Response to Bobby Maddex

| 33 Comments
Bobby Maddex, senior editor of Crux magazine, has replied to my criticism of inaccuracies that were present in accounts of the Sternberg/Smithsonian situation written by him and by John Coleman. While Coleman responding reasonably and graciously, thanking me for pointing out the inaccuracies and making the requisite corrections, Maddex chooses instead to complain, without justification, about his mistreatment. Along the way, he also adds a few more inaccurate statements to the ones initially criticized. For a full fisking of his reply, see this post at Dispatches from the Culture Wars.

33 Comments

What is hilarious is that simply googling Sternberg’s name and going to his site would have corrected many of these errors. Of course, this fits with the general overall pattern of shoddy research from ID supporters.

Bobby Maddex writes

In fact, this is the last reference to the site that I will make in this blog. Such manipulative and decidedly unscientific ire is simply not worth my time.

Boo hoo hoo hoo hoo!

Another creationist reaches for his box of kleenex after watching his drivel get shredded on the Panda’s Thumb.

What Boohoo Bobby doesn’t understand is that we’re here to help him.

Bobby, you are always welcome to come here and sharpen your exceedingly dull and vapid arguments as to the scientific merits of so-called “ID theory”.

And trust me: they need sharpening. Or at least, you need a lot of help understanding how stupid your arguments sound. For example:

Aren’t scientific naturalists essentially saying, in other words, that they predict creation can’t explain the origins of the earth?

Frankly, I find it nearly impossible to believe that an adult human who claims to be knowledgeable about science would ask such an absurd question.

Scientists don’t “predict” anything about what “creation” can or can’t “explain” about origins.

Rather, scientists have ZERO USE for “theories” which invoke deities or mysterious alien beings to explain phenomenon.

Such theories (e.g., “ID theory”), as Maddex and most high schoolers are capable of understanding, can be invoked to explain ANYTHING, including phenomenon which already have adequate, time-tested, and universally accepted scientific explanations (e.g., evolution, planetary motion, glaciation, mountain formation, etc.).

aren’t they so stubbornly clinging to this prediction that they choose to ignore the mounting scientific evidence against a material cause for the universe?

Ah, so he’s smoking David Heddle’s crack now. Lovely.

As pointed out above, scientists aren’t “stubbornly clinging” to any predictions about what “creation” can or can’t “explain”. “Creation” can “explain” everything. But “creation” is not science.

And what is the likelihood that the weeping Maddex has forgotten that science is actually useful to humans? Slim.

What are the odds that the weeping Maddex hasn’t relied on science himself to accomplish some goal during his life? It’s guaranteed.

So what conclusions are we left to draw?

The usual ones. Our tissue-tearing creationist is a dissembling hypocrite too proud too admit he’s full of baloney, and too hell-bent on shoving his religion down everybody’s throat to see what a joke he makes of all religion in the process.

The real question is whether Darwinism can be considered a “theory” in light of its a priori commitment to atheistic assumptions.

Yet another impossible tired and patently bogus Johnsonite Christian talking point.

Please dry your tears, Mr. Maddex, and show us that you have the fortitude and intelligence to defend this claim from your tattered script.

As I noted above, you are perpetually invited to participate in the “rough and tumble of debate” just like your idol and prophet Big Bill Dembski.

So far, my impression is that both of you are full of hot putrid air and little else.

Oh, and make no mistake: if you choose not to debate me here, that is only putting off the inevitable. Someday you may find yourself debating me when you least expect it. Wouldn’t it be a pity if you hadn’t any experience beforehand?

What? They didn’t respond to my criticisms? Like they’re completely full of themselves for thinking what’s-their-fundamentalist-name can compete with the writings of PJ O’Rourke, or even Maureen Dowd (to say nothing of the good Dr. Gonzo himself).…

The wankers.

Get help GWW. Until then, shut up.

Thank you for your time.

What is most disturbing is the admission that Coleman and Maddox were merely parroting Klinghofer’s WSJ article.

both Coleman and I were merely relaying the details of the story as set forth by David Klinghoffer

. They thereby proved themselves adept practitioners of “Whitewater Journalism,” wherein something that is alleged in a scurrious publication is morphed into fact in another (allegedly reputable) publication.

Neat response Ed. If that is the standard of thinking we can expect from Crux, then I doubt the magazine will be making good on its very grand promises. Ho hum.

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Great White Wonder has had his commenting privileges removed. After numerous warnings and admonitions, it appears that he simply refuses to interact with others without bile and invective. In two weeks, we will remove the ban on his IP address and hope that in the intervening period, he will rethink his approach to posting here.

As a lurker on this weblog, I for one have to voice my dissatisfaction with the removal of Great White Wonder. I consistently enjoy reading his comments, as I think they shed needed light, of a novel hue, on the primary issues this list was meant to confront. I think it’s clear that the factual bases underpinning his arguments are consistently solid. But what makes them even more satisfying (for me) to read is that their overtones are often fuelled by the identification of, and the resulting legitimate frustration with, the insincere forms of “debate” that most ID proponents regularly employ, in this forum and in countless others.

Repeatedly, I have seen arguments forwarded by ID supporters completely unravel in the face of indisputable evidence to the contrary, arguments calmly and rationally presented by so many very patient people on this list. After this transpires, no objective and/or rudimentarily-informed observer could reasonably conclude that the particular ID point held any remaining merit. And yet, after this happens, I *seldom* see: A) any acknowledgement from the original point-maker that they were mistaken or confused in their assertions, and I have *never* seen B) any ID point-maker actually reconsider their fundamental position in light of the reasoned, well-supported scrutiny that their argument received.

What GWW acknowledges with his ‘bile and invective’ is that most ID proponents are presenting an increasingly-obvious argumentative ruse, designed to mask the fact that many (most?) have no interest whatsoever in sincerely reconsidering their perspectives on ID / evolution at all, much less reconciling them with the comprehensive array of facts that invalidate ID from multiple angles. Once discredited, they just repeat the same tired arguments over and over and over again (paralelling, uncoincidentally, the tactics employed by a certain presidential administration). GWW I believe sees this and responds in kind.

Regarding the proposed ban of GWW from this blog, I also want to comment that this strikes me as absurd. His initial post was neither vitriolic or insulting, but simply very sarcastic and rather polite at that. Following the debate from abroad, I was always surprised about the extremely fair treatment that the ID-ists get. ID-ists are regularly using misinterpretation, selective citations, outright lying and the whole range of state-of-the-art argument winning tools. When exposed or critizised it rarely leads to a change of thought or honest reassessment of statements. Nevertheless, seldomly a critic loses his temper and the ID-ists are nearly always treated with a lot of respect. GWW just used a refreshingly open way to state his opinion and, I repeat, was in no way insulting or inappropriate at all. I also want to make another point: We all agree that this debate is not so much about science but about Politics and Public Relations. It is a sad fact that the public does not patiently listens to arguments and then decides rationally, but will follow the one with the loudest voice. If the pro-science fraction is not even allowed to make fun of the ID-ists, we will have a harder time to win than necessary.

To those who are complaining about GWW’s ban:

The decision to ban him was not made solely by me, it was made by the entire contributor’s list. Believe me, I’m not the only one here who was tired of the absolutely relentless vitriol that came from him and no amount of complaining is going to change that. And the fact that he decided to evade that ban with another IP address rather than being mature enough to accept the judgement of the group speaks volumes, and may well result in making the ban more permanent. This is a privately owned webpage on a privately owned server and we certainly reserve every right to decide who may post here and who may not.

Utterly meaningless as this may be, coming from a mere unknown, I’ll ban myself from posting anything else.

Great White Wonder has my solidarity. She’s very, very much more honest than the people she confronts.

Ed Brayton: If I had not followed this thread closely, your comment on GWW evading your ban would not have made a lot of sense to me. But I saw GWWs comment on his ban and I wonder why it has been removed.

First of all: Of course you have every right to decide about whom you grant the right to post here. But: I can understand that GWW wanted to comment and I had the impression that he (or she) accepted it, since he closed with saying (Quoted from memory): “See you in two weeks time”.

Secondly: Of course you have every right to decide about whom you grant the right to post here. But: This site is very much open to the public and attracts (I think) more and more people who are interested in the debate. I know that e.g. AiG gets frequently and justly critisized for heavily editing the comments and I always thought that the strength of the science side also showed up in the fact that this was not done here (at least I had the impression until now, I not so sure anymore), because I repeatedly read posts of, say, muted politeness. I can understand that you are fed up with GWW (I remember other posts from him), but still, this is a public relations battle and right now there is an impression of “injustice” (perhaps too strong a word), because you can only see the last straw.

Just my two cents. And, by the way, I hate it to have my criticism labeled as complaining. I am not a native speaker (obviously) and really tried to get the tone right.

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If I had not followed this thread closely, your comment on GWW evading your ban would not have made a lot of sense to me. But I saw GWWs comment on his ban and I wonder why it has been removed.

It has been moved to the bathroom wall, where it belongs.

This site is very much open to the public and attracts (I think) more and more people who are interested in the debate. I know that e.g. AiG gets frequently and justly critisized for heavily editing the comments and I always thought that the strength of the science side also showed up in the fact that this was not done here (at least I had the impression until now, I not so sure anymore), because I repeatedly read posts of, say, muted politeness. I can understand that you are fed up with GWW (I remember other posts from him), but still, this is a public relations battle and right now there is an impression of “injustice” (perhaps too strong a word), because you can only see the last straw.

The criticism that is often leveled at AIG and at ARN, for example, is that they will ban people merely for disagreement or for taking an intellectual position they don’t like, even when that position is expressed politely. That is clearly not the case here. GWW is on our side of the intellectual argument here, so clearly the contributors’ natural bias would be for him, not against him. But he has been so unrelentingly nasty and insulting in comments for so long that, despite that bias, we had finally had enough. He has been asked and admonished to clean up the tone of his comments repeatedly and has chosen not to. He therefore has only himself to blame for his ban. And this has nothing to do with trying to win a “PR battle”, but even if it did, I would say we did the right thing. Allowing him to continue to insult and demean in this venue only undermines the goal of the Panda’s Thumb.

David Heddle wrote:

What would be interesting to know, however, is whether the type of debate sought within the comment sections, by the owners of this site, is to include discussions with IDers and other non-evolutionists, or would you prefer only debate “within the family” as it were. I for one would honor a request to stay away if it is the latter rather than the former.

No, we certainly do not want this to be open only to debate within the family, as you put it. We want to encourage vigorous debate in the comments, and you obviously cannot have debate without two sides. We welcome the comments of ID advocates as long as they show a minimum of decorum, and we obviously welcome the comments of ID critics with the same caveat. And speaking only for myself, David, I especially welcome the contributions of people like you. Although you and I surely disagree on practically everything, I have never seen you lose your temper or make insulting comments, even in the face of a barrage of insults aimed at you. Perhaps you have, but I haven’t seen it (though I confess to not reading the comments as often as I should). It is possible to have a debate without name calling and insults. And again, people need to keep in mind that context matters. What may be appropriate in one setting is not necessarily appropriate in another setting. I know lots of attorneys who tell dirty jokes, but none of them are dumb enough to tell one in front of a jury.

“Whitewater Journalism?” Is that a new phrase?

It’s apt – does Safire know about it yet?

Have you copyrighted the phrase?

Ed (and PT crew),

As a regular reader, I STRONGLY object to GWW’s being banned!!!

I agree totally with “ruben carter”, “bcpmoon” and “Emanuele Oriano”. I think that you guys really blew this one!

We need more, not less, “in your face” responses to the lunacy of “DaveScot” and “David Heddle”.

just my 2¢ worth DonM

Dear Ed,

The further the Panda’s Thumb is steered towards becoming a strictly-enforced “polite” forum– a forum which allows demonstrably-disingenuous creationists to vet their repeatedly-discredited arguments, and yet which *doesn’t* allow them to be legitimately taken to task for being dishonest, with the entirely reasonable human responses to such dishonesty (mockery, outrage)– the more legitimacy it gives to such dishonesty. You and the others here at PT have your prerogatives on this matter, but as an avid reader, this decision seems to me to be entirely misguided. The list will be the poorer without GWW’s colorful contributions.

It’s too bad there’s not a feature a reader can set, which maintains a blacklist in their prefs, and doesn’t show comments by whoever the reader puts on the list. That would enable each reader to create his own filter.

I’ve been a visitor to this board for over a year, though I’ve never posted a comment. By and large, I’ve enjoyed most of the comments I read here, and I’ve rarely found any that I would call “out-of-bounds”, and that includes GWWs. Her/his commenting style is not my own, but I appreciate her “in your face” approach to these battles.

Look, this is your board and you can set your own standards, but this decision was asinine, a truly bad call. I suspect the vast majority of your readers agree with me. GWW appears to be reasonably well-informed on what’s at stake as regards these issues, and I would guess most disinterested people respect someone who fights hard for their position more than they do individuals who seem barely able to muster the energy to fight back. It takes all kinds to fight and win a battle.

If this were a political blog, I’m afraid you’d be the textbook example of a Sensible Liberal

GWW -

I wasn’t implying I think you have an actual mental illness. That’s for the doctors to decide. But your writing style is counter-productive, hateful, and inflammatory.

If you think you’re just “telling’ it like it is,” you have some drastic maturing to do. What you are doing is not courageously saying what needs to be said; you are venting your anger. I hope you aren’t under any delusions to the contrary. This isn’t a handful of forgivable instances. It is your entire persona. You aren’t an incisive cultural commentator, nor are you a well-spoken writer with mild caustic bite. You are an angry person with a metaphorical blow horn and soapbox.

If your desire was to point out the where creationists mislead and why, calmly and persuasively showing that is far, far more devastating than trying your hardest to write insult-riddled invective.

Observe how Steve Reuland writes. Then read your own posts. Hopefully you see the vast chasm between the two in tone and quality. Hopefully someday you’ll see why that tone matters.

The further the Panda’s Thumb is steered towards becoming a strictly-enforced “polite” forum— a forum which allows demonstrably-disingenuous creationists to vet their repeatedly-discredited arguments, and yet which *doesn’t* allow them to be legitimately taken to task for being dishonest, with the entirely reasonable human responses to such dishonesty (mockery, outrage)— the more legitimacy it gives to such dishonesty.

Well, it’s really not all that strict. I have no patience for creationist fools, and think mocking them is a better strategy than interminable discussion. I have pointed out before that certain creationists are dishonest, ignorant, or deluded. But nobody’s asked me to leave. GWW’s problem was really quantity. I was surprised that he got banned, though, because I was surprised that people were paying attention to what he said. I typically scan his comments. The ones where he does something like posts an interesting link, I read. The ones where he calls a dumbass a dumbass I skip, like I skip 90% of the ones by creationists, because there’s little point. I’m not going to learn anything by reading them. I’m currently rereading What Evolution Is. It’s such a great book. To paraphrase Mr. White, the choice between reading that, or reading a creationist post something here which was refuted before I was born, ain’t no choice at all.

But what I have been thinking about wrt the creationists is, creating a vast repository of all these refuations. Like an expanded Talk Origins Archive. A kind of Encyclopedia of Creationist Error. The ultimate goal being the ability to respond to any common creationist claim with a link, instead of typing a page rearguing the point, followed by another page after the creationist doesn’t get it, followed by another page.…

It might be the case that the Talk Origins Archive is already large enough to do this. It certainly is a big collection. Maybe the reason this isn’t already happening, is that there’s so much material there, it’s hard to find specific things quickly? (just a guess) If you look at the cost/benefit of the various ways to deal with creationists, I think linking to preexisting arguments whenever possible makes the most sense.

ruben carter wrote:

The further the Panda’s Thumb is steered towards becoming a strictly-enforced “polite” forum— a forum which allows demonstrably-disingenuous creationists to vet their repeatedly-discredited arguments, and yet which *doesn’t* allow them to be legitimately taken to task for being dishonest, with the entirely reasonable human responses to such dishonesty (mockery, outrage)— the more legitimacy it gives to such dishonesty.

Frankly, I think that’s one of the silliest arguments I’ve ever heard. This entire blog is set up by people who have invested an enormous amount of time, research and energy into combatting the influence of creationism/ID in this country. People like Wesley Elsberry, Ken Miller, Genie Scott and Rob Pennock have devoted, at the very least, a large portion of their professional and academic lives to that battle. Have you ever heard any of them write a paper or give a talk that consists of statements like, “Hey, I think I saw that idiot Phillip Johnson the other day drooling into a cup on campus” or “that Michael Behe has been smoking crack”? Of course not. But by your reasoning, the fact that they don’t behave like GWW means they’re giving “more legitimacy” to ID. Do you really not see how absurd that suggestion is? There is an enormous difference between saying that ID rhetoric is dishonest and detailing why, and jumping up and down screaming “liar liar pants on fire”. I would suggest that the latter, rather than denying the legitimacy of ID, only makes people tune out the substantive arguments and focus only on the bile it is wrapped in.

Looks like I’m in the minority here, but I agree with the decision by Ed and the PT crew to impose a limited ban on comments by GWW. My agreement is for two reasons, one largely personal and the other more strategic.

First, I come here to learn. With little in the way of formal scientific training, I sometimes find it difficult to follow the substantive comment threads. It requires a great deal of focus and concentration on my part. When a comment thread devolves into a GWW-induced flame war, it is a huge distraction. I realize that many (perhaps most) of those who follow along, like Steve, can simply gloss over the off-point comments and move on, but it isn’t always that easy for me to do.

Second, GWW’s attacking, invective-filled comments play right into the IDC/fundamentalists’ hands. When they argue that evolution is nothing more than a religion or an unsupported belief, do you suppose that they point to the substantive, fact-based comments left here? I rather doubt it. They point to the rants by folks like GWW. I agree that there is a time and a place for the attack dogs to be set loose, but for GWW, that seems to be every time and every place. I just don’t see that as being productive.

On those occasions when GWW has made substantive comments, he/she seems to be knowledgable. But those occasions have been few and far between relative to his/her characteristic venomous comments. I know of at least one other occasion when Ed gave GWW a stern warning, but it seemed to have little lasting effect. If at the end of two weeks, GWW can return and participate in a more consistently meaningful way, I would welcome that. There is plenty of inflamed rhetoric to go around; I’m more interested in the substance.

By the way, Ed, if you think this comment is more appropriate for the Bathroom Wall, feel free to remove it.

There is a difficult line to walk between keeping things polite enough to spread information and promote the pursuit of knowledge and completely free speech.

In the end, we should lament our inability to persuade GWW to be more civil, while keeping our eye on the ultimate goal, to persuade reasonable people to reasonable positions on teaching evolution. That later, superordinate goal, rather requires a yank on the reins once in a while.

Re “creating a vast repository of all these refuations. Like an expanded Talk Origins Archive. “

See http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/index.html (An Index to Creationist Claims)

Henry

Ed wrote:

Frankly, I think that’s one of the silliest arguments I’ve ever heard. This entire blog is set up by people who have invested an enormous amount of time, research and energy into combatting the influence of creationism/ID in this country. People like Wesley Elsberry, Ken Miller, Genie Scott and Rob Pennock have devoted, at the very least, a large portion of their professional and academic lives to that battle. Have you ever heard any of them write a paper or give a talk that consists of statements like, “Hey, I think I saw that idiot Phillip Johnson the other day drooling into a cup on campus” or “that Michael Behe has been smoking crack”? Of course not. But by your reasoning, the fact that they don’t behave like GWW means they’re giving “more legitimacy” to ID. Do you really not see how absurd that suggestion is? There is an enormous difference between saying that ID rhetoric is dishonest and detailing why, and jumping up and down screaming “liar liar pants on fire”. I would suggest that the latter, rather than denying the legitimacy of ID, only makes people tune out the substantive arguments and focus only on the bile it is wrapped in.

—————— As most here are aware, the manner in which to engage– or not to engage– the anti-evolution crowd has been the subject of some discussion, and the case is by no means closed.

I am not denying the noble efforts that you and the others you mention above have made in combatting the influence of creationism / ID. And, despite your interpretation, which is understandable, I am not suggesting that you, or the people you listed above, should necessarily engage in the debate in the way that GWW engages. What I *am* asking you is this: The one-hundreth time the same demonstrably false ID argument, or the same intentionally-distracting, semantic, anti-evolution cul-de-sac is put forth by someone here, would you choose to enforce the rule that everyone on this blog respond *solely* with the same old (correct) answers which factually address them, sans any visible signs of frustration with the underlying dishonesty that fuels their circular, repeating “debates”? To do so is actually, I think, more than a little disingenuous. GWW calls them liars, and you and I both know that he’s usually spot on (even if you only find it “appropriate” to say so in a different, although equally-accessible, “context”…). These people will never admit it, but they are coming to this table with the intent to confuse, selectively interpret, and obfuscate, *not* to enlighten, themselves or anyone else, despite their “polite” presentation. It is upon this obvious point that GWW’s invectives are often directed, and I think that they are *entirely* warranted, even critical, under the circumstances. He’s calling them out on their underlying motivations, and I think it’s of great value for people who read this list to see that perspective (in addition to the substantive scientific dissections of their points.) In my view, these repeated arguments, and the people who make them, do not necessarily deserve to be treated with the sort of reserved academic decorum that you are now strictly enforcing by removing GWW.

Ed… do you see no utility in calling a spade a spade? Or just not on PT?

And, while people’s mileage obviously varies, I find her rants highly entertaining. Behe smoking crack? C’mon, it’s a joke everyone, a ribbing, satire. You needn’t laugh if you don’t find it funny, but censor her here? Bad idea.

That Index of Creationist Claims at TO is really good. I’m going to start referring people to it. And if I find gaps, I’ll suggest them to the managers of that site.

ruben carter Wrote:

What I *am* asking you is this: The one-hundreth time the same demonstrably false ID argument, or the same intentionally-distracting, semantic, anti-evolution cul-de-sac is put forth by someone here, would you choose to enforce the rule that everyone on this blog respond *solely* with the same old (correct) answers which factually address them, sans any visible signs of frustration with the underlying dishonesty that fuels their circular, repeating “debates”?

GWW’s problem wasn’t that s/he answered in angry or hard-hitting tones. Heck, we all do that. The problem was that s/he was very nasty, was nasty consistently, and was doing it on almost every thread. Add to that the fact that at least four of us, on separate occasions, requested that s/he tone it down, which resulted in no discernable change at all. That does get on our nerves after awhile.

Please keep in mind that the ban is temporary. We all agree that GWW is intelligent, well informed, and has substantive things to add. We just get tired of having to ask that s/he not cloud that substance with so much vitriol, much of it directed at other contributors. We strive to create a forum where anyone can participate, and only their ideas (or lack thereof) get the smack-down. GWW was making that next to impossible. Polite requests didn’t work, hopefully this will.

And by the way, nice smack-down on Bobby Maddex’s whine, Ed.

It’s a pity that GWW’s comments, however on-point they were with regard to Bobby Maddex’s intellectual, journalistic (and moral?) errors, have become the topic rather than a contribution to it.

I have no idea where he gets this notion of “fifty-odd separate posts” about Crux. There have been exactly two posts at Panda’s Thumb about Crux.

Bobby was perhaps referring to the number of comments, like those here:

http://cruxmag.typepad.com/sci_phi/[…]s_thumb.html

I think many view each separate comment as a “post”.….

It seems the magazine is, as the authors say, obscure. I’m surprised it got as much attention from PT as it did.

Salvador

PS In regards to GWW, I express my regrets that GWW has been disciplined. I would hope she/he comes back to PT undiluted and is granted expression of her/his views of IDists. I would hope PT would grant GWW speedy return to this fine forum.

If GWW comes back, I’d be delighted to direct people to his writings, especially the bio majors at Jason Rosenhouse’s school (JMU) and Paul Gross school (UVa). I feel GWW makes a very persuasive case, his voice should not be suppressed here at PT.

People like GWW are instrumental in affecting people’s opinions, and thus I would hope she/he has his posting privileges restored. I’d like to thank PT for being a vehicle for people like GWW to post in the past, and hopefully in the future.

GWW, if you’re listening, I look forward to your return here at PT.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Ed Brayton published on February 17, 2005 11:24 AM.

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