Sunday, 5 May 2013

Reply to accusations,

I write this knowing that only a tiny percentage of people who watched DA's video are actually going to read this. He also knows whatever reply I make I can never reach the amount of people he can and so this meme he has created will live on despite whatever I do to respond.

The 'dooyeweerd' account was indeed an account I set up many years ago now when I first came to YT. I set that account up along with 'soctratesforthewin', 'aikidocrazy' and 'CartesianTheist'. At that time myself and a couple of other friends had a female friend on YT who was being seriously harassed by a group of bullies. In order to defend this person we shared all four of these accounts as well as some of their own. That was a mistake especially because it had been shared with one person I did not know so well. I did not look after those channels closely enough because I did not view them as merely my own in those days and keep tabs on what was being said by others on it and it was my responsibility to have done so. In that I clearly failed but I did not write the sexually explicit or racist comments/insults DA is suggesting I did.

Many of the comments in DA's current video I had not even seen before and if I could get into the dooyeweerd account now I would certainly close it down. Unfortunately I cannot and have lost touch with the people who could. I will certainly attempt to do so again.

I most certainly did not stalk the woman DA is accusing me of stalking and have no idea what that is about. Never did I attempt to contact her in person or any of her family (which is why it's only asserted without evidence).

It is actually ironic that DarkAntics makes claims that I tried to doc drop his name because when everything kicked off with him the first time I actually had people offering to do this for me and I asked them not to in the strongest terms possible. Someone even made a video revealing where he lived but I contacted the person and convinced them to take it down. I can also state quite categorically that I have never tried to hack any account of his (which would explain why there was no evidence offered for this and only a bare-faced assertion instead). The ironic thing is that his You Tube friend MeridianFrost has doc dropped DarkMatter already without being aware he has done so! Even DarkMatter himself has dropped his own docs to everyone since if you play two videos of his side by side you can find out who he is and where he lives! He has already let everyone know who he is by appearing on camera and taking pictures of his own house and riding a bike around his local neighbourhood. How he thinks he has kept his identity hidden... goodness only knows.  

It is with further irony that I have plenty of evidence of DarkAntics trying to intimidate and bully me using my personal docs. I have never used any of it, however, since the police in the UK have asked me not to but they currently hold evidence of DA contacting people in my real life and some of his followers from Facebook and YT making threats and attempting bribery aimed at myself and my family. Since I have no interest in trying to discredit him or them on a personal level I will not be releasing any of it.

People I talk with on YT know that I have been thinking of leaving YT for some months now and this has confirmed to me that I ought to. There is no reasoning with unreasonable people. Despite having made my position extremely clear on the recent discussions on Deuteronomy, my position is still constantly being misrepresented. To continue talking with people who have no interest in your actual position but who wish to strawman you constantly is both tiresome and worthless. The vast majority of people on YT are not actually interested in the God debate but only in their popularity and the vast majority simply don't know the subject well enough to say anything worthy of listening to.

Having said that, I would like to thank the many atheist and theists friends I made whilst on YT.

PS. In reply to why I would close my YT account there are numerous reasons:

1. I think it fair to do so given the comments made by others on channels I helped set up and as some small token of apology to those who received such comments.

2. I am bored of being misrepresented on YT. It's tiresome.

3. DarkMatter has proven in the past that he will make threats which involve doc dropping personal information of my own and my family and friends and has certainly implied he will again. Last year he released my personal docs to a few of his friends and they used this information to do some particularly pernicious things such as threaten the safety of my children. Of course, DM accepts no responsibility for the actions of these friends of his and I doubt he even knows, or wants to know, exactly what they did. That way he thinks he can absolve himself of any responsibility.

Questions you might like to ask yourself:

1. If DM was so concerned about the comments he now shows why didn't he approach me about them 12-18 months ago when he took the screenshots (because that's how old they are)?

2. Why wait 12-18 months before releasing such information? If the crimes of bullying were really his sole concern and as heinous as he now implies then why would he sit on them for that long? Who has information like that and sits on it for that long doing nothing? Many of them are actually over two years old now.

3. Why was it released just after he was demonstrably shown to be misrepresenting my views (and the very same month my account got more views than his)?

4. Why did he fail to correct his misrepresentation of me when corrected?

5. If I really wrote those comments (and therefore knew of their existence) and already left YT due to being threatened by DM why on earth would I come back as a channel which could be directly and obviously connected to them? I could have easily set up an account which was completely anonymous and unconnected to the previous 'CartesianTheist' one.

6. If I was really stalking people offline why was this not reported to the appropriate authorities since this would be a serious crime worthy of reporting?

7. You might also like to listen to a comment made by DarkMatter about me at the end of this 'Lying Ghost Show':

"Had Cartesian been okay with me being on the same show as him I would have remained completely civil. I'm not going to attack him or anything like that..."

This was only back in January 2013. Several of the atheists on that show suggest to him that the conflicts of the past can be just left in the past and he says nothing of his real intentions. Why does DM not make it clear he won't be debating with a "scumbag bully" then? What changed between January 2013 and May 2013? The only real interaction we had in that time was his deliberate misrepresentation of my position on rape and my exposing him for lying about me (which, to this day, he is happy to continue to do it should be noted). The truth is nothing had changed. DM was using these atheists for his own means and lying to them about his intentions of such a 'discussion' for his own ends.  

8. Why could DM not admit he got my position on rape wrong and retract such a 'drama'-seeking video? Playing such an obvious ad hominem card reveals just how shallow and pathetic his academic responses are. Ironically DM is the one who has said that there are "no moral absolutes" and so that means he is the one who must think there are acceptable scenarios for rape (unlike my own position since I stated unambiguously that there is absolutely no acceptable scenario where rape could be deemed morally acceptable prior to his rather stupid contention otherwise). Even after being corrected he still could not admit his error. Pathetic. It demonstrates the desperation of the man.

9. Why choose drama / ad hominem attacks? From the 'hero' of 'dramagate' no less! (Although clearly some atheists have spotted his inconsistencies now.)

10. Why could he not refute any of my arguments? Like.... ever?!

Anyway... I think these are worthy of a little reflection and then I invite you to do what I intend to do. Move on... You have to know when something (someone) is not worth it.

Sunday, 14 April 2013


Rape, the Bible and atheist responses so far...

I'm quite happy to stand corrected but from the feedback I have received from atheists on YT so far, since my discussion with EssenceofThought (EOT), I am yet to hear an atheist tell me they disagree with EOT and they wish to also affirm that rape is something which is morally wrong beyond a personal denouncement.

Instead there have been a few complaints that I was 'out of order' to ask EOT his personal view on rape during our discussion about it.

One reply to the discussion which has appeared is this one by the user 'CheekyVimto08' (CV). Although he does not mention me directly and so might have some other people in mind I think it's fair to assume it's aimed largely at me since it's linked to my discussion with EOT and appeared shortly after.

CV tries to suggest that theists are being underhanded by asking atheists about their metaethics (ohhh-ahhh - how dare they?). Clearly on this point he failed to even listen to my discussion with EOT since I made it very clear I was only asking EOT out of interest and that it would not be part of my defence of Deuteronomy. I made it quite clear what my own view was and, if you listen carefully you will hear EOT claim this is highly significant to the discussion. So if I am stating my view clearly up front from the beginning it is surely a matter of interest what EOT's views are? But even so I made it painfully clear that a counter metaethical attack was not going to happen once we got onto the biblical passages and it did not. CV fails on this criticism therefore.

At around 1 minute CV states that "objective oughts are a very difficult notion" which is a very interesting thing to note given that he is lecturing his audience on the oughts of proper discourse. That sounds very much like giving instructions in ethical behaviour to me. Is CV simply stating his preference for discussion etiquette then? Well his language certainly sounds otherwise. He appears to be suggesting the theist is doing something objectively wrong and that they OUGHT not ask the atheist their view even out of interest.

[A small aside. Whilst I accept that the atheist might cause a problem by pointing to an internal inconsistency in the theist's worldview, please note that this is atheistic presuppositional apologetics of the very kind they so often complain about when done to them. They stand back and insist they have a null hypothesis whilst the other person must defend their worldview. This is using the kind of Hovind basterdized presuppositional method in many ways. Notice the advice given in the blurb to his video:

"Turn any challenge to your moral ontology on its head. Don't try to discuss honestly with propagandists, as your explanations will be ignored."

Does that not sound like the very tactics employed by the likes of Hovindites?]

CV then complains that the theist fails to appreciate that a subjective or quasi-subjective moral ontology cannot be "meaningful" [c.1:30] but this is not relevant to the discussion I was having with EOT in the slightest and I never suggested one could not have a meaningful ethic if it is not a morally realist one. So why CV brings this in I don't know.

At around the 1:40 mark CV complains about appeals to emotion (oh the irony) but this does not happen in the discussion and so my head scratching continues.

At 1:58f. he says:

"It also seems amazing to me that our fundamental sense of morality should stand or fall with our success in giving a philosophical explanation of it as though philosophical problems are solved every other day."

This is a very curious sentiment and one which I doubt he would extend to a Christian arguing for moral realism!!

Then he gives a very curious complaint that he feels theists never really explain what they mean by 'objective' or their claim to moral realism. Perhaps CV is unaware that I have bothered to do exactly this in my following video which was dedicated only to such definitions in order to be as clear as possible in my ethical discussions with people:

CV then chides anyone who dares question the metaethics of people who do not "make pretentions" to have philosophical knowledge! (3:30 ish) Surely CV cannot be talking about his mate EOT at this stage? Not the same EOT who made a four part series on morality entitled respectively:

1. The Morality Of The Godless: Episode 1 - The Development of Morals, Values and Social Norms.
2. The Morality Of The Godless : Episode 2 - The Biological & Evolutional Explanations behind Society.
3. The Morality Of The Godless : Episode 3 - The Socio/Psychological Explanations behind Society.
4. The Morality Of The Godless : Episode 4 - Explanations For Social Conflicts & Wars.

Ironically the previous 'Therefore God' show had been on the very subject of metaethics as well. Suddenly, when rape is the issue, metaethics is now not allowed to be talked about! When it was an atheist on the show that was different.

CV then makes the ridiculous claim that I was repeating "You think rape isn't objectively wrong" for emotional effect. The reason this is ridiculous is that he could not personally know my motive for doing that in the first place. Secondly it would mean not taking me at my word during the discussion where I explicitly said the purpose was to find out if we were both in agreement on the matter. Ignoring what people actually say in a discussion and attempting to project motives on them there is no evidence for is not good form. How ironic that CV continues to take the tone of a moral sermon at this juncture.

From about the fourth minute onwards he attempts to give the atheist a few easy quips to equip the atheist in a discussion on morality with a theist. I encourage atheists to try them out and see just how helpful they are. However, coming up to the seventh minute in, he then suggests that atheists don't even bother getting into discussion on metaethics at all. A very interesting tactic CV!

He then finishes with some bold assertions about what theistic ethics can and cannot achieve without giving any real justifications for these conclusions. This is a poor way of finishing a video. It would be akin to spending an entire argument arguing for x and then claiming, in your conclusion that you have demonstrated y. The careful listener will spot this but some who might be lacking in such skills might not notice this at the end of this nearly 9 minute sermon.

To finish I think it is worth noting that despite all his talk of insisting the job of the theist was to show there is no internal contradiction his video did not once admit I had done that very thing and that the vast majority of the discussion was about this. On such matters he had absolutely nothing to say in his video. EOT completely failed in his burden of demonstrating ANY such contradiction existed in the Christian worldview. A Christian is not contradicting their view on rape as being objectively wrong even when they are conservative in their view of scripture since there is absolutely zero evidence of rape being advocated as something other than a wrong act in the entire Bible. EOT was shown to be using a contentious passage with various possible readings as a proof-texting venture and to be arguing from silence when, in pure desperation, he attempted to use Lot at the end.

I suggest theists keep asking atheists to justify their metaethics. The clear message is they have problems in this area and wish to avoid it by always throwing it back on the theist. The default setting of the You Tube atheist is that he will only want to attack your views. Don't allow the atheist to do that. Ask them to explain what they are proposing. If atheists are finding rape a difficult issue to explain in terms of its wrongness then this is one reason to have doubts about atheist ethics I think.


For more on the utter desperation of online atheists to misrepresent their opponents see this video:

Described as a video in response to my (supposed) view that I hold to "spousal rape"!!! Such people simply do not care about the positions they are attacking and have no qualms about creating straw-men. They know their viewers won't research the matter for themselves and read on both sides of the topic. Instead they will take what he says as being true without question. Obviously I never defended rape in any way and, prior to this pathetic attempt to misrepresent me, even said the complete opposite in discussion with EOT where I went on record denouncing rape as both objectively and absolutely wrong in all circumstances. Since I made myself so abundantly clear and DA has refused to take this video down, despite knowing he has misrepresented me, I think you get a very good insight into the way this man operates.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

The Bible and Rape

You don’t have to look too hard on the internet to see that atheist and anti-Christian apologists have largely convinced themselves that the Bible advocates rape. I found myself on a thread discussing this very point and I asked for one specific example of the Old Testament advocating rape. Most voices fell silent but one atheist apologist, ‘Essence of Thought’ decided to step up to the plate.

I want to make some remarks, firstly, before commenting on this matter.

If you have no respect whatsoever for properly understanding a book then it’s almost inevitable you will find things you think are wrong. You will dip in to certain passages with no concern whatsoever for authorial intent in favour of finding token sound-bites which fit with your prior assumptions in going to the book in the first place. Clearly this is something we can all be guilty of and this is the reason why biblical hermeneutics is such an important subject. Furthermore, when reading ancient texts we need to be even more careful and make some serious attempt to understand the culture of the time.

 Take Seth Andrews who calls himself ‘The Thinking Atheist’. He has a video entitled ‘Morality without God’ in which he thinks the mere mention of something in a historical narrative is an endorsement by God. He cites the story of Lot as if God approved of what Lot did just because it’s recorded in the narrative. This is an incredibly na├»ve way of reading the text.

Yesterday evening Essence of Thought and I had a discussion on the issue and you can find a link to the video on my You Tube profile page or by visiting the channel ‘The Atheist Hub’ [the video is titled: 'Therefore God- Does Deuteronomy 22:28-29 Discuss Rape?']. What appears below are some of notes I made in preparation for the discussion and a few thoughts I had after it.

So, in order to answer my challenge for a verse in the Old Testament which condones rape ‘Essence of Thought’ (EOT) offered up this verse:

Deuteronomy 22:28,29

Hermeneutical Issues

1. The first hermeneutical problem for EOT is that he is attempting to make a very serious charge based on a text which is debated and not perspicuous. A principle of doing hermeneutics in any work of literature is to go from the clear passages first and then interpret the more obscure ones in the light of those. Clear passages which describe a rape taking place are dealt with by making the punishment death.


2. A second hermeneutical problem for EOT is his method for doing translation. This was a truly horrendous moment for the supposed logic of his case. EOT outlines the various possible meanings of the word which is fair enough. The T-P-S root means to lay hold of, wield, seize, arrest, catch, grasp, handle (including grasping hold of the Torah to use it/apply it). Taphas (tar-phas) has a semantic range for sure but it is never used in the rest of the OT to mean ‘rape’ and this is a significant objection to those who wish to translate it thus. Unfortunately EOT’s method, at this juncture, is merely to claim that since it is possible to translate the word ‘rape’ that is should be translated ‘rape’. This is an incredibly weak argument because all the other words are possible translations as well! So what is EOT suggesting? That all logically possible translations are the right translations? If so the word means loads of different things all at once! This approach to translation is absolutely absurd. He suggests that there are more words which could imply force (such as 'seize', 'arrest' and 'catch') and therefore we should weigh the word in favour of these readings but this is not how real translation works. Context is the most important determining factor rather than basing everything on individual etymologies.

3. The third hermeneutical problem for EOT is that the immediate context prior to this verse does talk about rape but uses a different Hebrew word. The writer could have made it clearer he was talking about rape simply by using the same word. Instead the writer opts to change words here for one he never elsewhere uses to mean rape; a very odd thing to do if he was talking about the same action. In Jeremiah 2:8 tarphas is used to mean “handling” the law and in Genesis 4:21 it is used as the term for playing a harp or flute. It is therefore quite clear that the word does not have to have the sense of a violent seizure on its own. It would require something in the context to make it clear that such a meaning was intended and yet no such thing is said. Many OT scholars note these usages of the word which makes EOT's dismissal of them all the more damaging to his case.

4. The fourth hermeneutical problem for EOT is that some scholars think this a repetition of a law first found in Exodus 22:16 where it says:
If a man seduces a virgin who is not pledged to be married and sleeps with her, he must pay the bride-price, and she shall be his wife.”
 The influential Old Testament scholar Gordon Wenham takes this view in his article, ‘Bethulah: A Girl of Marriageable Age’ Vetus Testamentum 22 (1972) 326-348.
One again, the fact that so many OT scholars, even non-Christian ones, often find a link between these two passages means that EOT's mere dismissal of the connection all the more bizarre.
EOT’s hermeneutical case for his reading was merely that the word can possibly take this meaning and therefore this is the meaning. We have noted what an incredibly weak argument that is and have, in reply, suggested four good hermeneutical reasons for thinking this is not the meaning.
Even in this passage, which seems clearly to be more about seduction and not rape, there is no indication in the text itself that the Father is constrained to accept this arrangement. It clearly states that the man has no choice in the matter and is held responsible and culpable but it never says that the father or the daughter have no choice in the matter. Note that in verse 29 it only stipulates that he may not divorce her. It says nothing about any legal binding on the woman or her father. If, earlier in the Exodus law, the Father has the right to not accept the arrangement to his daughter in the case of a seduction, how much more, would we expect him to have the right to refuse a marriage in this scenario? It makes absolutely no sense that the law would permit a Father’s rejection in the case of seduction but not in the case of rape!
Furthermore, EOT shows no concern whatsoever for the cultural context either and therefore a brief discussion here is warranted.

Cultural Issues

One ought to take into account the reason for these case laws existing. Jesus explains that some of these laws were due to the hardness of the hearts of the Israelites and that they did not represent some moral utopia. Jesus says, in

Matthew 19:8

“Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.”

Interestingly, one such passage on this very subject is found in Deuteronomy 24:1-4. Only a few paragraphs after the one we are talking about. This clearly indicates that at least some of the OT laws were not an ideal standard but due to the existing sin in that society.

Another cultural aspect, not commented on by EOT in the slightest, is that these case laws could well be, what the scholar Christopher J.H. Wright calls, “paradigmatic” law. [New International Biblical Commentary p.244] The laws are therefore not intended to have to be taken literally on all occasions but outlining basic principles and precedents upon which to punish the guilty and protect the innocent. 

EOT also fails to explain why marriage would be the lesser of two evils even if the situation were rape due to the cultural context. There was no modern cultural notion of choosing a marriage partner as an individual or couple due to romance and love at that time. Also the woman would find it impossible to be married under any other circumstances now this had happened. This could mean the family facing extreme poverty without the support structure of marriage. This marriage would provide that financial support for the woman by the man. There is therefore no sense in which the woman is being punished. She is not being required to enter into some passionate or intimate relationship with this man but the law is making provision for her to be provided for so that she and her family do not face financial ruin considering what has happened. It is clearly a case of the lesser of two evils in this instance (that is, if the text is even talking about rape in the modern sense of the term and the case against it being so is strong as we have seen). Certainly the text lacks any notion that rape is something acceptable in ancient Hebrew society and yet that is the very thing the atheists are claiming here.

I think it is fairly clear that there is really no case to answer. The clear general punishment for rape in the OT is death. This makes it clear how seriously it was taken. It affirms the status of women as people and not property since death was not the punishment for violating someone’s property but recompense. The OT laws were also much fairer than most laws in surrounding nations of that time. In Assyrian laws of that time the punishment for rape was simply that the rapist’s wife was, herself, raped! Hebrew laws were far more judicious.

PS. A little post-script on the discussion itself.

Please listen to the beginning carefully. I made it very clear that my position was that rape is always and everywhere absolutely wrong. I went out of my way to be extremely clear on the matter. Please listen to what EOT says when I ask him to state his position clearly. Not only does he appear to not know what moral realism is but he is extremely vague about his own views on rape. It’s not even clear that he thinks rape is always wrong subjectively. I find it extremely odd that someone should be criticising the moral code of another worldview on a matter he cannot even be clear on himself and I think that is damaging to his criticisms. I also failed to find any atheist on the thread who questioned him over this either. It appears that many atheists are quite uncertain themselves on whether rape is actually morally wrong or not!

Also watch out for a very desperate attempt to appeal to the story of Lot toward the end of the discussion. Not only was this a complete appeal to silence but he used a highly dubious analogy of a classroom and appeared to ignore the fact that Sodom was being judged for its immorality quite clearly in the text. There is no vindication of Lot’s desperate attempt to save his guests from being violated and the angels rescue the daughters from that situation. The Bible is full of examples of God saving people who are not worthy of being saved. In fact, that is clearly one of the central messages of the Bible.




Monday, 19 November 2012

AronRa's credibility

It appears that the request for AronRa to provide a citation for a quote he used has caused him to feel very insecure. In his reply to me on his 'Free Thought Bog' (or 'blog' - don't laugh - they mean well by the title) he begins by stating how willing he is to admit when he has made a mistake. He then writes:

" seems my credibility is under attack by some YouTuber who actually thinks he has something worth crowing about.  In the comments on his channel, I see allegations that I am a definitely dishonest coward, deliberately lying in order to further my ‘agenda’."
  I'm not sure how being asked to provide a citation is an attack on his credibility as such. Whilst implying that he might be a coward I have not actually said that he was "deliberately lying". At no point in my previous blog post did I do such a thing and neither did I do so on my YT video. Curious that he would immediately go on the defensive to such a degree.

Still, it might be AronRa's penchant for second-hand sources which led him to such a conclusion since he then admits:

"I haven’t actually seen either of the videos this guy has made about me."
Fortunately he then found my blog and appears to suggest he read my response here.

He then says some very odd things about who has the burden of proof when quoting people. He says:

"So I am accused of misrepresenting Luther, as if he didn’t really say that unless I can prove that he did.  Funny how the burden of proof shifts depending on whether one is arguing for faith vs any other topic."
Sorry to have to be the one to break it to AronRa but this is how genuine scholarship works. If you claim a quotation was made by someone you bear the burden of proof to demonstrate they actually said it. Even if a quote is in keeping with what the author said elsewhere one must be able to provide a citation. Even when the quote is found in secondary sources it's authenticity would still be dubious. So it is good practice to make your citations and make them clearly for all to check. What is the alternative? Taking AronRa's word for it? Is that what he would prefer?

He then cites some passages in Luther which he appears to think establish the same idea as the dubious quotation. Unfortunately they do no such thing! The dubious quote has Luther sounding like he thought there was no natural element to illness and that all physicians are useless. None of the citations AronRa makes from credible sources say those things. Instead what they do say is that Luther thought there was a spiritual element to illness which can sometimes be quite direct and even when it is not it is ultimately behind the phenomena of illness. These genuine quotes also point to the fact that Luther was quite torn on the issue of medical treatment. He bestows great praise on doctors whilst also sounding extremely cautious about some of their practices (which I will note in a moment was a pretty sensible position to take given the century he lived in).

AronRa then goes on to demonstrate he did not read the quotes I gave from Luther fairly. He says:

"In the same paragraph my antagonist cited, Luther criticized medical science as ‘fanciful theories’ in which he has no faith; because he noted that different healers gave different prescriptions for the same maladies."
Does AronRa know what 'medical science' was claiming at the beginning of the 16th century?

Many historians of medical science have documented how it was common for doctors, in Luther's time, to not even touch an ill patient in diagnosis. They were also reliant on ancient Greek wisdom for their techniques (which is one thing Luther wonders about). Medicine was dependent upon the wisdom of Galen and Avicenna the Persian from his work 'The Canon of Medicine'. People frequently died at the hands of physicians who practiced anesthesia by striking the skull with a wooden hammer! Perhaps AronRa is upset that Luther was not more impressed by blood-letting? The phrase 'medical science' is anachronistic to the early 16th century and yet AronRa appears completely unaware of this. He also appears completely oblivious to the Christian doctors of the 16th century who helped to change things for the better. [Which could be an idea for another blog in the future I think.]

AronRa says:

"He said medicine could be replaced with a good diet and an early bed time, and he said that graveyards are filled with those who followed their doctors’ advice."
  Well that is because the graveyards were full of people who went to the 16th century doctor or took their advice!! Also Luther did not say that medicine could be replaced with a good diet and plenty of sleep but rather Luther noted, from his own experience, that this advice had served him well in both avoiding and recovering from an illness. This advice remains quite sound to this day.

AronRa fails to even engage with, or acknowledge the existence of, quotes which upset his narrow reading of Luther. Passages such as:

"I do not deny that medicine is a gift of God, nor do I refuse to acknowledge science in the skill of many physicians."
"Able, cautious, and experienced physicians, are gifts of God."
are simply ignored by him.

He then finishes his overly defensive blog by then returning to the made up accusation of lying. All in all an even more disappointing response than I could have imagined he were possible of. Even now I don't accuse him of being a liar. I would prefer to suggest that he's too ignorant of theology to be a liar. 

Saturday, 17 November 2012

AronRa is no Luther Scholar!

Well for those of you who don’t know the person described by ‘The Thinking Atheist’ as “one of the internet’s most influential atheists” has uploaded a video of him doing another lecture. Yes. It’s AronRa and the video is called ‘The Failures of Creationism’. Now since I’m not a creationist myself I don’t have a problem with a great deal of the video because I think the theory of evolution is a good solid scientific theory and, like most Christians at the end of the 19th century in England, and indeed Darwin himself, I don’t think it contradicts anything in Christian doctrine one little bit.
I am, however, going to have to take AronRa up on his use, or perhaps I should say abuse, of the German reformer Martin Luther. This is not the first time I’ve had to correct AronRa on Martin Luther by the way. See this video for the last occasion I had to so. 

This is AronRa’s supposed methodology for truth claims:

“But if you’re going to tell me to believe it you’re going to have to substantiate it.” 

I don’t have any serious problem with that as a methodology. It’s sounds a little too evidentialist for my liking but I can work with it! 

Now in this recent video he uploaded he claims that Martin Luther said these words:

“Idiots, the lame, the blind, the dumb, are men in whom the devils have established themselves: and all the physicians who heal these infirmities, as though they proceeded from natural causes, are ignorant blockheads...”

You will, of course, notice that AronRa has provided no citation for his quote. This should immediately look curious to anyone who is a critical thinker.  Now I’m no Luther scholar myself and have only read about ten of his major works so I did the only thing any reasonable person would do. As soon as I saw the video I went to his channel and asked him to provide a source for the quote.  AronRa is still to reply to that request as of posting this video.

So instead of relying on AronRa I decided to do my own research. Fortunately Tekton had already done some searching on this and found what appears to be the key source on the internet which comes from someone called Don Morgan on the site ‘Positive Atheism's Big Scary List of Martin Luther Quotations’! The funny thing is that Don himself admits:

“Note: I am often asked for source citations for these quotes. Most of them come from "Luther's Table Talk" or from one of the several Luther biographies. Unfortunately, when I collected these quotes, I did so only for my own amusement and I didn't keep track of the exact citations.”
- Don Morgan

Now that is not a terribly encouraging start. It might be a coincidence that AronRa used exactly the same picture of Luther found on Morgan’s page or that might indicate this is where he got his quotation from. Not a hugely important matter either way but it could be where AronRa got his quote from. It would certainly help explain why he has no reference to Luther directly because Morgan lacks one too. 

Next I checked a search engine in an online version of Luther’s book ‘Table Talk’ and this brought up so such quotation. It’s at this point I’m definitely beginning to doubt the authenticity of the quote.
Now, as I said, I’m no Luther scholar but having read some of his books I don’t recall ever getting the impression Luther thought the way this quote suggests since I recalled passages where he talking about taking medicine himself. So I decided to look up some quotations from Luther that can be sourced. 

Reading through Luther’s book ‘Table Talk’ you can see some passages where the inconsiderate reader might have picked up this impression. For example, Luther says:

"I maintain that Satan produces all the maladies which afflict mankind, for he is the prince of death. St Peter speaks of Christ as healing all that are oppressed of the devil. He not only cured those who were possessed, but he restored sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, speech to the dumb, strength to the paralytic; therefore I think all grave infirmities are blows and strokes of the devil, which he employs as an assassin uses the sword or other weapon. So God employs natural means to maintain the health and life of man, such as sleep, meat, drink, etc. The devil has other means of injury; he poisons the air, etc.

A physician repairs the work of God when damaged corporally; we, divines, spiritually; we mend the soul that the devil has spoiled. The devil gives poison to kill men; a physician gives theriacum, or some other drug, to save them; so the creature, through creatures, helping creatures. Physic has not its descent and origin out of books; God revealed it; or, as Syrach says: 'It cometh from the Most Highest; the Lord hath created medicines out of the earth.' Therefore we may justly use corporal physic, as God's creature. Our burgomaster here at Wittenberg lately asked me, if it were against God's will to use physic? for, said he, Doctor Carlstad has preached, that whoso falls sick, shall use no physic, but commit his case to God, praying that His will be done. I asked him: Did he eat when he was hungry? He answered, yes. Then, said I, even so you may use physic, which is God's creature, as well as meat and drink, or whatever else we use for the preservation of life."

--Martin Luther, _Table Talk_ DXCVII, in _The Table Talk of Martin Luther_, trans. William Hazlitt (London: George Bell, 1875), 256-57.

Now notice how easily this could be misread. If one stops in the first sentence it looks like Luther is saying that all illness is directly of the devil. Here we have mention of the blind, deaf and dumb as in Morgan’s supposed quote as well. But the ending of the paragraph suggests the devil is not doing it directly but, as Luther puts it, “as an assassin uses the sword” – this means he is behind such illness but indirectly. This Luther makes even more clear in the next part where he declares that the physician repairs the physical problem which makes it quite clear Luther thinks physicians can help with illnesses. This is made even more explicit in another quotation taken from his work where he says:

“Generally speaking, therefore, I think that all dangerous diseases are blows of the devil. For this, however, he employs the instruments of nature."
(LW 54: 53, No. 360).
LW = Luther's Works [55 volume English Translation]

Thus Luther is stating that even when he is attributing illness to the devil he is not denying that there is something quite natural about the illness. This directly contradicts  the AronRa quote which further suggests it is not genuine. 

Now Luther continues, at the end of this quote, to state that some were asking him if it was against God’s will to use a doctor. Luther’s advice is pretty clear. He states that food solves the problem of hunger and that in the same way one should use a doctor if one is ill. This is a passage even the notorious Andrew Dickson White admits to. He says:

“Luther asked, "Do you eat when you are hungry?" and the answer being in the affirmative, he continued, "Even so you may use physic, which is God's gift just as meat and drink is, or whatever else we use for the preservation of life." Hence it was, doubtless, that the Protestant cities of Germany were more ready than others to admit anatomical investigation by proper dissections.”
Andrew Dickson White in ‘History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom’, CHAPTER XIII. FROM MIRACLES TO MEDICINE p. 248

This is a very interesting quotation since that book by White is clearly written with the intention of quote-mining huge numbers of Christian thinkers for the purpose of creating the impression of antagonism between science and Christian theism via the use of spurious quotations from either no source or secondary sources. 

 Furthermore, in Table Talk itself we find this passage:

“When I was ill at Schmalcalden, the physicians made me take as much medicine as though I had been a great bull. Alack for him that depends upon the aid of physic. I do not deny that medicine is a gift of God, nor do I refuse to acknowledge science in the skill of many physicians; but, take the best of them, how far are they from perfection? A sound regimen produces excellent effects. When I feel indisposed, by observing a strict diet and going to bed early, I generally manage to get round again, that is, if I can keep my mind tolerably at rest. I have no objection to the doctors acting upon certain theories, but, at the same time, they must not expect us to be the slaves of their fancies. We find Avicenna and Galen, living in other times and in other countries, prescribing wholly different remedies for the same disorders. I won't pin my faith to any of them, ancient or modern. On the other hand, nothing can well be more deplorable than the proceeding of those fellows, ignorant as they are complaisant, who let their patients follow exactly their own fancies; `tis these wretches who more especially people the graveyards. Able, cautious, and experienced physicians, are gifts of God. They are the ministers of nature, to whom human life is confided; but a moment's negligence may ruin everything. No physician should take a single step, but in humility and the fear of God; they who are without the fear of God are mere homicides. I expect that exercise and change of air do more good than all their purgings and bleedings; but when we do employ medical remedies, we should be careful to do so under the advice of a judicious physician."

--Martin Luther, _Table Talk_ DCCXXXIX, in Hazlitt trans., 316-17.

Please note the contrast. Whereas illness, disease and death are ultimately the work of the devil, Luther ascribes God as the author of medicine. Medicine is the gift of God according to Luther! This passage makes it quite clear how highly he viewed medicine. As a gift from god its status could not be any higher. Was Luther wrong to point out that the doctors of his day were fallible? Of course not! One does not have to read much about medicine at the beginning of the 16th century to know that Luther comes out looking quite reasonable that he did not believe everything doctors were claiming at that time. But notice his statement that “Able, cautious, and experienced physicians, are gifts of God.” It’s hard to think how he could have lavished any greater praise on them than that. For Luther, that was the ultimate praise. 

In conclusion let us imagine that AronRa’s quote is authentic. Well then it would need to be interpreted charitably in the context of these other texts. This would mean Luther was having a rant at less judicious physicians of his day. That way the passage could be reconciled with these other passages which can be sourced. However, in the absence of sufficient evidence that the quote is authentic and the positive evidence of quotations in Luther to the contrary we are justified in concluding that AronRa has, yet again, managed to misrepresent Martin Luther. The evidence suggests Martin Luther is owed an apology by AronRa on two counts by now. It will be interesting to see if he actually gets one won’t it?