for anything the ICR says. In fact, if they say it, it’s pretty much a guarantee that it’s hogwash, as far as I’m concerned.

      Regarding the “rich man” in the parable we were talking about, no, I do not think Jesus was holding him up as an example of how people should behave toward one another. Within the context of that parable, the rich man represents God– as the ultimate judge of all people. There are several parables where the character who represents God does things Jesus certainly did not want us doing to one another, such as judging people harshly, throwing people in prison, putting them to death, etc. Jesus used metaphors and allegories heavily, and it is always a mistake to take things like that too far. When you hold up a parable like that and demand that we take it literally, you’re setting up a straw man and knocking him down.

      One more thing. You said that I “have little or nothing substantive to say about Marshall’s numerous other falsehoods”. I think that’s because I don’t really care about that. I’m certainly not going to be reading his book. All I was trying to say (and I still think it), is that you seem to be doing the same kind of things you accuse him of doing. Taking things out of context, taking things to unwarranted and extreme conclusions, etc., etc. As I read through your posts, you do that a lot, even with me. I’m sorry if I’m too vague, or whatever. I’m not trying to win this argument.

    • I will concede the point about Genesis 1 saying that winged creatures and sea creatures came before land animals. That is interesting, and I don’t recall reading or hearing anyone talk about that before. I don’t recall having heard any evolutionists use this as a point against the Genesis account, which it seems like they’d be doing if there was a strong case to be argued there. I don’t know that we really know whether or not wings came before legs, or vice-versa. It would be interesting to know.

  5. John Smith says:


    No offense, but your posts are so inconsistent, I hardly need to make any counter-arguments at all. All I really have to do is just wait for you to start contradicting yourself.

    On April 20, you emphatically accused me of taking a passage in Genesis 2 out of context, and you indicated that you were quite knowledgeable about both Genesis 1 and Genesis 2. Then on April 25 you indicate that you don’t actually know that much about the specifics of either Genesis 1 or Genesis 2. Well, which is it? And if you don’t actually know that much about Genesis 1 and Genesis 2, then what was the basis for your accusation against me? Just guesswork???

    On April 20 you also argued about how “certain” you were that Marshall was referring to the order of creation in Genesis 1, implying that that was a significant issue. Then on April 25 you indicate that not only don’t you really care if Marshall was telling the truth or not about Genesis 1, but that you also don’t have even the most basic background knowledge about what mainstream science says about the sequence of the appearance of life on earth; which means that you have no basis for making any judgment about the issue, even if you did care about it, which judging from your recent posts, I guess you don’t. And that raises the question, if you don’t know and you don’t care, then what the heck are you arguing about?

    Finally, on April 23, it looked like you were going to faint from all the sighing and moaning you did about how silly I’d been for thinking that Jesus might have been using Luke 19 to teach the disciples something important. “Jesus told lots of stories that had characters in them that did not illustrate the behavior he wanted people to engage in,” you said. “The rich man and Lazarus, for example. See, you are doing precisely what you fault others for doing.” Wow, how silly I was, back on April 23! But now, it’s April 25, and here you are finally admitting the truth, that the “rich man” in Luke 19 was representing none other than Jesus Christ Himself! Well gee, if the rich man was supposed to represent Jesus Christ Himself, then maybe it wasn’t so silly after all for me to think that we ought to take seriously a parable told *by* Jesus Christ Himself *about* Jesus Christ Himself!

    So your own posts help to establish exactly the points I was making about Marshall’s misleading or downright false arguments:

    1. Marshall’s statement implied that there is only one Genesis account related to the sequence of the appearance of various life forms on Earth, but your own arguments implicitly concede that Marshall’s statement is false, because in reality, there are two Genesis accounts. Why is it so hard for you to admit that Marshall’s statement was flat out wrong?

    And BTW, before you start telling us all about what Genesis 2 says, I suggest that you go back and actually read it. It does indeed indicate just exactly what I said.

    2. Regardless of whether you call Luke 19 a story, a parable, a dream, an allegory, or whatever, the fact remains that it was intended as a revelation about the worldview of Jesus Christ Himself. Since that revelation apparently included, among other things, not just a tacit acceptance of, but actually an overt exhortation of, the wanton slaughter of apparently harmless political opponents, then that is obviously relevant to the comparison Marshall was implicitly drawing in his book, and it was highly misleading for him to have left it out. Your argument that “When you hold up a parable like that and demand that we take it literally, you’re setting up a straw man and knocking him down,” is simply irrelevant. I never said the parable should be taken literally, I only said that Marshall should have disclosed it. So you’re the one engaging in strawman arguments, not me.

    In short, my first post listed over 30 obviously misleading or downright false arguments in David Marshall’s book. Not only do your posts not weaken any of those 30+ allegations, your posts actually tend to support some of them.

  6. Interesting discussion here, I actually found this trying to find more information on Wilhelm II’s religion myself. I will say though that Germany was early on the root of modern liberal atheistic thought, so I suspect it no coincidence that the World Wars originated from there. See Nietzsche for example, many liberal German scholars were to be found there the last two centuries. I am still drawing my own conclusions nonetheless.

    • Tim says:

      So, Joshua, are you of the opinion that the rise of Hitler and the Nazi regime was fueled by atheistic ideas? A lot of people don’t like to go there, because Hitler was known to be a Catholic, and made reference to God and to his faith in a lot of his speeches, and also had the support of a lot of German churches of his time.

  7. Tim says:

    I don’t think this is a discussion so much as Mr. Smith attempting to bludgeon us with words.

  8. John Smith says:


    Maybe you’d be criticized less if you didn’t contradict yourself so frequently. Like the character in “Fight Club,” you frequently seem to be punching your own nose. You can’t blame someone else for prointing out what you seem to be doing to yourself.

    The bottom line here is that David Marshall just seems to be pathologically dishonest. And note the word “pathological.” As Prof. Blais indicated, Marshall’s falsehoods may be due to some sort of pathology rather than to conscious intent. But a falsehood is a falsehood, whatever its ultimate cause is. And personally, I think it’s more insulting to call someone deluded. It implies that their arguments shouldn’t be taken seriously. If I say Marshall is deliberately dishonest, at least that implies that I’m taking his arguments seriously. But to each his own.

    In any case, there are quite a few Christian apologists who seem to be just as dishonest as Marshall. As you yourself pointed out — and I hope you don’t think that repeating your own arguments here constitutes “bludgeoning” — whatever the Christians at the ICR say “it’s pretty much a guarantee that it’s hogwash, as far as I’m concerned.” So you yourself seem to accept that a lot of Christian apologists simply can’t be trusted to tell the truth.

    Given your own statement about the ICR, I’m baffled by your refusal to acknowledge what seems to me to be pretty clear, which is that David Marshall simply cannot be trusted to tell the truth. On one point after another after another, his statements of fact turn out to be completely false. And perhaps the most amazing thing perhaps is that on some occasions when his obvious blunders have been pointed out to him, he stubbornly refuses to admit his mistake, and concocts yet another falsehood to defend the first falsehood, as he did in Allegation One, above. That’s simply stunning.

    When someone like Marshall stubbornly refuses to admit even the most obvious errors and concocts yet another falsehood to defend the first falsehood, then I see no reason to give that person any credence whatsoever.

    Someone told me about one of my errors, I checked it out, immediately saw that they were right, and instead of continuing to lie about it like Marshall did, I immediately conceded my error. (The error, FYI, was that, contrary to what I said in Allegation 3, above, Dawkins actually did define faith as belief without evidence.) So you see, when someone presents actual evidence, I’m happy to correct whatever errors I’ve made, and I do it without complaining about being bludgeoned. That’s the way grown-ups behave. It would be nice if more Christians behaved similarly. But too many Christians seem to be like Marshall. He seems to be more interested in protecting his ego than in telling the truth.

    • brianblais says:

      “””And note the word “pathological.” As Prof. Blais indicated, Marshall’s falsehoods may be due to some sort of pathology rather than to conscious intent. But a falsehood is a falsehood, whatever its ultimate cause is. And personally, I think it’s more insulting to call someone deluded. “””

      John, I think the main issue I have with your approach is not the errors you point out in Marshall, nor is it merely “tone”, but the attribution of those errors. You seem to exaggerate, and make implications that are not entirely supported. For example, I never once use the word “pathology” (I even text searched again to be sure!). The first use of that word is in this comment by you. I used the term self-deceived, which may be what you’re referring to, but that does not imply any disease, pathology, or normative claim. Everyone deceives themselves to some degree, and one can measure it carefully in certain contexts in psychology, so I was simply trying to suggest that Marshall may be deceiving himself in this context.

      This sort of statement by you strikes me as a great example of the issues that I and Tim have had with your posts. I enjoy them, don’t get me wrong there! They seem very well researched, but they don’t use the conservative language that I come to expect from a scientific and rational perspective. As a result, they end up claiming things that you have not demonstrated, or are perhaps impossible to demonstrate. This ends up undermining your legitimate points. It’s more then simply “tone”, which Christians love to criticize atheists for when they disagree. They are mislaid attributions, and as we see from the above quote that I started this comment with, not just at Marshall.

      I apologize for not having the time right now (I get a bit more free in a week) to track down the specific claims of Marshall’s mistakes. I would wager (and I could be wrong!) that I am going to find similar exaggerations there because of this problem I see in your responses.

      • Tim says:

        Thank you, Brian! That’s spot-on.

        I would also add that when I said about the ICR that anything they say is “hogwash, as far as I’m concerned”, I most definitely was not intending to say that I think anyone affiliated with the ICR is intentionally lying (though some may be, I don’t know), or that a person involved in the ICR could not be relied upon to tell the truth, for example as a witness in court or something like that. In fact, they may be very honest, good-hearted, well-intentioned people.

        As Brian says, they may be self-deceived, or they may be deceived by others, but once a person is deceived, the false statements he makes are not lies.

    • Tim says:

      “Fight Club” was a great movie.

      See my reply to Brian’s reply regarding my comments about the ICR.

      Let me clear up your bafflement regarding my “refusal to acknowledge … that David Marshall simply cannot be trusted to tell the truth.” I don’t know David Marshall. I’d never heard of him before seeing this blog entry by Brian (which mentions Marshall’s new book only as a side note). I’ve never read his book. I’m certainly not prepared to acknowledge that Marshall is a pathological liar solely on the basis of a few posts on a blog site. I would hope that you would agree that that would be wrong.

      Before I could possibly make a judgement about the truth-content of Marshall’s book, I would have to at least read it, regardless what you say. Isn’t that fair? And even after reading Marshall’s book — unless I find it full of truly bald-faced lies (like “Richard Dawkins is a homosexual Satanist” or something along those lines) — I’m not going to say that he’s a pathological liar based on a single book like this.

  9. John Smith says:

    Hi Brian.

    I particularly enjoyed your comments about: a) the ID-proponents’ willingness to lie to achieve their religious-motivated goals; and b) Marshall’s comments about the separation of church and state. I think you hit the nail on the head on both points.

    Your comment about ID and lying speaks for itself. Sometimes it is fair to conclude that someone is being dishonest. (FYI, Marshall was a pretty dedicated defender of Michael Behe, the ID-side’s main witness in the Kitzmiller case.) As for the separation issue, I think that’s a good example of Marshall’s modus operandi, which is: a) make some wild comment; b) don’t provide any credible supporting documentation; and c) simply ignore the fact that there is a long list of prominent Christians who vehemently opposed the position that Marshall seems to portray almost as if it were settled Christian orthodoxy.

    BTW, I grew up about ten miles from Dover High, and I can tell you from personal experience just how limited their worldview can be. One of my favorite stories is about our next-door neighbor, Helen, a grade-school teacher. My dad had to go to Chicago once, and when Helen found out about Dad traveling, she proudly told my mom that her son had also been out West. When Mom asked Helen where her son had been, she said, “Oh, he’s been to Pittsburgh!” I still get a chuckle out of that.

    As for your researching my claims, I’m delighted to hear it.

    As for the time constraints you’re under, maybe I can help. Several of my allegations refer to cases where Marshall’s argument was basically that “X said Y in Z,” where Z is the alleged source that documents X’s statement, and where, if you check the source, you’ll find that X actually said pretty much the exact opposite of what Marshall said X said. If you want, I can go through the list of allegations, identify the relevant cases, and provide you with a list of Marshall’s “supporting” citations. If that would be helpful, just let me know.

    In any case, I look forward to your comments. As I indicated before, I’m open to considering different viewpoints. I’m not married to any of my allegations, and if someone can demonstrate that or more of them are wrong, then I’ll be grateful for having learned something new. Too many Christians act like they think the world will come to an end if they admit even the slightest mistake. I hope to show that not all Christians are like that.

    Finally, regarding the “pathology” issue, I have a different take from yours. In all of the psychology courses I took, I don’t recall anyone ever saying that self-deception was a sign of healthy functioning, especially if the self-deception seemed to be pretty extensive. Since you indicated the possibility of self-deception, and since I think it’s beyond dispute that self-deception *may* be a sign of unhealthy functioning, I don’t see any real problem there. Pathologies may be trivial, moderate, or extreme, and I made no specific comment in that regard about Marshall. You may have been reading more into my comment than was actually there.

    In any case, on the issue of self-deception, I thought it was very revealing that on several occasions, Marshall simply refused to respond to requests that he provide references for some of his claims. Marshall has repeatedly claimed to be a “scholar,” and he repeatedly boasted about the quality of his citations, so his repeated refusals to provide documentation seem evasive to me, and repeated evasiveness seems more consistent with awareness of guilt than with self-deception.

    Now, full disclosure here, my psych courses started way back in the days when homosexuality was still listed as a mental disorder. I understand that the new DSM-5 will be much more liberal, but even so I doubt they will indicate that cases of repeated, prominent self-deception are not indicative of at least some level pathology. But like I said, I’m open to persuasion, and that includes the pathology issue.

    Finally, since you seem to be interested in the ID issue, you may be interested in the fact that Marshall spent quite a bit of time defending Michael Behe’s “Edge of Evolution” in the Amazon forums. One particular episode I think is relevant here. In EOE, Behe argued that the evolution of certain kinds of protein-protein binding sites was essentially impossible. Within about three months of the book’s release, however, a biology student posted a blog comment in which she claimed that not only was the evolution of such binding sites possible in theory, but that one had actually been observed in the well-studied HIV virus. This made Behe look especially foolish, because one of the main examples he gave in EOE to illustrate his argument was none other than HIV! What’s interesting about this particular incident is that Marshall also heard about the biology student’s blog and responded that Behe had successfully defended himself against the student’s claims, but when Marshall was asked for a citation to where Behe’s allegedly successful defense could be found, Marshall failed to provide any citation. That is Marshall in a nutshell. Grandiose claims, little or no evidence, lots of evasiveness. So my opinion about Marshall’s trustworthiness is not at all based solely on the contents of his book.

    And just for the record, some pretty well respected biologists, including David Levin, a professor at Johns Hopkins, and Ian Musgrave, from the University of Adelaide, have also concluded that the biology student was right and that Behe’s argument in EOE was simply wrong.

  10. John Smith says:


    My proofreading wasn’t careful enough! I hate when that happens!

    Brian, please ignore the sentence “But it’s hard to take criticisms seriously when they come from someone with little or no current knowledge of the evidence and little or no interest in learning more.” That wasn’t supposed to be there. It doesn’t even make any sense.

    Also, is there any way to edit posts after I click on “Post Comment”? I looked, but didn’t see anything. If there were an “edit posts” button, this could have been avoided.

  11. John Smith says:


    Here’s a tip for your research. I thought you might appreciate this one, since it might have been difficult for you to find on your own.

    Marshall published a preview of some of his “Truth” arguments on an Amazon forum. The argument that I referred to in Allegation #1, where Marshall defended one falsehood by concocting another, can be found here:


    Here’s a cut-and-paste of Marshall’s exact comment.

    In reply to an earlier post on Apr 22, 2007 3:16:20 PM PDT
    David Marshall says:
    [Customers don’t think this post adds to the discussion. Hide post again. (Show all unhelpful posts)]
    Good afternoon, Brandy. Your spin on IC is rather amazing. Any fair-minded person can read those two statements by Dawkins and see for himself or herself that they are in contradiction. The question at issue is NOT ID, it is whether or not it is legitimate to point to biological structures that disconfirm evolution. Darwin says yes. Dawkins says yes when he’s praising Darwin, then no when he’s criticizing Behe. This is called being “mealy-mouthed” or “hypocritical.” That an intelligent person like yourself would rather try to justify this contradiction, than simply say, “Yeah, I guess Dawkins misspoke,” and go on to something else, speaks to the cult-like status Dawkins seems to enjoy in some circles.

    That Marshall would simply fabricate one obvious falsehood (i.e., that, regarding the legitimacy of pointing to biological structures that disconfirm evolution, “Dawkins says yes when he’s praising Darwin, then no when he’s criticizing Behe”) in trying to defend another obvious falsehood (i.e., that Dawkins’ two statements in The God Delusion, p. 125, are inconsistent) gives a revealing insight into Marshall’s trustworthiness.

    That Marshall insults his opponent when she correctly identifies an obvious error (the same one I alluded to) is also interesting.

    Marshall’s trustworthiness is not a trivial issue. In his arguments and debates, he frequently refers to the trustworthiness of various statements used to support the rationality of Christianity. But Marshall’s arguments about trustworthiness seem to be very badly undermined, since, for whatever reason, Marshall himself isn’t very trustworthy.

    In any case, the full text of Marshall’s “preview arguments” are in the opening post on page one of the above-cited forum. The version of the subject argument in his book (p. 63) is largely the same on the key points as in the preview. Make sure you have a box of Kleenix handy when you read the OP. Being a scientist, you will surely be moved to tears.

  12. John Smith says:

    Hi Brian.

    I don’t know if this will be welcome news or not, but I thought I’d let you know.

    Marshall responded to most of my allegations last week on his blog at


    If you want to use that to help in your research, be my guest. Be advised, Marshall’s response is over 6,000 words, and he only addresses about 2/3 of my allegations. I guess he caught the logorrhea virus.

    Also, the post Marshall is responding to doesn’t always follow the same number sequence as in my post in your blog. Here are the exceptions.

    3- 4 in your blog = Marshall’s 3
    5 in your blog = Marshall’s 4
    6 in your blog = Marshall’s 5
    12 in your blog is not addressed at all
    22 – 28 in your blog are not addressed at all
    29 in your blog = Marshall’s 12
    30 – 34 in your blog are not addressed at all.

    Even where the numbers match, there may be some slight variation in the wording of some of my allegations. I’m pretty sure that there aren’t any variations that amount to much, but I didn’t check them line-by-line.


    In general, Marshall concedes to at least exaggerating some points (his 6, which is about an allegation that isn’t in my post here, and also 15and 16); but he tries to justify them. Some of his rebuttals (#2) are so poorly written, I don’t know if he’s conceding or not. He does clearly concede on the “Stone Age” issue in 21.

    I, on the other hand, concede that my 3-4 (Marshall’s 3) was wrong — I actually conceded this point earlier in your blog — and that my 7 was also wrong (My punch-line there should have said “faith” not “evidence.” Oops!).

    Once you read Marshall’s response, I think you’ll see more clearly why I think he’s dishonest, though, of course, you might still have reservations.

    I’ll try to post my response tomorrow on Marshall’s blog. I promise, it won’t be anywhere near as long as Marshall’s, but no sense cluttering up your blog with it.

  13. John Smith says:


    Marshall deleted all of my substantive responses from his blog. (He did leave up a short introductory section.) That kind of evasiveness is pretty common for Marshall. It’s one of the reasons that I think his many falsehoods are deliberate. The other two reasons, of course, are: 1) the sheer number of falsehoods; and 2) how obviously false they are. You’ll get a good view of both of those features from Marshall’s response.

    In any case, since Marshall deleted all of my substantive responses, I’ll re-post them here, so you have them available when doing your own research.


    Thanks for your response to my “Lying for Jesus” post last week. My first reaction was amazement at its length, over 6,200 words! Wow! In fact, your bloated response is about 4 times longer than the part of my post you respond to. Again, wow! Perhaps you should read Matt. 6:7 again.

    And despite your many words, you still skipped a full third of my post’s 33 allegations. So your response wasn’t exhaustive, just exhausting!

    In your response, you claim to be a “lover of truth” in your “heart of hearts;” but you’d never know it from all the falsehoods in your response.

    In a nutshell:

    a. You did catch me on two allegations. Thanks for your input. I’ll correct both allegations shortly. See, unlike you, I do value constructive criticism.

    b. You also, grudgingly admitted a few errors of your own, but usually berated me for pointing them out. I don’t think that demonstrates a genuine “love of truth”!

    c. Much more frequently, however, you not only defended your original falsehoods, you actually fabricated many more falsehoods and other highly deceptive arguments in the process. “Lover of truth”??? I don’t think so!

    d. Finally, since you do concede some errors, I thought it interesting that you say you have me on “ignore.” A self-proclaimed “lover of truth” who ignores someone who obviously can help him identify and, presumably, correct his errors? That’s pretty sad too, but seems to give some insight into your ethics. Apparently you want to be respected but won’t do the work necessary to earn that respect.

    That’s your response in a nutshell. As for the individual nuts in your nutty response, I’ll use the same numbering as in the OP. And don’t worry, I’m not as undisciplined as you. I’ll be *much* briefer! [Brian, my response to Marshall is a full third shorter than his response to me was.]

    In your introduction, you say you never called Dawkins a “liar.” Technically, that may be true, but you clearly implied on at least two occasions in the Amazon forums that Dawkins had been deliberately dishonest about the odds of life arising spontaneously, so your word-games here seem a bit disingenuous.

    You imply that I argued that “a single ‘falsehood’ would be enough to discredit [your] book!” In reality, I did not, so your overheated rhetoric here is highly deceptive, if not downright false.

    1. My “serial liar” allegation claims that you defended your false accusation about Dawkins’ alleged inconsistency about irreducible complexity by concocting a second falsehood. In your response, you imply that the allegation referred only to your original falsehood. In reality, of course, a “serial” offense implies more than one offense, so your argument here is highly misleading, if not downright false.

    The second offense here, of course, is your brazen falsehood about Dawkins allegedly saying that it’s OK for evos to point to biological structures that disconfirm evolution, but not for creationists to do the same. You still haven’t provided a citation for that claim. If you really love the truth, then where’s your citation?

    You seem exasperated about Dawkins’ focus on gaps and imply that ID isn’t really about gaps at all. But here’s your own definition: “ID is the idea that at least some stretches of the back slope of Mount Improbable are too steep for neo-Darwinian mechanisms to climb.” Since you yourself define ID in terms of gaps, your criticism of Dawkins looks downright dishonest.

    You also claim Dawkins makes no clear distinction on pages 124-5 between arguments *against evolution* and *for ID.* It’s hard to believe you aren’t being deliberately deceptive here. You focus exclusively on pages 124-5, but the key section on “Gaps” that you’re citing here covers over nine full pages, and only 16 lines from that section are on pages 124-5. Why do you limit your focus to those 16 lonely lines, while simply ignoring the other nine pages? If you really love the truth, then why didn’t you turn the page and read the rest of Dawkins’ argument?

    You also complain that Dawkins’ argument wasn’t clear enough. Well, maybe that’s because you only read the first 16 lines of a 10-page section! Your fatuous inanity here is simply breathtaking, especially for someone who’s so pompous about his “research.”

    2. It’s hard to follow your jumbled response here, but apparently you do concede that your statement about Dawkins not citing any actual Christians was indeed exaggerated (i.e., “false”), so I’ll give you credit for telling at least that much truth.

    Unfortunately, you also imply that I’m being dishonest in pointing out your exaggeration, apparently because even though Dawkins does cite some Christians, he doesn’t, according to you, cite them specifically on blind faith. You use McGrath as an example to prove your point, but the example backfires badly, because in your book, you clearly imply that Dawkins *did* respond specifically to McGrath’s arguments about blind faith. (20-21) So your own words show that both your original claim and your attempt to defend it are simply falsehoods. If you’re a lover of truth, then you must be one of those unfaithful lovers who love a truth one day and discard it the next.

    You apparently resent my highlighting your allegedly trivial exaggeration and talk about expecting some slack. But your attempt to minimize your “exaggeration” is itself exaggerated. I think the five most prominent “new atheists” you cite are Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens, Harris, and Shermer; and four of them cite Christians. Turning “4 out of 5” into “1 out of 5” is not a trivial exaggeration, it’s an outright falsehood.

    I’d also be more sympathetic to your whining about slack, if you’d given Dawkins some slack on Dawkins’ alleged (by you) exaggeration about the odds of life originating spontaneously. But you didn’t cut Dawkins any slack there, so you don’t get any slack here. (Matt. 18:21-35)

    3. On your allegation, about Dawkins defining “faith” as meaning “in the teeth of evidence and reason,” you convincingly showed that my specific allegation was false. You were right, and I was wrong. I apologize for the error and will correct OP #3 shortly.

    There, see? Admitting errors isn’t so hard. Why do you find it so difficult? Perhaps you don’t really love the truth as much as you claim.

    If you had limited yourself to pointing out my obvious error here, you would have been fine. Unfortunately, you just had to keep talking.

    First, you accuse me of contradicting myself by claiming that Dawkins was *not* referring to Christians on page 199, but *was* referring to Christians on pages 54, 65, 105, and 190.

    The mind reels at such fatuous inanity. Do I really have to explain this for you? Claiming that Dawkins referred to Christians in one place and wasn’t referring to them somewhere else is certainly not a contradiction. When you repeatedly make such boneheaded accusations, it isn’t surprising that people think you’re dishonest.

    Second, you also imply that I considered your footnote pratfall as discrediting “a serious argument.” In reality, I said that the circumstances of your pratfall made you look like a pompous fool, which they did. Your innuendo is highly misleading, if not downright false.

    4. Responding to the allegation that you falsely accused Dawkins of saying “nothing at all in response to McGrath’s argument about faith,” you actually quote Dawkins’ “non-existent” response, but then argue that you were justified in claiming that Dawkins hadn’t responded at all, apparently because you disagreed with his response. What rubbish! If you think Dawkins’ response was mistaken, stupid, or whatever, you can certainly make that argument; but to say that Dawkins made no response at all is simply, flat out false, and your Clintonesque weaseling just makes you look dishonest.

    You also quote some specific McGrath arguments and argue that Dawkins certainly didn’t respond to them. Well, so what? I’m criticizing your book, and you didn’t actually make that specific argument in your book. What you’re doing here is just moving the goalposts. And that looks dishonest too.

    5. Regarding your falsehood about Shermer allegedly “recognizing” that some of the most common justifications that Christians give for believing in God are “essentially rational,” you try an obviously fraudulent bait-and-switch.

    Both my allegation and your original statement in your book clearly refer to the justifications that Christians gave for *their own* faith. But your response said virtually nothing – only 1 out of 7 paragraphs! – about *those* justifications and focused instead on the justifications that Christians think *other Christians* have. FAIL!

    In your one relevant paragraph, you imply that it was OK for you to say that Shermer said the justifications were “essentially rational,” because Shermer said they were “intellectually-based.” But equating those two terms is obviously unjustified. *Some* intellectually-based justifications may indeed be rational, but only a fool or a liar would imply, as you do , that *all* of them are.

    Just two sentences earlier, you yourself actually confirm my point and destroy your own argument, saying that Shermer seems “to be drawing an irrational conclusion from [the] data here.” Exactly! Intellectually-based arguments can indeed lead to irrational conclusions! You may not be able to refute Dawkins, but you sure can refute yourself.

    Furthermore, the most popular of the allegedly rational justifications referred to the “design” allegedly found in nature, and you yourself implicitly showed why that is *not* a rational justification in your response to Allegation #1, where you correctly indicate that ID-propagandists themselves generally admit that the appearance of design does *not* logically imply God. Kaboom! You just shot off your second foot.

    It’s fun watching you self-destruct, but the bottom line here is that Shermer spent two sections explaining exactly why he did *not* recognize those faith-justifications as “essentially rational.” Your claim to the contrary is just a flat out falsehood.

    Judging from your “intellectually-based” argument, you apparently just stopped reading when you got to that term, just as you apparently just stopped reading when you got to the end of page 125 in the first allegation. If you want people to think that your own arguments are “essentially rational,” then you ought to read opponents’ full arguments and not just stop in the middle.

    6. Regarding your falsehood about Dawkins defining faith as “Believing what you know isn’t true,” you concede the obvious error, then berate me for being “tendentious.” What a sore loser! You need to grow up.

    You complain, “[I]t is tendentious and ridiculous to suppose that makes … me a ‘liar.’”

    Well, I never said it did! So your whining here is highly misleading, if not downright false.

    I’d be more sympathetic to your whining, if you had shown some similar consideration about Dawkins citing a spoof website to illustrate Pat Robertson’s inanity. But you didn’t cut Dawkins any slack there, so you don’t get any slack here. (Matt. 18:21-35)

    7. Regarding the allegation about the relative reliabilities of scientific evidence and evidence for religious faith, you get me fair and square. Twice.

    You correctly point out that not only did I get the context wrong, I also had the focus of your statement wrong. You were actually talking about faith, not evidence. You are absolutely correct, so I will amend OP #7 to state that “Only a fool or a liar would argue that the two types of faith are ‘exactly the same’ as Marshall does.”

    I appreciate your helpful input. I hope you find the amendment satisfactory.

    Unfortunately, you once again just couldn’t stop talking, and so your winning streak – such as it is – quickly came to an end.

    First, for some reason, you felt compelled to discuss whether scientific evidence really is as reliable as religious evidence and argued that scientific evidence is sometimes *less* reliable, because weather forecasts may have less certainty than conclusions about whether Jesus said certain things and was crucified.

    What’s being crucified here is logic. Problem one, those incidents in Jesus’ life, by themselves, don’t seem to have any specifically religious implications. Lots of people can talk, and lots of people got crucified. So what? That doesn’t necessarily make any of them divine. Your argument looks like yet another bait-and-switch.

    Problem two, predicting weather is vastly different from establishing the historicity of past events, so you also have a serious apples-and-oranges problem. If you want to do a reliability comparison, you ought to do it apples-to-apples. Maybe you could use the relative accuracy of scientific vs. religious predictions in medicine to estimate comparative reliability. There actually was something like that in Philadelphia a couple of weeks ago. According to Fox News, things didn’t work out too well for the religion side. The child’s funeral was last week, I think, and the parents who prayed him to death instead of going to a doctor will probably end up in jail. Good. Have any other arguments about reliability?

    You also claim, “As far as I know, no scientist who has read this paragraph [about science and faith] has objected to it, yet.” That seems an especially weak version of an argument to authority, about as persuasive as if Jerry Sandusky had defended himself prior to your arrest by claiming that no one at Penn State had reported him to the police yet.

    When you repeatedly offer such obviously illogical and feeble arguments, it tends to undermine your arguments for the rationality of Christian faith.

    You close with: “The genuine fool is the person who thinks he can rebut the argument of an entire chapter, by misreading a single phrase, and attacking that, out of context.” The mind reels at such fatuous inanity. You can only be talking about yourself here. The implication that *I* did that is simply false, of course; while Allegations 1,5,13,14, and 17 clearly indicate that you yourself repeatedly do pretty much what you falsely imply that I did. So your innuendo not only makes you look dishonest, it also makes you look like a hypocrite.

    Unable to control your tongue and your ego, you arguably snatched defeat from the jaws of victory here.

    8. Regarding your failure to balance your Harris quote by disclosing what Jesus said in Luke 19:27, you simply ignore the problem. I’m starting to wonder if “Ph.D.” stands for “Put head in Derriere.”

    If you think Harris’ statement about killing people for their beliefs was stupid or whatever, that’s fine; but it’s misleading, if not downright dishonest, for you not to disclose Jesus’ arguably even more objectionable position.

    9-10. Regarding your failure to provide supporting references for two apparent falsehoods, you simply ignore the first statement, about Karl Marx allegedly convincing a third of the world that money was the real problem. Ph.D. again.

    Your two “supporting references” for your second claim, that “Communism then proved conclusively that people can hate one another in a cashless society,” were about as feeble as I expected. Your first reference, to the Gulag, has some problems. First, it doesn’t document the chronological sequence implied in your statement. Second, the Gulag held quite a few dissidents, reactionaries, etc., who weren’t necessarily communists at all. So this may be yet another example of you scapegoating an opponent for something that another group actually bears responsibility for. Finally, the Gulag did not exist on its own, rather it was a pretty important part of the larger Soviet society. And you haven’t shown that the larger Soviet society was “cashless.” FAIL!

    Before making a fool of yourself about the Gulag again, you might want to read Solzhenitsyn’s “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.” You seem to have just made up this stuff about communism, just as Hector Avalos said you made stuff up about slavery. Making stuff up is not scholarly. You’d think a Ph.D. would know that.

    Your second reference was to rationing of unspecified extent, and unspecified duration somewhere (also unspecified) in China. That’s a reference??? I’ve seen Sasquatch reports with more detail than that! And “rationing” does not necessarily mean “cashless” in any case. Don’t you know anything about history? Your inanity here is simply breathtaking. If you don’t have any legitimate references, then just admit it and retract your silly claims. Your Clintonesque contortions just make you look foolish.

    11. Regarding your ridiculous comment about life appearing in roughly the pattern reported in Genesis, you imply I’m misreading you, but, as with your “cashless commies” comment, you provide no credible evidence to support your naked assertion. I’ll take that as tacitly confirming that I was right all along.

    You dig the hole even deeper by claiming that “Seeker apparently thinks the normal way to read a book is to begin with chapter two, then read chapter one!” How did you ever reach such a boneheaded conclusion? If you are going to just fabricate complaints, couldn’t you make them at least a little bit more realistic? No wonder people think you’re dishonest!

    And you probably shouldn’t be criticizing anyone for the way they read in any case. It makes you look like quite the hypocrite. (See Allegations #1,5,13,14, and 17.)

    12. This is a classic!

    Responding to the allegation that you simply fabricated an attack on Dawkins out of Yockey’s innocuous e-mail, you respond that you “… also cite[s] Yockey’s [book] a couple pages later, where Yockey does single out Dawkins for making the error I am describing on page 65. Thus, ‘Dawkins and your ilk’ is again correct.”

    That’s just hilarious! It’s like a murderer arguing that he can’t be convicted of killing someone on Monday, because he didn’t kill anyone on Wednesday or Thursday. What utter nonsense! Likewise, the “fact” that you didn’t screw up on page 67 is no defense to the charge that you screwed up on page 65. But I enjoyed the laugh!

    Finally, I haven’t actually read the sources you cite on page 67, but other evidence makes me strongly suspect that your claim about the similarity of Dawkins’ errors on pages 65 and 67 is an outright falsehood. The alleged error on 65 apparently relates to the existence of a pre-biotic soup, while the alleged error on 67 apparently relates to statistics. So once again you appear to be defending one falsehood by conjuring up another, just as you did in Allegation #1.

    And you wonder why people think you’re dishonest!

    13-14. Regarding your twin falsehoods about Dawkins not answering the “half of the parts” question, your main problem is that Dawkins actually did answer that question, and at quite some length, in “Climbing Mount Improbable,” which he explicitly directs readers to. But instead of acknowledging the existence of Dawkins’ argument, you just pretend that Dawkins never wrote it, just as you also pretend that Dawkins didn’t cite any Christians, didn’t respond to McGrath, etc., etc., etc. Ph.D.

    Instead, you basically just repeat your original complaint, this time focusing on just a single sentence in TGD. But how does that help? Your problem all along has been that your focus was too narrow and didn’t take CMI into account. Narrowing your focus even further – this time to a single sentence that still doesn’t take CMI into account – does not help!

    Rational argument has its limits. When faced with such fatuous inanity, perhaps just pointing and laughing would be more appropriate. Sheesh!

    Or we could try this: Responding to Allegation #7, you said, “The genuine fool is the person who thinks he can rebut the argument of an entire chapter, by misreading a single phrase, and attacking that, out of context.” Exactly! And the genuine fool here is you.

    15-16. You apparently concede the two falsehoods about Christians inventing science, but complain that I use the word “imply.” Huh? What a hypocrite! You yourself use the word!

    You also imply that it’s OK to resort to falsehoods, if you’re “concluding a paragraph, and engaging in a light-hearted discussion of my feelings about science, not making a close historical argument;” or if you’re “beginning a paragraph, and therefore also writing in a rhetorical and philosophical tone.” Huh? You can’t do any of that without resorting to falsehoods? Wow. Just wow.

    BTW, whenever I use the word “imply,” I am using it in a rhetorical and/or philosophical tone, which makes it OK 😉

    17. Regarding your falsehood about Darwin’s view about the tempo of evolutionary change, you simply dismiss the punk eek comment from Darwin that I quoted, apparently because it was “added to a late edition…, tacked on at the end of a sentence.” But what difference does that make? Darwin’s punk eek comment appeared in every single one of the three latest editions of “Origin.” Obviously, it should be viewed as a consistent part of Darwin’s mature thinking. You get a big, fat FAIL here.

    You also implied that Darwin’s punk eek comment was not in accordance with Darwin’s general emphasis on the “steady accumulation of changes” and tried to support your argument with two of your own Darwin quotes, but neither quote even mentions “steady accumulation of changes.” FAIL again!

    But here’s a quote from Darwin that does explicitly deal with that issue:

    “But I must here remark that I do not suppose that the process [of evolutionary change] ever goes on so regularly as is represented in the diagram ….”

    The Origin of Species, 1859, 119; 1860, 11; 1861, 12; 1866, 132; 1869, 13; 1872, 92.

    In short, the above quote is diametrically opposed to your argument and is found (perhaps with some minor variations) in all six editions of Darwin’s masterpiece. All six! And that’s in addition to Darwin’s other punk eek comment, which appears in each of the three latest editions! So where in God’s name did you get the ridiculous idea that Darwin was all about “steady accumulation of changes”? Not from Darwin, that’s for sure! It looks like you just made it up. You seem to do that a lot. No wonder people doubt your honesty.

    18-19. I love this one!

    Regarding the allegation about your misrepresenting the story about the Levite’s concubine (Judges 19-21), you claim it’s “a remarkably bald act of deception, indeed.”

    Sorry, but I can’t resist: You yourself are remarkably bald!

    Apparently, your argument here is that I’m not allowed to mention anything from Judges 20-21, because Dawkins cited only Chapter 19. The obvious flaw in your argument, of course, is that my primary focus here is on you, not on Dawkins; and guess who *did* cite Judges 20-21? Yup, baldy did. So, once again, you are hoist on your own, remarkably bald petard.

    You also repeat your original argument about there being no king in Israel in those days, as if that phrase were a magical incantation with the power to make your inanity disappear. But the spell doesn’t work. Judges does indeed report a lot of lawless behavior, but it also reports that even in that fraught period there were still devout believers, exactly as indicated in the OP. There are actually quite a few books in the Bible that include stories about believers living among wicked people. The implication in your argument that Judges is fundamentally different from all those other books just doesn’t make sense.

    Your obsession with the “no king in Israel” phrase reminds me of your similarly obsessive arguments in Allegations #1,5,13,14, and 17, where you also take tiny, out-of-context snippets and simply ignore everything else. A more wooden-headed approach could hardly be imagined.

    20. Regarding your falsehood about Nietzsche and Luther’s Bible, you try to change the subject to the number of citations in Dawkins’ book. Nice red herring there, Marshall, but your remarkably bald act of deception doesn’t change the fact that the issue here isn’t about Dawkins; the issue is whether your Nietzsche claim is false. I suspect that you yourself know that it’s false, but in your heart of hearts you just don’t love truth enough to admit it.

    21. You admit that the Bible was not written in the Stone Age – yay! – but then accuse me of having weak morals. Huh? That makes no sense. You really need to get your ego under control. The petty little tantrums you throw when critics find errors in your book – which isn’t that hard to do BTW; there are literally hundreds of them! – may be a large part of why so many people think you’re dishonest.

    That was the end of my response to Marshall’s response. I didn’t go any further, because Marshall’s response didn’t address the last dozen or so of my original allegations.

  14. Tim says:

    I honestly don’t understand why a post on this blog that merely mentioned this book by Marshal summoned forth so many long diatribes against this guy. And apparently we are now being treated to complete pastes of posts on other blogs.

    Just quickly glancing at John Smith’s last comment (holy cow, I’m not reading that!), I notice that in every paragraph from “18-19” on, John includes ad hominem attacks against Marshall. Such as calling him “baldy” and so on, and on, and, apparently, on and on and on. (“you are hoist on your own, remarkably bald petard”??? WTF?)

    Brian, I am usually excited to get an email from your blog saying there’s something new, but lately I must say I’m beginning to lose that feeling.

    • brianblais says:

      “Brian, I am usually excited to get an email from your blog saying there’s something new, but lately I must say I’m beginning to lose that feeling.”

      Yes, Tim, I entirely agree. I, myself, grow weary of it…

      John, I do not want you to take this the wrong way, but I do not appreciate either your tone or your attitude expressed here. You say “Marshall deleted all of my substantive responses from his blog. (He did leave up a short introductory section.) That kind of evasiveness is pretty common for Marshall.” I have come close to doing the same with your posts, and I agree with your substantive comments! As I read, I notice that you take every action by Marshall negatively, like the fact that he responded to you in such volume. I’d love that if someone showed that much interest, yet you simply accuse him of being long-winded. No one appreciates that.

      I don’t like censorship, so this is what I recommend. If you have a comment, that does not include insults to *people*, then that is fine. If it is really really long, or you want to express your dislike of specific other people, then please start your own blog and post a link here!

      I never want to discourage people from expressing criticism, but there is a way to do it which does not involve insulting other people, even if you think they are lying and are despicable and **even if you are absolutely right about such things**. The tone matters, especially on someone *else’s* turf (like mine or Marshall’s blog).

      Again, I don’t want to discourage rational discussion, but when that discussion starts turning other people away, then the tone, attitude, and content have to be dealt with.

  15. John Smith says:

    Hi Brian.

    I’m really sorry. I didn’t mean to offend anyone. You said you were planning to do some research on the Marshall-issue, and I thought the materials I provided would interest you, because they give some insight into Marshall’s current justifications for the things he wrote six years ago. I hope you’re not too upset about my trying to help.

    Also, I hope you’ll take into consideration the fact that I didn’t originally intend to post my response to Marshall on your blog at all. As you may recall, my first post about it (May 17) was simply a note to let you know that you could find my response, if you were interested, on Marshall’s blog. But when I found out that Marshall had deleted the vast majority of it, I didn’t want you wasting your time looking through Marshall’s fairly voluminous blog for something that had already been deleted, and that’s why I copied it to your blog. I didn’t know in advance that Marshall would delete the entire, substantive part of my response, but after he did, I felt like I should do something to correct the now-misleading information I’d given you previously, and posting my response here seemed like the easiest way to do that. I was trying to be as helpful as I could be in a situation that was not really of my own choosing. I’m sorry if I made the wrong choice.

    • brianblais says:

      “I’m really sorry. I didn’t mean to offend anyone. You said you were planning to do some research on the Marshall-issue, and I thought the materials I provided would interest you, because they give some insight into Marshall’s current justifications for the things he wrote six years ago.”

      I want to be clear here, John, that it wasn’t the volume that was the problem it was the tone. I am interested in what Marshall claims, but I am not at all interested in attacks on Marshall as a person, and I weary of a one-sided negative interpretation of everything that Marshall does. If he writes to little, it’s bad, if too much, it’s bad, etc… This also comes down to tone. You clearly have given things a lot of thought, and it has been very interesting. Longer posts like your comments are actually better served (for you!) on your own site, where they can get more visibility, etc.. But the negative tone, and the aggressive nature of some of your responses to readers of this blog are the parts that trouble me.

      You are perfectly welcome to post here. Just try to keep the negativity down to a minimum. I don’t mind criticism of anyone’s ideas (even my own!). But attacks on people are not what I want here. You may not intend it, but that is exactly how it comes off. If you’re worried, you can always run something by a friend before posting, or even email me directly just to double-check. I can’t turn on moderation for a single user, and I don’t want to have to moderate all comments if I can help.

      Again, I don’t want to make you feel unwelcome.

  16. John Smith says:

    Hi Brian.

    Thanks for your response.

    Your blog is a lot different from Marshall’s blog, where the temperature is set quite a bit higher. As a newcomer here, I wasn’t aware of that at first. Now that I know the difference, I don’t think I’ll have any trouble adapting.

    At any rate, I’m glad you found my posts interesting.

  17. Hi, Brian. I just discovered your critique of my arguments on Unbelievable. I’ve responded here:


    I’m glad to see the usual vitriol from “John Smith” (a character named Tim Beazley) have not been embraced here. I will, as usual, ignore his comments, whatever they might be.

  18. John Smith says:


    Two points.

    First, following up on your comment about the dishonesty that Judge Jones commented on in the Kitzmiller case, lack of candor has been a problem for creationists for a long time.

    Judge Overton commented on the creationists’ attempt to conceal their true, i.e., religious motives, for the anti-evolution legislation in the McLean v. Arkansas case (1982).


    Mclean may have been the death knell of scientific creationism. Like Kitzmiller, it involved a full trial on the merits, and the creationists lost so badly that they didn’t even bother appealing.

    A second case, Edwards v. Aguillard, arose in Louisiana, and the losing creationists appealed that one all the way up to the Supreme Court. And in the Supreme Court’s decision (1987), both Justice Brennan’s opinion (Section III A) and Justices Powell and O’Connor’s concurring opinion (Section I A and B), like Judge Overton’s before them, commented on the creationists’ lack of trustworthiness.


    What’s interesting about the Edwards case is that it not only got all the up to the Supremes, but also involved a motion for summary judgment, i.e., an allegation that the anti-evolution bill was so outrageous that it should be struck down without even bothering with a trial. And the Supremes, citing both the creationists’ devastating loss in the earlier McLean case, where there actually had been a full trial on the merits, and the lack of candor of the creationist side, agreed. The Supremes granted the motion for summary judgment without even bothering with a trial, a HUGE loss for the creationist side.

    In both cases, the creationists repeated a bunch of propaganda about how the bills were really about science, not about religion; but in both cases the courts found those talking points to be shams. Just regurgitating empty talking points about “academic freedom,” etc., isn’t enough. Creationists need to show that those talking points actually reflect reality. So far, they’ve been unable to do that.

    Second and on a related point, part of Marshall’s response to your Kitzmiller citation was to repeat the meaningless, creationist talking point about how Judge Jones copied the vast majority of his opinion from a document submitted post-trial by the plaintiffs’ lawyers. While that factoid might be interesting to some folks, what the judge did was entirely routine and has essentially zero relevance to the issues. Obsessing over red herrings while avoiding the real issues is probably not a recipe for success in either science or the law.

    • brianblais says:

      That is interesting about the summary decision. I was struck, in the Kitzmiller case, with the copy-paste job on Pandas and People. That was a remarkable bit of tipping ones hand!

      • John Smith says:

        “cdesign proponentists.”

        Talk about a smoking gun!

        And yet there are still people who simply refuse to look at the evidence. Amazing.

  19. John Smith says:

    In my response to Marshall’s response to a slightly different version of my first post here (Apr 19), I had a number of typos in the citations to Darwin’s “Origin” in section 17.

    To sum up the section 17 argument, contrary to what Marshall said about Darwin’s view of the tempo of evolutionary change, what Darwin actually said is: “…I do not suppose that the process [of evolutionary change] ever goes on so regularly as is represented in the diagram ….”

    That statement appears in all six editions of “Origin.” The correct citations for the six editions are:

    1859, 118;
    1860, 118;
    1861, 124-5;
    1866, 132;
    1869, 134-5;
    1872, 91.

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