David Barton: The Bible in Schools and Violent Crime

In two recent sermons (Whitesburg Baptist Church – AL; Crossroads Church – OK), David Barton told his audience that violent crime has increased 694% since the 1963 Supreme Court decision on Bible reading in schools. Barton cited Benjamin Rush as a founding father who believe the Bible should be in schools. According to Barton, Rush warned that crime would increase if the Bible was ever removed from education.

To his audience at Crossroads (36 minutes into the video), Barton showed this chart as proof of his contention.

violentcrime1993

This is difficult to see but I have added some notations in yellow. The chart shows number of violent offenses from 1951 through 1993. Crime gradually increased from the 1950s and spiked upward from the early 1960s to the early 1990s. However, does anyone know what happened after that?

If you said violent crime rates began a pattern of decline, you would be correct. Barton doesn’t show what happened after 1993. Click the link to use the FBI data tool to get the numbers. Click here to see a chart of the crime rates from 1960 to 2010.  According to the FBI stats, the violent crime rate in 2010 was the lowest since 1972 and has been falling steadily since 1991. The murder rate is the same as it was in 1961. This chart provides the rest of the history about overall violent crime rates that Barton didn’t tell.

UCR_Vio_11

 

There are many theories about this pattern but suffice it to say that these data do not support Barton’s contention. During the rest of his sermon, Barton decries the Biblical illiteracy of today’s church and cites questionable statistics about divorce rates and other indicators of general decline. If anything, according to Barton, things are worse now than ever. If Barton’s theory was correct, then why would crime rates be falling?

As noted, many theories exist but the pattern of increase and decline probably do not reflect the presence or absence of the Bible in schools.

UPDATE (6/26/13): Also relevant to Barton’s theory is a comparison of the United States with other nations. Good numbers are hard to come by but let’s start with the UN data on homicide (excel file). Historically Shinto and Buddhist but practically non-religious Japan boasts a very low rate (.4) versus the United States (4.8).  Norway (.6) and Sweden (1.0) record low rates despite being quite secular.

Another factor that should be added to any discussion is the fact the Bible had been long gone from many public schools before the 1963 decision. The Cincinnati Bible wars were waged between 1869 and 1871, with the result being the removal of Bible from Cincinnati schools.

 

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  • bman

    Toss a rock in the pond and you get ripples, a series of crests and dips that move outward from the central cause.

    The first crest is followed by a dip, then there is the second crest and a dip, and so on.

    The first crest proves a rock was tossed.

    The first dip after the first crest does not prove something else caused the first crest, however.

    There may be a natural pattern of crest and dip, crest and dip, rather than a perpetual climb that never dips.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton Warren

    bman – I assume you mean that to relate in some manner to the post but you will have to be more explicit.

    Barton had a theory he wants to support and he only presents part of the evidence which has ripple effects across the church. Is that what you mean?

  • Peter

    I would have to agree with Barton on this one. It’s pretty obvious that crime rates rose after the Bible was taken out of the schools. He even states at the end that it “probably wasn’t the reason,” so why even waste time writing a piece on something that you aren’t even sure about? There are lots of opinions out there, but when you can’t actually prove something with science or facts why waste time complaining about it or bashing someone because of what they believe? Is that what Christian love has come down to?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton Warren

      Peter – I listened to the section twice and I can’t find what you are talking about. Where does Barton say taking the Bible out of schools “probably wasn’t the reason?” Peter, are you ok with a speaker who presents false and misleading information to his audience?

    • scottmcg

      So you think Christianity should be forced on every citizen of this country? How very 1st Amendment of you.

  • AJ

    Well, this shows that Barton misleads on purpose and not out of true ignorance. You know that he pulled all the data. He then CHOSE where to stop his chart. He is truly dishonest.

    • William Birch

      Yes, I agree, agree, agree! Not presenting all of the data, when not only is there more data but he also knows there is more data (from the chart), that is pure dishonesty. Yet people will continue to listen to, trust, and support him. Ugh.

  • Ed Selby

    Ever since the advent of the world wide web, crime rates have been on a decrease; therefore, the world wide web prevents crime. Well, if we followed Barton’s “correlation=causation” approach that would be true.

    According to the chart, violent crime had plateaued in 1976 – then Star Wars Episode 4 was release in 1977, and violent crime started to climb again. An increase in Empire vs. Rebel violence??

  • Dave

    Thank you for this post …

    I used to follow this kind of logic many years ago … I find it interesting that we often go for the cheap legalistic answer.. as if somehow .. if we just do the right things .. everything will be OK.. But it doesn’t work that way.

    Worse yet .. its all a matter of perspective. Racism and inequality were quite prevalent while the bible was in the segregated schools of the day. Additionally .. women were marginalized and interracial marriage was illegal. Were these really the good old days?? Again .. its a matter of perspective ..

    But I doubt Barton and company would say that the things I mentioned above were diminished/changed because the bible was taken out of schools.

    Cheap legalistic answers don’t work .. neither do incomplete statistics groomed to make a false conclusion. Our hearts must be changed (speaking from a Christian perspective).

    Dave

  • bman

    WT: “Barton had a theory he wants to support and he only presents part of the evidence which has ripple effects across the church. Is that what you mean?”

    ——

    I was trying to offer a defense to Barton’s idea, but I edited out the connecting thought at the last minute. My apologies for the ambiguity.

    I think the increase until 1993 fits Barton’s model and the only problem is how to explain the decrease you mentioned.

    Several ideas occur although I don’t have research to offer. These are just thought experiments.

    I favor the view that Bible instruction biased society toward ordered liberty and away from violence.

    I think violence and disorder probably increased because religious influence decreased.

    I don’t necessarily think religious decline started in 1963, but I think the court’s decision locked it in place and empowered it.

    The question for someone like me who holds that view, is whether violence would rise “forever” in that scenario, [which seems unlikely], or whether it would reach a peak, then decline, and level out to a new baseline higher than the old one.

    To me, the latter seems more natural and more realistic.

    I am saying its realistic for Barton’s model also.

    • smrnda

      The problem is that you haven’t addressed any number of other salient factors that might influence violent crime rates – you’ve started with an assumption that somehow, Bible instruction is related to violence, and then built a hypothesis to fit the data which makes intuitive sense. That’s not how social science works.

      Could you provide an explanation as to how you would test your hypothesis? Keep in mind that a hypothesis has to be falsifiable.

      • bman

        smrnda: “Could you provide an explanation as to how you would test your hypothesis? Keep in mind that a hypothesis has to be falsifiable.”

        —–

        The hypothesis I propose is falsifiable.

        If the cost to society was low while the crime rate was also low, that could falsify my hypothesis.

        However, a low crime rate at high cost to society equates to a “true” crime rate that is high, in my view.

        And so, in my view, a decline in crime could falsify Barton’s theory if the decline in crime was at low cost to society, but it would not falsify Barton’s theory if the decline was at a high cost to society.

        If a decline in crime was due to something immoral or despotic like high abortion rates, or a stoned society staying home instead of committing crimes, higher death or disease rates, a high percentage of the population on sedatives, all of that would mean a high human cost to society.

        If a decline in crime was due to drones over American cities, or more street cameras, or more police officers, more prisons, more welfare, or more government indebtedness, that would be a high cost to society in terms of lost freedoms, lost income, and more.

        In my view, the mere fact society is moving toward more and more of those “high cost” things, means “the total social cost” of removing Christian influence is still rising at considerable speed.

        I think Barton might agree that the crime rate reported by government was only intended as a proxy for the overall increasing social cost to society caused by removing Bible instruction from schools.

        The real issue was not whether the crime rates reported by government were up or down. That worked fine as a proxy while the crime rate was high, but now its lowered.

        The real issue has always been the overall cost to society, which is steadily increasing as we move more and more away from being Christian nation.

  • buddyglass

    Is that a chart of total # of violent crimes or the violent crime rate? If the former then it’s even more bogus.

  • Richard Willmer

    Interestingly, the homicide rate in the US appears to be lower than it was 100 years ago. The ‘peak’ in the early 1990s (which coincided with the peak in violent crime generally) might have been the result partly of the socio-economic upheavals of the 60s, 70s and 80s; things have ‘settled down’ now (as they do). Crime patterns are often ‘cyclical’ it would seem, and the reasons for the ‘cycles’ are many and complex.

    When looking at various data, what interested me most was the DoJ’s stats on the numbers of VICTIMS of violent crime: this appears to have fallen since quite dramatically in the last 50 years. Interesting.

    The pattern regarding incidence of violent crime in both the UK and USA is fairly similar; the rates in the UK are higher (except for homicide, where they are lower), although, as usual, statistics need to be ‘handled with care – especially as, in this case, the definition of ‘violent crime’ is really very broad in the UK (eg. here ANY assault, however ‘minor’, is counted as a ‘violent crime’, not just ‘aggravated assault’).

    Barton’s thesis is somewhat suspect (to say the least), surely: violent crime appears to be falling (and by some measures – eg. that of number per 100,000 of victims – apparently as low as it has ever been ‘since records began’) in both our countries, despite the onset of so-called ‘secularism’.

    I’m all for our societies being guided by core Christian principles, such as an appreciation of the moral obligation on each of us to respect the dignity of every human person. This apparent obsession on the part of some with ‘the Bible’ is IMO not so helpful.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton Warren

      Richard – You remind me of another comparison that is not favorable to Barton’s theory. The crime rates in other countries where the Bible and religion is on the decline are lower than in the US. I perceive that England is ahead of the US in secularism and yet we have similar patterns of crime. Other more secular countries (Sweden) have lower crime rates.

      • Richard Willmer

        Yes, I think we are more ‘secular’ in some ways, Warren. And we do have a similar pattern of ‘violent crime’ (although this is a much broader ‘category’ of crime over here, so comparisons are not always easy to make) as you have in the US.

        As a regular churchgoer, I’m in a really quite small minority (c. 10%) these days. And perhaps the irony is that we have a ‘state church’, and bishops with votes in the upper chamber of Parliament. (As you know, I’m a ‘disestablishmentarian’, and attend a church where a famous disestabliahmentarian, Father Arthur Stanton, ministered for 50 years, and was ‘leant on’ by both church and state because of his position. We’ve just celebrated the centenary of his passing. Here’s a rather lovely piece on this generous visionary: http://anglicanhistory.org/bios/ahstanton.html)

    • Tom Van Dyke

      The ‘peak’ in the early 1990s (which coincided with the peak in violent crime generally) might have been the result partly of the socio-economic upheavals of the 60s, 70s and 80s

      Here in LA it was the crack epidemic. Crazy times.

      http://articles.latimes.com/2010/aug/07/local/la-me-banks-20100807

  • Patrocles

    Japanese are cultural homogenous, as a kinsfolk closely related and genetically non-temperamental. So are Swedes.

    Americans are nothing of that – moral education at school may be more important for them, above all if it appeals to emotions.

    The decline of crimes in the United States must not be a decline of criminal inclinations. Nowadays, much more young men of (possible) criminal inclinations are intimidated (by police harassment) and also incarcerated at an early stage. At least, that’s an explanation I’ve read very often.

    So the comparison must not confute Barton’s idea.

    As for the question, if Barton meant “Bible out of schools probaby was not the reason” – it may well be that “Bibles out of schools” was not the cause but a symptom of the true cause: lack of understanding for the relevance of a moral education which appeals to human emotion.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton Warren

      Pat – Barton made a statement of cause. Bible out of schools leads to crime. If the Bible was in schools, less crime. The Bible is not in Japanese schools. There is at least something more going on with crime rates than the presence of the Bible. This is not hard. Barton made a simplistic statement and tried to back it up with govt statistics. However, he selected only the years that seemed to prove his point. This is shoddy work. Is this a problem for you to acknowledge?

  • Zoe Brain

    Warren, I must disagree. It’s not “shoddy”, it’s very careful cherrypicking and deceit. At some point, there *is* no “benefit of the doubt” to give. We passed that point a long time ago with NARTH, Barton, the FRC etc.

    • AJ

      Yep, you’re right. There is no way that Barton didn’t do this on purpose. And the crazy thing is that you know that he knew that someone would call him on it. He doesn’t care!

  • bman

    The following article sees a link between the decrease in crime rates and the increased growth of large nationwide prison ministries, plus thousands of localized prison ministries.

    http://thinkchristian.net/could-this-be-partly-why-crime-is-in-decline

  • bman

    Benjamin Franklin once said, [I] believe farther that this [Constitutional government] is likely to be well administered for a course of years, and can only end in Despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic Government, being incapable of any other.”

    John Adams said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

    Both Founding Fathers seemed to believe moral corruption was the enemy of a free society and that it could be managed one of two ways, either by the people exercising moral and religious self restraint, or by heavier governmental measures.

    Theoretically, the decrease in violent crime rates could actually vindicate Barton’s model if that decrease can be traced to a significant increase in government expenditures – expenditures that would not have been necessary to help manage crime had Christian influence remained strong.

    Even if we suppose the decrease occurred without Bible instruction causing the decline, that by itself would not disprove Barton’s model.

    Thus, we need to know what caused the decline before Barton’s model can be dismissed.

    • AJ

      Well, why do you think Barton chose 1993 as the year to stop his chart?

  • bman

    AJ: “Well, why do you think Barton chose 1993 as the year to stop his chart?”

    —-

    I approach that question using the protocol courts call “rational basis review.”

    When that protocol is implemented, the burden is placed on the plaintiff (in this case yourself) to show no possible rational basis could exist for the defense, or else the charge made by the plaintiff fails.

    Also, the defense does not have to specify the rational basis it used. Its simply presumed to have acted rationally unless the plaintiff can prove no rational basis could exist.

    The question, then, is whether you, the plaintiff, have eliminated every plausible rational defense available to the defense.

    Have you done that?

    • ken

      The issue is about Barton and his (mis)use of data, not the law. Further, even if the topic were just about whether removing the bible from schools had an effect on violent crime rate, the issue would be about science not law.

      However, you are dodging AJ’s question and you aren’t fooling anyone with this little distraction about the law. I’ll ask again though:

      why do you (bman) think Barton chose 1993 as the year to stop his chart?

      • Jim51

        Ken,

        Your question is, of course, quite the right one.

        And Bman’s “approach” to the question is upside down. When a claim is made, particularly in a courtroom, evidence is requested to substantiate that the claim is at least a rational one founded in some evidence. The defense of a claim does require evidence and if none is forthcoming the court will normally reject the claim as being ‘without foundation.”

        The burden is NOT put on the other side in the dispute to show that no rational basis could exist. If that were so then any claim whatever would have to be respected by a court and the other side would have an eternity of work to do to eliminate all possible rational explanations.

        Claims must come with evidence and Barton’s gerrymandered evidence, which he does repeatedly, leaves little room for a charitable view of Barton’s ethics.

        Jim51

        • bman

          Jim51: “Bman’s “approach” to the question is upside down. When a claim is made, particularly in a courtroom, evidence is requested to substantiate that the claim is at least a rational one founded in some evidence.”

          ——-

          You are saying the complaint against Barton has a rational basis, but I I am not saying it doesn’t, so your objection misses the mark.

          We can agree the complaint has a rational basis and move on from there. The next point is whether Barton’s action could have had a rational basis that the complaint does not take into account.

          That is where my approach differs from yours. As I noted to Ken, my approach uses the same principles used in rational basis review, which places a heavy burden of proof on the plaintiff.

          Technically speaking, the court would not use rational basis review unless government was the defense and the question had to do with the constitutionality of a government law or policy .

          That, however, does not prevent me from using the principles of rational basis review to approach AJ’s question.

          You added, “The burden is NOT put on the other side in the dispute to show that no rational basis could exist. If that were so then any claim whatever would have to be respected by a court and the other side would have an eternity of work to do to eliminate all possible rational explanations.”

          The following excerpt from the Wikipedia on rational basis review addresses your objection in principle:

          “Under this standard of review, the “legitimate interest” does not have to be the government’s actual interest. Rather, if the court can merely hypothesize a “legitimate” interest served by the challenged action, it will withstand the rational basis review.”

          Here is my version of that:

          “Under [rational basis review]… [Barton is deemed to have a legitimate reason for stopping the chart at 1993] if the court [me in this analogy] can merely hypothesize [a rational basis for him doing so, even if its not the actual rationale Barton used.]”

          Once again, I am describing the principles by which I approach AJ’s question.

          My reference to the court is by way of analogy only.

          • ken

            “Under [rational basis review]… [Barton is deemed to have a legitimate reason for stopping the chart at 1993] if the court [me in this analogy] can merely hypothesize [a rational basis for him doing so, even if its not the actual rationale Barton used.]”

            except you actually haven’t ANSWERED THE QUESTION! Your “approach” to AJ’s question seems to be nothing more than a smoke screen to avoid answering it.

      • bman

        Ken: “The issue is about Barton and his (mis)use of data, not the law. ”

        —–

        I described -my- approach to AJ’s question as using the same principles used by the court in rational basis review.

        Contra your innuendo, I did not say or intend to say it was a matter of law, nor did I change the issue raised by AJ’s question.

        I described that my approach is to place the burden of proof on the plaintiff in the manner described.

        I then asked AJ if he had met that burden of proof.

        • AJ

          OK, Bman, under your standard, did Barton meet the Burden of Proof that the end of Bible reading in schools led to an increase in violent crime? Aren’t there other possible rational explanations? If you are going to be consistent, you will have to agree that the charges by the plaintiff (Barton) fail.

          • bman

            AJ: “If you are going to be consistent, you will have to agree that the charges by the plaintiff (Barton) fail.”

            ——

            By analogy, a court has different standards of evidence for different kinds of cases.

            The standard of presumed innocence, unless proved otherwise beyond a reasonable doubt, is used for criminal cases , but the standard for civil cases is to judge based on the preponderance of the evidence, even if a reasonable doubt exists.

            Consistency requires the same protocol be used for the same kinds of cases, but not for different kinds of cases.

            In the present case, accusations of unethical behavior were made such as, “misleads on purpose,” “truly dishonest,” and. “knows but doesn’t care.”

            To me, that requires a different standard of evidence to be placed on the plaintiff than would statements by someone in support of a hypothesis or theory.

  • AJ

    Okay, B(barton)man, I am asserting that there was no rational basis for stopping the chart in 1993. If you disagree, give me a rational basis.

  • Tom Van Dyke

    Here’s more on crime, abortion and crack, if anyone’s interested.

    http://www.freakonomics.com/2005/05/15/abortion-and-crime-who-should-you-believe/

    3) All of the decline in crime from 1985-1997 experienced by high abortion states relative to low abortion states is concentrated among the age groups born after Roe v. Wade. For people born before abortion legalization, there is no difference in the crime patterns for high abortion and low abortion states, just as the Donohue-Levitt theory predicts.

    4) When we compare arrest rates of people born in the same state, just before and just after abortion legalization, we once again see the identical pattern of lower arrest rates for those born after legalization than before.

    5) The evidence from Canada, Australia, and Romania also support the hypothesis that abortion reduces crime.

    also

    If you look at the serious criticisms that have been leveled against the Donohue-Levitt hypothesis, virtually all of them revolve around this spike in homicide by young men in the late 1980s-early 1990s. (There are also some non-serious criticisms, which I will address below.) This is the point that Sailer is making, and also the point made far more rigorously by Ted Joyce in an article published in the Journal of Human Resources.

    So, a reasonable thing to ask yourself is: Was there anything else going on in the late 1980s that might be causing young Black males to be killing each other at alarming rates that might be swamping the impact of legalized abortion over a short time period? The obvious culprit you might think about is crack cocaine. Crack cocaine was hitting the inner cities at exactly this time, disproportionately affecting minorities, and the violence was heavily concentrated among young Black males such as the gang members we write about in Freakonomics. So to figure out whether this spike in young Black male homicides is evidence against legalized abortion reducing crime, or even evidence legalized abortion causes crime, one needs to control for the crack epidemic to find the answer…

  • Richard Willmer

    One problem that must surely always there when looking at statistics like this is: just what constitutes violent crime?

    I suspect that, many decades ago, occurrences that we would deem to be violent and criminal were not then so deemed. The converse might also be true, of course. As for detection rates: I would reckon that these have become progressively higher over the years. It really is a very complex picture …

    Oh, and yes – I wonder what explanation David Barton might have for the fact that the US homicide rate in 1930 was around twice that in 2010? Hmmm.

    • bman

      RW: “Oh, and yes – I wonder what explanation David Barton might have for the fact that the US homicide rate in 1930 was around twice that in 2010? Hmmm.”

      —–

      Possibly , he might link it to the Great Depression.

      • Richard Willmer

        Or Prohibition? Or both?

        Either (or both) would seem reasonable responses, EXCEPT that in this recession/depression, violent crime numbers appear to be stable, even falling.

  • bman

    AJ: “Okay, B(barton)man, I am asserting that there was no rational basis for stopping the chart in 1993. If you disagree, give me a rational basis.”

    ——

    Are you still asserting, ““misleads on purpose,” “truly dishonest,” and, “knows but doesn’t care”?

    If you are still accusing Barton of those things the question is not whether you think no rational basis exists, but whether Barton could have thought one existed without it being , “misleads on purpose,” “truly dishonest,” and, “knows but doesn’t care.”

    Its one thing to claim the rational basis Barton used was flawed, but its quite another to jump from that to the above accusations, which is why the burden of proof shifts to you, at that point

    Here is another except from the Wikipedea on rational basis review:

    “Rational basis review is not intelligent basis review; the legislature is merely required to be rational, not smart….Thurgood Marshall, remark[ed] on numerous occasions: ‘The Constitution does not prohibit legislatures from enacting stupid laws.’”

    As you can see from the excerpt, a rational basis can exist and also be flawed.

    If you said a rationale was flawed because of x,y,z the standard of “preponderance of the evidence” should be used to judge your claim.

    However, if an accusation of unethical motive is attached to that, the burden of proof shifts to you to prove the accusation beyond a reasonable doubt.

    Again, I am describing my approach, and referring to the court by way of analogy only.

    • ken

      “However, if an accusation of unethical motive is attached to that, the burden of proof shifts to you to prove the accusation beyond a reasonable doubt.”

      Not it doesn’t. this isn’t a court of law no matter how much you try to argue it is.

      AJ’s opinion (and mine and I suspect many others who are familiar with Barton) is that Barton is being deliberately dishonest in his statements about crime rates after the bible was removed from schools. And that Barton has inappropriately tried to infer that the removal of the bible has caused (or significantly contributed) to an increase in violent crime rates.

      AJ asked you a question (which I later repeated) that several days and posts later, you STILL haven’t answered. Instead you’ve gone off posting a bunch of irrelevant “legalese”, which I’m beginning to suspect is just a clumsy attempt to avoid answering the question. Just in case I’m wrong and it simply slipped your mind, I’ll try one more time:

      why do you (bman) think Barton chose 1993 as the year to stop his chart?

  • bman

    Tom Van Dyke: “The evidence from Canada, Australia, and Romania also support the hypothesis that abortion reduces crime.”

    ——

    I noted earlier that Barton”s model is vindicated if reduced crime can be traced to despotic means being used.

    What can be more despotic than abortion being used as means to reduce crime?

    Barton would likely view high abortion rates as another result of removing Bible instruction from schools, with abortion itself viewed as a form of increased violence.

    I think Barton would likely argue that reduced crime due to abortion only hides the “true” crime rate by using despotic means to hold down the crime rate.

    If the decrease in the crime rate can be traced to despotism, it vindicates Barton’s model.

    • Tom Van Dyke

      Mr. BMan, I’ve defended David Barton often on the grounds that his assertions are at least arguable [see the other thread where I explain how he convolutedly gets from a Bible verse to a line in the Constitution], but I don’t see how this one works in the slightest.

      with abortion itself viewed as a form of increased violence.

      He COULD argue that, but that’s not his argument.

      I think Barton would likely argue that reduced crime due to abortion only hides the “true” crime rate by using despotic means to hold down the crime rate.

      If the decrease in the crime rate can be traced to despotism, it vindicates Barton’s model.

      Neither is that.

      A more intellegent argument would be a more thorough one, looking at the relatively low crime rates during the Great Depression, where economic privation and poverty would be expected to jack crime rates up, but us being a Biblical people back then, the bad economic conditions didn’t.

      I don’t know if that argument holds statistically or not, but the one at hand sure doesn’t. Mostly, now that crack’s pretty much gone, we’re all pretty mellow–stoned on weed or zonked on Prozac, like the “soma” in Brave New World. BNW is the real story of our age–sexed up, zoned out, all desire sated, all boredom amused.

      • bman

        Tom Van Dyke: “He COULD argue that, but that’s not his argument.”

        ——

        I agree with that but I do not find it to be a problem.

        WT’s hypothetical question in the intro asked, “If Barton’s theory was correct, then why would crime rates be falling?”

        I framed my comment with that hypothetical question in mind.

        That question essentially means, “How COULD Barton possibly answer?”

        It calls for a response that says, “Well, he COULD say this.”

        My comment only needed to be compatible with Barton’s model. It did not need to use an actual argument of Barton’s unless he already answered that specific question himself.

        Furthermore, your comment on the Great depression would provide explanatory power to Barton’s model whether he actually used the argument before or not.

        WT’s hypothetical intro question permits arguments that are compatible with Barton’s model, whether Barton made those arguments or not.

  • Warren

    bman – I have about stopped reading your comments because you are changing the subject. You have been asked multiple times why you think Barton did not show the violent crime rates from 1963 to the present.

    I am as pro-life as they come and I don’t believe abortion is legal because someone thought hey let’s hold down crime rates. You are now introducing a new variable “despotism” which is not what Barton claimed. He didn’t say it and you can’t prove it. Isn’t it about time to give up on this?

    Bottom line: Barton made a claim, and selected only the evidence he wanted his audience to know. He is either a really incompetent social scientist or a dishonest one.

    • ken

      “He is either a really incompetent social scientist or a dishonest one.”

      I chose “all of the above”.

  • bman

    WT: “You have been asked multiple times why you think Barton did not show the violent crime rates from 1963 to the present.”

    —–

    I addressed the question in the context of the prior discussion.

    In the context, the question was a proxy for the accusations of dishonesty that had been made. With that context in mind, I essentially said I can hypothesize a rational basis for stopping the chart at 1993 that allows reasonably doubt concerning those accusations.

    In effect, my position amounted to saying presumed innocence was the proper approach and that presumed guilt should not be used unless a very high standard of proof has been met.

  • bman

    WT: You are now introducing a new variable “despotism” which is not what Barton claimed. He didn’t say it and you can’t prove it. Isn’t it about time to give up on this?”

    —–

    Its not about me “proving it,” but its about there being a common sense hypothetical answer to your intro question, “If Barton’s theory was correct, then why would crime rates be falling?”

    I am saying crime rates can decrease consistently with Barton’s model if the decrease in crime was hypothetically due to Orwellian causes or something analogous thereto.

    If someone wanted to oppose my claim, I think they would need to assert a counter claim along this line, “Barton’s model predicts an increase in crime even if Orwellian causes were tried.”

    I am not saying I proved anything, but only that my claim is comparatively more rational than the corresponding counter claim, and that my claim provides a hypothetical, although unproven, answer to your intro question.

  • bman

    WT: “I am as pro-life as they come and I don’t believe abortion is legal because someone thought hey let’s hold down crime rates.”

    ——

    I do not wish to get sidetracked by whether abortion is legal because “someone” intended that , but I would not summarily dismiss it either, as you have done.

    Judicial activism (as in Roe V. Wade etc.) seems to come from a social engineering think tank out there somewhere.

    Furthermore, if “someone” did intend that, you can be sure there would be a lot of euphemism surrounding it when stated, and a listener or reader would need to work through the euphemism to identify it.

    The 1972 Rockefeller report on “Population Growth and the American Future” contains the statement, “…abortion [should] not be considered a primary means of fertility control…”.

    The inference was that abortion should be “considered” useful for managing fertility control, but not as the primary means.

    Among the reasons given by the report for implementing a “fertility control” policy, was this, “…in Sweden…children born to women whose applications for abortion were denied…registered more often with psychiatric services, engaged in more antisocial and criminal behavior, and have been more dependent on public assistance.”

    That is about as far as I can go with that point, but I think its enough to show why we can’t summarily dismiss the question.

    With that said, it was not my intent to say abortion was [purposely used] to reduce crime. I was primarily thinking of [defacto use] there.

    If a change in anything can be traced to some means, the means can not be unused. The “intent” to use may not be there, but a defacto use would be there.

    I said, for example, “… if reduced crime can be traced to despotic means being used..” If you object to my use of the word “used,” just remove it and read my statement as, “”… if reduced crime can be traced to despotic means.”

    As you know, some scholars attribute the reduce crime rate to abortion. You essentially dismissed the various theories and focused simply on the fact crime had been reduced. I am saying you can’t afford to do that.

    Suppose “someone” attacked Barton by appealing to reduced crime rates without knowing the cause, and suppose the reduced crime was due to high abortion rates. It would follow, logically, that the “someone” used high abortion rates [defacto] to attack Barton’s theory.

    As I said earlier, we need to know why the decline occurred before it can be used to attack Batron’s model.

    • AJ

      Well, if Barton has an answer to the decrease, why didn’t he just show the data up the through the current year and then explain why violent crime decreased after 1993?

  • bman

    AJ: “Well, if Barton has an answer to the decrease, why didn’t he just show the data up the through the current year and then explain why violent crime decreased after 1993?”

    —-

    Since we don’t know we can only speculate among possible reasons.

    Its rational, however, to suppose that if a speaker showed a chart for 1993 to an audience in the year 2013, the audience would notice the gap.

    In turn, its rational to think Barton would have expected the audience to notice, and felt he was prepared if there was a question about it.

    • Tom Van Dyke

      Latest data [May 2013]

      Gun Homicide Rate Down 49% Since 1993 Peak; Public Unaware http://www.pewresearch.org

      http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/files/2013/05/firearms_final_05-2013.pdf?

      I’m an apologist dispositionally, so I’d help you with this argument if I could, B-man, but this one’s unsalvageable. 1993 was the peak [coinciding with the crack epidemic], and stopping the chart there is just too big a coincidence. Showing the following 20 years would completely deflate his argument.

    • AJ

      Why wait for a question? Why not just put your theories out there?

      • bman

        AJ: “Why wait for a question? Why not just put your theories out there?”

        —–

        Waiting for a question afterwards could be explained by the complexity of the answer it would need.

        I think many speakers would want to postpone something until after their presentation ended if a back and forth exchange would be needed to handle it properly.

        • AJ

          Honestly, your ridiculous attempts to obscure the obvious can’t be convincing anyone.

          • bman

            What fact has been obscured?

  • bman

    Tom Van Dyke: “…1993 was the peak [coinciding with the crack epidemic], and stopping the chart there is just too big a coincidence…”

    ——–

    The article you referenced says the crack problem started mid 80′s or so.

    Aren’t we are looking for something around 1963 to have started the increase?

    It seems like the crack problem was too late to explain an increase that started in 1963.

    • Tom Van Dyke

      Mr. B-man, if you have some charts backing up Barton’s claim, simply link to them and leave me out of it.

      Basically, although murder rose from 1964-1980, it went back down again, except for a bump 1991-93 for the crack epidemic. Barton may have had a case in 1980, but it’s all settled down since–the claim is out of date.

      “Homicide victimization, 1950-2000

      From 1950 to 1964, the rate remains constant at around 4.5

      per 100,000. The rate increases to 9.8 per 100,000 in 1974.

      The rate dips slightly from 1975 to 1976, then increases

      to 10.2 in 1980. After 1981 it decreases reaching 8.3 per

      100,000 in 1983 and then increasing again to 9.8 per 100,000

      in 1991 where it remains constant until 1994. After 1994 it

      decreases sharply to 5.5 per 100,000

      in 2000.

      Data is available at:

      http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/homicide/tables/totalstab.htm

      [2012 rate: 4.8]

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_intentional_homicide_rate

  • bman

    Tom Van Dyke: “Mr. B-man, if you have some charts backing up Barton’s claim, simply link to them and leave me out of it.”

    —–

    I was asking about the logic behind your charting comments.

    I don’t think there is a way to ask and leave you out of it at the same time. :-)

    TVD: “Barton may have had a case in 1980, but it’s all settled down since–the claim is out of date.”

    I approach the question differently. In my view, whatever caused the increase can continue to have an effect during the decrease period – an effect that would be seen in high costs related to the decrease.

    By analogy, its like Barton saying, “When the fence was up, predator attacks on the cattle were low. And then predator attacks on cattle increased for 30 months because the fence was removed.”

    To which you or someone else says, “Although predator attacks increased for 30 months they have been low for twenty months since then with the fence down, and so removing the fence had nothing to do with the increase in the first place. It’s all settled down since–the claim is out of date.”

    If you disagree with analogy as stated I am willing to make adjustments so it better represents your intent.

    Anyway, moving forward with the analogy, if the reduction in predator attacks can be traced to high cost efforts [more guards, more killing and trapping of predators, more motion detectors or cameras, moving the cattle constantly] then the removal of the fence continues to have effect during the decline period, but the effect is now seen in the high costs paid to achieve the decline, rather than the number of predator attacks.

    My apologies for bringing you into it again, but, as noted, I don’t know a way to answer your objections while leaving you out of it at the same time!

    • Tom Van Dyke

      To which you or someone else says, “Although predator attacks increased for 30 months they have been low for twenty months since then with the fence down, and so removing the fence had nothing to do with the increase in the first place. It’s all settled down since–the claim is out of date.”

      If you disagree with analogy as stated I am willing to make adjustments so it better represents your intent.

      That’s a logically sound argument–although its premise/assertion of Bible = lower murder remains unproved. However now that murder rates have returned to their historically typical 4.8 per 100,000, you need to make the case that putting the Bible back in schools would lower the murder rate further.

      Hey, I think it’s possible, but you simply won’t be able to prove it. The counterargument, that we have got used to having no Bible, is also logically valid. The best Barton can manage is to assert that taking the Bible from schools caused the murder rate to rise 1964-1980.

      But the rebuttal is that even if that’s true, there’s no evidence we should put it back in here in 2013. We’re fine without it, and have avoided a First Amendment complication in the process.

  • ken

    AJ says:

    July 3, 2013 at 11:34 pm

    “Honestly, your ridiculous attempts to obscure the obvious can’t be convincing anyone.”

    *

    bman says:

    July 4, 2013 at 1:27 pm

    What fact has been obscured?

    what is obvious is that stopping the chart at 1993 was a deliberate deception on Barton’s part. And that is why you never answered AJ’s question.

    • bman

      Ken: “What is obvious is that stopping the chart at 1993 was a deliberate deception on Barton’s part. And that is why you never answered AJ’s question.”

      —-

      You fail to distinguish fact from your opinion.

      Its a fact the chart stopped at 1993.

      Is a fact Barton deliberately excluded the period of decrease that followed.

      Its a fact you and I don’t know why the chart was deliberately stopped at 1993.

      Its your opinion there was deliberate deception, but that cannot be called a fact .

      You also claim I never answered Aj’s quesiton but that is incorrect .

      I recently answered by saying we don’t know the answer, and that we can only speculate.

      I also offered my own speculation that Barton may have deliberately waited for a question, since a back and forth exchange would be needed to handle it properly.

      I can offer more speculation as well, like, he wanted to avoid mentioning the theory some scholars have proposed that abortion reduces crime, because that discussion could prove disturbing to many if openly discussed, or he determined to not allow that kind of discussion to come from his ministry.

      There is an old saying, “raise no more devils than you can knock down.” That is, don’t start a controversy unless you can also stop it.

      If questions arose he could have mentioned something like the fence cost analogy I gave, or said there is no consensus among researchers for the cause of the decrease, and that it ultimately reduces to a lot of speculative and controversial ideas that harm the listeners with no final conclusion.

      In the final analysis the lack of consensus among researchers meant the decrease was moot.

      It would not be deceitful to exclude something moot, and it would be wiser to not include it given the reasons stated.

      • ken

        “Its your opinion there was deliberate deception, but that cannot be called a fact .”

        I never said it was a “fact.” I said it was an obvious (to everyone but you) observation.

        “I also offered my own speculation that Barton may have deliberately waited for a question, since a back and forth exchange would be needed to handle it properly. ”

        So to be clear. you think that Barton ended the chart in 1993 because he wanted his audience to ask him about the years between 1993 and the present?

        How much do you actually know about Barton ? Are you aware that he has a history of misrepresentations?

  • bman

    Ken: “I never said it was a “fact.” I said it was an obvious (to everyone but you) observation.”

    —–

    My previous reply contained several points that you did not counter.

    If all you have is “its obvious” logic books call that an unsupported claim.

  • bman

    TVD: “That’s a logically sound argument–although its premise/assertion of Bible = lower murder remains unproved.”

    —–

    Though unproved, I do not think that is a problem in the present discussion.

    WT proposed this hypothetical question in the intro, “If Barton’s theory was correct, then why would crime rates be falling?”

    The challenge is not to prove Barton’s theory, but to presume its correct and then explain how decreases in crime could occur.

    Its like asking how predator attacks on cattle can increase “because the fence was removed” if those attacks declined later while the fence was gone.

    All that is needed is a plausible explanation.

    That requirement has been met, I believe.

    • Zoe Brain

      Given the past history of deceit, and that even Barton hasn’t made any such claim, as plausible as invisible pink unicorns.

      • bman

        ZB: “Given the past history of deceit, and that even Barton hasn’t made any such claim, as plausible as invisible pink unicorns.”

        ——

        Your questions aside, it still seems correct to say Barton’s theory can be hypothetically harmonized with declining crime rates.

        • Warren

          bman – it is hypothetically possible that you are the Court Jester in the High Court of the Sun God Ra as well.

          • bman

            The difference is my hypothesis has real world plausibility, while your hypothesis does not.

    • Tom Van Dyke

      Though unproved, I do not think that is a problem in the present discussion.

      WT proposed this hypothetical question in the intro, “If Barton’s theory was correct, then why would crime rates be falling?”

      The challenge is not to prove Barton’s theory, but to presume its correct and then explain how decreases in crime could occur.

      That’s been done–aborting the underprivileged. But since murder rates are back to 1940s levels, the burden of proof is on why we should put the fence back up. The rebuttal is that Bible is now unnecessary–we have abortion. Where we used to have a fence we now have a moat–if the fence ever existed at all, which remains unproven.

  • leaford

    bman,

    One of the problems with reasoning from analogies is that the way in which you map reality to the analogous scenario ends up affecting the reasoning. In this case, you have erroneously cast Mr. Barton in the role of the defendant and WT in the role of the plaintiff. In fact, that should be reversed.

    You are treating this discussion as if it were about WT accusing Barton of being dishonest, and therefore you are giving Barton the presumption of innocence against that accusation. That’s wrong, because it does not include the complete sequence of events. The conversation was started by Barton, who claimed in his ministry that removing the bible from schools led to the increase in violent crime. The “accusations” you are defending Barton against were not charges cast at Barton, they were just counter arguments disputing Barton’s original claim.

    IOW, Barton is the party who originally brought a claim. Therefore, he is the plaintiff here, and he is saddled with the burden of proof. WT is sitting in the defendants bench, and is arguing that Barton did not meet that burden.

    Another problem with reasoning from analogies is the presumption that if the analogy fits, then all the standards that would apply to the analogy should apply to the real argument at hand. Take for example your assertions over whether reasonable doubt or preponderance of evidence is the appropriate standard. I have to say that you’re taking the metaphor WAY too literally if you apply either of those standards. This is a claim about historical trends, not a claim of fact about a specific act, like a crime or a tort. The standard here is more like, “does the claim accord with the verifiable facts and explain those facts better than other competing explanations?”

    For example, the idea that greater access to abortion led to fewer babies being born in circumstances that might have led them to becoming criminals (which in turn resulted in falling crime rates) would be one of those other possible explanations that Barton needs to prove that his explanation is superior to.

    Speaking only for myself, who I guess would be one of the jury in this Court of Analogies, I think that Barton’s only piece of evidence supporting his claim (the rise of violent crimes from 1963-1993) would be evidence of correlation at the most, but not even close to being proof of causation. So for me, he would have failed to meet his burden of proof even if WT had said nothing.

    The counter argument that the rate of violent crimes fell after 1993, but there was no corresponding change in teaching the bible in schools to explain it, seems pretty devastating to Barton’s theory. Worse, since Barton deliberately chose to cut his chart off at 1993, just before the drop that would have undercut his argument, I feel like Mr. Barton was being dishonest in his presentation because it is obvious that he would have known the full statistics and willfully chose to not include them, and I am therefore that much more less likely to accept him as a credible and trustworthy source because of that.

    And I honestly can not think of any hypothetical scenario which would relieve Barton from that judgment. I can’t come up with any believable explanation for why he would have chosen that cut off point in particular and not any other for his chart, except that not cutting it off at that point would have undermined his point. Can you?

    • Tom Van Dyke

      I think that Barton’s only piece of evidence supporting his claim (the rise of violent crimes from 1963-1993) would be evidence of correlation at the most, but not even close to being proof of causation. So for me, he would have failed to meet his burden of proof even if WT had said nothing.

      Keep in mind we can seldom wrap causation and correlation into a nice tidy body. When things go into the crapper, you take your best shot at an explanation–what CS Peirce called “induction.”

      http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/peirce/#dia

      The case that less Bible = more fatherless children would probably have been a far more sustainable argument. As usual, David Barton’s ambition overshoots what could have been a more modest but sensible argument.

      • leaford

        “Less bible=more fatherless children”

        Be honest. You have no evidence to support that, so why even bring it up? Can you show that there is a higher percentage of single mother, no father, households in non Christian nations than in Christian ones? If that’s not the case, then that undermines any causative relationship between the bible and the father’s relationship with the children.

        • Tom Van Dyke

          If you were interested in the truth, I suppose you would do some research and make a counterargument. Anyone can play epistemological Immovable Object, and even in the face of strong evidence, always has the trap door of “correlation isn’t causation.”

          But skepticism is not argument–it’s barely thought. Feh.

          BTW, my apologies about the scientist-philosopher CS Peirce. His concept is “abduction.”

          http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/abduction/peirce.html

          “As he says, “[a]bduction is the process of forming explanatory hypotheses. It is the only logical operation which introduces any new idea” (CP 5.172)”

          Skeptics are boring. They have their purpose in the testing process, but that means doing some work on their own. Simply shooting spitballs at any idea they don’t like is easy, and lazy. Anyone can shirk burden of proof, and when that’s the game, truth is not the goal, only winning.

      • bman

        TVD: “The case that less Bible = more fatherless children would probably have been a far more sustainable argument.”

        —–

        I was also thinking along that line. Fatherless homes seem linked to juvenile delinquency, which is linked to higher crime rates.

        So, how can a society have an increase in fatherless homes (which fits Barton’s model) and a decreasing crime rate at the same time?

        Perhaps that question can be explained by the “dungeons” being full, which keeps down the crime rate, meaning America has the highest incarceration rate in the world.

        It may be a case of, “removing the fence will increase crime, but building a moat and dungeons will lower it again.”

  • bman

    TVD: “Where we used to have a fence we now have a moat–if the fence ever existed at all, which remains unproven.”

    —–

    A correct statement with an effective analogical comparison.

    No objections.

    • Tom Van Dyke

      I’m honored, sir. And a game defense of Barton. His assertion that less Bible = more murder remains unrefudiated at least for the period 1964-1980 or so. Mythbusters rates it “PLAUSIBLE,” although likely unprovable.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton Warren

        When did Barton say less Bible=more murder? And why would you only consider 1964-1980?

        • Tom Van Dyke

          1964-1980 shows the uptick in murder rates that would sustain Barton’s argument–had it been true for 1947-2013.

          • Richard Willmer

            The US murder rate is barely more than HALF what it was 80 years ago, Tom (and I suspect that a higher proportion of [alleged] murders are reported as such these days, though I cannot, of course, know this), So I can see that considering only ’64 – ’80 as being somewhat questionable.

      • leaford

        Are you serious or tongue in cheek? Are you seriously claiming that Mythbusters tackled this question? I highly doubt that, it’s not even nearly their style. No explosions, for one thing. And are you seriously suggesting they would be a credible source if they did?

        Please tell me my sarcasm meter is failing me here.

        • Tom Van Dyke

          Wearin’ me out here, Lea. Your abduction was correct.

  • bman

    leaford: “Barton is the party who originally brought a claim. Therefore, he is the plaintiff here, and he is saddled with the burden of proof. WT is sitting in the defendants bench, and is arguing that Barton did not meet that burden.”

    —–

    I appreciate the reply and the careful explanation.

    However, I feel I already answered your comment in principle in my July 1 reply to AJ:

    “If you [AJ] said [Barton's] rationale was flawed because of x,y,z the standard of “preponderance of the evidence” should be used to judge your claim. However, [once] an accusation of unethical motive is attached to that, the burden of proof shifts to you to prove the accusation beyond a reasonable doubt.”

    I also said, “I am describing my approach, and referring to the court by way of analogy only.”

    And so, I feel your post was answered by my response to AJ along with my clarification that I was describing my approach.

    You seem to think its wrong to shift the burden as I described above, but I feel its proper and that it also helps keep the discussion academic.

    • leaford

      Wait, what?

      I was giving you the benefit of the doubt and assuming you were innocently and accidentally shifting the burden of proof. You are now clarifying that you were doing it deliberately? Well, I respect your honesty so far as it goes at least. But what you don’t seem to understand is that you don’t get to do that. That’s an error in logic. A fallacy. Shifting the goalposts. And here you are doubling down on it, and acting as if you’re fully justified in doing so.

      Well, you’re not. Barton made a claim. He had a burden of proof to support that claim. The piece of evidence he offered to do so was inadequate to the task in and of itself, WT gave a further counter-argument against the claim, and other posters have proposed an alternate claim to explain the known facts (ie the abortion hypothesis) which has not been refuted at all, not to mention that there are many other proposed explanations elsewhere for the falling crime rates, ranging from better socio-economic conditions, to fewer lead poisoned children. So there is more evidence on the table against the claim than for it. Shifting the burden of proof is not a valid tactic to defend the original claim, it is a desperate and invalid rhetorical trick. Is your goal to buffalo onlookers into thinking you have won the argument, or is it to get closer to the truth of the subject being discussed?

      I happened to re-read through your previous comments and was struck by this quote. “The challenge is not to prove Barton’s theory, but to presume its correct and then explain how decreases in crime could occur.” So that’s your method, is it? Assume that what you want to believe is true, then try to explain how any evidence to the contrary still fits the theory you are assuming is true? Does that really seem intellectually honest to you? You don’t see that that method does not lead you to truth, but can only reinforce beliefs you already hold?

      And last, I will note that you quote yourself posing the false dilemma that we must either use the preponderance of evidence standard or the reasonable doubt standard. As I said before, neither of those is an appropriate standard here. Legal standards of proof are context specific, they are not logical necessities. They hold no force outside of the courtroom. Barton is proposing a hypothesis, an explanation for observed facts. The standard for proving or falsifying a hypothesis is whether the hypothesis explains all the known facts, is not contradicted by known facts, and is a better explanation than other competing hypothesis’. RD and PoE are not adequate tools for the job.

  • bman

    leander: “Shifting the burden of proof is not a valid tactic to defend the original claim, it is a desperate and invalid rhetorical trick.”

    —–

    To me, it sounds like you are grabbing pieces of what I said but framing them in a slanted and negative context.

    For example, if someone read your post, would they think I ever said the following, “…my claim provides a hypothetical, although unproven, answer to your intro question.”

    What exactly is wrong with that?

    If you review my comments further you will also find I acknowledged Barton’s model was not proved in various replies to TVD.

    You also ignored the balancing effect of a proper context where you quote me as saying, “The challenge is not to prove Barton’s theory, but to presume its correct and then explain how decreases in crime could occur.”

    Although I said that, I was describing the hypothetical question WT posed in the intro, “If Barton’s theory was correct, then why would crime rates be falling?”

    In my view, the challenge IN THAT QUESTION is not to prove Barton’s theory, but to presume the “if” statement [If Barton’s theory was correct] and then answer the WHY question [why would crime rates be falling].”

    Why is it wrong for me to answer a question from the intro using the conditions it set forth?

    You concluded, “The standard for proving or falsifying a hypothesis is …,” and you ended with this, “…[its] a better explanation than other competing hypothesis. RD and PoE are not adequate tools for the job.”

    Well, I find very little difference between PoE (preponderence of the evidence) and , “[its] a better explanation.”

    Although I used RD (the reasonable doubt test) it was for the accusation of dishonesty that was being made.

    Do you think an accusation of dishonesty should be treated as simply a hypothesis? If you do, I think that’s a categorical mistake on your part.

    Personal accusations against someone belong in a different category and should be handled differently than some abstract academic theory!

    In sum, I believe I properly shifted the burden of proof onto those who made accusations of dishonesty, at no point did I shift the burden of proof when it came to whether Barton’s model was proved, and I offered a plausible, although unproven, hypothetical answer to the hypothetical challenge in the intro.

    And that’s the correct context!

    • bman

      Correction: I meant the post to refer to leaford where it says leander. My apologies for the typo.