Saturday, November 27, 2010

Help me! Help me!

Triablogue Caught in a Web of Deception
By Dr. Hector Avalos at 11/26/2010
How to Fight Cyber-Bullies and Win

“Caught in a web” of deception? Sounds like Hector has been watching too many old B horror films:

Delusion is standard fare at Triablogue, but this time even they have a difficult time explaining away a post that was so flagrant in its ethical violations that it had to be removed on August 6, 2010. Their embarrassing ethical fiasco left only a dead link here: Triablogue’s Dead Link.

But Avalos is, by his own admission, a moral relativist. So what would “flagrant ethical violations” amount to?

The post was written by Paul Manata, and it purported to show that renowned ethicists had demolished claims I had made about ethics and metaethics.

Which it certainly accomplished. Avalos is scared stiff.

In a very ill-conceived prank, Manata contacted a number of academic philosophers to ask their opinions about my stance on the circularity of many ethical premises, and those philosophers supposedly all refuted my position. But within a few hours of being published, the post was gone.

Manata’s post was like a snakebite from a Black Mamba. Without antivenom, one bite will suffice. No need to keep biting the victim. Just let nature do the rest.

What happened? If the refutation was so compelling and ethically proper, then why remove the post at all? And why have they kept it so quiet until now (and after I mentioned it) if they were so proud of what they did? Indeed, nothing could be a greater defeat for Triablogue than having to take a post down.

Who are the they?

On their website, Triablogue admits taking down the post and it offers these reasons for the ignominious defeat they suffered. See Triablogue’s Non-Explanation

i) How can Avalos ascribe “flagrant ethical violations” to a post when he’s a moral relativist?

ii) It wasn’t taken down due to ethical problems. It was taken down because Avalos, acting like a little pansy, contacted some of the individuals who panned his incompetent argument as a pressure tactic to censure Manata’s post.

The first one is easy to refute because Triablogue just doesn’t seem to understand even the basics of relativist ethics. Moral relativism does not deny that logic operates once you have accepted the basic premises of your ethics.

Moral relativism affirms that while the initial premises of any ethical system cannot be established by absolute rationales, one can still evaluate whether an ethical system is logically following the initial premises one affirms.

If that’s how he defines moral relativism, then why does he disapprove of the “genocidal passages” in the OT? After all, as long as OT holy war is logically consistent with the initial premises of the narrators or warriors, then there is no ethical lapse.

Likewise, why is Avalos so defensive about the Dinesh D’Sousa’s effort to link the Holocaust to atheism and Darwinism? Once again, as long as the Nazis were logically consistent with the basic premises of their value system, there would be no ethical violation even if atheism and/or Darwinism were the culprits.

Triabloggers affirm to live by truth and honesty, and they were shown not to be doing so.

Avalos hasn’t shown that we were shown to be unethical. He hasn’t shown that Manata’s conduct was logically inconsistent with the initial premises of Manata’s ethical system. Nor mine.

The second reason Triablogue offers is where a blatant untruth or lie is found. I can thoroughly document this untruth if they force the issue and they seem to assume that I don’t have at least some of the relevant e-mails from these philosophers that Triablogue has. Since I do not want to add to the time or trouble caused by Triablogue to these professional colleagues, I have decided not to identify them.

Once again, what’s the “blatant untruth or lie”?

For now, I can say the following:

1. Manata was unable to refute my arguments on his own, and so he sought to use an appeal to authority to refute me.

i) That’s a false dichotomy. Manata refuted them on his own as well as garnering the refutation of others.

ii) Since Avalos is the one who constantly appeals to authority by playing the credentials card, that’s simply a case of calling his bluff.

iii) Avalos said Paul Tobin consulted him before Tobin posted his initial reply to me.

Therefore, by Hector’s own yardstick, Paul Tobin comes up short. “Unable to refute” my arguments “on his own,” he turned to Avalos for help.

2. The philosophers contacted by Manata were given a version of my arguments filtered through Manata, and so they did not evaluate my arguments from my own writings. What Manata gave them were already tainted and distorted versions. Thus, these philosophers were not really evaluating my arguments at all.

As I recall, what Manta gave them were direct quotes from Hector’s chapter in TCD.

3. When I contacted these philosophers to warn them of what Manata had done, one of them responded and reported the following:

A. Manata represented himself only as a student working on something Avalos had written in connection with a course Manata was taking.

B. The philosopher contacted by Manata was not even told about Triablogue and was not asked to say something for publication on that website.

i) Wrong! Manata was not doing this for a course on ethics.

ii) But notice the point-blank contradiction. On #3, Avalos quotes the professor without any indication that he sought or received permission to quote his private email statement in public.

Yet then, on #4, Avalos faults Manata for doing the very thing which Avalos just did on #3! So did Avalos just commit a “flagrant ethical violation?”

C. That philosopher subsequently asked that his comments be removed, and Manata agreed to remove all of the others, too.

And how is it “flagrantly unethical” for Manata to comply with their request?

D. Triablogue, not I, censored the post when Manata realized that his juvenile prank had boomeranged on him. After all, Triablogue controls the website, and so how could I censor it?

Now Avalos is playing dumb. Yet he just admitted that he was the one who tried to get the post taken down by contacting the quoted sources.

Indeed, it’s a backdoor admission on his part that Manata’s post was so devastating to Hector’s fragile reputation that he had to use strong-arm tactics to try to get it removed from the public domain.

So, either Manata lied to these philosophers about his intentions, or he was not telling them the whole truth about his intentions. Manata used their work for a purpose at least some of them did not intend.

Well that’s rather silly. To take a really obvious example, historians and biographers routinely quote from or publish the private letters or diaries of famous individuals from the past. They didn’t obtain the permission of the decedent before they made this information public. Is that a “flagrant ethical violation”?

If one looks at the comments section of the relevant thread (Triablogue’s Non-Explanation), one also sees another blatant contradiction in the following exchange:

Sorry, are we able to know why the post was taken down?
11/16/2010 6:16 AM
Well, I didn't take it down, so that's not for me to say.
11/16/2010 8:18 AM

So, on the one hand, Steve Hays tells us he knows that ethical violations were not the reason the post was removed. On the other hand, when asked by Michael why it was taken down, he can only meekly retort that “I didn’t take it down, so that’s not for me to say.” A pusillanimous answer if I’ve ever read one. After all---Couldn’t he even ask Manata?

i) Where’s the “blatant contradiction”? For that matter, he hasn’t even established a previous “blatant contradiction,” much less “another blatant contradiction.”

ii) Assuming my response was “pusillanimous,” what’s so bad about pusillanimity to a moral relativist like Avalos?

iii) Avalos is fallaciously assuming I didn’t know the reason. However, I didn’t say one way or the other. That’s the point.

Why did Triablobue not issue an explanation about their dead link that was only up for a few hours? Didn’t their own readers deserve an explanation? If Hays was willing to say that it was not taken down because of ethical reasons, why couldn’t he tell us the reason it was taken down?

No, they don’t deserve an explanation. I don’t owe them an explanation for what I do, and they don’t owe me an explanation for what they do.

This isn’t like an annual meeting with stockholders on how we invested their money or used the company car.

In any case, it really does not matter whether I am a moral relativist or not.

When an accuser hurls the charge of “flagrant ethical violations,” it certainly matters if the accuser turns out to be a moral relativist.

What matters is that at least one of the moral authorities that Triablogue consulted thought Triablogue was violating HIS ethical standards, not just mine.

i) To begin with, we only have Hector’s word to go by. Why should we credit the hearsay testimony of an avowed moral relativist?

ii) Moreover, even if that were true, so what? Remember how Hector just defined moral relativism?

The first one is easy to refute because Triablogue just doesn’t seem to understand even the basics of relativist ethics. Moral relativism does not deny that logic operates once you have accepted the basic premises of your ethics.

Moral relativism affirms that while the initial premises of any ethical system cannot be established by absolute rationales, one can still evaluate whether an ethical system is logically following the initial premises one affirms.

So, by his own definition, even if (arguendo) Manata violated the moral code of the unnamed professor, that wouldn’t make Manata guilty of a flagrant ethical violation–for what’s ethical or unethical is internal to each individual’s moral code. Unless Manata has the same moral code as the unnamed professor, a moral relativist like Avalos can’t judge Manata’s morality by an outsider’s standard of conduct. In moral relativism, as Avalos defines it, these are incommensurable. What matters is consistency with your own moral premises, not consistency with a second party’s moral premises.

From there, Triablogue’s attempt to whitewash their ethical lapses just gets worse.

Notice how Avalos steadily builds on a series of false premises.

Indeed, the main thing they have left is to assail my supposed “social inferiority” complex due to my economic and ethnic background. Actually, I am not ashamed at all of my background, and I have written on my background quite frequently.

To the contrary, he clearly looks down on his folk Pentecostal roots.

The removal of the post suggest that he is not a fighter, but rather a cowardly cyber-bully who runs when challenged. He may have been the hapless fellow cowering in the alleys when the big boys came looking for him. After all, he was the first to run to these philosophers when he could not handle the argument on his own. Why is that not described as being a “little pansy”?

Notice that Avalos is resorting to emotive appeals to shame Manata. But remember that Avalos is a moral relativist. So his coercive rhetoric is toothless.

The rest of the comments by Parsival38 (aka Steve Hays?) on the thread are simply rehash. This person, by his own definition (peer reviewed journal articles), has no standing in epistemology or ethics, and so he is not even able to judge whether I am competent in those fields. Hays is not in a position to say who is or is not an epistemologist.

i) That’s ironic. Avalos is a “minimalist” in archeology, yet he identifies me as the pseudonymous commenter, even though he offers absolutely no evidence to substantiate his identification.

ii) One doesn’t need to be an epistemologist to know the Avalos is not an epistemologist.

The idea that Prometheus is not a scholarly press is also simply nonsense. The books by Prometheus are reviewed by recognized scholars in recognized scholarly venues (e.g., Review of Biblical Literature), and so it shows that other scholars do recognize their books as scholarly.

When I turn to the Prometheus catalogue, here are some of the “scholarly” titles I find:

The Government vs. Erotica: The Siege of Adam & Eve
Philip D. Harvey
Foreword by Nadine Strossen, president, ACLU

Eight Keys to Greatness: How to Unlock Your Hidden Potential
Gene N. Landrum, PhD

Chocolate— A Healthy Passion
Shara Aaron and Monica Bearden

Lessons of the Locker Room: The Myth of School Sports
Andrew W. Miracle Jr. and C. Roger Rees

Simpsonology: There’s a Little Bit of Springfield in All of Us
Tim Delaney

Seinology: The Sociology of Seinfeld
Tim Delaney

Infiltrating Red-State, White-Ass, and Blue-Suit America
Harmon Leon

A Solstice Tree for Jenny
Karen Shragg

Hooking Up: A Girl’s All-Out Guide to Sex and Sexuality
Amber Madison

S & M: Studies in Dominance and Submission
Edited by Thomas S. Weinberg

Armed Robbery Orgasm: A Lovemap Autobiography of Masochism
Ronald W. Keyes and John Money

The Breathless Orgasm: A Lovemap Biography of Asphyxiophilia
John Money, Gordon Wainwright, and David Hingsburger

Transvestites: The Erotic Drive to Cross-Dress
Magnus Hirschfeld, MD

Dirty Talk
Diary of a Phone Sex “Mistress”
Gary Anthony with Rocky Bennett

Raw Talent: The Adult Film Industry as Seen by Its Most Popular Male Star
Jerry Butler, as told to Robert H. Rimmer and Catherine Tavel

However, I’ll happily grant that Hector’s Prometheus’ titles are fully the equal of these.

Moving along:

August 6, 2010 should be remembered as the date when Triablogue saw its own work as so inane, juvenile, and ethically incoherent that it had to erase it from the world.

How is Manata quoting some professional ethicists on the quality (or lack thereof) of Hector’s argument for moral relativism inane, juvenile, and ethically incompetent?

Manata, who usually trumpets even the slightest supposed victory, has kept quiet this long about it because he knows his defeat was as definitive as it gets in the blogosphere.

To the contrary, Avalos, by his own admission, was so afraid of Manata’s post that he tried to silence his critics. And the fact that he’s still running scared from a deleted post is a self-witness to his professional and intellectual insecurity.

Finally, it will not matter even if Triablogue does post responses purported to come private communications with philosophers. With Triablogue’s credibility with at least some academic ethicists now in tatters, it is clear that supposed quotes and refutations from philosophers posted on Triablogue cannot be taken at face value.

The accuracy of the quotes is evident from the fact that Avalos felt so threatened by them that he went to such lengths to suppress them.

Unless those philosophers post it on their own websites or write it in their own publications, nothing on Triablogue said to come from private communications with philosophers should be trusted to be what Triablogue claims it to be.

Only somebody as panic-stricken as Avalos would resort to these transparent disclaimers.

1. Given Triablogue’s professed adherence to high ethical standards, did Hays ever request that Manata show him the correspondence he sent to these professional philosophers?

As far as that goes, I’d take Manata’s word for it.

2. If he Manata did share such correspondence, did Hays ensure that Manata represented himself and his intentions truthfully to these philosophers?

Manata’s declared intentions were to ask them to evaluate Hector’s argument for moral relativism. Which they did, much to Hector’s acute embarrassment.

3. If Manata did not represent himself truthfully, will he be censured, reprimanded, or forced to issue some sort of apology? Will Triablogue issue an apology or explanation for this sort of misrepresentation?

Since there was no misrepresentation, no apology is even in order.

I actually did not respond to this prank publicly until Parsival38 (aka Steve Hays) trolled the DC site with further personal attacks in the thread to a November 10 post on DC (Avalos Profile).

I await Hector’s evidence that I’m Parsival38.

The problem with the Triabloggers is that they sometimes become inconsiderate of the time professional colleagues have to expend undoing their pranks. Triabloggers think that universities and professors are in the business of settling every argument that they cannot handle themselves. Thus, when it becomes clear that they have no respect for taking the time of colleagues, then it is time to expose them for what they are.

i) By that standard, Paul Tobin can’t handle the arguments on his own.

ii) To judge by some student reviews of Hector’s job performance, the more time we divert from his work, the better for all parties concerned:

Hector Avalos

Name: Hector Avalos
School: Iowa State University
Location: Ames, IA
Department: Religion


Dr. Avalos is very biased and intelligent. He does provide more than one viewpoint, however he seems to miss or mistake obvious possible explanations about the materials (Bible.) Whether he does this intentionally, or on purpose it is hard to say. I feel he is a good person, but I feel bad for him because he seems to harbor a great anger towards some things that happened during his childhood church experience. Told us stories that confirmed his bitter recall of those times. Has a good heart tho.


Claims to be valid because he is "impartial" to subject material, yet clearly, and vocally, is against or unfavorable toward material presented. Professor Avalos has a distinct presuppostion that orders his manner of teaching, yet refuses to recognize his own bias.


His broken English does nothing to strengthen his typically convoluted arguments. Class is ridiculously easy, however, if one has been exposed to works such as Atheism for Dummies.


He is EXTREMELY biased against all religion, but if you know that going in, he makes you think.


He has all the wrong answers to all the right questions.


  1. If the information compiled at this link is accurate it would seem that Dr. Avalos is quite proficient at organizing against his intellectual opponents in an effort to silence them.

    I would suggest that someone contact Dr. Guillermo Gonzalez for his views, although that might result in further angry recriminations by Dr. Avalos.

    In Him,

  2. Wow, the atheist blogs are acting as if this is the Christian blogosphere's downfall, but from what I can see, Paul simply removed something he was asked to remove out of professional courtesy. Since when does someone need explicit permission to post what someone said on a blog? Seems to me that Paul didn't have to remove it, but did for the sake of the person who requested it.

    And it says a lot about Avalos' consistency that he can't see the problem with accusing anyone of anything as a moral relativist. Much ado about nothing.

  3. I knew this day would have to come eventually. I agree with 100% of something Bossmanham said! (And thus the waves of ice crush down upon the lake of fire!)

    Somewhat amusing that the word verification is "aglast" which is SO CLOSE to being "aghast."

  4. So it appears to me that someone was upset that something he said about Avalos in a venue he thought was private was published on-line, and he complained about it, and Paul (nicely--not because he was required to) pulled the post.

    I think Avalos *MAY* want to spend a bit more time concentrating on what people say about him when they don't realize it's going public....

  5. You really don't realize you come off as evasive and shady and dishonhest scumbags? Come on, the lack of authenticity, the cagey junior-high nature of this post, the admit-no-wrong nature, the constant ad hominem. You quibble about technical details (whether something technically inconsistent) while evading the entire point of general honesty.

    Why not an honest discussion of what happened, without hyperbole? You want credibility, that's the way to go. This post leaves me feeling disgusted.

  6. I presented a point-by-point response to Avalos on his own terms. That's not "quibbling over technicalities." That's meeting an opponent on his chosen terrain. I gave a systematic rebuttal.

    And since you yourself are an avowed moral relativist, spare me the sanctimonious talk about "honesty," "authenticity," and "credibility."

  7. Little-known fact, known only amongst us in the Spelling Nazi regime: the word is antivenin, not antivenom. Absolutely could not pass that one up, and I'm not privy to your e-mail addy, so...forgive my pedantry, please.

    Other than that, I commend you once again for your patience, perseverance and poise in going round and round with these folks. As previous posts/comments of mine have demonstrated, the Lord has much work yet to do in instilling those virtues in me. It's nice to see you and several others here in action -- gives me a goal to aim toward.

  8. After reading Avalos' work and blog posts, I'm have to conclude that his extreme hatred for religion and Christianity in particular is nothing short of pathological.

    He is blinded by his hatred -- I actually feel sorry for him.

  9. @AZTEXAN,

    You are correct to a point. However, in linguistics, usage is king. So you have a balance between usage that has been deemed correct and usage recognized as legitimate variance from what has once been deemed correct in the evolution of a living language. Enough publications have used "antivenom" that dictionaries are starting to pick it up as a legitimate variant.

    This pattern is, of course, differentiated from the topic at hand in that we would agree that true ethics is eternally based and not subject to the changes of sociological whim (although absolute ethical principles are manifest practically in a multitude of ways depending on sociological context).

  10. u r rite thas wy ppls langwidge skillz sux deez dayz cuz roolz of inglish dont meen $heeeeit. word up dawg.

  11. I share your disdain of that trend, and I'm alarmed that you seem so fluent in it. "lol"