Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Debating the Textually Critical

Richard Carrier has finally posted some of his own thoughts on our debate. Here’s my commentary on his look at it, which I am reporting in full. (It was placed as a comment on his original entry on the debate back in April.)

Holding called it a win-win, which I suppose depends on what you thought was the important conclusion.

Well, no, not from here. I specified why I called it a win-win in my post here before:

Yep, that's what we'll call it. Richard Carrier and I each presented our views, didn't intersect that much in doing so -- and actually got along fairly well in person. I'm content, and think we both did a good job presenting our cases.

So in other words, I count us both winners for having successfully communicated our ideas. But I don’t think we met head to head enough for a real “debate” to have occurred.

As to the actual debate topic, he conceded that debate in his opening and moved the goal posts by defending a different position (something like "Yes, the NT text is unreliable, but it's reliable enough for supporting the core things of the gospel" without ever specifying what those core things are).

Hmm, well --- not too many would disagree what the core doctrines of the Christian faith are, and this is also a statement drawn more or less from Bruce Metzger, and also reused by Bart Ehrman. I also would hardly say I moved the goalposts. The topic was: Is what we have what they had? I answered yes, in substance, completely; in exact words, not so much, but still quite a bit, and what we don’t have is not that important. If the topic had been, “Is what we have in terms of exact words what they had?” then this would be a valid objection.

I didn't bother rebutting that argument because he never stated what things were reliably supported by the extant text, so there was nothing to rebut.

Perhaps not. 15 and 10 minutes doesn’t really allow for that many specifics. I could spend an hour, I imagine, on texts about the Trinity alone. But I am certain there are enough things that Carrier could recognize as core values of Christianity that he could have picked one or two to discuss, and also discuss how they are (if they are) affected by textual questions.

So he can claim to have "won" that argument if we are unbothered by it being one big fallacy of special pleading.

I can’t really say how that’s arrived at. Perhaps if the debate were all the information anyone had, we could say that. But that general statement is backed by Metzger, Wallace, and even Ehrman with an ample amount of data. But no, the argument wasn’t “won” or lost…because again I don’t think we really addressed each other’s views head on that much.

As to the actual topic of the debate, it was a clear and informative win for me.

Of course I agree. And add that it was a clear and informative win for me as well.

"We do not have what they had," and many changes made to the text are undetectable to us now. Holding didn't even argue against that.

I didn’t, in specific terms, because I don’t find that the substance is affected by even hypothetical changes that could be reasonably suggested. There surely are undetectable changes, but based on the record we have, if we are extrapolating backwards from known data, the undetectable changes also would have to have been inconsequential.

There was one overall exception to his "goal post" move being special pleading. I think he made a point to the effect that broad claims in the NT, like that Jesus was crucified or Mark described the discovery of an empty tomb, were not "textually" dubious, and I agree.

Well, if I did make such points, I don’t recall it. There’s no mention of the crucifixion or empty tomb in my notes for either round. But of course I would agree in any event.

But as I pointed out, the NT isn't just used for broad stroke claims like that, it is used to make countless specific points from specific passages (even specific word choices in those passages), and on that point he certainly lost. What isn't clear is whether he even cared about losing that argument. But it will certainly complicate his attempt to make those kind of arguments in future.

This reaches to the fundamental problem of substance vs exact words. What Carrier seems to refer to – a sort of vacuous prooftexting of the sort you hear from pulpits frequently – isn’t the sort of thing I engage in. It’s a practice of naïve fundamentalists and those who would fail to recognize what I say about substance vs exact words as valid. In fact, some such persons would condemn me as a heretic.

I remarked to Carrier more than once that he doesn’t seem to know much about me. This would be another example – it’s very seldom that I engage in this kind of prooftexting, if at all; and if I do, it is only a small part of what I present as a case.

There are certainly persons for whom Carrier’s argument would be a serious problem. For example, consider this statement made by a hyperpreterist I engaged. I had indicated the need to use informing contexts like intertestamental literature to inform our understanding of the NT, and he replied:

Maybe this is a good time to inform you that we are having a “Bible” discussion here, not a discussion of “opinions” held during the inter-testamental period. While they may offer some educational value, they are not the final authority. The word of God must prevail in all cases. God always reserves the right to choose and define his own terms. So, without equivocation, I will readily ignore reams of contexts which are outside of the Bible when they contradict what is “inside” the Bible.

So yes – I’d say I don’t care if I lose that argument, because it isn’t one I’d make in the first place. For someone like this hyperpreterist, Carrier’s points are an unmitigated exegetical disaster. For someone like me – or a Dan Wallace, or a Ben Witherington – the points have little if any impact.

Let’s consider some examples Carrier presented on his slides. One is a case where copies of Matthew had added to them bits from John about Jesus being pierced by a spear. But exactly are we supposed to be concerned with here? John’s testimony is more than sufficient; apart from questionable ideas that we need a second or third or fourth source for such claims, that we find the claim in John alone is of no moment. Further, of what relevance is the spear thrust in the first place? I doubt if John was anticipating modern “Passover plot” scenarios. He also didn’t need it for prophecy fulfillment, despite what some exegetes may claim: That idea reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of the use of the OT (not as a repository of prophecy future, but rather, of validation past), and at any rate, he could have suggested it was fulfilled when Jesus’ wrists and ankles were “pierced” by nails.

Another example offered was Luke 23:53, where it was added that the stone closing Jesus’ tomb was so large it took 20 men to move it. Are we solely dependent on Luke for this information? Isn’t archaeological data about Jewish tombs worth far more than this interpolated statement?

Another: Luke 2:14 could read “peace on earth, good will towards men” or “peace on earth, good will for men with whom he is pleased.” (I take that reading from the NET Bible; Carrier has it as, “for whom God pleases” on his slide, which I take to be a mistake.) Carrier describes the latter reading as less lofty and more ominous. But this evaluation would not be possible unless we had the later reading, so what would we be missing if the second reading had never existed? Beyond that, it is patently obvious that God, as a patron, would express His good will only towards those that please Him. Indeed, in my own view, the former reading causes my theology far more difficulty than the latter one.

Is the number of the beast 616 or 666? I commented on this earlier:

Now I don’t expect that Carrier is aware that I hold to an entirely different eschatological view than the majority of Christians. He likely expected that most of his Christian audience at the debate were standard dispensationalists who were scanning the horizon for a figure that used “666” conspicuously and was ready to tattoo it on their foreheads.

Well, I’m not one of those people. I think “the beast” was most likely Nero, and that nearly all of Revelation was fulfilled in the first century. As a result, for me “666” is probably either a numeric rendering of a Greek rendering of “Nero Caesar” transliterated into Hebrew (using an admittedly defective spelling), or perhaps a numeric rendering of the Hebrew word for “beast” (with the note that this word was sometimes used to describe Nero). The 616 variant would just come from a transliteration of the Latin form of Nero’s name into Hebrew – if it isn’t simply a “typo.” But whatever the case, this is just one aspect of my case for Nero as holding the position which so many modern dispensationalist identify with a future anti-Christ figure, and the “616” variant doesn’t really cause me any problem.

Finally, as a sample, Carrier offered the example of 1 Cor. 15:49: “And just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, let us also bear the image of the man of heaven.” Carrier invoked the variation, “we will also bear…” The NET Bible’s comments on this tell the story:

A few significant witnesses have the future indicative (foresomen, “we will bear”; B I 6 630 1881 al sa) instead of the aorist subjunctive (foreswmen, “let us bear”; Ì46 א A C D F G Ψ 075 0243 33 1739 Ï latt bo). If the original reading is the future tense, then “we will bear” would be a guarantee that believers would be like Jesus (and unlike Adam) in the resurrection. If the aorist subjunctive is original, then “let us bear” would be a command to show forth the image of Jesus, i.e., to live as citizens of the kingdom that believers will one day inherit. The future indicative is not widespread geographically. At the same time, it fits the context well: Not only are there indicatives in this section (especially vv. 42-49), but the conjunction (kai) introducing the comparative (kaqws) seems best to connect to the preceding by furthering the same argument (what is, not what ought to be). For this reason, though, the future indicative could be a reading thus motivated by an early scribe. In light of the extremely weighty evidence for the aorist subjunctive, it is probably best to regard the aorist subjunctive as original. This connects well with v. 50, for there Paul makes a pronouncement that seems to presuppose some sort of exhortation. G. D. Fee (First Corinthians [NICNT], 795) argues for the originality of the subjunctive, stating that “it is nearly impossible to account for anyone’s having changed a clearly understandable future to the hortatory subjunctive so early and so often that it made its way into every textual history as the predominant reading.” The subjunctive makes a great deal of sense in view of the occasion of 1 Corinthians. Paul wrote to combat an over-realized eschatology in which some of the Corinthians evidently believed they were experiencing all the benefits of the resurrection body in the present, and thus that their behavior did not matter. If the subjunctive is the correct reading, it seems Paul makes two points: (1) that the resurrection is a bodily one, as distinct from an out-of-body experience, and (2) that one’s behavior in the interim does make a difference (see 15:32-34, 58).

All that offered, my own answer would also include an understanding of the use and meaning of the word “image” to refer to the carrying of authority (see The Mormon Defenders Ch 1 on this). This meaning would hands-down stand only for the aorist subjunctive described above. Indeed, the future indicative makes no sense at all, and is completely incoherent with language of the “body of Christ” indicating our shared identity with him. I wouldn't even need the NT to decide which view is correct.

In closing – if there was a fulcrum for my viewpoint, it was found in this statement from Round 1:

And classical scholar Rosalind Thomas adds, “…to apply the concept of original and copy to ancient documents is anachronistic…we must abandon the modern concept of authenticity and the modern requirement of exact verbatim correspondence down to the very punctuation.”

Carrier’s views cause severe problems for those who do adhere to the modern requirement of exact verbatim correspondence – but they have very little bearing on someone like me who does not. In that light, maybe we can arrange for Carrier to debate that hyperpreterist. He does do live debates...and it would probably be more raucous than the debate we had.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Gagging the Guilt-Trippers

This past week, a YT fundy atheist pulled a canard on me that no one with a “personal relationship with Jesus” would use insulting language towards opponents. Yes, you know what kind of fun I had with THAT anachronism. But that’s not today’s point.

ProfMTH, back in April, re-released a vid in which he asked why Christians celebrate Easter, and argued very badly that things like Easter egg hunts, because they might be traced back to pagan practices, any Christian who did them was violating Deuteronomic law.

Yeah, that’s a joke too. But it’s not the point today, and the fact that both of these twits are on YT is just coincidence; you’ll get nonsense like this from a lot of fundy atheists.

The point is this: The first fundy atheist certainly does not believe Christians have a “personal relationship with Jesus.” He sees such things as akin to a child having an imaginary friend. (I agree to a point – but that’s another matter.) ProfMTH is certainly not hurt in any way by Easter eggs or chocolate bunnies, and his argument doesn’t in any way undermine any basic tenet of Christianity. So what’s their point?

It’s a very simple one: To undermine Christian confidence with cheap guilt trips.
Oh my. Don’t you feel bad that you’re offending Jesus by using insults? Don’t you feel bad that you’re offending God with that chocolate bunny? Maybe you’ll be less confident about your beliefs in the future now that you see what a horrible mistake you’re making.


There are apparently a few people who think I’m being too hard on ProfMTH and others; they think he and others are really just nice guys interested in serious dialogue. No, they’re not, and this sort of cheap “guilt trip” foist proves that they are not. Their agenda is to destroy Christian faith – for whatever reasons they may have; whether it be some political or social agenda, or because they were whacked on the knuckles with a ruler by Sister Mary Mulch at Catholic school, frankly doesn’t make a lot of difference. The end result is the same. They want the Christian witness and arsenal emasculated, even if it means advocating for positions they themselves don’t believe in.

One would think that FA #1 for example would want Christians to abandon that imaginary friend – not encourage them to look inward for guidance from it. ProfMTH has covered a few meaty issues, but not hardly enough to count, and surely has better ideas and arguments he could be addressing to help Christians overcome their disabling spiritual heritage. You think they really care about dialogue? About setting Christians free with truth? Fat chance. Here’s an ad for Antarctic beach property; want some?

For those who think I’m being too hard on these idiots: Clue in. They’re not there to help you. They’re interested only in themselves and in getting fat off victims of the flock. They only do enough serious research to be able to foist some misguided reading to serve an agenda – as I have shown, and as I will further show. It’s as a reader said: When you’re nice to the wolves, you don’t end up with peace between the sheep and the wolves – you end up with fat wolves. Let’s keep those wolves on Weight Watchers and teach them a lesson in deflating arrogance and deception.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Those UNeducational Cartoons!

One of those silly YT Skeptics once complained that you didn’t expect to be instructed about Biblical scholarship in a cartoon format. That’s silly as an objection anyway, but as it happened, Mrs. H and I saw a show on the space program the other day where it was noted that NASA had used an animated figure, Andy the Astronaut, to teach adults what would happen to humans in the vacuum of space without proper protection. As it happens, someone had this vid on their Facebook page, and you can see the link below. Andy is put through all sorts of cartoon mayhem, too – stuff these stuffy noses would regard as “immature”.

I asked my media consultant if he could give me any more examples of adult education using cartoons, since I recalled Disney used to do some of that. He described the list as “virtually endless” and gave me several examples. I looked for as many as I could on YT so you can see them, too. (Added 12/18/2011: I found that a couple of these are no longer on YT.)

Yes, I'm belaboring a point. This is fundy atheists we're talking about, and they're the sort who will say a dead horse they're beating crossed the finish line ahead of yours.

Bert the Turtle for the "Duck and Cover" campaign.

Woody Woodpecker explaining space flight in Destination Moon.

Reddy Kilowatt explaining electricity (removed).

Three Looney Tunes shorts explained economics, using characters like Sylvester and Elmer Fudd. These were sponsored by the Alfred Sloan Foundation. (Removed.)

Disney's Victory Through Air Power promoted the Air Force.

Disney's Man Into Space promoted the space program.

Disney's Seven Dwarfs from Snow White promoted innoculation.

Warner used the character Hook for a series of Navy shorts and Private Snafu for the Army. These were written by Theodore Geisel aka Dr. Seuss.

When he was in the military, Stan Lee gained favor by making comic books explaining military procedures.

The Japanese regularly use both manga and anime to educate people, of all ages.

Animated characters, like Tony the Tiger, are used to "educate" the public about breakfast cereals and other products. Animated graphics are used to demonstrate how products work, like the function of a razor blade or a weed killer.

Andy the Astronaut

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Scrubbing New Jerusalem's Toilets: Camping Out

This is the first Forge post since the world ended – not – so it’s an opportune time to revive this series and reflect in a category that includes not just Harold Camping, but also a range of teachers from Joseph Smith to Joyce Meyer.

The fruit of these future bathroom cleaners isn’t always as obvious as it is with Camping. This past weekend a local radio station mocked Camping’s forecast with a “Last Request Weekend” in which listeners were encouraged to call in their final requests for songs. As is often the case, I find myself on the one hand satisfied that the likes of Camping are being mocked by the world at large; yet I’m also disturbed because I know that the world at large doesn’t have the knowledge to discern between Camping and (say) N. T. Wright, and will assume many or most Christians were expecting the end of the world last Saturday too. The sensational always gets more press than the sensible, after all. Indeed, one YT troll posted a comment Monday asking if I felt stupid because the Rapture had not occurred.)

Equally tragic, news reports noted a man who had spent his life’s savings – some $140,000 – to promote Camping’s message. He ended up confused and waiting in Times Square, made a spectacle of by the media. Since Camping didn’t make so much as a marginally competent effort at handling Scripture, these and other expenditures for promoting his nonsense (billboards, bumper stickers, etc) are doubly tragic; the needs that went unfulfilled will drag the church further into disrepute.
I’m not here just to condemn Camping, though, since he’s just a symptom of a broader problem. Camping is typical of a breed of self-appointed teacher today whose training to be a teacher amounts to, “I opened my Bible and God revealed to me that…” Or, “I opened my Bible and figured out that…” It’s a symptom, really, of what I have termed in an early E-Block article the doctrine of radical perspicuity. In that article, I quoted a KJV Onlyist website which said:

The question is asked, "Do you really understand the Bible? How can you be sure that what you think the Scriptures say is in fact what they do say?" These questions are directed not at the learned in the Scriptures, at ministers, professors of theology, and the educated, but at the common people of God, who place their simple trust and faith in the Scriptures as the Word of God. Such questions not only raise doubts in the minds of God's faithful people, which is in itself wrong, since the Bible stresses that the life of the Christian is not one of doubt, but of faith. But even worse, these questions are meant to lead the people of God to the conclusions that after all the Scriptures are not understandable, contrary to what the church has always taught and thought. What is required to understand them is a great deal of education and learning, as well as intimate knowledge of the methods of interpretation and the historical and cultural conditions under which men wrote the Scriptures. The result of this is the conclusion that only the clergy, the favored few, are able to understand the Word and interpret it, while the laity, the ignorant masses of common folk, are really in the dark. Thus the door is opened to all sorts of corruption, heresy, and error, which is rampant also today.

In contrast to this, we wish to emphasize the Bible as we have it, and that means the King James Version, is perspicuous. Even a little child can read and understand the Word of God, as anyone with children knows.

But you don’t have to be a KJV Onlyist to hold to a view like this. It’s implicit each time a Harold Camping, or a David Koresh, or even a Joyce Meyer or a Charles Stanley, produces teaching after teaching in which all they do is quote the Bible and say what they think it means. At times such people can also add (as Camping did, with his experience in engineering) expertise in some other field to the mix, and the result is, as I am fond of saying, much like mixing chocolate cake with Polish sausage: It’s barely edible and pretty much just a mess.

Now of course, some parts of the Bible are indeed simple enough that that is all we need to do – if all we need is basic knowledge about what it means. But even the simplest passages can have deeper and richer backgrounds that a straightforward reading can miss – and that can lead to a deeply erroneous conclusion. (In fact, wait a week…I’ll have a TektonTV vid that provides a very good example of just that happening.)

I won’t reproduce the whole E-Block article on perspicuity here, but a few major points deserve notice. First, the historic idea of the perspicuity of Scripture was made against claims that the meaning of the text was inaccessible to readers by any other means than revelational authority – claims made by groups like the Gnostics who claimed they had some “secret” way to interpret Scripture. It was not intended to be used against serious study and exegesis, nor could it be: The means whereby scholars and students seek to better understand the Bible are not restricted to those are granted revelation. Anyone may go to a library, or go to Waldenbooks, and find the same resources I or anyone else has.

Second: Scripturally, there is no support for a doctrine of radical perspicuity. I found proponents using a smattering of texts in support, and their strongest (ha ha!) was Psalm 119:105: "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path." Of course, Ps. 119:105 certainly cannot be appealing to a canonical collection of Scriptures which, at the time of the Psalms, would be as yet mostly unwritten! Contextually, reference to the commandments in v. 104 indicate that the "word" in question is the Deuteronomic law. Beyond this, we cannot make any assumptions (since this Psalm has no authorial credit) about the level of discipleship and knowledge of Psalm 119's author. Light comes with understanding, and we do not know where this author's level of understanding rested.
In contrast, other texts are quite clear that growth in knowledge and understanding is expected of the disciples of Christ. The very word "disciple" implies a follower who will grow in knowledge and performance. Other texts clearly indicate stratification in understanding and knowledge (Eph. 4:11-12, Heb. 5:11-12; 2 Peter 3:15-16).

The point for today being: Self-studied “experts” like Camping are a bane to the church today; they don’t even need to be teaching cultic doctrines to be a danger. They destroy the honor of the church and cause the name of Jesus to be insulted, besmirched, and mocked in the public square. If Camping’s followers had any sense, they’d publicly disown and denounce him, and the church at large should now (heck, they should have done it before, if they didn’t!) publicly ridicule his teachings and disfellowship him until such time as he publicly apologizes and forfeits all activities as a Bible expositor. (I was pleased to see that at least one lead official among Southern Baptists had made such a call for an apology.) And frankly, if I had my druthers, when it came to gross incompetents like Camping, I’d make it so that their ministry property and funds were seized by the church at large and redistributed to more worthy causes, while Camping himself would be relegated to a job as a janitor.

I’m being facetious, of course. We all recall he did this in 1994 once before…and nothing of the sort happened. It’s too bad we didn’t learn the lesson before he did his encore.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Pounding the Pipsqueak

Today on TektonTV I will be loading two vids; one is a revamp of an older one in which I parodied the bad arguments and poor production values of a particular atheist, and I have reworked this into an all-purpose “how not to respond to TektonTV” narrative.

The other vid, though, will be new, and is another jab at the street-corner Napoleon Skeptic styled ReligionFreeDeist (RFD).

RFD had made the absurd claim that scholars were “pressured” to support ministries that were orthodox in their creeds, even if they happened to do things that they otherwise disagreed with (in my case, using satire and riposte against Skeptics). In reply I requested 5 examples of this alleged pressure, including names of scholars and proof that they would not have supported a given ministry apart from this alleged pressure; and, a report of what sort of “pressure” was used.

RFD ignored this and other questions initially, but after being pressed by another user, gave responses – not that they were satisfactory. In response to this particular question, he 1) expressed amazement that I would even dispute that it happened; 2) perversely took my demand for 5 examples as proof that I knew it did happen; 3) admitted that he didn’t have five examples (!), but 4) had one, which he had been told in confidence, which we could choose to believe or not, but he wasn’t telling us what it was, now let’s move on, shall we.

Uh uh. Not so fast, small fry.

One secret example, sorry, isn’t sufficient to sustain such a wild and sweeping generalization about scholars. Not even 5 examples would have been enough, but I chose that number, in fact (and later reduced it to three and then two, in YT annotations) knowing full well that RFD was blowing smoke. He has a bad habit of overextending himself with hyperbole, and then making excuses and/or parsing his words after the fact. In this case, his explanations above actually self-contradict openly in substance (1 and 2 vs 3 and 4); how could he possibly argue for widespread “pressure” if all he ever knew was one example? And indeed, since he won’t share it, how do we even know it was applicable, and that it passes all the necessary tests? Yet he’s the one flabbergasted that I don’t believe that it happens the way he claims. Duh ha…

Scholars pressured? Spare me. Dan Wallace serves as an example of one sort; you don’t tell him what to do, no matter who you are. He’d laugh in the face of any attempts at “pressure” and doesn’t hesitate to share his opinions. In other cases, endorsements will be offered with caveats: Yes, he does great work on X, but he’s a preterist, or he thinks hell’s fires are not literal, or he thinks hell’s fires are literal, or he delivers heavy satiric blows. That’s obviously not the sort of thing RFD has in mind, though, since it involves a personal decision to endorse with qualification that requires no “pressure” to arrive at. What his initial claim indicated was that, were it not for some defined, definitive “pressure,” X scholar would not be endorsing X ministry at all. That was a rather high bar to set – and now he’s ending up with that bar stuck in his mouth like a horse’s bridle.

I have never let loudmouthed Skeptics get away with such claims at any point, and at YT, it seems they’ve been at it for so long with no one calling them down for it that they don’t know what to do when they do get called down. Today’s vid satirizes RFD’s “search” for 5 examples and his failure to produce them. No doubt he’ll whine and cry and posture in response, but there’s only about a .0001% chance he’ll do what he ought to do – justify his wide-ranging and absurd claim about scholars with some actual examples.

By the way, despite RFD’s wishful thinking, the model for my “5…3...2” reduction was actually the story in Genesis of how God negotiated with Abraham for the rescue of Sodom and Gomorrah. God told Abraham he’d spare the cities if he could find, in turn, a slowly reducing number of righteous persons in those locales. As it happens, Abraham couldn’t meet even the least stringent requirement – and neither, clearly, can RFD.

I say in the vid that the “pressure” will continue until RFD admits he is overgeneralizing or else produces 5 examples. The one thing that makes that difficult is that he’s an intellectual pipsqueak who doesn’t have a lot to say – but there’s enough for me to take on for a little while if he doesn’t cry “uncle”. In short order.

Thursday, May 19, 2011


This was a bust that’s not quite as spectacular as discovering John Loftus’ fake blog, but it was still fun.

The perpetrator this time is someone I don’t name here, because he’s a nuisance who likes seeing his name on the little screen – just like Farrell Till. Which fits, because years back he was one of Till’s groupies, and I alluded to him in an earlier entry here on the Forge as a benighted soul who thought Till’s ghost town forum was worth bringing attention to. (It is, if you want an example of unhealed fundamentalism in a collective setting.)

These days, he gets his adoration fix from his own set of groupies on YouTube, which total in number about the same as the number who read my article on Mithra every two months. They’re clearly quality people for the most part – such as one I alluded to the other day whose username was half deity names, half sexual slang words. Their fearless leader specializes in being not-creative and making high-level bungles in logic and understanding. Of the latter, perhaps my favorite was a time when I referred to a specific scholarly book, which he dismissed because he couldn’t find it in HIS local library. At other times one of his favorite excuses for ignoring arguments is, “That scholar is conservative/an evangelical.”

These days one of his dalliances is trying to answer my YT vids on 2 Kings 2:23-5. Previously he had had an answer up to another user there who had used me as a source, and was forced to issue an apology to that user when he falsely accused him of plagiarizing my material (he had in fact credited me). Answering me directly after I showed at YT gave him an excuse to obscure that embarrassing apology (as well as some other mistakes – for example, accusing me of just making up the idea that baldness was rare in the ancient world; I still recall his use of a picture of empty bookshelves to indicate that I had no source for that claim).

His newer reply to me directly is in terms of quality about 30% expressing amazement that Christians believe this crazy stuff (ha ha), 20% actual argument, and 50% emotional rhetoric.
To give you an idea the sort of backwards mentality we’re dealing with, his only “answer” to my point that the youths hassling Eiisha fought back against bears because bears could be used (like buffalo) as resources for food and other staples was to laugh and show pictures of – uh – products people made from bears. Yep, that’s the way to refute it.

Even better was the one where he refuted a point I made about honor being received in battles by cribbing a screenshot from Star Trek showing Klingons singing about receiving honor in battle. That’s a good answer, huh? “Hurr hurr. Honor. Funny. Let’s move on…”

Ah yes. Cribbing screenshots. That brings us to the main issue today. Our dilettante has another serious problem when it comes to his vids: if he ever had an original idea for doing one, it hitchhiked to Peoria. If he isn’t cribbing screenshots from someone’s website, or from a film, or from some old painting, he’s making an effort to find one he can crib. There’s not an ounce of originality in anything he produces (whether arguments or production values), and given that, it’s not surprising that I caught him at something which deserves notice as an example of just how much respect these guys have for the intellectual property rights of others.

His latest vid (now removed – see below) made a personal announcement in which he parodies one of my own characters used in reply to him. That’s legal, even if reflective of inability to come up with ideas of his own. But it’s not the character that’s the issue – it was the background graphic, which was a sort of global map designed to look like a news show background.

One of his group was impressed with it, so they asked where he got it from. To this he replied that he did not remember, but that he got it from a Google search of “news background”.

Oh really. He didn’t remember, eh?

As it happens, you can find that graphic with the very search he points to – it comes up second or third, and interestingly enough, it’s a graphic you’re supposed to PAY for – about $125 for a license to use it and an associated animation program. Not only that, the version on the site has a “watermark” to discourage theft. He didn’t mind though – he just used an object in the foreground of his vid, and some lettering, to cover up the watermark and hide his thieving handiwork.

There are a couple of stunning things about this. The first is the audacity of lifting a graphic with an obvious watermark – one you clearly saw and covered up – and using it for free. (Which he did, since he admits he just lifted it via a find from Google.) The second is the audacity of lying about it when asked directly where he got it from. The last is the arrogance of the theft in the first place – supposing that you have every right to steal someone’s intellectual property. It goes beyond fair use, I might add: the graphic was used in the background of all but a few seconds of the minute and a half vid, and that’s way over the line.

I’m not saying I never make mistakes on this. Sometimes you can’t do it right, maybe because some third party has used/edited a graphic, sound effect, or what have you, and left the impression that it is not from a paid source. But I do all I can to be sure I don’t violate someone else’s intellectual property rights. I don’t use graphics with a watermark or with a price. I stick with fair use. I try to use items found on educational or government sites, or places where no one is trying to make a profit. People work hard to create these things, and it isn’t our place to take them and use them wholesale.

And more than that – you sure won’t find me trying to cover my tracks, either. One day after I brought notice to this issue in a vid of my own, the Till groupie pulled his vid down, and told his thralls:

I'm back from the business trip early. Emergency with one of my clients forced me to cut it short.

Yep. Being caught red-handed is definitely an emergency.

Friday, May 13, 2011


Folks, I had planned a post for today but it looks like Google is fooling around with things and the one from Thursday got deleted. So I won't post today, unless I see it is fixed. Thankfully I still have a copy, but I'm not about to post it and have it deleted again.

And after this...the Forge will be off until Thursday as I have some USDA work to do.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Those Immauture Looney Tunes!

As a follow up to Tuesday’s post, I have some new information regarding the charge that it is “immature” to subject persons in my vids to LT-style gags. One response made was that because ProfMTH is a “real person” while Daffy Duck is not, one can be deemed “immature” while the other can not.

I pointed out some flaws in this reasoning last time, and I can now add another one that deals the death blow (sorry!) to the objection – or else forces objectors to expand who they call “immature” even more.

The fact is, even live cartoons target “real people” for their gags. In my consult are a couple of people who are experts in the field of cartoons and entertainment. One of them gave me several examples of celebrities or public figures who were parodied, caricatured, and made into victims of gags by early LT shorts.

A particularly illustrative (and hilarious!) example is one we’ll feature below. Here, Daffy Duck hammers Adolf Hitler with a mallet right in the middle of a speech, causing Hitler to bawl like a child. So either it was “immature” for LT to do this…or it isn’t “immature” for me to do it. Take your pick.

Of course, I can hear the whines already, so:

Are you comparing ProfMTH to Hitler? Dah – no, except in the sense that both are public figures (just as I am). Of course, back in the day on early LT, average joes like me didn’t have any way to make films, and guys like Hitler were the easiest targets, and the ones people would most recognize. The age of electronic communication has expanded the opportunity for such lampooning tremendously.

Aside from that, as noted, celebrities were also so treated; my consult noted as example of W. C. Fields having his bulbous nose pinched.

I fully expect one of the Skeptics to try to do the same to me someday (in fact, some of them think they're doing it already, with a stolen picture of me). But they'd better do a good job of it, or I'll be all over it in more ways than one.

So where does it stop? Don’t think a line can’t be drawn here: The key is PUBLIC figures. Lampooning someone like my next door neighbor would cross the line, because he is not in public arenas. Lampooning someone like the spouse of one of these Skeptics would be out of bounds, too; they’re not involved in what they do. As I said before, if these critics want celebrity and attention – it all goes with the territory, and always has. Even academics are subject to this when they go off the wall, like Ward Churchhill did.

In the end, though, even without these examples, it is clear that a double standard remains where many of these YT Skeptics are concerned. I noted on ReligionFreeDeist’s channel that one of his group was addressing a Christian member – one who was very polite and nonconfrontational – with language suggesting that he took my side because, metaphorically, he engaged in homosexual relations with me. On another Skeptics’ channel, I noted a user with a username that implied homosexual relations between Jesus and the Muslim deity Allah, using specific slang terms for genitalia and the buttocks. Yet no one seems to raise any protest to these or multiple other examples I have seen and found – and except for modern and false portraits of Jesus contrived to say so, there’s no reason for us to sit around and take it lightly, either.

Hmm. If that’s what Skeptics call mature, I’ll stay with my “immature” stuff, thanks.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Tube Boobs 6.5

The past week revealed (no surprise) the expected truth that YT Skeptics hold Christians to a much higher standard than they hold each other. And naturally, it seems to have a lot to do with limited intelligence. Two examples were notable.

The first had to do with an encounter with a Napoleon-complex Skeptic styled “ReligionFreeDeist” (RFD). This character has apparently been lying in wait looking for ought against me, hoping for some chance to impress his peeps by laying a finger on JP Holding. You can see the sum of it at the link below; suffice to say for here, he made as much as he could of my expression of a concept in the popular language of the communicator rather than the technical language of the scholar. In the process, though, he committed a host of other bungles, including falling for the standard “his real name is Turkel” routine that these guys fall for when they dig out one of the “Holding hate sites” and swallow it gullibly. (It’s a bungle, but always good for entertainment on our side.)

I called down RFD for these bungles and his excess hyperbole, but in the end, he strained mightily to parse language and terms (again, ignoring the popular-technical dichotomy of expression I had specified) to preserve his honor among peeps. Now he says he wants to move on. Too bad. I don’t.

What’s next? I have some surprises, but I will lay out one here: I’m considering teaching this character a lesson by putting “Easter eggs” in my vids for him, in which I purposely use a technical term in a popular way, or even insert some actual minor error, causing him to jump on it and waste his time, bask in the glory, and then 10 days later have to eat it all when I reveal that the matter was intentional (and, I will tell some reliable witnesses what I’m doing ahead of time, so that they can verify that the use/error was intentional). I have had more than one way over the years to teach lessons to mini-Napoleons who try to use me to climb their own social ladders, but that said, one thing we can expect for sure: You can bet their peeps will still think they’re wiser than Solomon and capable of no wrong.

Such is what happened here: Even though he admitted the name error, there was not one peep from his peeps about his mistake. This, too, in spite of his Napoleonic declaration that his capture of my technical imprecision would be a “death blow” to Tekton. Really? Something that small? Even allowing for loudmouthed hyperbole, the implication seems at least to be some rather serious consequences. And by his own standard, this one blunder by him (not to mention others) ought to have seriously damaged his own credibility. But among his peeps…not a peep.

Nor did they call him down for an even wilder statement he made that evangelical scholars supported ministries like Tekton because they were “pressured” to do so. That was a particularly outlandish claim, and I challenged RFD to name 5 such scholars and explain how they were “pressured” to support a ministry they otherwise would not have supported. (According to RFD, this is also the case not just with me, but with Josh McDowell and Lee Strobel – the latter being an especially curious example, given Strobel’s penchant for making books that are mostly direct interviews with scholars). Nor, with one exception, did any of his peeps answer my challenge to name such scholars themselves. Of late, he did “respond” – by acting incredulous that I could doubt that such a thing were true, and then saying, well, he had ONE example…but it was given to him in confidence, so he couldn’t share it.

Wow. One secret example, and on that, we’re supposed to accept his assurance of the truth of a broad and sweeping generalization about the character of evangelical scholars. Nixon would be proud.

Needless to say, this speaks for itself. It was also notable that at least two of RFD’s peeps in leaving comments admitted they didn’t have the ability to judge which of us was right about the technical matter which started the whole rhubarb. There were surely many more who also did not actually understand the issue, but were loathe to admit it.

Another amusing point came of one of RFD’s peeps designated “botato” who accused me of cowardice for blocking RFD from commenting on my channel. I cannot see where he got such an idea; apparently he assumed that just because RFD was not commenting on my channel any more, I must have banned him. I had not, but consider what this means: His perception was clearly that RFD was a brave crusader who was sure to show up and deliver a few more mighty blows with his flyswatter, if only he could. Yet when botato’s error in presumption – both about the banning and RFD’s anticipated crusadery – were exposed, no admission of error was forthcoming. How curious.

This same character also made the rather amusing argument that because RFD’s response to me had more ”like” votes than mine, I should consider that he might have the better argument. Apart from the point (which I made in reply) that the manifest dishonesty and ignorance of RFD’s peeps made that sort of nose-counting meaningless, the stats also shows that only 8% of those who watched the vid voted “like” – which means, if we follow botato’s logic, that 92% of his viewers weren’t impressed enough to so much as care to vote. And all that takes is one little click of a mouse. Add to that, if “likes” mean anything, we all ought to become 9/11 conspiracy theorists, because Loose Change has over 24K likes, and only about 6K dislikes.

“Likes” and “dislikes” on YT are meaningless statistical tools. Someone could “dislike” a vid because they think the arguments are bad, or because they’re offended by an image, or because they simply hate that someone exposed their Dear Leader, Deist Jong Il, as a fraud. It takes a lot of blind naivete to suppose they are any kind of useful tool for arriving at conclusions about value or quality of arguments.

Such was one gallery of hilarity this past week; here’s another from the Double Standard Coterie. Those who have seen my vid on ProfMTH and Easter know that I used as a template the well-known Looney Tunes episode in which both Bugs and Daffy were being hunted in turn by Elmer Fudd, as they each tried to fool him into thinking it was the proper season to hunt either ducks or wabbits (er, rabbits). The episode ended with Bugs and Daffy uncovering a sign that said, “Elmer Season” – and turning the guns on him. In this episode of course, it was Daffy who ended getting blasted repeatedly, and my version of that had ProfMTH is his rabbit suit getting blasted by my fursona playing Elmer Fudd , in the same way. Keep that “same way” in mind.

It ‘s a classic LT episode, and you’d have to be a fool to think much more of it than that. Well, enter the fool, styled “DarkMatter2525” (DM25). Those who think I never give credit to Skeptics, pay attention: I’ve seen maybe 2-3 vids by DM25, and while they were nothing but the usual childish and misinformed canards in terms of arguments, DM25 does at least have some ability to create a production that is both interesting and, as far as it can go, technically proficient. He doesn’t crib screenshots, and he’s not the type who will let his dog bark in the background. His technique involves use of animation software, and I will say that I consider it pretty poor in a technical sense; it’s not something DM25 can do much about, but the software produces scenes that are flat and characters that look like marionnettes having epileptic seizures.

DM25 also doesn’t hesitate to express himself. One vid I watched was plentiful in f-bombs, included bloodletting and barely obscured nudity, and didn’t make a single respectable argument. But when he saw my vid above remixing the LT themes, he let loose with accusations that I was advocating physical violence against ProfMTH.

Uh, didn’t we have this debate about LT themselves years ago? And didn’t we decide that those who claimed that LT encouraged physical violence were mostly wackos – including fundy Christians – who needed to get a life and just be better parents? I guess DM25 missed that one.

It is curious, naturally, that DM25 let loose with such an accusation, given his own penchant for violence in the vid I saw. He asked (clearly thinking it was a good question) what I would think if he released a vid in which he had characters engaging in “Christian Hunting Season”. I’ll let my reply, and related comments do the honors:

What would I think of that? I would think it is a "DarkMatter Production" using a gag inspired by Looney Tunes. Yeah, that's real violence there to Prof; turned him all gray like that. I hate him so much I want him to be gray. For someone who uses animation as a format you seem to not be too clear on its implications.

As to what I would feel: NOTHING. You expect me to say I'd feel threatened, offended, etc? No, sorry. I'd see it, again, as a version of the LT gag, especially if you had all the other ideas with it is as I did (eg, Elmer Fudd). So there's no reason to "feel" any of that, unless one is insecure or ignorant...and I'm not.

Hmm. Think there might be a double standard here? Nah….but to his credit, DM25 did allow that I was being consistent even if he disagreed with me. RFD, on the other hand, strained to maintain the fiction of a problem by saying that whereas Daffy and Elmer were fictional characters, ProfMTH was a real person. Um, yeah, Big difference there. As I said on TWeb of that sort of parsing:

As I just had to explain in a comment to someone, just because it makes fun of someone doesn't make it "immature". Editorial cartoons poke fun, often brutally, at public figures; the one that comes to mind for me is the way Jeff MacNelly often depicted Bill Clinton completely naked, except for an extra long necktie. That summed up the view that Clinton was a foolish womanzier unworthy of the office of President, and whether you agree with that view or not, it would be idiotic to label MacNelly (or other editorial cartoonists, or satirists like Swift or Voltaire) as "immature".

Like it or not, ProfMTH has made himself a public figure -- as have I. If we can't live with the results (and I can), we should withdraw back into private life. I think sites like jimbo's are full of laughable errors, but I knew they were the price of being a public figure. If ProfMTH, or his fans, or anyone else can't deal with that when it happens to them -- too bad.

I used the LT parody as a sort of picture to show that I had refuted ProfMTH's argument. To take it as some sort of advocacy of physical violence is itself ludicrous and only the sort of thing a childlike mind would suppose otherwise.

More broadly, it is amusing that so many YT Skeptics object to my portrayal of themselves as misinformed dolts. Their own staple for years has been to portray Christians in that very manner; but point this out, and you’ll get the electronic equivalent of a blank stare. Many Skeptics – and nearly all I have come across on YT – see themselves as bearing the “white man’s burden” when it comes to Christians. Well, of course we portray them as ignorant dolts, you ignorant dolt. That’s what they are. Duh. And it is OK to portray a collective in such negative terms (Christians), but not OK to portray a member of a collective in negative terms (ProfMTH). Yep, makes sense to me.

(And, I might add, some of them don’t hesitate to brutally parody individuals; NonStampCollector, for one, targets Biblical characters and even God. So it is all right to portray God negatively, but not ProfMTH? Yep. Makes sense.)

Now here’s a caveat. I’d hardly be the last to say that many Christians are ignorant dolts. But Skeptics don’t have a Get Out of Stupidity Free card either. We have Joyce Meyer, but they have Dan Barker. Nuff said: They have no immunity against being the subject of my parodies. But they think they do. And so the double standard.

Bottom line is the same as before – we need to do some work reforming the wasteland.

Sorry. I meant waistland.

Hmm. Now there’s an Easter egg I could use…


Friday, May 6, 2011

TektonTV Behind the Scenes, Part 2

Today’s behind the scenes look at TektonTV will look at what may seem a simple matter – getting a character to walk. Since I’m not a honed professional at cartooning, one of my challenges was how to animate a character without changing the appearance of parts of the character that would not move. Pros can usually redraw the same character closely. My hand is too unsteady to manage that. So I had to come up with a different technique.

The end result picture is this. I have Elisha in the middle of a walk. All I want to move are his arms and legs – but I want the rest, his body and head, to stay the same. My solution to this problem is sort of like the idea that to carve a statue, you get a big rock and carve off anything that doesn’t look like the statue. The second drawing shows what I do to accomplish this:

This Vedic manifestation, a mutant Elisha, has both sets of arm and leg movements I want. So to make the two stages in Elisha’s walk, I have two copies of this single drawing, and in each one I delete/erase what I don’t want. That way, his head and body remain the same in both.

One extra thing I learned of late, by the way…I now keep nearly all of these things as gif files (with transparent backgrounds). Never know when they might be useful again.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Travel Travails 2

The ISCA conference was something I had already committed to before making decisions about lessening my commitments and offers to travel, but it also managed to confirm them. It was a shorter trip, with fewer hassles than the recent one to CA, but in that time it made up for that in hassle quality in ratio to quantity. It was as though someone was trying to see how many bungles could be fit in such a short trip.
Some of the hassles already happened the last time I wrote on this subject. What happened this time?
No wailing children (save for a few minutes), but we had to sit for 30 minutes on the tarmac in Raleigh so that we’d be allowed to fit into a landing schedule in Charlotte. (The obvious question – why didn’t they board us 30 minutes later, then? – doesn’t seem to have a rational answer, though I am sure there is a rationalized one.)
In Tampa, the TSA told me it was OK to leave my new Dell notebook in its case as it went through the x-ray machine. In Raleigh, they said no, it had to be taken out, so they made me run it through a second time without the case. Any chance of some consistency across the board, there, folks?

Mrs H doesn’t want to go through those new security scanners because of concern over radiation (in part due to previous exposures as a child). The TSA reps in Tampa had the nerve to lecture her about it. Just shut up, huh, guys? Besides, as a prison employee, she knows: A pat down can be more efficient and thorough.

Remember I had a hard time getting a rental car? I had ordered an economy car. I ended up with a Mercury Mariner. Yes, a blinkin’ SUV; it’s all they had left thanks to the idiot spring breakers. I hate those things – and it cost us $40 more in gas than it would have otherwise. Some "economy".

On the two plane flights back, Mrs H and I were assigned seats NOT next to each other. The first leg, we were in the same row, but across the aisle from each other. Second leg, we were 14 rows apart.

It did turn out OK in the end – on the first leg, it turned out that an elderly woman needed Mrs H’s assigned seat to sit next to her daughter, and Mrs H ended up with a seat in first class. I don't like being separated from her, but for the sake of treating her to first class, I didn't mind.

Second flight – we did some finagling and a lady graciously traded with us. But why should that have even been necessary? Shouldn’t common sense have said that if we bought tickets together, we wanted to be seated together? (Of course, it won’t tell anyone that if a computer does all the reserving.)
By the way, two people in the same row on the first flight had their own problems. One person had had two prior flights canceled and was on their third. Another related how often they had had similar difficulties flying into moderate-sized destinations (like Syracuse). Doesn’t anyone at the airlines have a clue that the system is too inefficient? Or why they are going bankrupt (or having to merge to avoid it) one at a time?

I never knew this before -- $5 to use the wireless service on a flight. Are they out of their minds? (Yes, of course, since they also charge that much for bagged snacks. Please!)

Well, that’s enough of that anyway. So I'm changing my page on speaking to reflect stricter policy on travel – which amounts to making it so that I don’t go out of state unless I can get a much more leisurely pace.

That just might mean I won’t go out of state again for speaking – but at this point, I don’t think that I’d miss it.