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Monday, July 27, 2009

Uncommon Descent: Contest Question 7: "Foul anonymous Darwinist blogger exposed. Why so foul?" Winner announced

Uncommon Descent: Contest Question 7: "Foul anonymous Darwinist blogger exposed. Why so foul?" featured the opposite outcome from Contest Question 6. Only one person entered Question 6 (winner announced here , possibly because most of us are sick of hearing the term "crisis" used to mean any situation (in this case, genomics) that someone finds upsetting. That's good news, really. Maybe we'll go back to saving "crisis" for the next eruption of Krakatoa or Pinatubo. Basically, there are no "crises" in cosmology or genome mapping.

Anyway, 198 people responded to Contest Question 7. Now, to recap, the topic had come up unexpectedly. An avatar blogger, "Canadian Cynic," had been posting obscenities for years against Canadian women (wives, mothers, grandmothers, sisters, daughters) who espoused traditional values. I somehow got in his sights because of my interest in the intelligent design controversy.

The problem wasn't so much with the vile stuff he said but with the fact that no one knew who he was. But the enterprising Wendy Sullivan, the "Girl on the Right", found out, and allowed the world (his clients, colleagues, suppliers, acquaintances, neighbours, anyone who might be interested, really) to know that that is how he spends his time when he is not developing or writing about software.

That's all we wanted, really. Just to end the secrecy. The rest, we were pretty sure, would take care of itself. Okay, so that's history, but it raised an interesting question for Contest 7: Why do so many Darwinists spout so much filth, hostility, and aimless detraction?

In other words, why would stuff that earns applause at Panda's Thumb and After the Bar Closes get you kicked out of Uncommon Descent? And, incidentally, Darwin and his associates would doubtless be much more comfortable at Uncommon Descent than at Panda's Thumb or After the Bar Closes? What cultural change does this signify?

The part I find most interesting is that in polls, people like Canadian Cynic would doubtless proclaim themselves great defenders of the rights of women, more volubly maybe than men who would never behave that way in print.

Most of our 198 entries responded to one aspect or another of this charged issue., but a number were genuine entries. After reading them over and thinking about them, I found I could not choose between two entries, EndoplasmicMessenger at 105 and Cannuckian Yankee at 163, so I am declaring them joint winners. Both need to provide me with a postal address if they wish to receive their free copy of the Expelled DVD.

Here are their entries, reproduced:

1. At 105,
From EndoplasmicMessenger: Why do so many of Darwinists spout so much filth, hostility, and aimless detraction?

1. It’s not just the Darwinists. Both sides are capable of displaying less that complete civility. No one is immune.

2. This incivility is not present just in debates about Evolution. It is so common, it has been given a name: “ad hominem”, which is Latin for a response directed “at the man” instead of at his argument.

3. Certainly some lost souls may do this purely for their own entertainment or amusement. They somehow get kicks from insulting others. Not sure what can be done about these poor souls.

4. But emotional responses rule the day when emotionally-dear positions are challenged. Knee-jerk reactions are a deep part of human nature when a cherished world view is challenged.

5. Rare, indeed, is the individual who can examine challenges to his world view in an objective, disinterested way.

6. Emotional responses are easier than rational responses. An animal can respond emotionally, with hostility and viciousness. Engaging the mind takes self-control. Pausing and rationally examining and understanding an opposing argument takes effort. Formulating a rational and civil response takes additional discipline and thoughtfulness.

7. Thomas Kuhn says that individuals holding incompatible world views will “talk past each other”, being unable to understand each other’s words. This makes world-view criticisms harder to respond to by orders of magnitude.

8. If you believe you were created by “mindless and unguided processes”, you might not even believe that there is such a thing as a rational mind, let alone that there is any value in civility. If your world view is defined by “survival of the fittest”, you might only be concerned with defeating your opponent, following any rules, or no rules.

Consequently, it seems clear why so many of Darwinists spout so much filth, hostility, and aimless detraction: Being rational is hard. Being civil is harder. Doing this in the face of an incompatible world view is nearly inconceivable. Doing this from an authentically Darwinist world-view: impossible!

I do not find it surprising that many Darwinists exhibit filth, hostility, and aimless detraction. What I find amazing is that any exhibit civil rationality at all.

Moral: Do not respond to them directly. But do respond for the sake of the “lurkers” who are watching these conversations and would be edified to know what the ID responses are to anti-ID accusations.
What I liked about this entry is the linkage between "survival of the fittest" and the apparent attempt to intimidate through filth (which utterly flops when people just know it doesn't fit the story).

At 163:
From Cannuckian Yankee: Question: “Why do so many of Darwinists spout so much filth, hostility, and aimless detraction?”

Simple: Many Darwinists believe that morality is defined by the culture. Yet the culture does not appeal to any authority above the common dictates of the culture. What seems to happen in cultures that do not appeal to any higher authority is that no-body questions the lowest common denominator of decency. When all speech is then allowed, since the freedom to express is held above the taking offense of one individual, there’s a slippery slope into that lowest common denominator - such that what may have been appalling at one time, is actually relished now by a majority. If one seeks an example of this, go to the Darwinist blogs.

There appears then to be this undefined contest to see who can out-do the other with indecency, and such defiance of “the common good” is then applauded. Think of how what is permitted today will be mild in comparison with what will be permitted in the future - it’s an expected evolution.

I think calling someone a “c**t” now will be common practice among a majority in the future, just as using the “f” word today is common usage, when only 20 years ago it was reserved for the most daringly perverse among us.

We shouldn’t be surprised by this phenomenon. It’s simply an unguided process of the evolution of speech, right? Well, not exactly, clear decisions are made in reaching the current cultural limits of acceptable speech. Those decisions are based on testing the limits, and then waiting to see if the benefits outweigh the consequences, rather than upholding the limits as a desireable and agreed upon rule of law for everyone. You see, the Darwinian morality scheme doesn’t really work, and these results only prove that too well.
Cannuckian Yankee has dared to make a prediction, that the abuse will worsen. I sure hope he is wrong (no slight intended). By the way, Americans who hope for relief from "hate speech" laws are probably chasing the wind, if Canadian experience is any guide. In historical experience, they simply do not work that way. They favour groups favoured by ambitious politicians, not groups that are being wronged. See

Meanwhile, let me address a few points, for clarification:

1. To restate: The offended women were NOT calling for censorship. We simply wanted to know who he was, so we could advertise his strange hobby under his own name. When a fellow has a business to run, unwanted publicity usually solves the problem of inappropriate public communications, especially those involving women.

2. Can you be good without God? I should think so. For example, I suppose most Buddhist monks and nuns are "good" people, in the usual sense, to say nothing of many millions of lay persons in Eastern Asia. But here is the catch: You then must believe in a system somewhat like the doctrine of karma (in which you must eventually work off every evil you have done, so that the universe remains balanced).

The problem with atheist materialism is that it doesn't provide a basis for morality except what seems "right" to the buzz of neurons in an individual brain at a given time - a notoriously unreliable standard. So the goalposts are floating in a sea of jelly, and it may be best not to talk of "good" or "evil", but simply of "adaptation to one's environment," whatever that is. "Tribune" pointed out, rightly, that goodness can mean acting against the go-along/get along mores of society.

3. Re research studies about how "Christians" behave: I mostly wouldn't bother with them in any country where Christianity is a default census position. Once must necessarily narrow one's focus to groups of people who have a common vision of what it means to be a Christian.

4. At 60, Iconofid asked, "Tell me, do you think someone can be condemned to death for saying something, however rude or unjustified it may be?" Well, yes, maybe: How about: "Drop the bomb! That'll teach those orphans to insult our glorious leader!" The key question with words is their assumed relationship to actions.

5. "Barb" asked a good question at 10: "... what woul danger you enough that you would call another woman a 'cunt'?" Thanks to Barb for focusing the discussion on this key point: Not detraction as such, but the ready resort to profanity and obscenity, of a sort that would certainly get the detractor banished from Darwin's own circle. It is redolent of de-lousing day on the Angels' range in a federal prison. Some missed this point.

6. At 106, "Herb" wanted to know what I thought of Wendy Sullivan's unvarnished opinion of the huge human disaster that our reserve system for Aboriginal Canadians has become. Well, Wendy is her own woman, and she says things in ways I wouldn't, but alas, the problems she deals with are real enough. (Also: here and here and here for specifics. )

7. Cannuckian Yankee doubted that any kind of "hate" prosecution could be lodged against "Canadian Cynic." He is certainly correct. Victims of hate crime prosecutions are typically people with traditional views, most often serious Jews, serious Christians, small business owners, self-employed professionals, etc. For more on the "human rights" scene in Canada, go to Ezra Levant.

8. I wish to express thanks to kairosfocus at 97 for defending my fellow blogresses and myself. We are used to the hurly-burly of intellectual combat, of course, and give as good as we get. But as he rightly notes, cell-block style sexual abuse concerns us. (Note: Some men were also similarly abused and have expressed the same sense that the atmosphere had become toxic.)

Admin note: The books donated by Harper One San Francisco to our contest, Signature in the Cell and The Spiritual Brain, have now arrived. I must make up a new prize schedule to accommodate them along with the other prizes (DVDs and subscriptions/back issues), and as soon as I have done so, will post Contest Question 8.


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