Monday, 26 May 2014

The Failures of Don Baker

The latest episode of The Atheist Experience TV show is on-line. Co-Host Don Baker had done yet another of his "Failures of Christianity" series. I've complained about Baker before and, in this episode, he has certainly gotten no better.

Baker devotes the beginning of the episode to talking about "The Dark Ages." I want to stress, Baker's rant was not an off the cuff response to a question, it was pre-prepared, so he had ample opportunity to fact check. To give a full list of his factual errors would take a long post indeed. Some of these claims are popular myths which have long been refuted , such as the claim that Christians burned the Great Library of Alexandria. Had Baker simply bothered to read the Wikipedia article on the destruction of said library he'd have recognised what rubbish he was talking.

Other claims are simply bizarre, Baker actually claims that Christians of the middle ages persecuted Zoroastrianism. Yes, you read the correctly. How Baker would get around the small problem of no Zoroastrian communities existing within Christian lands during the middle ages, I'm not certain of.

Even when describing real atrocities, Baker shows a horrific lack of attention to details. Take, for example, his discussion of the crusades. Now, there is no question, a lot of horrible things were done by Christians during the Crusades, and it's fair enough to criticise this. Baker, however, can't seem to wrap his head around the basic history of the Crusades. He notes. accurately enough, that there were six major crusades, but then says, eventually, they captured Jerusalem. Actually, the first Crusade captured Jerusalem, the second failed to hold it and the remaining four were failed attempts to retake it. In other words, even when describe an actually failure, Baker can't be bothered doing a simple Google search to get the details right.

I mention these three examples, those with more time and patient could list many more. My question, however, is this, how does Baker get away with this? This is by no means the first time, that he's made factual claims this wide of the mark. The show is sponsored by the Atheist Community of Austin, Texas, which I understand to be a reasonably large organisation. Surely there have to be people in the ACA who would know enough history to know that Baker is frequently wrong. Alternatively, there must be people who, hearing one of Baker's bits, will think it sounds interesting, doing a quick Google search and discover that Baker is wrong? Have none of these people tried to talk to him? If they have, does he care?

This matters because people on the show frequently call creationists and others to account for their failure to do basic research. If people want to be consistent however, they need to hold their own side to the same standards.

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