Aug 09 2012

A little victory against a wingnut

Everyone go congratulate Chris Rodda. She’s been battling that dishonest dirtbag David Barton for a long time, and now he’s getting his comeuppance (although without acknowledgment of her contribution): NPR slammed him hard, and now his publisher has yanked his latest book off the shelves for it’s crappy scholarship.

Here’s a taste of his sloppy knowledge of history. Did you know the founding fathers already had the creation/evolution debate? And decided in favor of creationism?


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  1. 1

    It’s an eternal sophisticated theology problem.

    Can a fundie tell a lie so absurd that even they think it is silly? Hasn’t happened yet.

    There are plenty of xian publishers that will publish his book. The ones from NoLiberty U. or Regents will publish anything.

  2. 2
    Lynna, OM

    Did you know the founding fathers already had the creation/evolution debate? And decided in favor of creationism?

    Yes, I did know that. Because David Barton told me so.

    And the Founding Fathers (initial caps required) figured that all out pre-Darwin!

  3. 3

    I was SO disappointed in Jon Stewart when he had this weasel on The Daily Show (at work, so can’t link). Jon seemed utterly unable to call Barton out on his disingenuous bullshit, even after criticizing Glenn Beck for practically deifying the guy. Glad to see him get taken down a notch.

  4. 4

    Huzzah for Chris! Nice take-down work.

    If you don’t already have your copy of Barton’s alternate-universe history, don’t worry. Remaindered copies will be popping up in used-book stores and no doubt Barton will republish under his own imprint — no doubt with a New!! afterword about his sad, sad persecution by atheists (and, incidentally, religious publisher Thomas Nelson).

  5. 5

    OMG, has NPR discovered a backbone? Although it contains some he-said, she-said junk, I do believe Rodda came close to calling Barton a fraud. Will wonders never cease!/

  6. 6

    Yeah, now he’s a martyr–because not getting to sell books is JUST LIKE being burned at the stake.

    Somewhere, Glenn Beck is crying.

  7. 7

    publisher has yanked his latest book off the shelves for it’s crappy scholarship.

    whining about censorship and Teh Holy Freedom of Speech in 3… 2… 1…

  8. 8
    Zinc Avenger (Sarcasm Tags 3.0 Compliant)

    Did you know the founding fathers already had the creation/evolution debate? And decided in favor of creationism?

    Now that’s done and dusted, can we get the founding fathers’ opinions on quantum physics, the use of unmanned drones in warfare, and the current economic crisis?

  9. 9

    Jon seemed utterly unable to call Barton out on his disingenuous bullshit,

    Jon Stewart is at his best calling out hypocritical or incoherent beliefs. He is awful at dealing people with consistent but delusional beliefs. It’s the Gish Gallop problem – it takes longer to refute falsehoods than it does to spew them.

    Unfortunately, this will probably play into Barton’s hands as he just plays the martyr angle. I’m reminded of Kevin Trudeau debacle – a person with no shame can’t be stopped by shaming attempts. Unless some major fundie figure denounces Barton, he’ll continue to extract money from gullible people who want to believe him.

  10. 10
    Ace of Sevens

    So his publisher was acting in good faith, though they would have done basic fact-checking if he had a real editor. It’s still somewhat encouraging.

  11. 11

    @Quinn #9

    I agree, though I am loathe to cut Jon any slack. When he’s really invested in an interview, he has the capacity to brush up. This might have been a little out of his depth, but as I recall Jon had a real historian come on the next week to talk about Barton.

  12. 12

    Somewhere in America, there’s an entire warehouse full of books that can now be put to use best: propping up wobbly tables.

  13. 13
    Ms. Daisy Cutter, General Manager for the Cleveland Steamers

    PZ, I don’t think “sloppy” is the right term to use to describe what Barton is peddling. It’s all very well calculated.


    Jon Stewart is at his best calling out hypocritical or incoherent beliefs. He is awful at dealing people with consistent but delusional beliefs.

    Because that would require telling a theist that their beliefs are bullshit, and Stewart, who has too much “centrism” in his political makeup, would never cross that line.

  14. 14

    What really floored me was this simple line:

    David Barton is not a historian. He has a bachelor’s degree in Christian education from Oral Roberts University and runs a company called WallBuilders in Aledo, Texas.

    Wow, he couldn’t even be bothered to earn a fake historian degree! I wonder if this means I can call myself a religious scholar now, with a specialty in car repair.

  15. 15

    Now that’s done and dusted, can we get the founding fathers’ opinions on quantum physics, the use of unmanned drones in warfare, and the current economic crisis?

    That stuff will have to wait for the next Seldon Crisis.

  16. 16
    Glen Davidson

    Of course, evolution goes back to Satan in the Garden of Eden, as creationism stems from God in the Garden of Eden. Henry Morris told me so.

    Hence Darwin wrote nothing important that the founders would need to consider if they could have read his book. Evidence–just a ploy used by the anti-God forces.

    Glen Davidson

  17. 17
    Julien Rousseau

    the Constitution quotes the Bible “verbatim”

    I didn’t know that parts of the US constitution were written in classical hebrew. No wonder so few people read it.

  18. 18

    Technically some variations on the whole “animals change over time” existed, but few had any clues about the mechanism involved pre-Darwin. But it is funny that no other historian (like with actual knowledge and degrees and stuff) ever noticed Thomas Jefferson’s Creation Museum. The directions to it are in invisible ink on the Declaration.

  19. 19
    Glen Davidson

    Barton’s “scholarly argument” behind that blurb of nonsense.

    Yes, because no one needs to consider the actual scientific case for evolution, if early evolutionary ideas were dismissed on philosophical grounds.

    Barton’s gibberish is akin to deciding that since the founders’ dismissed the idea of atomism based on what Aristotle wrote (I have no idea of, nor do I care a whit about, their positions on atomism, in fact), no one need teach that matter of composed of atoms today (and can an “atom” really be called an “atom”, if it is not indivisible, as ancient atomists understood them to be?).

    Yes, pre-scientific understandings always trump science and it’s pathetic level of evidence.

    Glen Davidson

  20. 20

    #14 hjhornbeck
    It’s even worse.
    Barton was a consultant for the Texas BoE for their history revisions (or, more accurately, revisionism).
    Gingrich, who has a history degree, worked with him and James Dobson in organization called United In Purpose to produce a DVD called “One Nation Under God” to promote “the importance of keeping America ‘one nation under God’”.
    And even f***in’ D’Souza was shoveling the same horse manure in his debate against Jacoby last April.

    DO NOT KID YOURSELF! They know they are lying.
    But they know “A lie can travel halfway round the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”
    And once a lie is put into a person’s brain, especially one that they really want to believe, no amount of truth will ever dislodge it.
    I hate to Godwin the thread, but the Big Lie is a well-known political tactic.

  21. 21
    Glen Davidson

    And, just to be complete, here’s Barton’s super-duper paper on the matter, which makes eminent sense just so long as you accept his false dilemma and care not at all about science and its conclusions.

    Now the question is if Barton really thinks that magic should be the basis for judicial decisions. Or should we assume that similarity of word sequences really indicates copying, and that similarities in DNA actually indicate various levels of relatedness? Because if it’s the latter, you’ve already opted for the non-theistic/non-magical “civilization” in the “clash of civilizations.”

    Glen Davidson

  22. 22

    Barton was at least accurate in part of the title of his book. It is after all book of lies about Jefferson.

  23. 23
    NateHevens, resident SOOPER-GENIUS... apparently...

    Well… actually… Paine apparently did rail against schools for teaching a “natural philosophy”:

    The evil that has resulted from the error of the schools in teaching natural philosophy as an accomplishment only has been that of generating in the pupils a species of atheism. Instead of looking through the works of creation to the Creator Himself, they stop short and employ the knowledge they acquire to create doubts of His existence. They labor with studied ingenuity to ascribe everything they behold to innate properties of matter and jump over all the rest by saying that matter is eternal.

    Discourse to the Theophilanthropists (1798)

    Paine may have been a Deist, but he was a rather devout Deist. And I disagree with him wholeheartedly… I wish more schools were doing exactly what he thought they were today.

    Barton can also hide behind the fact that while evolution as we understand it today was not explained until the 1860′s, there had been numerous natural explanations floating around for millenia by that point, including different evolutionary ideas. Maupertuis, in 1751, basically wrote about a generalized form of sexual selection, suggesting that reproduction was imperfect, leading to “natural modifications”. I would not be surprised if at least some of the Founding Fathers, including Thomas Paine, had heard of this.

    So Barton could use that loophole to say “well obviously I wasn’t talking about Darwinian evolution! I was talking about pre-Darwinian Evolution!” And then he’d go on to say that the principle is still the same. The Founding Fathers rejected naturalistic explanations for existence.

    That’s the thing about Barton… he lies, but manages to couch it in just enough vaguarities that he leaves himself a loophole when caught. Barton may be a liar, but if you really think about it, he’s a damn good one.

  24. 24

    The Thomas Nelson Publishing didn’t fact check because they knew Barton would sell. It is not about reality, its all about profit. The publisher doesn’t get points for pulling the book unless they can show weekly sales numbers were steady or growing. If the sales were declining or non-existent, then the publisher is just pulling a has-been title.

  25. 25

    So, wait…

    We had the evolution debate before there was the theory of evolution?

  26. 26
    Thomas Holtz

    faehnrich @25:

    Darwin (& Wallace) did not discover evolution. They discovered natural selection, a primary mechanism for evolution (and likely the only major source of producing adaptations).

    So yes, there were many theories of evolution before Darwin & Wallace made their discoveries.

  27. 27

    I’m not an American or even that familiar with American history, but, I always thought that Darwin wrote his book, permanantly upsetting the warriors of delusion 150 years ago, that was long after the Founding Fathers did their thing, I think. Correct me if I’m wrong but the bloke in the video seems way off course.

  28. 28

    “and now his publisher has yanked his latest book off the shelves for it’s crappy scholarship.”

    …Be careful what you wish for: these guys thrive on stuff like having their books yanked from shelves.

    Now Glenn Beck can scream (and cry, of course) that David Barton got too close to the truth and “they” couldn’t let that happen.

    To the people who read tripe like Barton’s books, this kind of thing is the ultimate level of “proof”.

  29. 29

    Thomas Holtz@26:

    It’s true that there were many precursory theories of evolution, but what Darwin and Wallace did for the first time was provide an observable mechanism with lots of evidence to support it. I think it’s fair to say that they created the first successful scientific theory of evolution. Others had come close, notably Lamarck (whose theory was scientific but wrong) and Maupertius (whose work was scientific and very close to correct but far too vague and cursory).

  30. 30

    If memory serves me right, Aristotle made a few observations (on fishes?) hinting at evolution. I cannot recall if he suggested a mechanism, or if it just was at the “Gosh, all fishes are remarkably fish-like” level.

    The Pffft! of All Knowledge sort-of agrees but points out Aristotle (and other ancient Greeks) tended to think creatures had some final purpose (teleology). The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy seems to concur:

    The lowest organisms originate from the primeval slime, or from animal differentiation; there is a continual progression from simple, undeveloped types to the higher and more perfect. As the highest stage, the end and aim of the whole process, man appears; all lower forms are merely unsuccessful attempts to produce him. The ape is a transitional stage between man and other viviparous animals. …Aristotle, despite his evolutionistic notions, does not take the view of a thoroughgoing evolutionist as regards the universe…

  31. 31

    Platon polluted the history of ideas by making up the idea of ideas being superior to mere matter, thus every fish is just an inferior rendering of the perfect idea of fish (or words to that effect, he was not very crystal-clear).
    This is the opposite of our understanding of nature; EVERY fish is a “perfect” example of the species, to describe the species you have to include all the variations.
    And natural selection works on variation to make successful traits more common.

  32. 32

    I read the NPR article. Huckabee’s comment made me sick. I can’t believe he was actually a presidential candidate not too long ago.

    I don’t know who’s more vile: guys like Barton, or the people that believe, promote, and support him.


  33. 33

    Queue up the Barton “I’m being deprived of my freedom of speech” rant. Coming soon to a church near you!

    Way to go Chris! I’ve read your blog posts about this idiot who wants to indoctrinate our school childen with his mythical American history that bears no relation to the actual truth.

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