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. 


  1. Perhaps we can give AronRa some recommendations on Luther readings from scholars :)

    It might help him look like he actually knows what he is talking about when he is speaking about Luther!

  2. I have to say I’m impressed with the way you swooped in showing such knowledge of Luther, and the medical practices of the century he lived in. What else can I say, I think you made your points well and won the debate with him.

  3. My 2 cents: I found your original critique of Aron's interpretation and use of Luther quotes to be quite fair. I especially think your criticism on the importance of sourcing quotes to also be an important one. Interesting enough, one of the comments on Aron's blog did provide a source, which may or may not prove helpful in evaluating the authenticity, context and time for which the quote was given. In regard to the charity you advocate that should be shown to the Luther quote in question, is the same charity I wish both of you show each other. Ribbing each other here and there makes for a good show, but some of the comments are just excessive and do nothing more than to exacerbate negativity. I graduated from both a private religious college and seminary, so I am passingly familiar with "scholarly" theology (though I went on to become a psychologist and don't claim any expertise in theology). I, however, believe that lay person reviews from outsiders are often refreshing and breakup "group think." Yes, there might be a lot more wrong than right, but every once in a while they get something right that the "learned" got really wrong. I believe that Aron is someone who can be reasoned with. Although he doesn't have a lot of writings on his blog, he is obviously very intelligent. I believe a civil conversation could be had, even if you do only end up completely disagreeing with each other.

    1. Well I think you might have bought into his claim that I had accused him of lying when I did no such thing. I did, in fact, ask him for the citation. To this hour he has still failed to do that and also failed to admit he therefore ought not to be using it as being representative of Luther's views. I'm certain he would be denouncing a theist from doing such a thing if the quote was Einstein talking about God for example. Suddenly the standards would change I'm sure. I'm not convinced that makes for a reasonable person myself. I would suggest that it is laymen like AronRa who keep academics from being interested in getting involved with laymen.

    2. Good point. I looked for how he came up with the idea that you were accusing him of being a liar. I think, as evidenced by this line, he lumped you and the "commentors" on your YouTube channel into one entity: "In the comments on his channel, I see allegations that I am a definitely dishonest coward, deliberately lying in order to further my ‘agenda’."

  4. There is something pathetic about guys like Aron Ra...bravely hiding behind his fake name...who still sport the aging hippie look.

  5. Wait, are you saying that a scientistic, cognitively backward, Dawkinsycophantic New Atheist isn't acting in a scholarly manner? I am soooooo so so soooo surprised! *rolls eyes*

    1. I know. I'm a little late to the party eh?!


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