How are you all? How’s it been going?

I got diagnosed with an ocular melanoma in the middle of COVID which was a bit of a shock. It was discovered incidentally during an assessment for treatment of a complication of cataract surgery in the other eye.  Which was lucky, and I was treated very promptly, despite COVID restrictions, and all seems well, although it’s left me with somewhat impaired sight.

A momentous few years for us all, in small ways and large. It’s good to be back. The Evolution debates seem all a bit small scale in the face of climate breakdown and rising fascism, and yet again a serious threat of global nuclear war.

But good to see some familiar names still here. Thanks for keeping the penguins warm!

UPDATED: American Heretics on YouTube

ADDED link to alternative YouTube posting without regional restrictions.

The 2019 documentary American Heretics: The Politics of the Gospel focuses on unorthodox Christians in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where TSZ contributor Jonathan Bartlett lives, and in Oklahoma City, where I live. The most prominent of the subjects are two ministers of the United Church of Christ, Robin Meyers (author of Why the Christian Right Is Wrong and Saving Jesus from the Church), and Carlton Pearson (a black protege of Oral Roberts who went on to great success as a televangelist). They both accepted, earlier in life, the orthodox doctrine that the unsaved will suffer eternal damnation, but ultimately repudiated it.

The documentary has gotten favorable reviews in major newspapers, including The New York Times, but I have to say that it is somewhat slow and diffuse. The filmmakers clearly did not capture as much good footage as they needed for a feature-length release. However, the good footage is quite good, and many of you will be interested in what it reveals of religion and politics in the U.S. today. Note that YouTube provides options for increased playback speed and for captioning.

ETA: Thanks to Dazz for locating the YouTube posting above. Note that the documentary is followed by discussion that I have not reviewed. (The posting I originally linked to is not accessible from all regions of the world.)

Open Thread: Contributions Invited!

And warmly encouraged…

This site is a little quiet these days. I know it is the middle of the Summer holiday season and the impact of Covid has been devastating to normal life. But I wonder why the site is still receiving around 100 unique visits a day when seemingly fewer of those visitors are adding opening posts or leaving comments.

If anyone has thoughts about what would encourage more participation, exchange of ideas, please let’s hear from you.

Happy New Year

To all TSZ Members and Readers!

The end of the year and the imminent arrival of the new decade made me wonder when exactly Dr Liddle set this blog up. I see it was in (or at least prior to) August, 2011. Lizzie put up her first opening post Where does information come from? here. You can tell it’s the first because the link is to “hello_world”, the example post that comes with the WordPress package. UD addicts may like to follow this link to exchanges between Lizzie and the charming Upright Biped that may have had some part in the birth of TSZ. So TSZ is well on the way to it’s first decade – a remarkable achievement considering Lizzie has not actively participated here for some years.

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Origins Discussions – What Would be the First Question You’d Ask?

Given that you are a ______________________ (your particular informative specialty, background &/or theological/worldview approach to the topic), what would be the first question(s) you’d like to ask to start a discussion on the topic of the origins of life and the origins of human beings if you could ask:

1) A person who is confused about why people use their precious free time to join websites & forums (such as this one), chat sites, groups, on-line meetings rooms, and listserves, who attend conferences, workshops, presentations and talks delivered about origins & processes of natural & human history, including monumental & meaningful topics involving science, philosophy & theology/worldview discourse.

2) An atheist or agnostic who thinks evolutionary biology, the ‘Evolutionary Epic’ (as in E.O. Wilson, D.S. Wilson, Connie Barlow, et al.) &/or evolutionism as an ideology that buttresses their personal worldview, makes it very difficult if not impossible to believe in the Creator-God attested to in Abrahamic monotheistic scriptures and institutions.

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Welcome a new overlord!

I’m very pleased to say that Mung has very kindly agreed to join the admin team.

Thank you so much Mung, and welcome!

In other news (?) – I finally managed to catch up (nearly) sufficiently on my work back-log to take a vacation, but unfortunately (but unsurprisingly!) the internet connection is very poor.  We are walking the Coast-to-Coast route from St Bees in Cumbria to Robin Hood’s Bay in Yorkshire. Will post some pics!ffff

And I look forward (?) to reading the Squawk Box comments on my return – and letting you know my responses and thoughts.  Hang in there, guys!

Peaceful Science has eclipsed Uncommon Descent. How will that impact TSZ’s reason to be?

The original mission of TSZ, as intended by the U.K.’s Dr. Elizabeth Liddle, who promoted the site to apostate peers & ‘skeptics,’ often at anti-religious online forums, lists & discussion boards, has passed its due date. She & they (many of the early people who joined) shared the experience in common of being ‘expelled’ (banned) from the IDist blog Uncommon Descent (UD) & to have their own sandbox to critique UD was the main mission of TSZ. There was no ‘inspirational’ core that Liddle offered upon departure from her own site, but returning to it in November to talk mainly about UD again could only be a fool’s errand.

My argument here is that UD is by now pretty much outdated. UD is generally seen as oddball &/or gutter-level IDist discussion, far adrift from serious conversation on the topic. It is shrinking in relevance now year on year. It thus isn’t really worth ‘reporting’ on or ‘opposing’ UD at TSZ anymore, though that IDist site was the early focus of TSZ & what brought many (most) of the early participants together. Is UD really worth time for ‘skeptics’ nowadays?

More importantly, the new blog Peaceful Science (PS) has recently surpassed BioLogos in terms of daily & hourly regular traffic & far outreaches the topics that UD used to breach. It has actual scientists, elderly or retired ‘science & religion/worldview’ people who contribute often a LOT, woolly protestants & ‘unitarian’ (or maybe just one who posts as much as 5 people), pedantic ‘natural theologians’, & S. Joshua Swamidass actually just called one person a ‘prophet’ as a welcome greeting. PS even ‘welcomes’ atheists (Swamidass has made it a point to defend Freedom From Religion Foundation proponent who is a self-described ‘militant atheist’ against multiple Christians) & agnostics & patiently fields all legitimate ‘scientific’ questions. Are you skeptical of ‘Peaceful Science’ and a ‘Science of Adam’ as proclaimed by quasi-creationists, ideology-starved geneticists & fence-sitting ‘reformers’?

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Squawk box

I sense a disturbance in the force.

This thread is for people to tell me what they think is going on, going wrong, and what they think we should do about it.  I’m listening.


[Edit added 18.40 pm CET 20/08/2018 by Alan Fox]

As the comments have ballooned, Lizzie would very much like members to summarize their thoughts and suggestions into one statement and there is now a dedicated thread, “Summaries”, where they can be posted. Please just post one summary and please do not add other comments. You are welcome to comment on other people’s summaries in this thread. The idea of the “Summaries” thread is to make it easier for Lizzie to get your input. Comments judged by admins not to be summaries will move to guano.

Members who would rather keep their thoughts confidential are invited to use the private messaging system. Lizzie’s address is Elizabeth.

Wanted penguin briefly sighted

Hi all!

Not all of you know me, and some may be agnostic with regard to my existence, alizziest even, but I do exist and I’m so sorry I’ve been an absentee landlord for so long!  Life got impossibly difficult, and I’ve been barely keeping my head above water for quite a while!

However, light is definitely visible at the end of the tunnel, and I have good (belated) news which his that Vincent Torley and DNA_jock have kindly agreed to join the admin team at TSZ.  Thanks so much, Vincent and DNA_jock!

And I do hope to join them as a no-longer-sleeping partner before the year is out at least!  Semi-retirement from my full-time job should commence on 1st November, at which point I hope to get my life back!

TSZ – The Future

Dr Elizabeth Liddle conceived, created and grew this website to the success it is today. It was a new idea. Many other sites can be found where a particular worldview is being promoted or a particular sphere of interest draws people of like interest. TSZ was intended to address the problem that Lizzie saw first-hand at other sites I and many others watched her participate in. Her being turfed from one well-known ID blog was partly the catalyst to trigger this venture. Continue reading

“Uncommon Descent” and “The Skeptical Zone” in 2016

(For last year’s results, see “Uncommon Descent” and “The Skeptical Zone” in 2015)

Fig 1

In 2016, “The Skeptical Zone” (TSZ) overtook “Uncommon Descent” (UD) – at least with regard to the number of comments:

Number of Comments 2005 – 2016

year 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
UD 41,400 28,400 42,500 53,700 53,100 28,000
TSZ 2,200 15,100 16,900 20,400 45,200 54,200

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I have closed comments on two recent threads, The War Against Barry A. by Mung, and Barry Arrington’s Bullying, by stcordova.

I am more than happy for people to discuss here views expressed in OP’s at Uncommon Descent, not least because one of the functions this site serves is a place in which people can continue conversations started at UD, or discuss issues raised at UD, if they are banned at UD.  However, I do not want it to dominated by discussions of the rights and wrongs of UD moderation policy.  UD is Barry’s site and he is entitled to select who posts and what is posted there.  We have a different set of policies here, and so a different style of discussion.

The War Against Barry A.

Salvador Cordova recently posted in Noyau the contents of a private email he received from Barry.

Administrator Neil Rickert thanks Salvador for posting it and suggests an OP.

Administrator Alan Fox suggests an OP.

Administrator and site owner Elizabeth Liddle suggests an OP.

None of them call into question the wisdom of posting the contents of private emails on the site.

Extremely poor judgment by them all.

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Rule edits

I made some minor edits to the rule page. The “Address the post not the poster” rule now reads:

Address the content of the post, not the perceived failings of the poster. [purple text added 28th November 2015]

  • This means that accusing others of ignorance or stupidity is off topic
  • As is implying that other posters are mentally ill or demented.

And for guidance I also added text from an excellent post by Reciprocating Bill:

Participation at this site entails obligations similar to those that attend playing a game. While there is no objective moral obligation to answer questions, the site has aims, rules and informal stakeholders, just as football has same. When violations of those aims and rules are perceived and/or the enforcement of same is seen as arbitrary or inconsistent, differences and conflicts arise. No resort to objective morality, yet perfectly comprehensible and appropriate opprobrium.


Moderation at TSZ, part 1

Gathering my thoughts on moderation at TSZ, I found that I really have two OPs to write: one discussing the effects of rules and moderation at TSZ, and another exploring why the moderation — particularly the Guano-related stuff — has those effects. The second topic is by far the more interesting, but it’s the first topic that has the most practical import, so I’ll address it now.

In a nutshell: We’ve already experimented with different levels of moderation at TSZ, and the results are in. Less moderation works better.

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