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Dave Armstrong very kindly retracted some of the rhetorical flourishes in one of his recent pieces. We are both surely victim to such, and it is something I must shy away from.

He recently commented:

You cited me:

Atheist anti-theist polemicist Jonathan MS Pearce wrote in his screed…

As long as Pearce keeps lying about the Bible, I will keep exposing it. His choice. He can continue to embarrass himself and the atheist community if he likes. I don’t see what reward he gets out of that: as long as the lies continue to be exposed for what they are…. I have a big problem with intellectual dishonesty (upon correction) and intransigent refusal to retract statements that have been proven to be false.

As I just stated in a comment on your blog, I will apologize and retract if you show me where I have attacked you personally. Here, I apologize for using the phrase “intellectual dishonesty.” I must have been overly frustrated. I don’t believe this about you (as you do about me, having called me “disingenuous” several times now).

So I will change that language (and thank you for highlighting it). “Lying” can have a second meaning of simply “falsehood” but probably only one person in a hundred knows that (anyone can look it up in a dictionary). That was what I intended above, but people always take it to mean “deliberate lying” and so it’s not good to use the word if the charge is simply spewing falsehood.

I changed the above paragraph to the following:

As long as Pearce keeps stating falsehoods about the Bible, I will keep exposing it. His choice. He can continue to embarrass himself and the atheist community if he likes. I don’t see what reward he gets out of that: as long as the falsehoods continue to be exposed for what they are. Or he can act in a more scholarly, objective fashion (as a self-described “philosopher” should) and retract and remove his erroneous statement. We all make mistakes. I have no problem with mistakes. But I have a big problem with refusing to be open to correction and intransigent refusal to retract statements that have been proven to be false. If you’re gonna extol the glories of science (as I do myself; I love it), than put your money where your mouth is, get consistent, and live with its results.

Do you retract the charge of “disingenuous” thrown my way?

I started writing a comment back to him and realised it was taking me too long so it needed to become a post. Otherwise, what would I write about?! My comment went something like this:

First, I would have to remind myself of the exact context for my use of “disingenuous”. But having a stab at it: What does the word mean?

“not candid or sincere, typically by pretending that one knows less about something than one really does.”

Here, I would focus om the first part. And this adds a lot:

“A disingenuous remark might contain some superficial truth, but it is delivered with the intent to deceive or to serve some hidden purpose. Its base word ingenuous (derived from a Latin adjective meaning “native” or “freeborn”) can describe someone who, like a child, is innocent or lacking guile or craftiness. English speakers began frequently joining the negative prefix dis- with ingenuous to create disingenuous during the 17th century.”

This, if I recall correctly, was about the use of sources. What gets me is you appear to have cherry-picked many of your sources without reading them in full or appreciating the finer details of what they were saying.

So, if I am correct in my assessment (as I have shown in my articles, in my humble opinion), then this leads to two options:

1) You know you are doing this, but there is a reason for you doing this (i.e., ideological). This would certainly fall under “disingenuous”.

2) You are unaware you are doing this. This means you are either rushing or are not very good at surveying sources, not being careful enough, and just lifting quotes that you think do the job without understanding the true context or full scope of the work. Applying sources to one area that don’t really apply because they are relevant to a different area is also something you do. This would not be disingenuous per se if unintentional (though I would question why you would see fit to rush your use of sources in such a way that this happens, and continue to do so after this having been pointed out to you in previous pieces – so this could then actually be disingenuous). However, if it is not disingenuous, this is then either sloppy, rushed or intellectually ignorant (in a technical sense), or all of the above, or some other combination of terms similar to this.

So, take your pick. I personally think your analysis of your sources has, at several points over the extent of our love affair, been sloppy and quote-miney at best, looking like you haven’t really read the whole papers etc etc., and applying them in problematic ways. Whether this is intentional, I can only guess.

This could be an example:

Me: And by “get to your piece” I mean your claim about pitch because you have conveniently ignored EVERYTHING else mentioned in this piece. This article is about Moses being a copy of Sargon of Akkad. You talk about pitch and then claim to have refuted me… So I might bother to get to it if you can bother refuting the stuff about Sargon.

Armstrong: Right. I have no interest in that argument. I’m interested in what archaeology can show us about biblical claims.

This is incredible. Armstrong claims he is (by inference, only?) interested in archaeological claims I make, and not biblical-historical ones.


Because that is literally not the case in virtually every other article he has written.

Which I labelled “intellectual dishonesty” – see the context in the original piece.

As I questioned in that post:

Did pitch exist in the Nile area in between those dates, and was it used for waterproofing?

As Armstrong points out, pitch was known in the Indus Valley area (not relevant), Sumeria (very relevant since this is the cultural milieu of Sargon of Akkad) and “Ancient Egypt”. How ancient, and in the right places?

Indeed, this was the article in which I called him “disingenuous”. Read it again, and then the next [here] few [here] pieces [here] to see [here] what you think yourselves. it is his use of sources that I highlighted that I labelled disingenuous.

So, here it is: I apologise for calling you “disingenuous” when, on the other hand, you might have been sloppy, careless, rushed and intellectually facile in not realising you were applying sources erroneously, and/or were lacking in any kind of nuance.

Whilst this may sound harsh, here’s the good news: I assume you think the same of my work and my use of sources. I presume you have not changed your mind, either (remember, I changed my probability assessment). And I  presume that, in not changing your mind, you think my conclusions are wrong. It really has to be the case that either my work is sound and you have changed your mind, or my work is not sound enough to have changed your mind. So, if my work is good enough for me, but not good enough for you, to believe a certain conclusion, what gives?

So, again I presume that you think either my use of sources is poor, or my conclusions are poor, though derived from a good use of sources (or both).

Which is to say that you either think I am disingenuous or intellectually sloppy, too.

You’re in good company, then.

Of course, I’m not sure you would be rational in thinking such, given the depth I have analysed most of these sources, including bleeding well translating one from French into English for you, and having reference to another one being translated from German to English, and even presenting parts of sources that may not prima facie accord with my conclusions, and seeing how and why this might be so and what could explain the discord.

Anyway, apologies if I got the “disingenuous” labelling wrong. If I did, be sure to read my past and future pieces because they may help you improve on the intellectual sloppiness.

All the best,


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Jonathan MS Pearce

A TIPPLING PHILOSOPHER Jonathan MS Pearce is a philosopher, author, columnist, and public speaker with an interest in writing about almost anything, from skepticism to science, politics, and morality,...