Monday, March 7, 2016

#1614: Tom Flannery

Misology is an important part of wingnuttery, especially religiously motivated wingnuttery, and a fine example is the WND, which publishes the works of professional hater of knowledge, science and reason Tom Flannery. Flannery stands up to what he sees as “brain-dead intellectuals”, and has a superpower that will help him do so: citing Bible verses.

Flannery is, of course, a creationist, and appears to think that Aquinas’s arguments refuted Hume’s skepticism and therefore contemporary Darwinists are fools. Ok, he’s got some other arguments as well (you may have heard them before), for instance the following ones, reported in his review of the Ham-Nye debate for the WND where he declared Ken Ham the obvious winner (mostly due to arguments Flannery decided to add that Ham didn’t in fact use):

-       Scienstists are dishonest since they mix up what creationists distinguish as observational and historical science, a distinction that makes no sense whatsoever if you understand, you know, the basics of scientific thinking.
-       Evolution is racist, which is proven by the fact that Darwin himself refers to “the preservation of the favoured races”. (Oh, no – Flannery has never so much as read any Darwin. Why would he?)
-       There are no missing links”, and the relatively few “big discoveries” have all “eventually been reclassified or exposed as hoaxes”.
-       And for the grand finale: “It’s no wonder that later in his life Darwin dismissed his theories about molecules-to-man evolution as ‘the unformed ideas of my youth.’” Even Answers in Genesis thinks creationists should avoid using that one to avoid obviously looking like the uninformed clowns they are.

So that gives you an idea about the quality of Flannery’s writings. The conclusion? Biology, geology and astronomy are pseudoscience invented to challenge the Bible; “[t]rue science contradicts Darwinian evolution across the board,” writes Flannery in a review of the Broadway play “Grace”, which he didn’t like. Truth, reason and accuracy are just tenets of intellectual snobbery, after all.

His arguments for why the United States is a Christian Nation would perhaps have made even David Barton blush. Did you for instance know that “Christopher Columbus, after all, became convinced that the world was round after reading a verse of Scripture from the book of Isaiah,” the relevance of which would be unclear even if it were true, which of course it isn’t? But according to Flannery, the Founding Fathers were as influenced by religion as Columbus and himself; indeed, according to Flannery, John Adams understood that without divine intervention from the God of the Bible there would have been no America (nope, he did not claim that) and that his rallying cry during the revolutionary war was “No king but King Jesus” (absolute nonsense), that the Declaration of Independence specifically discusses “Biblical violations”, that “Washington and Alexander Hamilton said they based the idea for America’s separation of powers upon the Bible verse Jeremiah 17:9” (nope, they didn’t), and so on. It’s all discussed here. Lying for Jesus never was more dishonest than this.

Diagnosis: Hatred of knowledge and those who possess it is nothing new at the WND. Flannery apparently doesn’t much care for truth either. Which is nothing new either, I suppose. Crazy denialist, but he seems to be preaching primarily to the choir.



  2. Brilliant comment Joe. The man who attacks someone for "a hatred of reasoning" is running his entire blog on ad hominem false arguments instead of using reasoned, logical argument. According to he leans towards classical logic - Has he leant so far that he has fallen over?

    1. You don't really know what an ad hominem fallacy is, do you? (Hint: Calling someone a loon is not an ad hominem fallacy)

    2. An ad hominem (Latin for "to the man" or "to the person"[1]), short for argumentum ad hominem, is an attack on an argument made by attacking the person making the argument, rather than attacking the argument directly. When used inappropriately, it is a logical fallacy in which a claim or argument is dismissed on the basis of some irrelevant fact or supposition about the author or the person being criticized. Calling people loons, wingnuts, idiots, etc is clearly an attack on the person, rather than a logical attack on their statements.

    3. You found the definition, but you didn't think about what the definition actually implies. So let me spell it out:

      An ad hominem fallacy is an argument of this form:
      1. x says p.
      2. x is an idiot.
      3. Therefore, p is false.

      That's a fallacy, yes.

      The following is *not* an ad hominem fallacy:
      1. x says p
      2. p is false
      3. Therefore, x is an idiot.

      That form of reasoning is not a fallacy at all. It might be rude or mean or not particularly conducive to a civil debate, but it is not fallacious.

      You are right that I don't actually engage with Flannery's points. Most people who knows anything about the topic knows how laughably stupid those points are, and it's really not necessary to repeat that. However, just to make sure: I *do* provide *links* to *other* resources that will help you see what's wrong with Flannery's claims. That's what those blue, underlined parts of the text indicate. If you click on them, you may be enlightened.

  3. GD (any self respecting philosopher knows GD is a biblical-philosophical reference to God, so it appears that he is an atheist who claims to be God!) has written above "Evolution is racist, which is proven by the fact that Darwin himself refers to “the preservation of the favoured races”. (Oh, no – Flannery has never so much as read any Darwin. Why would he?)"
    which is interesting because he is indicating that he has read Darwin and that this statement about races is not in Darwin's work. Well, as someone who really has read Darwin, I know that the first (November 1859) edition was fully entitled "On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life" So it would appear that Flannery has read Darwin but GD hasn't. Strange that GD got it wrong; I thought that God was supposed to be all-knowing.

    1. Read the sentence again. If you take Darwin's talk about preservation of races to imply racism, you have either not read Darwin, or - even sadder - read it but not understood even what he is talking about. I gave Flannery what I think is the more charitable interpretation.

    2. I have read Darwin's book, and I don't think it is racist. However, your statement reads that you don't believe Flannery has read Darwin: "Oh, no – Flannery has never so much as read any Darwin. Why would he?" or does "Flannery has never so much as read any Darwin" mean "he has read lots of Darwin" in American English? His knowledge of the full title of Darwin's work indicates that he probably has read it.

      So once again you are chucking insults at people, attacking the man, rather than logically dismantling his arguments, and what is it called when you attack the man rather than his arguments?

    3. That someone knows the title of a book is not evidence that they have read it, in particular when they say a lot of thing that strongly indicate that they haven't. As for the "attacking the man, rather than logically dismantling his arguments" parts, see my comment to your mistaken interpretation of ad hominem fallacies above.

    4. It may not be evidence that he read the book, but at least he picked it up, read the title, and remembered it. The fact that you thought that quoting that phrase showed he hadn't even been near the book showed that you didn't even know what the cover was like, never mind the contents, yet you still presumed that you knew more about it than he did.

      I'm not saying you haven't read the book, you may well have done, but you clearly didn't remember it, and clearly didn't know as much about it as Flannery. You may have known more about it than him in the past, but lost knowledge doesn't count for anything.

      With regards 'ad hominem' I've quoted Merriam-Webster in my reply to your comment on #1605 Bill Fawell

    5. Good grief. Everyone knows that part of the title. That wasn't the complaint. The complaint was how Flannery went from that title to a complaint about racism - a common creationist ploy that shows that they have no clue what the title means in the context of Darwin's work.

  4. PS, I note that you haven't called me out on my theory that your choice of signing as GD rather than using your real initials of FH is because you knew the philosophical meaning of GD and are calling yourself God deliberately. Or after 15 years of learning about philosophy did you not know that? If you didn't know the meaning of GD then why did you chose that as your sign? My sister's theory is that it might stand for Great Dane or George Davison.

    1. Yeah, I didn't bother answering that one, but if you really need to know I have been using those initial since the first time I signed up for anything whatsoever online, many, many years ago. The letters were chosen completely arbitrarily upon discovering that one couldn't comment online without a username, and the moral wrongness of sockpuppetry means that I am stuck with it. Back in my old country I don't think anyone, myself included, would have the faintest idea that someone would feel the need to introduce a shorthand for the word "God" (and such exotic practices have preciously little to do with philosophy, I think.)