A Lesson in
Creationist Ethics Featuring
Walter ReMine and Fred Williams
Previously, I was a regular contributor at the Internet forum of the Organization of Creationist Websites (OCW). I posted simply under my first name, Robert, because I didn't want my privacy invaded by someone who might take exception to any of my arguments. The OCW board had long been my favorite Creationist operated board, because the moderation of the board was always very fair. Moderation, when it occurred, was very mild and fair to Creationists and evolutionists alike.
Creationist Fred Williams was also a regular contributor at the OCW board. Fred had posted several complaints over the moderation of the board, and he felt like changes needed to be made to attract some prominent Creationists. Walter ReMine, author of The Biotic Message, 1 is one of the more prominent names in Creationist circles. Fred had frequently argued Mr. ReMine's position on the board, and sometimes acted as his spokesman. Fred indicated that he might get some Creationists of Mr. ReMine's caliber to come to the board if stricter moderation was enacted.
On January 13, 2002, a series of announcements was made regarding the administration of the board. The two long time moderators both resigned and were replaced by four anonymous moderators. An announcement was made by Creationist Samuel Bollinger, which read in part "Although we highly value the input of all our members and realize we couldn't exist without you, the fact is 98% of our hits are visitors (lurkers). As a Christian YEC organization, we feel the board has not been meeting our expectations for these visitors."
The change in moderation was immediately noticeable. Two of the moderators, known simply as Moderator 3 and Moderator 4, were especially heavy-handed. Fred Williams had posted a new article critical of the fossil record.2 There were a number of clear errors and misrepresentations in the article, and he received feedback from several people. One of the long-time evolutionist posters on the board had an entire response to Mr. Williams deleted because one of the anonymous moderators (Moderator 3) declared that in his opinion, a single statement was a "clear misrepresentation". This had long been a catch phrase of Mr. Williams. This aroused suspicion about the identity of the new moderator, but I could not imagine that Mr. Williams would anonymously moderate a debate in which he was participating.
One of my posts was deleted the same day. I had posted several statements from Mr. Williams that were clear misrepresentations. Moderator 3 immediately deleted my post and then commented that in his opinion Mr. Williams was not guilty of misrepresentation. Two other posts were deleted for pointing out some of the atrocious grammatical errors in Williams' article. It was not lost on me that every post deleted to that point had been critical of Mr. Williams. However, it was still difficult for me to believe that Mr. Williams would actually engage in anonymous moderation in a debate in which he was participating.
The next day Mr. Williams posted a long rebuttal that contained a mildly off color remark. Moderator 3 had announced several times that he would not be a line item editor; that any post violating any aspect of the board rules would be completely deleted.
I decided to test the rules. I posted a reply that highlighted Mr. Williams' use of the off color term. Under the guidelines that had been clearly spelled out, Mr. Williams entire post should have been deleted, as it had been made clear that there would be no line item editing. However, in this case the offending term was merely removed, and a notation was added that indicated that the post had been edited by Moderator 3. All follow-ups that had mentioned Williams' use of the term were deleted. This incident had been a clearly biased application of the board rules, and solidified my suspicion that Mr. Williams was acting as an anonymous moderator to suppress dissenting opinions.
Walter ReMine Joins the Debate
Walter ReMine made his appearance on the board during the turmoil. He replied to an article by Dr. Scott Page regarding hominid evolution. In this article, Dr. Page pointed out a fundamental inconsistency in the Creationist position. Creationists like ReMine take the position that evolution is much too slow to account for the divergence of humans and chimps from a common ancestor in a few million years. However, Dr. Page pointed out that the DNA of chimpanzees and bonobos (pygmy chimpanzees) differs by millions of base pairs. This is inconsistent with the Creation model, unless the two are considered separate "kinds". However, this would have required the Ark to contain millions of species of closely related animals. There are a number of animals that Creationists generally consider to be from the same kind, but which differ by millions of DNA base pairs (wolves and coyotes, horses and zebras, etc.). Many of these differ by more base pairs than do humans and chimpanzees; hence the Creationist position is inconsistent.
Mr. ReMine responded and stated that Dr. Page was misrepresenting his position. Mr. ReMine clarified his argument. He stated that his argument did not concern the genetic differences between modern hominids, but between modern man and an alleged human/chimpanzee common ancestor. Mr. ReMine asserted that by applying the work of geneticist J. B. S. Haldane, he had shown that humans could have only accrued some 1667 fixed, beneficial mutations over the common ancestor during the past 10 million years. He further stated that this fact has been confused, obscured, and prematurely cast aside by biologists. But Mr. ReMine, an electrical engineer, indicated that his contribution had been to recognize the neglect on the part of these biologists (working within the field of their expertise) and to expose it.
At this point, I entered the debate and began to engage Mr. ReMine.3 The debate quickly degenerated as ReMine refused to answer direct questions. I simply requested that Mr. ReMine support the statements he made in his book. He continued to evade the questions, and became very testy. In his rebuttals, he began posturing by using terms like "grotesque misrepresentation" (many times), accused his critics of "trying to divert the discussion", "telling just-so stories" and "introducing confusion factors" and finally stated that we were "fringe evolutionists" using pseudonyms to promote our views. He got really hung up on the pseudonym issue and used it to try to distract from our arguments. Mr. ReMine accused me of diverting the discussion, and stated "And diverting the issue costs him nothing, because 'Robert' ... is anonymous." It turns out that this was an extraordinarily hypocritical statement.
During the dismantling of ReMine's thesis, Moderators 3 and 4 started wielding a heavy hand. Dr. Page had multiple posts gutted or deleted. ReMine boasted that he had not been refuted in the literature. Dr. Page pointed out that none of his claims were made in the literature, so of course they werent refuted in the literature. This post was deleted. Others weighed in on the argument and had their posts deleted. People who questioned the deletions had their posts deleted.
I wrote a long, detailed rebuttal to ReMine where I had bluntly pointed out all of his evasions, diversions, and refusal to answer direct questions central to his argument. My entire rebuttal, very damaging to Mr. ReMine's position, was deleted.
ReMine's final rambling post was left to stand unanswered despite multiple violations of board rules. I complained to the moderator about the double standards, and the response was effectively that perhaps Mr. ReMine had indeed violated the board rules, but sometimes moderators have to make judgment calls. The verdict from Moderator 3 was that ReMine's final post would stand unanswered. He also indicated that Mr. ReMine had clearly scored points in the debate by pointing out that I remained anonymous. This hypocrisy was soon to be exposed.
I was very certain that Moderator 3 was Fred Williams, so I confronted him about it in a private message. I received the following reply from Moderator 3:
Moderator 3: You have guessed incorrectly as to who I am. Mr Williams did not delete your post, I deleted your post! I will remain anonymous because it is important to objectivity. I suspect Mr Williams would NOT have removed your post as it is apparent you have a history with each other. This demonstrates my point.
Those words would come back to haunt him.
There were a number of complaints about the new board rules, and not only from evolutionists. Creationist Bob Moore, later revealed to be Moderator 2, wrote the following post:
Power and Prejudice, "Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely".
I have no idea how the board administration is organized, but I suggest that all administrators get together and devise some kind of uniform policy for dealing with remarks that might seem negative. Case in point: An individual, whom I have invested several months of theological discussion in, departs because mod 3 apparently didn't like some of his evo stuff. His departure notice was quite civil. His comments disappear within a day. Someone else notes this fact, and the irony of it, and his comment forthwith disappears. This is not good. Everyone, especially visitors, looks at the admin board. How is it profitable to display the fact that posts are frequently edited with hedge shears? This smacks of axe grinding, and should not be found on a board run by Christians. Perhaps requiring the concurrence of two or more administrators before deletion would alleviate the problem.
Another Creationist poster wrote:
Though I am a creationist, I do not like looking like I'm being pampered in a debate. Please moderators, ease up a little.
A number of the regular evolutionist posters also added comments:
Over moderation is death on BBs. I say that you guys should have far more of a "hands off" policy and only step in as a LAST resort. There have been far too many posts removed over the past couple days. It smacks of censorship and intimidation. Some of the posts that I have read before they were removed (such as Huxter's in response to ReMine), while hard-hitting, contained nothing that merited their removal that I could see (or at least that I remember--see, the problem is that since it is gone I have nothing to refer back to and see if I remember correctly. All I know it that I read it and now it is gone).
I won't tolerate this kind of overbearing use of the club to quash dissent or to remove the teeth from a given argument. If this is the way this board is going to operate, please forego the pretense of being an open board and just become a YEC only board like the ICR does. It would be more intellectually honest, at least, than going about chasing all us evos off. Writing, typing, and otherwise investing a lot of time, effort, and research into posts only to have them disappear or be pulled for a sentence somewhere that might offend someone quickly loses its charm.
Surely, Creationists on this board (including certain big name ones) are not such hot-house flowers that they need their collective hands held and must be shielded from us mean ol' evos.
It looks like the OCW doesn't like the way that the creationists get singed regularly. It doesn't like the message this is sending out to all the lurkers about so-called "creation science". So it's set about knobbling the arguments by deleting posts that are particularly damaging to the creationist argument for spurious reasons.
That's how it looks. I don't know how it is. But before the board dies, lets have some openness.
I agree with Faramir, I have just read something by John Boy that was edited by 'Moderator 3'. I do not know what John Boy had done by this moderator, whoever he is.
The moderation must be more open. Any editing of posts must be detailed, so that the style of moderation can be commented on.
Do not delete posts, but add posts describing why they should not be repeated.
When editing posts, describe what was offensive about it.
Remove the anonymity of the moderators.
Moderation is required on this site because it is a Christian site, so it has standards to maintain, but Christian standards include openness and honesty.
Fred Williams had complained a few weeks ago about not wanting to post on this board any more, and that he was going to try to have a 'science only' board set up that would be strictly moderated.
A few weeks later, look what we have!
A 'discussion' board that guts the posts of evolutionists, allows the posts of creationists - containing insults and aspersions - to remain unchecked.
Just what Fred wanted - a board where it looks like creation science has merit.
Of course, censorship is not that meritorious, is it?
Scott L. Page, PhD.
The response of the moderators to these complaints was to delete most of them without comment. Just as the board had lost any semblance of fairness, the previous board administrator, a very fair-minded Creationist who posted as "Optional", regained control of the board. I later learned that the original takeover of the board by Fred Williams et al. had been hostile, and that Optional had eventually written a script to disable them and regain control of the board (for which he had been paying the bills).
The Moderators Unmasked
Despite his denial, I had built a case against Fred Williams as Moderator 3. I posted the evidence at the message board for the No Answers in Genesis (NAiG) website. Surprisingly, Williams answered my post by admitting that he had been Moderator 3, but insisted that it was only for a few days. He also denied that he had been involved in much moderation. The irony of this was that even if he had only been moderator for a few days, all of the original posts that were edited or deleted were those critical of Williams.
However, I was recently informed that not only was Williams Moderator 3, Walter ReMine was Moderator 4! For me, this was the absolute height of hypocrisy. ReMine had tried to make an issue out of my anonymity during the course of our debate. He even suggested that my arguments were suspect because I was anonymous. Yet he had the audacity to act as an anonymous moderator in a debate in which he was taking part. Are these the sort of ethics that Creationists would teach our children?
Public confirmation of this information came on October 8, 2002, when Creationist (and former Moderator 1) Samuel Bollinger issued the following statement at CreationWeb (which succeeded OCW):
For the record - I was Mod 1, BobM was Mod 2, Fred was Mod 3 and ReMine was Mod 4.
Neither myself nor Bob did much moderating though - in fact, I quit soon after and BobM protested the new moderation vehemently. The fact that Optional wanted BobM is a testament to his fairmindedness.
If Fred or ReMine have anything to say, I guess they need to take it up with me.4
In conclusion, I don't think the actions of Williams and ReMine are representative of all Creationists. Clearly, there were a number of honest Creationists involved in this episode who tried to speak out against the behavior of this vocal minority. However, their dissenting opinions were suppressed and censored. If Creationists as a group hope to foster an image of honesty and integrity, shenanigans like those perpetrated by Fred Williams and Walter ReMine must be exposed. If they have to resort to dishonest and unethical behavior in order to win debates, then maybe this is a sign that they are arguing from an untenable position.
In closing, I want to state for the record that I gave Fred Williams a chance to respond to these accusations by posting some of this information in the guest book at his website. His response? None, he just banned me from posting in or viewing his guest book.
See Fred William's response to this article.
For Robert Rapier's further response, see More on Creationist Ethics: A Response to Fred Williams.
See also An addendum to "A Lesson in Creationist Ethics Featuring
Walter ReMine and Fred Williams" by Scott L. Page.
1. ReMine, Walter, The Biotic Message, St. Paul Science, 1993
2. http://www.evolutionfairytale.com (Be sure and sign the guest book.)
4. Note: This information was removed about a week after it was publicized. Presumably, Williams and/or ReMine complained when people began to ask them about this incident. Since they would have had a difficult time explaining their actions, it is likely that they applied pressure to have Mr. Bollinger's announcement removed. Regardless, this was the announcement as it appeared on October 8, 2002. However, this information had originally been given to me by a different source.