Tektonics Ministry "J.P. Holding"/Robert Turkel

Tactics

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A sampling of Turkel's debate tactics is examined below.


Robert "No Links" Turkel

In most instances Turkel does not link to the articles he critiques or to the responses of the debaters he replies to. This has earned him the nickname "No Links." This tactic makes it less likely that readers will see the articles that Turkel attacks and it makes it less likely that readers will see Turkel's "arguments" dissected and dismissed as illogical, false and fallacious. Most people simply will not devote the time needed to hunt down the articles and the other debaters' responses. Furthermore, this particular manuever makes it easier for Turkel to misrepresent what the other people write.

In reply to criticisms of his no-link policy, Turkel has claimed that the articles and his opponents' responses can be found by searching on Google. The obvious question, of course, is why anyone should have to use Google to do this in the first place. Turkel doesn't say, nor does he explain why he is more than happy to pack his site with links to Christian articles. Why not simply allow people to find these Christian articles using Google?

What is ironic about this no-link strategem is that Turkel has a Master's Degree in Library Science. He has spent years being trained to connect people with the information they seek. Yet now he does what he can to prevent people from reading the articles that he attacks and the responses of many of those that he debates.

Here are some of Farrell Till's comments on Turkel's reticence to create links:

"Why the difference? Why is it that my website gives readers easy access to Turkel's articles by clearly posted links, whereas Turkel's doesn't? He will deny it, of course, but I think that any reasonable person can see that it is a difference in the personal confidence that each of us has in the positions he is defending. I believe that my replies to his articles are thorough and sound in rebutting his positions, but he knows that his defenses are weak, evasive, and at times even downright ridiculous, and so he does everything possible to keep his readers from seeing exactly what he is supposed to be answering. Thus, he denies links to his readers and tries to hide his evasion and apologetic incompetence beneath continuous streams of sarcasm and insults, as if these can substitute for logical argumentation. By not linking his readers to my articles, he can also quote selectively so that his readers will not see the arguments and rebuttals that he evades."


Let's Make A Deal: The Question Dodge

As a Christian apologist promoting highly questionable claims, Turkel is often faced with troubling questions that he will not or cannot answer. In response, Turkel has developed a variety of ways of dodging these questions. He will sometimes respond to a difficult question by claiming that he already answered the question. However, Turkel will not paste in the answer or clearly say where his supposed answer is located (see below). Turkel will also throw around insults with impunity and use excessive bluster to obscure the fact that he is not answering a question. The "let's make a deal" dodge is yet another weapon in Turkel's arsenal of apologist rhetoric: Turkel will sometimes respond to a question that he cannot or will not answer by asking the questioner to fulfill some nearly impossible challenge or solve some obscure riddle before he will answer the question. This delaying tactic is employed when Turkel is backed into a corner, such as when he is asked about his young earth creationist beliefs. Turkel actually believes that the book of Genesis represents historic fact, yet he is apparently aware of how ridiculous this belief appears to others-even to other Christians-and he refuses to discuss the topic.

In the following exchange, Turkel was asked to explain why he believes that the earth is only a few thousand years old. Turkel tried to avoid the question by claiming that he was not knowledgeable about the relevant science and so therefore he was not qualified to speak on the subject. On top of this rationalization, however, he also added in the "let's make a deal" dodge. Here is the exchange:

Brooks: "In any case, the supposition underlying your essay is that Genesis is an accurate portrayal of events a few thousand years ago (this time-line is based on a genealogy of Jesus to Adam given in the third chapter of Luke). If it is your contention that Genesis is an accurate portrayal of the geological, meteorological and biological history 6000 or 10,000 years ago, I think I can provide a reasonable amount of evidence to show that you are mistaken. Want me to try?"

Robert: "Nope. Unlike you I do not venture into realms where I do not have knowledge, and my science knowledge is minimal, as I will freely admit."

(snip)

Brooks: "Let's put aside Deuteronomy, and move on to Genesis. You wrote an essay that attempted to reconcile the two creation accounts given in Genesis. Whether or not you were successful in resolving the disagreements between the two creation accounts is a moot point, in my opinion. You are missing the forest for the trees. There is a far bigger and more basic issue that you completely fail to address. In my previous e-mail, I explained to you that the Bible puts this creation event within the last 6000 years (see the genealogy for Jesus given in Luke 3). Bishop James Ussher (1581-1656), actually calculated the creation of the universe to have been in the year 4004, BC. Today we know that the earth is quite a bit older than 6000 or 10,000 or even 100,000 years. You refused to take up this subject in your last e-mail, writing: 'Unlike you I do not venture into realms where I do not have knowledge, and my science knowledge is minimal, as I will freely admit.' I would suggest to you that it is not necessary to earn a science degree or to be a scientist to understand and accept that the earth is not and cannot be only a few thousand years old. It does not take a PhD in astrophysics to see this, just a sixth grade education and some measure of common sense."

(snip)

Robert: "That you think that such complex matters as this, and Noah's Ark (which you go on to refer to) can be resolved by someone with 'just a sixth grade education and some measure of common sense' (is that a self-description by you?) only shows how naive you are. Well, Brooks, I'll tell you what, here's a deal for you. In my opinion, you too are missing rather a significant forest, and are failing to address many things you ought to, and fail to deal with issues that have very serious implications for everything else that is written on your site, including many things that are basic and foundational and just too large to ignore. So, I'll make a deal with you. I have a bibliography of at least 150 books for you to read that cover these foundational issues. You can make a corresponding list for me, and we'll go at it simultaenously. What do you say?"

Turkel knew that he could not defend his belief in a young earth so he tried to avoid the question by using a rationalization and by manufacturing an absurd challenge-the "let's make a deal" dodge.

To see more examples of the dodges that Turkel employs to avoid troubling questions, go here.


Falsely Claims To Have Answered Questions

Turkel will claim to have answered a question when in fact he has not. When he is asked to cut and paste the answer he supposedly gave, he will not do so since he never answered the question in the first place. Many people would refer to this as lying.

Here is an example from a debate with Farrell Till:

Turkel(2):
We have shown conclusive evidence of such fulfillment, with respect to the conditions of the contract, above and below,

Till:
Above and below! Turkel continually claims that he has answered thus and so "above and below," but somehow I can't seem to find "above and below." This guy is the king of cutters and pasters. As readers of this debate have seen, he will cut and paste over and over and over an evasive quibble [misspelled words and grammatical mistakes included], but for some reason he never bothers to cut and paste any of those many answers that he claims he has given "above and below." A simple cutting and pasting would settle the issue of whether he has answered a rebuttal argument, but he never takes the time to do it. I'll let readers draw their own conclusions about why he repeatedly answers rebuttals with claims that he has answered them "above and below."

Another example is located here.


Denigration

A Turkel favorite. Turkel will disparage, belittle and vilify those he debates with in an effort to lessen the power of their arguments. Turkel will attack the person's appearance, age, job and homelife, among other things. This denigration extends to the authors of whatever sources the debater may be using to support his or her arguments. This, of course, is known as the ad hominem fallacy. Interestingly Turkel recognizes this as a fallacy yet he is more than happy to employ personal attacks in defense of his fundamentalist beliefs.

Turkel's relentless spewing of childish insults often causes his debate opponents to find other, more productive uses for their time. Once the other debaters stop responding to Turkel due to his infantile behavior, Turkel may actually claim that the other debaters could not withstand the power of his stupendous intellect. (see the entries on Arrogance and Misrepresentation)

Chris Hallquist comments on this tactic: Holding says "putting me on edge" was one of his main motives for creating the thread. I find this comment interesting, because it suggests that the tedious insult fluff which Holding has made his trademark is part of some strange form of psychological warfare. It's as if Holding wants people to lose all hope of having an intelligent conversation with him, something that has indeed happened in several cases. This makes me feel more confident in my decision to ignore the majority of Holding's fluff.

Turkel often tries to justify his use of grade-school insults by referring to something he calls the "challenge-riposte paradigm." Humorously, this justification was described as "silly" by the author Turkel repeatedly cited to make the justification. See here.

Examples of the Turkel personal attack strategem can be found here but can also be seen in virtually every Internet debate Turkel has ever taken part in.


Arrogance

This tactic is described in a Tektonics.org essay.

"If you play the nice guy, you're likely to get swarmed, not by any irrefutable arguments, but rather, by a veritable skyscraper of excess and inflammatory verbiage. And unfortunately, there are those, on both sides of the argument, who are persuaded by such things. We are humans, not computers, and a show of confidence or arrogance does, to some, seem to equate with being the victor."

As a Christian speculating wildly about the existence of some mysterious, bizarre supernatural realm, Turkel may not really understand what he is writing from one response to the next in a debate, but he is always keen to maintain a "show of confidence or arrogance" regardless of this in order to appear to be the "victor" and thus protect his readers from any doubt that might endanger their eternal "souls."

Examples of this strategem can be seen here.


Misrepresentation

This tactic works especially well if readers do not read the other debater's responses-and of course Turkel tries to prevent readers from reading critical responses by not linking to them and, in some cases, not naming the authors. (To be fair Turkel does link to the responses of some of those he debates).

Farrell Till describes numerous examples here.

Brian Holtz documents some examples of Turkel's misrepresentation here.

Jim Lippard cites an example of this here.

Chris Hallquist points out several examples here.

Richard Carrier cites several examples of Turkel's misrepresentations here.


Making Up Answers

Turkel will sometimes resort to simply making answers up off the top of his head when he is responding to theological questions or when he is pressed to explain himself in other matters. For example, in a debate with Farrell Till, Turkel claimed-erroneously-that a certain word in Matthew-"rise again"-was repeated twice "for emphasis." It turned out that the word was not repeated twice. What happened was that the computer software that Turkel was using incorrectly repeated it. So Turkel just made up his explanation for the repeated word off the top of his head and presented it as if he knew what he was talking about when, obviously, in retrospect, he didn't. Turkel has since removed his comment about the "repeated" word from his reply to Till.

In another instance, Turkel was accused of redirecting a link in a Bible skeptic's response to an article on his site, Tekton Apologetic Ministries. Turkel claimed that he simply made an honest mistake, but his answer did not stand up to scrutiny.

Here is another example of Turkel fabricating an answer out of thin air. (from Richard Carrier):

"Indeed, the truth is so irrelevant to Holding, that when he can't find facts to help him, he just makes them up. Besides the examples already presented above, his dismissal of my example of Eleazar the Galilean is another case in point. He tries to discredit this example by asserting that 'in order to become a scholar, he had to leave Galilee and be tutored, very likely in the prestigious city of Jerusalem.' There is no basis whatever for this claim. Holding just made it up out of the blue. How does Holding know there were no schools in Galilee? He doesn't. He just asserts it. Since the sources say there was a sect of rabbis called the Galileeans, who were often at odds with the Jerusalem rabbis, it is simply incredible to think that these Galileeans went to schools in Jerusalem. And even if you think it plausible, there is still no evidence that any of them did, and no evidence that Ezeazar did, or even would have. But Holding 'can't' be wrong, so he gets to make up any 'facts' he wants to secure his case."

Farrell Till has documented many examples of Turkel redefining Greek words and manufacturing how-it-could-have-been solutions for Bible problems. These solutions just don't hold up to examination and are examples of more made up, bogus Turkel answers.



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An examination of "J.P. Holding"
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updated 11/25/06