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The Country Bear Portfolio

A Survey of Diversionary Goof-Offs from the Land Promise Issue
James Patrick Holding


In a recent set of replies to us on the Land Promise issue, Skeptic X produced enough diversionary, off-topic hot air to power a balloon trip around the world. We took the pulse of some readers and asked whether it should be ignored or attended to. "Attended to" won. They said that since we've already won the debate, they'd like to see some more dissection occur and get a few cheap laughs at X's expense. Come to think of it, it is kind of fun.

So we'll break this apart by topics. Some of these things belong under other existing essays, and we'll put them there and link off. In this essay section we'll just note things like dirty debate tactics used, simple boo-boos or presumptions by X, and anything else that doesn't seem to fit anywhere else.

  • On omniscience and free will, see here.
  • On existence of other gods, see here.
  • On technical errors in typing, cutting and pasting, and source usage, see here.
  • On the latest attempt by Skeptic X to prostitute a scholar (Rohrbaugh) for his purposes, see here.
  • On examples of intellectual laziness by Skeptic X, see here.
  • On the circumcision requirement see here.
  • On anachronisms in the text -- ha ha! Skeptic X actually reuses that goofy "Civil War" example!
  • We also have some comments on Skeptic X's reply to the Chicken Challenge.

    Still Need Mr. Laubauch? To start, we will note an example of Skeptic X's poor reading ability, which has continued to provide us with entertainment (such as the time he thought I wanted him to pay for 90% of my website). I said, "That 'conditions' exist is demonstrated quite clearly in the tangential material on the subject of the ancient relationship between lands, gods, and their peoples, material which our opponent has not yet addressed..." See the italicized words? Here is what Skeptic X gets out of it:

    I didn't address [Holding]'s "tangential material on the subject of the ancient relationship between lands, gods, and their peoples"? I always suspected that [Holding] doesn't really read my replies. When I come to where I did address this issue, I'll point it out to him. Anyway, I have a lot more material on this issue. A competent debater will always keep something back to give his opponent plenty of opportunity to hang himself.

    The irony can be smelled from miles off. Skeptic X misreads our perfectly clear "has not yet" as a "didn't (at all)". Indeed, he does so again and again as the essay progresses. But indeed he had not, at the stages noted in the response, yet addressed our material on that subject. Someone has a lot of rope, indeed, but they are still trying to untangle it from around their own necks as the spurs get driven in their horse's posterior. Note well: our complaint is not that Skeptic X did not address the issue at all, but that he manipulatively tried to pre-empt the issue for his own view by addressing our replies in such a way as to suggest we had not addressed it. In short, as usual, we have caught Skeptic X at his rhetorical debate tricks (see section below) and rendered them ineffective by exposure, and he don't like it one bit. He does the same this round, but with the absurd EVERYTHING rule he denies ever demanding now rusting in the dust, we're under no obligation to offer his Deut. 9 argument or any other argument the same 23,473,938,329 times he does. We will, as noted, cut to the chase even more efficiently and bypass every instance of pre-empting, repetition, blather, and fluff.

    (Of course, our statement that Skeptic X mentions Deut. 9 in argument 23,473,938,329 times is an example of hyperbole, or exaggeration for effect. The actual number of times he mentions Deut. 9 in argument is 19,844,336,987.)

    A word in order as well on Skeptic X's latest expansion on this debate tactic, which also smells of hypocrisy to the point of reeking fish rotting in the sun, in light of his complaint noted above. In our earlier replies, we did not engage Skeptic X's boo game of issuing full responses to each repetition; i.e., if he mentioned Deut. 9, as he did almost 30 times, mostly prior to getting to our arguments about it, we merely said we would answer that subject of Deut. 9 in the same order Skeptic X did, and said it was answered either above or below, depending on location. Skeptic X now tries to fool his readers into thinking our locational references were a diversion intended to hide that we did not answer the arguments at all -- and he does this, again, even before getting to our arguments (and then has the nerve to state that, "Repeating that which one's opponent obviously evades is an effective way to keep the audience reminded of his failures"! It's also a "dirty debate" tactic; see below.) What is happening here is another of Skeptic X's attempts to disorient readers, though he will not be successful: He wants to scramble the order of discussion, and engender an environment ripe for confusion, as well as score debate points by implanting in his gullible skeptical readers' minds that we don't ever answer his material. He tries to hide this tactic by claiming that we could have cut and pasted our arguments, i.e., on Deut. 9 after each time he mentioned it -- well, then, why didn't Skeptic X go forward and address OUR Deut. 9 arguments every time he wanted to bring it up as a counter? Why, other than engaging a dirty debate tactic, does Skeptic X even bring it up again and again without dealing with our own answer, or for that matter reading ahead to be sure we didn't give one? And, why does he constantly interrupt in mid-paragraph, even mid-sentence, with ten paragraph diversions, even before points are fully developed? We will not fall for such manipulations -- Skeptic X is lost in a haystack because our reply has emasculated his attempts to manipulate audience favor (beyond his own disciples, who would be thrilled if merely he responded to a question about suzerainty treaties by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance backwards while standing on his head in a bucket of "Dudley Do-Right for President" campaign buttons) and instill confusion. Skeptic X wants an orderly debate? Then we're keeping it orderly, in an order that he won't like because it robs him of his most potent weapon of lathering up with the blather. This wounded animal will have no place to hide.

    Now witness Skeptic X's latest attempt (Part 14) to weasel out of the trap. He can't even keep his mind straight with comments like this:

    Here [Holding] is again, saying that he has already addressed Deuteronomy 9 but that I haven't yet reached his discussion of it. How could both of these statements be true? If he has already addressed it, then I would have reached it by now.

    Skeptic X here reminds me of the kalam cosmological argument -- there can't be infinite time, because if there was, we never would have reached across an infinite past to get to today. I wonder what he makes of that argument. Beyond that it's funny how the English teacher doesn't get it about the tenses here. When Skeptic X wrote his response citing Deut. 9, I had, at the time he wrote the reply, already addressed it. He just had not gotten to where I addressed it. My reply on Deut. 9 laid there existing even as he blathered on about it pre-emptively. That's how both are true. I'm sure Skeptic X's intellectually-challenged readers will fall for this goalpost-shifting game, since they would think Skeptic X brilliant if he answered the question, "How deep is the Grand Canyon?" by saying, "It's got fur." Skeptic X, you would indeed have reached the Deut. 9 issue in my text by now if you weren't so busy flopping down diversions like gutted red herrings. And by the time you actually read this, it will be 2003 and you will still be sitting at the computer answering Part 2 of my response, not having gotten up to go to the bathroom since October.


    Conspiracy Theory! Here is an example of one of those "boo games" that Skeptic X plays to keep his arguments afloat. Skeptic X made a comment on my italicized emphasis on the word "heir" in Gen. 15:3. I noted:

    The emphasis on "heir" and on words below is intended to identify for the reader the place where yarash appears in the Hebrew, as is made clear by my explanatory comment, and as our opponent does grasp in the next paragraph.

    Skeptic X has been spending years trying to convince people that I am claiming expertise in Hebrew and Greek that I never claimed, and in the service of keeping that hot air balloon aloft now proposes a conspiracy of intent that rivals anything coming out of Area 51. Since, he snuffles, I accepted the standard understanding of what yarash (and now, in Part 8, 'olam) meant, "why does [Holding] feel the need to emphasize words like heir to let readers know that these were places where yarash appeared in the Hebrew text?" Why? He thinks it's actually a way of me saying, "Hey, look at me; I know Hebrew" and "an attempt to sway the opinion of his readers by leaving the impression that he is an authority in biblical languages." Well, hey howdy. Who but a sucker like Skeptic X would ever read that much out of such a simple thing? Elsewhere Skeptic X expresses his paranoia thusly:

    I had never seen [Holding] tell his readers that when he tells them that the Hebrew or Greek word in such and such a text was whatever, he was telling them no more than they could find themselves by flipping through Strong's concordance. He didn't have to say directly, "I am an expert in Hebrew," to leave with his readers the impression that he was. His constant references to what the Hebrew or Greek words were in whatever texts were being discussed was designed to leave with his readers that he did have an expertise in biblical languages, because he didn't bother to tell them that he was just browsing through a concordance.

    You know, folks, every time I think I know what Skeptic X is all about, he surprises me by saying or doing something way stupider than I could have expected. The conclusion I am having to reach from artful conspiracy-comments like this one is that maybe Skeptic X really is a gullible sucker, and so are his readers, and he is trying to protect them from the threat he sees, every time a shadow falls or a man in sunglasses steps by the window. If this is how he reads such things as highlighting the word being discussed, or simply declaring a meaning while clearly citing a concordance as a source and clearly citing other sources, as secret spy tactics designed to hypnotize the reader and leave an impression of expertise to the point of being an authority in the subject, then little wonder Skeptic X has to resort to such tactics as repeating his Deut. 9 argument 993,837,294,293 times even before he gets to our reply to it, or interrupting commentary between sentences, even in mid-sentence, and repeating one of his ten-paragraph-long assertions. Skeptic X is fighting a battle against secret forces of darkness trying to take over the world, and fancies himself a new version of Darkwing Duck flying in to save the day.

    I'll clue you on what may actually be happening here. Skeptic X is in a purple tizzy over having his bombast rhetorically dissected, and is now trying to even up by pretending to rhetorically dissect my own arguments. Problem is, while he's good at dishing out the bombast, he's not so good at replying to it and has to make up whatever he can to match. Next he'll say that when I say, "It's a nice day outside," I am claiming to be an expert meteorologist.


    Ya'll Suckers. If you wonder what Skeptic X thinks of you as a reader of Tekton, here's that dirt. Referring to books by Cross, which Skeptic X thinks conflict with my arguments though they actually so far either support it or do not address it, Skeptic X scribbles:

    Since these books are in obvious conflict with [Holding]'s view of ancient suzerainty treaties, he could give them one of his disparaging reviews, perhaps something like, "These books would have some practical bathroom use if they were printed on thinner paper, but you can still buy this book from Amazon.com and save 30%!" The important thing would be his commission, because I have noticed that he has been stuck on 81 for several weeks in his plea for suckers who will contribute $70 to $80 per year so that his "ministry" can become full-time.

    Actually I would give Cross' 1998 book a 2-up recommend, and the 1973 book no review, since it is out of date and probably out of print. Nevertheless, hear that, folks? Skeptic X says you're "suckers" if you support this ministry, which does not need to "become" full-time; it IS full-time. Beyond that Skeptic X ran his gator a bit too soon: That 81 is down to 73 of this typing, and let us remind the skeppies that it started at 365 just over a year ago. No complaints from me, though. It may or may not go further, but non-profits of all sorts are having a rough time in this economy, to say nothing of prodding people to give; it doesn't matter whether it's Tekton Apologetics, the local food bank, or the local blood bank. Those who wish to give of themselves know the drill. Not that Skeptic X would know, since he never was popular or influential enough to be able to even try raising funds.

    Incidentally, let's remember that Dan Barker's FFRF has an annual budget of $500,000, which it makes through dues of $40-50 a year and by selling things like atheist cookbooks, and the Secular Web also has links to Amazon to purchase Christian books. I guess the commission is the important thing?


    Amusingly, by Part 14-15, Skeptic X is clearly getting winded by having his bombast dissected, and is now trying to turn the tables. He charges me now with evasion because I am unable to answer some of his objections -- hmm, what of the truckload of diversions Skeptic X has been flopping down, then? He tells his gullible readers that he has "already read through the entirety" of my reply and claims that he knows I have "not resolved 'below' or 'later' or anywhere else the problems that these passages present to his claim of biblical harmony in the land-promise texts." Of course by the time Skeptic X gets to the "below" in actual response, it will be at least another 3 months and his gullible sycophants will have forgotten this remark. For the present, though, they will remember what he says now and fall at his feet for at least another few weeks before they look up and see he is stark naked. Funny, too, how if my later answers are that bad, he doesn't bring them to the fore right now like he says WE should be doing, and even claims that he would do such bringing to the fore, even as he doesn't. Do I smell herring?


    Debate Dirt. Now for a bit on debate tactics to fool the gullible, brought to you by Skeptic X's Handbook of Dirty, Underhanded, and Obnoxious Debate Tactics to Use When You're Going to Lose.

    Tactic #1:: Skeptic X assures his gullible readers, "Anyway, I have a lot more material on this issue. A competent debater will always keep something back to give his opponent plenty of opportunity to hang himself."

    If you believe this, you think Men in Black is non-fiction. Holding back, is he? Poppycock. If you believe this, then you believe that he had all those stuffs he's "holding back" in mind thirteen years ago when he wrote this article for TSR, and that's he's been "holding back" now for two rounds, just as its odd that he never remembered that, "wait, I didn't want you to quote EVERYTHING" until Round 2. Here's what's actually the word: X wrote the original article either based on a whisk-thru of the texts, or else (more likely), saw this whole thing proposed as a problem by some writer or other (maybe Thomas Paine, maybe someone like Wellhausen or even Cross) and thought it'd be something good to throw at his Church of Christ cohorts with the same degrees from Bam Bam Bible College, who wouldn't be able to figure it out either. Skeptic X never predicted informed opposition, because he's just a little fish in the pond with only 800 newsletter subscribers (down from 1300 after he printed Everette Hatcher's detailed, heavily-documented thrumming on Daniel, which his readers didn't like, because it had no dots to connect) in a nation of 275 million people and never had to subject himself to real peer review.

    My proof of this? The same proof X had that I was "laid off" when he spouted off at the mouth claiming that. Think about it, X fans. But as it happens in Part 8 X confirmed my suspicion when he wrote:

    Since this debate began, I have taken the time to read through Deuteronomy twice, very deliberately, to take special notice of the passages that referred to the land. Although I had read it many times before, I had not done so with a concentration on just the land-promise issue.

    Ooooh, really! So when did X start "keeping something back" then? Have we been time-traveling?

    Tactic #2: It takes a long time to see this pattern, but it's part of that burble about using Deut. 9 over 738 million skillion times. Here's how it goes:

    • Opponent argues step A in his argument.
    • Interrupt, as often as possible, to point out that this does not answer for problems posed to some or all of steps B, C, D, E, and F, and strongly emphasize that these problems haven't been solved yet. Also throw in any side comments you can on different topics.
    • Throw up brief answer to what opponent says on step A.
    • Opponent argues step B in his argument.
    • Interrupt, as often as possible, to point out that this does not answer for problems posed to some or all of steps A, C, D, E, and F, and strongly emphasize that these problems haven't been solved yet. Also throw in any side comments you can on different topics.
    • Throw up brief answer for what opponent says on step B.
    • Repeat for steps C through F.

    And this, folks, is why X's replies are 95-99% fluff, blather, and repetition. It's also why he is trembling in his boots and making big mistakes like thinking I wanted him to pay 90% of the costs of my website: because we knew he was pulling this shebang, and by rhetorically analyzing it and doing the same thing back to him, all of his tactics were useless, and he is left hypocritically, as it were, complaining about our distractions, meant to nullify (as they did!) HIS distractions. See how easy it is to do?

    Tactic #3: Here's another example. Remember all of this we offered?

    According to ancient conceptions, deities were associated with certain spheres, usually of a geographic nature, but also of a social nature. In Greek thought, this worked out with the assigning of the realm of earth to Zeus, that of the sea to Poseidon, and that of the underworld to Hades. In an Old Babylonian text the same spheres were divided among Anu, Enlil, and Enki. In both the OT and in extrabiblical sources the nature of this relationship is expressed in such phrases as "the god of Moab", "the gods of Byblos" or "the God of Israel." Other phrases identify the people as being of a particular deity: "the god of the sons of Ammon"; "God of the Hebrews." The division was not always clear-cut, and nations with multiple deities would assign various places within their land to certain deities, and gods may have been associated with specific tribal groups or households. Nevertheless it is beyond dispute that land belonged to the gods.

    The above explanation is perhaps the core of our case for the landlord-tenant paradigm. It shows that the land was regarded as belonging to, being owned by, the gods. This was X's first huff back:

    Well, not exactly. What is beyond dispute is that these ancient people believed that the land belonged to the gods, but ancient people believed a lot of things that were ridiculous.

    I nailed Skeptic X to the wall for this one -- it's just a diversion, which ignores the overwhelmingly key point of ownership of the land by the gods. In terms of the argument at hand, it makes no difference whether the land was actually owned by real gods or whether it was only thought by ancient people to have been owned by gods. The reactions and actions of the people is the same regardless. What Skeptic X provided was not an answer; it was a sound bite that would appeal to skeptics, but the only real answer that would help him was to show that it was not believed that the land belonged to the gods; otherwise, a keystone in our case -- that the gods were landlords who set rules, and Yahweh followed this pattern -- isn't addressed at all. Skeptic X later resorted to the ruse that the relationship was something like that of the United States' land to the US Government, but note here that he has tied himself in a knot: he has already admitted that it is "beyond dispute" that "these ancient people believed that the land belonged to the gods." That means that his "US Government" parallel is already out of bounds by his own admission, unless he now wants to slip in a verbal mickey and claim he didn't mean "belonged" the way we meant it -- and sorry, X, it's too late to go backwards on your bicycle on that one. And it looks like he knows it, because now he wants to play dumb: "...what was there to address in his statement about ancient concepts of 'spheres' or 'realms' that deities ruled over? His argument seems to be that there were ancient concepts of spheres or realms that deities ruled over; therefore....' Therefore what?" Therefore, X, as you yourself unwittingly admitted, the land belonged to the gods under this paradigm -- whether the gods existed or not, that's what the people believed, and that is the belief they operated under, and that is how their stories, from Abraham to Judges to Kings, should be understood. It's too late to play dumb and force a foreshortened conclusion in our mouth, i.e., as he tries to say, "Is [Holding] arguing that ancient people had concepts of spheres or realms that deities ruled over; therefore, if the Hebrew deity promised that he would give to the Israelites all of the land in defined borders but didn't do it, this would not be a textual inconsistency in the Bible?" Try this:

    "Ancient people had concepts of spheres or realms that deities ruled over; therefore, if the Hebrew deity promised that he would give to the Israelites all of the land in defined borders, there laid behind that promise an assumption that certain conditions were attached to use (not possession) of the land. Because the conditions were violated, this would not be a textual inconsistency in the Bible." When did Yahweh "give" all of the land? When he made the promise to Abraham. And the Israelites still had it as their "possession" even when they weren't allowed to use all or any of it, just as a piece of our property can be our "possession" (noun sense) even if we do not physically possess (verb sense) it at any given time. Note how X plays with the verbiage in putting these two statements together and claiming contradiction:

    1. The Israelites possessed all of the land that Yahweh promised to give to Abraham's descendants.
    2. The Israelites did not possess all of the land that Yahweh promised to give to Abraham's seed.

    1) is already off the beam, for no passage other than perhaps, if we strain, the poetic Josh. 21:43-45 (which we're waiting for Skeptic X to skin his knuckles on again) says that Israel ever possessed all the land; a more accurate statement would be:

    1. The Israelites had been given as a possession all of the land that Yahweh promised to give to Abraham.

    Following this, number 2 remains the same -- and then comes the rest of the story as to why the Israelites did not go on to possess (verb sense) their possession (noun sense). I have made this distinction from the very beginning, and Skeptic X is either ignorant of it or pretending not to notice it:

    In terms of our topic at hand, the relevance of this data is that even the original promise of Genesis, by the thinking of the ancients, was not a matter of "here it is with no strings attached." Abraham would have expected the grant of land to be accompanied by conditions; one did not merely occupy land without some sort of nod to the landlord, and with no expectation that one could do as one pleased.

    Note that this does not say that one could not have land as a possession (noun sense) without a landlord nod -- it says one could not occupy (just as "possess" in our verb sense) the land otherwise. Even if Abe went out right away selling crack, the land was still his possession, but by Yahweh's intent he would not be allowed to occupy it. When he either shaped up, or his descendants did, they would again we allowed to occupy, or possess, their possession.

    X recommends a basic textbook in logic based on the assumption that I am making (or rather, based on putting in my mouth) this argument, but what X needs is a basic textbook in manners, another on reading carefully so he doesn't make diddly-poo errors like thinking I wanted him to pay for 90% of my website costs, and finally, he needs a new brand of toothpaste and some more vitamins shaped like Barney Rubble to help him keep his thinking on track.

    We'll close this section and this essay with some interesting notes I found from a college website on debating tactics found here. As we go through let's see if we can identify any of X's favorite diversionary tactics.

    First of all, we've noted that X like to fume when we quote scholars, and the gas really got lit when he lost 500 subscribers to TSR after Everette Hatcher laid down the law with scholarship out the kazoo. That of course does not stop X from quoting scholars when he likes it, and when he agrees with them, but he always feels the needs to bark out something to the effect of, "Holding would be lost without the crutches of references to quote. As we go through this 'argument,' I hope readers will ask themselves where Holding would be if he could not say, 'DeMar put it like this,' or, 'Wright thinks thus and so....'", or, "We're just supposed to take DeMar's word for this?", just to be sure the gullible skeppies think he has a handle on things. Skeptic X never goes as far as accusing us clearly of "argument by authority" -- he knows better, since that would make it all too obvious to prevent him from using authorities when it suits his purposes -- but that is the essence of his "crutch" comments, to gain the polemical advantage of yelling "Argument by authority!" while still using authorities whenever he wants to.

    But what of quoting scholars being a "crutch"? The site we reference has this to say:

    Argumentum ad verecundiam (argument or appeal to authority). This fallacy occurs when someone tries to demonstrate the truth of a proposition by citing some person who agrees, even though that person may have no expertise in the given area. For instance, some people like to quote Einstein's opinions about politics (he tended to have fairly left-wing views), as though Einstein were a political philosopher rather than a physicist. Of course, it is not a fallacy at all to rely on authorities whose expertise relates to the question at hand, especially with regard to questions of fact that could not easily be answered by a layman -- for instance, it makes perfect sense to quote Stephen Hawking on the subject of black holes.

    Under this rubric, our quoting of Biblical scholars like Demar and McComiskey, and where Skeptic X does use scholars like Cross, is no "crutch" but a perfectly acceptable methodology. On the other hand, when Skeptic X goes quoting non-experts like Dornbusch, that's a case of him double-parking. Note further:

    At least in some forms of debate, quoting various sources to support one's position is not just acceptable but mandatory. In general, there is nothing wrong with doing so. Even if the person quoted has no particular expertise in the area, he may have had a particularly eloquent way of saying something that makes for a more persuasive speech. In general, debaters should be called down for committing argumentum ad verecundiam only when (a) they rely on an unqualified source for information about facts without other (qualified) sources of verification, or (b) they imply that some policy must be right simply because so-and-so thought so.

    Skeptic X tries to make it out that our use of scholars is the same as (b), but sorry, wrong number -- it's not that way simply because they "think so" but because they've done the legwork and the study to make a qualified judgment. So Skeptic X's little "boo game" about quoting scholars as a "crutch" is nothing but hypocritical mulluguthering -- if he can't handle the conclusions of scholars who know their stuff, either with his own knowledge or by finding contrary scholarship (like he did try, with help from Monson, with Cross) that directly answers our points, he's just playing games and avoiding the issues when he goes on about things like where the books were published that have nothing to do with the validity of their content. For example, we brought up again his response on paqad in Hosea 1:4. Skeptic X's responses here are instructive, and offer an entire school of red herring for salting and pickling. My initial words are in bold; Skeptic X's reply in italics. The response was made to Skeptic X's counter to the cite of McComiskey's more recent study on paqad to the effect that "hundreds" of OT translators, by McComiskey's thesis, must be wrong:

    there is no "hundreds" to deal with: If each version employed a team of 50 translators on average for their OT translation work, that adds up to hundreds, actually 1250. But not all 1250 worked on the verse of concern (Hosea 1:4); translations of the Bible are done by teams, and each book is assigned a certain number of translators. A small-to-medium book like Hosea would not need many translators (as opposed to Isaiah, for example), if 4 translators from each version worked on Hosea, that means we're only dealing with a hundred people.
    This may all be true, but the opinion of a hundred scholars who had worked on, say, the KJV, NKJV, ASV, NASV, RSV, NRSV, etc., etc., etc., should certainly carry more weight than that of a would-be apologist whose knowledge of biblical languages is so limited that he can't even tell when he is cutting and pasting an error from a software program.

    This contains several red herrings: The main one is that this is a case of not "a hundred scholars" versus a "would-be apologist" but of much fewer (as we divide the matter down) versus one scholar who did a detailed study. This red herring is pre-emptive, because it calls up those "hundred" even before the further division has been done, and is misdirected because it is not me who is the arguer, but McComiskey, a scholar of Hebrew. Furthermore, cutting and pasting from the program would not in any sense determine ability to use the biblical languages in an argument on this level -- the skills required are not of the same type. Skeptic X makes no logical connection between the error and the argument, and there is not one, and does not show that the error in any sense affected the content of my argument. If one of my arguments had been reliant upon the idea that one of the words appeared twice in a row, it would make a difference, but as it is, none of my arguments are at all reliant upon that assertion.

    Skeptic X then inserts a red-herring complaint that we omitted his quote of 24 English translations that read paqad in a way favorable to his case. Why this affected anything but his polemical effectiveness is not stated. It had no effect on his actual argument, since we acknowledged that he used 25 translations (1250/50 = 25) and that those he used did offer, by far, an English translation that he favored. Clearly this is another case of Skeptic X wanting us to leave his material intact for no other purpose than to sway his readership by sheer dullness of repetition.

    I added that the linguistic detail work on Hosea 1:4 had only been done in the last decade. Unless they had the gift of prophecy, the overwhelming number of the versions our opponent cited were translated before this research was performed.
    What I like about [Holding] is that whatever position he takes on "scholarship" depends on how the scholarship will help or hurt the issue he is trying to defend. In his statement above, which is an accurate summation of the position he took during our exchanges on the Jehu issue, [Holding] argued that since there was recent research, within "the last decade," that had given new "insights" into the meaning of the Hebrew word paqad, that should take precedence over the opinions of scholars who had translated the Old Testament before these new insights were discovered. In other words, his premise here is that new is better.

    Note again how Skeptic X throws up the red herring smokescreen. There is no argument here that "new is better" -- the argument is that the old could hardly be expected to have been aware of the new and take it into consideration! In other words, it is absurd to cite a translation done in 1954 and ask why it does not agree with research done in 1986! The argument is not "the new is better" but "it is absurd to expect the old to be aware of the new when it makes a judgment." Therefore it is absurd to use the old to judge the new. This is either a smelly red herring by Skeptic X or a further example of his inability to read clearly -- like when he thought I wanted him to pay for 90% of my website. Or maybe it's a case of someone doing anything they can to keep from admitting error -- for example, Skeptic X wrote me an email in which he referred to my place of residence as "Oboe" (rather than Ocoee) and the location of my PO Box as "Larson" (rather than Clarcona). When I pointed this out to him, he claimed that his "sent" copy read correctly and there must have been a computer error. Interesting computer error, that affects only the proper names of cities! I say it's more like my encounter with C. Dennis McKinsey:


    Second, a note on a personal correspondence I had with this McKinsey character a while back. We had some fun trading barbs (at least I did), and something happened that demonstrates perfectly what I have said about McKinsey being less of a true critic and more of an ego trip that cannot ever stand to be wrong, and will go to any lengths to keep from being wrong. In the midst of our barbs, McKinsey made a statement to me about listening to my "conscience". I replied with a joke about "Jiminy Cricket". McKinsey responded in part by claiming that I had spelled the name wrong -- it was JIMMY Cricket, he said, not Jiminy. Well, we all know how skeptics love citing spelling errors for cheap victories, but as anyone who grew up watching Disney on Sunday night knows (and especially, if you live in Central Florida as I do, and see these characters every blinkin' day!), my spelling of the name was indeed correct -- and when I pointed out this fact, McKinsey didn't admit error, he merely changed the subject. And I say further: Check the places in the BE newsletter where someone writes in to point out a typo. McKinsey in reply will almost always make some extended excuse about lacking time, not being surprised with all the work he has to do, etc. Such behavior is a sign of an obsessive personality, a massive ego, and poor attention to detail. And note that I never flatly said McKinsey was actually this way. For me to have directly stated as much would have been inappropriate as I have no more awareness of the mental state or motives of McKinsey than anyone else.


    Maybe Skeptic X is really no different than McKinsey after all...? Oh yes -- and if you say that my reference to the city names and McKinsey is a red herring, you're right. Now you can see how Skeptic X uses these fishies for his own purposes.

    In his "Olivet Discourse," however, he took the opposite position. One of his arguments in defense of his preterist position was that this was not a new view of prophecy fulfillment but an old one.

    Another red herring or a misreading. Here is my quote:

    The charge [that the preterist view is and attempt to preserve the inerrancy of the Bible] implies that the interpretation is somehow "new," a construction invented by modern believers who are resisting the past. Actually, dispensationalism and it's own idea of a Rapture are the new kids on the block; preterism, and the idea that the Olivet Discourse and other passages refer to 70 AD events, has a much longer pedigree. Commentators such as Lightfoot (1859), Newton (1754), and Gill (1809) predated dispensationlism and agreed that 70 AD was in view in these passages [Dem.LDM, 59]. To be sure, some in the early church held a view that what was recounted in places like the Olivet Discourse was a reference to a far-flung future event (though their views didn't match exactly with dispensationlism); but others held views akin to preterism as well, so the preterist view is not a new view, but an old one revived.

    This is not a "defense" of the preterist position -- it is a defense against the specific charge that the preterist position is new, and in that context, it is perfectly proper to show that it is not a new position but an old one. Skeptic X has lifted this paragraph out of a huge article, in which there is not one instance of me saying the equal to, "new is better" or "old is worse" and "that's why this view is right." Once again Skeptic X s either playing debate games or else needs to go back and try Hooked on Phonics once again.

    Then back to Hosea 1:4:

    As for his claim of new "insights" into the meaning of paqad that "scholars" have discovered within the last decade, the very nature of the claim is ridiculous. Are we to believe that for more than 2,000 years scholars just didn't understand the meaning of paqad, and it took the research of the past decade to shed light on what the word really meant? Anyone who buys this line should check out this recent research that he mentioned and notice that it just happened to be the research of those who have fundamentalist views of the Bible. [Holding] is proof that a biblical inerrantist doesn't have much trouble finding in the Bible the meanings that he wants to find there and then the "scholars" he can quote who agree with what he wants a biblical text to mean.

    As we have noted, this is the sort of red herring that Skeptic X inevitably resorts to when his back is against the wall: 1) Simply saying it is "ridiculous" and throwing a big number in the air -- if there are not new insights into Biblical studies even now, then what are all of these periodicals in Biblical studies offering? Want ads? After how many years does it cease to be "reasonable" and start becoming "ridiculous"? How many of those 2000 years were people engaged in the sort of detailed study required?; 2) the red herring of ad hominem (implying that because it comes from one who holds "fundamentalist views of the Bible" it must be a scam, which is also an enormously begged question which Skeptic X will no doubt fallaciously answer with a hasty generalization; 3) refusing to engage the issue; if this is so, then let Skeptic X find someone who can dispense with McComiskey's results. Since he can't, this is the only kind of response he can offer: a cheer for the gullible skeptical reader.

    We move on, allowing generously that 33 out of 100 translators did the work on Hosea 1:4 after McComiskey did and published his work. Skeptic X accepts this number for "the sake of argument," (adding that I seem to have "grabbed [it] out of thin air" -- in that case, let Skeptic X provide his own reasonable estimate based on number of scholars per translation and the years that they did their work, rather than just trying to score points) once again fallaciously makes it a matter of 33 scholars versus an "amateur apologist, etc" (see above), and then we add:

    Now of these 33, we must presume that a) they were aware of the linguistic research in question; b) that they were able and willing to acquire and evaluate it; c) that they considered the data carefully and fairly, and finally d) critically evaluated the data and made a decision based on sound principles.

    In reply Skeptic X gets the point he missed above, and admits, "Well, of course, if this new 'insightful' research had been done within the past decade, the translators in question would have already completed their work at that time." Hey hallelujah, the revelations come down! But obviously unable to answer any of this, Skeptic X tries another smelly red herring of turning the questions around:

    However, [Holding] is begging a question and then arguing from an assumed premise that he needs to prove. Was this "new research" as insightful as [Holding] claims, or was it simply an attempt by "scholars" with fundamentalist leanings to find a way to explain a problem in the biblical text? Was this "new research" subjected to peer review? If so, where can we go to find what the peers of these "researchers" thought about the new discoveries? Did the peers agree that for 2,000+ years, scholars had completed their translations of the Old Testament in ignorance of what paqad meant?

    This is nought but a compilation of previous red herrings and misdirections. Let's break it up for polemical effect, like Skeptic X does:

    [Holding] is begging a question and then arguing from an assumed premise that he needs to prove.

    Note to begin that the above was offered by us as an answer to a specific tactic by Skeptic X: that of quoting a series of English versions as though by sheer numbers this proved anything. In this light all of Skeptic X's questions that follow are misdirections, addressing the wrong argument.

    Was this "new research" as insightful as [Holding] claims, or was it simply an attempt by "scholars" with fundamentalist leanings to find a way to explain a problem in the biblical text?

    This is nought but a repeat of the ad hominem above. I doubt if Skeptic X would accept any such argument from me as, "This is simply an attempt by a scholar/writer with liberal/atheistic/skeptical leanings to find a way to create a problem in the Bible." This is done for no other purpose than to sway gullible skeptical readers -- it is a "dirty debate" tactic and nothing more.

    Was this "new research" subjected to peer review? If so, where can we go to find what the peers of these "researchers" thought about the new discoveries?

    As a matter of fact, it was subjected to peer review, as we clearly noted in our essay: McComiskey's conclusions appeared in the article, "Prophetic Irony in Hosea 1:4" in the Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 58, 1993, pp. 93-101. JSOT is not exactly a fundamentalist organ, so Skeptic X can't play that game (unless he wants to posit a conspiracy) and he can go ahead and write the folks at JSOT if he thinks he has something he can wrest out of them.

    Did the peers agree that for 2,000+ years, scholars had completed their translations of the Old Testament in ignorance of what paqad meant?

    Once again, Skeptic X can write the people at JSOT if he thinks he has something worth finding out; the bottom line is that Skeptic X does not have the wherewithal to answer McComiskey's material, and like McKinsey, clearly has ego problems that will not let him admit that he either is wrong or does not know the answer, which is why his only resort is to appealing to location of publication and ideology, and quoting 837,383 English translations to prove his point. His appeal is indeed merely "argument by authority" as described above -- he has no idea whether any of the translators has the specifically-needed expertise -- in this case, knowledge and evaluation of McComiskey's material/arguments -- needed to address the argument at hand. Hence there is no comparison to my own cites of scholars.

    Now to another fallacy, and here's one that should be familiar:

    Argumentum ad nauseam (argument to the point of disgust; i.e., by repitition). This is the fallacy of trying to prove something by saying it again and again. But no matter how many times you repeat something, it will not become any more or less true than it was in the first place. Of course, it is not a fallacy to state the truth again and again; what is fallacious is to expect the repitition alone to substitute for real arguments.

    Ever notice how Skeptic X likes to repeat things like the Deut. 9 argument 873,392,493,929 times? No doubt he will say his argument against us about, i.e., Deut. 9 does stand -- but if it does, why doesn't he bring up his response to what we say about it from the very beginning? It's clear Skeptic X knows how to do this -- his reference to Cross was an example of bringing matters forward from the very beginning. After that he referred back to what Cross had to say several times. So Skeptic X knows how to do it; but we say, with Deut. 9 and all else, all of the repetition has another purpose, which the site describes to a T:

    Nonetheless, this is a very popular fallacy in debate, and with good reason: the more times you say something, the more likely it is that the judge will remember it. The first thing they'll teach you in any public speaking course is that you should "Tell 'em what you're gonna tell 'em, then tell 'em, and then tell 'em what you told 'em." Unfortunately, some debaters think that's all there is to it, with no substantiation necessary! The appropriate time to mention argumentum ad nauseam in a debate round is when the other team has made some assertion, failed to justify it, and then stated it again and again. The Latin wording is particularly nice here, since it is evocative of what the opposition's assertions make you want to do: retch. "Sir, our opponents tell us drugs are wrong, drugs are wrong, drugs are wrong, again and again and again. But this argumentum ad nauseam can't and won't win this debate for them, because they've given us no justification for their bald assertions!"

    We have noted here, as a matter of pouring Pepto Bismol, that Skeptic X's endless repetitions are indeed nought but a case of trying to score debate points -- and we are right. That is exactly why he doesn't like us answering his repetitions with repetitions of our own.

    And finally, what of the 100+ diversions Skeptic X threw in during round 2? Yes, that's another dirty debating tactic, and we have already pinpointed a passel of 'em:

    Red herring. This means exactly what you think it means: introducing irrelevant facts or arguments to distract from the question at hand. For example, "The opposition claims that welfare dependency leads to higher crime rates -- but how are poor people supposed to keep a roof over their heads without our help?" It is perfectly valid to ask this question as part of the broader debate, but to pose it as a response to the argument about welfare leading to crime is fallacious.

    By the same token, note in our link above that we agree that omniscience vs free will is a perfectly valid question, in a broader debate -- but to pose it as a response to the argument about the internal consistency of the Biblical record is fallacious. And we see further why Skeptic X likes the smell of herring so much:

    The term red herring is sometimes used loosely to refer to any kind of diversionary tactic, such as presenting relatively unimportant arguments that will use up the other debaters' speaking time and distract them from more important issues. This kind of a red herring is a wonderful strategic maneuver with which every debater should be familiar.

    Using up the time of others? That's exactly what Skeptic X likes to do -- and it is exactly why he didn't like it when we refused to play his diversionary games. Skeptic X tries to foist back the blame by saying, "Before a debate begins, the parties have no way of knowing which direction the discussion may turn as the participants present their arguments and rebuttals," and that he says is why we needed a formal agreement, but he doesn't need no formal agreement to learn to be an honest debater and not engage in the fallacy of diversion. In context all of these diversions are, relatively, unimportant to the topic at hand -- and it is no act of cowardice to refuse to submit to a blatant manipulation intended to waste your own resources.

    And as it happens, Skeptic X spends a large part of Parts 14 and 15 of his response defending his tendency to gut red herrings, and the excuses he manufactures for doing so show him to be either context-impaired or desperate. Perhaps both. Skeptic X strains to spin out a justification for this behavior by painting it as though I know he'll throw down a gauntlet. He says in 14:

    I will take his evasion of the comment as an indication that he knows better than to bring this issue to the forefront. If he dares to challenge me on this, I will inundate him with supporting evidence for my position if he will promise that he will attempt to answer it rather than sweeping it aside with evasive comments like those that he has cut and pasted throughout this debate.

    OK, Skeptic X, tell you what. We now have a section to deal with your widdle diversions. Haul away. Consider yourself challenged. As of right now you have over 2 megs of material we have challenged YOU to answer, including our own "parody" red herrings (Do ya promise not to sweep it aside??? Hmmm?), so if you feel like dumping swamp gas on yourself, and spending your reclining years at that computer with that aggravated case of gout, go right ahead. It's our pleasure. At this rate you'll be writing essays about me until 2025. You may even take pen and paper to your grave and keep writing after the last shovel is thrown. Who knows where obsession will take you?

    Skeptic X stretches as far as he can to justify inserting these diversions and wiping off the herring smell. For example, in trying to justify insertion of Mosaic authorship issues into the Land Promise debate as an example of "debating sense" he writes:

    Once [Holding] undertook to rebut it, I was entitled to introduce any kind of material that would be necessary to reply to his rebuttal. I have done that by pointing out that the passages in Deuteronomy that he is using to show that conditions were attached to the land promise are widely recognized as exilic and postexilic additions to a book that, in the first place, was written long after the time of "Moses." For [Holding] to say that he doesn't have to reply to this because it wasn't mentioned in my original article has to be the height of debating stupidity.

    Is that so? Very well then, Skeptic X, if that is the case then we would like to introduce as evidence that entire text of David Rohl's Pharaohs and Kings. All bajillion hundred pages. Why? Well, of course the Land Promise was enacted upon in the Exodus. And if we can show that the Exodus was historical, that will constitute positive evidence in favor of our position. And if we show (as Rohl does) how the record suits not only for Exodus but for passages ranging from Genesis to 1 Kings as well, then that adds even more credit. I contend that the historicity of these events is very relevant to this debate, because if these events can be verified then they add credence to the Land Promise account as a whole. So! I will exercise my right as a participant in a formal debate to ask my opponent Skeptic X to reply to Rohl, and I repeat my dare that he undertake to refute Rohl's arguments. So get started. You can get Rohl's book at your local library. You should like it, it has lots of nice pictures. And if you don't answer every word, then we'll know the reason why you are evading: it is because you probably know that if you undertake to disprove the historicity of these events, we will be able to inundate you with evidence of its veracity. We don't challenge you; we dare you to try to refute Rohl's thesis.

    Poor Skeptic X! He is so ignorant of formal debating principles and rules that he doesn't know that the material that goes into a debate is not limited to what is said in an opening speech or article. When a reply is written to an article or speech, the respondent will very likely say something that will call for material not referred to in the opening article [speech], and so a debating opponent is entirely within his rights to use material not in the original article to reply to whatever his opponent said in his first rebuttal. And so we do. Have at it, Skeptic X.

    And don't forget all that stuff from Glenn Miller we gave you, too.


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