The Rules of the TSZ Game

As we have some newcomers, and some new-oldcomers (including me!) I thought I’d just draw everyone’s attention to the Rules of the Game at TSZ.  They are written here and updated from time to time, but I have also pasted them below.  We do try not to be heavy-handed with them, and to be as equitable as is humanly possible, but we will make judgements that you disagree with, possibly with good reason.  The good news is that you can discuss these in Moderation Issues, and that, with the exception of a very narrow and specific range of material, posts will only be moved, not deleted.  Moving a post because it contravenes a rule does NOT imply ANY kind of moral judgment on the post.  A post can be morally justified yet contravene the rules, and can be morally indefensible yet remain within it.  The rules are entirely orthogonal to morality, and when we ask you to “assume all other posters are posting in good faith” we do not require that you believe it, any more than the assumption of innocence until proven guilty requires belief in a person’s innocence.That is why I call them “Game rules”.  They are simply the rules of the discussion game as played here at TSZ.  We also have the Sandbox for off-topic scrapping that is getting in the way of discussion, or even off-topic chat about fun stuff.

I do hope that people from UD will join us, now that a number of us have decided that the UD practice of deleting entire users makes it simply not worth the effort of serious engagement at UD.  We genuinely welcome UD regulars and ID supporters, although I, as owner of this site, and my fellow admins are not, as you are probably aware, ID supporters.  But that means it becomes even more important to get keep within the Game rules. So if people feel a slight raising of the Guano threshold, please do not take it personally.  It’s just the alpha penguin exerting her matriarchal rights.

  • Assume all other posters are posting in good faith.
    • For example, do not accuse other posters of being deliberately misleading
  • Do not turn this site into a peanut gallery for observing the antics on other boards. (there are plenty of places on the web where you can do that!)
  • Address the post, not the poster.
    • This means that accusing others of ignorance or stupidity is off topic
    • As is implying that other posters are mentally ill or demented.
  • Don’t advocate illegal activities.
  • Don’t post porn, or links to porn, or any material liable to risk the integrity of another poster’s computer.
  • If you have author permissions, and post an OP, you may find you have the technical ability to edit comments to your post, and move them.  Please do not do so.  Rule violating posts will be moved by moderators, and it is a principle of this site that comments are not edited, deleted, or hidden.
  • Don’t use this site to try to “out” other internet denizens or indulge in ad hominem speculations.  Such speculations may, notwithstanding general principles regarding deletion, be deleted.

18 thoughts on “The Rules of the TSZ Game

  1. Hi Elizabeth,

    Reading through your list of “thou shalt nots” it seems to me these are violated daily here at TSZ. Thankfully the gods are merciful.

  2. Most of them aren’t, Mung.

    And while “peanut gallery” remains undefined, I am perfectly happy to have topics discussed on other sites commented on here – it was one of the original purposes of this site: to enable conversations to continue in parallel here with conversations at UD, for instance, where they could include contributors barred for UD. What I do not want is for this site to degenerate into mere jeering at the the perceived failings of peole at other sites.

    The first (which is not a “thou shalt not”) is the most important, and I’m going to try to raise the threshold there.

  3. It is interesting to look at Internet discussion fora from the point of view of Deliberative Democracy. Deliberative democrats have tried to define what deliberation (based on Habermasian communicative action) should look like and how to encourage it.  There have been many different proposals for the criteria for ideal debate but they have a lot in common. A good example is Steenberg’s Discourse Quality Index:
    1. Justification
    Assertions are backed up with justifications
    2. Common Good
    Arguments are for the common good and not for the benefit of particular citizens
    3. Respect
    Discussion is on the basis of respect for participants and their arguments
    4. Constructive politics
    Discussion is constructive and attempts to find a mutually acceptable solution
    5. Participation
    All citizens affected by the deliberation are involved (presence) and have equal ability to express their views (voice)
    6. Authenticity
    Participants do not attempt to deceive each other

    Compare TSZ and UD against these criteria. 2 and 4 are irrelevant.  We are not negotiating political settlements and so no one is particularly concerned with the common good or finding a solution. It is not in the nature of the discussion.

    1 Justification. Most people on both fora think their assertions are backed up with justifications although, as far as I know, it is only some ID proponents writing on UD such as Barry and StephenB who justify their case simply by saying  they are obviously right. I am not sure that counts as a justification. There are also some truly bizarre commenters on UD who see the whole debate as a war of insults (Joe, Mapou).

    3. Respect. In practice both sides show very little respect for each other on either forum – although the TSZ moderation policy does encourage it.

    5. Participation.  TSZ wins hands down here both in presence and voice. Almost anyone can comment and write OPs.  On UD many people are prevented from commenting, as know some people find their comments are removed, and the editors regularly use their powers to make sure their voice is heard above others (by writing new OPs, by adding comments in bold etc).

    6 Authenticity. Of course it is really hard to know if someone is successfully deceiving you and to tell the difference between a genuine error and a deception. I strongly feel there is much less deception on TSZ than UD but it is hard to prove it. What is certain is that the moderation policy on TSZ emphasises assuming that others are posting good faith i.e. not being deceptive.

  4. Politeness is in the eye of the beholder. Where I grew up, “Bless your heart” can be an incredibly vicious insult.

    Objectively, the distinguishing feature of this site is that people don’t get banned. In patricular, they don’t get banned for disagreeing with management.

  5. Yes, and that is important. It is true that the majority of posters here are ID critics, but that is not for want of invitations to ID proponents to join us, and it is good that some have.

    The case I see made at UD that various of us have “run away” to TSZ simply doesn’t hold water. You cannot hide at TSZ. Your posts will stay visible, and your critics are free to post, from an OP if they like.

    Whereas you can “run away” to UD. Your critics can be banned, and their contributions “disappeared”, without announcement or explanation.

    Sure, it is a little more intimidating to post at a site where your views are in the minority, than where they are in the majority, but despite the banning regime, ID critics and their socks seem undaunted at UD, whereas relatively few ID posters stay around here – and I am very appreciative of those who do. If more did, you wouldn’t even be in the minority!

  6. Lizzie,

    ID critics and their socks seem undaunted at UD, whereas relatively few ID posters stay around here – and I am very appreciative of those who do. If more did, you wouldn’t even be in the minority!

    Creationists being in the majority in certain areas is a big problem here in the US. Be careful what you wish for.

  7. I always forget that. I’d lived half a century in the UK before I realised that anyone other than the odd weird sect actually believed that!

    Although ID is a bit different (I do think, Pandas and People notwithstanding) that ID is a lot different from creationism – certainly different to YEC. YEC is actually falsifiable, and indeed is falsified. We have vast amounts of consilient evidence that is completely inconsistent with YEC, and converges on pretty detailed timeline. Same goes for the Flood (I find it hard to believe that Dembski really holds that the Flood was a literal event, even though he was apparently forced to recant his suggestions that it wasn’t, which in itself tells you something asymmetrical is going on here; cf Behe’s continued tenure at LeHigh).

    But ID kind of works as a philosophy, if not as science, at least yet. If “mind is primary” as I’ve heard ID supporters claim recently (and as Nagel sort of claims), then it could be testable (though neuroscience that shows that psychological manipulations have physical effects is NOT such a test, thank you, Dr Beauregard).

    Or maybe it’s just intrinsically untestable, and so a matter of “faith” I guess.

    That wouldn’t be a problem, IMO.

    What strikes me as dangerous is the idea that ID right now is testable science, has been tested, and proves science wrong. That is nonsense, and undermines actual science, with potentially disastrous consequences. I’m noticing a growing constellation of anti-science beliefs including preppy, New-Agey, libertarian, anti-vaxxer, creationist, anti GMO, Weston A Price Foundation nonsense which could be pretty worrisome. Although at least that grouping isn’t anti-climate-change particularly, so maybe we should welcome it.

  8. Elizabeth,

    Right. From an epistemological standpoint, YEC is in much better shape than ID. YEC is precisely formulated enough to be testable, and has (thus far) failed every test. ID is not (yet) precisely formulated enough to be testable. I stopped contributing to Uncommon Descent when, in a discussion about Peirce, I could not get any of the die-hard ID supporters to acknowledge that “the abductive leap” (as Peirce called it) or “inference to the best explanation” is not sufficient for a good scientific theory. I insisted that abduction be complemented by induction and deduction (as Peirce himself thought), or in other words, that inferences to the best explanation must in turn have entailments susceptible to empirical confirmation. None of them seemed to understand this point — as far as they were concerned, inference to the best explanation was necessary and sufficient for ID to be a scientific theory. After having the exact same argument over and over again with Kairosfocus and Arrington, I gave up in frustration.

    As metaphysics, ID has a long and noble history that goes back to the pre-Socratic philosopher Anaxagoras and being refined and developed in the long tradition that runs from Anaxagoras and Empedocles through Plato (but not Aristotle!) to Chrysippus and Diogenes (early Stoics) and then persisting in various forms throughout the entire history of Western metaphysical speculation. Considered as metaphysics, I have quite different objections. But of course the main innovation that ID claims to have made here is that it has put this metaphysical speculation on the gold standard of empirical science, and I think there are overwhelmingly compelling reasons for thinking it has not in fact done so.

    (Whether any version of evolutionary theory is in better shape than ID is an interesting question, but a red herring.)

  9. cf Behe’s continued tenure at LeHigh).

    I hate uppercase in the middle of a name if the owner of the name doesn’t do it that way.

    I’ll bet Lehigh would love to be rid of him, but that sort of thing is the price we pay for academic freedom; he’s free to be a loon.

  10. Lizzie,

    Although ID is a bit different (I do think, Pandas and People notwithstanding) that ID is a lot different from creationism – certainly different to YEC. YEC is actually falsifiable, and indeed is falsified.

    I don’t think we can ignore “Pandas and People” so easily. The evidence at the Dover trial clearly showed that the words “creationism” and “creation science” were replaced with “intelligent design” immediately after the US Supreme Court ruled that creationism could not be taught in public schools. ID is demonstrably an attempt to get around the separation of church and state.

    Because of that, the lack of testable propositions from ID supporters is a feature, not a bug. They don’t want to risk disconfirmation.

    Or maybe it’s just intrinsically untestable, and so a matter of “faith” I guess.

    That wouldn’t be a problem, IMO.

    It wouldn’t be a problem if people voted based on facts rather than faith. It is a problem, at least in the US, because it is used to attempt to provide a veneer of scientific respectability on what are, at heart, typical creationist claims.

    I would be very interested to see a real, testable ID hypothesis presented, but I’m not holding my breath. The reason these discussions are important is not because the creationists might come up with something new after the past couple of thousand years of trying — it’s because we need to be ready to slap down their nonsense in school boards, legislatures, and jury rooms across the country.

    I’m noticing a growing constellation of anti-science beliefs including preppy, New-Agey, libertarian, anti-vaxxer, creationist, anti GMO, Weston A Price Foundation nonsense which could be pretty worrisome.

    “Libertarian” might mean something different in the UK. At the risk of derailing the thread with politics (Oh, wait, ID is all about politics!), the libertarians in the US are focused on reducing the size and power of government. The New Agers and anti-vaxxers seem to congregate with the Democrats or Greens, while the creationists are, of course, Republicans.

  11. Well, the home-school movement, coming from two very different corners of the ideological spectrum, seems to me to be making some odd bedfellows.

  12. JonF: I hate uppercase in the middle of a name if the owner of the name doesn’t do it that way.

    I’ll bet Lehigh would love to be rid of him, but that sort of thing is the price we pay for academic freedom; he’s free to be a loon.

    oops, sorry.

  13. Patrick: The evidence at the Dover trial clearly showed that the words “creationism” and “creation science” were replaced with “intelligent design” immediately after the US Supreme Court ruled that creationism could not be taught in public schools. ID is demonstrably an attempt to get around the separation of church and state.

    Indeed: http://ncse.com/book/export/html/11774

  14. Yes, I know. Politically, this is true, or was.

    But in a post-Dover era, the only hope for ID is to junk YEC, as Meyer and Behe, and Dembski have done.

    But purged of YEC, there’s nothing testable about ID.

  15. Elizabeth,

    I agree.
    As I wrote here:

    http://theskepticalzone.com/wp/?p=5168

    “ID exists as an amorphous miasmic anti-evolutionary argument

    The general trend at UD is for the IDists to tell us what they think evolution can’t do rather than what ID can do. It is gapism in its purest form. The target moves from PCD to abiogenesis to the first cell and they want a complete history of the evolution of life with pictures and an index of all the mutations as they happened. Given the ‘Jesus this’ and ‘God that’ that happens at UD, I wonder if they have the same high bar for other ‘historical’ events.”

    Ironically, over at UD:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com/origin-of-life/unsolved-problems-in-biology/

    If only they’d START problems in ID…

  16. Lizzie:

    But purged of YEC, there’s nothing testable about ID.

    Yet a hypothesis needn’t be falsifiable to be decisively rejected.

    My favorite toy example is the Rain Fairy hypothesis, which holds that every meteorological event results from the actions of an invisible (and very speedy and powerful) Rain Fairy. It can’t be falsified, yet no rational person prefers it over modern meteorology.

    Likewise with ID, even of the “guided evolution” variety.

    ID really is scientifically untenable as an explanation of the pattern of life on earth.

  17. keiths:

    Yet a hypothesis needn’t be falsifiable to be decisively rejected.

    If it’s not falsifiable it must be decisively rejected.

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