A purge of commenters at Uncommon Dissent (Oops, make that “Descent”)

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Four years ago in a post titled “Dissent Out of Bounds on Uncommon Dissent (Oops, make that “Descent”)” I wrote of the banning of Elizabeth Liddle, a British neuroscientist whose nom de net is Febble, from Uncommon Descent (UD), the ID blog founded by William Dembski. That occurred during the reign of DaveScot as UD moderator, and resulted from DaveScot’s hissy fit about Liddle’s quite reasonable argument that Dembski’s definition of “intelligence” operationally made natural selection an intelligent process. Later DaveScot fell out of favor and was himself banned from UD.

Now under the reign of Barry Arrington, a lawyer, UD is engaged in a wholesale purge of commenters who are ID critics. At last rough count 20 commenters have been banned in the last couple of days, most of them ID critics. Once again, Lizzie (I’ve known her online for long enough to call her “Lizzie”!) is banned from UD. She wasn’t notified of it but (like other bannees) found she could no longer log in to UD. However, she has a new home, the The Skeptical Zone, to which I commend readers’ attention.

More below the fold

One of the reasons for the banning of a number of UD commenters seems to be failing Arrington’s litmus test concerning the law of non-contradiction

The existence of the LNC is the very basis of all argumentation, and anyone who denies it also denies meaning, order, truth and logic. For obvious reasons, therefore, it is not only useless but also affirmatively harmful to the search for truth to argue with someone who refuses to admit unambiguously the LNC. Arguing with a person who denies the basis for argument is self-defeating and can lead only to confusion. Only a fool or a charlatan denies the LNC, and this site will not be a platform from which fools and charlatans will be allowed to spew their noxious inanities.

For that reason, I am today announcing a new moderation policy at UD. At any time the moderator reserves the right to ask the following question to any person who would comment or continue to comment on this site: “Can the moon exist and not exist at the same time and in the same formal relation?” The answer to this question is either “yes” or “no.” If the person gives any answer other than the single word “no,” he or she will immediately be deemed not worth arguing with and therefore banned from this site.

We will start with Petrushka to demonstrate the application of the policy. Petrushka, can the moon exist and not exist at the same time and in the same formal relation?

Arrington’s snit apparently arose out of discussions of quantum mechanics in which some commenters speculated about whether quantum superposition–the fact that a quantum system can exist simultaneously in multiple states (see here)–could be generalized to macroscopic objects (see here and here for examples of those UD threads, if you have the fortitude to wade through them). That speculation is not necessarily pure moonshine. Quantum superposition has been observed in objects in the micron range.

So how did Petrushka respond to Arrington’s question? Thus:

I accept the definitional foundation of logic.

I also accept the findings of physics which make the concept of physical existence rather complicated. That just means that physical is not the same as the ideal, just as a physical circle is not an ideal circle.

I thought this was something generally agreed upon. I thought it was the foundation of Plato’s thought.

But to answer the specific question, in formal logic, the moon cannot both exist and not exist.

The question faced by physics is somewhat different.

Seems reasonable, no? But appended to Petrushka’s comment is this:

UD Moderator: That’s not “no” Petrushka. Goodbye.

Other commenters were banned without notice, apparently including Febble, when they learned of their banning only when they found that they could no longer log in to UD.

This is of a piece with the main conflict resolution mechanisms available to religious movements: exclusion and suppression of dissenters. Arrington is creating an echo chamber inside of which ID proponents can talk sciency-sounding stuff to each other, safe from uncomfortable questions.

Watching the train wreck at UD reminds me of why I like the Bathroom Wall here on the Thumb. Lizzie has a related section called Guano, and The Secular Cafe has The Smoking Section and The Trashcan. Those seem to me to be preferable ways of handling obstropulous commenters and comments.

68 Comments

I neglected to mention that some of Arrington’s bans of ID critics were apparently because they failed to object to disparaging remarks about UD and Arrington on another site, our own After the Bar Closes, which has a thread titled “Uncommonly Dense” which is in its fourth iteration. Discussion of the bannings on AtBC starts somewhere around here. Let’s keep it clean here, and cuss ‘em out there. :)

It’s worthy of note that this reliance on the “LNC” is a Randian/Objectivist move. A central “argument” in Rand’s philosophy is that the LNC is true, therefore everything else that Rand believes is true as a matter of deduction. (Seriously, the LNC entails that Rand’s definition of human flourishing is the only thing that we should value. See http://home.sprynet.com/~owl1/rand5.htm.)

Seems fitting that a staunch crazy objectivist is running things over at UD…

What is particularly bizarre about this wave of bannings is that the issue does not seem to have anything to do with evolution!

It might have something to do with cosmology and whether something (a universe) can come from nothing. Since ID arguments are about what happens after you already have living systems, the correct technical phrase to use for the connection of Arrington’s litmus test to ID and evolution is that it has diddly-squat to do with them.

Which makes the unfolding of the UD disaster all the more mesmerizing. What next?

To put it in perspective, Ray Martinez was banned too. In case anyone doesn’t know, Ray is self-described creationist who posts here on occasion, and regularly on Talk.Origins. He’s old earth and maybe young life, but like most modern evolution deniers, sympathetic to YEC, and evades the “when” questions whenever possible. But he’s not nearly as hell-bent on the “don’t ask, don’t tell what happened when” and especially “whodunit” as the DI’s big tenters.

Whether from an “evolutionist” or creationist, UD does not tolerate critical analysis of their vacuous “theory.” Ironic ain’t it?

Joe Felsenstein said:

What is particularly bizarre about this wave of bannings is that the issue does not seem to have anything to do with evolution!

It might have something to do with cosmology and whether something (a universe) can come from nothing. Since ID arguments are about what happens after you already have living systems, the correct technical phrase to use for the connection of Arrington’s litmus test to ID and evolution is that it has diddly-squat to do with them.

Which makes the unfolding of the UD disaster all the more mesmerizing. What next?

I think it has something (maybe everything) with Arrington’s need for authoritative respect. Likely he doesn’t get a lot in real life, so he demands it in his imaginary playground.

Keep in mind that folks who feel the need for respect (particularly things like respect regarding tribal culture and beliefs) see dissent and disagreement with group concepts (ID, conservative Christianity, conservative social norms, etc) as disrespect. Further, disagreement and dissent with things like the LNC and whatnot is likely seen as disrespect for Arrington’s self-defined authority.

This is of a piece with the main conflict resolution mechanisms available to religious movements: exclusion and suppression of dissenters

Like the ecumenical movement?

Frank J said:

To put it in perspective, Ray Martinez was banned too. In case anyone doesn’t know, Ray is self-described creationist who posts here on occasion, and regularly on Talk.Origins. He’s old earth and maybe young life, but like most modern evolution deniers, sympathetic to YEC, and evades the “when” questions whenever possible. But he’s not nearly as hell-bent on the “don’t ask, don’t tell what happened when” and especially “whodunit” as the DI’s big tenters.

Whether from an “evolutionist” or creationist, UD does not tolerate critical analysis of their vacuous “theory.” Ironic ain’t it?

Ray Martinez is so bigoted and stupid that he doesn’t belong on ANY forum devoted to polite, honest discussion about any serious subject.

Frank J said:

Whether from an “evolutionist” or creationist, UD does not tolerate critical analysis of their vacuous “theory.” Ironic ain’t it?

Teach the controversy, right?

dalehusband said:

Frank J said:

To put it in perspective, Ray Martinez was banned too. In case anyone doesn’t know, Ray is self-described creationist who posts here on occasion, and regularly on Talk.Origins. He’s old earth and maybe young life, but like most modern evolution deniers, sympathetic to YEC, and evades the “when” questions whenever possible. But he’s not nearly as hell-bent on the “don’t ask, don’t tell what happened when” and especially “whodunit” as the DI’s big tenters.

Whether from an “evolutionist” or creationist, UD does not tolerate critical analysis of their vacuous “theory.” Ironic ain’t it?

Ray Martinez is so bigoted and stupid that he doesn’t belong on ANY forum devoted to polite, honest discussion about any serious subject.

That is because of Ray Martinez’ pathological hatred of everyone and anyone who does not mirror his bigotries, and his pathological aversion to polite, honest discussion about anything.

I happened to be watching UD when this thing blew up. It seems that Arrington has some obsession about this “Law of Non Contradiction” (LNC) that triggered this purge.

As near as I can tell, this LNC is the ultimate nuclear weapon that ID scholasticism has against its enemies. The usual ID/creationist tactic appears to be to argue their opponents into accepting ID/creationist misconceptions in arguing and then guiding them into a trap where they can drop this bomb on them.

But the discussion turned to other systems of logic, including superposition in quantum mechanics and self-referential statements that are undecidable (e.g., “This statement is false.”)

If you go over to UD and look at the three threads about this, you will see some really bizarre demonizing of and projection onto ID skeptics. Just reading through the comments of the sycophants that survived the inquisition gives us some insight into what would happen if sectarians like this got to rule us all.

As RBH has said a number of times, blood will be running in the isles and under the pews.

As one who was banned by Barry a couple of years ago, I’m not surprised. Megalomania is an ugly thing.

You know, Protestants AND Catholics used to murder and burn my Mennonite ancestors. All over what I consider to be a pointless difference in when to get baptized and a few other things of no consequence to anyone but the person practicing the religion.

So this comes as no surprise to me. Religious people are, by-and-large, brutal and intollerent of other opinions. Even if it doesn’t really matter… Let’s face it, if the Mennonites were wrong… They’re going to hell… And as long as you, the Catholic or you the Protestant were right… You wouldn’t… So who cares? Make sure you get it right, don’t worry about them…

MosesZD said:

You know, Protestants AND Catholics used to murder and burn my Mennonite ancestors. All over what I consider to be a pointless difference in when to get baptized and a few other things of no consequence to anyone but the person practicing the religion.

That is, when they weren’t busy murdering and burning each other, or Jews, or other ethnic or religious groups they didn’t like.

Mike Elzinga said:

I happened to be watching UD when this thing blew up. It seems that Arrington has some obsession about this “Law of Non Contradiction” (LNC) that triggered this purge.

As near as I can tell, this LNC is the ultimate nuclear weapon that ID scholasticism has against its enemies.

However logical arguments made by pro-ID and anti-ID people do not really use different kinds of logic (note I said “logical arguments”, not emotional or political arguments). So I do not see what Barry Arrington is using to claim that when one side uses logic, it is not really using logic. Why he has fastened onto the LNC as crucial to the distinction between pro-ID and anti-ID forces is mysterious to me.

dalehusband said:

Frank J said:

To put it in perspective, Ray Martinez was banned too. In case anyone doesn’t know, Ray is self-described creationist who posts here on occasion, and regularly on Talk.Origins. He’s old earth and maybe young life, but like most modern evolution deniers, sympathetic to YEC, and evades the “when” questions whenever possible. But he’s not nearly as hell-bent on the “don’t ask, don’t tell what happened when” and especially “whodunit” as the DI’s big tenters.

Whether from an “evolutionist” or creationist, UD does not tolerate critical analysis of their vacuous “theory.” Ironic ain’t it?

Ray Martinez is so bigoted and stupid that he doesn’t belong on ANY forum devoted to polite, honest discussion about any serious subject.

Agreed, but the forum under discussion is Uncommon Descent. ;-)

I was banned years ago for simply pointing out a factual error in math presented on the site. I’m not even a math guy but the error was so obvious I thought it was a typo. I think Dembski himself dropped the hammer on me for “rude” behavior. What is odd is that I thought I was contributing to the discussion but apparently I was being Uncommonly Dissentful.

Joe Felsenstein said:

Mike Elzinga said:

I happened to be watching UD when this thing blew up. It seems that Arrington has some obsession about this “Law of Non Contradiction” (LNC) that triggered this purge.

As near as I can tell, this LNC is the ultimate nuclear weapon that ID scholasticism has against its enemies.

However logical arguments made by pro-ID and anti-ID people do not really use different kinds of logic (note I said “logical arguments”, not emotional or political arguments). So I do not see what Barry Arrington is using to claim that when one side uses logic, it is not really using logic. Why he has fastened onto the LNC as crucial to the distinction between pro-ID and anti-ID forces is mysterious to me.

Looks to me like a Shibboleth of sorts.

phhht said:

Looks to me like a Shibboleth of sorts.

They’re trying to separate the wheat from the chaff. They’ll soon have nothing left but the chaff.

Whether from an “evolutionist” or creationist, UD does not tolerate critical analysis of their vacuous “theory.” Ironic ain’t it?

It sure it. I thought we were supposed to be exposed to “all views” concerning origins.

Srsly, BA actually wrote this?

this site will not be a platform from which fools and charlatans will be allowed to spew their noxious inanities.

But, that’s exactly what UD is. UD is an insane asylum run by the inmates. Surly UD simply reflects the current stage of “thinking” that comprises “intelligent design” creationism. When the leading lights of the “movement” are Klinghoffer and Arrington, the game is over. The drawbridge is up and the moat is filled.

I’m reminded of the trial of a Chinese author, whose defense was that the Chinese Constitution guaranteed freedom of the press. And the court found that the Chinese Constitution in fact DOES guarantee freedom of the press - to praise the Party in the words of your choice! Certainly it wasn’t the intent of the Constitution’s authors to encourage dissent, strife, political instability, and other such evils.

I suppose it takes a certain level of sophistication, even Faith, to Believe that the Truth will always prevail in a free marketplace of ideas. Maybe it will, maybe it won’t, but even if it does it will take time and lead to unpleasant disagreements. And this is doubly exasperating when the Truth has been delivered unto us unambiguously by Absolute Ultimate Authority, such that criticism is perverse at best, wicked at worst.

UD doesn’t exist to encourage doubt where there is none, but to spread the Good News when it is known beyond any possibility of doubt. Silly to allow malicious people to muddy crystal waters for the professed reason of eventually arriving at the very crystal waters they muddied in the first place. God didn’t tell us the Truth for it to be “critically analyzed” - that’s both foolish and unappreciative.

So UD is like the Chinese court, permitting freedom to worship God’s Word (their interpretation) in the words of your choice. Which is all the freedom any rational person could want anyway.

So UD is like the Chinese court, permitting freedom to worship God’s Word (their interpretation) in the words of your choice. Which is all the freedom any rational person could want anyway.

Actually, though, the point here seems to be that UD goes beyond the standard which you ascribe to a Chinese court.

And it my view, the point here is correct.

You can be a pro-“ID” creationist desperate to kiss ass, and STILL get banned from UD for accidentally presenting slight verbal variations.

You don’t get to say either “the Party is like a benevolent father to the Chinese people” or “the Party is a living manifestation of the Will and Spirit of the Chinese people”.

It’s the equivalent of one of those being required, and the other getting you banned.

This morning Barry Arrington has a response at UD justifying his actions. He has of course not been stifling dissent. It just so happens that almost all critics of ID at his site were refusing to behave logically, so he banned them. I’m sure he believes this.

Joe Felsenstein said:

This morning Barry Arrington has a response at UD justifying his actions. He has of course not been stifling dissent. It just so happens that almost all critics of ID at his site were refusing to behave logically, so he banned them. I’m sure he believes this.

Heh! Barry further demonstrates his ability to use “logic” in a comment to Lastyearon:

4 Barry ArringtonFebruary 16, 2012 at 1:10 pm

lastyearon: “You removed just about every critic of ID from the site.”

Barry: Nonsense, as your very presence demonstrates.

Apparently LYO’s use of “just about” eluded Barry’s careful scrutiny and understanding. That or he just sees LYO as many people. That would explain his paranoia.

Joe Felsenstein said:

This morning Barry Arrington has a response at UD justifying his actions. He has of course not been stifling dissent. It just so happens that almost all critics of ID at his site were refusing to behave logically, so he banned them. I’m sure he believes this.

I’m inclined to think that the phrase used by DrREC in the first comment to “Ya Can’t Make This Stuff Up” (which seems a proximal cause of the whole banning orgy) is a very accurate summation of the main issue.

Joe Felsenstein said:

This morning Barry Arrington has a response at UD justifying his actions. He has of course not been stifling dissent. It just so happens that almost all critics of ID at his site were refusing to behave logically, so he banned them. I’m sure he believes this.

Wherein he completely ignores the distinction between formal logic and empirical observations, despite such being carefully pointed out by more than one of the people he banned.

That makes him either a complete idiot or a pathetic liar. Since you’re probably reading here, Barry, which is it?

patrickmay.myopenid.com said:

That makes him either a complete idiot or a pathetic liar. Since you’re probably reading here, Barry, which is it?

I assume that is an inclusive “or”.

rossum

patrickmay.myopenid.com said:

That makes him either a complete idiot or a pathetic liar.

We should go easy on the “liar” and “idiot” talk. The capacity for honest and sincere self-delusion by otherwise intelligent people is bigger than we might realize.

I am happy to say that I too have been banned by UD..but for reasons related to my historical revisionism, not for evolution.

Damn! AC seems to be back. Wasn’t he BWed?

What astonishes me is the way UD seems to know in advance the answers to all sorts of scientific questions. Is string theory right in some form (NO), is some new scenario for the origin of life relevant (NO), does the Higgs Boson really exist (NO). The Higgs Boson is an amazing case. As a non-physicist, I can’t imagine myself having an informed opinion on whether it is or is not really there. But because someone once dubbed it “the God Particle”, UD seems to be convinced that it can’t possibly exist, since a particle can’t be God.

I would think there should be a better reason for thinking that, such as understanding some of the physics.

On the flip side, the majority of people posting on this blog (except Proff Felsentein of course) remind me of the character in the movie “Perfume” that tried making the perfect perfume by boiling and distilling the fat and other parts of women, believing it was the woman’s scent that attracted a man!

I married my wife because of her laugh. Go figure.

Joe Felsenstein said:

What astonishes me is the way UD seems to know in advance the answers to all sorts of scientific questions. Is string theory right in some form (NO), is some new scenario for the origin of life relevant (NO), does the Higgs Boson really exist (NO). The Higgs Boson is an amazing case. As a non-physicist, I can’t imagine myself having an informed opinion on whether it is or is not really there. But because someone once dubbed it “the God Particle”, UD seems to be convinced that it can’t possibly exist, since a particle can’t be God.

I would think there should be a better reason for thinking that, such as understanding some of the physics.

//Scratch that last post. Forgot to put Felsentein’s comment in blocks.//

On the flip side, the majority of people posting on this blog (except Proff Felsentein of course) remind me of the character in the movie “Perfume” that tried making the perfect perfume by boiling and distilling the fat and other parts of women, believing it was the woman’s scent that attracted a man!

I married my wife because of her laugh. Go figure.

SteveP. said:

Joe Felsenstein said:

What astonishes me is the way UD seems to know in advance the answers to all sorts of scientific questions. Is string theory right in some form (NO), is some new scenario for the origin of life relevant (NO), does the Higgs Boson really exist (NO). The Higgs Boson is an amazing case. As a non-physicist, I can’t imagine myself having an informed opinion on whether it is or is not really there. But because someone once dubbed it “the God Particle”, UD seems to be convinced that it can’t possibly exist, since a particle can’t be God.

I would think there should be a better reason for thinking that, such as understanding some of the physics.

//Scratch that last post. Forgot to put Felsentein’s comment in blocks.//

On the flip side, the majority of people posting on this blog (except Proff Felsentein of course) remind me of the character in the movie “Perfume” that tried making the perfect perfume by boiling and distilling the fat and other parts of women, believing it was the woman’s scent that attracted a man!

I married my wife because of her laugh. Go figure.

And I regard you as a sterling example of intellectually-challenged mendacity, Steve P. A number of us, including yours truly, have tried unsuccessfully for years to reason with you. Maybe you should listen to your Taiwanese colleagues, whom, I am sure, would most likely endorse mine - and others, including Felsenstein’s - retorts to your breathtaking inanity with respect to your understanding of science.

I’m pleased to see that a number of UD posters have appeared atThe Skeptical Zone.

This is to everyone’s credit, I think.

SteveP. said:

I married my wife because of her laugh. Go figure.

Steve, if you make her laugh as much as you make us laugh you must be a happy man indeed.

Dave Lovell said:

SteveP. said:

I married my wife because of her laugh. Go figure.

Steve, if you make her laugh as much as you make us laugh you must be a happy man indeed.

That depends on what she’s laughing at.

Elizabeth Liddle said:

I’m pleased to see that a number of UD posters have appeared atThe Skeptical Zone.

This is to everyone’s credit, I think.

I was particularly impressed that a number of pro-ID commenters fell on their swords and got banned rather than go along with the madness. Whatever their reasons, they did the right thing.

After the main purges had run their course, a number of people objected to Barry Arrington’s approach and were not banned. It seemed for a bit that maybe Arrington had gone off to cool down and was reconsidering. No such luck. Today there is another long effusion on the LNC by “kairosfocus” posted. In among the comments we find this from Arrington:

Liddle denies the universal applicability of the three laws of thought. And people wonder why I refuse to countenance her self-repudiating incoherence masquerading as rational argument on this site. Why? As has been said, anyone who denies the law of non-contradiction doesn’t need an argument; they need therapy. Someone else said, “Do not answer a fool according to her foolishness lest you be like her.” Liddle is a fool. She will no longer be spewing her folly on this site.

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This page contains a single entry by Richard B. Hoppe published on February 15, 2012 2:25 PM.

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