Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Updating of Rerum Novarum:

This is a continuation of the update started back in mid July. There will be a final installment where the web articles part of this weblog is updated and that will conclude this process. However, enough on that for now and onto the purpose of this posting...

Weblog Special Reports, Commemorations, Retrospectives, Miscellaneous Stuff, Etc.

A Tribute to Albert King [>>>]

Points to Ponder on Texas Music and the Blues (Stevie Ray Vaughan) [>>>]

Guest Editorial on the Death of Zarqawi and the MSM's Coverage Thereof (Written by Henry Odom) [>>>]

My Political/Social Musings

On Political/Social Subjects in General

On the Fraud of "Global Warming" (With Greg Mockeridge and Kevin Tierney) [>>>]

Briefly on Public vs. Private Standards (With Kevin Tierney) [>>>]

Points to Ponder on One Man's Fear of the Future--An Audio Post of Gary Keller's Musings [>>>]

On Congressional Spending [>>>]

On The DaVinci Code and Movie Protests in General [>>>]

Musings on the "Dog Days of Summer" [>>>]

Miscellaneous Musings on the Death of Zarqawi and the Presence of WMD's in Iraq--An Audio Post [>>>]

Briefly on the New Holy See Secretary of State Appointment (With Kevin Tierney) [>>>]

On the US Constitution, the Fundamental Rights of Man, Etc.

Miscellaneous Musings on Illegal Immigration, Voting Issues, Audioblogger, Fundamental Rights, Activism, Distributivism, Valid Theories and the Criteria Thereof, Etc.--An Audio Post [>>>]

Miscellaneous Musings on Distributivism, Valid Theories and the Criteria Thereof, Illegal Immigration, Activism, Fundamental Rights, Etc.--A Continuation Audio Post [>>>]

On Illegal Immigration and Government Regulation [>>>]

On the Fourth Amendment, The Supreme Court, and Warrantless Searches [>>>]

More on the Bush Administration/FBI Constitutionality Question [>>>]

Rough Draft of an Upcoming Book Review of Charles Cerami's Young Patriots [>>>]

Miscellaneous Notes on the Supreme Court Decision on Military Tribunals--An Audio Post [>>>]

On Political Election Topics

On Third Parties and the 2008 Presidential Election (Parts I-II) [>>>]

Miscellaneous Musings on "Stolen Elections"--An Audio Post [>>>]

Miscellaneous Musings on Joe Lieberman, His Withdrawal From the Democratic Senate Primary, and Possible Wider 2006 Election Ramifications--An Audio Post [>>>]

On the Recent War and War in General

Points to Ponder on a Different Kind of War (Adolph Hitler) [>>>]

Revisiting the Flawed "Chickenhawk" Argument [>>>]

Points to Ponder on Freedoms and How They Are Both Earned and Preserved (Zell Miller) [>>>]

Points to Ponder on the Violent Death Rate in Iraq Compared to Many US Cities (Rush Limbaugh) [>>>]

Eric Johnson, Mark Shea, and Torture [>>>]

Points to Ponder on The Seriousness of the Threat To National Security Posed by Islamofascists (Senator Joseph Lieberman)[>>>]

Bridging Reason and Faith: My Philosophical/Ethical Musings

On Particular Philosophical/Ethical Subjects

On the Acton Institutes' Critique of Distributivism [>>>]

Points to Ponder on Human Capabilities--An Audio Post (William James) [>>>]

Points to Ponder on the Difficulty of the General Historian and the Whig Fallacy (Herbert Butterfield) [>>>]

A Proposed "Fair Solution" on Abortion (With Albert Cipriani) [>>>]

Miscellaneous Musings on Reason, Logic, and Their Proper Application Thereof--An Audio Post [>>>]

Responding to Another Accusation of Being "Afraid of Debate" [>>>]

Briefly on The Proper Way to Make and Present Arguments [>>>]

Guest Editorial on Taking Dale Vree and Certain Catholic Figures Who Defend Him On a Much Needed Trip to the Woodshed (Written by Greg Mockeridge) [>>>]

Some Core Problems With Apologetics Methodology [>>>]

Predictions on Probable Responses to The Above Threads By the "Usual Suspects" [>>>]

Core Problems With Apologetics Methodology Revisited (Dialogue With Apolonio Latar III) [>>>]

Of or Pertaining to 'Progressivist' Philosophies (Falsely So-Called)

More on the Delusions of Dale Vree (With Chris Blosser) [>>>]

Points to Ponder on Revising Anew a Previously Revised Worldview ("Neo-Neo Con") [>>>]

Points to Ponder on Secular Religious Zealots (Ernesto "Che" Guevara) [>>>]

Points to Ponder on Agenda Pundits and Their Problems With Objectivity (Mike Mentzer) [>>>]

Points to Ponder on "Open Minds" (Mike Mentzer) [>>>]

Marxists and Their Methodology Revisited [>>>]

Also added to the side margin is a new weblog roll which this site was enrolled in: the Reject the UN blogroll. Longtime readers of this humble weblog probably know of my ambivalence about the UN but inclusion in this webroll may provide some impetus to discuss these issues more in the future than I have in the past. As for the rest of the planned update, I hope to find the time in the next day or so to deal with the web articles part of this weblog. Other than that, this update is completed all things to the contrary notwithstanding.

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Setting the Record Straight on Old Controversies:
(Aka "For Preserving the Historical Record" Dept.)

Unfortunately, it is appropriate at times to combat historical revisionism and other forms of misrepresentation -particularly when said revisionism and misrepresentations involve events and circumstances to which your host was a first hand witness and/or participant of. That is the purpose of this thread and in it, the words of our provocateur Dave Armstrong will be in black font.

If Greg wants to get more than 30 or (like his good buddy and fellow polemicist Shawn McElhinney) all of 80 hits a day on their blogs and have more influence, then let them pay their dues like I have for ten years online, working like a dog and providing apologetic information for people who seek it, mostly for nothing, so they can get up to the 550-600 hits I get.

Dave appears to be considering number of hits to be the barometer of what is objectively superior. By that "logic", an album by Eminem is superior to any compilation of Gregorian Chant -having outsold the latter probably 20 or more to one. Likewise, Miles Davis is not the musician that P Ditty is since he sold nowhere near what the latter has in album sales or "hits" if you want to call it that. To touch on an ecclesial example, by Dave's logic the Vatican should throw Humanae Vitae into the trashcan since a lot more folks disagree than agree with it. I could go on and on but I trust the point being made here is reasonably evident from what is noted above.

My inclusion of a site counter was at the request of The Alliance moderators who want to construct a counterweight to Instapundit and for verification of success in that endeavour, a site counter is of assistance. It should also be noted that the gang at The Alliance has constant projects to enable bloggers in their circle to expand their viewership. There have probably been twenty or thirty of them since I joined that blogroll and I have (thus far) involved myself in exactly one of them. The reason was it was a subject that interested me and that is what I write on and always have: not anything and everything simply out of a desire to get readership.

Basically, Dave does not tell his readers that I have done next to nothing to expand my web readership until a few token approaches taken recently whereas (by stark contrast) Dave has had a website of his own for almost ten years and a lot of his blog readership is from people who find his site. Dave has actually taken it seems (from what I have been told) to driving readers from his site to his blog which is (I must admit) some good strategery. But there is more to it than just that of course.

In periodical writings, Dave is always looking for ways to get published whereas my only published works were done after I was basically dragged kicking and screaming to do it -and every time attempts were made to launch me, I withdrew from it in some form or another which effectively killed the momentum. Obviously periodical publishing also provides some impetus for greater readership and greater "hits" but guess what: I have once again done next to nothing to use that medium to expand my readership base. Dave by contrast has done the opposite of what I have in that area.{1}

There is also the fact that Dave has basically done everything he can to get readership including continually trying to manufacture conflicts as people are naturally drawn to them much as they are to a train wreck. Dave is also quite good at casting himself as the martyr. There will always be a certain large segment of humanity that is drawn to that sort of thing -even if only out of curiosity. And that is really all one needs to do to manufacture "hits" to a site.

Readers can feel free to peruse my archives and notice that I have rarely if ever done that -indeed unlike Dave's archives everything I have ever posted since this weblog was started can be found there. That point aside for a moment, the difference between him and I my friends is that I do not stake my livelihood on such things whereas Dave does. Remember that when you read the rest of what he has to say: I could cease writing tomorrow and it would not impact my lifestyle an iota. By contrast, if Dave quit and ceased trying to get as many people to his sites as he can, his income would diminish significantly.

Then they won't have to come here and run me down, so they can get more desperately-needed exposure for their controversy-mongering.

I doubt that prior to this post entry, you can find a combox entry from me at Dave's site for at least half a year. Once again Dave has made erroneous assertions but I suspect that he will either ignore these corrections or try to revise the historical record yet again.

But then again I am not (nor is Mark Shea) a "real Catholic" (as Greg said we needed to rise to the level of, in a private e-mail to both of us), so what do I know anyway?

What is said by Greg to Dave and Mark is between those three. I am left wondering why Dave is dragging me into this matter when it is not my concern.

For the record, though, I think Dale Vree has long gone into fringe territory, and I removed links to his magazine some years ago now.

That is (of course) a positive step taken. However, in light of what Dave is now about to say, astute readers will notice a significant violation of consistency in what Dave will now espouse.

Others can critique him. That's fine with me. I don't have to write about every idiotic statement made by someone in the Church.

Yet please note gentle readers what Dave seems to want me to do (later on in this thread we will get to that).

Why do I have to do everything?

Notice Dave's presumption that he has to "do everything." For one thing, as a professional apologist, he has greater responsibility by virtue of that position. He cannot laud himself in that role and then run from the responsibilities it involves -some of which is policing others who are in the same sort of position he occupies.

So Greg won't call me a hypocrite? Wow; I'm shivering in my boots, I'm so afraid of his disapproval . . .

The point of Greg's article was that there is an absurd double standard in the way certain high profile apologists either let Vree's idiocies go without comment or how they marshal the troops to go after anyone who is critical of Vree's drivel.

Greg tried to whip up exposure for his article (and Shawn's, which tries to attack me on illegitimate grounds) first by writing to me privately, to get a rise out of me. That didn't work.

I noted Dave as one of a few examples of the problem with apologetics methodology. That legitimate point aside for a moment{2}, his whole schtick here about how Greg was "trying to whip up exposure" in light of the way he has spent years doing nothing differently on his websites and weblog is frankly laughable. I of course do not care how he chooses to go about getting exposure (as long as he does not villanize me to do it) but to criticize Greg for doing what Dave himself does is a violation of non-contradiction and is thus illogical.

Then they tried posting on the Theological Discussion Board. No one responded.

It was deleted from the board because of certain board protocol apparently. Nonetheless, it was up for about two days and there was little in the way of overall board activity those two days.{3}

Then they tried on the Planet Envoy boards. Last I checked, that was a big yawner too.

I am not responsible for whether or not people want to ignore what Greg and I pointed out Dave.

Mark Shea has apparently publicly ignored the letter to him (sent at the same time I received mine).

Is this the same Mark Shea whose handling of the torture subject last year was so embarrassing to watch???{4}

They're getting desperate to get into yet another controversy, so Greg decided to come here and put me down (without cause, as usual) on my own blog. But he has free speech, doesn't he?

If I am so "desperate for controversy", then why am I not pushing this issue even a FIFTIETH of how much Dave has pushed any number of themes on his weblog that I could readily mention at length???

And at least I allow comments on my blog, unlike his friend Shawn.

I have of course explained my reasons for this and more than once at that.{5} But since Dave and Mark Shea both are known to delete comments where they are taken to task on legitimate issues, I would hardly trumpet Dave's claim to "believe in free speech" if I were him. It is better to not have comments boxes at all (and hold that position out of principle as I do) than to censor one's more trenchant critics while pretending to believe in "free speech." I at least will occasionally (when I have time to do it) blog dialogues with emailers who raise challenging points or provide an interesting take on an issue.

I am even willing to let such people (if they can make a strong argument for a position) send me stuff to be posted in guest editorial format whether I agree with their positions or not. Dave by contrast never seems to post anything from others he cannot cut and splice seven ways to Sunday absent proper context. I prefer to allow my interlocuters to make their points in full as much as possible to allow for a proper assimilation of their views and thus a potentially fruitful response. This is what is called "authentic dialogue" and dialogue properly so-called has several principles involved as well as particular approaches which should be undertaken when publishing such things in written mediums.

Again, this is what people do when they get 30 and 80 hits a day (Shawn's exact number on his Site Meter today), but want to feel like their articles are earth-shatteringly important and must be responded to lest the sky fall down or the non-respondees become gross hypocrites.

By Dave's "reasoning", what is more popular is therefore right. By that standard, Christianity is false since by any numerical accounting standard, five out of six people in the world are not (or do not identify themselves as) Christians. This is yet another invocation of the "appeal to popularity" fallacy!!!

Speaking of personal attacks (and those which are, what did you say?: "vile and libelous"), I won't even get into the sort of things I have been called by Shawn (i.e., unless I am sufficiently provoked).

Dave simply wants to find any excuse he can to avoid the reality of how he came across last year on the whole bombings issue in (i) the lack of arguments he put forward to substantiate the opinions he sought to propound and (ii) various argumentation fallacies he utilized in the process.{6} That is why he decided to focus on my occasional use of the ad hominem in those writings while ignoring the distinction between using ad hominem in the context of making a valid argument and using ad hominem in the context of making no valid arguments (or any arguments) whatsoever. The latter is invalid and the former is valid usage much as the former was my modus opperandi and the latter was (and is) Dave's.

If we want to talk hypocrisy, there is plenty to go around indeed. But a lot of folks have an awfully short memory, it seems.

My memory is just fine. That is why in my dispute with Dave I had to a couple of times post some "preserving the historical record" threads, etc because Dave was trying to airbrush the historical record.

Shawn also stood by silently for years when Tim Enloe was trashing my name up and down (as he continues to do), and was even trying to say he was a good Catholic and I was a lousy one.

As I told more than a few people, Dave has had an obsession over the whole Tim Enloe thing for years. But notice readers how inconsistent Dave is. On the one hand, he claims that he is not responsible for dealing with every Catholic controversy or every critic, etc. and then he spends time whining that I did not (and do not) take to task everyone he thinks should be taken to task amongst his critics!!!{7}

When Ian and I did the whole joint rebuke thing in January of 2004 and Dave was publicly and privately kvetching about Tim, I attended two funerals in that month (one in Puyallup, Washington and one which was at Blessed Sacrament where Mark Shea and I attend mass btw). Yet somehow, I am supposed to put all of that aside (along with other projects I had been working on for quite some time and other subjects which were of far greater interest to me discussion-wise) to play playground referee between two guys who had been sniping back and forth at each other for years.

Considering that I thought most of the problem in the two years prior to that joint intervention was Dave trying to manufacture a controversy with Tim rather than an endeavour to try and make a proper effort to mend fences,{8} I am hardly going to say something publicly that I do not believe. The latter has never and will never be my approach to any issue. But to do what Dave wanted would have been for me to publicly go against what I viewed the issue to be. Furthermore, it was to perpetuate more of the "my dad can beat up your dad" style stuff that I was so sick of seeing amongst too many of those who call themselves apologists.

Death has a way of helping one see the trees in the forest with greater acuity. And in retrospect, it was probably a good thing that I had to go through what I did from 2000-2006 in this area even though I would never have wanted to see many of those who died pass on. But the process awakened me to how utterly stupid and childish so much of what people complain about actually is. However, as Dave was a friend as was Tim (though at the time Dave was a much closer friend to me than Tim admittedly), I did not want to in any way whatsoever contribute to that continuing public feud.

I sensed that Tim may well respond positively to what Ian and I discussed doing whereas if we had tried that same approach two years earlier, it would not have succeeded for various reasons I do not want to delve into right now. However, I also thought (and obviously mistakenly so) that Dave was capable of being the bigger man here particularly since he was about twice Tim's age. As it is, the younger man showed greater wisdom and the older man proved that with age does not necessarily come wisdom.

If Shawn had spoken out on that years ago, maybe it would have stopped and I wouldn't have to keep pointing out that Tim is lying about my viewpoints and methods (and also lying about other people like Cardinal Newman, as I also pointed out and got called a million other names by several who have nothing better to do). What is that saying: "evil prevails when good men do nothing about it"?

In all honesty, I am not so sure Tim was as mistaken as I used to presume. For one thing, he told me that Dave seemed incapable of functioning without making it a situation of him against some "unreasonable bigot to measure his own righteousness against." Last year before the bombing fiasco, I would have disagreed with that assessment of Dave. However, I cannot in truth say that I do anymore and that is a shame.

That's all fine and dandy. If I defend my name and reputation against scurrilous attacks and Cardinal Newman against same, that is viewed as a scandal by Shawn and Greg, because I didn't join in their latest article-campaign, which they can't get anyone to be interested in.

Of course Dave is quite good at provoking others and then claiming to be persecuted: something he does not like to have pointed out I am sure.

Who needs all that sort of nonsense? Like I said, I'm here to help people along in their Catholic faith, or to convince atheists that Christianity is reasonable; stuff like that: things that (by implication) Tim Enloe and Greg Krehbiel continually bash when they put down and mock the apologetic endeavor and make out that apologetics is mostly a bad and harmful thing.

Unfortunately, there is a lot of value to what Tim and Greg say on these matters. I do not agree with everything they say of course but it does seem that those of an apologist persuasion are incapable of seeing the damage that comes from going beyond what the Church teaches and wrapping their own private opinions (or the opinions of others) up as magisterial when they are not. This whole enterprise is a detriment to apologetics not an asset when those who call themselves apologists act in this manner.{9}

So I took them to task on it. That's not an "attack"; it is an intellectual critique. I link to Greg Krehbiel's blog and he responded to my criticisms in a classy way, as a gentleman.

"Attack" is what Greg Mockeridge and Shawn McElhinney do: by completely leaving the subject at hand and calling a bunch of names and making utter fools of themselves in the process.

This is of course not what happened and any reasonable review of what was said by all parties can easily establish that.{10} However, Dave has deleted some of the threads from his blog to try and avoid scrutiny from some of the more inexcusable things he sought previously to present to the public. By contrast, virtually every post I have ever written and posted for my weblog remains in the archives substantially as it read when it was first posted.{11}

Perhaps that is why they can't get more than 80 hits a day? Folks get tired of that after a while and want to read something edifying and helpful to them personally.

Of course folks never tire of any number of oft-repeated themes that Dave regularly beats into the ground on his blog like the proverbial dead horse.

Greg and Shawn got mad at me when we had a long, ultimately ugly debate on the nuclear bombings of Japan (I opposed them; they think they can be defended as moral by Catholic just war theory). They decided to go after me personally at a certain point.

Actually, Dave (i) violated the private forum and took a private discussion public without permission of the parties involved, (ii) evinced no evidence whatsoever that he actually had bothered to assimilate the arguments Greg and I made --thereby proving false the notion that he was actually interested in pursuing an authentic dialogue from the get-go. And (iii) he spent the entire time making almost no viable arguments whatsoever but instead reiterating one argumentation fallacy after another while ignoring or grossly caricaturing the arguments Greg and I made.

When Dave did those things, he lost all benefit of the doubt for he objectively cast himself in the same mould as the Steve Hays' of the world. Much as it would gall him to read that it is nonetheless true to type: on that issue, there was not a shred of difference whatsoever in what the latter sorts do and what Dave did.

I carefully explained my meanings and dealt with their misconceptions of alleged attacks upon them, and even made an apology and clarification that should have ended the growing personal (as opposed to ethical / topical) controversy in its tracks.

Dave continues to present a scenario that is at variance with well-documented reality. I say this because Dave admitted earlier this year that he was not even interested in engaging our arguments -which was something I had asserted all along (and which he had vigorously denied). To remind anyone who followed that sequence of what happened, pardon the present referencing of this humble weblog's well-preserved archives circa January of this year:

[Y]our claim to want to dialogue was a sham exactly as I said it was. You should have had the decency to have admitted to it publicly rather than try to pretend that you wanted to dialogue...I take dialogue and the discussion of ideas seriously and have no interest in wasting it with sophists who talk the talk and then fail to walk the walk. And on those issues Dave, that is what you were acting as. Now one can act like a sophist without necessarily being one so do not read into this anything more than what I noted above: that on THIS ISSUE that is how you came across. That does not mean it necessarily translates into other areas too; ergo my reason for this clarification up front...

No Dave, I made a very logical and factual analysis with many facets to the equation and backed up every bit of it with sound analysis and you treated it from the get-go without an ounce of respect. Furthermore, you have admitted now exactly what I said all along about not only dodging my arguments but refusing to dialogue properly. Thanks for vindicating me Dave even if only in private. [Excerpt from an Email Correspondence With Dave Armstrong and Some Others (circa January 19, 2005) as posted to Rerum Novarum (circa January 23, 2006)]

But to no avail.

Of course as long as Dave was going to continue the public spectacle, I was hardly going to give him the benefit of the doubt. I take logic and reason very seriously and always have. I have little patience for those who do not either in toto or on certain select issues where they show at times the serious lack of a logical argument.

One can only deal with that sort of thing for so long and then one can lose their temper (mea culpa!!!). I suffer from exalted ideals in some sense it seems because I expect a lot more from friends than what Dave has cared to show and my publicly manifested anger (whatever its merits or demerits, rightful application or overly excessive applications thereof) was because he fell so far short of what I expected from him.

It was ignored (even when reiterated later), and the spat kept getting worse and worse until Shawn launched a nuclear attack of his own against me (sort of the death blow of our friendship), with 17 or 18 distinct personal insults having nothing to do with the topic at all. It's all documented somewhere on my site, but I purposely made it so someone would have to dig to find it, at the end of the debate.

See my previous comments.

That's the background.

That is quite a selective portrayal of the actual events on Dave's part. Unfortunately, I am not surprised any longer by it.

At the time I also stated that Shawn was being a hypocrite over the Tim Enloe issue (Tim is a Reformed polemicist and harsh critic of mine online since 1999), because he was standing by, watching Tim say all these false accusations against me and doing nothing, even after I practically begged him to intervene and put in a good word on my behalf (since Tim respected him). But he didn't. The best he could do was a sort of "immoral equivalence" thing directed to both of us, as if we were basically equally at fault (which is not the case).

As I noted already, while originally Tim was the main protagonist of the two, over time Dave assumed that mantle himself. Based on what I observed from 2002 until early 2004, that is the case and no amount of Dave sending selectively edited tidbits absent proper context will change my view on that. Nor (for that matter) do I have any interest in revisiting that subject again in any shape at all except (when necessary) to explain why I have taken the approach on this that I have over the years. Tim has to his credit moved on from what I can discern with the exception of a few unfortunate instances.{12} But that is neither here nor there.

So in turn Shawn thinks that is the "real" reason behind our fight. It wasn't, directly, but it was a factor which caused harm to our friendship, because I am one who expects friends to say at least a word on my behalf if my character and motivations and methods are being publicly trashed (and those very friends being used by the party in question - a Protestant - as a supposed counter-example of a "good Catholic" over against my status as a "bad Catholic"). I do that for my friends and I did for Shawn in another context, but he would not reciprocate.

Dave presumes that the whole world is confined to apologetics. The latter has as a rule been a very small subsection of what I have done in my lifetime and in 2003, I gradually got sick of the whole enterprise. I could no longer stand seeing Catholics praise one another for savaging non-Catholics in a way that if the latter did it to them, they would complain bitterly about it. I saw this happen for a few years prior to that point and basically had enough. I will follow this posting at some point with a private correspondence from November of 2005 where I explained my mindset on these matters so that there is no stone unturned. But this post needs to be wrapped up.

I only write about any of this now because he is starting to do so (being unable to resist, I guess, getting in further shots at me).

Dave too often seems to take things personally. My interest in outlining what I did on apologetics methodology and its problems is no different than my approach with any subject I discuss or have ever discussed: to establish and advance viable theories and not blanket unsubstantiated presumptions as is the case for most people. On the issue in question, I touched on very briefly the degeneration of Catholic apologetics over the years and posited a theory (or at the very least, a hypothesis) for why this has happened.

There are many factors in the equation and in naming names, I mentioned Dave along with a couple of other people. On some of the factors I noted, he is better than most, on others he is worse. My main focus was on the argument itself and on bringing to peoples attention what the problems are so that they can be remedied before things get worse. Because they will if these continue to go unremedied.

He got mad that I pointed this out, along with the original nuclear issue. It's an ugly mess, but that is why they are angry at me, sniping at the moment, and presently writing articles which take me to task for imaginary shortcomings.

Dave CLAIMS they are imaginary but they are not. If I had more time, I could put together quite a dossier on the matter actually. However, I would rather point out the problem and see it corrected without resorting to that kind of tactic because I do not see how such a treatment like the latter can in any way edify.

I haven't written about either one of them, I believe, since that controversy.

Nor have I written on Dave up until mentioning him in brief on August 5th and in responding to Apolonio on August 14th. If not for the fact that the subject was apologetics, he would not have been mentioned at all since on the issues that are involved in the culture war and making a positive contribution in the arena of ideas, Dave (like most apologists) is seriously lacking in overall influence and thus not worth mentioning ordinarily. However, as he puts himself out there as an apologist for Catholicism, that makes the matter of apologetics something that to some extent would pertain to him.

Few seem to care about their articles about me and Mark, and another issue related to Dale Vree, which is why it looks like they are seeking out venues where many more people gather, so that they can get exposure for their unethical, factually-challenged blasts against myself and Mark Shea.

Oftentimes, significant events or serious problems are not of concern to people which (when they manifest themselves later on), people then lament that they did not read the tea leaves properly and see them for what they are. That is hardly out of the ordinary historically and Dave should know that.

As far as being "unethical" and "factually-challenged", Dave should know that I am the last person he should tangle with since I can substantiate anything I say with generous source evidences coupled with sound logical/rational arguments. The reason for the debacle last year (and earlier this year) was because Dave apparently forgot about that and presumed that I would give him a free pass for how he acted. I would not do this for non-friends who tried such things and as taking reason and logic seriously means respecting the principle of consistency to no small degree, my approach to this required that I treat it as I did with friends as well however inconvenient it may be for parties involved.

What is wrong when non-friends do it is wrong when friends do it: indeed it is the failure to recognize this elementary principle amongst the Catholic apologists in general which is why I have refused the label "Catholic apologist" for over six years now. There are other reasons as well but what Greg noted in his expose on Dale Vree and the unacceptable way prominent Catholic apologists defend crap from him that they would never tolerate from non-Catholics is probably the most significant part in the equation.

I had seen that garbage go on for years not only uncorrected by the more prominent of the professional apologists but even encouraged by them. (Karl Keating's disgraceful defense of Dale Vree's absolutely disgraceful antics was essentially the last straw for me.) That sort of crap is a key reason why I have long refused to be called an "apologist" and little by little withdrew myself from those circles. Well, that and the recognition that such personages have had no significant influence whatsoever on the problems that we face in society these days and have no viable solutions (nor have any interest in considering proposed viable solutions) to address said problems. They can continue to complain bitterly in their own little ghettos all they want: I would rather expend my energies where they can have some positive influence.

Shawn is also one of those who is a critic of apologetics in general.

I am a critic of the way a lot of people do apologetics this is true. That is hardly the same thing as being critical of the enterprise of apologetics in general.

He's gone after Karl Keating in the past, too (complete with the obligatory personal innuendo).

Of course when Karl Keating has said factually inaccurate things I have on occasion been critical of him. Unlike those of an apologetics mindset, I hold Karl as accountable for such things as I would anyone else. Why should I give Karl a free pass for stuff I would never give a free pass for, say one of Karl's nemeses James White??? Or some of the radical self-styled "traditionalist" sorts???

But then again, as I am not one whose livelihood depends on things like paying gigs from Catholic Answers, I am therefore under no sense of obligation to defend anything Karl Keating says, no matter how inaccurate or inane. By stark contrast, Dave is compromised since if he criticizes Karl publicly, Karl may well not allow any of Dave's stuff to be published in his periodicals anymore. That my friends is the difference and that is why I can speak the truth on these matters and professional apologists are to some extent compromised.

So I'm proud to be bashed alongside my two friends: Karl and Mark.

There is irony in Dave saying that folks. For Karl Keating and Mark Shea have manifested an almost reverse jingiosm towards America and now Dave seems to be taking a "my friends Karl and Mark, right or wrong" attitude. But enough has been said on this stuff already. Hopefully this post sets the record straight on not a few of Dave Armstrong's errors, misrepresentations, and blatant caricatures of your humble servant at Rerum Novarum and what his intention is in writing on any subject at any time -be it past, present, or future.

I have been completely consistent over the years in the principles I espouse and how they are applied. (That does not mean I have always been right of course but consistency in one's principles --if the latter are sound ones and mine are-- will result in being right the lions share of the time.) By contrast, my estranged friend Dave has been all over the map. It is my hope that in time Dave can put aside the personal issues and insults and consider prayerfully what I noted in my blog posting from August 5th of this year. If these problems are tended to, then there would be little if anything to criticize amongst apologist sorts in principle. But until they are (and until people like Dave, Karl, Mark, Jimmy [Akin], and others actually admit that these glaring problems are actually real and endeavour to do something about them), nothing will change and things will unfortunately only get worse. And that is the bottom line really.

[Update: It was recently pointed out to me by a few people that the tonality of this posting detracted from the substance of the points I was making. I do not deny that I was in an irritable mood when I drafted it and my mood was hardly unjustified. However, that does not mean that the manner whereby I responded is automatically appropriate or without deficiency in prudence. So with that in mind, I decided to revisit this posting from 2006 where invective so suffused the arguments I made as to render them far less persuasive to casual readers than they otherwise could have been.

To potentially render this enterprise more fruitful, I asked someone to act as a third party editor of sorts to review the postings and make suggestions of areas to be revised and others to be removed. (This person had no part whatsoever in the original controversy and to my knowledge is on good terms with all parties involved.) They agreed to review this post and made a number of suggested corrections. In every suggestion they made, I promptly made revisions where recommended and removed material that was recommended to be removed and resubmitted the proposed adjustments to them for follow-up critique, etc. This process continued until areas originally found problematical were adjusted to their satisfaction at which time I made the adjustments to the posting itself and republished it.

The revised posting before you is far more focused on my original arguments and hopefully provides much more light than heat unlike what was written previously. And though I stand by the substance of my original critiques, I do nonetheless profoundly regret letting my anger get the better of me in how I originally responded to Dave Armstrong in this post and extend to him through this effort as well as in words a most sincere apology. -SM 10/2/13]


{1} I am hardly going to claim that there is anything wrong with such approaches in and of themselves of course. However, I explained more than once (including recently) what my motivations are for any attempts I make to garner additional publicity.

{2} Unlike a lot of folks, I actually SUBSTANTIATE my assertions btw.

{3} This is information that Dave failed to disclose voluntarily to his readers.

{4} I like Mark a lot and this is therefore not something I like having to say; however, it is what it is.

{5} A Brief Revisiting of the Comments Box Subject (circa June 6, 2005)

{6} This is another flaw in the apologist methodology: when they get thoroughly refuted after they have spouted off on issues where they have admitted previously to having a lack of substantial knowledge about. They are incapable of conceding because they have equated so closely their opinions with the magisterium's view that to concede their own defeat is to (in their eyes) claim that there was error in the magisterium. Oh and as I noted in my post from August 5th, this is not a problem unique to Catholics but indeed everyone who relies on any authority whatsoever can fall into the trap of treating that authority in like manner.

{7} And while I am hesitant to say anything about it on this thread for how some people will interpret it, Dave ignores the fact that I had to deal with twenty-three deaths of family and friends in the past six years!!! Even since Dave and I had the falling out over the bombing issue, there were five deaths in the period from August of 2005-April of 2006 -including my oldest childhood friend whom I knew since I was five years old (may he rest in peace).

But all of that likely seems an excuse I am sure. There are more important issues on the table like resurrecting the quarreling that Dave has relayed over and over again the past few years under the pretext that it has to be Tim's fault because (after all), Dave can dialogue with anyone who has ever lived and therefore, any snafus in the process are not his and cannot be his fault!!! Sorry but I do not buy this notion for an instant.

{8} Whereas from 1998-2002 I saw the main culprit in their fracas as Tim.

{9} And (of course) not all who consider themselves "apologists" do that. However, my writing on problems with apologetics methodology was not intended to deal with those whom I see as exercising that discipline properly (and why).

{10} As it is, I will post one of them now as an example and simply note that it is representative of the argumentation fallacies and poor excuses for sound reason and logical thought that Dave manifested throughout that whole sad circumstance.

{11} Sometimes, I have fixed grammatical glitches, spelling mistakes, broken HTML links, or moved material from the body of the piece into footnotes for easier separation. However, nothing of substance has been deleted. Unlike Dave, I am not afraid of the positions I have taken over the years -even on the rare occasions when I have changed my mind.

{12} Tim did admit to being goaded by Dave into backsliding but I am not about to blame him for that since I was similarly goaded back in January to revisit the whole bombings subject against my better judgment. To say that I was less than irenic in doing so would be an understatement but Dave engaged in provocation and then complained because I did not "play nice" in revisiting those issues yet again.

That factor aside, the reader can feel free to read anything Dave wrote on the whole ad homimen stuff and note that his whole attempt to claim that I engaged in the ad hominem fallacy showed in spades that he does not know the difference between legitimate and fallacious usage of ad hominem. But again, to make the proper distinction here would mean having to exercise ones thinking mechanism rather than mindlessly reacting to something.

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Monday, August 14, 2006

Points to Ponder:

I'm worried that too many people, both in politics and out, don't appreciate the seriousness of the threat to American security and the evil of the enemy that faces us -- more evil, or as evil, as Nazism and probably more dangerous than the Soviet communists we fought during the long Cold War. We cannot deceive ourselves that we live in safety today and the war is over, and it's why we have to stay strong and vigilant." [Senator Joseph Lieberman]


Core Problems With Apologetics Methodology Revisited:
(Dialogue With Apolonio Latar III)

The subject matter of this dialogue is what I posted to this weblog on the problem with apologetics methodology (and some who consider themselves "apologists") circa last Saturday the Saturday before last. Apolonio's words will be in black font and my previous words (when quoted by him) will be in blue font.

Hey Shawn,

Hi Apolonio:

To tell you the truth, I have not been following the atomic bomb debate you had with others.

I understand. That subject was dealt with to death last year. I also had to publicly revisit it in January when attempts to reconcile with Dave resulted in him again taking public private stuff. The only thing I could do at that point was rip to shred his final facade of credibility on the issue and show how what he was claiming in January is what he expressely denied he was doing in August and September of last year. Essentially, he vindicated everything I said all along and my intuition viz. what fueled this was proven correct by Dave back in January of this year.{1} But that is neither here nor there for the main reason for the paper is to show problems of a general nature which by logical extension affect a lot of issues that these sorts discuss: a problem that essentially makes them impotent to have any real value in the arena of ideas.

The latter is not something that pleases me at all because to varying degrees I like Dave and Mark and most of the others who have these problems as well. (Including Stephen Hand.) Nor are they the only ones who have this problem either -I have seen it with Dale Vree, Karl Keating, and others -even (and on exactly one issue that I can recall) the esteemed Jimmy Akin. However, I have been adequately persuaded that the problem I noted in one of Jimmy's papers (in an email from earlier this year which you may not remember me sending to you and some others) was him oversimplifying a concept for the benefit of his reading audience. This is a far cry from what Dave and Mark have been doing.

I would say this though. I would say this though, as a person who is leaning towards the idea that the bomb was unnecessary, I would say that it seems to me that there is no magisterial teachings on this issue.

And you would be right to view the magisterial status of the issue as you do.

There may have been a Vatican statement, but I don't know if that was magisterial. I still have to look that up. I do know that there are well-known Catholics who believed it was immoral.

This is true. However, I have argued that no one who is familiar with all the factors that go into the equation can rationally conclude this. That does not mean (of course) that they would have to support the idea to use the bombs. My argument all along was through the utilizing of military statistics, the known Japanese mindset, the other alternatives being far more conducive to escalading deaths and casualties, the nationwide conscription element, and considering the MAGIC intercepts, the issue of proportionality factored into the mix, etc. that the usages of August 6th and 9th fit the objective criteria for double effect. Obviously I am not going to claim that my position is the only viable one but notice how people such as Dave and Mark do this very thing in their public statements.

I talked to a Catholic philosopher who believed it was.

And I talked with a Catholic philosopher who reviewed my double effect arguments and said they were sound ones.{2}

And Elizabeth Anscombe is well-known for her protest against Truman at Oxford. Apart from the Vatican statement, the best authoritative source would be USCCB, but I don't think that works since there is a debate on the authority of conferences itself.

Conferences are not magisterial in and of themselves but only constitute authentic magisterial teaching when they either (i) reiterate teachings of a pope or council or (ii) hold a plenary synod and receive recognitio by the pope of the latter's judgments and directives.{3} Furthermore, this is a subject that it would be darn near impossible to render a magisterial judgment on anyway because so many of the factors involved fall outside the Church's competence.

If I were to argue that the atomic bomb was unnecessary, and therefore immoral by applying Catholic moral principles, I would probably argue by showing how Truman knew that the Japanese was going to surrender (and there are also other things).

I would welcome such an argument and not just because I could debunk it. At the very least, it would be an argument which is something that the other side did not provide last year.

It seems to me that Truman believed this as he said in his diaries. Now, we can debate on this, but the crucial part here is whether Truman believed this. If he did, then the atomic bomb was unnecessary. That is how *I* would argue for it.

That would be a viable approach to take certainly.

I don't think showing moral theologians or philosophers will cut it.

To posit the opinions of an authority as if they are an argument in and of themselves (without prior consideration of the merits of the arguments whereby said authorities arrivded at their conclusions) is a classic argumentation fallacy. In short, you are right.

And since I don't know of any magisterial definitive teaching on this, that is how I will argue. Having said that, that means there is a difference between magisterial teachings and applications of that. And to simply quote the catechism for a particular action cannot be done.


One must show there is a link between the a magisterial teaching and the action. Suppose Sally does X. And the magisterium says that Y is wrong. In order for one to quote the magisterium properly, one must show that X is Y. Suppose that Sally took a rubber band from Billy. To quote the magisterium saying that stealing is wrong does not necessarily mean that Sally's action is wrong. One must show that the act of taking a rubber band from Billy was stealing. Same with the atomic bomb. So I agree with you, Shawn, with this remark:

"The end result is various apologists claiming magisterial sanction for certain doctrinal applications and parroting sections of the catechism where general principles are espoused as if they are one and the same ."

You also say this,

"A persuasive argument could be made that the persons referred to above lack not only a solid foundation in utilizing reason and logic apart from their dependence on the Catholic magisterium[...] but also a proper spiritual disposition which would serve to humble them adequately. However, to write on that subject[...] would be to make this paper longer than it is already so that will be left for possible future projects either by this writer or by others as the circumstances may require."

This is a very strong claim. You and I have (coincidentally) seen the root of the problem of radical traditionalists being a spiritual problem. But I don't see it with this.

My main argument in the paper is that it is a defect of the rational faculties which is where these people go astray. This would not be a problem of course if they had the spiritual disposition of avoiding dogmatic insistance on areas where they lack a significant degree of knowledge. And I do see this as a spiritual problem: one of not only imprudent zeal but also of a defect in authentic charity.

It seems to me that the Catholic apologists you have spoken of simply want to be obedient to the Church and sees the atomic bomb events as intuitively wrong.

There is more to this than just the bombing issue Apolonio. They do the same stuff with just war theory, with the death penalty, with certain applications of Catholic social teachings, with the Iraq war, and with a host of other things as well. If they claim the mantle of "Catholic apologist" than they place a restriction on themselves and as long as they claim it, they are out of line dealing with anything that does not fall under Catholic doctrine properly speaking and treating non-magisterial stuff as magisterial. I see in this tendency an intellectual dependence on authority outside of which they do not adequately function.

I have noticed this for a long time but because I played the Catholic Kayfabe card{4} fairly liberally, I did not directly say it. However, since the professional apologists seem to not give a care about these problems (and actually defend those who manifest these defects against those who would legitimately criticize them), I refuse to go without comment on these matters any longer.

I don't see it *necessarily* as a spiritual problem itself.

Not by itself of course. But the latter is a problem. However, as I want my paper to be a broader indictment than it explicitly is, the focus is on the rational angle since the same defects are present in various pseudo-"progressivist" sorts in the secular sphere. The principle in other words has a broader application than I provide it in this paper -a point I note in one of the last footnotes of the piece.

Sadly, I believe you're going to have to make the paper longer.

I cannot do that though because it is a companion piece to something Greg wrote. My argument is that there is a noticeable trajectory of problems in apologetics in general and that the crucial point of sorts was 9/11 for the reasons I noted in the piece.

I think if you left it with simply that, then they will respond by taking you into account for it.

Let them do it. As long as they address the primary points I dealt with, I have no problem with the ancillary point being addressed too. However, if the ancillary is addressed without focusing on the primary threads of the piece, I will simply dismiss them as unworthy of the discipline of the dialogue.

And I think they may be justified by doing so. If someone claims that you need a spiritual disposition because of a certain argument, you may say "I do need a better spirituality, but not because of that!"

That is not what I am saying. My point is not their positions but how they arrive at them and the presumptions behind their positions as they espouse them. As it is, Pete Vere happens to disagree with me on not a few of those issues and I know Ian McLean and I disagreed on the war (we keep avoiding a long-planned public dialogue on that but I digress). But you do not see me criticizing them for lacking those virtues and you will not either. Nor would you and I disagreeing on the atomic bomb usages result in me criticizing you for lacking a proper spiritual disposition. But the difference between you and those I have made the argument on is in how you have approached this subject in your email. In other words, your proper disposition is stamped throughout what you have said through implication both in what you have said and what you have not said. The same is not the case for Dave, Mark, and Stephen.

So it seems that I'm going to say what you didn't want to do and that is, that you should make it longer so you can argue for that particular position.

I may write a followup piece clarifying certain points if that seems necessary to do.

I would also say this.

Do Armstrong and Shea lack a solid foundation of utilizing reason and logic or do they lack to apply those foundations when it comes to the subject of the bombings?

In their case, I believe it is a problem with areas where there is not a sure magisterial judgment as a rule. There may be some exception of course (Dave did fine on the Iraq war issue for example - to my knowledge they both argue on the death penalty issue adequately enough) but the problem appears to be an integrated one of sorts as a rule.

It seems to me that in some cases, Shea and Armstrong knows how to argue logically and reasonbly. They may very well be good in arguing against sola scriptura by showing how it is self-contradictory, but not good in arguing against the bombings.

The difference of course is that arguing against sola scriptura is easy for a Catholic in that they have obvious magisterial support for their positions. And even if you work from other areas in seeking to argue against it (such as from basic logic, etc) there is still the knowledge they have that the Church has clearly spoken on this issue. In other words, it gets back to intellectual dependence on an authority. This is not necessarily Shea and Armstrong's fault of course because most people fall into this category either completely or on certain select issues. With the latter it involves the subject of foundational presuppositions but to go into that is another essay (or book) altogether.

I think you need to counter the argument that Shea and Armstrong simply lack the application of their foundations in utilizing logic and reasoning to a specific argument. Someone can argue this way and I think you should expect it.

Let them try it if they like. I can defend any position I have taken and always have been able to with reason and logic as well as the knowledge of a subject that I happen to have at a particular point in time. That is one reason why I rarely misstep in argumentation but another reason is an elementary one: I am careful with subjects I am less knowledgable about if they are discussed at all. These guys by contrast treat the subjects where their knowledge is thin with the same bold punditry that they do those issues where they are formidable in their knowledge. And by doing that, they cast a pall of sorts over the areas where they are good sources of information because there is a lack of differentiation if you will.

For logically, someone from the outside can say "if they are so obviously illogical and argumentably vapid on Issue X, why should they be trusted on Issue Y???" and that is a difficult argument for them to deal with. As a result, those who do value reason and logic end up dismissing these people as a bunch of fideistic sophists and you and I both agree that is a scenario which we do not want to see. (For Mark and Dave have done some very good work over the years and it is tarnished by their general approach to non-magisterial issues.)

Also, I have not read what Mockeridge or Krehbiel said on this issue so I can't comment. As for your thesis on 2001, I just can't see it. Maybe because I have left the apologetics arena, but I just can't see it.

Well, you are not the only one who has left that arena but I have long suspected that something is amiss. The 9/11 hypothesis is one that came to me in a flash and the more I have pondered it (with other knowledge I already had, etc), the more it made sense.

I do agree that the root is a spiritual problem, however. What I don't see (yet) is that the persons you have spoken are examples of having this problem.

Have you been paying attention to their stuff in the past year and a half by chance??? The trajectory is there but (admittedly) is best seen in hindsight from the points where they go kukoo for Cocoa Puffs backwards.

Personally, my theory is that apologists don't understand the distinction between doctrine and theology.

If you noticed, I dealt with that in the paper also. I saw (and see) it as a seed that was planted early on and grew mostly undetected except for some minor flashes here and there. But after 9/11 we have seen a lot come into the open and have seen apologist sorts fall left and right -either completely or on certain issues.

And I think one may apply this lack of distinction when it comes to moral doctrine and moral theology.


One may speak, theologically, that the bombing is okay, and he may be wrong theologically, but not doctrinally. But I think you need to say more on the link between 9/11 and the decline in apologetics.

I may do that in time. The theory that I mentioned is not an old one by any stretch and the more I ponder it (having explicitly sketched it out for the first time in the upcoming essay), the more I will probably say on it as times and circumstances seem to dictate.

Hope that helps.

As usual, you have conducted your correspondence well Apolonio -showing proper respect for the discipline of the dialogue as well as providing food for the party you are in dialogue with (i.e. me) to ponder over. Hopefully, this note provides a similar service for you.


{1} Like the sun rising in the east, Dave privately proved that my intuition on the matter was correct. I had opined privately for months that what drove his hysterical overreactions against me was him having a hornets nest in his skivvies for for what Ian and I did two years earlier with our joint rebukes of him and Tim Enloe for their public pissing matches. Two threads were posted at the time -on this weblog and also on Ian McLean's weblog. Here they are for those who may have forgotten:

An Appeal to the Warring Houses of Montague and Capulet: A Joint Declaration With SecretAgentMan (circa January 19, 2004)

A Clarification Viz. Certain Points of Our Previous Joint Declaration (circa January 23, 2004)

To his credit, Tim gave every indication after that point of trying to let it be but (by his own admission) was goaded into returning fire when provoked publicly by Dave.

{2} I am not sure if he agreed with my actual position but that is another subject altogether: my interest was in the solidity of my arguments not his opinion on the matter which was not asked for and consequently was not given.

{3} I dealt with this subject in a blog posting commentary on certain portion of canon law circa April of 2003.

{4} To understand why I use the term kayfabe, a bit of consideration of where this term came from may be of assistance. For that, I defer to wikipedia and something I noted in a private email from last week:

Kayfabe is often seen as the suspension of disbelief that is used to create the non-wrestling aspects of promotions, such as feuds, storylines, and gimmicks , in a similar manner with other forms of entertainment such as soap opera or movie.[LINK]

The "Kayfabe" element in Catholic circles is the tendency to circle the wagons and defend actions and attitudes displayed by Catholics which would be condemned by those same persons if non-Catholics did them. Likewise, various non-Catholics (such as the Reformed sorts, the Fundys, the Orthodox, the Infidels, etc) have their own kind of "kayfabe" where they allow amongst their ranks stuff they would not tolerate elsewhere. And (of course) part of "kayfabe" is presenting the illusion of unity when there is actually discord.

I am on record opposed to the airing of dirty laundry as a rule but every rule admits of exceptions. Sometimes this becomes necessary and the kinds of antics Greg and I deal with above --and their either complete ignoring of or promotion by those who should know better-- makes this a necessary thing to do (since those who should be doing something about this have been grossly negligent in their responsibilities for too long now). [Excerpt from an Email Correspondence (circa August 7, 2006)]

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