I’ve been having an amusing exchange with John Lofton, the theocrat who owns The American View. You’ll recall that he left a comment at Positive Liberty with his phone number and asked me to call him. I politely said no, but that he is welcome to leave a comment objecting to anything I’ve said that he disagrees with, but in public where everyone can see it. So this afternoon, he emails me again with the same message in his comment, his phone number and a request that I call him. I’ll paste the exchange in here so you can all can have a good laugh. Each line is from a separate email.
Ed: No thank you. If you object to something I wrote, you are free to leave a comment and dispute it and we can discuss it that way. You’re also free to respond on your webpage and let me know it’s there and we can discuss it that way. But there is nothing that can be discussed over the phone that can’t be discussed publicly, in writing.
Lofton: Just as I thought — you’re afraid to speak in-person, on-the-record, on tape, in defense of what you’ve written about me. But, no hard feelings. If I were you, I wouldn’t want to face me either.
Ed: A snarky person might say, “Just as I thought — you’re afraid to speak on the record, in text, on the web where everyone can see it, in defense of what you’ve written. But, no hard feelings. If I were you, I wouldn’t want to face me either.” What exactly is the difference other than you want to avoid having others see the exchange, while I want others to see it?
Lofton: Fine, so let’s talk; I’ll tape it and run the entire unedited transcript on our Web site. OK?
Ed: What’s the difference between that and doing it in writing? The only difference I can see is that doing it in writing rather than over the phone allows each of us to speak more thoughtfully and provide citations and references to support our positions rather than making comments off the cuff. Surely you would agree that such a format is more conducive to a thoughtful exchange than a one-time phone conversation? That is exactly why I prefer it to be in writing. I’ve learned from a long history of debating with creationists that they prefer oral debates to written debates precisely because it allows them to do what we have long called the “Gish Gallop” – bounce from one issue to another by continually throwing out new claims without bothering to answer previous objections. I really would be more than happy to debate any number of issues with you, but I want that exchange to be as thorough and as thoughtful as possible, on both our parts. By any measure, a written exchange that allows each of us the time to consider what the other has said and compose a well-reasoned response rather than an off-the-cuff, instantaneous response is more conducive to such an exchange. If you’re willing to do so, let me know and we can discuss the format.
Lofton: I want to talk to you, on tape, for-the-record, for our web site and for our radio show, only about what you have written about me. Presumably, you already know wht you’ve written about me and you already have the citations and references to back up what you wrote. So, any discussion abt this will not be “off-the-cuff” since you know what you wrote. I ask again: will you agree to discuss in a taped phone interview what you wrote about me, the unedited text of which will be used on our web site?
Ed: As I’ve indicated, I will happily agree to debate you in writing, about that or any other subject. If you’re willing to do that, then let’s do it. If not, then I think that’s the end of the discussion.
Lofton: The debate WOULD be in writing! I’ve agreed to run the transcript unedited. You are a coward.
Ed: And I think you are the coward for being afraid of a well thought out, informed debate that allows the world to see a thoughtful exchange rather than a one-time conversation. You see, I’ve dealt with many people like you before. It’s the same thing that Kent Hovind does. He loves to talk on the phone but refuses any sort of written exchange where one has to provide actual detail and provide citations that support one’s arguments. What I’ve written about you involves fairly complex issues of religion and government. I’ve written about your specious claim that if the Bible says something that this should settle questions of American law. I’ve written about your claim that the Constitution requires the enforcement of Biblical law and countered it with the historical reality that the Constitution was actually quite a radical break with the tradition of basing governments on religious law. I’ve written much more, of course, all using your claims as a jumping off point. These are serious questions that require a good deal of factual background to debate about in any detail worthy of the seriousness of them. I do not even consider what I’ve written in blog entries to be thorough and well thought out critiques of those ideas. To do those issues the justice they deserve would require an examination of many areas of evidence, from the historical process that led to the passage of the Constitution to comparisons between the Constitution and previous governmental charters. It would also involve the examination of a range of scholarly views, including at least Joseph Story, Gary North, Akhil Amar, Montesquieu, Locke and many others. A phone conversation simply can’t cover all that should be covered in a serious exchange on the subject. A written debate, allowing time for thoughtful response, would. Thus, only one of us is avoiding a serious exchange and that is you. So that’s my last offer. We can debate those issues in a serious manner, in full view of the public, in writing, or not. The answer to your offer is no; the counteroffer is the only one on the table at this point and the ball is in your court.
That was the last I heard from him.
Update: Oops, turns out he wasn’t done. Here’s the latest:
Lofton: You’ve done many talk shows. You’re just afraid to do one with me. But, again, no hard feelings. If I was you,I’d be afraid to engage in a verbal debate, too.
Ed: You want to know what makes that really funny? I’ve coached nationally recognized debate teams and was a champion debater myself. I’ve debated Herb Titus, I’ve debated Larry Klayman, and I’ve been on the radio many times. If you really think that I’m afraid to engage in verbal debate, with you or with anyone else, then you’re even more loony than I thought. Why are you so afraid to engage in written debate, John? Why are you so afraid of debating in a format that allows for more depth of analysis and more thoughtful argumentation? In the time you’ve taken to write all of these emails full of juvenile and silly debate about debate, you could have written a detailed response to what I’ve written for everyone to see and posted it as a comment on my blog or as a new entry on yours. Then I could take a day or two and formulate a reasoned and thought out response, and so forth. Any reasonable person can recognize that such a format is far more conducive to a thoughtful and thorough examination of the issues than a half hour phone conversation. And I think that’s precisely why you refuse to do it. Your feelings, hard or otherwise, are quite irrelevant.
Update #2: And there’s more…
Lofton: So, with all this experience, why are you afraid to verbally face ME? “Funny?” No, cowardly — because you cannot verbally defend what you’ve written about me.
Ed: It has nothing at all to do with fear, as I’ve made clear many times. Had you begun things by asking me if I’d like to be on your radio show, I would have gladly accepted. But you didn’t. You just said “call me”, and then later informed me that your intent was to record the conversation and play it on your radio show. That causes me, quite reasonably, to question your sincerity. I’ve given you multiple reasons why a written debate is superior to a verbal debate; you’ve given not a single reason to the contrary. And that makes me wonder why you are so insistent on a clearly inferior format for exploring the issues, particularly since the format you’re insisting on is one you control completely. That causes me, quite reasonably, to question your sincerity. I can only see two reasons why you would be so insistent on a less rigorous format for debate – either you are concerned that your arguments won’t hold up under the more thoughtful and careful scrutiny that comes with a written exchange, or you have something up your sleeve for your show that you can’t get away with in a written format. Since you’ve not offered even one reason why your format would be a better one, nor have you even attempted to refute any of the arguments I’ve made for why a written format is more conducive to a thorough analysis of the issues, it should be obvious to everyone by now (I am pasting this entire exchange to my blog for the world to see) that you have no rational reason for that insistence. And by the way, this isn’t a junior high school playground where lines like “what are you, chicken?” have any effect. I’m an intelligent, secure, grown up human being and I’m not the least bit swayed by pseudo-macho challenges to my manhood. If you cannot provide any rational reason why your format would be better than mine – and so far you haven’t even attempted to so so, preferring instead the childish taunting approach – then there is no reason to take you seriously in this or any other debate.