A challenger of Walt Brown’s Hydroplate Theory now accuses Brown of demanding sensitive information that might, if released, get him killed. He is due for a reality check.
The latest Hydroplate Theory debate challenge
Mr. Fergus Mason, address unknown, offered his challenge to Brown on December 3, 2011, in this comment thread. First he said that he had degrees (of Bachelor of Science) in biology and astronomy. (Brown is a graduate of the United States Military Academy and holds a PhD in mechanical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston, MA). CNAV suggested that he debate the hydroplate theory directly with Brown, if Mason was so confident that he could show it up as “rubbish.” Mason elected the recorded-telephone-conference debate challenge. That challenge involves far less effort to meet, and does not depend on the qualifications of the challenger. But Brown does ask any challenger to “have some skin in the game,” and to be willing, literally, to stake his reputation on his challenge to the Hydroplate Theory.
Mr. Mason believes that he can discredit the hydroplate theory on this point: the subcrustal ocean that the hydroplate theory assumes, would be hot enough not only to kill everyone and everything aboard Noah’s Ark but also to make the earth permanently sterile. (To digress briefly: Mr. Mason here defines the word sterile as “permanently lifeless.” He defines that word in a different way in the context of a food container having enough bacteria to consume rapidly any abiogenetic material that appears, but not enough to threaten human health.)
Dr. Brown points out that the supercritical water, upon its release, would rush out of the first breach of the earth’s crust faster than sound. Indeed some of it would move fast enough to escape the gravity of the earth and even of the sun. Under that circumstance, it would shed nearly all of its heat, in the same way that water vapor coming out the nozzle of a jet engine will condense or even freeze. (Anyone who has ever seen a jet contrail will recognize the effect.) Dr. Brown explains this in detail here. (Brown’s book, In the Beginning, has copious technical and other notes that explain every part of the Hydroplate Theory and what it predicts.)
Mason does not accept that. He insists that the water that stays on earth would still be too hot to leave the earth alive or livable. This comment (emphasis his) is a prize example:
“Other jetting water rose above the atmosphere, where it froze and then fell on various regions of the earth as huge masses of extremely cold, muddy “hail.”” – Walt Brown
This stuff is priceless. Doesn’t he even realise that if you throw something up out of the atmosphere and it falls back, all its potential and kinetic energy GETS TURNED BACK TO HEAT on the way down? This debate is going to be fun. I’m going to incinerate his arguments the way his idiotic “hydroplates” would have incinerated the planet.
Brown is confident that he can meet that argument also, along with any other argument against the Hydroplate Theory that Mason cares to raise.
Mason also charged that Brown often avoided debates. Not so. Rather, Brown insists that anyone accepting the written or verbal debate offer must read his book first. He has also set forth certain terms and conditions that will ensure that:
- Whoever challenges him can present a worthy challenge, and will not be ignorant of certain key facts that Brown lays out.
- Whoever hears about the debate will find it worthwhile.
What does Mason object to?
Mason started to object to some of the terms, or what he thought the terms might be, within days. He seemed to see little point in reading any part of the book other than the part that he wished to challenge. His reason was that he did not want to counter many arguments in a short time. So he said that if Brown started challenging him with many arguments, in rapid-fire order, in a debate lasting only one hour, he would stop the debate at once.
In fact if he DOES try that tactic I’m simply going to say “Gish Gallop” and put down the phone. Points will be raised and answered one at a time.
The phrase Gish gallop is evolutionist slang for proposing too many things at once for the opponent to answer effectively in a short time. Eugenie C. Scott of the National Center for Science Education coined the term to explain why she never debates creation advocates. (Scott and others always define the phrase in such a way to accuse the other side of lying with full intent.) The term takes its name from Duane Gish, who has often overwhelmed his opponents in this way. Brown points out that neither side in his debate could ever overwhelm the other in such a way. The moderator wouldn’t allow it, in the interest of making the best use of everyone’s time.
Must he identify himself?
One week later, Mason objected when Brown asked him to furnish identifying information, in case any listener to the debate might want to contact him to make sure they understood anything he said. He had by then said that he was
Just a random ex-soldier with an interest in science and a deep dislike of unqualified charlatans like Brown.
Now he returned to that theme, and said that he did not want to reveal his identity on-line.
Brown is now insisting that, among other things, I tell him my employer’s name as a condition of the debate. Why does he need this? He also seems to be insisting that it be possible for the debate audience to “locate” me afterwards. As the audience is likely to include a large number of wingnuts, and I work as a military consultant, this is not going to happen. I’m negotiating with Brown to come up with mutually acceptable terms for the debate. Frankly I don’t see why he needs my postal address for an audio debate, and while I may consent to let him have it there’s no way I’m agreeing to him telling even one other person what it is.
In reply, CNAV advised Mason that Brown shared his correspondence with your editor. This news made Mason terrifically angry, and he next made a comment that violated CNAV‘s editorial standards, and which CNAV “threw in the trash.” But CNAV did share the comment directly with Brown.
At issue, ostensibly, is where Mason lives and works, and whether some person or persons who might object to what he does, would seek to kill him if they knew how to find him. But when Brown pressed him for details, Mason did not limit his concern to members of Al-Qa’ida, or the Taliban, or some such organization named either in the US Congressional Authorization of Use of Force (2002) or any equivalent or relevant Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Instead he named Conservapedia, at which your editor has been an administrator since shortly after its founding. Specifically:
While I didn’t make it clear before, it is not acceptable to me for any of my personal information (especially not my address) to be shared with [Terry A.] Hurlbut or anyone else associated with Andy Schlafly’s “Conservapedia” blog. In my opinion this blog is frequented by what are, quite frankly, wingnuts. They are extremists, they express views that I find horrifying and it is not acceptable under any circumstances for people like that to be given the ability to locate myself or anyone associated with me. Therefore I do not wish any more of my emails, including this one, to be forwarded to them until all identifying information – which, to avoid misunderstandings I will highlight in yellow – has been removed. This is not negotiable.
In return, Brown said this:
I have no desire to embarrass you, divulge any proprietary information, or jeopardize your life, family, job, or country. In your letters to me, you can highlight anything that falls in those categories and I — not you — will seriously consider deleting it. With those exceptions, I will continue to keep Dr. Hurlbut fully informed, so no one posts false stories or allegations on Conservative News and Views, as you have done. After all you have posted on CNAV, you can expect to “eat a lot of crow” if you back out of this debate or continue to stall. (Our complete correspondence — open for all to see — lays out our respective positions.) I have given Dr. Hurlbut permission to use anything I write or say as he wishes. To save us both time, he doesn’t even need to check with me.
CNAV will say again: the comments that Mason has made, and CNAV’s reply to same, are available for anyone to view, except for the comment that CNAV found not only slanderous but also offensive.
Mason said this, in part, in answer:
Have you actually been to Conservapedia and looked at the vicious nonsense they post there? Without suitable assurances from you that my personal information will not be passed to anyone associated with that blog, you’re not getting it. That isn’t negotiable. It is up to me who I release my details to, not you, and while I am willing to give them to you I’m not willing for you to disseminate them any further.
I already told you what my job is. I am former British Army and now work as a consultant. There are a variety of people and organisations in the world, most of them religious fanatics on a par with Schlafly’s little clique, who have no reason to like me simply because of my job. This is why I control the information I make available. It’s not a matter of national security; it’s a matter of PERSONAL security. Europeans have different standards for this that you may not be accustomed to, because we’ve been dealing with terrorism for a very long time; attacks on serving and former military personnel, and others who work in the military and security fields, are far from unknown.I’m quite happy to be introduced as “This is Fergus Mason, a security consultant who lives in the Bigtown area.” I am NOT happy to be introduced as “This is Fergus Mason, an employee of Multinational Mad Mercenary Management, who uses the skills he learned in Belfast and Londonderry to help UK and NATO troops blow up beardy pork dodgers. Mr Mason lives at 123 That Street, Bigtown, and drives a red 2002 Mercedes C-Class with the VRN A456BCD and a Darwin Fish sticker on the back. His house has security lighting at the sides and rear, but the guard dog is sick just now and is kept indoors on rainy nights.” And I’m not happy for anyone from Conservapedia to have that information either. If you read their blog you’ll understand why. So the question is, basically, this: are you willing to give me assurances that you’re not going to pass my address and other personal information to third parties without my permission, or aren’t you?
Any reader can judge for himself whether mentioning Conservapedia in the same sentence, or even the same paragraph, as a Muslim terrorist or terrorists, is a legitimate expression of concern, a paranoid rant, or an irresponsible slander. Nevertheless, Dr. Brown generously offered to Mason that the two first work together to recruit a debate moderator. Then Mason could furnish his identifying information to him, and let him decide whether his security concerns were valid, and to what degree.
Mason has made no further reply directly to Brown. But in a comment at CNAV, he said:
The information Brown requires before he’ll have a telephone debate with me has now expanded to include much of my military service record, including but not limited to my rank, the operations I served on and whether or not I received an homourable discharge.
This information is not relevant to the proposed debate and, needless to say, he’s not getting it.
Here is what Brown really said:
I will assume that what you say below about formerly being “British Army” is true. But by being as guarded as you are, many people in my country will start to ask questions: When did he serve? Did he receive an honorable discharge? What was his rank, branch of service, job, or theater of operation? When someone in the United States says they are a consultant, many wonder if they are effectively unemployed and trying to put the best face on it. (You certainly showed on Conservative News and Views that you have a lot of time on your hands and are willing to vent your biases and rant against “religious fanatics” without providing much specific information, evidence, or insight.) Furthermore, when you say you have “security concerns” and are a “security/intelligence consultant,” most people (here at least) think of James Bond (007) or some spy movie. You would be less suspect if you had simply said you were a “security consultant” or detective.
In other words: Mason, by making himself seem so mysterious, might provoke others to ask such questions in their own minds. As an alternative, Brown offered this:
You are implying that you could be killed or maimed if you revealed who you are and what your true job is. Surely, you could describe yourself in an accurate but less dramatic way. What’s wrong with saying something like, “Mr. Fergus Mason, a native of Glasgow, Scotland, served in Afghanistan in 20xx and since then has worked part time for the ABC Company as a night watchman”?
Or however he wishes to describe himself.
This conversation started after Fergus Mason came onto the comment space of Conservative News and Views to object to a key finding of the Hydroplate Theory. Dr. Walt Brown, who invented the Hydroplate Theory, has a standing offer to debate directly anyone who objects to it on any scientific grounds. That is, Brown will debate any challenger willing to stake his reputation, personal or professional, on whatever he says. Anyone can say that the Hydroplate Theory makes unsound claims. But showing that needs more than the media equivalent of a drive-by shooting.
Brown suggests to CNAV that Mason’s real trouble is that he has by now read the key parts of Brown’s Technical Notes that answers the argument he raised. Does Mason fear that his arguments against the Hydroplate Theory are not as sound as he first thought? That others have objected on similar grounds ought to give Mason confidence, if he is on firm scientific ground.
But the argument has gone far beyond the Hydroplate Theory or its merits. On one hand, Mason does not want a terrorist to find him. On the other hand, he does not want someone from Conservapedia to find him. Why mention both concerns in the same paragraph? Does he truly believe that Conservapedia shares with the Wahhabi sect of Islam a wish to enforce its tenets at gunpoint? Or is he indulging in puerile melodrama? You decide.
However, CNAV can guess at one other possible motive. Conservapedia has, again since its founding, been subject to repeated cyber-vandalism and even Distributed Denial-of-service Attacks. Now if Fergus Mason has in any way involved himself in such behavior, he might fear legal exposure, or even an investigation by Scotland Yard. (Or possibly Europol or the Bundeskriminalamt. The one telephone number he submitted has a country code that resolves to Germany, not the USA or the UK.) He would not fear assassination, or vigilantism, or whatever he wants people to believe that he fears.
But if he has not indulged in such passions, then he has nothing to fear from Conservapedia by placing his views in the public eye. (Any fears he has from the Muslim quarter is something that a neutral observer, like a prospective debate moderator, could judge.) The administration of Conservapedia will, CNAV is sure, let its own record speak for itself: never once has any administrator or regular editor of Conservapedia ever commandeered a commercial airliner, much less tried to fly it into a building.
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Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.
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