Comments on Comments


We’re considering making things a bit easier on ourselves here by moving to a user registration system for comments. How many of you simply can’t be bothered to register to leave comments here at PT?

We’re looking specifically at the TypeKey system.


Great! Cuts down on the quick-hitting trolls.

Syntax Error: not well-formed (invalid token) at line 1, column 123, byte 123 at /usr/local/lib/perl5/site_perl/mach/5.18/XML/ line 187.

I wouldn’t mind, as long as it keeps me logged in whenever I visit. And it would help cut down on trolls that leave a bad message and never visit again.

Long overdue - count me in.

Woud it mean we can finally edit are posts so we don’t look so dence becauze of a few mis-spelligns?

I have one complaint about this:

I couldn’t add FCD to my moniker just for PT, and I’m not about to get another Typekey account just to sport it.

I don’t particularly mind either way. If it helps squish the various idiots that sometimes pop up here then I’m all for it.

Centralized Registration System? Somewhere outside of The Thumb?

In that case, no. (Not that I leave lots of comments.)

An internal to The Thumb registration, sure. Not a problem. I certainly do not want a universal identifier to all blogs world wide. The closest I’ve come to that is with a gravatar. Only that and nothing more.

Quoth the Raven… Nevermore.

H. Humbert Wrote:

Woud it mean we can finally edit are posts so we don’t look so dence becauze of a few mis-spelligns?

No it would not.

I would be concerned that the creationists would be deterred and the high pitched whining would cause ears to bleed. ID blogs tend to either not allow comments or delete any that make good points. It is kind of a point of pride that sites like this do not.

Do either of these systems allow anonymous posting without registering? While this might seem to defeat the purpose it would mean that regulars would not have to worry about someone posting as them (I assume that is the intended goal?) and yet a young or otherwise open minded ‘evolution-skeptic’ would not be put off interacting by asking a question.

I know that a site like is a better place for that kind of interaction but this site is a significant educational opportunity not just in regards to evolution but the politics.

A casual reader might be more likely to ask a question like: “Even if evolution is true why can’t creationism be taught along side it and let people make up their own minds?” at a site like this and it would be a pity if they did not hear the answer simply because they were put off by the thought of registering. While questions like that might get exasperating at times (after the one hundred thousandth time, it is better that they ask it here than at the anti-neodarwinist sites.

I doubt that it would deter any motivated poster but if it were sufficiently onerous it might dissuade the rare “drive by posting.”

I don’t think that anyone does a drive-by posting without coming back to look at responses to his handiwork. We are too into attention as a species to resist feedback. I like to think that, rarity among rarities, the occasional drive-by guy learns something from some comments.

It would help to know what this is expected to achieve and how.

This is my second post and I very much appreciate the user-friendly option to post. I’m a long time lurker and would likely not post if I had to register. I’ve enjoyed reading the comments here, and I assume you get more varied postings by the lack of registration requirements. The frequent and repetitive/vicious posters would probably register, but they’re not what make this site worth visiting.

I’ll take the moment to comment on how many responses the “trolls”, or anti-evolutionists evoke. It seems the guy with the high IQ and waterfront property, and the ousted university professor with the theory about front loaded genetic programming (or something) were bound to keep many folks here busy with rebuttals (100+), yet PvM’s great articles that actually present the contemporary literature in a reasonable fashion seldom get more than 4 or 5 comments. The folks replying to these two knew they were not going to change their opinions, yet they kept going on and on. Apparently it’s easier to lash out or demonstrate superior intelligence (which may or may not have been designed ;-) than to contribute thoughtful questions/comments. Mind you, I’m not saying there haven’t been some golden nuggets here and there…

When you say ‘make things easier on ourselves’, I assumed you were talking about comment and trackback spam, which I’m surprised no one has mentioned.

I eventually killed comments from my blog entirely, as I don’t have the time to update it often, much less spend the hours nuking a thousand or so robo-comments for texas viagra poker refinancing. I considered Typekey because it would’ve solved the problem entirely, but since I don’t get a lot of traffic to begin with, just didn’t bother.

I don’t know if you have a comment/trackback spam problem, but I’d be shocked if you didn’t. Nearly every defense you can adopt against it has been worked around by the comment/spam genius assholes - except registration.

Anyway, I’d happily register for this site.

We actually don’t have a spam problem. Our blacklist has some really good custom rules in it that block virtually all spam. (It’s good to be rare.)

We do have a problem with banned users staying banned.

Nope– don’t like registrations. But do what you want, the comments aren’t the most important part of this blog.

I’m not sure what I ever did to you, Steven, but if I was a jerk, then I apologize.

We do have a problem with banned users staying banned.

I don’t see how registration will help. Registration discourages drive-bys and spam, but you can only block reregistration by blocking IP addresses, and you don’t need registration for that.

I think the openness of Pandas Thumb is desirable because any one can speak their mind and over an opinion. With a login some people might think it is too much trouble and we lose some diversity. Who cares if we get a few trolls? It keeps us acquainted with creationist arguments, regardless of how stupid they are. A login in system won’t deter serious trouble makers. Over at Nightlight I am arguing with a particularly frustrating ‘troll’ and Nightlight does require a login.

ts Wrote:

block reregistration by blocking IP addresses

Not everyone has a static IP or comes from a range that is easily blockable without collateral damage.

H. Humbert wrote:

Woud it mean we can finally edit are posts so we don’t look so dence becauze of a few mis-spelligns?

Point illustrated nicely:

“speak their mind and over an opinion” = “speak their mind and OFFER an opinion”

We do have a problem with banned users staying banned.

Then I don’t see that typekey will really help if an existing user of it (who presumably should know) says he could (but won’t) get another account, ie:

I’m not about to get another Typekey account

block reregistration by blocking IP addresses

Not everyone has a static IP or comes from a range that is easily blockable without collateral damage.

Um, yes, so? Blocking IP addresses is the best you can do to keep people banned, and registration isn’t needed for that. Why don’t you simply answer the questions: what are the goals, and how do you expect to achieve them via registration? It’s like pulling teeth, or trying to get a theory out of an IDist.

My question is why? What problem are we trying to solve. In general, I prefer no registration myself, I think.

I wouldn’t mind.

I wouldn’t love it, but I understand the headaches of dealing with folks like JAD (or “george” or whatever the hell he’s calling himself today).

It would also, unfortunately, reduce burrito-related posts…but that’s a personal thing.

It’s ok by me, but I do not see the need. I would rather keep the door open. Is drive-by posting really a problem here?

What’s in it for me? How about if everyone who signs up gets to refer to themself as a ‘registered student of the University of Ediacara’ or some such?

Really, scientists are so bad at marketing.

Registration means I would probably stop my occasional practice of posting under a different name.

I third the thought about being able to edit typos, but that might open up the possibility of people substantially changing posts after replies have been made to change the sense of a discussion.

I’m just saying that for one side of the “debate” the problem is very much about religion.

Of course, they claim that it’s NOT about religion. At all. In any way.

THAT is, I think, one of the best reasons to ban religious debates and comments. the *IDers* are the ones who cliam that their crap is SCIENCE and is NOT, repeat NOT, religion. That is THEIR claim, not mine. So I think that here, if nowhere else, they should be forced to live up to that claim. If ID is science and not religion, then they have NO reason, none at all whatsoever, to talk about Christianity or God or the Bible or faith or supernaturalism or any other religious idea or topic. Every time they do anyway, they demonstrate clearly for everyone that they are simply lying to us when they claim that their crap is SCIENCE and NOT religion.

I say, force them to live up to their own claims. Force them to show the whole world that they are simply lying to us. Force them to either put up or shut up.

In court, if they mention even once that ID is religion, it’s “game over”.

No reason to treat them any differently here.

I see what’s going on here now.

After years or whatever of dealing with creationists going over the top and needing to be banned, a new type of “fight” started on PT a few weeks ago, when pro-science atheist posters raised philosophic objections to the “compatibility” of any religion with science, and pro-science religious posters objected.

Ultimately, however, when the smoke cleared, everyone agreed that religious people should not be excluded from science or science education, and no-one proposed an empirical and scientific, as opposed to philosophical, “disproof” of any pro-science posters religious stance, or the known religious stance of prominent scientists such as Miller and Dawkins (including atheism, which I will refer to hear as a “religious stance”, for convenience, with the caveat that some may find the terminology sub-obptimal).

Thus, while the broad philosophical issue of whether religion is “compatible” with science is not now, and likely will never be, resolved among pro-science posters, it has been rendered irrelevant, and is unlikely to resurface as an issue.

The dishonest creationist use of religious claims is far too important to ignore, for reasons that I will explain in a second post.

Continued from above…

This is on topic since I now realize that the registration proposal, which I somewhat oppose (while acknowledging that it’s not a big deal either way), was driven by the fact that religion came up a great deal a week or two ago.

Please read this carefully - In the United States, a common political debate strategy among the nefarious is to anticipate how others will critique their position, and direct the critique at them, however inappropriate it may be when reversed.

Creationism IS an effort, among other things, to claim that many peoples’ religious views, or their lack thereof, are “disproven by science”.

YEC claims that everyone except a few US, Canadian, and Australian Protestant fanatics, in essence, are following a religion (or lack thereof) which is “scientifically wrong” (since in their claims, “science supports” only a “literal” interpretation of Genesis).

ID merely pretends to narrow the range of targets to those whose religious tradition accepts scientific explanations for things like the bacterial flagellum. But since that means everyone but fundamentalists in practice, the real message is the same.

But creationists try to turn the charge around, and claim that it is THEY who are being falsely taught that “science disproves” their religion. In fact, to some degree, they are being taught that, by necessity, but only because they choose to define their religion in rigid terms, and to disdain other Christian traditions. Biblical “literalism” is DESIGNED to provoke confict with other traditions, and with science. There was no “literalism” in the Middle Ages.

Unlike creationists, scientists do not make up science in an effort to contradict someone else’s religion. If it happens, it’s unintentional, a side effect of science.

The false claim of creationists needs to be rebutted. It has the power to turn ordinary, well-meaning people against science education at the local level, ie THE LEVEL WHERE THE DECISIONS ARE MADE.[…]section.html[…]_19_2002.asp


Totally with as a point of strategy or method of argument within the PT etc.

My point was about the origins of the “debate”, and the motivations for it. Exposing those origins and motivations is one very good way of dealing with the proximate problem, but we also need to deal with the distal cause of the problem.

It’s all well and good showing THIS bunch of frothing religious loons up as religious loons, but that doesn’t prevent the next bunch of religious loons coming up with ever more veiled attempts to enforce their doctrines. Look how (relatively) simple it was to deal with “good, honest” creationism. It didn’t make the cultural headway that the current pseudocreationism (ID) has done. ID is more insidious, it requires a slightly better knowledge of the relevant science to expose its core, it requires slightly more effort to sort out, and it appeals slightly better to common prejudice. By virtue of the distribution of human abilities, ID will garner greater support (and it has). A more insidious post-ID creationism will potentially do better, and so on.

It’s (kind of) analogous to treating amoebic dysentry (and not just in terms of output). It’s all well and good to give the patient morphine to stop them from from pouring crap everywhere, but eventually the morphine will wear off and the crap will come back. It’s better to add a few anti-amoebic drugs to the morphine mix (compatible of course). That way when the morphine wears off, no poo! Pretending that the poo won’t return, or that the poo is irrelevant won’t help us.

Hmm, well, in addition to misrepresenting the origin and nature of the religious debates that occur here, Harold is wrong that they aren’t likely to re-occur, and wrong that “science disproves their religion” is limited to religious fundamentalism. With topics like “Is Evolution Religion?”, religion gets put on the table in numerous ways, and provides a context for someone like Harold to make false charges about atheists wanting to exclude religious people from science; the “dust settles” when Harold gets tired of making this false charge, and switches to claiming that he had said something else entirely. Or we will see such tendentious claims as Harold’s that atheism is “religion”. So even while discussing banning debate on religion, we see people reiterating their talking points. The historic encroachment of science on religion, both its empirical findings and its rationalistic epistemology, has resulted in a large fraction of scientists being atheists, some of whom are more militant about it than others, and will drop casual remarks that are hostile to religion, or respond to remarks such as Harold’s – or Lenny’s, echoing the trolls, that “ideological atheists” are equivalent to IDists and creationists. And some of the religious, like Harold, are adamant about defending their religious beliefs against the fundamental challenge that science poses to them, and will respond strongly to any statement that they see as threatening to those beliefs. It is a mistake to think that this clash is limited to creationists who “choose” to define their religion in narrow terms. That’s a very uninformed view of the sociology of religion and fundamentalism specifically. Rigidity is in large part reactive, and fed by the greater culture clash, but it is not “chosen”, at least by the bulk of fundamentalists, any more than Harold “chooses” a form of Christianity that he thinks is compatible with science, or I “choose” to be an atheist. That sort of simplistic view doesn’t provide any guidance for how to proceed.

“With the ever growing impact of science on our lives, religion and spirituality have a greater role to play reminding us of our humanity. There is no contradiction between the two. Each gives us valuable insights into the other. Both science and the teachings of the Buddha tell us of the fundamental unity of all things.” – The Dalai Lama

It’s instructive to contrast this with

Murray Gell-mann Wrote:

One project I worked on at Caltech involved trying to understand the approximate symmetries of the elementary particle system – particularly the hadrons or strongly interacting particles (including the neutron and proton and their brothers and sisters and the pi mesons and their brothers and sisters). I tried various higher symmetry schemes and then finally hit upon what I called the eightfold way, with the group SU(3) as an approximate symmetry. That worked very nicely. At the time I was interested in India and in the various religious traditions of India – not that I would embrace any religion – my interest was merely academic. I thought it would be a good joke to call the scheme the eightfold way, since the particles tended in many cases to come in sets of eight. Some silly people wrote books trying to connect my work on particle physics with oriental mysticism, whereas the connection was only a joke.

Harold is wrong that they aren’t likely to re-occur

I think so too.

And I think I know why.

Matt Young, who posted the “Is Evolution Religion?” article, gets at an element of why these debates recur in his final post (although I, of course, don’t think it’s as equivocal as all that). If religious debates are verboten here, you’ll need at least to get all the moderators on the same track.

Posted by Matt Young on August 4, 2005 05:50 PM (e) (s)

Your fearless moderator has let us wander off task for several days now, perhaps because we aren’t as far off task as it looks - in a way, we have merely expanded the title from “Is Evolution Religion?” to “Is Empiricism Religion?”

My good friend Eric, a theoretical physicist, claims that the less evidence there is for a given proposition, the harder people will fight over it. I think that may be so because they talk past each other, as is sometimes happening here.

So let me reiterate what I claimed in an earlier essay: Antonio Damasio has taught us (well, taught me) that you can’t make a supposedly logical decision without an emotional component. Thus, those whose political inclination is toward the supremacy of the individual simply cannot understand what, say, a democratic socialist is going on about, and vice versa.

Here it seems that those whose inclination is toward strict empiricism (or perhaps materialism) cannot understand those who incline toward an underlying theological explanation. All sides draw “logical” conclusions that are informed by their underlying philosophies and think the other sides are being stubborn or obtuse. (I know that’s how I react when I read a defense of the so-called free market. Can’t they see that there is no such thing as a free market? Haven’t they ever heard of the robber barons? Rhetorical questions, but perhaps you see what I mean.)

If I allow further comments, we will go on forever, so let’s stop here. Thanks to all who contributed and to almost all for the polite tone of the comments.

If this was more of a community-based board, (i.e. with a low threshold membership, not to scare those paranoid users away) you could allow all members to create new blog entries(perhaps as new threads in a specific forum) and, if they were good enough, “promote” them to the main page of the site.

That way, if someone has already blogged an issue/event/debate etc, and it is sufficiently well written, you won’t have to write it up youself, just promote it. (Kos has a voting system, but the final say is always the moderator’s)

In addition, if you have a proper community, over time you can allow trusted members to take over some of the grunt work of managing the board from you - share the load.

I think I like this idea.

“Contributors” and “commentators” sounds an awful lot like “leaders” and “followers”, or “overseers” and “oversee-ees”. The anarchist inside me doesn’t like the sound of that.

Free the Thumb !!!!


DailyKos really is an excellent setup, but it may require more software maintenance than PT has at it’s disposal (I have no idea). It’s certainly something to look into.

Kos has a voting system, but the final say is always the moderator’s

Not quite. DailyKos has a voting system for “recommended diaries”, and those with the most votes go to the top of the list. That’s different from the front page articles, which are written by Kos or his deputies or are sometimes promoted from the diaries at their discretion. Other than that, there’s very little top-down moderation; rather, there’s a rating system addressed mostly at trolling and offensive remarks, and posts with a rating less than 1 are hidden from all but long-time (“trusted”) users – these users are also the only ones who can give a 0 score.


“Contributors” and “commentators” sounds an awful lot like “leaders” and “followers”, or “overseers” and “oversee-ees”. The anarchist inside me doesn’t like the sound of that.

Dig it.

Somewhere I imagine Great White Wonder is laughing his ass off at this thread.

Somewhere I imagine Great White Wonder is laughing his ass off at this thread.

He (?) may well be one of us posters. Of course registration will be the end of that, right?

Somewhere I imagine Great White Wonder is laughing his ass off at this thread.

As I noted at the time, I thought it was a mistake to ban GWW. As abrasive as he might have been, he was also very insightful and very effective.

Re “This is not intended to be a BB, but with the inevitable attraction of “regulars” it has begun to feel like one.”

To borrow a phrase:

If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck…

(Now let me duck for cover… )

I was recently a casualty of friendly fire in the War on JAD. So many IPs were banned from commenting, I was caught incidentally. Even before that, I supported a registration system, but now I do even more so. Requiring that people identify themselves in some small way is a tiny price to pay, to keep out the psychos. Also it might cut down on people posting under stupid pseudonyms.

Though GWW was on the pro-science side, he was diminishing the property values.

Requiring that people identify themselves in some small way is a tiny price to pay, to keep out the psychos.

I still don’t understand how it would achieve that, and the fact that no one has said suggests to me that no one knows.

Also it might cut down on people posting under stupid pseudonyms.

So registering with a stupid pseudonym would be blocked? That means that every registration would have to be manually approved. I thought this was supposed to make things easier.

It’s my impression that the PT admins are volunteers. It seems only reasonable that the option that causes them the fewest headaches should be adopted.

BTW, thanks for moving the worst of the personal attacks to the bathroom wall.

It seems only reasonable that the option that causes them the fewest headaches should be adopted.

No doubt. But what reason is there to think that registration is such an option?

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This page contains a single entry by Wesley R. Elsberry published on August 2, 2005 8:10 PM.

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