Is The Skeptical Zone Skeptical?

Barry Arrington pays us the somewhat dubious compliment of posting an article on the subject of The Skeptical Zone. I’d like to respond to it here (as I cannot respond to it there, although in contrast, Barry is welcome to come here if he would like to make a counter-point).

Barry writes:

For those of you who do not know, some months ago Elizabeth Liddle started the website known as The Skeptical Zone (TSZ). The site has a sort of symbiotic relationship with UD, because many, if not most, of the posts there key off our posts here.

Not only does TSZ have a name that invokes a skeptical turn of mind, it also has a motto apparently intended to bolster that attitude: “I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible that you may be mistaken.” The motto is taken from Oliver Cromwell’s August 5, 1650 letter to the synod of the Church of Scotland urging them to break their alliance with royalist forces.

Now with a name and a motto like that, one might think the site is home to iconoclastic non-conformists bent on disrupting the status quo.

Well, up to a point, Lord Copper. Being “skeptical” doesn’t necessarily mean “disrupting the status quo”. It means, well, being skeptical – being prepared to doubt claims, to demand supporting evidence, to accept conclusions provisionally, and, above all, being prepared to hold one’s own assumptions up to scrutiny.  But be that as it may…

Barry continues:

But you would be wrong. I just finished pursuing the articles that have been posted at TSZ during the last six months. Among the regular posters there I found not a single article that even mildly criticized (far less expressed skepticism toward) a single dogma one would expect to be held by the vast majority of the denizens of the faculty lounge at a typical university.

Hmm.  Do I detect a “poisoning of the well” – what “dogma” is “held by the vast majority” of “denizens of the faculty lounge”?

Merriam-Webster defines “dogma” thus:

a : something held as an established opinion; especially : a definite authoritative tenet

b : a code of such tenets <pedagogical dogma>

c : a point of view or tenet put forth as authoritative without adequate grounds

: a doctrine or body of doctrines concerning faith or morals formally stated and authoritatively proclaimed by a church

Well, clearly, “2” doesn’t apply, as universities are not churches, and in any cases, universities (or even the denizens of faculty lounges, whoever they are) don’t “formally state” bodies of “doctrines concerning faith or morals”.  Barry may mean 1a: “something held as established opinion” – certainly some scientific conclusions are so well attested that although they are in principle held provisionally, they are regarded as “fact”.  I wonder if he means 1b: “pedagogical dogma” – certainly universities are sometimes guilty, in my view, of teaching science as though it is a body of disconnected facts, not a method that has led to an edifice of conclusions, with a firm base, but with flimsier and more provisional upper branches.  And it’s possible he is thinking of 1c: “a point of view or tenet put forth as authoritative without adequate grounds” – and clearly, as Barry disagrees with the “point of view” that evolutionary processes can account for the diversity and diversification of life from simple ancestral beginnings as being “without adequate grounds”.  So he may mean no more than that we are a group of people (or those who post here regularly are) who find evolutionary theory more persuasive than Barry does.

But wait – he gives examples:

Atheism. It’s true

Whut?  Atheism is a “dogma one would expect to be held by the vast majority of the denizens of the faculty lounge at a typical university”?  Atheism is “held as established opinion” at universities?  Really?  Or forms a pedagogical code?  Or is” put forth as authoritative without adequate grounds”?  Well, I’m a Brit, not an American, but atheism is simply never mentioned at my university (not that I hang about in any “faculty lounge” much, although there’s a Starbuck’s next door, and we do talk about science sometimes).

As for posters at TSZ – I know for a fact that not all are atheists, and I was a theist myself until only a few years ago.  I still consider theism entirely compatible with the scientific consensus, and most theists I know are in the same position.  Dammit, St Augustine was in the same position.

Neo-Darwinian Synthesis. Fact beyond the slightest doubt

Not sure what this is supposed to mean, even.  Evolutionary theory is not “fact”.  What are facts are the many data that support many evolutionary hypotheses, as will as those that don’t some others.  Evolutionary theory is, like all scientific theories, a work in progress, and indeed, always, in some aspect, incorrect.  We do not distinguish between true models and false, in science but between models that fit the data better and ones that fit the data less well.  And no model is every a perfect fit to data.  But it would certainly be nice if we could spend some time here evaluating alternative evolutionary models, rather than getting hung up on ID.  There are some really interesting ideas out there – as well as some really interesting (and conflicting) OOL models.

Philosophical materialism. Check

I assume that Barry mentions philosophical materialism as opposed to “methodological naturalism“.  Methodological naturalism is certainly de rigeur in science departments as it is, essentially, the basis of the scientific method.  Philosophical naturalism appears to have no generally accepted definition, so I’m not sure what he is alleging here.

It seems that the regular posters at TSZ are skeptical of everything but the received wisdom, accepted conventions and cherished dogmas of the academic left. Perhaps they should change the name of the site ever so slightly to The “Skeptical” Zone. The irony quotes would make the name more honest.

I think Barry is tilting at windmills here. Skepticism is being open-minded, but not so open-minded that your brains fall out.  It is perfectly true that I am not skeptical of the “received wisdom” that the earth is about 4 billion years old, and the universe probably more than double that.  Nor am I skeptical of the “received wisdom” that all living things are descendents of a common ancestral population.  I’m very skeptical of the idea that all features of living things evolved because they conferred some reproductive advantage, and even of the idea that many novel traits were reproductively advantageous at the time.  Or even had phenotypical effects at the time.

I’m highly skeptical of the idea, often (though less often now) expressed, that humans have “stopped” evolving, because we no longer die of traits that would have killed us before puberty in the past.  And I think that much of what passes for “evolutionary psychology” is a load of codswallop (although I am very convinced that brains evolved, and that the selectable phenotype was behavioral).  And FWIW, I am very skeptical of the  Human Connectome Project, even though brain connectivity is my subject, and although I find a lot of the work being done absolutely fascinating.  I think it’s based on a flawed model of “functional connectivity”.  Maybe I should do a post about that.

Here’s a clue to the TSZ posters: If you want to be a real skeptic, perhaps you should challenge the beliefs of the secular elite that dominate our universities instead of marching in lockstep with them. The true skeptics of the early twenty-first century are those willing to take on the dogmas of the academic elite, people like Bill Dembski, Michael Behe, and Jonathan Wells.

Ah.  So it is “secular beliefs” that we are not skeptical enough about. Not so, Barry, and this is a key point (I speak for myself, here, obviously, and I invite other TSZ regulars to make their own positions clear):  Barry, you have mistaken “secular beliefs” for the simple assumption that we make in science that the universe is predictable.  It’s not a belief – simply a working assumption.  It may be that the universe will turn out to be fundamentally unpredictable – but it is intrinsic to the scientific method that we cannot proceed unless we assume that it is predictable, and that the unpredicted datapoints we encounter (all the time) are a result of our predictive model being incomplete, not a result of the universe playing games with us.  Many scientists (all of whom make that assumption, including, even, mavericks like Rupert Sheldrake) are religious.  I was myself. What we object to about Dembski, Behe, Wells et al is not that they “take on the dogmas of the academic elite”, but that they are wrong.  By which I mean: their math doesn’t work; their models don’t hold up to scrutiny; they ignore infirming data.  They are not whistle-blowing martyrs – they are people who had an interesting idea (well, Dembski and Behe, not so sure about Wells) that they thought was an argument that life must have had a Designer, which turned out to have a major flaw.  That doesn’t mean they are wrong about the Designer – but that their inference isn’t justified.  Lots of scientists believe in a Designer – they just profoundly disagree that the scientific data is evidence of one.

Or even that an omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent God even could be detected by science.  The problem is not lack of skepticism at TSZ, Barry; it’s your (apparent anyway) lack of understanding about the nature of scientific endeavour.

The posters at The Skeptical Zone are skeptical alright. They are skeptical of skeptics. As for their motto, they certainly think it is possible that someone might be mistaken – anyone who disagrees with them or questions their deeply held beliefs.

As a forum friend of mine once had as his sig line: “Of course I think I’m right – if I didn’t, I’d have changed my mind, wouldn’t I?”  But that isn’t the same as refusing to countenance the possibility that I might be mistaken.  Obviously, I think I’m right – but should your argument be persuasive (as it was once, for me, about five years ago), I will change my mind.  Is the same true of you, Barry?  Might you consider that perhaps the evolutionists have a point?  That perhaps Darwinism is not coterminism with atheism?  That perhaps Dembski’s math is the wrong math?

Why don’t the posters at TSZ see the glaringly obvious irony of their enterprise? I was thinking about this question when I ran across a post by Matt Emerson over at FT. Emerson writes about how the dogmas of secularism act as a type of “revelation” that boxes in thinking in a way that the thinkers probably don’t even perceive at a conscious level. Emerson writes:

Even among those who declare no connection with God, reason operates under what amounts to a kind of revelation. These skeptics don’t conceive of revelation in the same way that I do as a Catholic, but for many, the ultimate source of an epistemological “guide” does not matter: Certain perceived facts, or certain foundational positions, hold the same thetical value for them as the Bible does for many Christians. For these men and women, as for the medievals, it might be technically possible to reason “outside” these givens, but why would they? To ask them to reason as if those givens were not true would be akin to asking a Christian to reason apart from the Incarnation. It just doesn’t make any sense.

I confess I find this post deeply ironic.  Perhaps it is precisely because Emerson, and perhaps Barry, consider that “to reason apart from the Incarnation…doesn’t make any sense” that they cannot conceive of a state of mind in which it is perfectly possible to reason as if “givens were not true”.  Scientists reason as if “givens were not true” all the time – it’s an essential part of our training, to consider: hang on, perhaps what we think we are seeing here is something quite different….”  That’s how the greatest scientific breakthroughs are made.  It’s why science is so exciting.  It’s why the churches are so moribund.  Sadly.  Still, there are always the Quakers.

ETA: I am happy to give posting rights to people with alternative views, including Barry, if he would like.

38 thoughts on “Is The Skeptical Zone Skeptical?

  1. There must be something in the water at UD. Gpuccio has also expressed some strange ideas about skepticism:

    I must say that I despise skepticism in all its forms, even in its supposed general sense.

    I cannot find any real good meaning to the word. Obviously, we all try to express critical thinking, and to form reasonable maps of the world, using our reason, our feeling, our intuition, our experience, our love. Each of us makes different choices, and that is simply to be expected. And respected.

    So, what would a “general skeptical” be? Someone who will never believe anything? Or just someone who believes what he chooses to believe, exactly like anybody else, but likes to think and declare that he is better than all the others, because his choices are “skeptical”, whatever that means?

    I try to reason and understand, but I will never be skeptical. About anything. Why? Because I try to reason and understand. Like everybody. And I make my choices. Like everybody.

    So, skepticism is really nothing, only an expression of generic arrogance in cognition.

    Selective skepticism is always the only visible expression of skepticism. Those who want not to believe certain things a priori, will be bound to believe other things a priori, just to compensate.

    The success of “skepticism” in some parts of modern though is a very strong sign of the cognitive and moral confusion of our times. It is in no way comforting that many of these “skeptics” are essentially intelligent and good people. For me, that is only a cause of personal sadness.

  2. keiths,

    I ‘m not sure I know what universal skepticism is. I become skeptical of certain people and institutions after they have repeatedly lied to me. Or have repeatedly been the source of false information.

    In the case of science, I think science became skeptical of intervention and miracles after hundreds of years of investigation found no support for them.

    Is gpuccio skeptical of the stage magician’s patter? Of advertising claims? Of Nigerian emails? I bet he is.

  3. Nullasalus writes:

    Barry is right.

    I’ve always found TSZ’s subtitle, that overwrought ‘I BESEECH from the BOWELS of CHRIST’ gimmick, entirely hypocritical. Or at least, deceptive. They beseech you – please, please! – consider that you may be wrong.

    You. As in, not them. THEY are quite certain they are right, thank you very much, and won’t be changing their views anytime soon. But please, PLEASE change YOUR views.

    No, Nullasalus, absolutely not. It is “you” as in “all who take part in discussion here”. Including me. Right now there is a preponderance of people who take issue with the claims of ID (not surprisingly, as I do myself, and it is my blog), but I expect everyone to consider that they might be mistaken. And the only bannable offense is posting commercial spam (mostly dealt with by Akismet) or links that go to malware or porn.

  4. Lizzie,

    Is it in any way ironic that the quotation (itself slightly misquoted by Nullasalus, but still…) is attributed to one adamantly implacable christian (Cromwell) addressing another group of christians?

    How times have changed!

  5. Joe says:

    And no one has ever linked to porn on your site. Never

    In my view an explicit shot of a partially dressed woman’s genitals between her splayed legs is porn. That’s what Joe linked to, as he well knows, coupled with a misogynistic taunt.

    If Joe doesn’t want to call it porn fine. It’s porn by the standards of this website. His standards may be lower.

  6. Lizzie:
    Joe says:

    In my view an explicit shot of a partially dressed woman’s genitals between her splayed legs is porn.That’s what Joe linked to, as he well knows, coupled with a misogynistic taunt.

    If Joe doesn’t want to call it porn fine.It’s porn by the standards of this website.His standards may be lower.

    Joe has also claimed that he linked to that picture not because it was pornographic, but because it was “disgusting”.(He claims that TSZ is disgusting, see?)
    Absent pornographic intent, why would he think the female genitalia “disgusting”? That probably says more about the man than the charge of pornography.

  7. Joe,

    Your website’s employs double-standards, and standards that the rest of the world doesn’t use.

    It doesn’t fit the definition of porn, Lizzie. Your opinion means nothing.

    Now go back to thinking DNA is a self-replicator. Nothing like exposing your ignorance to prove MY point.

    Would you be so kind as to post the link you posted here Joe but at UD so everyone else can see what you consider not to be porn?

    If it’s not porn then I don’t see what the problem would be with you posting that link at UD, and everybody can see for themselves how wrong Lizzie was to ban you and how this site operates double standards.

    Seems simple to me. Win win for you Joe. So what are you waiting for?

  8. Joe,

    To the septic zone ilk-

    Your childish antics and opinions mean nothing. If you think I posted a link to pornography then make your case.

    Cite the definition of pornography and then show how that picture meets the definition. I dare you to try.

    Or shut up.

    If what you posted was not pornography then it won’t offend anybody if you post that same link at UD.

    The fact that you are unwilling to do this speaks volumes.

    Why don’t you expose the double standards at TSZ by posting that link and allowing your friends at UD the privilege of deciding for themselves the facts of the matter?

    Don’t you trust KF’s judgement?

  9. OMagain,

    Actually Joe, I don’t have the link anymore. Could you re-post it at UD so I can “Cite the definition of pornography and then show how that picture meets the definition”?


  10. Joe,

    So only porn offends people? What are you a total moron?

    Ya see people, this is what happens when losers can’t make their case.

    This is in response to me saying “If what you posted was not pornography then it won’t offend anybody if you post that same link at UD.”.

    So, Joe, no there are many other things that offend people. And for some people, porn is one of those things.

    But as you say, the image that you posted was not porn. Therefore there is no reason at all not to simply post the link at UD and allow others to judge for themselves if Lizzie was reasonable to ban you for posting that link.

    You are making my case for me – you argue that that image was not porn but are unwilling to post it. Why ever not? What possible reason could you have for not posting such an image at UD?

  11. Joe,

    Neither do I.

    So you don’t have the link any more? And that’s your ‘excuse’ is it? A moment ago I thought it was not porn, but now the excuse is that you simply don’t have the link anymore?

    Tell you what, why don’t you find a similar image and post that instead? Any particular reason you can’t do that?

  12. Joe,

    OM must stand for “other mouth” for that is what it speaks from.

    No wonder it stinks when it posts…

    Anything except justify your actions huh Joe? Well I’m sure that when KF sees your posts he’ll be putting more tone edits into your comments.

    Find a similar image, and post that. It does not have to be the same one, does it Joe? That’s a quite weak excuse.

    If you like I can ask around, see if the image link is still available. If I do that, will you then post it at UD?

  13. It’s central to the ideological glue that holds together “the ID movement” that the following are all conflated: Darwin’s theories; neo-Darwinism; modern evolutionary theory; Epicurean materialistic metaphysics; Enlightenment-inspired secularism. (Maybe I’m missing one or two pieces of the puzzle.) In my judgment, a mind incapable of making the requisite distinctions hardly deserves to be taken seriously.

    I understand the impulse to engage in respectful dialogue, but it’s a fool’s errand to try to explain something to someone when his or her very identity depends upon not understanding it. Or, as Heinlein once put it, “never try to teach a pig to sing. It’s a waste of time and it annoys the pig.”

    Also worth pointing out: many of the commenters at Uncommon Descent thrive on any attention given them, no matter how critical or dismissive. Cut off the supply of attention and they go into withdrawal.

  14. KF notes:

    AF: Forgive my doubts on your declarations, but on strong evidence from your own pen you have no credibility on such declarations. Just so, the “good” Germans were unaware of the Holocaust while it was going on, even when there were signs all around that something was amiss. And the White Rose movement were hunted down and kangaroo courted to get rid of them for the crime of exposing a snippet of what was going on in print. People by and large refused to believe what hey had said, which was reproduced in Allied leaflets and dropped on Germany. Don’t put yourself in the place of the Germans who had to be marched through the camps in their neighbourhood after the defeat. KF

    I’d like to know who exactly he thinks he is?

    What KF is saying is that people like Alan Fox (AF) and the posters here are like the Nazi party, fully aware of the horror they are inflicting but who don’t particularly care, no doubt because of the lack of morals.

    Don’t put yourself in the place of the Germans who had to be marched through the camps in their neighbourhood after the defeat. KF

    And at what point is it KF that you expect to march Alan around the camps? When your religious war is won and the immoral atheists defeated?

    I’d go on but I’m afraid I may say some things that would not be compatible with the general purpose of the thread or indeed civility.

    I would like to note however that both the Nazis and KF think that homosexuals are immoral and/or deviants. So draw your own conclusion as to who’ll be marching who round what camp if they get their way.

  15. One reason to make a stand is the though of a society being run by people like Mullings. I’m sure it would a return to old testament laws, people being tried as witches, religious police, etc – the American Taliban.

  16. Well, just as everyone is a brilliant driver, everyone strikes exactly the right balance between credulity and skepticism. People who disagree with one invariaby display too much of the former and not enough of the latter (in respect of their own position) …

    The site title and tagline are of course Lizzie’s, but as a reasonably regular poster I’d defend my tendency towards non-interventionist explanations against a charge of lack of skepticism. It is reasonable to expect claims to be backed up by evidence, and there is in my opinion a substantially greater weight on the side of what UD posters mistakenly dub ‘Darwinism’ – evolution from uninterfered-with reproduction. But this does not mean I accept everything because my ‘betters’ tell me to do so.

    I’ve been less than fully convinced of the explanatory power of the mathematical theory, for example, while accepting its importance. Elsewhere, I’ve argued against Lynch’s invocation of population size as a prime causal explanation for junk DNA patterns across deep branches, or against the ‘metabolism first’ scenario and in favour of the RNA world which many consider to be hogwash. I’ve argued against the popular assumption that sex must be ‘for’ something big – an adaptation to offset its mythical ‘twofold cost’ – against some pretty contemptuous opposition touting the received view of Maynard Smith and Williams. None of which makes me anybody; I’m simply saying that I don’t go along with the fashionable view, but with the view that makes most sense to me. And I do change my mind.

  17. I have just come back from two and a half days of travel to find the discussion has mushroomed into several threads.

    Not surprisingly, Arrington is misrepresenting “skepticism” while trying to elevate ID/creationist “critiques” of science to intellectual respectability.

    Arrington is another ID/creationist that doesn’t know his own intellectual history; or any science, for that matter.

    For the last 50+ years, ID/creationists have been concocted an entire series of misrepresentations and misconceptions about the most fundamental findings of science.

    They are not critiquing from a perspective of knowledgeable people who understand the fundamentals; instead they continue to misrepresent and caricature science.

    If their “critiques” came from a foundation of deep knowledge of science, and if they actually addressed real issues, they could be taken more seriously. As it is, they fail miserably at even middle school and high school concepts not only in biology and evolution – the science they hate most – but at even a more fundamental level of physics and chemistry.

    These issues of basic understanding have been pointed out to them repeatedly since the 1970s; yet they don’t correct their mischaracterizations and misconceptions. Instead, they accuse the science community of being a closed-minded cabal jealously staking out their turf.

    ID/creationism has been a socio/political game right from its beginning. There have never been any attempts by its promoters to critique science from a perspective of someone who knows the science and the issues. It has always been about getting sectarian views into the public school science curriculum and getting evolution out using political tactics that demonize science and scientists.

    This pretentious spin-off of “ID” over at UD is rooted deeply in ID/creationist socio/political history; and no matter how hard they at UD attempt to deny this, their characteristic misconceptions and misrepresentations of science identify them as clearly as any DNA fingerprint.

    So, despite the fake, copy/paste erudition and all the pseudo-philosophical rationalizations over at UD, there has never been any evidence demonstrating that any of the denizens over there could pass basic physics, chemistry, biology, and geology at even the high school level. In fact, all the evidence we have about their “debating” styles suggest very strongly that not one of them over at UD can pass even the most basic concept tests in any area of science.

    It’s their constant retreat into copy/pasted, quote-mined material that gives it away. When left on their own, they don’t even know how to use the words properly in a sentence.

    And notice who swoops in to defend them over at UD; their two abusive detractors, Joe and Mung, who spend their entire time sneering, name calling, and hurling feces while the UD ‘theorists” hunker down in the safety of their censorship-protected bunker refusing to address real science.

    The skepticism of Elizabeth’s blog is justified.

  18. Are you skeptical of your skepticism, or is it just accepted dogmatically?

    The evidence indicates the latter. “The Skeptical Zone” is accepted as irony.

  19. Mung,

    Skepticism is reluctance to believe without evidence. One is not required to be skeptical of the topology of the solor system.

    Have you ever been on a jury? Nothing focuses your mind on the problem of doubt like the prospect of depriving another human being of liberty for the rest of his life.

  20. Skepticism means asking “is this claim genuinely supported by the available evidence?” The answer to this question can be either yes or no. A yes answer doesn’t mean a non-skeptical answer, it means an informed answer.

  21. In the long and messy history of philosophy, “skepticism” has been taken up to mean many, many different things — most of which are probably not relevant to what we’re talking about here.

    But a related notion is: the idea of fallibilism. Falliblism is a belief about beliefs, you could say — it’s the idea that one should hold one’s beliefs with some degree of detachment, and be prepared to revise them should one be confronted with sufficient evidence to do so. It’s the idea that our beliefs could be wrong. To reject fallibilism just is to embrace either dogmatism (holding to one’s beliefs tenaciously, come what may) or Pyrrhonian skepticism (not holding any beliefs at all).

    Ironically (from my admittedly prejudiced standpoint), when I affirm a (roughly) neo-Darwinian theory of evolution, I’m accused of being dogmatic. I protest: “no, no, I’m a fallibilist!” But then when I fallibilistically call into question the law of non-contradiction, I’m accused of irrationalism. What’s a pragmatist to do?

  22. Well, I chose the name, and the strapline, so I’d better explain what I meant: I meant this site to be a place where people with radically different fundamental assumptions about the world could drill down to find the essence of where they really differ, with as little interference as possible from tribal adherence to their own priors. Difficult to do in practice, but a worthy ambition, I still think.

    That is why I am reluctant to ban anyone from the site, and do not do so, unless they make the site unsafe for people’s computers (risk their browing history, expose them to malware). Comments that seem to overstep the boundary between disputation and tribalism and get moved to Guano (not deleted, not removed from public view).

    Skepticism cannot be imposed, but it can remain an ideal, and yes, Mung, you are welcome here. I have given you authoring rights. Feel free to post a dissenting OP 🙂

  23. Mung,

    There comes a point eventually where “dogma” is just the way things are.

    Is it “dogma” that light behaves in a certain way? Perhaps, but it’s useful dogma. And until somebody comes along with something more useful…

    It seems that Barry, Mung etc need to challenge whatever is currently popular simply for the fact it’s currently in use.

    That is their right. But unless they replace that “dogma” with something more useful then it’s just potshots from the sidelines. Potshots that fall short of the field I might add.

  24. To what extent are you skeptical of claims made at UD? BA seems to be trying to gain the ‘skeptical high ground’ because UD is in opposition to the mainstream version of biological history and its causes, while TSZ tends to favour it. ID is a view that attracts contrarians as well as the religious – “whatever it is, I’m agin’ it”. Yet its own claims remain decidedly short on substance.

  25. Allan Miller,

    Exactly so. The IDers ask the “Darwinists” to be skeptical.

    Yet the IDers have no problem issuing proclamations like “it’s impossible for DNA to exist without Intelligent Design” and nobody bats an eyelid. No proof, no evidence. It’s just an “ID Fact”.

    It’s simply a double standard. If they applied the standards they ask of “Darwinism” to their own positions, they’d all be “Darwinists” too.

  26. Well, it’s a natural corollary of coming to a conclusion that you think you have weighed the evidence more accurately than those who have come to a different conclusion.

    What I’d like us to do here is to find out why we come to different conclusions. That doesn’t require us to change our conclusions – but it does require us to examine the evidence and argument that led us to them, and to be prepared to change them if evidence and/or argument turn out to be faulty.

    But so often the arguments fly past each other – each “side” thinks the other is making the very mistakes that it is itself accused of.

    It’s hard to get below that, but not impossible. I know from my own experience that it is possible to make the transition between thinking the other side isn’t getting your point, to the realisation that you are not getting theirs – and that the view you thought was so coherent has some untenable but hitherto unquestioned assumptions at its core.

    Shall we all dial down the paranoia and tribalism and try to find out why it is that we draw different conclusions about the world?

    (I’m nothing if not an optimist….)

  27. Lizzie, As a response to the Kariosfocus challenge I requested a dialog rather than a debate.
    I think it is a natural tendency for many of us to ask probing questions rather than just make assertons.

  28. “Shall we all dial down the paranoia and tribalism and try to find out why it is that we draw different conclusions about the world?”

    Lizzie, we know why.

    Let’s not pretend that there is no link between ID and religion. Those who are left at UD are not able to maintain that fiction even. Let’s not pretend that ID is inquiry motivated. Let’s not pretend the Wedge document doesn’t exist.

  29. While you are all getting into this discussion, I just want to hark back to the OP. It quoted Barry as saying that at TSZ:

    Among the regular posters there I found not a single article that even mildly criticized (far less expressed skepticism toward) a single dogma one would expect to be held by the vast majority of the denizens of the faculty lounge at a typical university.

    You know. Those places where faculty members gather each day, wearing their tweed jackets, puffing on pipes and cleaning their horn-rimmed glasses, while they consider what work to ask their personal secretaries to do. Where they cower in terror, safe from having a student inspired by Jack Chick’s profound works raise uncomfortable questions that they absolutely can’t answer, like “why are their still monkeys?”.

    All of which leads to me ask … where can I find one of these “faculty lounges”? I’m at a typical university, but all we seem to have are cafeterias open to everyone, where food is served that is always cooked more than enough, and almost entirely lacks spices.

    And I’ve been looking for that personal secretary for, like, 47 years.

    I need to find this lifestyle, so I can hide out from Jack Chick and polish my unexamined dogmas. And get somebody else to do my work for me.

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