Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Dan Barker: Yes, I've Made the Same Argument for Seventeen Years. So What?
09/28/2009 - James WhiteAs soon as I got into the office today I went over to my atheism section in my library and pulled down Dan Barker's 1992 publication, Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist. This book is the immediate predecessor of Godless which came out, not two years ago as Dan recalled in the debate, but in 2008. I immediately began thumbing through the book, and very quickly encountered chapter 51, beginning on page 359. Now, there may be some minor editing of this chapter as it appears in Godless (pp. 251ff), but the sub-headings are the same, as are the citations.
Consider for a moment what this means. Dan Barker has been promoting the Barbara Walker "Mithraism parallels" foolishness, in print, for seventeen years. Seventeen years! Same argument---even to having eight self-contradictory "natural explanations"---over the course of two books. And I replied to that argument. What else would you expect me to do? Dan Barker has been promoting the same material for nearly twenty years. Should I ignore the consistent argumentation, documented for nearly seventeen years, in print in books Dan Barker has been distributing through the Freedom From Religion Foundation and at all his speaking events, let alone on the very day of the debate, in the foyer of the church? If you have been presenting the same arguments for that long, and have never given the slightest indication (until your opening statement anyway!) of having changed your views, upon what possible grounds should I have concluded that I should ignore his own published arguments and respond to...something else?
Let's be honest here. If Dan Barker had a meaningful ethical foundation upon which to stand (his open, smiling, knowing violation of the rules of debate which we had discussed immediately before the debate during cross-examination gives you a good example of atheistic ethics) he would have had to act in the following fashion: first, he would have allowed me to make my opening statement without interruption. Then he would have gotten up and said, "James is right. For seventeen years I have promoted horrifically unscholarly arguments in my published books. And I am going to ask folks out in the foyer to take my books off the table and sell no more of them. I am going to take my book out of print and re-do the entire section on the historicity of Jesus." Of course, that would lead most folks to ask themselves a very logical question: "If he could promote such shallow and easily refuted material for nearly two decades, what does that say about the argumentation in the rest of his book?" Evidently, it is that very problem that kept Mr. Barker from owning up to his own failures. Instead, he tried as best he could to avoid taking responsibility for his own published arguments. He refused to repudiate Barbara Walker's material, instead saying he would have to "lower" his view of her "scholarship." What? Why not just admit her arguments are bogus? Because that would reflect on the vast majority of what Dan Barker has promoted as "serious" and meaningful scholarship all along. And that just isn't a possibility when you are Dan Barker. No, try to put it off on the Christian. Say he's trying to make this a debate about your book rather than the topic. Hope no one realizes that your book contains an entire chapter on the very topic of the debate and that you are obviously incapable of defending your published statements and arguments. At the same time, hope no one thinks enough about this to realize that you well knew White was going to torpedo your materials. You knew White would do his homework and Richard Carrier told you your published arguments are susceptible to powerful refutation. So whatever you do, don't man-up to your own works. Instead, throw up a smokescreen that surely won't save you in the eyes of Christians, who will all see that you are just ducking your scholarly responsibilities, but may keep your adoring followers happily chanting "Flying Spaghetti Monster."
Imagine for a moment that I agreed to debate one of the leading advocates of King James Onlyism. My book on that topic has been out for fourteen years now. And let's say that in my opening statement I did not use a single one of the arguments I used in my book. You might find that odd. But then, as soon as my opponent began to respond to the claims I've made on this topic for a decade and a half I interrupt and say, "Wait, this debate isn't about my book! Stick to the subject!" What would my action tell you? It would tell you that I am unwilling to stand behind my own claims, wouldn't it? Wouldn't that be an open confession that I have abandoned my original position and arguments, and therefore, repudiate them? Most assuredly. And that is exactly what Dan Barker did Saturday morning.
Let me provide a personal word here to Mr. Barker: Dan, when someone has published a book wherein he addresses in the public venue the topic of a debate, it is not only fair, proper, and simply necessary, to draw from those published sources in a scholarly, meaningful debate, it is the only way to do meaningful debate and the only way to show respect for one's opponent. It would have been disrespectful to ignore the fact that for seventeen years you had been distributing two books with the same arguments in them on the topic of this debate. It would be disrespectful to you, and even more so, disrespectful to the entire audience, to pass-by the primary source of your opponent's position, that being his own words! It seems to me, Dan, that you well knew (evidently, not by listening to serious, sober historical scholarship, but by your asking Richard Carrier) that your arguments on the topic of our debate in your published books are without merit and easily refuted. Instead of doing what you should have done, you attempted to cover over this fact. I find this behavior, coupled with your willing violation of the cross-examination rules (you recall you said you were "proud" to violate our pre-debate rules discussion, which gives us a real insight into the reality of your atheistic ethical system), truly reprehensible. Thankfully, these did not detract from the clarity of the debate and the facts presented therein, and I do hope you will promote the debate widely to your followers and supporters.