A couple of weeks ago Ashley Haworth-Roberts pointed me to a post on young Earth creationist Bob Sorensen‘s blog, Stormbringer’s Thunder, called “Debunking the ICR debunker.” Apparently, this title refers to me – ‘the’ and all. Sorensen’s post is primarily a link to a much longer essay at what is now Answers for Hope, the blog of Jason Petersen, called Online Atheists and You.
But before he gets to that link Sorensen has a few things to say himself. He claims that “Internet atheists” and evolutionists “often seek to shut down the rights of creationists and Christians to even express our points of view.” More specifically, he describes me as “an arrogant kid who seems to think that he is able to discredit and debunk the science presented by ICR scientists.” This is coming from a blog with an image in the sidebar stating “Parental advisory: I am right.” Sorensen is apparently quite fond of his image-based attempts at humour: the picture above right [Edit: Removed, see here to view] is from his post, and is supposed to represent the name of this blog, “Eye on the ICR.” In addition the ‘eye’ seems to be an envious eye, though I’m not sure what I am supposed to be envious of.
Enough with Sorensen’s babblings, though – we’re interested in Petersen’s original post. He begins by saying:
It is no secret that online Christian apologists are greatly outnumbered by atheists on the internet who want to try to debunk arguments for Christianity or young earth creationism. In fact, websites like answersingenesis and icr.org have websites that are filled with atheists that watch for articles and then almost immediately respond to every single article that is brought out.
While this may be a fairly accurate description of what I do, so far as I am aware there aren’t actually hoards of other blogs with the same purpose. To my eye, then, Petersen has inadvertently exaggerated his complaint. There may be no shortage of internet atheists, but there might be of this kind.
Regardless, he goes on to add:
Most of the responses put out by atheists to these Christians websites(I only gave two examples) are absolutely horrendous. By which I mean void of any meaningful substance. They tend to be riddled with logical fallacies and ad hominem attacks.
One thing you have to remember though is that many of these people who are writing these refutations are merely laymen. Many times they will cite a scientific study but then by hopefully sheer ignorance they will get the implication of the story incorrect. Sometimes they will even demonstrate that they don’t understand what the article is really saying.
It occurs to me that “logical fallacies and ad hominem attacks” is redundant, and more importantly that the above quote is a subtle example of poisoning the well. In a situation like this you could go back and forth forever accusing the other person of this or that fallicious argument, which is why I don’t like doing it.
I am unaware of what Petersen’s own qualifications to call other people “laymen” are. His about page claims:
I am fairly well versed in science but my main focus is Philosophy and Biblical Theology. I consider myself a freelance philosopher. I have done extensive study of scripture, philosophical and theological works.
What ‘well versed’ means to Petersen is not elaborated upon.
So where do I come in? He says:
I’ll give an example, eyeonicr.com is an atheist website that camps icr.org and responds to a lot of the articles that it brings out.
“eyeonicr.com” is not the URL of this blog, but of course you already knew that. Petersen does seem to be quite bad at linking to things – his precise target is the short Lawrence Krauss portion of my then-recent post 2012 in Review: Astronomy (you will want to re-read that post for context), but that isn’t actually mentioned. He quotes from both my post and the press release that I quoted. The issue at had is whether Krauss is “redefing reality” in arguing that something can come from nothing: I claimed that “Krauss is arguing that our definition of ‘nothing’ does not reflect reality,” while Petersen says:
You see, physicists [ED: There seems to be something missing here] particularly the physicists that are atheists are trying to get out of the “from nothing, nothing comes” conundrum by redefining the word nothing to mean physical fields, quantum vacuums, etc. But if you have those, you do have something. This is the reality that Brian Thomas is referring to. The author here is trying to dispute semantics. The reason being is that he has absolutely nothing of substance to say about the alleged redefining of nothing that Lawrence Krauss is bringing to the table.
It’s true that I didn’t say much of substance, but as this is indeed a semantic game that should really be a given. Perhaps I should instead have said that Krauss is arguing that nothing, as Petersen wishes to define it, either can’t exist or would be unstable. But I haven’t read the book, so I’m not the expert that Petersen thinks he is.
He goes on in this vein for a while, before saying:
I didn’t respond to the entire article because I simply don’t have time to, but as you can see, I easily dispatched the arguments(or lack thereof) that I did address on his posts.
Petersen’s use of pluralisation here is puzzling, because so far as I can tell the Krauss point was the only part he chose to respond to. By the way, a disclaimer like this could actually be a fairly effective counter to the Gish gallop. There are two things that should be done differently, however: the “I can’t go through all of this” disclaimer needs to come before you try to, and more importantly the argument that you chose to address needs to actually be representative of all the others. The Krauss thing was more of a philosophical aside, and so fails on the second point.
The post goes on to talk again about those atheists swarming “anything apologetics related [that] comes up online,” and beyond that decides to post some videos of debates, before concluding:
It’s important to note regarding these atheist websites, a “response” from an atheist website to a Christian or creationist article does not automatically amount to a valid rebuttal. If you watch the videos above you will see that atheists are not capable of holding up to scrutiny when their views are challenged, particularly in person(because they don’t have access to google to try and look up every argument/question/answer!)
I will admit that I can’t do much in the way of a “valid rebuttal” here myself – mostly because there isn’t much in the way of science to talk about (which is what I tend to concentrate on), and also because the whole post is really hard to read. I hope I at least gave you the gist of it, though.
Update: I removed the image, largely because DMCA counter-claims look like more trouble than they’re worth. I also forgot to link you to here for somebody else dealing with Petersen.
Update #2: Petersen has responded.