Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Wasted days and wasted nights?

On his blog Deep Thoughts and Silliness, Bob O'Hara recently linked to this bulletin-board thread devoted to recording “banninations” at the intelligent-design blog Uncommon Descent. It happens that I've been reflecting on my “wasted days and wasted nights” at UD, and I've just gone through the 23 pages of comments on the thread. Now I'm in a confessional mood:
  1. Tom English
  2. Thom English
  3. Thomas English
  4. T M English
  5. austin english
  6. Turner Coates
  7. Cloud of Unknowing
  8. Semiotic 007
  9. Liz Lizard
  10. Sal Gal
  11. Mystic
  12. Oatmeal Stout
  13. Atticus Finch
  14. CEC09
  15. Hamlet
  16. Sooner Emeritus
Those are my UD identities I can remember. Most of what I wrote was good stuff. I often did a lot of reading and thinking before posting. My comments changed considerably over the years, and that was because I was learning. But I also indulged my anger at people who indoctrinate children with simplistic "the Bible tells the truth, and so does science" garbage. And I succumbed to the temptation to jerk the ever-so-accessible chains of Gil Dodgen and Gordon Mullings aka kairosfocus.

Three or four of my alter egos were undeservedly booted by Dembski for posting stuff that made him squirm. I feel good about getting one of the stars of Expelled to reveal himself as the censorial hypocrite that he is. And various of me were killed off capriciously by the notorious blog-czar David “DaveScot” Springer. Some others committed virtual suicide by butting heads with that egotistical jerk. There was some entertainment value in it, but I can’t say that it was a particularly good use of my energies. Some of my personae ranted, and some of them treated Gil and Gordo badly — definitely a waste.

In the end (?), I wish that I'd been a lot more like Bob O'Hara, Mark Frank, David vun Kannon, Allen MacNeill, Seversky, and R0b. (There have been others with a combination of brilliance and good blogosphere manners that I do not have, and I’ve just listed the ones that spring immediately to mind.) Josh Rosenau recently got me thinking with his post on the backfire effect in presenting people with information that contradicts their beliefs. “In your face” confrontation is really not the way to encourage independent thinking in someone leaning toward conservative acceptance of what they hear about science in religious contexts.

By the way, all of admirable individuals I listed above have been banned under some name, if I’m not mistaken. I point this out not to rationalize my occasional online ugliness, but to emphasize the chronic unfairness of the moderation at Uncommon Descent.

I want to mention that I’m gentle, and perhaps effective, in face-to-face conversation with people who’ve heard that intelligent design is the latest, greatest thing in Bible-consistent science. I feel compassion especially for kids who are where I was 35-40 years ago. It comes to me quite naturally to find out what they believe and how they believe, and to proceed on their terms, rather than mine. I am not an ogre in the real world.


  1. In the end (?), I wish that I'd been a lot more like Bob O'Hara, Mark Frank, David vun Kannon, Allen MacNeill, Seversky, and R0b.
    You still can be. Fire up another sock. :-)

  2. Thanks for all the Poking With Stick at the UD denizens! I thank you for all the LOL's you got out of me and the consternation you caused them. And personally, I think agressive socks are better than the suck-up socks for getting points accross. But I am always willing to be proven wrong. Unlike the UD mods and Dembski.

    And BTW Gary is my First UD Puppet - and got banned for making BA^7 cry.

  3. My list of UD noms de blog is short:
    David vun Kannon,

    I'm proud of everything I've written at UD in every avatar. My personal feeling about posting there is that you are not so much replying to the rampant ignorance with much hope of correcting it, rather you are speaking to history in some way as Google and the rest record every utterance on the web. Far more people will read those posts by arriving there via search hit than read them when they are posted.

  4. Gary,

    I won't deny that "Poking with Stick" at the UD nest causes some bizarre and hilarious stuff to come out, and I won't deny that it's sometimes fun. It probably reduces the effectiveness of the site. But what I really hope to do is to persuade young people who've been raised to "think right" instead to think for themselves. I hope to say more about this in another post.

  5. Zachriel

    Those are our UD identities we can remember (not that our memory is all that good).

    Great job, Tom English, Thom English, Thomas English, T M English, austin english, Turner Coates, Cloud of Unknowing, Semiotic 007, Liz Lizard, Sal Gal, Mystic, Oatmeal Stout, Atticus Finch, CEC09, Hamlet, Sooner Emeritus!

  6. Sooner was my favorite. I could almost see the spittle fly and the vein on StephenB's sanctimonious temple throb when he answered Dr. Emeritus.

  7. Fascinating ...

    Flattered and surprised that you were even aware I was commenting on UD. I never have used a sock of any kind (although I recently switched from Mark Frank to Markf because Mark Frank stopped working - I think for technical reasons). I do get put into moderation from time to time which is almost the same as being banned - but then get released again.

    I am not sure your robust approach isn't more effective - but it is a question of what you are in it for. There are some ID supporters whom I like and find it interesting to be forced to express exactly what I mean - gpuccio, vjtorley. You can't do that for too long if you are too assertive.


    PS Why do you have a link for my name which leads back to this comment page?

  8. Mark,

    I was trying to link to your profile, and blew it. Folks interested in IDC should see the "Writings" at your website, and I decided to link to them instead:

    I'll mention, though, that I'm averse, as many people are, to downloading MS Word documents. Also, I learned just now about "Some thoughts about William Dembski’s Law of the Conservation of Information." I have downloaded the DOC, and I'm looking forward to reading it. But why don't you set up a blog? I'm not going to monitor your web page, and I'd like to use Google Reader to follow your remarks.

  9. Tom thanks. Actually I have a blog, in fact I had one for a long time and recently switched to this one. I didn't think it was the right medium for the stuff on the web site because the items are rather long. But I will take your advice.