Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Back in March of 2006, I gave the Robert O’Brien Trophy to a delightful little loony named Michael Westfall. This guy actually spends his time writing letters to people that pretend to be from Satan, thanking them for their service to his evil agenda. Seriously. I’m not making that up. Naturally, I had a little fun with that. Apparently, he doesn’t appreciate having received such a prestigious award; I can’t imagine why. After all, he joins the ranks of people like Gerald Allen and Joseph Farah. Who could ask for more?

Anyway, he’s posted this extremely funny attack on me now that really has to be seen to be believed. As always, when it comes to the truly whacked, it’s nearly impossible to parody because it reads so much like a parody itself. It purports to be an expose` on how “left-be-hinder” sites (huh?) “attempt to confuse, twist and demonize Christians and Christian beliefs.” He begins:

I hesitate to garner any of these unknown bloggers the attention that they so desperately seek, but for this paper I will focus on just one.

I can’t find any measure of the popularity of his webpage (an alexa search shows the whole Tripod site, not just his), but I’d be willing to wager a few bucks that this blog gets a lot more hits than his page. Now’s where the run starts:

The site is called Dispatches From The Cultural Wars, and an individual, Ed Brayton, runs it from the dark edges of the Internet. In the pool of importance Brayton’s tiny little site is but the smallest of minnows.

Actually, I run it from the outskirts of Stanton. Being a small town in the country, there aren’t a lot of street lights so I suppose it does qualify as the “dark edges” in a way. Of course, I don’t think that’s what he meant.

Mr. Brayton considers himself a great mind, but I must warn you that if you are to understand the demeanor and twisted words of Brayton and his ilk, you must first hold your nose and then check your brains and values at the door. He behaves like an ACLU groupie want to-be and calls himself a longtime evolutionist. His trifling claim to fame is that he was a co-founder of the little known Michigan Citizens for Science…http://michigancitizensforscience.org/main/nfblog/mission-statement/ which fights for the teaching of evolution in classrooms, and the Panda’s Thumb http://www.pandasthumb.org/ which is another pitiful little site also dedicated in large part to evolution.

LOL. I don’t consider these to have anything to do with claiming fame, contrary to Mr. Westfall’s silly statement; they’re just other things that I work on. And given that the Panda’s Thumb is has won several awards as one of the top science websites in the world, calling it a pitiful little site is little more than wishful thinking.

The Bible talks of those who will harden their hearts and believe in themselves and nothing more. We owe a debt of gratitude to those people who are standing up against such little people like Brayton and for what the Braytons of this world represent.

I’m guessing my heart is roughly the same consistency Westfall’s is. If it actually hardened, it wouldn’t pump much blood and I’d be dead. And of course, I believe in a great many things, not just myself (whatever that might mean anyway).

Please be aware that many of the subsequent links from Brayton’s representative site do contain objectionable material. Following you will find several issues and examples of the decadent comments against our Christian leaders from this pitiful site.

“[Before going to any Left Be-Hinder links be aware that these sites do contain "very" objectionable material.]“…

This is the part I find funniest, because what follows is nothing but a set of links to various posts I’ve written on various subjects, preceded by references to specific people that he, one assumes, regards as holy and immune from criticism. Like this:

* Franklin Graham… http://www.billygraham.org/

Franklin Graham talks of the mission of the Billy Graham Evangelic Association to reach as many people as they can with the good news of Jesus Christ.

See…Dispatches From The Cultural Wars http://scienceblogs.com/dispatches/2005/09/katrina_and_the_wingnuts.php

The link discusses the fact that Franklin Graham claimed that God sent Hurricane Katrina to destroy New Orleans because we took God out of schools. Apparently, Westfall thinks that’s a reasonable proposition and I’m a terrible person for criticizing it. Which only confirms that Westall is dumber than a pork chop. The post goes on like this for quite some time, listing people I’ve criticized like Gary Bauer or Jerry Falwell, giving a link to their webpage and a link to my post criticizing them.

The funny part? At no point does he actually quote anything I’ve said and dispute it. There isn’t a shred of substance at all in his post, not a single argument countered or disproven. Apparently he thinks that the mere fact that I’ve criticized someone he deems holy makes me wrong and merely listing these “God fearing decent people” defeats my position. A curious mindset, to say the least. He does go on after that to paraphrase some of my positions, but doesn’t bother to answer them:

Brayton calls the teaching of creation to our children in their classrooms fraud, and Brayton’s mission is to justify, promote and support those who practice homosexuality. The Bible is not bashful or politically correct as it clearly calls the practice of homosexuality an abomination. Brayton, on the other hand, fights for same-sex marriage and fumes that “religious people” are hypocritical and incoherent in the argument relative to gay “special rights.”

Well yes, I do say that the “special rights” rhetoric of the anti-gay crowd is incoherent and hypocritical. Am I wrong? Westfall doesn’t bother to say. I mean, clearly he assumes I’m wrong, but since he doesn’t even attempt to formulate an actual reason why, that’s pretty much meaningless. I explained the reasons why that rhetoric is incoherent and hypocritical, and Westfall is certainly free to offer logical reasons to dispute that argument, but he doesn’t even try to do so. Ah, maybe “Satan” will get to it in his next letter.

In the end, the only thing that you can counter these people with is the truth in the Bible, even though they reject it, … there is nothing else.

Well,you could try formulating reasoned arguments based upon actual evidence, but that is clearly well beyond your grasp; better stick with just quoting the Bible.

The meandering and bewildered “Left Be-Hinders’ ” outcry today is “Death to the Bible!”, “Death to God’s traditional Church!” and “Death to the future of decency and morality!” They are losers that believe everything is relevant, there is no particular supreme God worthy of answering to and scripture is not God inspired, but meaningless semi-historical literature so there are therefore no absolutes and everything goes.

Well gosh, I don’t know what to say now. I mean, PZ Myers claims that I “loathe[s] atheists, and would like to see them silenced”, now this guy says I hate Christians, decency and morality and demand their death. Isn’t it interesting how the nuts on both ends of the spectrum seem to think that someone who supports free speech out to out to the furthest limits of the tolerable is just dying to silence them, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding? Paranoid clowns to the left of me, irrational jokers to the right…and here I am.

Comments

  1. #1 Kalium
    January 1, 2007

    …stuck in the middle with a blog. Yes.

    Presumable “left-be-hinder” is supposed to mean “person who will be left behind come the Rapture”. So not only does this guy buy into Rapture theology, he believes that he will be Raptured.

  2. #2 John Lynch
    January 1, 2007

    I couldn’t resist riffing on this earlier today (“Proud to be a “Left Be-Hinder” (whatever that means)“)

  3. #3 Gene Goldring
    January 1, 2007

    This is what you get for being fair and even handed Ed. A level playing field is not what this guy hopes for. He is demanding special treatment for himself and his “kind”.

  4. #4 James
    January 1, 2007

    That one thing that’s always puzzled me about the rapture. If it means losing guys like that from the planet, how is that supposed to cause misery and suffering?

    And the paucity of reasoning in his “rebuttal” comes, I suspect, from the fact that he is probably an old style “faith and faith alone” style true beleiver, not one of these pretending-to-be-reasonable ID types. I doubt he knows what reason is or cares. For him his version of The Bible is Truth and everything else is Satan’s handiwork. His posting of your work is akin to the Inquisitor’s cry of “Witch” (though fortunately without the force of law behind it).

    By the way Ed, you don’t happen to weigh as much as a duck do yoy?

  5. #5 jba
    January 1, 2007

    You know, after reading that… thing Westfall wrote Im pretty conviced that he was “Carol” and “Glen D” in the Obrien trophy thread. He sounds the same and even uses the same brand of insults/claims. That the sites that are opposed to his style of christianity and values are ‘small’, ‘pitiful’, ‘from the dark’, etc. He just doesnt seem to be able to understand that an opinion that differs from his could possibly be popular. Although I suppose I could have stopped at understand…

  6. #6 J. J. Ramsey
    January 1, 2007

    “Which only confirms that Westall is dumber than a pork chop.”

    Insulting pork chops?! That’s just not kosher.

    Oh, wait….

  7. #7 Pseudonym
    January 1, 2007

    Now hang on a minute, Ed. The comment that you quoted (and, I might add, didn’t write) about Franklin Graham was, as you described it, “edgy”. It’s really not hard to see how someone might reasonably call that “objectionable material”, even if they thought that what Graham said was completely stupid.

    Now I happen to be quite biassed. I found the comment about Graham kinda funny. But what if someone had used similar language in describing Dawkins’ signature on that petition? I probably wouldn’t feel offended on Dawkins’ behalf (he can do that himself), but I probably wouldn’t find it nearly as funny.

  8. #8 Pseudonym
    January 1, 2007

    Oh, for the record, my above small complaint does not in any way disprove the main thesis that Westfall is dumber than a pork chop.

  9. #9 Ed Brayton
    January 1, 2007

    Pseudonym-

    I think what he found objectionable about those posts is that they were intelligent and well reasoned.

  10. #10 MarkP
    January 1, 2007

    Funny Ed, do you actually think of yourself as “a longtime evolutionist” as Westfall asserts? Doesn’t sound like your kind of language.

  11. #11 Ed Brayton
    January 1, 2007

    Yeah, I thought that was a very strange phrase too.

  12. #12 Matthew
    January 1, 2007

    Did he mean to say “everything is relevant”? I think he meant to say “everything is relative”, a common accusation against non-christians. pretty sure that doesn’t describe Ed too well.

  13. #13 kehrsam
    January 1, 2007

    And this was supposed to argue against your awarding him the O’Brien trophy how?

  14. #14 Pseudonym
    January 1, 2007

    Ed: So you don’t think that he took particular offence to your quoting WorldWideRant calling Graham a “hateful spooge stain on the mattress of humanity” and telling him to “go f*ck yourself”? Or did you think that those comments about Graham were “intelligent and well reasoned”?

    (OK, “well-reasoned” might apply, but the comments weren’t particularly “intelligent” as I understand the term.)

    I agree with your assessment of everything else he wrote about you. Yes, I do think he’s mostly upset that he doesn’t have a real argument against anything else you wrote. But I do think that even an intelligent and reasonable person might consider that particular quote to be “objectionable”.

  15. #15 decrepitoldfool
    January 1, 2007

    Special rights for left-behinders!!! LOL

  16. #16 Leni
    January 1, 2007

    It’s really odd how many times he makes mention of how small potatoes this site is. (At least 7 times in just the quoted portions above!)

    Clearly, it’s really important to him. Which is kinda funny, really. Aren’t the meek supposed to inhereit the Earth anyway?

  17. #17 Ed Brayton
    January 1, 2007

    Pseudonym:

    I think you’re putting way too much thought into this. I really don’t give a shit why he found it objectionable. That’s really not the point.

  18. #18 Badger3k
    January 1, 2007

    Isn’t a “Left Be-Hinder” something that Ted Haggard paid for?

  19. #19 Ed Brayton
    January 1, 2007

    Ha. Great line, Badger3k.

  20. #20 Pseudonym
    January 1, 2007

    Ed, sorry, yes, you’re probably right. I’m too damn charitable, sometimes.

  21. #21 Lettuce
    January 1, 2007

    Well gosh, I don’t know what to say now. I mean, PZ Myers claims that I “loathe[s] atheists, and would like to see them silenced”, now this guy says I hate Christians, decency and morality and demand their death. Isn’t it interesting how the nuts on both ends of the spectrum seem to think that someone who supports free speech out to out to the furthest limits of the tolerable is just dying to silence them, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding? Paranoid clowns to the left of me, irrational jokers to the right…and here I am.

    I’m sure you know, but I’d like to point out, that whatever you think of Michael Westfall and PZ Myers, the positions claimed for them in this paragraph aren’t actually mutually inconsistent.

    There are, actually, positions in-betwwen or even apart from atheism and Christianity. You yourself hold one of the many.

    They could both be wrong, they could both be right, either of them could be wrong and the other right, or they might, one, the other, or both, not actually hold the positions ascribed to them.

  22. #22 Ed Brayton
    January 1, 2007

    I didn’t say anything about the two positions being inconsistent. They could both be true at the same time, but in this case they’re both false at the same time. And, of course, they both said that they hold the positions ascribed to them, so why should I not believe them?

  23. #23 djmullen
    January 2, 2007

    Michael talks about himself:

    “The Bible talks of those who will harden their hearts and believe in themselves and nothing more.”

    It’s HIS Bible and he’ll tell you what it means.

  24. #24 David C. Brayton
    January 2, 2007

    Wow, Mr. Westfall certainly has a lot of Faith going on.

    I bet if you took an MRI scan of his brain, you have a hard time telling the difference between his and Terri Schiavo’s.

    People with Faith that quote sentences from the Bible are some of the most vacuous self-rightous people I know. There is a sentence in the Bible that would justify anything, even genocide and slavery. It boggles my mind that people can abandon all sense of rational thought when they read the Bible (or the Koran or any other such text).

    You found a very worthy winner this time.

  25. #25 SmellyTerror
    January 2, 2007

    Poor guy.

    Look, he’s an idiot. He is clearly well out of his depth, so inept as to be harmless. His site almost certainly has zero readers outside of close family – 90% of his traffic probably came from this site. It’s a *Tripod* site, fer crissake.

    If one of the developmentally disabled kids in the special class insults me, do I really make myself look good by demolishing him?

    I was kinda joking when I started this post, but the more I think of it the more I feel that this fellow is probably either mentally ill or (at least) below average IQ. He can’t possibly compete. Seriously, try to rustle up some pity for him. He’s going to be stuck being himself for the rest of his life. What more can you do?

    Just ignore him. Beating on him might be fun, but it makes no-one look good.

  26. #26 Daniel Morgan
    January 2, 2007

    Re: “Left-Be-Hinders”

    First, this guy is as dumb as a post for confusing “behind” with “be-hind”.

    I could be wrong about this, but it seems to me that the Rapture craze is actually waning just a bit. Nevermind checking out that Rapture-o-Meter thingy, I just mean the Evangelicals I know and am around seem to talk less about preparing for the blastoff and more about actually fixing the problems in our world today. I hear Evangelicals talking less about how this sign or that sign means Jesus will return next week or year and more about how we need to deal with Iran and Iraq.

    But perhaps my own exposure is not representative of the overall world picture.

  27. #27 JimC
    January 2, 2007

    Isn’t it interesting how the nuts on both ends of the spectrum seem to think that someone who supports free speech out to out to the furthest limits of the tolerable is just dying to silence them, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding? Paranoid clowns to the left of me,

    I don’t think PZ ia even remotely nuts. I just think that when it comes to you two he isn’t entirely rational due to emotions. He is a very sane person and an excellent person for bringing science to the masses.

    Now this Westfall character is an entirely different beast. He has no coherent point but is humorous in his cluelessness isn’t he?

  28. #28 reboho
    January 2, 2007

    Ed, you know he’s right. “The bible tells him so” from the words of the children’s religious indoctrination chant.

  29. #29 deejay
    January 2, 2007

    SmellyLogic-

    I’m sympathetic to the point you’re making, but I wouldn’t go so far as to characterize Westfall as below average IQ (whatever IQ means-don’t get me started). He occasionally manages to string a multiple-clause sentence together, and he almost makes it as far as writing a coherent paragraph. Ultimately, of course, his words fall miserably short of defending a thesis, and yes, there is little satisfaction to be gained by mocking such a weak member of the antievolution ranks.

    I did get a little chuckle from his essay, though, and I’ll side with those who believe that someone who characterizes this site and Panda’s Thumb the way he does deserves some ribbing. Westphall desperately needs the ribbing as a reality check on his plans for world wide web domination. If that reality check is lost on him, it probably would be best to leave him to his delusions of grandeur.

    Given what’s at stake and given the type of people who are leading the antievolution charge, resisting them will always be necessary and warranted. We are fortunate indeed that we have such dim adversaries. The challenge this dynamic poses is determining the tipping point at which mocking must yield to mercy.

  30. #30 DuWayne
    January 2, 2007

    Daniel Morgan -
    I could be wrong about this, but it seems to me that the Rapture craze is actually waning just a bit. Nevermind checking out that Rapture-o-Meter thingy, I just mean the Evangelicals I know and am around seem to talk less about preparing for the blastoff and more about actually fixing the problems in our world today. I hear Evangelicals talking less about how this sign or that sign means Jesus will return next week or year and more about how we need to deal with Iran and Iraq.

    But perhaps my own exposure is not representative of the overall world picture.

    I think that you miss the whole picture unless you attend an evangelical Christian church – which I do. First, the notion of preparing for the rapture and improving the world are not mutualy exclusive. Even amongst those who believe that this is going to happen any second, many believe that God put us here as stewards over God’s “creation.” The other thing about those who believe it could happen any second, the intellectuly honest among them (it really isn’t the oxymoron it sounds like), understand that the bible is clear that we cannot know the time, accepting that “any time now,” could be hundreds of years in the future.

    The other issue is, that perishoners don’t want to hear about it. Many Christians are terrified of the fulfilment of John’s prophecies in Revelations. They believe it, but don’t want it to happen in their lifetime, or that of their children. Few pastors preach too heavily on it, as they usually see attendance decline after sermons that scare the shit out of their congregation. I have sat in on discussions with my pastor and some of the other leaders in my church, about this very issue. As an aside, such discussions are very disturbing – especialy with radicals, who hoard food and guns, to be ready when the “Army of Satan” comes forth.

    The popularity of LeHaye’s “Left Behind” series, I think, gives way to the mistaken notion that most, or even many Christians, think that this is going to happen any second. I suspect that their popularity has far more to do with them being “good and wholesome,” while also being quite violent and adventuresome. Or simply put, they are an exciting series with subject matter that would be off-limits, were it not for the “good, Christian” message in them.

  31. #31 GH
    January 2, 2007

    the intellectuly honest among them (it really isn’t the oxymoron it sounds like

    Yes it is. I have attended an evangelical church and while they didn’t spend alot of time on the rature they did feel it could happen any day. At least that was the party line. Didn’t seem to effect the day to day of anyone or anything. Which makes one question if the belief was even remotely sincere or just something to hold the group together.

    understand that the bible is clear that we cannot know the time, accepting that “any time now,” could be hundreds of years in the future.

    The bible is ‘clear’, huh. I remember Jesus specifically telling his followers that some of them wouldn’t be dead when he returned. I know how this is intepretted now but it seems to me it doesn’t make much of a case for clarity.

  32. #32 DuWayne
    January 2, 2007

    GH -
    Yes it is. I have attended an evangelical church and while they didn’t spend alot of time on the rature they did feel it could happen any day. At least that was the party line. Didn’t seem to effect the day to day of anyone or anything.

    How is that intellectualy dishonest? I was clear that I was talking about people who actually believe it could happen any time. What is intellectualy dishonest about those who believe that but also believe that it could be hundreds of years away?

    Which makes one question if the belief was even remotely sincere or just something to hold the group together.

    I also question that. Certainly, there are people who do, but I imagine many more don’t or are too afraid of it to accept it, understandably so. But you don’t really contradict anything I said, except to argue that they are being intellectualy dishonest. Of course, you con’t explain why that is intelectually dis-honest, so I can’t really respond.

    The bible is ‘clear’, huh. I remember Jesus specifically telling his followers that some of them wouldn’t be dead when he returned.

    Cite please? I have read the bible several times, in a few different translations and have not seen that.

  33. #33 GH
    January 2, 2007

    DuWayne,

    I don’t think they are intellectually dishonest per se that wasn’t the intent of my comment. I think confused or hopefully confused may be better. I’m just conversing not trying to argue a particular point.

    Cite please? I have read the bible several times, in a few different translations and have not seen that

    Really? You’ve read it several times and haven’t read Jesus telling the folks that the generation shall not pass before he returns? I can’t give you the verse but it surely is present.

  34. #34 Pseudonym
    January 2, 2007

    DuWayne, I haven’t read “Left Behind”, nor seen the movie, but that reminds me of the parents taking their kids to “The Passion of the Christ”.

    Honestly. Even you did think it was historically accurate (I have no doubt that Roman crucifixions were that horrible), and not doubting for a moment that it was a remarkable work of cinema, who the FSM would take their kids to such a violent and gory film?

    But, I suppose, these are the sorts of people who think that Harry Potter is bad, but Narnia and Lord of the Rings are good, disregarding the extremely similar content.

  35. #35 DuWayne
    January 2, 2007

    Pseudonym -

    I haven’t read them or seen the movies either. I certainly haven’t seen The Passion, I am not in the least bit interested in that kind of gore. To his credit, my pastor actually made a brief comment, during a service, admonishing parents not to take kids to see The Passion or the Left Behind movies, when they came out. He suggested that 16+ and 14+ respectively, as reasonable ages, admonishing even those parents to see the movies first, to make sure they felt they were appropriate for their kids. While I doubt he’s alone in that, I find ot unfortunate, to think he is in a distinct minority for having done so.

    Oddly, the only people I know who actually think Harry Potter is evil, also think the same of TLOTR. Though I imagine most of them even approve of Natnia.

  36. #36 twincats
    January 2, 2007

    “The site is called Dispatches From The Cultural Wars, and an individual, Ed Brayton, runs it from the dark edges of the Internet.”

    Wow. That makes me feel real cutting-edge for reading here! And perhaps slightly sinister, heh, heh!

  37. #37 JohnnieCanuck
    January 4, 2007

    Careful, some of us are totally sinister. People like me were getting their left hand tied behind their back, not so long ago. Closely linked to the devil, we are. Some of us even burned or drowned, just because of handedness.

  38. #38 jba
    January 4, 2007

    “Though I imagine most of them even approve of Natnia”

    Well the whole Chronicles of Narnia are pretty heavy handed with the christian mythology. They just made Jesus into a lion is all.

  39. #39 theberle
    January 5, 2007

    I have a “very” important point to make fun of.

    “[Before going to any Left Be-Hinder links be aware that these sites do contain "very" objectionable material.]“…

    Another case of wingnut non-quotes showing up with quotation marks.

The site is undergoing maintenance presently. Commenting has been disabled. Please check back later!