Dec 27 2012

Pingback from a David Barton Wannabe

I usually ignore pingbacks when moderating the comments on my blog here, but thought people would get a kick out of this one that showed up last night. The blog that linked to my post from yesterday about Isaac Newton is a new one — American Christocrats — written by a guy named BJ Swearer who seems to be some sort of David Barton wannabe who lurks on Barton’s Facebook page trying to score brownie points with the master. I love picturing people like this spending so much time and effort sitting in front of their computers twisting their brains trying to defend Barton. Enjoy!




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  1. 1

    “American Christocrats”
    Wasn’t that a Walt Disney Productions animated feature from 1970?
    I thought the character of Edgar was unnecessarily English!

  2. 2

    That was… er… as blatant a case of misrepresentation as I’ve ever seen.

    He said that since you said the religious writings “were available after Newton died” that *obviously* meant that Jefferson could have read them. (giggle) He forgot to mention the inconvenient truth, which you clearly stated, that “after he died” meant “not until the 20th century” and not “the day after Newton was buried.”

    I had to stop radi after that.

  3. 3
    Chris Rodda

    What I was addressing in my book was the clearly deliberate “editing” done by Barton of a quote from a magazine article about Isaac Newton. This is how Barton begins his quote from the article:

    “He spent more time on theology than science; indeed he wrote 1.3 million words on Biblical subjects … Newton’s understanding of God came primarily from the Bible”

    What Barton chopped out where his ellipsis is was that the article he’s quoting said that almost none of Newton’s 1.3 million words on Biblical subjects were even known to exist before 1936, when they came to light because someone who had inherited them sold them at auction. These are the Newton writings I’m saying Jefferson could not have read without the aid of a time machine. Obviously, Barton deliberately omitted the 1936 date for the uncovering of these previously unpublished writings to let his readers think that Jefferson would have read them, even though that would have been impossible.

    But the funniest thing about this theological writings thing in Swearer’s post is his grasping at straws to find the handful of theological writings by Newton that Jefferson could have read, other than the three I mentioned in my book, so he can say that I missed something in my “unscholarly” research and accuse me of doing my research on Wikipedia. One of the examples Swearer manages to come up with is Newton’s A Dissertation upon the Sacred Cubit of the Jews and the Cubits of the several Nations, which was published in 1737. If you haven’t already guessed from the title, Newton’s dissertation on the cubit wasn’t a theological work; it was about the use of the measurement known as the cubit – you know, a mathematical thing about the variations in what different peoples considered the length of a cubit to be. I really don’t think that qualifies as a “theological” work.

  4. 4

    For the record, “Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica” or simply, “Principia” (first published in 1687, again in 1713 and 1726, referenced by Barton on p.40) isn’t much of a theological work either. While the 1713 edition apparently contains an appendix that offers the argument from design for God’s existence, the rest of the work deals with physics, in particular laws of motion and gravity. While it’s technically possible that Jefferson was impressed by that theological appendix and not the two-and-a-half books of physics preceding it, that seems … unlikely.

    I was particularly amused by this part:

    Did Barton intentionally take the section out of said quote that talked about Newton’s “non-scientific writings” (please reference the previous paragraph… theology is a scientific study) not fully being publicized until centuries after Newton’s death? To say yes would be supposition as would be to say no.

    Is Swearer arguing that Barton might unintentionally remove parts of quotes and replace them by ellipses? Seriously?

  5. 5

    I have pretty much had it with these “founding fathers” arguments…when someone forms an argument base on the opinion of an old man who lived 200 years ago I simply reply “Fuck off, I don’t care who was or was not a Christian. The constitution I swore to defend says neither I nor the Government has to respect your beliefs.”
    That tends to change the conversation to something else.

  6. 6

    Rodda has notoriously attacked Barton for not having a formal education in history or a history degree, whilst she, herself, also has no such training.

    By this logic, since you are not a geophysicist, you can’t debunk a flat-earther. What a maroon.

  7. 7
    Chris Rodda

    @ Newfie …

    Actually, I’ve never attacked Barton, let alone attacked him “notoriously,” for not having a history degree. There certainly are people who make Barton’s lack of relevant education a focus of their writings about him, but I’m not one of them.

    I do say what Barton’s actual education is when asked, or when it is relevant for some reason, i.e., noting on one or two occasions that Barton only has an honorary doctorate when he was called a “professor” or “Dr. Barton” with the implication that he has the qualifications to be a professor, and saying that his educational credentials did not make him qualified to be advising a state on its history textbooks and curriculum. Those, of course, are things that actually do or should require certain credentials that Barton does not possess, making it entirely legitimate to bring the subject up. Other than that, I never even mention Barton’s lack of a history degree, let alone attack him for not having one. I only attack Barton because he’s a liar, not because he doesn’t have a history degree. But that apparently isn’t going to stop BJ Swearer from lying about me and claiming I’ve done something I’ve never done.

  8. 8

    Whenever I read about a fundagelical saying that Netwon was a theologian, I have to wonder if they every read Newton’s religious work. Because it’s crazy. I mean, a combination of alchemy, Jewish mysticism and mathematics. Auras, divinations, spirits, the angles of eternity. Great stuff if you’re making an RPG or looking to make a book even more Dan Brown than Dan Brown, but nothing anyone in the modern era would recognize.

  9. 9
    Chris Rodda

    Well, anyone who has watched those History Channel shows about Newton’s obsession with Bible prophecies and the so-called Bible code would probably conclude that Newton just had OCD or something, and that his reason for locking himself away in a room spending ridiculous amounts of time on these things and writing an astounding 1.3 million words about the Bible was far more because he was obsessed than because he was a theologian.

  10. 10

    Chris Rodda has minions! That’s so cool-like. I bet BJ Swearer wishes he was an official Barton Minion and got the discount at the gift shop.

  11. 11

    Wow. Terrific write-up, eh?

    They like you, they really like you.

  12. 12

    @1: The Christocats! David Barton would be kinda cute as an anthropomorphic cat, which would HAVE to be wearing that absurd stars-and-stripes jacket of course!

    Really, who WOULDN’T be kind of cute as an anthropomorphic cat?

  13. 13

    Really, who WOULDN’T be kind of cute as an anthropomorphic cat?

    Rush Limbaugh.

  14. 14

    Chris, I’ve been meaning to thank you, but never got around to it. My whole life I thought American history was boring, probably because I sensed the bullshit being taught in school, or something, all that patriotic worship… but I just hated it. After watching some of your videos, I realized that it’s kind of interesting and exciting. So, thanks for educating me after all these years! I think you’d make a great teacher.

  15. 15
    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]


    Yeah, cf. The ‘Crat from Outer Space

  16. 16
    spamamander, internet amphibian

    What does one have to do to be a minion exactly? ‘Cause I bought an e-book, that should get me in at least somewhere…

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