Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Dave Armstrong's Inconsistent Standards

Dave Armstrong keeps posting complaints such as the following:

In my recent exception-to-the-rule six-part debate with anti-Catholic Protestant apologist Jason Engwer (Parts 1-4 / part 5 / part 6), I noted in Part 6 how, in his last two installments when I was still around to engage him, he ignored 88% and 87% of my words. He was citing my words to respond to, and giving a pseudo- appearance of socratic debate (i.e., what I did, when I responded to every word of his, six straight times).

But in fact, he was evading huge amounts of essential material. His excuses (and those of others made for him) thus far have been lack of time and necessity, and that my comprehensive replies nevertheless supposedly lacked substance to a great extent.

How would Dave know how much time I have? Does he think I was lying about having overtime at work, for example? Early on in our discussion, he commented that he was "working day and night on these replies". Dave is a full-time apologist. I'm not. And I know my time constraints better than he does. I said that I would respond to more of his material as I had time, and I've done that. (I'll be responding to more in the future as well.) I would suggest that people compare the quality of my material to the quality of his on those matters both of us have addressed so far. Dave keeps complaining that I haven't responded to more of his material, but consider the difference in quality in what has been addressed to this point. How difficult is it to write a lot when you're writing in the manner in which Dave does?

Here's what I wrote earlier about Dave's use of percentages:

The number of words quoted doesn't tell you how much of the conceptual content of another person's posts somebody has responded to. If a person's point can be conveyed in three sentences, then the other twelve sentences that introduce the point, reiterate it, etc. wouldn't need to be quoted. Or a few sentences could be quoted, followed by a response to the remainder without quoting that remainder. That's why I'll often say, for example, that I'm replying to what somebody "goes on to say" after what I've quoted. In this present reply to Dave, so far I've only quoted the word "UPDATE" from his post. Does it therefore follow that I haven't interacted with anything else? Does it follow that I've interacted with the word "UPDATE", simply because I quoted it? Dave does often quote what his opponents have said. It doesn't follow that he's interacting with all of the conceptual content of those quotes or that his opponents should quote as much as he does. It's not as though people are dependent on what I quote in order to know what Dave said. I link to his articles. And people could find those articles by other means.

And while Dave keeps referring to how much of my material he responds to, keep in mind that he left a discussion with me in 2003, dismissing me as another "anti-Catholic" he didn't want to interact with. He also left a discussion with me on justification late last year (see the comments section of the thread here). In the current discussion, Dave hasn't been interacting with all of my material in the manner he describes with his citation of percentages. For example, see the first comment in the comments section of the thread here. And the eighth comment here.

I have a lot more to say in response to Dave's claims, but I'll be responding on my terms, not according to the standards he (inconsistently) demands.

Yet, Dave keeps citing his percentages, and he said the following about my material that he had ignored:

It's true that I chose not to respond to two of Jason's shorter replies. (one was merely a short introduction; big wow). That was my choice, and people make those choices all the time. But when I do respond, I do so properly and respectfully, by dealing with the complete argument of my opponent, and not ignoring 88% of it, including major points and often the very heart (or aspects closely related to the heart) of the argument of my opponent. If an argument is made, I reply to it, and show exactly why I reject it, and I also usually offer what I think is a superior alternative.

He defends his ignoring of some of my posts by saying "people make those choices all the time", and he points to what he does "when he does respond". Yet, even his claim about what he does when he responds to people is false. When he said that he was no longer going to interact with me in 2003, he replied to part of my last response to him without responding to the rest. See the "ADDENDUM" section at the end of the post here. In the context of our current discussion, see the eighth comment in the thread here, in which Dave replies to some of my comments without quoting them, but doesn't reply to the remainder.

On his Anti-Catholicism page, Dave now refers to me as "Jason 'Ignore 88%' Engwer". But it's acceptable for him to ignore more than 88% of articles like the ones mentioned above or ignore 100% of others. And his 88% figure that he applies to me carries with it the sort of erroneous reasoning I addressed above, in my comments about percentages. A poster in a recent thread, Ryan, reminded Dave of the specious nature of his reasoning on this issue, and Dave's response was to dismiss him as a "clown" and accuse him of "double standards" without proving the accusation. But Dave would want us to keep in mind that he did post a response to Ryan, even though the response was of a low quality.

I didn't leave the recent discussion with Dave. He did. I'm going to continue responding to his material. Ask yourself how well his claims about Papias, the canon at Nicaea, development of doctrine, and other subjects have held up so far. And note how well his claims hold up as I continue to respond to them.


  1. I suppose another way to look at this statistic is to ask why he is begging for more when he can't even hold his own in the supposed 12% that is addressed?
    "Yes my arms and legs are gone, but the majority of my body is unscathed! Come back here! I'll bite your ankles!"

  2. When Armstrong comments on the length of a rebuttal rather than the content, I can't help but be reminded of the analogous ad hominems: our arguments are older, our arguments are held by more people, etc. Arguments which, while many times false, just show that they value quantity over quality.

    Keep up the good work, Jason. You can tell he's feeling the heat.

  3. I've given more examples of the irrationality and inconsistency of Dave's standards in the thread at his blog. Using Dave's reasoning, maybe Ryan should have referred to him as "Dave 'Ignore 100%' Armstrong" after he repeatedly responded to Ryan without quoting what Ryan had said. If quoting what others have said is as important as Dave suggests, then why does he so often reply to people without quoting much or anything?

  4. As an atheist toying with the idea of theism, I feel compelled to point out how so much of Christian apology reads like a playground argument. All I see on this site after scrolling through a few posts is ad hominem arguments. I wonder if the same is true over at this "Uncle Davey's" site. I'm off to check.

  5. If you read all the posts on this page posted within the last week, I think you'll find that's not the case. Satire just comes with the territory.

    Anyways, you're welcome to swing by my meager blog for a chat.

  6. I feel compelled to point out how so much of Christian apology reads like a playground argument.

    How many atheist blogs have you read? The Atheist Experience? The Non-Prophets? Debunking Christianity? Pharyngula?
    I'm guessing you've read none of those. If you have and you still say that, I question your judgment and intellectual honesty.
    How about lectures or writings by Dick Dawk, Hitchens, Harris? Dan Barker?

  7. Kingary: "As an atheist toying with the idea of theism, I feel compelled to point out how so much of Christian apology reads like a playground argument."

    Yes and no. At its best, no. At its worst, yes.

  8. Kingary wrote:

    "As an atheist toying with the idea of theism, I feel compelled to point out how so much of Christian apology reads like a playground argument. All I see on this site after scrolling through a few posts is ad hominem arguments."

    Then you must not have looked much.

    Should we consider your criticism of us "ad hominem"?