Guidelines for posting

July 24, 2009 • 6:01 am

A couple of recent threads have begun to turn into flame wars.  To prevent this website from degenerating, here are a few guidelines for posting.  If you flout them, your posts are subject to removal.

1.  Do not call people names.  I don’t like to see people called “idiots” or “morons” to their e-face, no matter who they are.  Let’s keep the discourse calm and civil, although of course passionate arguments are welcome — indeed, encouraged.

2.  If you’re coming here to claim that the “theory” of evolution is a hoax, or is in some important way incorrect, you’re probably at the wrong place.  Realize that you are fighting 150 years of solid evidence.  The evidence for evolution is of course the topic of my book, which is also the title of this website.  If you think you have new and dramatic evidence that modern evolutionary theory is wrong, give it.  If you just want to rant, there are plenty of other blogs where they welcome that.  If you’re seeking education about evolution, ask politely for it and then go consult the references you’re given. If you assert something that my book — or many of the other books describing what evolution is and how it works — debunks, you’ll be spanked for not doing your homework.

3.  If you’re here to tout some form of intelligent design/creationism, you’re probably at the wrong place as well.  ID and creationism have been thoroughly refuted for years.  I won’t tolerate somebody coming here and announcing that, say, Michael Behe has a lot of great ideas about irreducible complexity.  If you have dramatic new evidence for ID/creationism, give it.

28 thoughts on “Guidelines for posting

  1. Hey, you’re blog has gotten popular enough that you need to publish a “comment policy!”

    Congratulations, Dr. Coyne. I dream of the day that happens with my blog.

  2. On the flip side, it does give your site a sense of danger. It’s probably just the PZ half-life effect that carries over into blogosphere havoc. All apologies.

  3. Good ground rules!

    Based on the past couple days I began to suppose that we might be experiencing a troll-for-the-day phenomenon – that holding forth here against all reason here must be one of the initiation rites of some wacktard group – and wondering who the next might be.

    Yesterday’s posts, which of course rehashed all of their canards, should be valuable to refer any future trolls to rather than waste any further time.

  4. I see you’re being accommodationist towards morons. You’re turning into Chris Mooney!!! 😉

    Those rules seem fair enough, though keeping people civil and asking them to be informed is asking a lot for the internet.

  5. I shall restrain myself from the name calling, even if the broken record that is creationism drives my blood pressure up so that my eye balls start to bulge.

  6. I am no troll of the day…Hopefully I will be here for the long haul. Already I have learned alot about toucans.

  7. Gee, I go away on vacation for a couple weeks and the comments spin out of control.

    These guidelines appear to be basic common sense for the majority of us, but I guess there are still a few ‘children’ out there that need reminding.

  8. Andrew please allow me to help in focusing your attention on at least one part of the guidelines that applies to YOU. From the first sentence of number 2:

    If you’re coming here to claim that the “theory” of evolution is a hoax, or is in some important way incorrect, you’re probably at the wrong place.

    Now, review your first comment under the topic “more lying creationists”.

    I have found your comments to be deceptive and unreliable, including the one at 8 above. Lets hope you can do better in the future, shall we?

    One more clue, the evolutionary process is the same for “micro” and “macro” evolution, the only difference is the amount of time involved.

  9. OK, so I have a couple questions. I come at this from the perspective of a reasonably intelligent and educated layperson, without any particular background in mathematics or science. I am convinced that “intelligent design” is a load of hooey because I have watched it “evolve” from the ham-fisted creationism of my childhood to the more science-y sounding “intelligent design” of today. Looking at this from a political perspective, it is quite clear that this change was motivated by a desire to get around laws prohibiting the introduction of religion into public school classrooms. Moreover, it seems obvious that “intelligent design” doesn’t really answer any questions. If we are too complex to have developed naturally, then surely the designer is even more complex. “Intelligent design” does not explain, or make any attempt to explain, the existence of the designer, nor does it make any attempt to explain how the designer operates, i.e. how he or she comes up with the designs and implements them on a physical level.

    But here are my questions:

    (1) The ID proponents seem to throw the word “materialism” around a lot as a pejorative. What do they mean by this? That we shouldn’t be looking at the physical processes by which life arose and evolved? Isn’t that the very point of biology? I get the sense that this criticism of “materialism” is an effort to blur the meaning of what biology is and inject religion/speculation into it. Can anyone here clarify what this is all about?

    (2) I think the ID people have done an effective job of making it appear to the average person on the street that there actually is some kind of legitimate dispute. I will hand it to Mr. Dembski that arguments like “irreducible complexity” or some of the probability arguments he makes are somewhat sophisticated in that the average person on the street is in no position to refute them. While I believe wholeheartedly that this should not be a propaganda war for public opinion, the fact is that when it comes to votes and schoolboards and what people decide to expose their children to, public opinion matters.

    So how does the average person on the street counter this crap? I generally say, well, the scientific community has rejected this stuff, and I trust that given that this is a community of people who make decisions based on evidence and the testing of falsifiable hypotheses, with checks and balances through the peer review process. Unfortunately, that tends to sound to many American ears like an appeal to authority, or an appeal to the elites.

    I guess any group sufficiently determined to lie and make intellectually dishonest arguments can flim flam the American public. Any tips for the average person on the street to counter this stuff?

    1. I heard Richard Dawkins asked much the same question once, and his reply was “Read a book. There are shelf-miles of them.” If your question came up with anyone I might meet on the street, I wouldn’t hesitate to first recommend WEIT – it was written for exactly the sort of lay person you refer to (and it was for exactly that reason, and the success it has in speaking to that audience, that it made it onto Newsweeks list of 50 referred to here a couple wks ago.

      But as to a quick counter, you might ask them whether, if their transmission in their car were acting balky, they would take it to a transmission shop or an amateur philosopher.

      Similarly, they’re running a persistent temperature of 104, profuse perspiration alternating with chills and shakes. Will they go see a medical doctor or an amateur philosopher.

      If the answer in both cases is (a), then why, with questions about biology, would you consult an amateur philosopher?

    1. Lord K:

      I do not even engage NE Bob. He literally tracks me around this site, engaging in ad hominem. I don’t even try to engage him in discussion anymore because he’s clearly not a serious person, nor is he treating me with basic decency or fairness. Whatever you say to him is returned with insult. I’ve told him to stop harrassing me. That’s the best I can do.


  10. Lord Kitchener and Prof. Coyne:

    I haven’t contributed to any of the threads here for a WEEK. No posts in the past week, in any threads here, are mine. The last thread I visited prior to this one is the “comedy” one (last week). But today at one of the threads at my own blog, a poster named Veronica says that NE Bob imagines somebody named “Andrew” here is me. NE Bob imagines that he is exposing me for this other guy, apparently.

    I just want to emphasize that I only post under my own name (Santi) and never use a pseudonym. I do this on principle. I don’t believe in anonymous blogging. I believe in democracy and dialogue.

    In short, I really believe that NE Bob is engaging in the crassest ad hominem here, even attributing other people here to being me. He really brings down the quality of the threads. And I would like people to notice that I generally avoid responding to Bob because he is so obviously obsessed with ad hominem and ideological policing.

    As for arguing with NE Bob, Lord Kitchener, I don’t. I generally ignore him. The proximity of our posts is born out of NE Bob’s compulsion to reply to anything I say, not because I have interest in engaging him.

    But when I’m not visiting here, NE Bob appears to have the need to invent me.


  11. Interested Layperson:

    To address your questions,

    1) The reason they toss around “materialism” so much is because they do view it as a pejorative. To them, science no longer practices methodological naturalism, but somehow goes beyond this and, instead of seeking to find naturalistic explanations for instances that have them, science is now some evil atheistic (read: materialistic) paradigm that’s out to destroy the supernatural.

    Depending on your view of the domain of science and what claims fall into the natural realm vs. the supernatural one, this may be more or less true, but never the absolutist conspiracy that Creationists try to make it out to be.

    2) I think you’re underestimating your abilities. In general, the arguments you hear on a day by day basis are ones that lay people can understand. As such, they should be able to be argued against by a layperson as well. In reality the more “complex” ones like Dembski’s are no more complex, but rather, are dressed up in lots of technical terms.

    If you can parse those topics and bring them down to an easier to understand level (many websites exist that do just this), there shouldn’t be any Creationist argument that’s in any way too difficult for you to refute.

    1. I think this is a good response. Materialism is a term that theists hear as “has no soul” and all the things they might equate with that– and/or they confuse it with the obsession to acquire wealth and material goods.

      Materialism means that if it isn’t matter or it doesn’t affect matter– it doesn’t matter as far as science is concerned. Something has to distinguish itself from it’s non existence to be tested, honed, and understood. (For example: DNA)

      A soul or god is the same as demons and fairies as far as science is concerned because the evidence for all invisible unmeasurable entities is zero… as is the evidence for anything supernatural. Appealing to the supernatural is the same as saying “it’s magic” in science.

      A lot of creationists don’t have real questions about evolution… they really want to know how their god fits in, so their questions are designed to find a place for that god.

      I tell people if they really want to know an answer to something in science, they ought to ask the question of someone who has a passion and expertise in the field “work”. For example, my expertise is genetics… when I want to understand something about astronomy, I ask astronomers such as Phil Plait or Neil Degrasse Tyson. A lot of stuff about the “fabric of space” is beyond my understanding, but I trust the people who love the subject to be honest with what is known and I find them to best teachers of that information–they’ve studied it for years and are eager to share what it is they’ve learned.

      However, a lot of people really don’t want to know the facts– they want to believe they already have them. Sometimes I ask people how they’d explain that the earth was round to someone who believed it was flat and wanted to know how far it was to the edge of the earth. And then when they respond I throw creationist-type questions at them…like, “Why doesn’t the water spill out? Have YOU measured the earth? You just have to make up the theory of gravity to explain why people don’t fall off or get motion sickness…etc.”

      I want them to understand how hard it is to answer ignorant questions with and implied bias.

      (Oh, and kudos and kisses to Jimmy Carter and his recent support of learning evolution. )

  12. But I am a moron, and feel that you’re bigotry against morons will end with me being called something politically correct such as “intelligence challenged” or “in the lowest quartile of IQ” or some such.

    Really, I have nothing of value to add, I just hadn’t commented for a week.

    Andrew does seem like a dogmatic chap who isn’t here to learn. It’ll be interesting to see if that bears out.

    1. He came here “dying to be convinced that macroevolution is true”, you know. Do you think he’ll get his wish?

  13. Do not call people names. I don’t like to see people called “idiots” or “morons” to their e-face, no matter who they are. Let’s keep the discourse calm and civil, although of course passionate arguments are welcome — indeed, encouraged.

    And what happens when a good argument is met with intemperate idiocy?

    The fact is that it rarely takes very long for the dishonesty, ignorance, and inability to think of the creationists to become the major obstacle to any sort of true argumentation at all.

    I’d agree as well that when “faitheist” is chosen as a deliberate term of derision for people who actually can and generally do discuss matters reasonably, the point of “not calling names” is exceedingly murky. Perhaps especially since it’s difficult to see what “faith” has to do with Ruse’s position, and appears to be calculated to be a prejudicial insult. Andrew, by contrast, was called a moron and an idiot when he acted like a moron and an idiot.

    You can make any kind of rules, of course, including that IDists will be called IDiots by yourself (but not to their e-faces? Is that true, and if so, why?), and that prejudicial terms will be used for those on our side with differing viewpoints, while people are not to be called “idiots” when they’ve proven to be nothing else here, thereby preventing any meaningful argumentation. However, it is not flattering to a blog owner to appear as arbitrary and thus demanding of “politeness” in one case and not in another.

    Glen Davidson

  14. I seen a thread on this webmaster forum today talking about Local RSS and was wondering if anyone know of any good site that have local feeds that I can use for my wordpress blog plugin wp-o-matic?

    I appreciate your help. I tried the common sense way by searching google and can’t seem to find anything with any value to it and mainly I want the top rss I can find, but really one site so far.

    Also, I don’t see an rss feed for this forum. Do you have a rss? If so I would like to subscribe! Your forum seems pretty cool so added ya’ to my favorites.



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