Richard Dawkins: Unethical?

Dawkins, for example, argues as a scientist that religion is comparable to a mental virus or “meme” that can be explained through evolution, that religious believers are delusional, and that in contrast, atheists are representative of a healthy, independent, and pro-science mind. In making these claims, not only does Dawkins use his authority as the “Oxford University Professor of the Public Understanding of Science” to denigrate various social groups, but he gives resonance to the false narrative of social conservatives that the scientific establishment has an anti-religion agenda.

… Or simply correct (that would be my view)?

Matt Nisbet is revealing the meat of a chapter he’s written for a forthcoming book on communicating the biological sciences. Here is Matt’s blog post.

If you want, here and here is some more on framing.

So, what’s going on here, folks?

Comments

  1. #1 Dan J
    March 30, 2009

    I find it very telling that Mr. Nisbet moderates the comments on his blog postings. He did let my comment through though:

    Is it ethical to call religion a sham, and to call its die-hard believers delusional? Considering that religion is, indeed a sham, and its adherents are delusional, my answer would be an emphatic yes.

    …gives resonance to the false narrative of social conservatives that the scientific establishment has an anti-religion agenda.

    The scientific establishment does not have an “anti-religion” agenda. The scientific establishments promotes the understanding of the universe around us by discovering its intricacies through observation and experimentation. Religion fails to explain the universe around us because it was not meant to do so. The existence of a god or gods has never been shown to have any basis in fact as determined by any scientific inquiry. Religion relies on dogma and faith, neither of which has any place in science, unless they happen to be the subject of study, as in using “Why do a large group of people emphatically take the pronouncements of the Pope as unquestionable truth?” for the basis of a scientific study.

    Matt Nisbet writes:

    …where pundits such as Richard Dawkins use their authority as scientists to argue their personal opinion that science undermines the validity of religion and even respect for the religious.

    So, it is only Prof. Dawkins’ opinion that science undermines the validity of religion. Well, Matt, many millions of us are wating with bated breath for your anouncement of the scientific study that you’ve apparently unearthed that supports the validity of religion. And respect for the religious? I have very great respect for any number of self-proclaimed religious people, as I am quite certain most atheists do. I think perhaps that you actually meant respect for religion. From what I’ve seen, religion itself deserves none of my respect as it has utterly failed to earn said respect.

    So, Prof. Dawkins is unethical in Mr. Nesbit’s mind. To the contrary, I think it would be unethical for Prof. Dawkins not to call out religion for what it is.

    Sorry about that, but sometimes things like that get on my nerves. Thanks for the opportunity to rant, Greg. :)

  2. #2 Joshua Zelinsky
    March 30, 2009

    It seems to be Nisbet being Nisbet at usual. Now it is apparently unethical to say things that Nisbet disagrees with. Heck, I think Dawkins is in some ways wrong about religion, that doesn’t make his behavior unethical. I’m tempted to make a snarky remark about Nisbet deciding to frame things in terms of ethics…

  3. #3 Nathan Myers
    March 30, 2009

    Language itself is just a meme, too. The poor humans, parasitized by something that with no physical existence, further parasitized by something else that depends on that affliction.

  4. #4 abb3w
    March 30, 2009

    What Dawkins neglects to consider is that some delusions may have an evolutionary advantage.

    (For example, the delusion that I was an adorable child kept my parents from strangling me….)

  5. #5 DuWayne
    March 30, 2009

    Well I tend to think it’s highly unethical for Matt to try and convince folks to shut up about religious criticism. This is nothing less than demanding that we just ignore the fact that there are a lot of people living in the darkness of ignorant, frightening superstitions. Screw them, because Matt’s agenda is far more important than helping others find the sort of relief that I have after I finally lost the battle to justify, reconcile and maintain my Faith.

  6. #6 Blake Stacey
    March 30, 2009

    The ethics of. . . framing. . . science?

    HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA Ha ha ha ahhhhh. . . .

  7. #7 Blake Stacey
    March 30, 2009

    The summary, posted on the SB main page:

    1. Emphasize dialogue;

    Where by “dialogue” we mean “demonization of those who disagree with us”.

    2. be explicit about values;

    For example, by proclaiming in all capital letters, “ATHEISM IS NOT A CIVIL RIGHTS ISSUE”. The capital letters really help drown out the objections raised by commenters and other bloggers.

    3. maintain accuracy;

    For example, by relying on a doctrinaire Catholic website for information about what happened when PZ Myers was expelled from the screening of Expelled, or by bad-mouthing John Allen Paulos’ Irreligion without having read it.

    4. avoid denigrating social groups or using for partisan gain.

    Of course, the “New Atheist Noise Machine” is not a social group.

  8. #8 kemibe
    March 30, 2009

    Dawkins [uses] his authority as the “Oxford University Professor of the Public Understanding of Science” to denigrate various social groups

    Dawkins has denigrated a variety of silly customs and ideas. Has he actually denigrated groups of people? And assuming he has actally done so, has he explicitly stated he has the backing of Oxford University in so doing?

    Sounds like someone’s barking out of the wrong hole again.

  9. #9 Brian X
    March 30, 2009

    Does Nisbet have any allies left here? Hell, I’m pretty sure even Chris Mooney gave up on him, as I haven’t seen much collaboration from them in quite some time…

  10. #10 Oliver
    March 30, 2009

    @DuWayne

    Sorry, but I don’t think your comment is warranted by anything in the quote, nor do the arguments you bring forth support your claims. “Sine ira et studio”, while being a bit of a fig leaf for Tacitus, is still a good counsel for good science, and unfortunately, I see neither you nor Dawkins adhering to it. It’s a bit of a cop-out to call other people delusional when one is frothing at the mouth oneself.

  11. #11 Lee Harrison
    March 30, 2009

    What Dawkins neglects to consider is that some delusions may have an evolutionary advantage.

    (For example, the delusion that I was an adorable child kept my parents from strangling me….)

    erm, no.. he doesn’t fail to consider that. In fact he writes an entire chapter on how that is precisely the case – religion is a byproduct of habits of the mind that are there for sound evolutionary reasons.

    His point, mainly, is that despite any evolutionary history giving humans a tendency toward religion, the central claims of religion are not actually true. That’s all.

    Does religion console? Maybe. Does it aid group cohesion? Perhaps. Are these functions supportive of the ‘truth’ of religion? Absolutely not.

  12. #12 Lee Harrison
    March 30, 2009

    It’s a bit of a cop-out to call other people delusional when one is frothing at the mouth oneself.

    So who’s frothing?

    argues as a scientist that religion is comparable to a mental virus or “meme” that can be explained through evolution,

    Is this not true? It seems like a perfectly reasonable statement, a reasonable extrapolation from what we already know. Is it bad to state likely truths as we understand them? Anyone characterising this as ‘frothing’ is being disingenuous.

    that religious believers are delusional

    Isn’t ‘persistent belief in the unreal, despite a lack of evidence, and in the face of contrary evidence’ a reasonable use of the word ‘delusion’? You don’t have to like something for it to be true. Nisbet should know this but chooses instead to concentrate on the personal ‘hurt’ or ‘offence’ that people might take instead of doing the hard job of challenging people get past their visceral responses to something more reasonable.

    but he gives resonance to the false narrative of social conservatives that the scientific establishment has an anti-religion agenda

    This is where Nisbet really pisses me off. “Don’t tell the truth because the liars on the otherside might spin that truth into something bad and I’m not a good enough spin-doctor/bullshit-artist/framer to counteract it.”

    Tough crap, Matt. Grow some cojones and be prepared to call a spade a spade once in a while. The reason the ‘bad guys’ are doing so well is the fact that people are oddly reluctant to call them on their lies and distortions.

    The above quote is also crap because it deliberately confuses an agenda with a method. Scientists (many anyway) do not have an anti-religion agenda – perfectly true. They don’t have to – the scientific method itself is antireligious. Not just irreligious, not neutral – antireligious. The scientific method is inately hostile to anything that cannot be demonstrated, tested or supported. When applying the scientific method, you don’t get to leap to grand conclusions from the back of zero evidence – this is utterly anathema to religious faith.

    /rant.

  13. #13 XD
    March 30, 2009

    As usual, Nisbet is telling Myers, Dawkins, and the “New Atheists Movement” to sit down and shut up, but what caught my attention is that he now seems to have it in for Mooney as well. After refering to Mooney’s book The Republican War on Science, he says:

    First, claims of a “war on science” or a “rising anti-science culture” are inaccurate– and similar to the New Atheist movement– reinforce deficit model assumptions.

    I guess they really have fallen out. Does he have any supporters left at all?

  14. #14 XD
    March 30, 2009

    Isn’t ‘persistent belief in the unreal, despite a lack of evidence, and in the face of contrary evidence’ a reasonable use of the word ‘delusion’?

    Religion has special privaleges, as PZ has just pointed out.

    BTW, if anyone tries to post at Matt’s site, I advise cross-posting here too; his moderation policy is even more draconian than Uncommon Descent’s.

  15. #15 biopunk
    March 30, 2009

    Well, considering what’s been posted here, here’s what I await being posted there:

    “I’m with Dan on this one, but I believe you’re completely missing the point on this. The fact that your country only has two flavours of politician to run your system of government, and the simplistic way your population views the issues those politicians present, is the problem.

    More importantly, where are the links to the source articles that you are citing?

    Not all of us have access to the AAAS publication, and this is a greater barrier to the public understanding of science, than any disdain of ghosts or sky-daddies.

    I suggest you add the term accessibility to your “ethical imperatives” before continuing your discourse.”

    Let’s see if it posts…

  16. #16 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    March 30, 2009

    Does he not think it unethical to discuss that both Dawkins’ an Myers’ contributions to Expelled were edited for “comedic” and “shock” effect? Is it unethical to talk about who much of a success that Expelled was at the box office because of free tickets and church group busload discounts and kickbacks. It wasn’t successful to the general audience, it was successful towards a targeted audience who needed something self-confirming to reinforce their religion meme?

    I could not read this entire post. When he purposely distorts that horrendous movie and uses it as some sort of authority, he has lost me when it comes to discussing “ethics.”

  17. #17 valhar2000
    March 30, 2009

    Supposedly, Matt and Chris used to fill lecture halls with enthusiastic supporters. I don’t think this is implausible: the “sit down and shut up” message of theirs is likely to resonate with some people, and the very same people who would accept their message enthusiastically would not touch Scienceblogs with a 20 foot pole, so we we would not see many comments in support of mr. Nisbett around here.

  18. #18 XD
    March 30, 2009

    Supposedly, Matt and Chris used to fill lecture halls with enthusiastic supporters.

    When I asked “Does he have any supporters left at all?”, I was thinking more along the lines of peers rather than groupies.

  19. #19 Russell Blackford
    March 30, 2009

    Damn! So Nisbet is now apparently an expert on ethics.

  20. #20 Oliver
    March 30, 2009

    @Russell Blackford:

    As long as Dawkins claims to be an expert on the theory of sciences… Being educated to PRACTICE something and knowing HOW IT WORKS are fundamentally different things and having a PhD doesn’t make one an expert in philosophy proper. And pretending to be one, to yourself or to others, is certainly also either delusional or fraudulent.

  21. #21 Dan J
    March 30, 2009

    So, Oliver, what is your sound reasoning for religious belief? I am assuming that you do hold to some religious faith or other, since you seem so at odds with Prof. Dawkins’ statements about religion.

  22. #22 NewEnglandBob
    March 30, 2009

    As I attempted to post on his blog:

    That article is for appeasement to the claim that science and religion is incompatible. They are clearly not compatible and using lots of words to appease those who pretend they are compatible is cowardly and malevolent.

    Science: rationality, reality, critical thinking, evidence.
    Religion: irrationality, supernatural fiction, deluded thinking.

    No, not compatible.

  23. #23 sng
    March 30, 2009

    Oliver,

    And where does he claim to be a philosopher? Or is it your assertion that every person who has strong opinions on philosophical matters and talks about them publicly but is not a philosopher is unethical?

    On the subject of religion you don’t need to be a philosopher to point out that it’s bullshit and mostly harmful bullshit at that. The plain and simple facts that no god or gods show up in real life and that a lot of fucking harm is done very explicitly in the name of those gods is enough for that. No philosophy needed.

  24. #24 Elizabeth
    March 30, 2009

    Oliver: how does frothing at the mouth describe Dawkins? Have you read what he’s written, heard him speak? Do you have a clue?

  25. #25 Aj
    March 30, 2009

    If Dawkins doesn’t like it then he’s only himself to blame.

    He really shouldn’t have started every paragraph of The God Delusion with “By my authority as holder of the Charles Simonyi Chair for the Public Understanding of Science…”…

  26. #26 Exiled
    March 30, 2009

    I think Mr. Nisbet may be over reaching a bit to call it unethical, but it is worth discussing whether it is effective or not to link science and religion if your goal is to promote science. Arguing that religious beliefs are incompatable with science does make it more difficult for those who are trying to promote an understanding and acceptance of science to certain audiences.

  27. #27 ppnl
    March 30, 2009

    Um, maybe I’m just not smart enough to understand the issue here. I admit that I had real problems reading and understanding the link. It gave me a headache. So I will leave with just one question.

    Would it be unethical for a scientist to use their authority to argue against Santa Clause?

    Religion is epistemological madness. Once you have committed this level of madness how do you differentiate between say Catholicism and Santa clause? Is social acceptance of one and not the other the only measure?

  28. #28 Joel
    March 30, 2009

    Religion and the religious have done enough damage to the world and its people and it is time to put them in their place. Simply put, the world needs people like Dawkins to expose their false ideology. It’s the first step in freeing the world from religion.

    There is no need to be nice about it, the religious haven’t been nice about it, destroying people with their false morality and suicide bombers.

  29. #29 Andrew
    March 30, 2009

    Supposedly, Matt and Chris used to fill lecture halls with enthusiastic supporters.

    Sez who? (Think about it.)

  30. #30 Armchair Dissident
    March 30, 2009

    What is it with Nisbett and his constant whinging about Richard Dawkins? Is it, perhpas, because Dawkins – unlike Nisbett – is both incredibly good at communicating sound science, and incredibly successful to boot?

  31. #31 Rieux
    March 30, 2009

    valhar2000:

    Supposedly, Matt and Chris used to fill lecture halls with enthusiastic supporters.

    Well, I have been in a full lecture hall (actually I think it was a theater of some sort) to take in a presentation that included Nisbet and Mooney.

    I suspect a lot of us “enthusiastic supporters” at that event were there to see P.Z. Myers and some guy named “Laden,” though.

  32. #32 idahogie
    March 30, 2009

    Listening to Matt Nisbett on how to communicate science is like listening to Joe Lieberman on how to be a good Democrat.

    [As advised, cross posting this here because Nisbett won't publish the comment over there ... I've tried.]

  33. #33 aratina
    March 30, 2009

    By writing a book proclaiming that atheists are hurting science when they tell the hard truth about how reality goes against deeply held religious beliefs, Nisbet is fueling the persecution complexes of religious people and ironically hurting scientists who choose not to tell little white lies. Nisbet should end his misguided crusade because he is giving credence to anti-scientific beliefs.

  34. #34 DuWayne
    March 30, 2009

    Oliver –

    Sorry, but I don’t think your comment is warranted by anything in the quote…

    Matt is making claims about the ethics of others. While that particular quote does not explicitly detail the position I am criticizing him for, he has made this point repeatedly over the course of the three years I have followed and been a part of this discussion.

    …nor do the arguments you bring forth support your claims.

    When I was a very small child, I had an absolute and fundamental Belief in fundamentalist, Pentecostal Christianity. My mom was a fundie and my dad was an atheist – I spent years of my childhood, absolutely terrified that my dad was going to end up in hell and suffer eternity there. My thirty two years have seen my Beliefs evolve considerably, but until a year or so ago, that childhood terror was with me in one form or another.

    I am far from alone in this. One of the things that really helped me out, was joining the forum ExChristian dot net – doing so also got me really damned riled up. I used the word unethical, because it was the one that Matt used and it kind of fits. If you would like me to clarify my feeling more accurately, I would say that Matt’s position is inherently immoral. You may not see it, your moral frame may not support it – but I do and mine does.

    “Sine ira et studio”, while being a bit of a fig leaf for Tacitus, is still a good counsel for good science, and unfortunately, I see neither you nor Dawkins adhering to it.

    I have read a couple of Dawkins’ books and seen him speak, both in person and on the screen. I have also read several shorter pieces by him. Not once have I seen him being malicious – please feel free to enlighten me, by pointing out some examples.

    As for my own part, I am very angry and have even on this topic with malice – though when I did I apologized. Not for what I said, but for how I said it. I do not have malice for people who are in the death-grip of Faith, having spent most of my life there, I hurt for those who are. But with nearly thirty years of scars, many still quite fresh, I occasionally go off.

    It’s a bit of a cop-out to call other people delusional when one is frothing at the mouth oneself.

    And what exactly, in my comment here qualifies as “frothing at the mouth?” I will not claim that I never do that. I recently actually had the psych screening and found that my initial, tentative diagnosis of bipolar was not only accurate, but incomplete. I’ve spent years with only self-medicating for extreme depressive tendencies and type two bipolar. So I have, on more than one occasion gone “frothing at the mouth,” as it were, on online forums. If you want to see some examples of what “frothing at the mouth” actually looks like, please feel free to ask and I can point out examples.

    Neither my comment above, nor anything that Richard Dawkins has ever said (at least that I’ve seen – again, feel free to enlighten me) remotely qualifies.

    Being educated to PRACTICE something and knowing HOW IT WORKS are fundamentally different things and having a PhD doesn’t make one an expert in philosophy proper.

    And yet Matt Nisbet goes out and pretends he actually has a functional expertise in communications.

  35. #35 Deen
    March 30, 2009

    BTW, if anyone tries to post at Matt’s site, I advise cross-posting here too; his moderation policy is even more draconian than Uncommon Descent’s.

    Well, at least mine got through, and I think most (if not all) of the cross-posted comments above did as well.

    So maybe Nisbet changed his ways concerning comment moderation. Of course you kinda have to, if you’re going to attack others on ethics, and people are cross-posting all over the place to keep you honest…

  36. #36 Blake Stacey
    March 30, 2009

    The cool thing about Russell Blackford is that if his first PhD fails, he has a second one to use as emergency backup.

  37. #37 Boko999
    March 30, 2009

    “What Dawkins neglects to consider is that some delusions may have an evolutionary advantage.”

    Stupid and ingnorant all rolled into one.

  38. #38 Greg Laden
    March 30, 2009

    Rape could have an evolutionary advantage. Homicide could have an evolutionary advantage. Being a good liar could have an evolutionary advantage.

    I’m just sayin….

  39. #39 Matt Penfold
    March 30, 2009

    Didn’t Dawkins, in another book, point out that what makes us human is the fact we have the ability to overcome the influence of our genes on our behaviour ? I paraphrase somewhat, but that, I am pretty sure, was the gist.

  40. #40 Rieux
    March 30, 2009

    Crossposting my comment from Nisbet’s thread:

    ——

    LongtimeLurker:

    One thing which irritates me about this [Nisbet's] blog is its US-centricity.

    [....]

    Please correct me if I’m wrong but I don’t think this blog has ever linked to a scrap of evidence that the ‘New Atheist’ communication strategy (in so far as there is one) is unduly problematic in more secular areas such as Europe.

    Apologies for contributing a bit to the US-centricity, but it’s worth pointing out that this [Nisbet's] blog has never “linked to a scrap of evidence that the ‘New Atheist’ communication strategy (in so far as there is one) is unduly problematic in” the United States, either.

    Posts like this are based on the fact that Dawkins and company make Nisbet unhappy. There’s not even much pretense that the latter has any evidence to support his critical notions. Unless, I suppose, you include the above-refuted notions about the “success” of Expelled–which aren’t evidence because they’re not true.

  41. #41 Tulse
    March 30, 2009

    Cross-posting from Nisbet’s blog:

    By the end of its spring 2008 run in theaters, Expelled ranked as one of the top grossing public affairs documentaries in U.S. history.

    The anti-religious “public affairs documentary” Religulous earned nearly twice the domestic box office of Expelled. By most accounts, Expelled did not make its production and marketing budget back.

    How is trumpeting Expelled as a success not just an example of duplicitous framing?

  42. #42 Jesse
    March 30, 2009

    @kemibe– I think saying “I denigrate silly customs, not people” is a wee bit of a cop out. FOr a long time, Native Americans had their customs denigrated as silly and primitive, and that was a cover for saying they should give them up or die.

    But of course, nobody actually called for that, just that they should Cristianize and such, and practice European farming, like civilized people.

    That is one reason people react a bit when you say “Your custom is silly and delusional, and a healthy (civilized) person would not do that.”

    I don’t think Dawkins is a racist, but I do think you have to be a bit careful with stuff like that. Many groups around the world — Jews for instance — identify rather strongly with their “silly, primitive” customs, and arguably those customs make you who you are (if you are Jewish). Denigrating those things comes awfully close to denigrating the people. Go to a synagogue and tell everyone in it that Passover is a stupid delusional custom and that if they were rational and smart they’d give it up — and then tell them you weren’t really insulting them as Jews. I’ll wait for you to get out of hospital.

    Saying “well, you’re just not mentally tough enough to take the criticism of your customs” is also a cop-out on what could be read as something really insulting.

  43. #43 Stephanie Z
    March 30, 2009

    Yet, Jesse, Dawkins isn’t suggesting people give up their customs. In fact, he participates in many of the customs surrounding the religion he argues against. What he is suggesting is that people not make truth claims based on their preferred customs. That’s very different.

  44. #44 Glazius
    March 30, 2009

    Dawkins is pretty full of it when he suggests that memes spread through Darwinian evolution. Culture is strictly Lamarckian. It changes during the lifetime of the people who pass it on, and the changes are incorporated into the “next generation” of culture.

    That’s how Lamarck got his foothold, because people had experienced cultural evolution, so why shouldn’t the biological kind work the same way?

    Insofar as he applies Darwinian analysis to a non-Darwinian process, Dawkins is doing it wrong.

  45. #45 Deen
    March 30, 2009

    Culture is strictly Lamarckian. It changes during the lifetime of the people who pass it on, and the changes are incorporated into the “next generation” of culture.

    That doesn’t sound right. This is like saying that viral development is Lamarckian, because the virus changes within the lifetime of the host that was used for reproduction. Also, it sounds like you’re confusing single memes with the collection of culture.

  46. #46 Paul W.
    March 30, 2009

    @oliver:

    Theory of sciences is a discipline of philosophy, not of biology. And a biologist trying to pass off as a philosopher most definitely is defrauding the public – or deluding himself.

    Wow. So only arguments from authority count? (Or perhaps other arguments bolstered by an argument from authority?) I guess I need to go back to philosophy grad studies, because I missed that point. :-)

    I guess when Dawkins says those things, he’s out of bounds, but when a philosopher of science like Dennett quotes and agrees with him, he’s not? Odd, that.

    It always seemed to me that when it comes to things like selfish memes and religion, there’s a big overlap between philosophy, psychology, anthropology, and evolutionary biology. It’s all “natural philosophy” of the mind and knowledge, and disciplinary boundaries break down in a huge way.

    And I always thought–from discussions with pro philosophers of mind and of science—that Dawkins’ most influential professional opinions, as a scientist were about selfish genes and memes. These are not mere “personal opinions” as Matt would “frame” it. Dawkins is doing his job as a professional scientist when he states his considered opinion that religions are complexes of selfish memes, and that they are irrational and tend to falsity.

    He might be wrong, and he might even be overreaching, but he has not transgressed a disciplinary boundary that hasn’t pretty well crumbled into meaninglessness already.

    Matt, on the other hand, seems to be way out of his league when he dares to judge what is or isn’t Dawkin’s professional opinion as a scientist. He’s evidently no philosopher of science. He’s either ignorant of or willfully misrepresenting the very serious work by biologists like Dawkins, philosophers like Dennett, anthropologists like Pascal Boyer, etc.

    Dismissing these scientists’ and philosophers’ professional views as mere “personal opinion” is um… er… disingenuous at best.

    Matt writes as though he’s never actually read The God Delusion, Breaking the Spell or Religion Explained, begging the entire question of whether scientists qua scientists can be critical of religion.

    That’s unethical, in my opinion as a scientist who has seriously studied philosophy and framing.

  47. #47 Ichthyic
    March 30, 2009

    What is it with Nisbett and his constant whinging about Richard Dawkins? Is it, perhpas, because Dawkins – unlike Nisbett – is both incredibly good at communicating sound science, and incredibly successful to boot?

    I wonder, since I could essentially rewrite your statement as:

    What is it with Nisbett and his constant whinging about Ann Coulter? Is it, perhpas, because Coulter – unlike Nisbett – is both incredibly good at communicating anti-science, and incredibly successful to boot?

    why it is that Nisbet isn’t focusing on the real problem here, which are the people like Coulter and Limbaugh who fomented and crystallized the anti-science arguments in the 90’s.

    the people who deliberately set about creating new definitions of words like “liberal” in order to foment reaction in specific target groups, like the religious, in furthering the goal of herding them into their own party.

    hmm.

    why isn’t Nisbet focusing on the REAL source of the communications problem?

    Is he REALLY that fucking dense? or is it more a matter of trying to garner attention for himself.

    I think the latter. He is a fucking media whore wannabe. Maybe someday, when he realizes his dream of making money as a curmudgeon just like Rush Limbaugh, he will look back and see how he could have actually been useful.

    maybe.

  48. #48 Der Bruno Stroszek
    March 30, 2009

    Didn’t Dawkins, in another book, point out that what makes us human is the fact we have the ability to overcome the influence of our genes on our behaviour ? I paraphrase somewhat, but that, I am pretty sure, was the gist.

    Matt – that’s in A Devil’s Chaplain and may well have been pointed out elsewhere in his work. (I haven’t read everything he’s done – well, not yet, anyway) He says that evolution has, essentially, allowed us to develop to the point where we don’t have to obey its rules any more.

    The whole idea of judging human behaviour based on whether or not it has an evolutionary benefit is usually pretty pointless, I think. It reminds me of when you get into an argument with some religious person who’s saying homosexuality is unnatural. Once you point out that homosexuality is, in fact, rampant in the animal world, they always change tack to “well, animals kill and eat each other all the time too, but it doesn’t mean we should all do that!” Yes. Exactly. So why bring nature into it at all?

    Damn, there I go criticising religion again. I must now commit seppuku for the good of Science Fact.

  49. #49 Badger3k
    March 30, 2009

    What’s going on? Matt has seen his traffic drop, and he’s also hoping to drum up book sales for Republicans and anti-science theists.

    He may also be trying to get material for his book, to show how mean atheists are.

    I just want to know when he will start censoring comments again? Any bets?

  50. #50 Paul W.
    March 30, 2009

    Blake,

    Yes, Russell has a Ph.D. in philosophy, but come on, he’s just a philosopher of law. (IIRC)

    To be qualified to make pronouncements about philosophic/scientific disciplinary boundaries and the ethics of communicating across them, you need an advanced degree from a Radio, Television, and Film department.

  51. #51 Deen
    March 30, 2009

    Badger3k: see my response in the Pharyngula thread. In short: he’ll likely start blocking after enough people have shown frustration for ignoring all their reasonable objections.

  52. #52 Jadehawk
    March 30, 2009

    First, claims of a “war on science” or a “rising anti-science culture” are inaccurate

    ah yes, Lying for Je… oh wait, that doesn’t work here, does it. I guess I’m gonna have write that off to Stockholm Syndrome.

  53. #53 QrazyQat
    March 30, 2009

    … Or simply correct (that would be my view)?

    That is, in my opinion, the correct way to frame the subject; Nisbet’s way is incorrect. It needs to be pointed out (continually, apparently) that “framing” doesn’t mean “do what Nisbet says” but is simply, like “connotation” or “style” or “baggage” or “view”; everything is framed, everything has connotation, or style, or baggage, a viewpoint, or whatever you want to call it. It’s an unavoidable part of commuication. It can be done honestly or dishonestly, as you wish. I think your way is honest and Nisbet’s way is not; I also think your way is a good way to do it and that Nisbet’s way is not. They’re both framing.

  54. #54 Carlie
    March 30, 2009

    You do have to give Matt a *little* credit – he used to respond to criticisms with “Read my book and you’ll understand”, and now at least he’s copying and pasting from the book so we don’t have to go buy a copy.

  55. #55 Screechy Monkey
    March 30, 2009

    If Nisbet plays his cards right, one day Dawkins may dignify him with the title of Flea.

  56. #56 Ophelia Benson
    March 30, 2009

    “Yet when Dawkins and other New Atheists also use the trust granted them as scientists to argue that religion is a scientific question, that science undermines even respect for religious publics, they employ framing unethically, drawing upon the rhetorical authority of science to stigmatize and attack various social groups.”

    This is a very popular (and all-too-effective) move – equate criticism of ideas with ‘stigmatizing’ and ‘attacking’ the people who have the ideas, so that in a kind of sort of almost way you are saying such people are like racists. This is the whole point of the ridiculous nonce-word ‘Islamophobia’ – it’s meant to intimidate anyone who criticizes Islam by implying that such criticism is a form of racism.

    In short, Nisbet is playing a very dirty game. Surprise surprise.

  57. #57 Isis the Scientist
    March 30, 2009

    Badger3k: “I just want to know when he will start censoring comments again? Any bets?”

    That would be a no-show at the gate if you want to bet on a sciborg censoring posts.

    It has become the rule of thumb here at the uber-enlightenment zone of sciblogs. Every time some half ass white collar gets in a tiff, they claim trolling, or harassment, and then censor–from PZ, to the lil’ folk, to the smallest of the small such as Isis, or PalMD…
    so why single out Matt?

    The only sciborg that does not practice face saving censorship is Greg Laden–he has a sense of humor AND a healthy intellect,and seems to appreciate the nature of jibes and jousts rather than claim some sort of “word violence” directed at his arguments, like the rest do.

    That said, why shouldn’t Matt pander a bit to the right in order to sell his book? The sciklan does that every day counting lil’ webhits….

    And he is right: no matter how we see it, or Dawkins, it remains true that the religious folk consider themselves the cure, rather than the mental disease, and they are a social group that feels maligned.

  58. #58 jake
    March 30, 2009

    RE: Isis

    Because we think his ideas are wrong and that he is doing a disservice to the public. That is why he is singled out. This is not an isolated incident.

  59. #59 Dances with MILFs
    March 30, 2009

    Nisbet is, as far as I know, the only Scienceblogs member who filters out non-spam comments of a non-profane nature. He apparently bans people merely for disagreeing with him. That tells you all you need to know about what “framing” means to him: My way or no way. He says nothing of value and accepts no criticisms, and should be “expelled” from this domain himself. Let him set up his own fucking piss-pulpit instead of pimping the one you good people use.

  60. #60 DuWayne
    March 30, 2009

    Isis –

    And he is right: no matter how we see it, or Dawkins, it remains true that the religious folk consider themselves the cure, rather than the mental disease, and they are a social group that feels maligned.

    That doesn’t make him right and honestly, that’s not even true as a massive generalization.

    Towards the end of my final shedding of my own Faith, I was writing worship and praise music, because it was an opportunity to write music, get paid for it and pump out contemporary worship music that had actual lyrical substance. I also ended up filling in as the worship leader in a rather conservative, fundamentalist Nazarene church for several months. Even before that I was filling leadership roles in that church.

    There were certainly people there who had issues with things like prayer in public schools and teaching evolution, but few indeed felt particularly victimized because of their Faith, in spite of living in one of the least religious cities in the U.S.

    And when you get beyond creationists and dominonists, Christians tend to feel even less threatened by religious critiques. Quite honestly, when you start talking about those who feel the most threatened by religious critiques, you are talking about people who are the least likely to ever accept anything that contradicts their religious world views – including science and reason. Meanwhile, they are also the most likely to denigrate those of us who aren’t Christians, which in their book includes most of the folks who identify as Christians, but don’t follow their brand of dogma.

    I am brewing up some posts on Faith and my shedding of Faith. Those posts are not going to include accusations of stupidity – but I am going to make no bones about believing that those who subscribe to religious beliefs are wrong. I am going to explain how religion and religious indoctrination hurts a lot of people, mostly from the context of the harm it did me, but also including the stories of others. I intend on being very respectful of the people who are still in the thrall of Faith, but I am not going to avoid strong criticism of the Faith itself – to do so would be counterintuitive.

    It is very much my goal to help provide people who are currently in the same place that I spent much of my life, with the tools to help them get past it. I cannot achieve that goal without strong critiques of a great many aspects of Faith. If that happens to make some of the Faithful feel further maligned, I am honestly not going to lose any sleep over it. I feel maligned every time someone spouts off to me that “if only you read this, think about that or pray a little harder, it will all be ok.” Like I didn’t spend nearly thirty years of my life doing just that, that I didn’t exhaust every option.

    There is a definite and direct purpose to the writing I am getting into about Faith. I have specific goals and honestly treat people of Faith with a hell of a lot more respect than many of them treat me with.

    But Matt wants people who say the sorts of things that I have to say, to shut up and let others do the talking. He thinks that the sorts of things that I have to say are bad for science and convincing people that science isn’t evile. But as far as I’m concerned, not saying what I have to say, is going to allow people who might really need to hear what I have to say to continue suffering the way that I did for much of my life. Fuck him.

  61. #61 Brian X
    March 30, 2009

    The fundamental problem is that there really is no meaningful way to distinguish “natural” from “supernatural” when it comes to science. If an effect can be observed, it is part of the natural world. From the scientific point of view, if you wish to assert that there is in fact a God despite the ever-shrinking domain of things that a God might be needed for, you have to show that there is something out there that must be of divine origin that can be tested. The traditional Judeo-Christian-Islamic god that two thirds of the world is familiar with doesn’t really fit into that category — no one has yet found a happening that *must* be attributed to a First Cause, and, well, this RationalWiki article sums up most of my opinions on the matter.

    Isis:

    The reason many religious people feel maligned is twofold: a) the mindboggling violence of the 20th century has its roots in sectarian conflicts going back well over 2000 years, to at least the Hasmonean revolt, and people are realizing the world can’t afford much more of it when the stakes involve nuclear weapons; and b) religion is gradually being torn from its privileged place in civilized society, and those who have the most to lose are whipping the followers into a paranoid frenzy to hang on to power.

  62. #62 Blake Stacey
    March 30, 2009

    I’ve got comment moderation turned on at my blog because I didn’t want Turkish porn spam filling up the place while I was on vacation. Now, I can’t get Movable Type to change settings, so it’s stuck like that.

  63. #63 Joshua Zelinsky
    March 30, 2009

    I’ve seen a lot of claims that Nisbet has censored comments on his blog for reasons other than spam and profanity but I’ve seen very few people come forward and say that their comments were censored. I’d be interested in finding who here has actually had a commented censored.

  64. #64 DuWayne
    March 30, 2009

    Joshua –

    I have. But I’ll admit that it’s been over a year and he does seem to be letting comments similar to the ones I wrote that didn’t go through up now.

  65. #65 Stephanie Z
    March 30, 2009

    I’ve made comments that did not get through, like DuWayne, quite a while ago. I don’t know that I’m prepared to give him any credit for opening up commenting, though, since the MT upgrade in January seemed to shut off everyone’s moderation.

  66. #66 Joshua Zelinsky
    March 30, 2009

    Stephanie, moderation is still being used on some scienceblogs. Razib over at Gene Expression has moderation on I don’t know if he uses it for anything other than spam. I haven’t heard any claims otherwise. In any event, server upgrade didn’t remove moderation in any permanent way as far as I know.

  67. #67 Glazius
    March 30, 2009

    That doesn’t sound right. This is like saying that viral development is Lamarckian, because the virus changes within the lifetime of the host that was used for reproduction. Also, it sounds like you’re confusing single memes with the collection of culture.

    That’s largely because “meme” may be a convenient package but there is no such thing as a single, isolatable cultural element with a single, isolatable effect. Every participant of a culture is “acculturated” – there’s a significant developmental process. Trying to break down culture into a bunch of memes is as silly as trying to break down a person into a bunch of genes.

    And it’s the development of culture that gets passed on to “the next generation”, not a scattershot packet of memes.

  68. #69 Deen
    March 30, 2009

    @Joshua: I have had comments blocked as well, although like the others, that was a while ago (and using a different nick).

    @Glazius: but “culture” is not passed down in one single enormous transaction from one person to the next either. Instead, you communicate one idea at a time, and so is everyone else. So I’d say the “scattershot” image isn’t even such a bad metaphor. Although I could suggest being in a crossfire with machineguns as an even better image.

  69. #70 Stephanie Z
    March 30, 2009

    Joshua, I didn’t say it turned it off permanently, just that it turned it off and I wasn’t giving him credit for having actively done something that happened to everyone passively.

    Plenty of people have turned it on since that point. Adventures in Ethics and Science turned it back on in February. Island of Doubt turned it back on around then too, I believe. I haven’t heard that Janet has disallowed any non-spam comments. James had an issue with a bunch of “Your Mom” type comments that, while not spam, weren’t any kind of dialog either. I think BioE also went back to the first-comment approved system in place before the switch.

    There’s plenty of moderation around here. As far as I know, however, Nisbet is the only person who has specifically disallowed comments for something other than spam or scatological content.

  70. #71 Glazius
    March 30, 2009

    but “culture” is not passed down in one single enormous transaction from one person to the next either. Instead, you communicate one idea at a time, and so is everyone else.

    Don’t people reread books from their childhood and discover things they missed the first go? And if you can do that with sentences, just imagine how ideas get scrambled. That’s development for you. I think you’ll agree that presenting them out of order just turns them into nonsense. Consider an average group of sentences. Really? But take a look at what happens when I reshuffle them. If I really am communicating them one at a time, then the order doesn’t matter. Just one at a time? One idea each, right?

    Really? Just one at a time? Consider an average group of sentences. One idea each, right? If I really am communicating them one at a time, then the order doesn’t matter. But take a look at what happens when I reshuffle them. I think you’ll agree that presenting them out of order just turns them into nonsense. And if you can do that with sentences, just imagine how ideas get scrambled. Don’t people reread books from their childhood and discover things they missed the first go? That’s development for you.

  71. #72 Russell Blackford
    March 30, 2009

    No, no, you all mistake me. I was simply expressing awe at Nisbet’s polymathic expertise and near divine wisdom.

    Verily, a sharp two-edged sword flashes like lightning from his mouth and his eyes are as large as a recently-extinct Tyrannosaurus rex (the terror of cavemen and women as little as 4000 years ago). Elsewhere, I explain why we should defer to Nisbet’s analysis and praise the Lord that we have him, in our very own multiply-vipered generation, to set us on the narrow path to truth and stifle our offensive givings of resonance to false narratives: http://metamagician3000.blogspot.com/2009/03/praise-lord-for-matt-nisbet.html

  72. #73 Carlie
    March 30, 2009

    I’d be interested in finding who here has actually had a commented censored.

    I did. After the “PZ gets expelled from Expelled” debacle, I left a comment that I thought was entirely ok – no profanity, no accusations, no bad tone, just a gentle note that I had been very impressed with him and his ideas on framing when he started blogging, but that lately he seemed to have been overly critical and somewhat missing the point of what he was trying to convey. I got the “your comment is being held for review” notice, and then it never showed up.

  73. #74 DuWayne
    March 30, 2009

    Glazius –

    What exactly was the point of that exercise? It rather makes sense any way you shuffle – it’s just a little clearer the second time around. And when we’re talking religion and the ideas therein, the ordering matters even less.

  74. #75 the real Isis the Scientist
    March 30, 2009

    Steph: don’t kid yourself–and for the sake of open dialogues everywhere, plzzz stop pushing the meme that sciborgs don’t censor.They do, any time some of the more self involved or PC ghet bested in a verbal joust–you know the kind: they or one of their groupies lay out the “your mumma” first, and then, when you respond in kind, or in my case, more cleverly than their initial insult, they cry woof!! and to the high heavens, it must be “violent speech!!” or “her-ass-meant!”, you know, those other forms of agression, like making sense, or hooking one of their followers into a meaningful dialogue that contradicts their pseudo-left dogma.

    Shortly after one exchange with um, I think Napoleon Dworkin, in her recent post about so-called “hate mail” where she accused ::the real::deal of sending her hate mail, Isis recently took the unusual requesting an IP banned at sciborgs, which is blocked to this day–.She had enlisted Pal to do the yo-mama’s, and when Napoleon replied that its no wonder men treat women badly, with attitudes like theirs that condone violence against young boys and men, she deleted the comments, and alleged that Napoleon had “advocated violence against women” which he hadn’t. She shortly thereafter completely pulled her response, and Napoleons off the web.

    The irony in the whole thing? While she champions the pseudonym, she enlisted the help of other censors who daily use “hate-speech”–PalMD for one–and then had the IP blocked. PZ does it, Pal does it, Isis does it, and a few more.

    But I want proof that Matt censors, or this is just more pseudo/faux-left slander, and sadly, on your part Steph, a naievete or deliberate meme placement about what does go on at sciborgs.

  75. #76 Paul W.
    March 30, 2009

    Very nice work, Russell. Clears everything up.

  76. #77 Joshua Zelinsky
    March 30, 2009

    Ok, so it seems clear from the comments here that Nisbet has engaged in direct censorship of comments. It is interesting that I can’t find any discussion by Nisbet about what his comment policy is. Maybe he realizes that there’s no way he can even try to frame it to look good?

  77. #78 Opus
    March 30, 2009

    Yes, Mr Nisbet is indeed blocking comments tonight. My comment was posted a couple of hours ago and lasted only a few minutes. The offending text, in full:

    Aside from all the content-related matters discussed above, I was struck by how poorly Nisbet communicates. Years ago I did extensive work writing highly technical material and became well-acquainted with assessing readability. The tool of choice back then was the SMOG index, which used a simple algorithm to determine the educational level needed to comprehend a written passage. I took the above passage and a passage of similar length from The God Delusion and calculated the SMOG index for each.

    Nisbet’s work is written at a grade level of 19. The God Delusion comes in at a 9th-grade reading level. Since I don’t believe that Nisbet’s material is inherently twice as difficult to comprehend as Dawkins’ it appears that Nisbet is using poly-syllabic words to cover a lack of rigorous analysis. Or, to put it more simply, if the response is written at double the readability level of the material being responded to, one can rest assured that the response is at least 50% organic fertilizer.

    By the way, IIRC SMOG stands for the ‘Simplified Measure of Gobbledegook.’

  78. #79 Joshua Zelinsky
    March 30, 2009

    Opus, that’s very interesting. Incidentally, I’m not sure the SMOG is such a great test for this. Many creationist claims can be stated very simply but to explain why they are wrong might require a handful of big long words. On the other hand, in practice as far as I can tell, frequently creationists and ID proponents use long words to intimidate audiences or impress them that they are really doing science. So maybe it is a good test.

  79. #80 Brian X
    March 30, 2009

    Nisbet has not acquitted himself well regarding censorship. A certain amount of it is necessary to maintain a well-run blog; trolls and kooks make it almost impossible to maintain a civil atmosphere. But Nisbet takes it to almost the degree of some right-wing jerkwads like Instapundit in not allowing any but a very few token posts to go through, effectively stifling any real discussion on his comments.

    I’ve never much liked his approach anyway — when I first came to Sb, Nisbet’s posts stood out on the front page, using generous amounts of caps and much pointless verbosity. His unrelenting pretentiousness and his Derridaesque idea that he can somehow communicate about science better than someone who actually does it for a living have earned him Sb whipping-boy status, and his general disregard for a healthy commenter community has cemented it. Honestly, at this point I’m surprised Seed even keeps him on — given the unremitting rancor he’s brought upon himself, he would seem to be a liability to the Collective.

  80. #81 Stephanie Z
    March 30, 2009

    Yeah, real, I should have put in a caveat. You’ve got a special talent, though. Or maybe just more of a desire sometimes to say things the way you want to say them than to try to make sure your readers are following you. Not that you can keep some readers from going where they will.

  81. #82 Greg Laden
    March 30, 2009

    Don’t listen to her. She’s been drinking heavily. Irish drinks.

    :)

  82. #83 Azkyroth
    March 30, 2009

    Sorry, but I don’t think your comment is warranted by anything in the quote, nor do the arguments you bring forth support your claims. “Sine ira et studio”, while being a bit of a fig leaf for Tacitus, is still a good counsel for good science, and unfortunately, I see neither you nor Dawkins adhering to it. It’s a bit of a cop-out to call other people delusional when one is frothing at the mouth oneself.

    Huh. A concern troll defending one of their own? They’re evolving social behavior now? D:

  83. #84 Stephanie Z
    March 30, 2009

    What else am I going to drink at an Irish bar? And it was only one. Sort of.

  84. #85 Joshua Zelinsky
    March 30, 2009

    Brian, it isn’t like Nisbet is so bad that people are going to stop reading Scienceblogs as a result of his behavior. In fact, his trolling(at this point I can’t think of a better word, but I may be being uncharitable) might actually be drawing in readers who read what Nisbet has to say and then the myriad pieces which rip him to shreds.

  85. #86 Azkyroth
    March 30, 2009

    In fact, his trolling(at this point I can’t think of a better word, but I may be being uncharitable)

    You’re being quite charitable, but imprecise. He is, specifically, a “concern troll.” Using the proper title is common courtesy.

  86. #87 Raiko
    March 31, 2009

    In one word – amazing.

    What is Nisbet trying to do? Ask people to not state the facts because it sounds rude? Because these people don’t see the facts and feel offended by stating the obvious?

    Reminds me of Britney Spears on German TV: They showed a dubbed segment of her movie and she afterwards proclaimed that her German voice was much higher than her own (the opposite was the case). She failed to understand that you hear your own voice differently from others, thanks to the acoustic qualities of your skull. She at least SEEMED pretty displeased with the high tone of her German voice-over. So what was the host supposed to tell her? “Yes, Britney, you’re right – your actual speaking voice is much lower!” just because the reality of her own voice offended her?

    And can the host be called ‘unethical’ for telling her “Your real voice is higher than the German’s”? It seems to me, Nisbet isn’t able to think that far.

  87. #88 Heraclides
    March 31, 2009

    I posted on Nisbet’s blog quite a few hours ago and have yet to see my post, but I have no idea how fast his moderation turn-around typically is so it’d be better to wait a day before drawing conclusions, I think.

    A few loose thoughts from reading previous comments here (different to what I posted on Nisbet’s blog):

    Most scientists’ comments on, or replies to, statements made by religious people are usually trying to address incorrect claims made, not the religion per se, which generally doesn’t interest them either way. A lot of the time these are incorrect claims about science, which naturally rub scientists up the wrong way, as in this case these people are misrepresenting the scientists.

    As someone pointed out earlier, it is one thing to engage in practices and another to make claims of truths about them. For the sake of conversation an example, one that gets away from religion for a moment: it is one thing to take a “treatment” that can be shown not to work (for some fairly innocent illness that isn’t going to cause serious harm, of course!): (a) knowing full well that it will not cure the illness, perhaps because it makes you feel better for whatever reason or because it keeps someone else off your back, etc.; another to (b) take the treatment believing it work, when it demonstrably doesn’t; and other again to (c) claim to others that it works when it doesn’t.

    (I include (a) for completeness because it is a reality…)

    [off-topic] Stephanie: I prefer Scottish. But later at night than this. Yes, I’m well trained and disciplined… :-)

  88. #89 melior
    March 31, 2009

    So, what’s going on here, folks?

    Mr. Nisbet seems to be driven by what the good Dr. HST once called “fear and loathing”.

  89. #90 Deen
    March 31, 2009

    But I want proof that Matt censors, or this is just more pseudo/faux-left slander, and sadly, on your part Steph, a naievete or deliberate meme placement about what does go on at sciborgs.

    You won’t get “proof” of censoring, how could that even be possible? The best you can expect is for people to claim to have posted something, and found it was blocked in moderation. But how can anyone prove it was actually submitted? You are just going to have to accept the word of many individual and independent commenters for it, for what it’s worth.

    As for censoring in general, I’d say there is a clear difference between openly banning a disruptive troll after having given fair warnings on the one hand, and silently blocking comments in moderation with no explanation or accountability given on the other.

    For example, PZ does the former, with a “Dungeon” with a list of who’s been banned and why (and often even links to their private blogs), and I consider this a reasonable way of dealing with disruption on a blog.

    Nisbet does the latter, without admitting it, and I consider that oppressing criticism, which I don’t consider reasonable.

    I suppose you technically should consider both approaches “censoring”, but their goals and means are very different.

  90. #91 Dan J
    March 31, 2009

    Heraclides said:

    Most scientists’ comments on, or replies to, statements made by religious people are usually trying to address incorrect claims made, not the religion per se, which generally doesn’t interest them either way. A lot of the time these are incorrect claims about science, which naturally rub scientists up the wrong way, as in this case these people are misrepresenting the scientists.

    I think that’s something that the “offended” groups tend not to realize. They see any criticism of a particular slice of their dogma as a criticism of their group as a whole.

    On another thread discussing similar issues, someone mentioned that some religions, i.e. Judaism or Buddhism, don’t seem to get the same treatment from atheists. The problems always arise when religion tries to insinuate itself into secular life. I don’t see Jewish groups trying to force public school lunch programs to be kosher. I do see Christian groups trying to force public schools to teach their creation mythology as science.

    Why do so many of them never understand that their religion is not welcome in secular life? It has no place there.

  91. #92 Matthew C. Nisbet
    March 31, 2009

    Hi all,

    My comment policy has been posted high up on my side bar for more than a year. Like many news organization sites and blogs, I apply an editorial policy in managing my comment section:

    “Keep it substantive, serious minded, on topic, and respectful.”

    As of this morning more than 60 comments have been posted, many of them critical but of a substantive nature. I have moderated a few that use profanity or engage in personal insults.

  92. #93 ppnl
    March 31, 2009

    “By the way, IIRC SMOG stands for the ‘Simplified Measure of Gobbledegook.'”

    So thats why the silly thing gave me such a headache to read. I kept reading trying to tease out some meaning. Silly me.

  93. #94 Glazius
    March 31, 2009

    What exactly was the point of that exercise? It rather makes sense any way you shuffle – it’s just a little clearer the second time around. And when we’re talking religion and the ideas therein, the ordering matters even less.

    Uh, if the sort of ordering matters _at all_ there’s more operating here than a simple particulate transmission.

    Not the only reason culture turns out Lamarckian either. Take, say, Dalton’s atomic theory. Of course the idea became widespread because it solved a common problem: the need to bring order to chaotic and seemingly random arrangement of mass ratios in chemical reactions.

    But that idea showed up in the first place not out of some recombinant idea mechanism inside Dalton’s head, but in reaction TO that problem in “the environment”. That’s much more indicative of Lamarckian inheritance.

  94. #95 a lurker
    March 31, 2009

    It is almost never unethical to say what you actually believe in a public controversy. It is almost always unethical to make such a claim.

    Agree or disagree with Dawkins, what he says is what he believes. The exceptions (stuff like a lawyer saying his client is a dirtbag, telling of truths that are confidential, etc.) are clearly not in play. Therefore he is ethical. QED.

    I do have some disagreements with Dawkins but to call him unethical is simply madness (or possibly just making up stuff).

  95. #96 Greg Laden
    March 31, 2009

    I just want to say, given that Matt has posted a comment, the following: Matt and I disagree on issues regarding framing and science education (public education … we’ve not spoken about in-school education so much). You’ll notice that I did not say anything specific in this post about what I think. This was for purely pragmatic purposes … I’m swamped with work and I would need to give this significant attention. I will probably eventually do that.

    However, I just want to state something about commenting: While I can understand why people are mad or frustrated with commenting on Matt’s Blog, I do want to make two statements:

    1) I do not moderate or mess around with comments her on my blog in part because I find it personally annoying when I have to do anything other than click “OK” to comment elsewhere on the internet. So Matt and I have different approaches. However;

    2) My own inter-intertubule policy ALSO includes not personally criticizing other bloggers for their comment policy. Yes, I feel that I have the best policy for me, but I do not assume that this should apply to other bloggers.

    Finally, while we may not agree on nuts and bolts, I do sympathize with Matt’s “respectfulness” position. This is complex. I don’t have (or believe in) respectfulness rules. But I do believe that respectfulness is a powerful tool and an excellent way to communicate, and I also believe that non-respectful communication that results in getting slapped up side the head does not allow the slappee to complain. If you come over and bark at me I might bite your nose off and that’s reasonable, for instance. (NOt that anything like that is happening now and on this thread.)

  96. #97 Blake Stacey
    March 31, 2009

    Uh, if the sort of ordering matters _at all_ there’s more operating here than a simple particulate transmission.

    Yeah. And. So. What?

    Even straight-up genetics is not a “simple particulate” system, by that definition (consider, e.g., the relative placement of a protein-coding gene and a promoter region). So, a model of idea transmission cooked up to be analogous to gene transmission does not have to be a “simple particulate” scheme either.

    Take, say, Dalton’s atomic theory. Of course the idea became widespread because it solved a common problem: the need to bring order to chaotic and seemingly random arrangement of mass ratios in chemical reactions.

    OK, “chaotic and seemingly random” may be an overstatement (it was pretty apparent that mass ratios were turning out over and over again to be ratios of small integers), but whatever.

    But that idea showed up in the first place not out of some recombinant idea mechanism inside Dalton’s head, but in reaction TO that problem in “the environment”. That’s much more indicative of Lamarckian inheritance.

    Which a memeticist could argue away by saying that the propagation of a meme after its origin is a Darwinian process. For that matter, the memeticist might well try to model the inside of Dalton’s head as a memetic ecosystem, with new ideas constantly being bubbled up by variations upon those pre-existing in his mind, and hypotheses which do a better job of explaining chemistry lasting longer. The memes which work best then spread beyond their niche of origin to compete on a larger Darwinian field, or so our Dawkinsian friend might tell us.

    Personally, I find memetics generally too vague to be useful. It’s occasionally a source of interesting metaphor, but as a science, it stumbles in the dark. Memes spread by imitation of a phenotype, as if one bacterium observed another producing a β-lactamase and reverse-engineered the molecule to give itself antibiotic resistance, instead of the way resistance actually spreads, by transferring plasmids through pili. Outside of Internet fads and the like, it’s hard to define when two individuals are actually exhibiting the effects of the same meme, which makes defining the inclusive fitness of all copies of a meme in the population rather problematic.

    The term Lamarckian is problematic anyway, as ideas lambasted as such are not necessarily those proposed by Lamarck himself.

  97. #98 Blake Stacey
    March 31, 2009

    An afterthought:

    As Nabokov once said, “We think not in words, but in shadows of words.” If the repetition of a single sentence (perhaps “All your base are belong to us!”) is an act learned by imitation which spreads among a population, that single sentence could be called a meme. However, a memeticist is not logically obligated to treat each individual sentence as a meme unto itself: different collections of sentences can be expressions of the same underlying idea (Dalton’s model of atoms, for example, or Newton’s second law). Rearranging the order of sentences, or even translating those sentences into another language, could well count as expressing the same “memeotype”. If the derangement is so great that a person reading those sentences would “decode” a different meaning (or could not unravel any meaning at all), then a mutated meme would arise in the reader’s mind, which could potentially then spread according to its own fitness. (This, I suppose, could be the Dawkinsian account of the “All your base” phenomenon: a Japanese original text which a faithful English translation might give as “We have taken over all your military bases” is garbled by poor translation and spreads like wildfire thanks to its own, ahem, charms.)

  98. #99 Glazius
    March 31, 2009

    The term Lamarckian is problematic anyway, as ideas lambasted as such are not necessarily those proposed by Lamarck himself.

    Who’s lambasting? Lamarck had ideas about how evolution worked. They weren’t right, but he articulated them cleanly enough that they were definite.

    And the notable ways they differ from the Darwinian perspective are 1) new characters arise in explicit response to the environment, rather than in individual variation that is then selected by the environment, 2) successive generations can improve inherited characters through simple gradual addition, rather than punctuated change.

    Those ideas may not be borne out by biology, but that doesn’t mean that model of change can’t work for other things.

    Like culture.

  99. #100 Paul W.
    March 31, 2009

    Here’s a comment I posted on Matt’s blog last night, which hasn’t shown up. Since he’s commented today, I’m guessing it won’t. Maybe he thinks his comments address the issues satisfactorily; I don’t. Sorry if this is OT here.

    ———————————————————

    If “Expelled” has indeed been used successfully as propaganda through advance screenings to legislators in order to shoehorn creationism/ID into science classrooms in various states under ‘Academic Freedom’ laws, then who cares if “Religulous” got more ticket sales and sold more DVDs?

    It’s not clear how “successfully” Expelled has been used in advanced screenings for legislators. Did it really change any legislators’ minds? I have no idea, but I’m skeptical it made a big difference.

    It’s very significant whether Expelled makes money, and especially whether it is unusually successful. The people who made it estimated that they would gross several times what they actually did, and that they would use the big profits to make more movies like that. They also predicted that the example set by their big success would help other people make right-wing political documentaries, by showing that it can be profitable and opening backers’ wallets.

    Because Expelled did not make money, they don’t have that money to make and market more anti-scientific movies, and others will have a harder time finding backers.

    Ben Stein isn’t the right’s answer to Michael Moore, or even Al Gore.

    Part of the context here on ScienceBlogs is that several science bloggers (Nisbet, Mooney, Olson) trumpeted the “box office success” of Expelled, and things like that. They talked about how Expelled grossed millions its opening weekend, and dismissed the fact that it got terrible reviews as irrelevant.

    I thought then and think now that the terrible reviews were relevant. They kept people away in droves—after the opening weekend, attendance plummeted and the movie only made a few million dollars beyond what it made that weekend.

    The only reason Expelled grossed as much as it did in its opening weekend is that it opened on several times as many screens as a typical documentary, and had an advertising budget of millions and millions of dollars. They bought a huge opening weekend, at a high price, and after that the movie pretty much tanked.

    When some of us pointed these things out, Olson and Nisbet maintained that Expelled was a success. Nisbet referred us to Olson, making him out to be a movie expert we were not qualified to disagree with. Olson said lots of movies lose money at the box office, but make it up in DVD sales. He said specifically that DVD sales are usually predicted based on opening weekend performance, and that Expelled should do well. I asked him to show his work, specifically how DVD sales are predicted and why we should expect the usual formula to apply to such an unusual movie, and he basically told me to shut up.

    Now some DVD sales figures are in, and they’re not good. They do NOT correspond to the big opening weekend that the Expelled people bought, but to the poor performance after that.

    Another piece of context is that Matt tried to make Religulous out to be a bit of a failure, saying its performance was “disappointing,” etc.

    Several of us immediately noticed the irony. Religulous cost considerably less to make and advertise, opened on half as many screens, and still grossed nearly twice as much money at the box office. It performed well. Not spectacularly, but it really was the “box office success” that Expelled wasn’t, actually making a profit at the box office, plus millions beyond that in DVD sales and rentals. In terms of price to gross ratios, it was several times as successful as Expelled, but because Matt wanted it to be a failure, apparently, he said it was one.

    (BTW, I’m not particularly defending Religulous. I enjoyed it, but I also agree with P.Z. that it was unfair in ways that make me uncomfortable. I’m also not saying that Expelled was a big flop, as I initially thought—just that it wasn’t the kind of success that Olson and Nisbet made it out to be, either.)

  100. #101 Paul W.
    March 31, 2009

    BTW, it seems to me—correct me if I’m wrong—that Matt sometimes silently closes threads, and stops letting anything (pro or con) through.

    If so, that seems pretty dubious; he ought to at least say he’s doing it, to save people the trouble of composing comments and checking whether they show up.

  101. #102 Paul W.
    March 31, 2009

    Here’s another, more basic and interesting comment that I posted on Matt’s blog today, in case it doesn’t show up there:

    ——————————

    For example, I explicitly note that as a social critic and pundit, there is nothing unethical about Dawkins expressing his personal opinions about religion. Yet when Dawkins and other New Atheists also use the trust granted them as scientists to argue that religion is a scientific question, that science undermines even respect for religious publics, they employ framing unethically, drawing upon the rhetorical authority of science to stigmatize and attack various social groups. It also plays right into the hands of social conservatives.

    Matt, it seems to me that you’re mostly just repeating yourself without actually addressing the major points that have been raised. There are important points about both the content of what Dawkins says, and the strategic value of saying them.

    (1) You are again begging the question of whether Dawkins et al. are right in thinking that the nature and impact of religion are scientific questions which Dawkins can comment on as a scientist expressing his scientific opinion.

    I believe that Dawkins, Dennett, Boyer et al. is correct that belief in god(s) is a kind of popular delusion amenable to scientific study and explanation—and that the scientific evidence indicates that religion fails miserably as a way of knowing.

    If this is true, it is neither unfair nor unethical to say so, though it might be strategically inadvisable. It is also not what you insist on making it out to be—Dawkins using his stature as a scientist to oversell a mere personal opinion.

    Please stop asserting that it’s a personal opinion until you’ve made a good case that it’s not a valid scientific opinion.

    Dawkins has a right and perhaps an ethical duty to express what he believes is a valid and warranted scientific opinion.

    You are begging the the most basic content question again, as you have done repeatedly for years.

    (2) Strategically, most of us are familiar with your basic arguments for what we see as an appeasement strategy, trying desperately to avoid backlash at the expense of telling the hard truth.

    What you don’t seem to get is that we understand and appreciate those arguments but do not find them decisive. There are countervailing arguments, particularly Overton Window arguments, that we find comparably compelling. To my knowledge, you have never really addressed those arguments. That’s really tiresome, too.

    In effect, you are saying this:

    Since (a) Dawkins is wrong about the validity of religion being a scientific issue AND (b) Dawkins is wrong about respect for religion being unwarranted and dangerous and (c) Dawkins is wrong about fighting religion being a worthy activity AND (d) Overton Window arguments are weaker than pro-appeasement arguments, we should all agree not only with your basic arguments, but agree that they trump any countervailing arguments.

    Most of us on science blogs disagree with some of the propositions a through d, and many of us disagree with all of them. You insist on assuming those things, talking past us, and even daring to call people like us unethical for for saying what we honestly think and honestly think is important for people to know.

    If we are right, attacking religious belief and undermining respect for religion is not a scurrilous and unwarranted attack on groups of people. It’s a valid and warranted attack on harmful beliefs—no less ethical than criticizing, say, Republican or Communist ideology that we disagree with.

    And if we are right that there are crucial scientific facts about religion that reflect badly on it, we are no less warranted in criticizing religion on scientific grounds than in criticizing a political ideology based on contrary facts about social psychology, economics, etc.

    You are assuming something like NOMA. We deny NOMA. Either persuade us that NOMA is correct, or stop expecting us to believe conclusions based on NOMA-like assumptions.

    You are also assuming that Overton Window effects are not important or not decisive. Convince us, or stop calling us unethical for taking Overton effects into account in our strategizing, and failing to follow your appeasement strategies.

    Many of us agree with you already that in the short run, saying that science conflicts with religion is counterproductive in terms of defending the teaching of evolution. Dawkins himself says so.

    If you keep glossing over our reasons for agreeing about that, but still disagreeing with your conclusions and prescriptions, that’s deceptive and unethical.

    You are in effect “attacking a group of people” in the same sense Dawkins is, and you are being unethically deceptive by pretending to have addressed issues that you have not addressed.

    You seem to be following one of the ethically dubious strategies often associated with the term “framing”—you focus on your arguments for your position, and simply divert attention from your opponents’ arguments against it, rather than actually addressing their points evenhandedly.

    In certain contexts where stereotypical “framing” is particularly useful, that’s understandable or perhaps even necessary. If you have only a few paragraphs in an op ed or a couple of minutes on CNN to make your case, you often can’t waste time rebutting your opponents’ arguments; you won’t have time to make your positive case.

    But ScienceBlogs is not CNN. You do have the space and time to address your opponents’ objections, and address them thoroughly, rather than repeating the same old spin we’ve heard a bunch of times before.

    You have an ethical duty to do so—to actually engage in the kind of dialogue you say is important, rather than unfairly slandering groups of people who disagree with you by deceptive misdirection.

  102. #103 Ophelia Benson
    March 31, 2009

    Whew – well said, Paul W.

    (Now to look up ‘Overton Window’…)

  103. #104 Stephanie Z
    March 31, 2009

    Truly, well said. Hear, hear!

  104. #105 Ophelia Benson
    March 31, 2009

    So now we see another drawback to Nisbet’s way of moderating comments – he can give himself the last word for any length of time he likes by simply ‘replying’ and then ignoring any later comments until…whenever. I would have replied to his first ‘reply’ over there but then I realized that since no new reply had appeared, mine wouldn’t either, until whenever; so I didn’t bother. But I say ‘replying’ because he didn’t reply to most of the objections, he simply repeated, word for word, what he’d said in the post.

    This is expertise in communication? What would klutzy tone-deaf incompetence look like?

  105. #106 Blake Stacey
    March 31, 2009

    Paul W.:

    Nisbet referred us to Olson, making him out to be a movie expert we were not qualified to disagree with.

    Speaking of which, whatever happened to Sizzle?

  106. #107 just me
    March 31, 2009

    Would Paul consider giving us a guest post on QuicheMoraine.com?

  107. #108 foolfodder
    March 31, 2009

    What we need here is someone to start up a blog called Framing Framing Science. Its job will be to find out successful strategies for communicating framing science to scientists.

    It will conduct market research and approach opinion leaders.

    It will propose strategies that try to appeal to the core values of scientists whilst trying not, in any way, to challenge the values of scientists or educate them.

    It will at regular intervals tell Matt Nisbet to shut up, because he’s harming the cause of science framing by not doing what the owner of the new blog thinks is best.

    Anyone got any suggestions for goals of the new blog or improvements to make the language sound more like marketing bollocks?

  108. #109 Ophelia Benson
    March 31, 2009

    What a good idea, I love these recursive blogs – Mediawatchwatch being the classic of the genre.

    Lots of trouble though – all that hand-wringing and concern trolling. Who has the time?

  109. #110 Blake Stacey
    March 31, 2009

    foolfodder:

    It must incentivize motility towards its priority action items, and it is obligated to provide resonance for its normative psychosocial and paratextual narrative.

  110. #111 Paul W.
    March 31, 2009

    Would Paul consider giving us a guest post on QuicheMoraine.com?

    Sure. (Can Greg nab my email address from this post?)

  111. #112 Stephanie Z
    March 31, 2009

    He can, Paul. Thanks.

  112. #113 foolfodder
    March 31, 2009

    It must incentivize motility towards its priority action items, and it is obligated to provide resonance for its normative psychosocial and paratextual narrative.

    Awesome. I understand that just enough to think that it might be saying something very clever, but not enough to see it for the meaningless drivel that it probably is. Perfect!

  113. #114 Paul W.
    March 31, 2009

    BTW, Matt did let those 2 posts of mine through. Good on him.

  114. #115 Greg Laden
    March 31, 2009

    Just got back from meeting, will contact paul shortly.

  115. #116 Anton Mates
    March 31, 2009

    Cross-posting since Matt turned moderation’s back on:

    Matt,

    By political documentary standards, Expelled was a major success, ranking as the #5 top grossing pol doc of all time.

    Only because Box Office Mojo’s “political documentary” list does not include Religulous, which I would say is as “political” in its subject matter as Expelled. (Arguably, so is Super Size Me, which also outperformed the latter.)

    And, as they aim to alter public opinion on matters of science and religion, AIT and Religulous are certainly more comparable overall to Expelled than are most of the movies on that list. It’s not terribly significant (to your position) that Expelled beat out The Fog of War or The Trials of Henry Kissinger, for instance.

    (n.b.: I didn’t particularly like Religulous. But, coming out almost simultaneously with Expelled, and dealing with many of the same issues but defending the opposite viewpoint, its success is striking.)

  116. #117 Anton Mates
    March 31, 2009

    Also cross-posted:

    Anna K.,

    If “Expelled” has indeed been used successfully as propaganda through advance screenings to legislators in order to shoehorn creationism/ID into science classrooms in various states under ‘Academic Freedom’ laws, then who cares if “Religulous” got more ticket sales and sold more DVDs?

    Matt Nisbet cares, clearly. And so do the ID folks, which is why they continue to trumpet any evidence of market success they can find (witness Denyse O’Leary’s recent blog post on Expelled’s performance on Amazon.) And, really, we should care.

    Yes, Expelled has been used as propaganda for legislators. But was that a great success? If there’s one thing the ID movement wasn’t already lacking, it’s propaganda! Legislators have been shown Unlocking the Mysteries of Life and Icons of Evolution (the video version) for several years now. What was Expelled going to do that the previous videos didn’t?

    There are, I think, two specific goals the DI & co. had for Expelled. One was to spark the general public’s interest in ID and fighting the evil Darwinists. That’s where sales are relevant, and I think they show pretty clearly that Expelled failed hard in this respect.

    The other goal was to persuade legislators of a particular antievolution frame—namely, that the Darwinist establishment is trying to squelch descent in laboratories and classrooms, hence we need to pass “academic freedom” laws to protect freedom of thought and expression.

    This has also failed. The only “academic freedom” bill to pass so far, the Louisiana Science Education Act, actually doesn’t use this frame at all. It’s really a “critical analysis” bill, based on the argument that students need to learn about the “weaknesses” of evolution in order to develop objectivity and critical thinking. This is the same frame that the creationists on the Texas BoE have been using, and it has very little to do with the “academic freedom” language that the DI markets and connects to Expelled. All the bills based on the latter language—the ones which talk about how students and teachers have an “affirmative right” to their beliefs, but live in fear of persecution, etc.—have failed. The Florida ones in 2008 came close to passing, but even they had to morph into “critical analysis” bills in order to pull it off–and when Senator Wise resurrected one of those bills this year, it was in “critical analysis” form.

    So, it seems to me, Expelled simply hasn’t done what it set out to do. It hasn’t changed the minds of many legislators, and it hasn’t had a big impact on the general public.

  117. #118 Deen
    March 31, 2009

    @Matt Nisbett:

    “Keep it substantive, serious minded, on topic, and respectful.”

    I have very few problems with this rule (except that it might be rather generic and open to interpretation, especially the “respectful” part). My criticism is in how it is applied. You give no warnings beforehand, and no explanations afterward. This is a big problem. By silently blocking comments you give your readers no indication where you feel that the line is. You therefore close off any possibility of people to adjust their behavior, or to offer further explanation or defend themselves. And finally, this lack of transparency and communication gives the impression of bad faith. At the very least it clearly leads to a loss of trust (as proven by all the cross-posting).

    As an example: I posted to your blog almost 3 hours ago. It might still be in your moderation queue because you’ve simply been too busy. Or it might be rejected already, because other comments have gone up since then. In that case you might have rejected it because you thought I wasn’t respectful or substantive enough, or rejected it because I was too critical on someone else’s blog about your comment policy. Maybe you’ve only let the others go through because they cross-posted, so maybe I should have done that as well? My point is: how am I supposed to know?

    Now if Greg would slap me up side the head for hijacking his thread to argue with another Scienceblogger about the blogger’s comment policies, I’d actually even appreciate it. At least then I’d know.

  118. #119 Greg Laden
    March 31, 2009

    You can always argue with other science bloggers on my blog. In fact, I can give you a list if you like.

  119. #120 the real Isis the Scientist
    March 31, 2009

    “I do sympathize with Matt’s “respectfulness” position. This is complex. I don’t have (or believe in) respectfulness rules. But I do believe that respectfulness is a powerful tool and an excellent way to communicate, and I also believe that non-respectful communication that results in getting slapped up side the head does not allow the slappee to complain”

    —Gregs policy is the most mature, witty, and clever in all of sciborgs. His respect begins and ends with valanced give and take, and his ability to do either is unparallelled or equalled at scienceblogs.

    Respectfulness is a great idea, and I too sympathize with it–but find me one of those onanist or bonobo buittsniffing sciborgs–PZ and KKkrew, Pal, Isis–that actually follow that rule. Good luck.

    It seems their take on respect begins and ends with whether or not their idea of humorous comment isn’t overshaddowed by other opposing witty or clever comments, and then they take their blog and run home to their minions and marionettes if they look foolish.

    And then: the slappee shouldn’t complain? That isn’t the case here: the case is CENSORSHIP-v- MODERATION. The most offensive sciborgs are often the most censorship prone, but at least Matt is up front about his policy–and he is NOT one of those sniping cowards listed above.

    and Steph: it isn’t that I say things for everybody, all the time–some of what I say is threaded through the pointed needles of others obscure subjective or dark musings, and some of what I say is directed right at the belly, shot-gun style for those who blast me first. And of course, this makes words “violent” they say; moreso, apparently than censorship, or in the case of PZ memorializing me; or PalMD evading my comments and talking on the back channels to have one of my THOUSANDS of IP’s banned…xcowardice in its raw form, is coming at someones back.

    But Matt at least is up front about it, and keeps his own tone serious and scholarly.

    And for anyone who has ever had that censorship problem at scilogs–go download Tor.

  120. #121 Isis the Scientist
    March 31, 2009

    ooops: * balannced, not valanced; and both, not either…

    One note though: so that I don’t come off as a full blown Mat supporter, I should say that his policy is, while up front, also is “conservative,” whereas these othjers, in the disguise of liberal banter, are actually far-right in spirit, and their censorship is true censorship by definition. Matt has what any of them could have: forethought and distinct rules of engagement as opposed to fuzzy logic and whimsy-prone PC censorship–ideological cock blocking.

  121. #122 DuWayne
    March 31, 2009

    In fact, I can give you a list if you like.

    Do it!!!

  122. #123 Blake Stacey
    March 31, 2009

    Matt has what any of them could have: forethought and distinct rules of engagement as opposed to fuzzy logic and whimsy-prone PC censorship–ideological cock blocking.

    HA HA HA HA HA HA HA Ha ha ha ha ahhh.

    Wait, were you serious?

    HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA. . . .

    Seriously, we’ve learned by now that the “forethought” displayed by the Marquis de Coiffure is that he has determined himself ahead of time to be correct in all particulars, and his “rule of engagement” is nothing more or less than “look out for number one”.

  123. #124 DuWayne
    March 31, 2009

    @ Oliver, if he might happen to be lurking.

    I would have gotten to it before, but I’m rather busy and it taxed my google skills (wish I had thought to search at Bora’s earlier on). But if you’re wondering why I’m rather cranky with Nisbett, I did post several links at the top of my most recent blogpost. I also go into more detail and use real world examples to explain why Matt’s wrong and needs to shut the fuck up about telling others to shut the fuck up.

  124. #125 Deen
    April 1, 2009

    @Isis the Scientist:

    …one of those onanist or bonobo buittsniffing sciborgs–PZ and KKkrew, Pal, Isis..

    …one of those sniping cowards listed above.

    And you wonder why you don’t get treated with respect at those blogs? You need a new irony meter.

    That isn’t the case here: the case is CENSORSHIP-v- MODERATION. The most offensive sciborgs are often the most censorship prone, but at least Matt is up front about his policy

    It is indeed about moderation Vs censorship. I just don’t understand how you can claim that PZ and the like use censorship while Nisbet only uses moderation. To me it seems it’s more the other way around. For instance, by all objective standards, PZ allows way more to be posted on his blog, warnings and explanation are given right there in the comment threads, and he even keeps his killfile public. How does that compare to Nisbet, who claims to have a reasonable moderation policy but gives us no way to evaluate this, because it all happens hidden in his moderation queue?

    …and keeps his own tone serious and scholarly.

    Which just shows that offensive language is not required to express contempt.

  125. #126 David Koepsell
    April 1, 2009

    In case my comment to Matt doesn’t make it through his screening, I suggested to him that he has finally, unequivocally, jumped the proverbial shark…

    By framing the issue as an “ethical” issue, and not merely practical, Nisbet gets to label all his opponents as bad, evil, morally wrong, etc.. Yet his so-called ethical principles, try though they might, do not amount to what any moral or ethical philosopher would consider to be “ethics.” At most, he has proposed a code of conduct, and provided some pragmatic argument to support adopting that code (though not enough to convince me). He has learned a trick or two from the far-right x-tian PR folks.

  126. #127 Ophelia Benson
    April 1, 2009

    Quite. The more I think about the “unethical” charge the more outrageous it seems.

  127. #128 Isis the Scientist
    April 1, 2009

    Blake:the point is that he has a clear purpose, versus an ambiguous and nepotistic one.Purpose=professional in his case, and that seems fair to me, as opposed to cliquish and denigrating comment policies that favor some peoples messed up shit over other peoples messed up shit…( this is as clear as I can state the Minncestuous clique behavior and comment policies)

    Deen: the comment you reference came well after the fact. And what makes you think I want or need respect after the fact? My main point with these crybabies has always been that they are ::always the first to insult::, condone insult, or otherwise break the theoretical blog-to-the-public social compact, and when they get bested at that game, they take their blog and run home, leaving you and other sciborgophants picking at the long dead carcasses of old arguments, and rumbling through the ashes of yesterdays flamewars looking for nuggets of approval, while I just change my name or IP and have more fun with the famously flawed faux-left in all of its white collared, middle class disguises.

    You see, in the end, they are teaching me to write better–in the sense that they reveal the chinks in the armor of their faux-consensus based arguments, and reveal that indeed, none of them give a rats ass about anyone but their own “number one”–as someone accused Matt of doing–but they do it in such a way as that the social memes they send out cause as much or more hardship for the lower classes as any republican in their wildest airport-bathroom fantasy could ever imagine doing.

    I on the other hand just keep it real fo da peeples, even if that,and I too, are famously flawed.

  128. #129 Heraclides
    April 2, 2009

    My latest two posts haven’t appeared on Nisbet’s blog, but I’m willing to bet he is being overloaded with posts, swamped by his decision to moderate them all! :-)

    As a matter of habit I keep copies of my posts in the even that a technical stuff-up drops them, so I could post them here (barely worth it though).

  129. #130 Deen
    April 2, 2009

    …while I just change my name or IP and have more fun with the famously flawed faux-left in all of its white collared, middle class disguises.

    Ah, so you are a self-admitted troll then. Ok, forget I tried to reason with you.

  130. #131 the real deep cover-upper
    April 20, 2009

    Deen: Somehow I missed your dis here–a troll? Shame on you! Just because the idiots who value the ego instilled in their personal pronoun decide to use such labels doesn’t mean I need to accept them.
    I am a non-conformist, and a contrarian, if you must know, and besides, look at you–hiding beind the language of Hitler on your blog! If that isn’t a hideous disguise, I don’t know what is…
    Ich! Ach! Ack! Ack! Einschwein!*puking furball*