Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Here’s an amusing coincidence of two things I’ve written about lately, John Lofton (the loony Christian theocrat who runs theamericanview.com) and the Liberty University debate team. It seems that Lofton is quite upset that a few years ago Falwell gave the okay for the debate team to debate in favor of abortion when they had to (the subject was the right to privacy and some teams ran cases to ban abortion, so when they were negative they would have to argue for abortion or just give up the debate program for that year).

For openers, the “rules of college debate” which O’Donnell, obviously, sees as no problem, are a big problem. Why? Because these “rules” are the rules of the world, the rules of anti-Christian, secular colleges.

No true Christian could abide by such “rules.”

Such argue-both-positions-pro-and-con “rules” may teach technical debating skills. But they teach as if truth is – well, as if there really is no such thing as absolute truth. They teach debating as if it is merely a Godless game.

Well John, debating is a Godless game.

As for Falwell – for the sake of competition — approving his debate students being allowed to argue “in favor of Roe v. Wade,” this is appalling. Abortion is murder. What, pray tell, on a supposedly Christian campus, would be an argument “in favor of” murder?

Hmmm. This is rather odd coming from a genuine theocrat who would, if he had the power, install the Mosaic law as the civil and criminal law of the land. That would include stoning gays and brides who were not virgins on their wedding day, so clearly Lofton does think there are Christian arguments to be made in favor of murder. Maybe he should just think of aborted fetuses as potential gays and harlots and that will make it easier for him.

As for O’Donnell’s “debate theory,” I have no idea – nor do I care — what, exactly, Aristotle’s “theory of enthymeme” is. It sounds sneaky and dishonest. But, I do know that Aristotle was a heathen, a pagan, and, probably, a homosexual. This is someone whose “theory” should govern Christian debaters? I think not.

Translation: I ain’t never had no need for book learnin’. Them pointy-headed intellectuals is all homos and heathens..

Comments

  1. #1 Ginger Yellow
    March 29, 2006

    But, I do know that Aristotle was a heathen, a pagan, and, probably, a homosexual.

    Mr Aristotle, are you, or have you ever been, a member of the Communist Party?

  2. #2 BigDumbChimp
    March 29, 2006

    I knew it!

    That was Aristotle that had the cameo on Pricilla Queen of the Desert

  3. #3 tacitus
    March 29, 2006

    I’ve often thought that moralistic Christians should have more difficulties than they appear to when playing competitive sports. Deion Sanders became a born-again Christian yet that did not seem to slow him down when it came to competing against all those wide receivers. He continued to bump, push, and hold illegally when he could get away with it. I’m not saying he was a dirty player, but shouldn’t someone so concerned about sin avoid such behavior or at least own up to the ref whenever he knew he’d deliberately infringed the rules to prevent a pass?

    Big deal, you say. Well, I guess. But in close games such behaviour can change the course of a game or a whole season.

    Interesting aside: One of the most famous acts of cheating in the history of sports (everywhere but the USA, at least!) was in the 1986 World Cup when Diego Maradona scored what looked at first to be a headed goal against England but replays confirmed he had scooped the ball into the goal with his hand. The goal was allowed and Argentina went on to win the game. When asked after the game if he had touched the ball with his hand, all he said was it was “a little bit by the Hand of God, another bit by the head of Maradona” Must be great to play when God’s on your side :)

  4. #4 raj
    March 29, 2006

    I had been led to believe that in competitive debating a debate team had to be prepared to argue either side of a proposition. And that the teams might not be told what side they were to argue until they got up to debate. Am I mistaken?

    It seems to me that the debate teams don’t have to believe the arguments they are presenting–that is a completely separate issue.

  5. #5 Ed Brayton
    March 29, 2006

    raj wrote:

    I had been led to believe that in competitive debating a debate team had to be prepared to argue either side of a proposition. And that the teams might not be told what side they were to argue until they got up to debate. Am I mistaken?

    No, you’re not mistaken. There is a single topic, a resolution, for the entire year. Under that topic, there will be a few dozen possible cases that an affirmative team could run. During a tournament, you will have to debate both sides of the issue and when you’re on the negative, you have to debate against whatever case the affirmative team is running. So if a team is running a case to ban abortion, you have to argue against banning abortion.

    In actuality, there were potential alternatives. For example, if facing a case to ban abortion at the Federal level, they could have run a counterplan to ban abortion at the state level instead. Then they would be arguing for a ban on abortion, just like the affirmative, but the debate would be over which plan would most effectively achieve the goal or avoid disadvantages. It’s actually not a bad strategy. They could run that counterplan along with a disadvantage on federalism that argued that the Supreme Court was wrong to rule on abortion in the first place because it deals with the police power that constitutionally belongs to the states and that Federal action in such cases, whether for or against abortion, only further tips the balance of power toward the Federal government rather than the states. So you have two plans that both achieve the anti-abortion goal, but one does so while avoiding federalism problems so that’s the better policy. That’s a standard and effective debate strategy.

  6. #6 dan7000
    March 29, 2006

    Lofton is right.

    Debate – and considering arguments on both sides of an issue – is a threat to religious orthodoxy, which encourages closing your eyes to any possible arguments against what that orthodoxy teaches.

    I think his premise can actually be expanded: teaching people to think critically will inherently turn them away from blind religious (or political faith) and thus reduce the ranks of many religions (but not all) and reduce the number of “Christian Conservatives.” Maybe that’s why such conservatives are so threatened by education in general.

    Or, more simply, as my dad always said: education produces liberals.

  7. #7 Andrew Wade
    March 29, 2006

    Such argue-both-positions-pro-and-con “rules” may teach technical debating skills. But they teach as if truth is – well, as if there really is no such thing as absolute truth. They teach debating as if it is merely a Godless game.

    It seems John Lofton can’t distinguish between lying and make-believe (a.k.a. considering a hypothetical).

    I actually do agree with him that the rhetorical ploy they’re teaching at Liberty U sounds a bit dishonest. But then it gets wacky again:

    And if O’Donnell really believes there are atheists who share his “values,” then O’Donnell’s “values” are not worth sharing.

    Hmm. I’m an atheist. Some of my values are helping others, honesty, avoiding violence… Presumably these aren’t worthwhile values. (Sure I don’t share _all_ my values with O’Donnell, but he wasn’t claiming there were atheists who were).

    The really whacky bit is to be found in a quotation though:

    ‘Besides,’ he [George Mason coach, Warren Decker] says, ‘debate is a liberalizing activity. I doubt that Falwell is producing a lot of people who, when they finish at Liberty, are going out to spread the Word.’

    Appearently, critical thinking tends to turn people into liberals. Who knew?

  8. #8 ignatz1138
    March 29, 2006

    But critical thinking DOES turn people into liberals! Doesn’t it? Education level is a good predictor of political affiliation.

    And I love that he hates Aristotle. Whole, HUGE swaths of western theology, including some of the most basic tenets of western Christianity are based on classical Greek philosophy. Without Plato and Aristotle, you just don’t have Christianity in anything like the form this bozo knows it.

    What an ass.

  9. #9 Ginger Yellow
    March 29, 2006

    I’m continually struck by how weak and fragile the faith of fundamentalists seems to be, and therefore how worthless on their own terms. Fundies and even less fundamentalist believers go on and on about how their faith is a rock to which they can cling in times of trouble. Yet they behave as if even the slightest exposure to differing viewpoints would dash their faith completely.

  10. #10 Andrew Wade
    March 29, 2006

    But critical thinking DOES turn people into liberals! Doesn’t it?

    Possibly.

    Education level is a good predictor of political affiliation.

    That’s just a correlation, not a causation. It could be that liberalism turns people into critical thinkers (better suited to higher education) than the other way around.

    However, what I think is the case is that many of the precipts of Protestant Fundamentalism do not stand up very well under the combination of knowledge and critical thinking. Conservatism in general is not incompatible with critical thinking, but the variety of “conservatism” known as fundamentalism, well…

  11. #11 ignatz1138
    March 29, 2006

    It’s true. I was being glib.

    I think Andrew Wade and Ginger Yellow make the real point. Someone (maybe Ginger, but I’m too lazy to actually go look) pointed out during an earlier discussion re: Ed’s views on slavery in the Bible that faith that it too rigid is easily broken. That’s something I think should be repeated over and over.

    These folks are just begging to be let down in a big way. Maybe you get lucky, like Lofton, and live a happy life with your inflexible theology, but I’ve seen people like that levelled by the tiniest things. If your faith is rigid (like pig-iron even!) the smallest crack caused by the stupidest little point can shatter the whole thing.

  12. #12 mark
    March 29, 2006

    I wonder if various members of the Disco Institute played on debating teams, learning to make arguments they don’t really believe and “lying for Jesus.”

  13. #13 Jaime Headden
    March 29, 2006

    Ginger,

    The answer is fear.

  14. #14 386sx
    March 29, 2006

    I ain’t never had no need for book learnin’.

    Except maybe some Biblical book learning. Bible physics class, Bible history class, Bible math class, and so forth. Oops, I mean intelligent design physics class, intelligent design math class, etc. Oopsies! Sorry about that.