Darwinian Debating Devices

Darwinian Debating Device #2: The “Turnabout” Tactic

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Recently Eric Anderson started a series on Darwinian Debating Devices, to which I submit the following contribution: “turnabout.”

KF has a great explication of this debating tactic at his website, which I summarize: This fallacy turns on blaming the victim by implying or asserting (a) moral equivalency through pretended equality of blame for the cycle of attacks; or (b) trying to give the false impression that the victim trying to defend himself is the one who started the quarrel.

Yesterday a long-term guest gave us a pristine example of the turnabout tactic. It started when william spearshake posted a comment noting that he was “no longer with us.’ As this is frequently the terminology used when a troll has been banned from the site, I added a note to the comment stating that william, not I, had posted the comment.  I added: “We will miss him. As we said in one of our posts, he certainly provided us with a rich vein of materialist error to mine.”

DK called me a liar. He wrote: “This is bogus. WS would not have shouted like this.”

I took umbrage with being called a liar.

DK then went into full turnabout mode:

#1: “Indeed, I do understand that I questioned your veracity. People question other peoples’ veracity all the time, without the questioned person having a fit about it. Why are you so obsessed with establishing your honesty with disparagement of the questioner?”

#2: “in this instance you seemed relieved to have one of your recent perceptive critics out of your hair.”

#3: “Or is it your ambition to run a self-contratulatory echo chamber ad infinitum?”

Note how DK, caught in his outrageous and inexcusable behavior, tries to turn the tables by accusing his victim (i.e., me) of being the one in the wrong.

In subsequent comments I pointed out that he was lying if he says people don’t usually get upset when they are called liars. I noted that #2 was the exact opposite of the truth; I expressed regret that WS had left, not relief. Finally, I said #3 was ironic coming from a critic who has posted hundreds of comments on this site since 2006.

DK responded with the outrageous accusation that I had been “surveilling” him since 2006. [ The truth is that WordPress makes it easy to find out how many comments a poster had made and when he started posting.] DK ended his tirade with this: “Barry, have you no decency?” The sheer audacity of this turnabout tactic is breathtaking, and I have to admit that when I saw it I just sort of stared at my computer screen for a few minutes, slack jawed in astonishment at the scale of DK’s mendacity. I thought about posting a further defense and then thought better of it. I decided that reasonable people would see through DK’s tactics for themselves, and if they did not there was probably no help for them. I was gratified when StephenB posted the following summary of the exchange:


Barry, have you no decency?

Since DK keeps pushing it, it think we should revisit the events as they happened.
BA says that he will miss William Spearshake and the opportunity to expose his errors.
DK challenges Barry’s honesty and insinuates that he has other motives [*false charge #1]
Barry takes umbrage
DK shrugs it off by saying the people challenge other people’s honesty all the time.
Barry points out that no one likes to be called a liar
DK repeats the charge without a shred of evidence (It “seems” as if Barry was glad to “get WS out of his hair.”) [*False charge #2]
DK implies that Barry want to preside over a self-congratulatory echo chamber. [*False charge #3]
Barry issues a reminder that DK has been posting his objections here for nine years without interference.
DK ignores the refutation and characterizes Barry’s allusion to the written record as an indicator that Barry has been “surveilling” his activities. [*False charge #4]
Barry calls attention to DK’s false charges.
DK takes umbrage, arguing that what he did was no different than what Barry did. [*false charge #5]

It is difficult for me to wrap my head around the sheer vindictive nastiness of the false accusations. Even now at a day’s remove I am astonished and overwhelmed by his verbal violence. I don’t understand (and perhaps never will understand) why someone would, unprovoked, launch such a vicious verbal assault. But with this post I am trying to make a little lemonade; because I could hardly hope for a better illustration of the turnabout tactic.

Update:  DK has apologized for his behavior.  I consider the matter closed.

7 Replies to “Darwinian Debating Device #2: The “Turnabout” Tactic

  1. 1
    Querius says:


    Some years back, I had a similar experience on a popular blog in which I happened to express my doubts regarding Darwinism when the subject came up. In spite of maintaining my composure and even-handedness, I was the recipient of hysterical hostility, wild accusations and “verbal violence” to the degree that it disturbed me deeply.

    I was astonished at the degree of hostility that I received, and I was surprised at how it affected me! When new members began wondering in their posts at why I should be receiving all this hostility, and I started striking up calm, reasonable, and intelligent conversations with some of them, I was then unceremoniously booted off, with the words, “I know what you’re trying to do.”


    I guess I needed to realize that it was NOT me personally that they hated. When they couldn’t refute me, they had to no choice but to respond with hatred, accusations, and every manipulative tactic they’d ever used. My being polite and reasonable made it worse, not better.

    What changed my approach in such situations was the example set by Jesus in this exchange:

    John 8:41-59 New King James Version (NKJV)

    You do the deeds of your father.”

    Then they said to Him, “We were not born of fornication; we have one Father—God.”

    Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me. Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word. You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me. Which of you convicts Me of sin? And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me? He who is of God hears God’s words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God.”
    Before Abraham Was, I AM

    Then the Jews answered and said to Him, “Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?”

    Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon; but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me.

    It continues until the Jewish religious leaders pick up stones to kill him. Analyzing the entire exchange is instructive in my opinion.


  2. 2
    News says:

    One way to see it: Darwinism is a pop culture belief trying to be science. That brings out the worst. We can throw the multiverse, global warming, and almost anything Hollywood can easily front into the mix.

    The fraud seeps in unbidden. Indeed, it is demanded. The charlatan’s miracles must be big, not life-sized.

    Only God’s miracles need to be life-sized (because they must fit exactly, not just as a big, vague idea).

    Darwin’s theory started out as a proposition in science (Monarch butterflies taste bad, so Viceroys learned to mimic them, wing panel by wing panel, through natural selection). That didn’t turn out to be true, but it was a great simple idea.

    If simple is all you want.

    Then people applied it to everything from how life originated to how Canadians can become a separate species from Americans (Karl Giberson)

    Of course, by then it was all going to blazes, with court orders demanding that the nonsense be taught in schools.

    Right now, Darwin’s theory is a direct impediment to understanding how documentable changes in life forms can occur over time.

    Maybe Darwin didn’t intend this, but he enabled a whole bunch of people to think they are “intellectually” fulfilled by an incorrect theory, and justified in behaving in a socially crazy way in consequence.

  3. 3
    Box says:

    The series “Darwinian Debating Devices” should include group tactics. The Spearshake-King-combo can serve as a stunning starting point.

  4. 4
    DavidD says:

    Querius “What changed my approach in such situations was the example set by Jesus in this exchange”

    John 8:41-59 New King James Version (NKJV)

    Actually that is a good observation and one I have observed and used in the past. Evolutionists, Especially the snarky atheistic ones follow the exact same argumentative script used by Satan the Devil in his accusations against God. So let’s analyze from the very beginning and reveal the incredible similarities which have been around for thousands of years and are in fact nothing new or unique as far as what Evolutionists think is their version of Enlightenment and combative behavior. Take Genesis Chapter 3

    Satan as a coward begins by using a Sock-Puppet [Serpent Rev 12:9 – in fact he is the original inventor of the sock-puppet] as opposed to being honest and open as to who he is or what his true intentions are or his motive. He proposes a question in a casual friendly manner feigning some type of phony interest in Eve personal welfare. His question starts off “Is it really true . . ?” First off he knows full well the truth of the command given, but his aim is to lie and deceive. 2 Corinthians 11:4 says, Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light”. In other words he hides behind a Sock, claiming to want only civil dialog and common ground all the time hiding his true motives. Any of this sound familiar so far ?

    Here are his snarky smartass demands and hidden agenda questions and statements to Jesus during the period of accusation/testing in that wilderness. I rarely use this translation, but I’ll quote from the Message Bible translation because it offers the best full flavor of belligerence of any other translation for illustrative purposes: Matthew Chapter 4

    1) In a state of extreme hunger, which the Devil took advantage of in the first test: “Since you are God’s Son, speak the word that will turn these stones into loaves of bread.”

    2) For the second test the Devil took him to the Holy City. He sat him on top of the Temple and said, “Since you are God’s Son, jump.” The Devil goaded him by quoting Psalm 91: “He has placed you in the care of angels. They will catch you so that you won’t so much as stub your toe on a stone.”

    3) For the third test, the Devil took him to the peak of a huge mountain. He gestured expansively, pointing out all the earth’s kingdoms, how glorious they all were. Then he said, “They’re yours—lock, stock, and barrel. Just go down on your knees and worship me, and they’re yours.”

    Then there is the snarkiness and accusations against Gog directly during Job’s experience. Now using the same Message Bible translation for illustrative purposes only:

    1st test) Satan retorted, “So do you think Job does all that out of the sheer goodness of his heart? Why, no one ever had it so good! You pamper him like a pet, make sure nothing bad ever happens to him or his family or his possessions, bless everything he does—he can’t lose!

    2nd test on Job) “A human would do anything to save his life. But what do you think would happen if you reached down and took away his health? He’d curse you to your face, that’s what.”

    Later on in the biblical account of Job, Satan employs three false friends as phony comforters to Job’s plight. Satan has the underground criminal organization as that of most any Mafia Crime Boss or Insane Dictator who is to much of a coward to personally do his own dirty work and so hires others to take care of that kind of business for him, again employing Sock-Puppetry and pretending to want only common ground dialog and understanding. Again, any of this sound remotely familiar ? Common ground to an evolutionist is that you accept and believe everything that comes from their lips.

    So yes, the comparison Querius is a superb one.

  5. 5
    Axel says:

    News @#2

    One way to see it: Darwinism is a pop culture belief trying to be science.

    Bingo! LOL. Absolutely spot on! It explains how putatively academic texts can be read like a comic – without a shred of substantive, professional content. ‘Thoughtfully analyzing their own conjectures makes for great humour though, doesn’t it? Forrrest! FORREST!

    ‘Maybe Darwin didn’t intend this, but he enabled a whole bunch of people to think they are “intellectually” fulfilled.’

    ‘Intellectually fulfilled’? Intellectual Titans!

  6. 6
    Axel says:

    Or should that be ‘deconstructing’ their own conjectures/flights of fancy?

  7. 7
    Daniel King says:

    Barry, it’s excruciatingly painful to admit that I was wrong, but I’m admitting it: I apologize.

    Thank you for reminding me that I’m not as clever as I like to think I am. I was rude in the first place in questioning your honesty and then I kept escalating the injury. I was carried away by PRIDE, my sin of sins.

    If you continue to accept my posts, I’ll focus on avoiding personal attacks and restrict myself to substantive matters.

    And if you don’t, I still thank you for this teachable moment.

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