Creationist Ethics: A Response to Fred Williams
My purpose for writing the article A Lesson in Creationist Ethics1 was to expose a serious lapse of honesty and integrity by two well-known Creationists. One of these Creationists, Fred Williams, has responded to my article.2 In his response, Williams admits that the most serious charges against him are true. These charges were: 1). He anonymously moderated a debate in which he was taking part, and 2). He initially denied this (in his own words, he "was not forthcoming").
In Williams' response, he tries to characterize my article as largely untrue by focusing on peripheral issues. In fact, the five statements he took exception to comprise less than 5% of the overall article. Clearly the tactic here was to address this small portion and then try to leave the impression that the bulk of the article was refuted. Since he has characterized these five claims in the article as "false", I wish to set the record straight.
The specific claims with which Williams takes issue are listed below. My original statements are in bold, Williams responses are in blue, and my response follows. For background information, Optional was the pseudonym for the former administrator at the message board of OCW (Organization of Creationist Websites), which later became CreationWeb. Samuel Bollinger is the current administrator there, and BobM is a long time moderator there.
1. "I later learned that the original takeover of the board by Fred Williams et al. had been hostile".
Williams: This is obviously false, as all the preceding emails proved. At no point in the goings-on of OCW did I ever even remotely attempt a "hostile" takeover.
My source for Claim 1 was a Young Earth Creationist who was a former administrator at OCW. I received this information from him unsolicited. He was upset about the events that had transpired at OCW, and told me that he wanted to be honest with me about what had happened behind the scenes. The exact wording of the statement regarding the takeover of the OCW board was The upshot is OCW members voted to can Optional (as administrator) and set it up their way - spear-headed by Fred. I will let that statement speak for itself. The fact that Optional resigned shortly after the new moderation began is strong evidence that he was displeased about something.
In addition, a recently publicized e-mail from Optional to a former frequent OCW poster known as Sumac lends additional support to my account.3 In part, on January 18, 2002 Optional wrote to Sumac:
I have long been disappointed by the lack of participation of OCW members and scathingly told them so (after repeated polite nudgings) in an email, pulling no punches. In short, the membership, foisted a couple of people on me I did not want and knew would destroy the board. I have not been back to see what is going on, but I did see what everyone posted at NAIG, so I assume my nightmare scenario is coming true.
Basically, what happened lately, is a power play was pulled by 3 of the members and rather than fight it, I resigned.
2. "...Optional had eventually written a script to disable them and regain control of the board (for which he had been paying the bills)."
Williams: This implies that a hostile reclaiming of the board was required, which the emails above prove is not true. In fact, the email I sent to Optional and all the OCW members proves that I recommended letting Optional pull the plug on the board! I also have amiable emails from Optional immediately after he pulled the plug, though we did disagree on board management and I bowed out in protest.
The source for Claim 2 was the same source as for the Claim 1. The exact wording of the statement given to me was "By this time he (Samuel Bollinger) and BobM were freaking out about the moderation and in talking between each other over the next few days decided we would do a hostile takeover more or less since none of the current members had ever paid a dime for anything. Optional wrote a script that would disable Fred and anyone else from access to the message board and would add himself back as administrator."
In Williams response, he acknowledges that Optional essentially reclaimed the board. He is basically protesting the usage of the word hostile, which was the exact wording as described to me by my YEC source. In addition to the statement written to me, Optional wrote on this matter in the e-mail to Sumac:
"OCW (or someone) has until the 28th of this month (January) to have stuff switched out of my name and reimburse me for 9 months of hosting paid in advance. My hunch is this won't happen since they're all talk about stuff. If I am correct, on March 1st, I will execute a cgi script I wrote which will restore my admin privileges and delete everyone elses. Upon regaining my admin priveleges, I will delete all moderators and effectively shut down OCW, re-opening the doors as 'Creationweb'. Any former members, except for a certain 3 will be invited to join this new organization and I will move on from there."
3. "It was not lost on me that every post deleted to that point had been critical of Mr. Williams" and "...all of the original posts that were edited or deleted were those critical of Williams"
Williams: This is false, as my moderation sample proves. Also, the original policy called for removing posts in their entirety and sending the post intact to the author with the corrections noted. If the post was resubmitted, it likely would not have had an indication it had been moderated. Thus, Robert could have easily missed these particular moderation events. This policy changed after a moderated post was sent to John Boy via PM but was not received. Unfortunately John Boy had to retype most of his post from memory. His frustration over this was certainly understandable.
I remember clearly taking great care with the moderation I performed in the thread I had posted to. I removed non-related posts, and edited a single unsubstantiated accusation in a lengthy post by John Boy. But this is not excuse, I have admitted since this occurred that moderating in a thread I was posting to was an error in judgment on my part, regardless of what I edited.
To address Claim 3, Williams provides three examples from his early duties as an anonymous moderator. In the first example, he warns a poster, but does not delete his post. Therefore, it is not relevant to the charge that the original posts that were deleted were critical of Williams.
In Williams second example he indicts himself. Williams claimed that he edited a single unsubstantiated accusation in a lengthy post by John Boy. First of all, the unsubstantiated accusation, from John Boy, was in fact addressed to Fred Williams! This post was not merely edited, as Williams claimed, it was deleted in its entirety (twice). Therefore, this example completely supports my point that Williams deleted posts that were critical of him. John Boys unsubstantiated accusation addressed at Williams read "Perhaps you just got the idea from extrapolating an out-of-context Gould quote about mosaics as they apply to evolutionary theory?" For this, Williams, as Moderator 3, promptly deleted the entire lengthy post. It was resubmitted, and once again deleted because Williams objected to this single statement in Johns rebuttal. I wrote to John Boy and questioned him regarding this event, and he confirmed my version of events.4 John wrote to me:
Anyways, to answer your question, yes, indeed, that comment was directed toward Fred. If I recall right, Fred was trying to claim that a mosaic discounted classifying a lifeform as a transitional. At very least he was using the terms as antonyms of each other, which they definitely are not. I was asking Fred if, perhaps, he got this wrong idea from reading (mis)quotes of Gould from various YECist sites rather than anything he encountered in a science book.
I included the line Mod 3 wanted me to remove in all of my responses (the first one that disappeared and the next one, which was bounced as well). I told Mod 3 I was posting it anyway and my reasons for leaving that particular line in. It was finally accepted and Fred gave a really long response to that one throwaway line in his response to my post, which struck me as weird and lead me to wonder if maybe Fred was Mod 3.
In Williams third example, he removed a post addressed to Walter ReMine. However, before this post was removed, a number of other posts were removed, including several from me, which were addressed to Williams. Therefore, my statement - that all of the original posts that were removed were those critical of Williams - remains intact. As shown above Williams even provided corroboration for this in his second moderation example.
It is true that after the initial rash of deletions of posts critical of Williams, the next rash of deletions were of those critical of ReMine. However, Williams entire objection here is a red herring. Nowhere in the original article did I ever imply that ALL of the deleted posts were critical of Williams. I was merely commenting that it was the initial rash of deletions that aroused suspicion that Williams was an anonymous moderator. Since Williams has now admitted that he did in fact delete posts critical of him, his objections here are puzzling.
4. However, I was recently informed that not only was Williams Moderator 3, Walter ReMine was Moderator 4!
Williams: First, though a Mod 4 account was set up, I am unaware of anyone ever being assigned to Mod 4 during that time. To my knowledge, the only anonymous moderator in the Creation/Evolution forum was Mod 3. Here is an email I sent to an evolutionist named Steve (aka Sumac). If there was a Mod 4 there would be no reason to not include his edits in the stats I gave Steve.
Sometime in June the OCW message board crashed and from what I understand much data was lost. Apparently during attempts to retrieve the data Walter Remine's name appeared in some of the garbled data and the speculation was that he was Mod 4. But Mr. Remine's only involvement in the board was via an email to me, which I shared with OCW, where he offered suggestions for forum guidelines (a few of which were incorporated). I also asked Mr. Remine if he would help moderate, but he declined. For the record, Moderator 3 was a YEC friend who wishes to remain anonymous. I am the only one who knows his identity.
It is quite odd that Williams characterize this as a false charge, since he acknowledges that he doesnt actually know whether it is true. A more appropriate characterization would have been for him to say that he did not personally know whether ReMine was Moderator 4.
For the record, I was given the information that ReMine was Moderator 4 by two independent sources. Both of these sources are Young Earth Creationists involved in the administration of OCW. I received the information unsolicited, and they would have had no motivation to make this information up. In addition, Samuel Bollinger made a public confirmation of this information at Creationweb on October 8, 2002. Mr. Bollinger did not state that he thought ReMine was Moderator 4, or that he speculated that ReMine may have been Moderator 4. He unambiguously wrote ReMine was Mod 4. It is highly unlikely that Mr. Bollinger, a Young Earth Creationist, would have made such a damning public acknowledgement if he had not been 100% certain of his position.
5. 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.
Williams: Robert never directly gave me a chance to respond. Instead, he anonymously posted some information to my guestbook under the name "Bob Marley". I did not respond to this entry because it was anonymous and there was no return email. If anyone checks my guestbook they will see that I very seldom respond to people who do not leave their email address.
I also chose not to respond to an email I received about that same time from Scott Page (aka Huxter), because I was aware of Optional's condition and out of respect for him I didn't want to engage in any public battle over these allegations that may involve him.
It is true that I posted the information in Williams guestbook using a pseudonym. The reason for this is that Williams had previously banned me from posting in (or even viewing) his guestbook. I thought that I had a better chance of eliciting a response from him if he didnt immediately recognize that I was the source.
In the guest book entry, I made Williams aware of Mr. Bollingers public acknowledgement that ReMine was Moderator 4. At that time, Williams had an opportunity to address the allegations. Instead of doing so, he merely pressured Mr. Bollinger to remove the information from his web site.
In conclusion, Williams rebuttal is nothing more than a desperate attempt to save face in light of this scandal. The statements that Williams seized upon were all peripheral to the main issue that he and ReMine engaged in unethical behavior. Since Williams has since admitted that this was indeed the case (for himself, at least) then there is really nothing else that needs to be said on the matter. I merely wrote this rebuttal to address the charge that any of the claims in my original article were false.
- This e-mail from Optional was posted by Sumac on January 5, 2003 on the NAIG debate board.
- Personal e-mail received from John Douglas, AKA John Boy on January 6, 2003.