CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

So Just Shoot the Messenger

Dec 4, 2008

It is a commonplace tactic for those who do not have a leg to stand on regarding the facts and evidence to simply ignore the facts and evidence, and instead resort to ad hominem attacks. Attacking the character of one’s intellectual sparring mate is always far easier than dealing with the actual arguments.

And if one does not like the arguments and evidence the opponent is providing, another trick is simply to shoot the messenger. Instead of dealing with the message, just vilify the messenger, and pretend the truth will just quietly go away.

There are plenty of activist lobby groups that regularly resort to such tactics. A good example of this has occurred recently, with the sacking of a Christian pro-family leader. Warwick Marsh was dumped by the Rudd government because of his association with the booklet, “21 Reasons Why Gender Matters”.

Because the booklet looked at the well-being of children, and the right of every child to be raised by his or her own biological mother and father, and discussed homosexuality in part, the homosexual lobby has gone ballistic, running overtime about this terrible document.

Indeed, it is hard to keep up with all the mud-slinging, hatred and heterophobia pouring forth from their websites and blogs. One leading homosexual activist has been making the rounds of every site he can, telling us of his earth-shattering discovery. He is obviously very proud of all his hard detective work.

According to him, there are two – yes two! – errors out of the nearly 200 references in the booklet. Now I don’t accept that the two references in question are in fact suspect. But even if they are, what is the outcome of his earth-shaking charges: he is simply telling us that 99 per cent of the references are accurate. Gee, that’s a pretty serious and damning charge. Imagine that: a paltry 99 per cent accuracy rate.

If we applied such fine-tooth combs to the typical homosexual activist document, we might be lucky to find a 50 per cent accuracy rate. Indeed, I don’t know of too many people in any profession who would quibble with a 99 per cent accuracy rate. But our homosexual friend thinks he has made the discovery of the century, and thinks he has just shot the entire booklet down in flames, forever discrediting the authors and their integrity.

Might I suggest that if this is the best this fellow can come up with in all his diligent investigative work, he perhaps should consider finding a new day job? But his fellow homosexual activists have claimed this to be the best thing since creamed cheese. Indeed, another high-flyer homosexual activist was positively drooling over all this, praising the research with these words:

“Another important spin-off from last week’s debate is greater scrutiny of the claims and credentials of anti-gay activists like Marsh and Williams. Gay and Lesbian Equality WA has taken a blow touch [sic] to some the [sic] statistics in ‘21 Reasons’.”

Yep, that sure was some blowtorch job alright. It was such a convincing and devastating demolition job that I was almost tempted to give the whole game away. Of course such a criticism is in the same league of that offered by crikey.com when they said “On and on it goes, page after page, ‘supported’ by nonsensical and misinterpreted studies”.

So let me see if I have this straight: according to crikey, all of the following are unreliable, discredited and misleading sources:

-The Australian Bureau of Statistics
-The House of Representatives, Standing Committee on Education and Training
Psychology Today
-The World Health Organization
The Lancet
The Sydney Morning Herald (obviously one of the nation’s most homophobic newspapers)
-The Department of Family and Community Services
-Monash Centre for Population and Urban Research
-The United States Department of Labor
Women and Health
-Michael et. al.’s Sex in America: A Definitive Survey
Archives of General Psychology
Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy
International Journal of Eating Disorders
-The House of Representatives, Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs
-National Centre in HIV Social Research
Journal of Population Economics
American Sociological Review
Australian Psychologist
Developmental Psychology
Archives of Sexual Behavior
-Australian Institute of Criminology
Journal of Interpersonal Violence
Clinical Infectious Diseases
American Journal of Public Health
International Journal of Epidemiology
Sexually Transmitted Infections
The Washington Blade
Melbourne Community Voice (MCV)
-Kirk and Marsden’s After the Ball
-Altman’s The Homosexualization of America

And so on. What are we talking about here? Government research reports; global health organisations; reputable medical journals; scientific journals; official HIV research centres; homosexual books; homosexual newspapers; and so on. So all this comprises “nonsensical” studies? Well, if you want to call homosexual books and newspapers nonsensical, I suppose I can agree with that much at least.

As I say, this is all about shooting the messenger. They cannot argue with the facts, with the evidence, and with the arguments, so they simply try to discredit the whole thing with name-calling, mud-slinging and hysterical rants.

Indeed, the ad hominems and viciousness just keep coming and coming. Consider yet another activist who provides this objective, reasoned and gracious evaluation of the booklet: “Referring to the vitriolic bile spouted by the authors of ‘21 reasons why [sic] Gender Matters’ as ’strong stuff’ is a little bit like saying that Hitler was ‘a bit naughty..[sic]’ In my opinion, anyone that cares to put associate [sic] their name with 24 pages of homophobic, trans*phobic [sic], sexist, poorly researched and heavily baised [sic] tripe is not fit to be in the position of a role model or an authority.”

Leaving aside for the moment why it is that so many of these angry activists seem to have so much trouble with simple spelling, we have here another perfect example of how the other side operates. It is name-calling pure and simple, without an iota of argument, evidence or fact.

Of course fact, reason and evidence are not exactly their strong suit. Shouting people down and showing just how ‘tolerant’ they are seems to be about all they can muster. But hey, shouting a lot is a whole lot easier than actually coming up with solid evidence and sound argumentation.

This crowd seems to think that if it shouts long enough, loud enough and often enough, it can make its case and win the day. Sadly, this is just all too typical of those we are up against. But we will keep marshalling the evidence, providing the arguments, and demonstrating the facts. In the end truth always wins out.

So let the mud continue to fly. It is a clear and certain sign that the other side does not have a leg to stand on, and is involved in acts of desperation, complete with smoke and mirrors. The more they shout and roar, the more one can be sure that the truth may not in fact be with them.

[1150 words]

13 Responses to So Just Shoot the Messenger

  • These squealers who won’t deal with the arguments would best be described as alethophobes — fearers of truth.

    Michael Watts

  • Will somebody answer this question?

    Why, if people don’t believe in your God, do you think you have the right to discuss and condemn their lifestyle? I don’t understand this. Some people do not want you to pray for them and they really don’t care a bit.

    This is why literature such as the 21 reasons tripe is so vile.
    There are no real facts there – just distorted opinion. Medical science has believed many things proven untrue in the past. Homosexuals are not mentally ill and this site seems to only encourage tolerance when the gay person is seeking to be ‘cured’. If they could do it as an outward appearance, would you try to ‘cure’ black people? Those infected with the devil of red hair? Buddhists?

    Samantha Jones

  • A variation on “shooting the message” aka discrediting the Bible?
    [Skeptic:] You can’t trust the Bible – it’s FULL of mistakes!
    [Apologist:] OK, have a loan of mine. It shouldn’t take you long to find one of those mistakes, then?
    [Skeptic:] Well, umm, err, hmm, err… Well, I can’t handle…
    [Apologist:] Well… I’m waiting …

    I don’t know about you and your correspondents on this blog, Bill, but I have counted over a dozen times that I have publicly refuted the argument that the Bible teaches that pi = 3 instead of 3.14159.

    Such false arguments and attacks take so much energy to refute.

    John Angelico

  • Thanks Samantha

    I am happy to answer your questions. Just where in this booklet (assuming you have actually read it all, or even partially) is there any talk about the Bible, or God, or Christianity? (And by the way, this is not a rhetorical question; please come back to us all with every occasion in which these words are used in the booklet. We eagerly await your findings.) You provide a perfect illustration of what my article is talking about. You set up a straw man and attack it, and think you have made some sort of brilliant argument.

    And a person can be fully concerned about the risky and unhealthy nature of the homosexual lifestyle without having a shred of religion. Indeed, millions of non-believers do have such concerns. So what does religion have to do with anything here Samantha? This is just another straw man of yours that can quickly and easily be dispensed with.

    Also, what exactly are you suggesting anyhow? That people who are religious should not be allowed to discuss the issue of homosexuality? What other topics would you ban religious people from discussing Samantha? Gee, this sure sounds like censorship, tyranny and intolerance to me.

    And here you go again: instead of advancing one single argument, or providing one fact or shred of evidence, you simply resort to name calling: “This is why literature such as the 21 reasons tripe is so vile”. So thank you for perfectly making my case Samantha. It looks like I did not even need to write this article, given what a good job you are doing of making my case for me. (Are you sure you are not really a sneaky Christian in disguise trying to make secular homophiles look bad Samantha?)

    And you say, “There are no real facts there.” No real facts there? Not one? It seems any objective reader of the booklet would find hundreds of real facts therein. But there you go again: simply shoot the messenger and refuse to even deal with the message. You are fitting my description to a ‘T’ so far.

    And I must call your very silly bluff here. People are of course born with black skin or red hair. It is a genetic condition over which they have absolutely no choice. Yet as this booklet documents with plenty of evidence, statistics and facts, the homosexual lifestyle is as much about choice as anything else. But all that documented discussion is found in the booklet so I will not repeat it here. Any serious person really wishing to follow the evidence where it leads can see for themselves the case which is being made in the booklet.

    And of course I am not aware of any genetic determinism regarding Buddhism. As far as I can tell, people are free to choose their religious beliefs.

    In sum, I again thank you so very much. My article could have seemed like just so much theoretical baloney. But then you came along and prove to the whole world everything I have said. Much appreciated.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Hi Samantha,

    I’m not sure why you immediately feel compelled to attack belief in God when the document in question clearly cites a majority of non-faith based sources in building its case. You claim it is just “opinion”, but this in fact is just your “opinion”. Where does the weight of evidence point?

    Re-read Bill’s list of references above, please, before replying.

    Mark Rabich

  • Bill,

    You didn’t include a link to the booklet in this article so here it is 21 Reasons why Gender Matters.

    Tim Pearce, WA

    PS It would be nice if there was a preview function when writing comments.

  • Samantha, even if people don’t believe in God or the Bible, it is still the right thing for Christians to do to argue that society’s laws should reflect Judeo-Christian morality. History has demonstrated that the Judeo-Christian moral code provides the best foundation for civilised society and provides for the maximum liberty for the maximum number of people. In other words it ensures the common good.

    Your morality on the other hand (assuming it to be some form of liberal humanism) leads to a dysfunctional society and a greatly reduced liberty if not all out mass murder such as with abortion.

    Ewan McDonald.

  • The Skeptics Annotated Bible lists hundreds of biblical contradictions, and very few of them have been answered to any degree of satisfaction.

    For a start, there are the triple genealogies of Jesus in Matthew chapter 1, Luke chapter 3 and 1 Chronicles chapter 3.

    Then there’s the fig tree incident, which reveals Jesus as a petty bully who punishes a TREE for doing what god supposedly created it for doing naturally.

    Then there are the numerous verses of god hardening the pharoah’s heart, against one verse claiming that the pharoah hardened his own heart:

    Exodus 4:21
    And the LORD said unto Moses, When thou goest to return into Egypt, see that thou do all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in thine hand: but I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go…….

    Winston Jen

  • These people, such as crikey.com, who have attacked Warwick Marsh so nastiliy are nothing more than bullies. They think their view point should be the only one and anyone who dares to speak against it will be bullied until they stop.

    People with a sense of morality, Christians especially, need to stand up to them until they realize their bully tactics will no longer work.

    I think Christians have been asleep for too long. It is time to wake up and re-take the ground lost to these anti-God, immorality-promoting bullies.

    I for one would like to see Warwick Marsh run for parliament at the next election.

    Craig Manners

  • Thanks Winston (or Jen)

    But given that this post is about gender differences, the well-being of children, and the culture wars, I am not at all sure why you are raising this issue here. You must be really desperate to pick a fight, no matter how out of place it may be.

    And this is simply another silly atheist bluff which is so easily disposed of. These charges are as old as the hills. All these alleged contradictions have been more than adequately dealt with time after time. All you are doing here is demonstrating how paltry, petty and lame – and out of date – the atheist arguments are.

    You are simply scrapping the bottom of a very old barrow of atheist party tricks here. There is nothing at all impressive about it. You will really have to try to come up with something a bit more substantial next time I am afraid.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Winston, for answers to your alleged Biblical contradictions, I suggest checking out an apologetics website like http://www.tektonics.org or http://www.christian-thinktank.org.

    Back on topic, it astounds me that so many pro-gay activists are unwilling to listen to reason when it doesn’t support their own ideals. It seems that any criticism of pro-family ideals is “rational, objective fact” while any criticism of homosexuality is just irrational bias.

    James Swanson

  • Bill,

    Under what conditions do you think an ad hominem argument is valid?

    What I mean is, it’s not a neutral, rational debate, but a spiritual, ethical battle. Our behaviour influences our belief as much as our belief influences our behaviour. For example, a prominent atheist’s rejection of God is not unrelated to his several divorces.

    Have you any suggestions on when pointing out a person’s moral calibre or integrity is acceptable, or even effective in an argument?

    Sorry it’s a bit off topic. But I wondered what you might think.

    Michael Hutton, Ariah Park

  • Thanks Michael

    Arguments have to be made and assessed on their own merits, and one must be careful of the genetic fallacy (which may be what you have in mind). This fallacy confuses the origins of an idea with reasons for believing in an idea. That is, an argument is rejected or regarded as mistaken or false because it comes from a bad or questionable source.

    However, concerns about the source of an argument are not altogether irrelevant. If a person is a known chronic liar, then that should be taken into consideration when weighing up the person’s claims. And vested interests have to be weighed up as well. For example, the credibility of an argument for the safety of cigarette smoking is lessened if we know that the one making the case is a representative of Big Tobacco.

    And books have been written along the lines of what you are suggesting. In 1988 Paul Johnson wrote an important book entitled Intellectuals. In it he argued that a lot of our public intellectuals and activists had personal lives that were far from desirable. He looked at Marx, Rousseau, Russell, Sartre and others, and found that the way they treated others, the way their own family life took shape, and their moral habits, were all pretty lousy.

    And critics of the radical feminists have noted how many of these angry women had a really bad home life, often with an absent or abusive father, etc. These factors do not determine the truth or falsehood of their arguments, but they do go a long way toward explaining why they believe what they believe.

    And another book also argued along similar lines. In 2000 Paul Vitz wrote The Faith of the Fatherless. In it he examined a number of leading atheists, and discovered that many had a lousy relationship with their earthly dads, which may account for their dislike of the heavenly father. My review of that book is here: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2002/03/16/a-review-of-faith-of-the-fatherless-by-paul-vitz/

    I concluded that review with these words: “As this book makes clear, there is a real correlation between personal psycho-history and belief systems. Of course such childhood backgrounds are not fully determinative: people can and do change, rising above their circumstances and backgrounds. However, this book helps us to understand the passion and vehemence of some atheists, and shows us that philosophies can be as much a product of our social background as of hard reasoning.”

    And I think you are quite right for another reason. I have dealt with many atheists and humanists over the years, and one thing I have discovered is that often it is not the evidence that is driving them, but their past personal history. For example, they may have had a lousy experience at church when young, and they now reject it altogether, and atheism becomes a convenient excuse to justify their ways.

    Some atheists have even been honest enough to admit that they chose unbelief because it gave them an excuse to justify and pursue their immorality. Consider just one example. Atheist Aldous Huxley put it this way:

    ”I had motives for not wanting the world to have meaning; consequently I assumed that it had none, and was able without any difficulty to find satisfying reasons for this assumption. . . . For myself, as, no doubt, for most of my contemporaries, the philosophy of meaningless was essentially an instrument of liberation. The liberation we desired was simultaneously liberation from a certain political and economic system and liberation from a certain system of morality. We objected to the morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom; we objected to the political and economic system because it was unjust. The supporters of these systems claimed that in some way they embodied the meaning (a Christian meaning, they insisted) of the world. There was one admirably simple method of confuting these people and at the same time justifying ourselves in our political and erotical revolt: we could deny that the world had any meaning whatsoever.”

    And Jesus said much the same in John 3. He said people do not come to the light because the light exposes their darkness. They prefer to cling to their sin, instead of renouncing it and coming to the light. So many atheist arguments are really smokescreens for people who simply want to hang on to their sin and selfishness.

    We need to bear this in mind when we debate with unbelievers. Are they asking honest questions that deserve honest answers, or are they just using their unbelief as an excuse to justify their lifestyle?

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

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