Can you die of an irony overdose?

That’s an important question to ask if you’re about to watch a David Barton video.

Something I’ve noticed about progressives and liberals is how careless they are when throwing false claims around.

Question answered. I’m dead. Will have to continue blogging from beyond the veil, using my spirit form. He killed me with his very first sentence.

This is David Barton, god-emperor of the fabricated historical quotation, claiming that progressives make stuff up. I just…I just…sorry, can’t comment. Got an ectoplasm clog right now.

What is the “false claim” that has him riled up?

For example, I was recently on a national television network where I was introduced as having a doctorate. A progressive instantly ran stories claiming that I don’t have a doctorate. That false claim is amusing on so many levels.

Oh. It’s false? Then what I expect is that he’s about to provide some verifiable evidence that he does in fact have an earned doctorate. That’s easy to do, you know.

But no, he’s going to explain that he doesn’t have to.

First, things like health information, and tax information, and college education information are fully protected by privacy laws, so they don’t know whether I have a doctorate or not, and I’ve always chosen not to talk about it.

Uh, no. Your educational records, stuff like grades and classes attended, are protected by FERPA. But obviously, stuff like whether you graduated from a specific institution are not: if someone puts “Ph.D., Harvard” on their CV, you can contact the registrar at Harvard and ask for a degree verification, and they’ll tell you whether that was earned or not. They have to be able to do that, otherwise people like me might start slappin’ the names of prestigious bible colleges on their CVs to look fancy.

So this is just a bogus dodge.

But what does he do immediately after declaring his degree status a private matter?

Second, just for the record, I do have an earned doctorate. There it is. <waves at a couple of framed pieces of paper in the background>

Third, not only do I have an earned doctorate, I have two honorary doctorates.

No. Your degree is not a piece of paper. It’s a record of academic work. I don’t even know where my version of that certificate I got 31 years ago is located — probably buried in a box somewhere. I certainly don’t have it framed, and putting it in a frame does not add extra weight to its importance.

Here’s how you do it, David Barton: you simply state the name of the institution, and the year you got it. It’s that easy. Then anyone can verify it. For instance, I got a Ph.D. from the University of Oregon in 1985. There’s even a service, National Student Clearinghouse, where you can get verification for $12.50. To do that, though, you need to provide the name of the institution. It would also be nice to state what field you got those degrees in. It should also be an accredited college, because those fly-by-night goofy diploma mills probably don’t submit degree information to national databases.

Good thing I’m already dead, because claiming to give us information while not giving us information is classic Barton.

Isn’t Barton devious? He says he doesn’t need to tell you about his degrees (he’s so modest!), but then he deigns to tell you anyway, except that he doesn’t give you the information he pretends to be giving you.

Some people scrutinized those blurry images, though, and got a little tentative information.

As we and others pointed out, Barton’s assertion seemed a little odd since he never actually stated where or when he “earned” his supposed doctorate and the documents in the background to which he pointed were difficult to read, though one clearly came from Pensacola Christian College, from which Barton received an honorary doctorate. The other two documents appear to have come from Ecclesia College and Life Christian University, an unaccredited Christian university that has also awarded Ph.D.s in theology to televangelists like Joyce Meyers and Benny Hinn.

Somebody needs to tell Barton that Ph.D.s from unaccredited diploma mills don’t count as “earned”.

But, like everything David Barton does, he stands by his words. Which is why Barton has taken down that video. I guess he didn’t make the framed diplomas blurry enough.

And now my spirit is going to have to spend some time finding a new corpse to reanimate. I knew there was a reason we bought a house so close to a cemetery.


  1. blf says

    As various sites are pointing out, “Dr” Dave “Lies-even-more-than-Trump” Barton has now set the original video to ‘privatememoryhole’.

  2. redwood says

    Hoist by his own petard–he got a little “careless” throwing his false claims around by putting the diplomas in the picture and saying one of them was his “earned” doctorate. I don’t understand why people who think they’re so intelligent have to lie so much (yes, thinking of Der Trumpmeister).

  3. says

    Is it a doctorate in Applied Hyperbole?

    If he “earned” his alleged Ph.D., then shouldn’t there be a thesis somewhere?

    I believe it’s on space-time distortion effects.

  4. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    Gosh, I naively think that Universities all publish lists of their graduates receiving degrees in each category. For the public record as all those alums will put those degree titles on their CV’s that their prospective employer will want to verify.
    I guess Barton has let me know that FERPA makes all that granting of degrees purely private. Why would any employer distrust the job candidate and require verification of degree? Good to know.
    [I hope this doesn’t get to N.Korea where I’d be slapped with violating their his anti-sarcasm decree]
    re 3: curiously, isn’t PhD earned with a Dissertation, while lesser degrees such as MS need Theses?
    maybe that’s just my MIT background speaking, where even BS [yes curious acronym] require Thesis (uncommon in most universities) and pre-doctorates always made a big deal about how they were writing a Dissertation to get their Piled higher and Deeper

  5. Larry says

    Is it a doctorate in Applied Hyperbole?

    Unless I’m mistaken, a PhD usually requires a thesis documenting some topical original research. The field of Applied Hyperbole has been totally and completely exhausted of original areas of research over the past 30-40 years that no new degrees can be awarded. People like Trump and Barton may appear to be advancing the field but, really, is just an adjustment in magnitude.

  6. blf says

    Apparently Life Christian University (LCU) calls them “dissertations”: Guidelines for a Doctoral Dissertation — Life Christian University (PDF, 2015). I note that document says “Upon completion of your dissertation, it becomes available to the library of Life Christian University” (page VIII-5). It contains some wonderful statements like (page VIII-7):

    Research Philosophy

    All dissertation work must be of publishable quality.
    2. Research your topic and document the published works you used to arrive at your position. Even if you originally received the insight directly from God, try to find others who agree with you. Think of these references as “eye witnesses” in the case you are making to substantiate the truth of your thesis statement (Deut. 19:15).

    Part of the elucidated text in the above excerpt is “Academic honesty is vital.”

  7. Silver Fox says

    Pensacola Christian College wasn’t even accredited until 2013. So, there’s that. An honorary degree from a non-accredited bible school? That’s about as impressive as a degree from Hogwarts.

  8. Pierce R. Butler says

    There exists no requirement to make public the record or writings of a Pizza Hut Deliverer.

  9. Sastra says

    Larry #6 wrote:

    The field of Applied Hyperbole has been totally and completely exhausted of original areas of research over the past 30-40 years that no new degrees can be awarded.

    Oh, surely you exaggerate.

    This particular lie by Barton is a different sort of lie, I think. Even his Christian fans ought to recognize that. Not to condemn it, necessarily, but to worry that it might make Barton look bad. It’s too obvious, recent, personal, and easy to catch.

  10. Sastra says

    I love it. I just googled ‘Life Campus University’ and right on the first page it tells you “how to start a campus at your church!” Always the sign of a legitimate university.

  11. tbp1 says

    #7: “Apparently Life Christian University (LCU) calls them ‘dissertations.'”

    Probably only of semantic interest, but typically a research or creative document required for an undergrad or master’s degree is called a “thesis,” while that required for a doctorate is called a “dissertation.” It is generally understood that a dissertation is a bigger project than a thesis.

    And of course, not everyone holds to that terminology, but it’s been the norm where I studied and have taught.

  12. Menyambal says

    I like that his earned degree is given equal billing with the two honoraries. It makes me think the earning wasn’t much more work than getting the other two just handed to him.

    By the way, when I looked up “honorary degree”, so as to check myself, the first Google hits were all about buying honorary degrees.

  13. Everette Hatcher says

    P.Z. Myers, I don’t have a dog in this fight concerning David Barton’s degrees or lack there of. I truly don’t know much about that, but since you linked my blog at the beginning of your blog post above concerning David Barton’s fabrication of quotes attributed to the founders, I must give some words of clarification CONCERNING THE EVENTS 20 YEARS AGO THAT PROMPTED MY ARTICLE THAT YOU LINK TO ABOVE.

    Here is the full story:

    It all started because I was involved in a series of correspondence with Rob Boston who is the senior policy analyst at the Americans United for the Separation of Church and State (AU) and a board member of the American Humanist Society.

    (Portions of this below appeared in an article I did for the Freedom Writer in May/June 1997 issue which is a publication friendly to Boston and not to me but they felt the record should be set straight concerning the misleading article that Boston had written in 1996 in Church & State titled “Consumer Alert.”.)

    Let me start from the very beginning. As an evangelical Christian and a member of the Christian Coalition, I felt obliged to expose a misquote of John Adams’ I found in an article entitled “America’s Unchristian Beginnings” (Los Angeles Times, August 3, 1995, p.B-9) by the self-avowed atheist Dr. Steven Morris. However, what happened next changed my focus to the use of misquotes, unconfirmed quotes, and misleading attributions by the religious right.

    In the process of attempting to correct Morris, I was guilty of using several misquotes myself. Dr John George coauthor (with Paul Boller Jr.) of the book “They Never Said It!” (Oxford University Press, 1989) set me straight. George pointed out that George Washington never said, “It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible.” (They Never Said It! pp. 126-127). I had cited page 18 of the 1927 edition of Halley’s Bible Handbook. This quote was probably generated by a similar statement that appears in A Life of Washington (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1835) by James Paulding. Sadly, no one has been able to verify any of the quotes in Paulding’s book since no footnotes were offered.

    After reading “They Never Said It!” I had a better understanding of how widespread the problem of misquotes is. Furthermore, I DISCOVERED THAT MANY OF THESE HAD BEEN USED BY THE LEADERS OF THE RELIGIOUS RIGHT. I decided TO CONFRONT SOME INDIVIDUALS CONCERNING THEIR MISQUOTES. WallBuilders, the publisher of David Barton’s The Myth of Separation (published in 1989), helped me further by providing me with their “Questionable Quote” list. The list contained a dozen quotes of the founders that Barton could only confirm with secondary sources.

    Proverbs 19:25 states, “…rebuke a discerning man, and he will gain knowledge.” Since I was rebuking fellow Christians, I felt certain they would all gladly quit using unconfirmed or questionable quotes. THE RELIGIOUS RIGHT LEADERS I CONTACTED HAD THREE RESPONSES

    The FIRST was the reaction that I expected. Several thanked me for bringing these corrections to their attention. They agreed that it is wrong to use disputed quotes as if they were authentic.

    The SECOND, which was the most common response, was to claim that their critics were biased skeptics who find the truth offensive. The premise of this argument is, “We know our critics are 100% wrong all the time, so who cares what they have to say anyway. We are the only unbiased ones.”

    And the THIRD response was from one who defended his method of research and his method of confirming sources. Furthermore, he said that he pursued his graduate education in order to improve his level of scholarship. Nevertheless, that respondent never provided me with his original sources.

    There are some misquotes used commonly by separationists, but evidently the religious right has a much more widespread problem. One illustration demonstrates just how widespread the problem is among religious right lay historians. When David Barton wrote The Myth of Separation he used many secondary sources for the 500 quotes that appeared in his book published in 1989. After an effort to find primary sources for these quotes, Barton complied the “Questionable Quote” list with the 12 quotes that could only had confirmation through secondary sources. None of these questionable quotes originated with Barton.

    AFTER CONFRONTING OVER THIRTY RELIGIOUS RIGHT AUTHORS, I turned my attention to individuals from the separationist point of view. DURING THIS TIME I PROVIDED ROB BOSTON, of Americans United, with the “questionable quote” list in the hope that he would confront some individuals on his side of the ideological fence. I even included my correspondence from several religious right leaders such as the late D. James Kennedy. Nevertheless, based upon the “Questionable Quote” list that I provided to him, Boston wrote the slanted article for Church & State titled “Consumer Alert.” (July /August 1996). In this article he implies that Barton made up the dozen quotes on the “Questionable Quote” list.

    In “Consumer Alert,” these words appeared in bold print: “Mything in action: David Barton’s ‘Questionable Quotes.’” Barton was called a “double fraud.”

    Professor Fritz Detweiler of Adrian College’s religion and philosophy department responded to this controversy in his weekly column stating that Barton “made up quotes and attributed them to James Madison, Patrick Henry, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and other leading Americans…. Barton’s fabricating quotes to serve his purpose is particularly disturbing on two fronts. First, Barton was not content to let the record speak for itself because it didn’t say quite what he wanted it to say. Second, the fraudulent construction of quotes poses a particular problem for [historians] seeking to verify their accuracy.”

    In response to that article, David Barton wrote in WallBuilders‘ summer 1996 newsletter that “the article, “Consumer Alert”‘ is agenda driven. Our honest efforts to clear the ‘world’s rhetorical rivers,’ as we casually stated in the earlier draft, were twisted and misconstrued to sound as if we created the quotes… We regret that the unconfirmed quotations have been circulated over the last century-and-a-half, and WallBuilders acknowledges the errors of using secondary sources for primary historical figures. (These quotes have been purged from our materials wherever possible.) David Barton went on to make clear that his current level of scholarship as of the early 1990’s was not to use founders quotes unless they are documented by a primary source.

    I HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TO TALK TO ROB BOSTON ON THE PHONE about this on November 19, 1996. I told him that people all across this country have been writing letters to the editor of their local newspapers blasting David Barton because of Boston’s article and many more have been posting articles on the internet.) Boston said he was very glad people were on to Barton.

    Then I pointed out to Boston that many of these people were accusing Barton of knowingly using bad quotes. Furthermore, one individual accused Barton of “creating quotes.” These people could be sued for libel. Boston replied, “No malice can be proved. I don’t know much about law, but I at least know that much.” SHORTLY AFTER THAT ROB BOSTON HUNG UP ON ME, BUT NOT BEFORE HE CLAIMED “POETIC LICENSE” AND SAID HE WAS GLAD THAT BARTON’S REPUTATION HAD BEEN DAMAGED. (Blair Scott, Alabama State Director, American Atheists, Inc. has since claimed, “David Barton was cornered and he admitted to fabricating the quotes, okay he actually called them “spurious,” but we all know that means he made them up.”)

    Later I got several board members of Americans United to contact Boston on my behalf and voice their opinion of how unfair Boston had been to Barton in his article “Consumer Alert”. On March 7, 1997, I SPOKE WITH BARRY LYNN the executive director of Americans United. Lynn was very gracious on the phone and promised to consider an article from me in response to the slanted “Consumer Alert” article Boston had written earlier. AMERICANS UNITED Board member Dr. PAUL SIMMONS OF LOUISVILLE HELPED ME WRITE THE ARTICLE THAT YOU HAVE LINKED TO PZ MYERS BUT ULTIMATELY BARRY LYNN DECIDED NOT TO PUBLISH IT BACK THEN.

    The real scandal is that this same lie caused by Boston’s article about Barton is still today being spread throughout the world on youtube and on TV. On Feb 10, 2010 on MSNBC’s show Countdown with Keith Olberman, Rob Boston was the guest and Olberman opened the show with these words:

    “What happens if you want your audience to believe that the the founding fathers did not want the separation of church and state when obviously and clearly and repeatedly they did. Well you make up quotes defending your position and dishonestly attribute them to the likes of James Madison and Thomas Jefferson… More on Mr Barton and those quotes in a moment.”

    Then Olbermann and Boston go on to criticize Barton throughout the remainder of the program. However, in this interview Boston never says that Barton manufactured quotes, but he doesn’t stop Olbermann from telling the same old lie about Barton that came from this 1996 scandal. Boston knew that his article “Consumer Alert” from 1996 was responsible for Olbermann’s inaccurate words about Barton, but Boston didn’t lift a finger to set the record straight. In 2009 Boston finally admitted concerning Barton “Unconfirmed Quote List”: “He didn’t make the stuff up, he just relied on bad sources.” Boston should have admitted this in 1996 and apologized and then tried to correct the record anytime he saw it on the internet.

    Furthermore this youtube video clip has received over 75,000 hits. The clip was put on youtube by a person going by the username “JesusSavesAtCitibank” whoever that is. If you click on the username you will be provided several links to articles. The first link will bring you to Boston’s 1996 article “Consumer Alert”.

    David Barton has tried to raise the level of scholarship in the debate concerning the founders by committing to use only quotes that have been confirmed by primary sources. Dr. JOHN GEORGE HAS COMMENTED, “While not agreeing with Barton concerning separation of church and state, I must say he has done everyone a service by circulating the ‘Questionable Quote List.’ Especially gratifying is his encouraging those in his own Religious Right camp to cite only primary sources for the quotes they utilize. Unfortunately, a sizable minority will ignore the advice.”

    Many separationists like Dr. George praised Barton for challenging others to a higher level of scholarship concerning these unconfirmed quotes. Instead, of complimenting Barton when I provided this information to Boston in 1996, he chose to imply that Barton was guilty of making up quotes.


  14. Rich Woods says

    @Everette Hatcher #14:

    by the self-avowed atheist Dr. Steven Morris.

    You make it sound like there’s some sort of formal test you have to pass before others can describe you as an atheist.

  15. The Very Reverend Battleaxe of Knowledge says

    It’s really pathetic that Hatcher thinks there’s any earthly difference between making up quotes and simply passing on quotes that somebody else made up. Bottom line: Barton is an evil, sociopathic, lying shitweasel.

  16. chigau (違う) says

    re: Everette Hatcher #14
    P.Z. Myers, I don’t have a dog in this fight concerning David Barton’s degrees or lack there of. I truly don’t know much about that, but since you linked my blog…

    You really need to be more careful with your links.

  17. unclefrogy says

    well you see Rev. there is a distinction between lying and quoting a lie as if were true a distinction so small as to make no never mind
    uncle frogy

  18. WhiteHatLurker says

    He doesn’t say that he earned a doctorate, just that he has an earned doctorate, gesturing at a framed document.

    Perhaps someone gave him the parchment for their degree? After all, that’s how Trump got a Purple Heart. By the by, when looking into this Baton individual, I see he is a member of a group called WallBuilders.

  19. WhiteHatLurker says

    PZ, sorry to hear that you’ve shuffled the mortal coil. Not to be inappropriate, but who gets the zebra fish?

  20. rrhain says

    Hmm…As someone else pointed out, Pensacola Christian College wasn’t accredited until 2013.

    But what about Ecclesia College?

    It doesn’t offer doctorates. It is accredited by the Association for Biblical Higher Education since 2005 (applied in 1996), but the highest degree it awards is an online course for a “Master of Christian Leadership.”

    Are we sure that’s what that one on the right says?

    That said, he should be able to produce his dissertation. To get my MFA, I had to write a thesis and it’s been published. You can go to SDSU and pick up a copy if you’d like. (If those with a doctorate are called “Doctors,” why does nobody call me “Master”?)

    An honorary degree is not an “earned” degree. That’s why it’s called an “honorary” degree. So by all means, crow about your honorary degrees if you feel like it.

    You still don’t have a Ph.D.