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.