[ref001] The Sound of Silence [ref002] The Sound of Silence An old Simon and Garfunkle son

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[ref001] The Sound of Silence [ref002] The Sound of Silence An old Simon and Garfunkle song spoke of the sound of silence, a term that is becoming more and more descriptive of the way that Christian fundamentalists are choosing to respond to the evidence that disputes the Bible inerrancy doctrine. Long-time subscribers to The Skeptical Review know that we have always had an editorial policy that grants equal space to inerrancy believers who want to respond to our articles. In view of their dogmatic claim that the Bible is the inerrant word of God, one would think that there would have been a mad rush by fundamentalists to take advantage of our offer so that they could enlighten us silly skeptics who reject the inerrancy doctrine, but instead they have consistently run from the opportunity to present their evidence to the hundreds of atheists and skeptics who subscribe to our paper. First, there was Wayne Jackson, editor of Christian Courier and co-editor of Reason and Revelation, whose pro-inerrancy articles in these publications were often quoted, reviewed, or reprinted simultaneously with our rebuttal articles. We always sent him advanced copies of any such article with an offer of equal space if he wished to respond. All of these offers were met with the sound of silence. He has the truth, and there isn't a chance in the world that his position is wrong, yet he has no interest in using a forum that would give him an audience of hundreds that would otherwise be unavailable to him. He prefers preaching to the choir in journals that go primarily into homes that are already convinced that his inerrancy view is right. That doesn't make a lot of sense. Next came Lindell Mitchell, who tried his luck at vindicating God for ordering the massacre of babies. We all remember what happened to him. After two articles, he unilaterally declared victory and dropped out in a flurry of insults and assurances that he would not continue the discussions ("From the Mailbag," Spring 1994, p. 15). Well, he is back in this issue with letters that editor Farrell Till has responded to (see pages 2-4), which response Mitchell has again declined the opportunity to reply to. In a letter to Till after receiving an advanced copy of this article, he made it clear that his reaction will be only partial silence: It is tempting to let you sink back in the cesspool of obscurity you deserve. However, because other "free-thinkers" accept some of your absurd quibbles uncritically, I plan to deal with them in the Firm Foundation occasionally. Your name and location will not be used, but you will find it interesting (August 9, 1994). See what we mean about preferring to preach to the choir? Mitchell is vitally concerned about "free-thinkers" who uncritically accept Till's absurd quibbles, but he chooses to "deal with them" in a religious journal that is read primarily by members of his own little faction rather than in TSR, where the impeccable logic in his arguments would be seen by hundreds of "uncritical freethinkers." Does he seriously believe that freethinkers are so "uncritical" that they won't see right through a rationalization as transparent as this one? The man doesn't have a leg to stand on, he knows that he doesn't, so he is desperately groping for some face-saving way to get out of a situation he wishes he had never gotten into. Viewers who have watched the tapes of the Moffitt-Till Debate saw Moffitt's moderator, Marion Fox, assure the audience that he was going to write an article "in the next few months" that would respond to the contradiction pointed out in "No Bastards Allowed" (TSR, Spring 1994, pp. 7,12,16). This announcement came after Till had presented the problem during the debate and challenged the bevy of preachers in the audience to give a satisfactory explanation of the problem before the debate was over. Not a single preacher spoke to Till about it, but at the beginning of the third session, Fox announced that he would write the article and went on to say that there were some "good answers" to the problem. Although Till spoke up from his seat and assured the audience that he would publish the article, as this issue goes to press, nothing has been heard from Fox concerning these "good answers" to the problem, even though more than just "the next few months" have gone by. So the sound of silence continues here too. In the same debate, Moffitt interrupted one of Till's speeches and announced that he would debate the prophecy issue. An on-the-spot agreement was reached to have a written debate on the subject, and the tapes show Moffitt assuring Till that he would arrange his work schedule so that he could resume a written debate that he and Till already had in progress on the inerrancy issue, finish it, and then begin the one on prophecy. At that time, it had been over two years since Moffitt had last contributed a manuscript to the debate already in progress. As this edition of TSR goes to press, six months after the oral debate, Moffitt still has not written another manuscript for the inerrancy debate, so, needless to say, the prophecy debate is nowhere close to starting. The sound of silence is beginning to scream in Portland, Texas. So what is happening here? Why would Mitchell choose to expose Till's "absurd quibbles" for the benefit of "uncritical freethinkers" but do so in a journal that few freethinkers will ever read? Why would Fox announce to an audidience of fundamentalists that he would write an article that would give some "good answers" to a contradiction Till had alleged and then not write the article? Why would Moffitt stand up before the same audience and announce that he would debate Till on the prophecy issue and then not do it? Well, logicians have an expression that explains it. It is called "playing to the gallery," i.e., saying what the debater knows will have a strong emotional appeal to his audience. When Mitchell publishes his "exposure" of Till's "absurd quibbles" in a one-sided religious journal, he will be preaching to the choir. His readers will lay the paper aside thinking, "Wow, Brother Mitchell sure ripped that atheist to pieces," but they will never hear the evidence that supports Till's position. The fundamentalists in the audience who saw Fox's and Moffitt's performances left the debate thinking that their preachers were going to put another atheist in his place. Most of them will never realize that their beloved preachers merely played to the gallery and then responded with the sound of silence when it was time to make good their promises. Like Mitchell's Firm-Foundation readers, they will never hear the other side of the issue or even know that their men copped out. So what are these inerrancy champions up to? They would never admit it, but it seems to be what was, strangely enough, expressed in another old song. They want to "hang on to what [they've] got." They know that their position is too untenable to persuade objective minds to accept it, so they have adopted a holding-action strategy. They will take on an adversary now and then in public debate but not to try to reach the undecided or the openly skeptical; they will just play to the gallery and hope to hang on to what they've got. It's a free country, so they may do as they please, but our mail suggests that their strategy isn't working. Little by little, they're losing ground. 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