Ed Brayton vs Ellis Washington

I’m jealous of Ed Brayton just now: a WorldNetDaily pundit has devoted a whole column to attacking him. The columnist is Ellis Washington, who has written numerous pieces attacking the theory of evolution on the grounds that it undermines Biblical morality. Ed sent Washington a question:

Can you provide a coherent, consistent explanation other than common descent for the patterns of appearance of endogenous retroviruses in vertebrate genomes? Francis Collins, the Christian geneticist who headed up the Human Genome Project, lays out much of the data on ERVs in his book The Language of God and argues, quite correctly, that it simply cannot be explained without common descent (which is, of course, the theory of evolution).

Ed then followed this up with a blog post making fun of Washington’s views about the SeaWorld killer whale that recently killed a trainer; Washington had thundered that because of “humanists and social egalitarians”, the creature “can frolic in his holding tank in front of millions of people all over the world and not be killed for his multiple murderous acts”. In a particularly bizarre non sequitur, Washington went to a rail against John Maynard Keynes, who “has been revered by European socialists and American progressives including U.S. presidents Woodrow Wilson, FDR, LBJ, Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama.”

Washington has now responded, with a train-wreck of pseudo-intellectual posturing. Some highlights:

Lieralism will always fail because it will always collapse upon the weight of its own immorality.

~ Anonymous

I consider myself a conservative intellectual, a thinker who holds philosophical ideas out the Judeo-Christian traditions of intellectual thought. That said, without fail when I write an article about the diabolical influence of Darwin’s theory of evolution on society, I get some of the most reactionary, incoherent rants from the liberal blogosphere.

…Your position is ipso facto (inherently) indefensible. You have built an entire worldview on quicksand. Lenin referred to true believers like you and your fellow bloggers as “useful idiots.”

…Since I am not a scientist but a philosopher and an intellectual, the way I approach all bodies of knowledge is from reason and veritas (truth). We could argue back and forth on Darwin’s theory all day, but let’s cut to the chase. Mr. Brayton, how can you rationalize and compare your humanist and atheist ideas in relation to St. Paul’s letter to the Church at Rome?

…Your issues about where humanity came from are not so much a problem of the head (brain), but of the heart (soul). Until you repent and ask Jesus to come into your heart you will always be confused and wrong in your worldview, which will disallow you, I and your fellow bloggers the ability to have a rational discussion based on the syllogism that was a foundation of Western civilization:

If A = B, then A + B = C

Good grief, it’s all there: first, we get a vacuous assertion presented as an aphorism, as if that makes it profound and unchallengeable. Then, the whine that to disagree with him is “reactionary”. We next come a to bit of pointless Latin (“ipso facto”), followed by a famous pseudo-quote from Lenin, which again serves no purpose. Then another Latin garnish (“veritas”), followed by an argument from the authority Saint Paul. We then get some cod religious psychology about “brain” and “soul”, and – to round off – a completely irrelevant and meaningless insertion meant to show that he knows something about syllogisms (and he doesn’t even quite succeed at that). The rest of the article attacks Ed’s character and supposed lack of patriotism. The one thing he does not do, though… is provide a coherent, consistent explanation other than common descent for the patterns of appearance of endogenous retroviruses in vertebrate genomes. Ed gives his own response here.

All of this is consistent with the posturing often (but not always) found on the libertarian right: once one has learnt something about the various rules of formal logic and a bit of rhertorical sophistry, one simply has to wave these around and no matter how better-informed your opponent may be, he or she can be confuted and dismissed without even the need to engage with their evidence or arguments. Washington is just a particularly inept example of this syndrome.

In his profile blurb, we learn that:

Ellis Washington, authorized biographer for the conservative intellectual Dr. Michael Savage (see www.MichaelSavage.com), is former editor of the Michigan Law Review and law clerk at The Rutherford Institute…

I ‘ve blogged on “the conservative intellectual Dr. Michael Savage” various times, such as here.

UPDATE: Ed tells us that:

The bio at the bottom of his WND posts start with, “Ellis Washington is former editor of the Michigan Law Review…” That is false. He was never even a student at the U of M Law School. As an undergrad, he was chosen from three students to take a temporary job with the law review (replacing someone who had health problems, I believe) where he did mostly cite-checking and footnote checking. And it looks like it only lasted for one issue. “Former editor” makes it sound as though he was the actual editor; he was not.