That’s one way to do it

Anthony Horvath has an 1100-word-plus response to my last post, in which he still cannot give any kind of explanation for why he thought Watson would “not fare very well” if he “were to go evangelizing in Africa today,” or why he thought Watson’s remarks were “putting your foot in it,” or what he thought Watson’s remark had to do with “[raising] awareness of the fact that scientists are people just like the rest of us and there is no reason to believe that they are especially more logical or rational than anyone else… or more ethical.” [Update] Or why he originally thought it was “terribly ironic that Darwinists have been defending themselves from the charge that evolutionary theory does not provide a basis for racism and here we have Watson doing just that,” or why he thought he was being called a racist when I pointed out that he was essentially agreeing with Watson. [/update] He claims (now!) that it was never his intention to portray Watson as having said anything amiss, but his recent arguments seem to studiously avoid any attempt to explain the real (revised?) meaning of what he originally did say about Watson being an example of scientists lacking ethical reliability.

Meanwhile, though the bulk of my post was about the absence of God and its effect on the possibility of Christian morality, he makes only a passing mention of its existence, dismissing it as a nonspecific “…rant?” and making no attempt whatsoever to deal with the issues it raises. Instead, he spends his entire post trying to spin my comments into something plausibly culpable. Somewhere, somehow, I must have done something wrong. My first reaction was to shrug. After all, I’m of no real importance, and if it makes him feel better to accuse me, that’s fine. But on further reflection, I realized that there was something very interesting about his reaction.

Remember, Horvath is an apologist. He sells this stuff for money. When confronted with a detailed counter to his claims that secular ethics are “borrowed capital” from Christian ethics, however, he responds with a long witch-huntish post trying to find some error I’ve committed or some way in which I’ve treated him wrong. This may very well be no coincidence. If I’m the bad guy, you see, then he’s justified in simply dismissing my argument without even looking at it. It’s a classic ad hominem fallacy. God-based ethics are a non-starter in a world where God does not literally show up, so instead of confronting my evidence, he tries to disqualify it on the grounds that I’m flawed.

If this were merely a quirk of Horvath’s, we could shrug it off as unimportant. But it isn’t. Look up the word “Darwinism” or “Darwinist” in Google, and you’ll see that Christians thrive on taking this approach to such issues. Horvath’s original post was a case in point: an attempt to discredit secular evidence by arguing for the moral inadequacy of secular authorities. He had no specific evidence to discredit, he did not even raise any particular issue to examine in the light of the evidence, it was just a generic attempt to persuade people to have even less regard for scientific opinions than they do now.

Psychosocially, I suppose, it’s an effective technique. But I can’t say I admire it.

PS — I think it’s fairly obvious that Horvath is just groping for excuses to accuse me, but if anyone thinks he has a legitimate issue, let me know in the comments and I’ll be happy to address your concerns.

One Response to “That’s one way to do it”

  1. The Professor Says:

    What the heck. Just for fun let’s look at Horvath’s attempts at damage control.

    It couldn’t be any more clearer that Watson’s remarks were a springboard to a larger discussion- the undue regard stuff

    And how exactly does an allegedly misquoted and unfairly maligned scientist set up for the claim that scientists are getting too much regard?

    Basically, if we were going to be accurate, only the first paragraph was about Watson, not the first four. Does accuracy matter to the Professor?

    Certainly, which is why I’m going to correct Horvath’s erroneous assumption that I said the first four paragraphs were only about Watson. I said they were about Watson AND the idea that Watson’s remarks just go to show that scientists deserve less respect than they currently get.

    The Professor continues to whine that I am anti-scientist, but I have bolded a portion from these same first four paragraphs that should have put cold water on that.

    And they might even have done so, had Horvath not exposed them as mere empty lip service designed to lend himself more credibility when he sneered at the vast majority of mainstream scientists for “defending themselves from the charge that evolutionary theory does not provide a basis for racism,” as though there were something duplicitous about biologists telling us what biology does and does not say.

    Undue regard? Hardly.

    He even agrees with me on the matter of deferring to a scientist’s grasp on ethics. In fact, he said that I understated the case..

    That list was the second paragraph and expanded on in my response to his point. I expanded on it under the illusion that he really grasped that this was a critical point.

    And a thoroughly distorted one. His expanded list is still only a handful of examples, as compared against an unimaginably large body of work in which scientists got it right. In fact, there are fewer examples of scientific ethical misconduct than there are of ecclesiastical ethical misconduct, so if his “critical point” is that such examples mean we should not recognize the entire class as having any ethical authority, then he’s just disqualified the entire Christian church, himself included.

    In fact, as we now see, he interpreted that litany as being ‘about Watson’ so we know that the real bee in his bonnet is, and always was, my apparent agreement with Watson that there is scientific justification for racism

    Not at all. I interpreted that “litany” as being about why we should give scientists even less respect than the unfairly low amount they already receive. Even admissions that they are qualified as experts in their field turn out to be mere lip service so that the speaker can strike a pose as being scientifically minded, just before contradicting what scientists tell us about their field of specialization. I am glad, though, that he acknowledges that “scientific justification for racism” is the only point where I have observed him to agree with Watson.

    Now scroll up and look at the first four paragraphs again. Is there any sense in which I state agreement with Watson on his alleged racist remarks?

    Here’s a classic case of misdirection. Yeah, focus your attention on the first four paragraphs, and not on the tenth paragraph where he says, “Darwinists have been defending themselves from the charge that evolutionary theory does not provide a basis for racism and here we have Watson doing just that.” Note the use of the code word “Darwinists” and the fact that he declares it to be “terribly ironic” that Watson would do just what “Darwinists” had been defending themselves against. Notice also that he is the first to bring up the issue of racism, not me.

    Looks like he’s trying to insinuate that “Darwinism” leads to racism and that “Darwinists” are trying to cover it up, only to be ironically exposed by one of their own, don’t you think? That came through pretty clear to me on my first reading, and it was reinforced in Horvath’s next post, where he argued that “when Darwinism is logically employed and talk begins of biologic inferiority, the gulags, extermination camps, forced sterilization, and syphilis projects are, historically speaking, not far off.”

    He denies being a racist himself, but does so on the grounds that he is not an evolutionist: “I am ready to allow a certain amount of truth to Watson’s view that intelligence may be affected by genetics, [but] the professor forgets or does not know that I am not an evolutionist. When an evolutionist begins making such observations, people quite naturally tuck their children away where they are safe.”

    Remember, my only claim was that he agreed with the idea that evolution provides a basis for racism. His initial post and early responses seem to reflect a fairly clear desire to absolve himself from the charge of racism, while at the same time insinuating that, were he an evolutionist, things would necessarily be otherwise. Looks to me like my initial assessment was bang on the money. I do notice, however, that he has changed the issue from being “Darwinism -> racism” to being “genetics -> intelligence.” And if that’s the issue, why hide your kids?

    Darwinism is all about explaining things in terms of reproduction and survival of the fittest. Either we have evolved as Darwinism says or we have not. If we have, than we are perfectly in our rights to discriminate however we please to try to further our own genes. The gene is selfish I’m told. ‘Racism’ is just as justified as ‘speciesism.’

    See? Horvath rejects the authority of virtually all scientists currently working in evolutionary studies, in order to promote the unscientific view that biology somehow justifies racism. It’s hypocritical to try and call down shame on evolutionists for such repugnant views when evolutionists reject them and you’re the only one supporting them.

    I wanted to cite a statement by Horvath in which he eventually conceded that Darwinism does not encourage racism, but alas, all I could find was this:

    That would actually mean that I am all alone in my insistence that Darwinism is perfectly compatible with racism because it doesn’t look like Watson is making that claim.

    So my original claim was that Horvath had so little regard for scientists that he would seriously argue that Darwinism promotes racism even though biologists deny that racism has anything to do with the biology of evolution, and Horvath’s defense ended up being that not even Watson supports Horvath’s views, after all (no matter what Horvath said about Watson “doing just that” in his first post). So Horvath, a non-scientist speaking about biology, claims that virtually all scientists are wrong, and he alone is right.

    And this supposedly demonstrates that scientists are getting too much respect.

    Oh yeah.

    I could end here, but let’s just look briefly at Horvath’s closing slip-up.

    I am more confident than I was before that what we have going on is a knee-jerk reaction trying to save atheism and evolution from any insinuation that it might lead to conclusions that ‘civilized’ people would be disgusted by. They are desperate to show that they can be just as ‘moral’ as the rest of us. Any appearance to the opposite, even if briefly mentioned as an introductory anecdote, needs to be quashed! Immediately!

    Oops. No, no, Mr. Horvath, your new story is that your original reference to Watson’s remarks was not about Watson implying any connection between evolution and racism. Pick a story and stick with it, k? K.

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