• First published in 2004 as Bartholomew’s Notes on Religion (BNOR).

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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.

18 Responses

  1. Ellis is one fundamentalist whackaloon… WND makes Fox look far-left & overly-rational…

  2. RETROVIRUSES – THEY ARE STILL VIRUSES
    These viruses are not mutating into creatures such as fish or monkeys – they already have this genetic capability programmed in. Viruses and bacteria have
    multiplied trillions of times and are still viruses and bacteria – which means evolution is not true.
    If evolution was true there would be millions of transitional kinds of eg fish to mammals and back to eg sea whales – there is none . Even the evolutionists
    admit there are no transitionals – even Darwin said if
    thousands are not found then his theory is not true.
    This guy concentrates on viruses since there is more
    chance of hiding the idiocy of evolution.

  3. I’m guessing that’s not the Charles Allen who used to be head of ITV… If we came from monkeys, how come there are still monkeys, ay Charles?

    • yes and darwin thought that bears “evolved” sonar and went back to the sea to catch plankton etc.
      everybody knows river salmon tastes better and you dont need to wait until blind chance designs a sonar
      system better than thousands of engineers can do.

      a creationist would never get on ITV. cheers charlie

  4. Only in America!

    Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!

  5. Would something always “always collapse upon the weight of its own immorality”? I would have thought it would collapse “under its own weight”.

    In the first line, I am already beginning to suspect that Ellis Washington is a bit of a glans (dickhead).

    When he declares that tire old cliche (one I admit to having previously used myself, but with Stalin as the alleged “auteur”) that Lenin (or any other Russian communist) called anyone “useful idiots”, he is not being accurate at all, let alone scientific enough to translate his Latin words. And that’s the veritas (real deal, alleged fact, unproven moral statement, something found in vino),.

    There is no record of either Lenin (or Stalin) ever using the term, according to Grant Harris of the US Library of Congress.

    I feel that Ellis Washington is ipso facto (inherently) a wanker (onanist, friend of Mrs Palm and her five lovely daughters) and he should get down on his knees (not in a Ted Haggard manner, I should caution, something called in Latin “rumbare“) and pray to his God for a little bit of good old-fashioned Christian humility. And – maybe this is above his God’s abilities – a little common sense and rationality.

    And maybe he could have given up the use of cliches for Lent.

    Sorry for the foul language, Richard – snip or censor with asterisks as you see fit….

    • I always heard it was Lenin who said it – just because
      you can’t find any evidence does not mean he did not say it – it has been repeated thousands of times.

      Does this discovery rehabilitate stalin and lenin – you are welcome to these tyrants and mass murderers

      • People have said that some Jewish hippy rose from the dead after his crucifixion, and it has been repeated thousands of times. But there is no evidence for this, and certainly it fails the plausibility test.

        But you seem to believe that if a lie is repeated enough times (such as the bollocks about Jesus), then it must be true… Sheesh…..

      • Charles Allan: That was one of the funniest comments I’ve received in six years. Congratulations.

    • Heh, thanks.

      • Even eminent athiest historians believe that Jesus
        existed as a real person. The evidence is overwhelming.
        However your eternal destiny will depend on whether
        you believe that this verified historical figure rose from the dead. Strange how the disciples of Jesus willingly went to their deaths for a lie – unheard of in the history of humanity.
        So you will be placing your “faith” that DNA arose in
        seawater by accident and nothing created everything.
        Have you studied DNA ?????

        And therefore Hell and the Devil does not exist = a faith.

  6. FRANCES COLLINS —- TWO THEORIES
    DNA was created by God and tweaked into different living creatures plants etc. So no common descent.
    An incredible information system as Bill Gates said
    ALL the DNA of every kind of creature would fit on the tip of a teaspoon . OR

    DNA arose by itself in seawater and added billions of characters of code by pure blind chance and designed itself up into creatures such as Lions , Dolphins ,
    Elephants eyes ears nose sonar wings etc.
    A simple fungus or mold might have 500,000 base pairs of code. Nothing has ever designed itself.

  7. Oh dear, Mr Allen, you really are a prize arsehole dipstick. I do not doubt that Jesus existed, but I do doubt his resurrection and I certainly doubt his “divinity”. In fact I would go further and declare that if a person believes such fairy tales as parthogenesis and resurrection as “fact”, that person is not the best guy to consult on issues of science and DNA..

    Your posts are just hilarious red herrings, attempting to present themselves as factual.

    You talk about base pairs of DNA when I do not think you have the first clue about DNA, RNA or anything to do with biology. No evolutionary scientist would ever claim that species “designed” themselves. Only some deluded religious nutter, desperate to reconcile his book of fairy tales with scientific fact would get mired in terms of “design”. Obviously, you have neglected the simplistic and dogmatic notions of “Creationism” for the pseudoscientific and much more dishonest lunacy of “Intelligent design”.

    ID posits that because objects have complexity they must have been “designed” and therefore there must have been an intelligent designer to provide order to what would otherwise be chaos.

    All of these anti-evolution arguments deny the roles of randomness, chance and adaptation in the creation of species, and deny causality. to the emergence of species. These cannot “come into being” without the hand of an intercessor (the “Intelligent Designer”. The causality that goes back to the Big Bang is also frequently denounced by religionist nutjobs. But the idea of all matter, space and time itself arising from a singularity is possible, and measurable by its echoes. Everything is still moving away from its neighbours and away from a locus. But when religionists refuse to countenance a singularity as the origin of all things, they imply that there has to be a God.

    Why does there have to be a God? And this creator God who “designed” the Universe does not “explain” anything. ID followers pillage scientific journals for proofs for their convoluted distortions of fact and to dress up their rambling cant (as you are doing) with the language of science.

    Gee – you talk about DNA base pairs – Wow , Charles Allan is an informed scientific theorist and philosopher – when your comprehension of science is probably less developed than my cat’s understandings of the mechanisms of the fridge where his prawn treats come from.

    Proponents of Intelligent Design still cannot explain where there damned “Intelligent Designer” came from, but have the cheek to criticise and nitpick at scientific data and theory. Who made the Intelligent Designer? Did he design himself into existence? ( you sneer at evolution and species “designing themselves into existence” but cannot explain your bloody invisible friend/creator).

    And finally, as you mention moulds and fungi (mycology is a little hobby of mine), and speak of fungi with up to 500,000 base pairs of code…. let me introduce you to the common fungus Schizophyllum commune, the most widely dispersed basidiomycete on the planet. Its genome has just been sequenced. But one thing that may send your notions of an intelligent designer into doubt (and please look this up) is that Schizophyllum commune has 28,000 distinct sexes.

    Humans and higher animals have only two genders, some frogs and fish can change their genders and Plato suggested that there was only one greater gender until lightning scared living beings into two distinct genders….. but why would an intelligent designer create a species with 28,000 genders? Maybe he was having a bad day and decided to confound his followers….

    Chemist Michael Bullivant quipped that we may share 97% of our DNA with chimpanzees, but “Did you know that 60% of your DNA is the same as a banana?”

    I have a creeping suspicion that for supporters of Creationism and Intelligent Design, they must have a higher proportion of banana DNA than the rest of us…..

    • Adrian Not much substance or specifics to your tirade – I’ve heard more logical discussions from Mr Dawkins. It has never been demonstrated that randomness and chance can design anything let alone DNA or proteins. The statisticians have proved this . For one small protein to come into existence by chance accident is more than 1 chance to the number of all the atoms in the universe.
      Are you trying to say that we are descended from a banana.
      God uses his DNA to design different living things.

      I see your moving into the more easily obfuscated area
      of the micro evolution of the fungi.
      This is because it is much harder to explain how bear or pig /cow like creatures would evolve into whales and go chasing squid .
      Give me your say ten point stage of how this would happen in your own words.
      You will not be able to do this since the DNA of a bear
      would need about a billion changes to get it to a whale.
      What on earth would design these changes and test them etc. What would the bear or pig live on while they wait for the sonar and about millions of other bio apparatus to develop.
      NATURAL SELECTION is not a design process – it can weed out bad design but it can’t design or develop anything.

      Looking forward to your clear ten stage plan of how the mammal like a bear can become say a dolphin.

      No changing the subject now or linking to talk origins
      – must be your own words – now give us a real laugh.

      • Sorry mate – you had your chance to engage with what I wrote but chose not to . Instead, you say I should present you with a fucking essay? Who do you think you are, barking out commands that I must comply with? And more importantly who the fuck do you think I am that you expect me to consider complying with your petty diktats?

        Simply – go and study. Learn about evolution from scientists, if you have the intellectual ability (which I doubt). If you can understand evolutionary theory without having to force it to comply with your ridiculous theistic conceits about an “Intelligent Designer”, then you may have something that can be engaged with.

        In the meantime I have better things to do with my time than arguing with religious nutters who cannot strip away “God” from their myopic worldview.

  8. Adrian -It was not an essay but just say ten stages of say cow evolving to whale -you know what would make the DNA of a cow change into that of a whale – I knew you would find it impossible – to concoct the driving force of design.
    Actually we share only about 90-95% of our DNA with
    chimps – but there are also control genes which can switch on and off millions of code.
    Also -10% difference of DNA with chimps could be 200- 300 million base pairs – this is a lot of difference.
    You have nearly 3 billion DNA base pair codes designing Adrian down to the minutest detail – this is the power of God.

    Dont believe the lie and end up in the lake of fire – you
    were created by a loving and tender hearted God – it is
    just that the whole of creation ( which is still beautiful)
    is under a curse just now until the return of Jesus.

  9. THE BIG BANG ?
    Adrian you could not make a single atom. How could
    all the matter in the universe come out of a tiny dot in a few seconds. Who would apply the balancing equations for the electrons protons etc. How would this happen in a few minutes and how would the helium and hydrogen change into elements like gold
    and uranium. Even the so called echos of the big bang is disputed by the eggheads – any fairy story that
    excludes God and therefore judgement is accepted.

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