I've been dealing with creationists for a long time now, and I thought that I'd gotten over being surprised by dishonest behavior in their ranks. In fact, I thought I'd gotten over it even when I'm on the receiving end of the false witness, and when the person dishing it out is someone who really should know better. As it turns out, I might not have quite as far over it as I thought.
As regular readers know, Dr. Michael Egnor is one of the more impressively credentialed denizens of the Discovery Institute's media complaints blog. He has decades of experience as a neurosurgeon. He's on the faculty at Stony Brook University School of Medicine, where he serves as a professor of neurosurgery. And, based on the level of intellectual integrity that he just demonstrated, he's not someone I would trust to train a dog, much less a doctor.
That's a harsh statement, I know, but I just got through reading his response to my recent critique of some of his Discovery Institute ramblings. Or, rather, his response to what he says was my recent critique. It was actually an interesting experience. He managed to take what I wrote so far out of context, and distort it so thoroughly, that I actually had problems recognizing some of the quotes as being my own work.
I may (or may not) deal with the nonexistent scientific merit of Dr. Egnor's reply later on. I'm not even going to try and catalogue all of the cases where Egnor was less than honest in his characterization of my writing. Instead, I'm simply going to highlight the most egregious case of flat-out, nose-growing, pants-on-fire lying.
Here's how Egnor decided to quote me at one point in his reply. This one might well be used as an example of how to quote mine in the slimiest, most dishonest fashion possible. Egnor not only uses multiple ellipses to change my meaning, he actually also changed some of my words without indicating that he had done so. Here's the Egnor version of what I said:
...we ...need to know that spina bifida patients are typically unsuitable for military service, that there are hereditary factors involved in causing spina bifida in the first place, and that differential survival among individuals carrying an allele will affect the proportion of that allele in the next generation...this is the central principle of evolutionary biology
Here's what I actually said. The bits Egnor quoted are in italics, and I've marked one phrase in boldface:
In fact, our understanding of military history can only inform us of the cause of the (hypothetical) increase if we already understand some basic principles of evolution, and some basic facts about the disease. At a minimum, we would need to know that spina bifida patients are typically unsuitable for military service, that there are hereditary factors involved in causing spina bifida in the first place, and that differential survival among individuals carrying an allele will affect the proportion of that allele in the next generation.
The first two factors relate to our understanding of the condition. The third is nothing more nor less than the central principle of evolutionary biology. Only one of those three factors is connected with the military in any way. Military history provides us with an explanation for the differential survival, but that's all. If we didn't know the other stuff, the war alone would provide absolutely no explanation for the change.
The boldfaced words are the ones that he changed. He removed the phrase "the third" and substituted the word "this". He provided no indication that he had substituted his word for mine. Quibbling about a change of one word might look petty, but if we look at the misquote in context, it's clear that he was deliberately trying to change my meaning so that he would have an easier target to argue against. I've cleaned up the formatting of this next quote slightly - it looks like he missed closing a blockquote tag - but I have not made any other changes:
So it looks like we can't really understand spina bifida without the "central principle of evolutionary biology." Alright then, let's take a look, claim by claim, at Mike's assertion that my example demonstrates the importance of evolutionary biology to the medical understanding of spina bifida.
...we would need to know that spina bifida patients are typically unsuitable for military service...
No evolutionary biology here. Our knowledge of the suitability of people with spina bifida for military service is gained from two things:
1) our knowledge of the disabilities caused by spina bifida
2) our knowledge of the requirements for military service
...that there are hereditary factors involved in causing spina bifida in the first place...
No evolutionary biology here. Our knowledge of the heredity...
In context, it's clear that he is claiming that I said that those first two factors are directly connected to evolutionary biology. He's also claiming that I was talking about the relationship between evolutionary biology and the medical condition itself, rather than the hypothetical epidemiological example he proposed. Neither is the case.
Honestly representing your opponents is the cornerstone of any productive academic discussion. I don't know if Dr. Egnor's dishonesty is substantial enough that I would have gotten him expelled from school, but I do know that any student I caught pulling a stunt like that would flunk.
I doubt that it will accomplish anything productive, but I'm actually annoyed enough at the misrepresentation that I've sent the following email to the Discovery Institute's Casey Luskin and Rob Crowther:
I will freely admit that there have been times over the years that I've been paying attention to Intelligent Design when I have been less than charitable - and less than polite - toward design proponents. I have, however, tried to always be honest, particularly when it comes to characterizing your arguments. When I disagree with something you say, I do my best to correctly and honestly describe your actual position. I see no reason why I should have to expect less than that in return.
In a recent post on your Evolution News and Views website, Dr. Michael Egnor fell well short of honesty. He mischaracterized and misrepresented my arguments throughout his entire article. At one point in his post, he went so far as to change words in a quote he attributed to me, without providing any indication that he had done so. Looking at the misquote in the context of Dr. Egnor's argument, I find it impossible to believe that this was an accident. It is also not the first time that Dr. Egnor has misrepresented things I've written.
A more detailed explanation of my objections to Dr. Egnor's misrepresentation will appear shortly on my blog (http://scienceblogs.com/authority), as will a copy of this email.
I would not dream of taking a position on whether or not you should continue to provide a platform for someone who is apparently incapable of meeting the basic standards of academic discourse, but I would like to see a public retraction and apology appear on your site.
I'll let you know what, if any, response I get from the Discovery folks. Based on the auto-reply I just got, Casey is out of the office until tomorrow, so there might not be anything before then.
I was not referring to the two internet bloggers as scientists. I have read their blogs and do not think much of them. My post above referred to Luskin's letter.
When I was referring to scientists, I was referring to people like Dunford and PZ Myers who correctly point out the flaws of DI publications and blogs.
These 2 internet bloggers got into DI using false pretenses. Luskins complains. I pointed out the irony that Luskin and DI promoted a film, Expelled, that used this exact same tactic (the film was originally Crossroads, etc). I showed that Luskin is being a hypocrite if he complains about these two bloggers and still promotes Expelled.
I provided Luskin with several links of the DI, Dembski, or DI fellows being uncivil. I will provide some of them here:
I hope you find these uncivil and not productive to the search for the truth. You talk about civility, yet you refer to these young ladies as "cockroaches".
Please review the links above and explain how selling dolls showing a scientist's head in a vice is civil. Also explain how "let the bloodletting begin" is civil. Please explain how showing John Jones making farting noises is civil. Please explain how promoting a film that claims evolution is responsible for the holocause is civil (read On The Jews and Their Lies by Martin Luther first and explain how Darwin caused this Christian appeal for Jewish genocide in 1540; also show one reference where Hitler wrote the word "Darwin" and explain all the praise to the Christian god in Mein Kampf). Please explain how your use of the term "cockroaches" is civil.
I hope I have shown to your satisfaction that the DI is not always civil.
The DI and its fellows have been uncivil on numerous occasions. This post is but one example of DI fellows falsely quoting scientists (Wells did it in a DI published book). Here is what usually happens:
1) Someone from the DI (like Egnor) posts something demonstrating dishonesty or sloppy scholarship (such as changing a quote).
2) Scientists respond to the DI errors, sometimes with bloggers using langauage not found in peer reviewed journals.
3) DI points out the bloggers colorful language as support for ID.
Please examine the following links for DI or DI fellows:
In addition, DI promoted the movie expelled, which involved much worse deception and accusations than the (your civil words) "cockroaches" and "wackaloons" you mention. The DI and Expelled claimed that Darwin led to the holocaust, despite the fact that Hitler never wrote the word "Darwin" in any book or paper. The DI omits the fact that Martin Luther called for the genocide of the Jews in his book "On The Jews and Their Lies."
I do not consider the two young internet bloggers who were given a tour of the DI as scientists.
It is always amazing on just how *badly* so many Christians lie and how often they do it. I guess that they figure that "thou shalt not bear false witness" and Romans 3:7-8 just don't apply to them.
I'm baffled by this guy's behavior. Given his professional standing, he cannot possibly need whatever dough the DI is willing to sling his way in exchange for him openly shaming himself as he's done here (and there's no other way to put it; he unquestionably knows he couldn't slip this lowbrow bullshit past an alert sixth-grader, much less a bunch of working scientists and writers).
And so, although I like to give people some benefit of doubt even as the evidence mounts, I can draw no other conclusion than that Egnor enjoys lying and tweaking the balls of those he knows are doing good science, in turn establishing him as a garden-variety asshole.
I suppose we should not be surprised by the dishonesty you outlined above. The people who espouse so-called "scientific creationism" and now, ID, have no other recourse. They have posited the original "god of the gaps" argument, and as the gaps are closed by ongoing discoveries, their only other option would be to admit that their ideas have no validity. But since they have espoused an ideology, this would be very difficult to do. The same desperate tactics can be observed on other fields in which ideologues find themselves backed into a corner.
It would be quite interesting to investigate the neurophysiology of the ideologue mind.
There is always another option here that hasn't been looked at. That Dr. Michael Egnor didn't actually write that piece of trash. That it was just some internal writer in the creationists huddle that wrote it and then Dr. Michael Egnor just put his name on it.
Egnor's behavior is rather typical of ID advocates. One of their "greats," the pseudo-biologist Jonathan Wells is a renowned practitioner of misquoting his opponents. In particular, an egregious sample of Wells' concocting false "quotations" is shown in detail at http://www.talkreason.org/articles/ugly.cfm . Whose misquotations are worse -those of Wells or t hose of Egnor, is a question of taste.
I do not find it particularly baffling or at all surprising. What is surprising to me is that apparently lying in such a bold and deliberate fashion has no consequences. Would it be more consequential if Dr. Egnor lied on his resume'? Does the fact that he lies so egregiously in an "academic debate" not shed some taint on the veracity of his other statements, such as in his research or teaching? Why does he still have a job?
IMHO the lying is intentional and with a purpose, not solely in Dr. Egnor's case but universally with respect to so-called creationism in all its flavors. The purpose is to impune the reputation and veracity of all science in the minds of those without the skills or inclination to verify what the truth is. I.e. nearly everybody. Since their position is untenable on a scientific footing their only alternative is to try to create in the collective awareness of the lay public the impression that all scientists are self serving prevaricators. IOW to their level.
Then of course it is possible to argue in a broadly political context that it is only a matter of opinion whether or not nuclear weapons are horrifically destructive.
Maybe Dr. Egnor isn't dishonest. Maybe he's just functionally illiterate. Reading his blog, I get the feeling he has a lot of trouble understanding his opponents' arguments. Maybe he read what you wrote without comprehending and connected some of the words into an argument he could understand through a kind of lexical pareidolia. He saw what he wanted and expected to see because he couldn't comprehend what was actually there.
Now that think of it, this would actually explain a lot of creationists' behavior.
In addition to neurosurgery at Stoney Brook, Egnor
also once taught a course in... wait for it... medical ethics.
I'm not a psychologist, an advertiser, or anyone else with professional expertise at influencing thought, and I'm even a bit socially retarded/clueless. How and why one would engage a camp dedicated to a propaganda war against science is almost a total black box for me. I'm curious, and more than a little self-confessed cynical. What it produces is obvious: something to write about in a blog for consumption by the opposing camp. I don't want to dismiss the utility of any of it though, just asking for clarification. What prompts the question is the extra step you took with the open letter to Luskin complaining about honesty (???!!!). It just confuses me. Should I be concerned about the impression this kind of thing gives the larger public that the controversy is an unimportant war between two insular minority ideological camps, or should I be praising you for all the time spent prompting the liars to hang themselves with their own words?
Re: Why is Egnor a SUNY faculty member in good standing?
I may be socially clueless, but I feel pretty certain about this one. Egnor should be a reality check to all of us who think that the response to the anti-evolution campaign is obvious to all thinking people. Pubmed, Highwire and Google Egnor. He's currently doing work (not first or primary author, but doing work) producing published papers in good journals, and collaborating with respected medical researchers at the best medical schools, giving talks at big meetings. His collegues don't care what he does with his extracurricular time. The way this propaganda war is being conducted has isolated us, and Egnor is proof of that. I don't have the answers, but I'm certain that the linking of biology education to atheism is a major impediment to countering the anti-evolution campaign.
What's missing from the ID/creationist camp is any sense of shame. No shame in quotemining, no shame in lying, no shame in expressing phony outrage. Its is quite beyond their ken. Sending your letter to them reminds me of this line from a Don Henley song:
I said, "Now, baby, have you got no shame?"
She just looked at me, uncomprehendingly
Like cows at a passing train
We can't really understand spina bifida without the "central principle of evolutionary biology." [...] My example demonstrates the importance of evolutionary biology to the medical understanding of spina bifida.
Thanks, Dr. Egnor, can I quote you on that?
If Egnor were really interested in the relevance of evolutionary biology to medicine, he would walk across the street and talk to the people in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at Stony Brook, one of the better departments in the country. There he would find George Williams, the co-author of Why We Get Sick, a lucid discussion of evolutionary biology as it relates to medicine. But why bother when you know more than people who have been studying evolution for their entire professional careers.
There is always another option here that hasn't been looked at. That Dr. Michael Egnor didn't actually write that piece of trash. That it was just some internal writer in the creationists huddle that wrote it and then Dr. Michael Egnor just put his name on it.
And thereby claimed it as his own work, adding another layer of dishonesty to the pile.
Reposted from the wrong thread:
"Medicine needs ... population genetics.... Although stories in evolutionary biology draw heavily from several of these fields, none of these scientific fields depends in any tangible way on evolutionary stories."
Wow. Population genetics is simply the mathematical formulation of evolutionary theory. So apparently understanding of evolution is not even used when attempting to understand evolution. Twit
Egnor needs a very public spanking.
What Egnor did was bad, but surely it would have been more honest of you to note that he quotes the mangled text again later in his piece, this time with square brackets around the word "this" (indicating his change), and with the "central principle" qualifier applied correctly to your third factor only. That makes him look sloppy for messing it up the first time, but more a fool than a knave overall. Certainly his conduct can't be judged fairly without taking this second quotation into account.
To be honest, I simply did not notice that he had used the square brackets later on in the post.
It really doesn't change my opinion of his overall honesty level, though. He still took the quote out of context, and still consistently misrepresented my position throughout his entire post. If you read what I originally wrote, it's clear that I was addressing his very specific epidemiological hypothetical.
Let's look further down the post, where he wrote:
Darwinian stories about the "evolutionary origin" of spina bifida depend on, but do not substantially contribute to, our knowledge of the hereditary factors involved in causing spinal bifida.
I didn't write a word about the "evolutionary origin" of spina bifida. I didn't write a word about how evolution informs our knowledge of the hereditary factors involved in causing "spinal [sic] bifida".
The un-noted substitution of the word "this" for my original "the third" might have been the result of sloppiness more than malice, but there are more than enough other instances of misconduct in his post.
Casey is out of the office until tomorrow, so there might not be anything before then.
Shall we open a book on whether you hear anything after then?
Egnor is, I believe, a Roman Catholic. I would dearly love to see how he would have fared under the gentle tutelage of the Jesuits if he had he had pulled something like this on their watch.
BTW, that quote of Adam S. Wilkins near the end of Egnor's article is a quote mine:
I continue to be amazed that so many people on this and other reality based blogs act as though the DI is interested in serious discourse.
Egnor, Luskin, and rest of that odious lot don't give a rat's ass about rational discourse. They are, in the case of Luskin and some others, merely paid liars. Some, like Egnor, are simply cranks. None are serious about anything except dishing out bullshit to the credulous denizens of the big round churches.
Their target demographic are the pig ignorant, pasty faced christers who want to destroy science education. That's it.
It seems to me that to attempt to engage them in serious discourse is a waste of time and energy. The DI deserves nothing but mockery and scorn.
Luckily, there are reasonable scientist at Stony Brook
In November 2009, the Department of Ecology & Evolution at Stony Brook University will host a four-day meeting of evolutionary biologists, philosophers, historians of science, and scholars of other disciplines, to ask where evolutionary theory is now, how it got there, and more importantly where it may conceivably go in the near future.
You will find more here
What is wrong with you people? You just don't get it!!
Lying in the interest of spreading god's greater truth is ADMIRABLE!
Egnor and Ham are two of the most ADMIRABLE humans on the planet!
Re: Department of Ecology & Evolution at Stony Brook University will host a four-day meeting
Here's the main problem with complaining about Stony Brook keeping Egnor. This meeting is probably going to be in Javits, which is across the street from the medical center. That street is like a border between two worlds. The medical center takes cheap slave labor for the research labs from the poorer academic departments on the other side. That's about it. If the meeting were to take place in the medical center, now that would have an impact on Egnor. Otherwise he and his pals can just egnor it.
Egnor is speaking to the differential occurrence of the disease between two environmental situations. He is speaking to the issue of environmental adaptation, not to evolutionary biology per se'. What he is appearing to be saying is that prevalence, regardless of causation, is not relevant to medical practice. So, neither evolutionary biology nor environmental aberration is of consequence to medicine or medical treatment practice of a particular disease. He is a highly respected expert in his field and he is speaking from his expertise. One could not reasonably say that he is laying claim to expertise in evolutionary mechanics.
He probably saw some confusion or convolution in your presentation and attempted to re-arrange the language in order to intelligently address the issue from his perspective.
I don't see what he did as cause for you to go ballistics and start proclaiming dishonesty and malice.
For what it is worth, I sent 2 emails to Luskin today. The first was in response to his email to 2 internet bloggers who were admitted to the DI under false pretenses. I pointed out (with Links) several cases where the DI was not civil (Dembski putting Darwin's head in a vice and selling such dolls as ID gifts, Dembski's video of John Jones making fart noises, and a big writeup on how DI promoted the uncivil movie Expelled).
I sent a 2nd email asking him to explain this quote mining and noting that Dunford quoted Egnor completely and corectly. I gave other examples of poor DI scholarship and asked him if he understood that scientists are responding to DI's lack of civility.
No responses yet.
Give me a little help here.
"Scientists are responding to DI's lack of civility."
I assume you use the word "scientists" in the broadest sense. Civility?? Check the picture of the two wackaloons
"praying" at the front door of the DI. They got in under false pretense solely as attention getting behavior. Praying? Give me a break. These cockroaches wouldn't know a prayer if one crawled in bed with them.
Where is the lack of civility? So this is the help I need.
In this type situation where one casts his own subconscious fault onto others, what is that? I'm inclined to think it is Projection, but, it could perhaps be a Reaction Formation.
Any help along this line would be appreciated.
Partial Response to #25, and a note.
I sent a letter to the editor of the statesmen noting that Egnor is a very poor scholar for asserting that "...population genetics ... don't depend on evolutionary fairy tales." Population genetics is just a name for the mathematical study of evolution.
Additionally, Mr. Egnor specifically sates that population genetics IS relevant to medicine. So he implicitly states that evolutionary theory is relevant to medicine, whether he choses to admit it or not. Such is the danger of using words when you don't know what they mean.
Mr. Egnor's arguments are essentially nonsense however you look at them, but you can't really read Egnor's column as an assertion that prevalence is irrelevant to medicine. The majority of the column is actually an argument that evolutionary theory is irrelevant to predicting changes in prevalence. His conclusion is simply the assertion that he darn well doesn't need that thar "tautological central principle of evolutionary biology." He has apparently also discarded the tautological principles of logic.
Unfortunately the statesmen will not be publishing again till January, and I'm not sure if it will still feel relevant to me then, so I may or may not resubmit my letter then.
Has anyone thought to query the Disco Institute that if Egnor is correct about evolution simply being stories of no practical value, would that not also mean that ID must also be about stories of no practical value, so by Egnor's own argument, ID is of no importance to anything?
Egnor probably saw some confusion or convolution in your presentation and attempted to re-arrange the language in order to intelligently address the issue from his perspective.
Then he could simply say "I take Dunsford to be saying X" -- and obviously not directly quote Dunsford inaccurately and deceptively.
The purpose of quoting is to inform readers of the actual words.
Silver fox: for someone like Egnor who is no more than a glorified plumber, the source of the pipes he finds beneath the sink may be irrelevant. But for those who care about the origin and configuration of those pipes, prevalence is important data.
Egnor's simplistic understanding of medicine is merely an artifact of the nature of his work.
And the work you're looking for is "justice". The DI - whose members are, without exception, dishonest are merely reaping the fruits of the Christian admonition: "do unto others..."
It is always amazing on just how *badly* so many Christians lie and how often they do it. I guess that they figure that "thou shalt not bear false witness" and Romans 3:7-8 just don't apply to them.
Speaking of Christians, ID and lying, I've got a little project on my blog where I'm trying to collect incidents of "censorship" where people have gotten banned or their comments never showed up when posting to websites like Uncommon Descent:
If it has ever happened to you, drop a comment onto the blog post linked above and tell me the details.
I am pretty well convinced that the Discovery Institute's motto is "One good lie for God," but they are too incompetent to know when to start counting.
"Censorship - If its happened to you drop a comment"
Yes, it has happened. I used to post on PZ's Pharyngula but his minions started complaining to him that I was "trolling". He asked me not to post on his blog and I agreed not to. Does that count as maybe half censorship"
By the way, Norman, I don't think PZ is a Christian or
belongs to the DI.
Y'all must be looking forward to climate change. It'll be survival of the fittest. And then there's the chaos in the Congo.
The lack of civility is the DI's continual insistence on trying to use such false-front "arguments" to bolster a non-scientific position.
One or two incidents might be simple stupidity, but Egnor continues to make the same dishonest errors time and time and time again. As you doubtless know, if you hang around Pharyngula.
And I find it dammned funny that PZ Meyers would have personally contacted you to suppress your dissent. Especially when he's got that killfile of his handy. More to the point, what did he threaten you with to scare you off?
In my challenging some of the most egregious statements against Christians on Pharyngula and of some of PZ's dopey antics, like driving rusty nails through the Eucharist which he sees as a "cracker", I became a "troll" to his devoted minions. They noted that as a site for atheists I should not be posting there. Then they complained to PZ asking him to do something like put me in the "dungeon" which I think is what you refer to as a "killfile". My response to them was that as the "blog master", if PZ asked me not to post to his site, I would not do so. He asked that I not post to his site and since then I have not done so. So that is why I never experienced the consequences of his "killfile" or "dungeon".
The issue that was brought up here was "censorship". The complaint was that the DI practices censorship. My point is that censorship occurs on both sides. There are no honest brokers here. No matter how you spin it, Pharyngula practices censorship. I am sure you can verify all of this by going through the threads there. At no point in my posting on Pharyngula did I call anyone there an obscene name. I did not denigrate anyone there with vulgarity.
By the way, Metro, just as a housekeeping matter, PZ's last name is spelled Myers, not Meyers as you have in your post.
Metro: If you want to know what I am posting about, go to Pharyngula now and read the current lead post titled: Warning: Prosetilyzation is not allowed. This is PZ's treatise on censorship. He tries to rationalize a justification but no matter how much shucking and jiving he does, it comes out censorship.
Surely, there are posters who are disruptive and insulting who have little or nothing to add to the conversation and they should be selectively excluded. I was neither disruptive nor insulting. PZ's minions were unimpressed. They declared that I was trolling and morphing. I was trolling because I thought Christianity was a preferable alternative to atheism and I was willing to try and make the case. I was morphing because when I first began blogging I did so under a real name. When a relative heard of this, he advised me not to do so since it invited identity thief. Afterwards, I posted under the name Silver Fox. I don't think any reasonable person would consider this morphing and I explained that on the blog site.
If you could point to the thread(s) in question, it would be much appreciated. Having searched for your name and read some of what you have said, it seems that you were harshly treated by a few of the regulars (it is always useful to remember that thousands of people comment at Pharyngula). I don't agree with those who use their status on any site in an attempt to silence another point of view. This does seem to be relevant, however:
The problem occurred when Max/Silver thought he needed to save our souls (I suspected this might have been the case quite a while back). A misguided bit a thinking. That appears to have warped his perception how much godbotting is appropriate. Many of us thought he carried this too far. Way, way too far, and for much, much too long. Hence today's kerfluffle.
Obviously I cannot verify if this is true, and I am pretty certain that you would not entirely agree with it as a description of your behavior, but it is one opinion of your conduct. Having read through a couple of threads that you participated in, I must say that I did not find your approach to be entirely honest. I recognize that it can be difficult as the main contrarian in a particular thread, but you did seem to be ignoring many of the good points that people were making, choosing instead to comment on many of the irrelevances. While snarkiness is the norm at Pharyngula, it helps if you are able to back up your claims, which is something that, in my admittedly limited experience, you seemed to avoid at all costs (while maintaining a superior tone). Just my opinion, of course.
As to your other point: most blogs have a moderation policy. That has never been in dispute. Moderation is also subjective; at the whim of the moderator. I dare say that I would not necessarily agree with some of the moderation at Pharyngula. It is, though, the property of the host, and as such they are at liberty to decide who gets to comment and who does not. PZ's policy is pretty clear, and has, in the main, been applied fairly, in my experience.
The difference between a sensible moderation policy - to prevent endless flame wars and the derailing of threads, which can reduce the experience for all but a few people involved - and that of Uncommon Descent should become clear by reading even a few of the 133 pages documenting the hilarity of Uncommon Descent's moderation policy (of silencing most of the dissenting opinion). That is not moderation, I would argue. It is flat out censorship of uncomfortable ideas.
Is it possible to argue that the same thing has happened on the odd occasion at other blogs? Of course. But I submit to you that is it an anomaly, rather than policy. The same simply cannot be said about Uncommon Descent, I'm afraid, where entire threads regularly disappear down "the memory hole" once they have realized that for the 776th time they have completely misrepresented what somebody has said, and it has become obvious to everyone but the most sycophantic reader that this is the case.
Sorry, that link was to "Uncommonly Dense Thread 2". The original 1000 page thread, documenting much of the "moderation policy", is here.
@ Silver Fox
Atheists are like the Soviets. They don't see their censorship as censorship because they don't see the need for any other point of view. My views are routinely distorted on Panda's Thumb because too difficult to answer, so I'm indifferent as to whether Prof. Egnor misquoted one word or not.
I have posted 2 responses to Silver Fox and they have not appeared. Perhaps because they were too long or perhaps because they contained hyperlinks. I will therefore be short and summarize. I do not think it is because I am being censored.
Silver Fox, you misread my prior posts. I never said the 2 internet bloggers mentioned were scientists, nor did I promote their actions. My emails to Casey Luskin concerned uncivil activities by the Discovery Institute and its fellows, including but not limiting to: 1) promoting a file (Expelled) that used deceptive tactics (such as those used by the 2 female bloggers), contains many falsehoods and deceptions, and which falsely claims Darwin and the theory of evolution was responsible for the holocaust (worse demonization that anything Luskin can cry about in his letter); 2) Dembski posting hostile links towards scientists, such as the "vice" post with a doll of Darwin's head in a vice; 3) selling products that promote violence towards science (the doll in part 2); 3) promoting childish uncivil animations such as the animation of John Jones making fart noises.
It must also be mentioned that you referred to the 2 young women bloggers as "wackaloons" and "cockroaches."
You just said "Atheists are like Soviets." More demonization from your side.
I also forgot to mention in my prior report the DIs history of changing quotes. The DI published a book by Jonathan Wells (Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design) that misquoted (in giant bold print) William Ballard.
What was the DI response when PZ Myers pointed this out? Sal Cordova called him a liar, but was forced to apologize when it was shown to all that PZ was correct.
I hope you realize that purposefully changing quotes is uncivil.
And also notice that I was able to write my disapproval of uncivil DI activities without comparing them to Nazis and Soviets... unlike other commenters of this blog.
Damian at #39
"If you could point to the thread in question...."
The tread in question is titled Drinking liberally in Morris. It appeared on Pharnygula on October 16, 2008.
You will note at comment #7 one of PZ's regulars, Patricia,
says he needs to attend to the "trolling situation". At comment #9, PZ responds: Since Silver Fox has agreed to leave if I ask, then I will ask - "go away". Then he goes on to talk about morphing. There was never any morphing. I went from a name to a pseudonym when I learned there was a safety issue involved in using a name.
"You just said 'atheists are like Soviets'. More demonetization from your side".
That post came from someone using the blogname "novpart". It did not come from "Silver Fox". However, in all honesty, based on my personal experiences with some atheists' blog sites, like the experience I cited with Pharnygula, I do see some merit to what "novpart" posts. However, I cannot claim authorship to "novpart's" post.
Sorry for the confusion on the name. I saw @Silver Fox and misread that you sent it. However, you do believe there is some merit to that post.
Yet, I find it ironic that you do not apologize, acknowledge or refute the uncivil activities of the Discovery Institute that I, Damian, and others refer.
Among the many uncivil activities of the DI, there have been 2 documented cases within these posts of DI fellows altering quotes. Do think it is uncivil to alter quotes? Do you think scientists have a right to get upset if their quotes are altered? Will you acknowledge that the DI has altered quotes or will you continue to ignore the facts?
Will you acknowledge that it was uncivil for the DI to threaten scientists with coerced testimony at a trial and to reinforce this threat with a picture of Darwin's head in a vice? Do you think it was uncivil for the DI or its fellows to sell dolls with Darwin's head in a vice?
I have charged that the DI has been uncivil. You have not replied to this charge. If you fail to reply, it must be clear that you cannot defend the DI actions, and therefore they must be agreed upon to be uncivil.
novparl: Oh, I'm sure they're "distorted" "because too difficult to answer". Your apparently amazing grasp of english makes this much more likely than having inane and poorly-written arguments.
My point was that there are distortions on both sides. There are honest brokers here. When the DI alter quotes it is to present their perspective. They address the nuances and implications of a presentation and not necessarily address the word order (quote). They do this because it enables them to present better clarity to their perspective. Now, you might say that is misquoting and uncivil. However, that is the nature of disputation and it simple has to be dealt with if any kind of dialogue is to be had.
My experience with Pharnygula, in my judgement was uncivil on their part, but PZ would not see it that way at all. The two young women who parked themselves kneeling at the front door of DI "praying" and who went into the DI under false pretence was uncivil but I'm sure the two women in question would not see it that way. Whether it's uncivil or not all depends on whose ox is being gored.
@ Silver Fox
Silver Fox wrote, "Whether it's uncivil or not all depends on whose ox is being gored."
I must disagree with you. Something is not right or wrong merely based upon who is doing it and whom the victim is. I find it strange that someone supporting the DI is promoting relative morality. The DI often accuses evolution of leading to relative morality.
It was uncivil for the two bloggers to enter the DI under false pretences. But this was nothing compared to the false pretences used by the producers of the movie Expelled. I find it ironic and hypocritical for anyone from the DI to condemn these ladies and still promote the movie Expelled.
What is most disappointing is that you apparently approve of quote altering. This is the very definition of "bearing false witness against thy neighbor."
Just because something is "uncivil" does not raise it to the level of "morally right or wrong".
There is no promotion of relative morality. When the two young women presented themselves as Christian school teachers, they lied. Lying is immoral whether it is done by DI or the two young ladies. Sometimes DI might rearrange the word order in a quote because they sense that the original quote was biased and aimed at eliciting one specific reply when in fact there may be several answers. They rearrange the quote to avoid biased entrapment and to allow them to give clarity to their point of view which they could not do by simple responding to the biased Quote.
I cannot address the issue of "Expelled". I have not seen it and do not plan to do so. Apparently it was not a very good film. From what you say, DI apparently disagrees with me. But the fair thing for me to do would be not to criticize DI on that account since I have not seen it.
Sometimes DI might rearrange the word order in a quote because they sense that the original quote was biased and aimed at eliciting one specific reply when in fact there may be several answers. They rearrange the quote to avoid biased entrapment and to allow them to give clarity to their point of view which they could not do by simple responding to the biased Quote.
I'm impressed. I've seen a lot of bad arguments used to defend quote-mining before, but that's got to be by far the absolute worst.
Silver Fox: When those two ladies lied to gain access, that's all they did: gain access. Their deceit led to... some snarky blog detailing the personal qualities of some of the peopl at the DI. While I don't condone prankster stuff like that, I give it a hearty "meh".
Egnor lies and misrepresents his opponents. That's not harmless, it isn't a 'white lie', it's actively distorting the ideas of the people you speak with to both demonize them and make arguing with them easier.
And to be as civil as possible, apologizing for the lie of obviously *willfully* distorting a quote for personal gain (quotemining) is disgusting.
We usually spell "English" with a capital.
Your moral compass has me a little confused. At #49 you spoke against moral relativity, a point which I too find problematic. But then at #52 the two liars and deceivers at DI become "pranksters" to whose antics you give a "hearty meh". Yet, Egnor becomes a lying, distorting, misrepresenting demonizer. You can't have it both ways if you have a problem with moral relativity.
I see some literary utility in what the DI does in rearranging words, instead of quoting, in that it allows for clarity of disputation. What justification can you give for the "pranksters" who, by their pretense, perhaps wanted nothing more than to gain some status and/or notoriety in a certain peer group. If that is what they wanted, it worked, they have received inordinate exposure.
I see some literary a in what the DI does in rearranging words, instead of quoting, in that it allows for clarity of disputation.
Bull. Pure, unadulterated, steaming, heaping, reaking mounds of bull.
First, let's keep in mind that we're not talking about rearranging words instead of quoting. We're talking about rearranging words and claiming that it still is a quote.
Second, it does not in any way, shape, or form result in clarity - particularly the way Egnor did it. He didn't make my argument clearer. He made it look like I was talking about something totally different, then criticized how well I handled myself in the version of my argument that he invented for himself.
You may be missing the point, Mike.
Your first sentence about "mounds of bull" is, I assume, pure vitriol, so lets forget that.
What emerges from this discourse is:
1. Egnor may well understand the issue in dispute better than you do.
2. You don't understand, or elect not to understand, what he did for the sake of constructing an intelligent conversation.
From the perspective of his understanding of the issue, he knew that he could not conduct a productive discourse based on your understanding of the issue as represented by your "quotes". You refer to his process as "the version of my argument that he invented for himself". He did not "invent" a version of your argument. What he did was to re-framed your argument by revising your "quotes". In this way he may have been trying to bring some confluence to two interpretations of the same issue. Instead of him saying "Mike, your understanding here is a little fuzzy", he redefined your argument by a technique that you refer to as quote-mining in the hope of coming to some synthesis of agreement. Apparently, he was not successful.
The basic issue that you clearly fail to grasp is extraordinarily simple. It's also one that really should not be at all controversial.
If you think someone missed the point, you say they missed the point. And you show where and why. You do not "re-frame" or "revise" what your opponent said.
When you alter your opponents positions, though whatever means, you are claiming that they said things that they did not say. That is lying. Full stop.
Going forward from that to criticize them for saying things that they did not actually say is also lying. Full stop.
Doing this when there are alternative means available for making your point means that there is no excuse for the dishonesty.
I really don't see what's so hard to understand about this.
"alter your opponent's position"
The point you are missing is that he did not alter your position. He apparently concluded from the way your position was being stated (your quotes) that you thought you understood the position you were trying to take but in fact did not understand your own position. So, in order to hold a relevant conversation, your position had to be reframed so as to establish a foundation for a discussion.
You would have preferred for him to go down what he considered an error path and he did not want to do that.
Reframing is done all the time particularly in cognitive psychology where there is usually cognitive dissonance between disputationists. That is not rocket science.
OK. I get it. You're going for parody, right?
Regarding your claim in post #54. "But then at #52 the two liars and deceivers at DI become "pranksters" to whose antics you give a "hearty meh". "
I DID NOT WRITE post #52. It was written by Shirakawasuna.
But really Silver Fox, can you see how absolutely rediculous you look after reviewing all these posts? How can any person with any ethics and morals justify quote changing?
But this is just an example of the pious morality of ID advocates. Here is what typically happens:
1) ID advocates do or say something aweful, such as Silver Fox making the statement "I see some literary utility in what the DI does in rearranging words, instead of quoting, in that it allows for clarity of disputation."
2) Scientists respond, sometimes with colorful language, such as Mike Dunford with "Bull. Pure, unadulterated, steaming, heaping, reaking mounds of bull."
3) DI advocates respond with pious whining, such as Silver Fox with 'Your first sentence about "mounds of bull" is, I assume, pure vitriol, so lets forget that.'
The DI advocates, expecially Casey Luskin, then complain to the world that scientists are uncivil.
There has been nothing more uncivil than the activities of creationists and ID advocates. False quotes, quote mining, and demonization of scientists does not refute the multitude of facts and evidence that support the theory of evolution and refute any ideas of creationism and ID.
So, in order to hold a relevant conversation, your position had to be reframed so as to establish a foundation for a discussion.
Is this a pathetically bad joke? I just can't tell anymore.
If I'm arguing with somebody who doesn't appear to have thought through their position — say, they're contradicting themselves within a short interval of time — then I have a simple way of handling this. I say, "You appear not to have thought through your position, because you're contradicting yourself within a short interval of time." I don't make up an argument of my own and put it into their mouth.
I wonder if the moral indignation some people feel over the perceived threat of "Darwinist materialism" is so great that it drowns out whatever compunctions they might have felt about bald-faced lying.
Mike: If you read back through the thread, you'll see that Ryan at #7 made a similar observation to mine at #58, although Ryan's was a little less stylized, and, of course, I would take issue with Ryan's speculation that Egnor might be "functionally illiterate". But, maybe Ryan was simple using some of the "colorful language" that Edwin references in #58.
To Silver Fox
I wonder (not rhetorically) if you are familiar with academic standards and conventions in writing. I have taught writing at both the university and secondary levels and I can tell you unequivocally that the "quoting" practices of Egnor do not stand muster. Were he an undergraduate student of mine, he would have the text returned for re-writing after a lecture on academic responsibility in the representation of the positions of one's opponents. You might like to believe that his "quoting" is somehow a sophisticated rhetorical device, but it isn't. Period.There is no excuse for such sloppiness. No legitimate academic would find this acceptable. There are clear, long-standing, acknowledged standards in this arena. Egnor is apparently so concerned to make his point that he can't be bothered to read carefully or apply these basic standards of good scholarship.
Regardless of what ever concerns or positions you might hold
in the ID debates, please don't make yourself (and ID) look more foolish by trying to support such abysmal practices.
Yes, we have all read Tarabian's Manual as well as other manuals on writing style. Egnor is engaged in a scientific disputation aimed at clarifying a medical issue. He is not writing a term paper.
The issue involved in the disputation concerns cognitive dissonance in the interpretation of elements of the issue in question. In order to construct an intelligent conversation, reframing of interpretations is essential for clarity. Otherwise, there can be no mutual understanding of the issue in question and consequently no resolution.
People who teach the style manual are interested in GOOD WRITING; not GOOD SCIENCE. The two are not mutually inclusive. So, it might be a good idea if you would continue to teach writing and let the resolution of scientific issues to those, like Egnor, the neurosurgeon.
You won't find the "methodology for resolving scientific issues" in the style manual.
Oddly enough, there is little in the way of a challenge to Egnor on the substantive issue but only on the allegation that he in not a good quoter.
The issue involved in the disputation concerns cognitive dissonance in the interpretation of elements of the issue in question. In order to construct an intelligent conversation, reframing of interpretations is essential for clarity.
And is there some reason why this reinterpretation should be presented as if it is a quote from the other party? As opposed to (just for example) saying "His argument lacks clarity but could best be rephrased as a claim that ...."?
Because where I come from, writing styles and manuals may be useful in determining how to phrase my own sentences. Rules of ethics, on the other hand, are violated if I use quote marks around a phrase that I've (re)written and attribute it to someone who never actually wrote what I'm saying they did.
To Silver Fox -
OK, I see that you are going to insist on appearing foolish. I'm not talking about "style manuals", I'm talking about academic standards required in all fields. And I'm not talking about "term papers." Teaching writing is something of a sideline for me, that I took up based on my graduate and post-graduate experience writing academic research papers and grants. My research field and graduate study was in social science. I have plenty of experience, and the grants and fellowships to demonstrate it, in "resolving scientific issues." And as it happens, much of my research dealt exactly with issues of "reframing," rhetorical strategies, and the politics of representation. Your misplaced use of "cognitive dissonance" (which you seem not to even understand, as the term does not apply here) and "re-framing" merely serves to obscure, not enlighten. To put it bluntly, that's not what Egnor was doing... his practice has a different, much simpler, name: "misquoting."
I thought you might appreciate a viewpoint from someone with no ax to grind here, but I now understand why others respond to you as they do. You seem unable to actually process and learn from opposing viewpoints. Oh well.
Feel free to keep digging yourself in deeper...
I've had my say.
"Cognitive dissonance...does not apply here"
Remember this about cognitive dissonance - ABC
B=I have a perception of what happened (which is not A)
C=I act on my perception of what happened (B) not on (A)
Isn't that wonderful - after forty years of clinical practice, I still remember that - maybe it has something to do with the endorphins - is that the way you spell endorphins? who cares, no one has ever seen one. But they must be real because we have a name for them. But Syl would say, of course they could not be real, after all we have a name for God and He's not real.
Let's see what I remember about reframing. "Feel free to KEEP digging yourself in deeper". So that I'm not misquoting, the bold face KEEP is mine; you had it in lower case. I Syl have said that it is a FACT that you are "foolish" and that you are not capable of "processing or learning". Since that is a FACT anything else you say ("digging deeper") is obviously foolish since you cannot process or learn. And since you cannot process or learn, anything you say will only sink you ("digging deeper") into the morass of ignorance and stupidity. We know that because I, Syl, have declared it to be a FACT. And I have told you why I should be believed; i.e. I teach undergraduate writing as a "sideline" but my graduate studies were in Social Science and I have lots of grants and fellowships. Now, I don't know what Silver does: I don't know that he has attended four universities, graduated three times, has a a terminal clinical degree and has engaged in clinical practice for over forty years. But, who cares, anybody can do that. But what really counts it that I, Syl teaches writing and have written grants and fellowships.
I guess I have to apologize, that's not really reframing. Maybe its more on the order of demythologizing
Yawn... deeper and deeper.
wanna try again? That's a pretty poor definition of cognitive dissonance, if that's what you're attempting. You've basically just described "acting on a false understanding" in pseudo-intellectual terms. Not cog dis.
And the rest seems to be some rather spooky disconnected ramblings.
By the way, I never said you ARE "foolish", let alone asserted it as a fact. I said you "look" foolish and "appear" foolish. And yes I know that you are trying to "reframe" but essentially your just distorting and misrepresenting. You see, in academic reading the subtleties count. I was careful on that account because I realize that I don't know you: You might be well educated; you might be highly intelligent. My only point was that your posts to me suggest otherwise, suggest a rather cavalier attitude towards learning. Perhaps I'm wrong.Feel free to convince me otherwise; I have an open mind and am willing to learn.
Now, as to credentials... I'll gladly tip my hat to your higher degrees. Congratulations. And I agree that citing one's own credentials in an anonymous post is just a rhetorical game. I brought up my background only because your original response to me was rather demeaning. I had posted to you in a serious gesture, trying to shed some light on the issue at hand, thinking that a perspective from outside the ID debate might prove useful. You responded with a silly retort about having read style manuals and suggesting that I leave the dispute to the "scientists". That was the only reason I mentioned my background at all: to let you know that I am familiar with, and have participated in scientific debate as a professional, and both from that point of view and the point of view of a professional writer/instructor. Take it or leave it. Regardless, what Egnor did is still inappropriate by academic standards. Nothing you've said even comes close to changing that.
novparl: ah yes, your pedantry over a typo certainly counterbalances the many inane and incoherent questions and points you provide.
Oh, but please do continue about your deep insights at The Panda's Thumb. I'm sure we'll learn a lot about concern trolling.
Sorry, I was away for a while.
While you have answered earnestly, I can't say you're answering honestly: You keep on insisting that the quote-mining methodology of the DI is somehow part of honest discussion, and it quite simply is not. The DI and its representatives repeatedly quote mine and edit to produce "quotes" which completely misrepresent, or indeed refute outright, the things their opposition has actually said, from Darwin to Dunford.
Let's consider one of your own posts above:
From the perspective of his understanding of the issue, he knew that he could not conduct a productive discourse based on your understanding of the issue as represented by your "quotes". You refer to his process as "the version of my argument that he invented for himself". He did not "invent" a version of your argument. What he did was to re-frame your argument by revising your "quotes".
To honestly address and represent your contention, I could select from the quote thusly:
He did not "invent" a version of your argument. What he did was to re-frame your argument by revising your "quotes".
I have redacted most of the text, but preserved the spirit without changing meaning.
Were I a fellow at the Discovery Institute, I would say "Silver Fox says that:
From [...] his understanding of the issue, he [...] could not conduct a productive discourse. He did [...] invent a version of your argument by revising your quotes."
Your defense of Egnor seems less than intellectually honest if you consider the deliberate manipulation of one's opponent's arguments to be simply a matter of style.
Furthermore, were I Mike Dunford, I'd take grave exception to your later mishmash of contention that
He apparently concluded from the way your position was being stated (your quotes) that you thought you understood the position you were trying to take but in fact did not understand your own position.
If I might shorten that up for you:
"Egnor decided that you didn't know your ass from a hole in the ground."
However, I feel that a better interpretation is:
He apparently [...] did not understand your own position.
But you're okay with me re-framing that, in the interest of a productive discussion, right?
Have you read Dr. Clinton's recent work at www.clintondoubtsdarwin.com ? I'd love to hear your take on it...
I'd love to hear your take on it as well.
Charles A. Clinto
Dr Clinton seems to be unable to turn a file into a readable pdf since the download is 79Mbytes. And every bit and time are wasted.
There is just nothing there.
Well, it looks like they fixed the post, by which I mean they pointed out that they showed that the word "this" was added.
Still doesn't help that the entire post is based on a quote mine though.