Defending Science Has Cost Me a Friend

Apparently my criticisms of Intelligent Design and defense of mainstream science has cost me a friend. Yes, the individual in question did unfriend me on Facebook. But this is someone I know in real life. And I’ve never unfriended on Facebook someone I know in real life. I am connected on Facebook to all sorts of people from my childhood up until today, and I see plenty of posts from them on Facebook that disturb me, never mind merely disagreeing with them. But they are friends, and friendships need not mean agreement.

We ought to be able to engage one another and disagree without resorting to mischaracterizations and insults, and then simply walking away when we cannot take what we have dished out.

My friend (alas, he probably now considers me a former friend, and not just in the Facebook sense) took exception to my referring to the Discovery Institute as a source of propaganda. The Discovery Institute itself is happy to use the term in referring to something that does not deserve to be so labeled, i.e. mainstream science. And so how can someone object to using the label in reference to them? The individual in question also objected to various other things I said – none of which were things that I have not been saying publicly for more than a decade. He also thought I was distracting from the issue by asking why he used the term “Darwinism.”

This is different from the sorts of things I have experienced before. This is about someone I know in real life, not some vague online acquaintance. There are lots of strange people on the internet. I recently (via Lothar Lorraine) discovered that someone, whose pseudonym I don’t even recognize as familiar, thinks that I’ve engaged in a “hate campaign” as a progressive Christian. I could see someone complaining that my blogging is too inane, frivolous, or sarcastic. Indeed, I’d probably agree. But a hate campaign? Really?!

I don’t expect agreement, whether on religion, politics, science, or anything else from people I know. If I know you in real life, all that it takes to remain connected with me is for you to not end the connection. I consider the opportunity to be challenged on my views by those who disagree with me a privilege.

The conspiracy theory view of academia that the Discovery Institute promotes fosters a very different approach, which refuses to remain open to challenges from those who disagree. They will gladly take advantage of the open conversation that takes place on academic sites of various sorts, but will not allow it on their own.

The whole thing is disheartening. Of course, Intelligent Design has disheartened me for a long time. But up until now, it has always been a case of conversations ending with people whom I knew only online. Now I have experienced first hand how this pernicious garbage that cdesign proponentsists promote spreads hatred and ends friendships in real life. And that makes me all the more determined to speak out about its malevolent influence.

  • http://caveat1ector.wordpress.com/ Hydroxonium

    The cognitive dissonance must have been too much for your poor friend to bear. I’ve had facebook posts disappear completely because I criticised Ravi Zacharias for being an arrogant prick. Apparently for some people, silencing opposing views is the best thing to do.

    Nice comic btw lol.

  • Bradley Robert Compton

    I was recently unfriended by a person I considered to be rather close. It sucks. I was kind of oblivious that we had drifted as far apart as we had, but I suspect that I said some things about the church that he couldn’t abide.

  • markmatson

    which is a really good reason to be off Facebook :) I think it just adds to a larger incivility.

    I know. A Ludite to be sure. Though I was an early Facebook adopter, and an early Facebook departer.

  • http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/ Lotharson

    Hello James,thanks for having blogged this.

    I ran into a lot of trouble after having written “I agree with anti-theist Richard Dawkins that stressing this to small kids is a form of child abuse and that this damnable doctrine ought to be jettisoned.” whereby I was thinking on fundamentalists really terrorizing their kids with hellfire and not on all people teaching it.

    I find this whole culture war depressing and hate the lovelessness with which people yell at each other.
    In that respect it is interesting to see that most anti-theists are former fundies.

    I think that evolutionary psychologist Jonathan Haidt gave us a compelling theory about the origin of the Kulturkampf.

  • http://limpingtowardsgrace.com/ James Jarvis

    I think this shows very clearly why the Discovery Institute has no idea what real science looks like. They base their theory on the assumption that the Bible is the inerrant world of God and as a result you must accept every jot and tittle of their interpretation of how the world came to be. Science on the other hand is always examining the evidence and when the evidence doesn’t the theory must be revised to take new discoveries into account. There is no binary though involved. With the Discovery Institute either their explanation is totally true or none of it is true.

    • Matt Brown

      Science seeks to answer questions of “how”, but not so much “why”. Those kind of questions are philosophical. Although I do agree with Science, I don’t believe that Science debunks the Bible, Christianity, or Theism. I agree with the age of the earth and evolution. However, I disagree 100% with atheism as it is not factual.

      The whole issue is not evolution vs. creationism but Theism vs. Atheism. It’s a clash of worldviews. Theism is what ultimately explains reality as true.

  • Levi

    It’s taken you this long? You must not have been trying hard enough.

    Okay, that was mean and sarcastic. Welcome to the club no one wants to join.

  • arcseconds

    Sorry to hear that you’ve lost a friend over this, James.

    People can be suprisingly fickle and thin-skinned. I’ve lost friends over far less, and I suspect so have most people. It sucks, but there’s not much point dwelling on this kind of thing for too long. One can’t say anything of substance without stepping on a few toes.

  • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

    I could see someone complaining that my blogging is too inane, frivolous, or sarcastic. Indeed, I’d probably agree. But a hate campaign? Really?!

    Yes, James. When you compare “Christians who disapprove of gay marriage and don’t want to, say, bake a cake for a gay wedding” with nazis and klansmen, complete with a dishonest picture of ‘opponents’, and talk about how important it is to pass laws that would force them to do exactly this under threat of fine and more – even if they’d happily supply their services to gay men and women otherwise – you are engaged in a hate campaign. That’s you telling the world “these people are monsters! They should be harassed and bullied, punished by the state!” Maybe even fired from their jobs too – see Eich. All for the grand and monstrous crime of disagreeing with you, or having a critical view of certain acts and behaviors.

    That is a hate campaign.

    Now, you may believe that your hate campaign is justified – that these people really are monsters who deserved to be mocked, belittled, and made effectively into The Other, a kind of living parody of a human being that exists more to be laughed at and made an example of if they reverse to knuckle under and agree with you. But a hate campaign is what it is.

    Part of your problem, James, is that you seem pathologically incapable of coping with serious disagreement when it’s with those of us outside of your political and social circle. Even in this very post’s topic we see it: “Defending science has cost me a friend.” The very idea that you didn’t “defend science”, or that your “defense of science” wasn’t what supposedly cost you a friend, either doesn’t occur to you or does, but the thought is buried and reworked into something more palatable.

    It gets worse once it’s shown that you equate “defending science” with “namecalling, mockery and belittling of people who disagree with you, in this case ID proponents, particularly the DI”. See, as someone who doesn’t think Intelligent Design is science and who respects science generally (Science being, you know, an act, an approach, a way of thinking about certain topics – not ‘This group of people over here’), that sure doesn’t look like “defending science” to me. It looks like the usual internet poo-flinging at people who disagree with and regard as cultural and political opponents. You’re “defending science” about as much as Westboro Baptist “defends Christianity” during their public performances.

    And you know what? That’s fine. Go ahead, mock your opponents now and then. People laugh, they have fun, and yes, they even play the culture war game. It happens, it’s human. Something like that doesn’t necessarily dehumanize them quite the way the klansmen and nazi comparisons do, at least in modest amounts.

    But don’t act like you’re “defending science” when you do that. Or rather, if you do, don’t be surprised when people find the whole claim ridiculous and think less of you for it.

    I suppose, then you can write a post saying “Defending Science and Reason and Truth has cost me the respect of some people.” and post a picture of a lynch mob.

    • arcseconds

      Whereas, of course, commenting on someone’s handling of their private affairs when you know neither side personally and are ignorant of what exactly went on, is entirely gentlemanly behaviour.

      Have a cognac.

      • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

        Whereas, of course, commenting on someone’s handling of their private affairs when you know neither side personally and are ignorant of what exactly went on, is entirely gentlemanly behaviour.

        He made a freaking blog post, Skippy, and he posted to an example of the sort of act he engaged in.

        The concern here is not ‘gentlemanly behavior’, but pointing out the context of that ‘hate campaign’ comment, and the absurdity of mockery and namecalling as “defending science”.

    • stuart32

      You have just said that you don’t regard ID as science but on your blog you describe yourself as being sympathetic to ID. Can you clarify this?

      • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

        You have just said that you don’t regard ID as science but on your blog you describe yourself as being sympathetic to ID. Can you clarify this?

        Sure. ID is about, ultimately, inferring design in nature. I’m sympathetic to the idea that one can regard, say.. an irreducibly complex structure as (say, by arguing from analogy or otherwise) ultimately the product of design. This is a mere inference, with a dose of subjectivity thrown in, rather than some kind of airtight logical demonstration – but I’m sympathetic to that kind of reasoning. I’m even somewhat sympathetic to the idea of someone looking at nature and deciding that this or that doesn’t look designed, even in an ultimate sense.

        But those kinds of subjective, personal inferences don’t seem to me to fit within science’s purview, which is pretty radically limited, despite how useful it is. (I’m keeping in mind the philosophical end of defining science, the demarcation problem, etc.) It’s rather like philosophical and metaphysical arguments – I like them, I think some are compelling, and logic and reasoning certainly works or can lead to reasonable inferences and conclusions… but science, it ain’t.

        And the ID movement IS the ID movement in large part because they regard what they’re doing as science. So, there I disagree, and that’s a pretty fundamental disagreement. I also am sympathetic to their claims that various claims about evolutionary theory go far beyond the evidence, and that there are outstanding problems in the field in terms of the science – I say this as someone who’s never been a creationist, who accepts evolution, an old earth, blah blah, with various caveats. But while those criticisms are an important part of ID, they’re just criticisms of current scientific theory, not a positive inference about design, etc. And that inference is what sets ID apart from the pack.

        I think ID was also a natural response to certain, common abuses of science by atheists – if Dawkins and company are going to repeatedly assert that evolution is unguided, that the physical universe is unguided, that the universe is purposeless, etc, and that science shows us this and that this is a scientific conclusion, with only an occasional peep of criticism from public faces of science (see the NCSE 10% of the time), it’s natural to expect their opponents to try and argue the opposite. My view is they’re all wrong – science is dead silent on questions of guidance, purpose, and design, whether ‘it’s there’ or ‘it’s not there’.

        Pardon me for this wall of text in response to what was a simple question, but hopefully it answers what you’re asking for.

        • stuart32

          I don’t share your sympathy with the inferring of design in nature. The inference is presumably based on the analogy between human design and life, but the analogy is a poor one. If the two things really resembled each other then you might see a house which incorporated the builders and their tools in its structure. Living things aren’t built by tools and builders which then remain separate from the finished product.

          I agree with you that we can’t disprove the notion that evolution was guided to bring about the existence of Homo sapiens, for example. But this is different from the claim that certain things are impossible to bring about by natural processes. This claim seems to me to have no merit, as it relates to the biological world, at least.

          The fact that you are sympathetic to ID seems significant. This may make you a less than impartial judge of anyone who criticises it.

          • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

            I don’t share your sympathy with the inferring of design in nature. The inference is presumably based on the analogy between human design and life, but the analogy is a poor one. If the two things really resembled each other then you might see a house which incorporated the builders and their tools in its structure.

            Not really – we see and infer design every day about plenty of things for which we never, ever ‘see a house which incorporated the builders and their tools’. It gets worse when you start talking about design in the past. The house and builders, if ever there were any, for this kind of thing are long, long gone. Tell me we can therefore not infer design regarding it and we’re at an impasse, but I’m not really going to be concerned.

            And no, I don’t limit my inference of design to living things.

            Living things aren’t built by tools and builders which then remain separate from the finished product.

            Better alert the authorities then, because Monsanto is pulling off one of the biggest con-games the world has ever seen.

            I agree with you that we can’t disprove the notion that evolution was guided to bring about the existence of Homo sapiens, for example.

            Whoa, what? Who said this? And it’s not a matter of disproving a notion – science can’t get even an ounce of traction on that question, positive or negative. And again, it’s not just about living things. There’s no scientific experiment out there that can determine whether or not the evolution of sparrows was the stuff of intention or design or guidance, to say nothing of man. Now, there are scientists who make inferences in one way or another – and that’s great. But it’s not science.

            That’s a hard one for a lot of people to get. ‘A scientist who makes an inference about nature, even nature he professionally studies, is not necessarily making a scientific inference or coming to a scientific conclusion.’ When, say… Jerry Coyne yells about how evolution is unguided, he’s outside of his profession and has no more intellectual authority than Bob Dole has on the subject. And, insofar as such a thing is viewed as a theological or philosophical topic, he may well have less than any given student of metaphysics.

            But this is different from the claim that certain things are impossible to bring about by natural processes. This claim seems to me to have no merit, as it relates to the biological world, at least.

            It’s a good thing, then, that the ID proponents I’m aware of never make it – in fact the ones I’ve read (Behe) explicitly reject ‘impossible’ talk as a fool’s game. What they do say is that given our current knowledge and models, it is (sometimes tremendously) unlikely for such and such a development to take place, and that given other such data (IC for example) a design inference is scientifically warranted. Criticize their knowledge and arguments, sure, but the ‘impossible’ thing is a red herring. Just as they admit their design inference is probablistic and based off current knowledge, not ‘totally certain’ or the like.

            The fact that you are sympathetic to ID seems significant. This may make you a less than impartial judge of anyone who criticises it.

            I never said I was impartial or unbiased. Good Lord, who is on these questions? I’m quite biased – but my bias should either not impact my arguments, or if it does, it should be easy to point out.

            More than that, I made a pretty straightforward criticism here of James: Namecalling and mockery is not “defending science”. Yes, he’s engaging in that with regards to ID – again, see his own links – but ID itself is actually largely irrelevant to the criticism. Let him mock Tegmark’s multiverse, global warming, or whatever else: mockery is not defending science.

            But maybe what you mean is that since I’m not a full-blown culture warrior out to purge ID from the public mind, that I therefore am outside of your clan and therefore my words can be discounted, since I am The Other. In which case, I suppose all I have to say is “ooga booga booga! Me gonna make your daughter say Hail Mary and be traditionalist nun! OOGA BOOGA!”

            • stuart32

              Ah, so you are more than a little sympathetic to the idea of design then. At least we know where we stand. There is no scientific experiment that can decide whether or not the evolution of a sparrow is the result of design. There is also no scientific experiment that can decide whether or not a hurricane or a case of cancer is the result of design. And there is no scientific experiment that can decide whether or not we live in the Matrix. This is fun, isn’t it?

              As I’m sure you are aware, one of Behe’s examples of an irreducibly complex system was the blood-clotting system. This was an unfortunate choice because Russell Doolittle has worked out a detailed scenario for the evolution of the system. The scenario can be tested by looking to see whether the putative intermediate stages in the evolution of the system are found in other animals and whether these stages occur in the right places on the evolutionary tree. Given that Behe’s case was no more than argument from ignorance I think it can be dismissed.

              • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

                Ah, so you are more than a little sympathetic to the idea of design then.

                Who said I was ‘a little’?

                There is also no scientific experiment that can decide whether or not a hurricane or a case of cancer is the result of design. And there is no scientific experiment that can decide whether or not we live in the Matrix. This is fun, isn’t it?

                It is, very! More for me than you, I suppose. If you were under the impression that I’d argue that science can determine the truth about the guidance and purpose of hurricanes, cancer or the truth of Matrix postulates, I’m afraid you’re going to be sorely disappointed.

                Did you miss the part where I said that science is radically limited?

                This was an unfortunate choice because Russell Doolittle has worked out a detailed scenario for the evolution of the system. The scenario can be tested by looking to see whether the putative intermediate stages in the evolution of the system are found in other animals and whether these stages occur in the right places on the evolutionary tree.

                More problems from your end.

                ID inferences are not inferences that such and such had no biological precursors, or even that they weren’t subject to variation and selection – the inference is that design was at work with said IC structures. If you say ‘Look! Said IC structure had evolutionary precursors – it was in this form, then this form, then this form over time..!’ you haven’t struck back against the ID inference on those terms alone – what you need to do is show that known evolutionary processes were capable of accounting for the changes proposed. Which is why, at least if I have your reference right, Behe didn’t regard Doolittle’s work as problematic for ID.

                Given that Behe’s case was no more than argument from ignorance I think it can be dismissed.

                Respectfully, stuart – you have multiple misunderstandings of ID on display in this very conversation. You’ve already gotten wrong the ID claims (‘Evolution of X is impossible!’ Well, no.), and now you’re apparently moving on to ‘If something evolved it wasn’t ID!’ – to which I’ll give a quote from Behe:

                Intelligent design is wholly compatible with common descent — including descent by gene duplication/rearrangement. Rather, ID argues against the Darwinian claim that complex, functional molecular systems could be built by a random, unguided process.

                I agree there’s an argument from ignorance going on in this conversation, but it’s largely due to your trying to argue despite being remarkably ignorant of ID. If you want to be more effective at criticizing ID, I’ll write a post for you sometime on my mere and meager blog – it will, unfortunately, likely require knowledge of what ID Proponents are saying, so you’d have to actually read their books and articles, rather than read second-hand caricatures of what they say from hostile sources.

                Scary, scary prospect I know, but you’ll be a better man for it.

                • stuart32

                  If we are going to continue the conversation I can’t call you “crude”. Do you mind if I call you “Edward”? That sounds much better. I’m afraid that it is you who have the misunderstanding of ID. The claim that there can’t be a series of functioning intermediates is precisely the claim of ID.

                  • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

                    If we are going to continue the conversation I can’t call you “crude”. Do you mind if I call you “Edward”? That sounds much better.

                    Certainly. Also, you are now “Skippy”. I can’t continue calling you Stuart, and Skippy seems more fitting.

                    I’m afraid that it is you who have the misunderstanding of ID. The claim that there can’t be a series of functioning intermediates is precisely the claim of ID.

                    Well, considering I just quoted Michael Behe directly saying that evolution isn’t in conflict with ID, but unguided evolution is – another area I disagree with ID, since ‘unguided evolution’ is yet another bit of non-science – I’m afraid you’re trumped here. Perhaps you’re thinking of irreducible complexity and the idea that an IC structure is by definition a minimal arrangement and number of parts required to perform a given function, such that removing any one of those parts renders it incapable of performing said function. (Note that this is about essential parts, not needlessly circuitous models.) But even there, having parts of that structure extant in previous generations isn’t a refutation of ID, or even of the specific IC claim, in and of itself.

                    I provided a link to Behe’s own words on this topic, Skippy. Please, read it. It’s not really that scary to read your intellectual opponents’ words firsthand, I promise!

                    • stuart32

                      Sorry, Ed. If you were going to bluff it out you needed to be quicker off the mark. Do your employers know about your double life of spouting nonsense on the internet? If the claim is that unguided evolution can’t give rise to a series of intermediates even if they are functional then it is of no interest. It could just as easily be said about any structure, such as the eye. The whole point about the argument was that there supposedly couldn’t be a series of intermediates.

                    • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

                      Hi, James! I just wanted to call attention to this.

                      Skippy here is calling me “Edward” – apparently under the impression that he knows my identity. And now he’s dropping little hints about my ‘Double Life’ and wondering if ‘My Employers’ know about what I’m doing on the internet.

                      Remember last time we talked – oh, you probably don’t – where you asked why I wasn’t giving my real name out. Any comments on this transaction?

                      Now, however, let me turn my attention to you Skippy.

                      The whole point about the argument was that there supposedly couldn’t be a series of intermediates.

                      No, Skippy, that isn’t the whole point of the argument. What matters crucially is whether those intermediates are performing the IC function – not ‘just any function at all’.

                      By the way, Skippy – please, for the edification of all, tell me just where you’re going with these frankly hilarious suggestions that you know my identity. Are you going to try and get “me” fired? I mean, I would love for it to be made known to all that James McGrath tolerates that sort of threat.

                      Whaddya say, James?

                    • stuart32

                      Hey, Ed. My friend Matt is thinking of writing an essay on the philosophical implications of a particular phenomenon in psychology. The phenomenon is the apparent disjunction between a person’s stated beliefs and that person’s response on something called an “implicit association test”. I think this would be an interesting subject. Have you got any advice? This is your field, isn’t it?

          • Matt Brown

            Thanks again btw for that pyschology link:)

            • stuart32

              Hi, Matt. I’m glad it was of interest. Ironically, our visitor, Ed, or “Crude”, as he calls himself, is the very person who could help you with this. If he stopped pretending that he knows about evolution he could, instead, tell you something about the nature of belief.

              • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

                The funny thing, Skippy, is that your bluff isn’t working – I don’t know who you think you have here, but “Edward”, it ain’t.

                So this is kind of a win-win for me. I get to expose your complete ignorance about Intelligent Design – which, again, I regard as non-science. I get to expose you as someone who panics and resorts to real life threats when you’re shown to be pig ignorant of what you talk about. And I also get to put James on the spot with regards to his tolerance of such threats in the name of the Great and Glorious progressive cause.

                Keep it coming, Skippy. Are you going to threatening my life next? My family? Show me the hatred that’s inspired around here. Give me one more bit of evidence of the nature of the “progressive” movement to show to everyone who will look.

                • stuart32

                  Ed, there are no threats. Your secret is safe with me.

                  • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

                    Skippy,

                    One bit of advice here. You’re apparently a slow individual, and while I find your threats amusing – I don’t want to get someone else wrapped up in your weird wannabe-stalker antics.

                    My name is not “Edward”, the “implicit association test” is alien to me, and I don’t work even remotely in the field you seem to suggest I do. In other words, you’re being pretty stupid here, coming to the same wrong conclusions based on ignorance with me as you are with ID.

                    Now, you’re a slow guy. That much is clear, and not really my concern other than for a bit of a laugh and to expose you for what you are. But on the off chance “Edward” is an actual person and not a figment of your imagination – do try to attribute things to him he actually said, eh? I maintain a blog, I keep a consistent online presence even if I write under a pseudonym, and if anyone is going to be held accountable for their words, it really should be me held for mine – not someone else held for mine.

                    But wait, you’re pretty slow, so this is all over your head. Carry on then, Skippy. Just, ah, stay away from minors if you’d please.

                    • stuart32

                      Ed, I apologise for my remark about employers. I have no intention of revealing any further information. It is enough that you know that I know. I didn’t expect you to know about the implicit association test specifically. But the *philosophical* implications of the test are something that you would know about.

                    • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

                      Ed, I apologise for my remark about employers. I have no intention of revealing any further information.

                      Oh, sure. I mean you just dropped that little hint about letting employers know about online activities by accident. I call you out on your threats, and *now* you’re.. beg pardon.. pussing out.

                      Which is actually wise in this case, since I’m not “Ed”.

                      But I love the so-typical progressive attempt to have your cake and eat it too. You do poorly in a discussion and start dropping hints about knowledge of my RL persona and making threats about informing my employer. I call you on it, and you back off with a fake apology… then say ‘It’s enough that I know you know.’ Why is it enough, Skippy? What is it that you’ll do?

                      Will you be showing up at Ed’s home?

                      Contacting his friends, his family? His loved ones? Are they on your “list” too?

                      Maybe a little bit of the old internet savage trick of calling the cops, saying there’s a hostage situation at “Ed’s” address, and hoping that the cops show up and there’s a nice misunderstanding?

                      Like I said, sicko – keep it up. You’re showing the true “progressive” colors for all to see here, you’re showing just what sort of crowd James McGrath runs with, and you’re doing it all while going after the wrong guy besides.

                      Thanks for the gift, Skippy. ;)

                    • stuart32

                      Ed, I meant the apology. I had, and have, no intention of telling anyone, much less turning up at someone’s house. I must say, though, that you seem remarkably concerned about Ed’s welfare.

                    • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

                      Ed, I meant the apology. I had, and have, no intention of telling anyone, much less turning up at someone’s house. I must say, though, that you seem remarkably concerned about Ed’s welfare.

                      Sure, sure. No intention of anything… it’s just, what’d you call it? “Enough that I know that you know”, right?

                      Why’s it enough, Skippy? What am I supposed to be? Intimidated? Threatened? Will I be a bit more careful, bite my tongue?

                      And how am I being ‘remarkably concerned’? In case you haven’t noticed, Internet Black Belt, your attempts to intimidate me have fallen entirely flat. My “concern” has been to point out that you’re threatening someone who ain’t even me – my words are my own, I don’t want someone else to pay for them. Oops, concern for the wellbeing of someone you don’t know – an alien thought for you.

                      C’mon, Skippy. Tell me why it’s “enough that I know that you know”, despite you even having the wrong guy. Throw out another fake apology all while making sure to call me what you inanely think my RL name is, expressly (and in that case, rightly) under the view that I don’t wish my RL details divulged.

                      Everyone gets to see what a monster you are, so there’s no walking that back anymore. Maybe next you’ll throw out other names. Do I have a wife? A husband? Kids? Do you know how old they are if I do, Skippy? Do you want to let something like that slip… just so “I know that you know”?

                      It’s not just me who “knows” you’re dropping clumsy, intending-to-be-ominous threats in my direction (once again, being flat out wrong too) owing to the fact that I – horror of horrors – disagree with you about theological and scientific views. Everyone else does.

                      But don’t worry, Skippy. This is a “progressive” site, which means tactics like yours are either cheered on, or silently condoned.

                      C’mon, ladies and gentlemen. Upvote him some more. I see you’ve already contributed your endorsement to Stuart32′s threats and warnings, Malpollyon. Won’t anyone else step forward and publicly get behind him?

                    • stuart32

                      Ed, you have a reason for not wanting people to know your identity. You know that many people will take a dim view of your behaviour. If I can work out your identity then so can others. Then you will have to deal with the consequences. You should have thought of that before. When I said that it’s enough that I know, I obviously meant that it’s enough that I know the truth.

                    • FallanFrank

                      Why the hell would you want to know ANYONES identity..because on a blog that person believes in something you dont believe that IS creepy mate…by the way Im not Ed in case you go after me

                    • Matt Brown

                      Why are you calling Stuart “skippy”?

                • Matt Brown

                  Ed, please don’t call my pal stuart “skippy”. He’s not a dog. His name is Stuart.

                  And Idk where you’re getting off making these assumptions that Stuart is threatening you, your family, or friends.

                  • stuart32

                    Thank you, Matt. There is no way in the world that I would dream of doing what this person is implying. I believe I know who he is, but I wouldn’t use that information against him. When I wondered what his employers would think of his behaviour I wasn’t making any threats. When he misinterpreted what I said I did my best to clarify it. It is a fact that this person goes out of his way to be offensive. Sooner or later someone else will work out who he is and use it against him, but it won’t be me.

                    • Matt Brown

                      Under his blog post bio, he describes himself as “THE INTERNET’S ONLY DEIST NATURALIST THEISTIC EVOLUTIONIST ID SYMPATHETIC TRADITIONAL ORTHODOX CATHOLIC SINNER!”

                      That Makes no sense to me at all

                    • stuart32

                      Haha, Nor me :-)

                    • Matt Brown

                      I wonder if he’d be willing to take the implicit association test. Might open up a whole other can of worms…..

                    • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

                      It’s called “humor”, Francis. Once again – lighten up. ;)

                    • arcseconds

                      I think you might have a bit of trouble with recognising humour and lightening up yourself, you know…

                    • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

                      There is no way in the world that I would dream of doing what this person is implying. I believe I know who he is, but I wouldn’t use that information against him.

                      Oh really, Skippy? So you would never, say… drop what you believe is my name in this conversation, thereby partly exposing “me” despite my anonymity?

                      Oops, wait! You already did this.

                      But you would never start making suggestions about the sort of bad things that may happen to me in the event of using “my” details against me?

                      Whoops, sorry. You did that too.

                      Tell me, Skippy. Does the fact that you keep talking threateningly about what may repercussions I may experience RL for the high crime of daring to talk about Intelligent Design and political topics give you any pause? I mean, according to you, I should be very, very worried indeed. Yet here I am, laughing at you and your co-stalkers. Gosh, it’s almost as if your threats aren’t working at all, isn’t it? One would almost come to the conclusion that your information is nothing I fear – because it doesn’t apply to me.

                      Good work, Clouseau. ;)

                  • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

                    Ed, please don’t call my pal stuart “skippy”. He’s not a dog. His name is Stuart.

                    He’s Skippy, Matt. He decided to start calling me “Ed”, which is not my name, so I picked one for him.

                    By the way – henceforth, you’re “Francis”. So really – lighten up, Francis. You’re not the one having a wannabe internet stalker dropping what he mistakenly thinks are Real Life details about you, talking about the sort of bad things that can happen if he were to let your employer know what you’re posting about anonymously on the internet.

                    • Matt Brown

                      Last time I checked my name was “Matt”.

                      Whose stalking you? Stuart wasn’t pretending to stalk you.

                      We ain’t afraid of you cuz:)

                    • arcseconds

                      But you picked it for me first!

                      I want to be called Skippy. There can be only one! Broadswords at dawn, stuart!

                    • FallanFrank

                      Crude,how can someone as well informed as you get entangled with schoolyard bullies like these three…its why ive always argued that progressive Christians are the modern day pharisees give me atheists to debate any day.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      Or perhaps you are too sensitive about your stance, or consider all those who are anywhere remotely on your end of the spectrum to be associated with your stance? I don’t think that concern over broad laws allowing refusal of service to people in a particular catgory means that I am engaged in a hate compaign against everyone who has a negative view of same sex marriage. I have a colleague who is a very good friend. I do not share his viewpoint, but I understand it and certainly do not hate him or it.

      I think part of the problem in the “culture wars” is precisely the tendency to feel that, if anyone who holds a view remotely on my “side” has been criticized, I am under attack. I felt in the recent incident that every time I sought to communicate to my friend why I appreciate the broad Design argument, but feel that the movement that has been associated with the label “Intelligent Design” is problematic, it was a distinction he could not appreciate. I don’t see that as a reason to end a friendship.

      • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

        Or perhaps you are too sensitive about your stance

        No, I’m pretty sure that nazi and klansmen comparisons to fellow Christians (Er, are they even fellow Christians anymore? Or are they to you part of some distinct, laughable religion you despise?) or to people you disagree with is pretty atrocious, particularly on these terms. As is your support for laws that fine them and can lead to their imprisonment if they dare, say… defy an LGBT activist targeting them to make a cake for a gay wedding, specifically to bully them.

        I don’t think that concern over broad laws allowing refusal of service to people in a particular catgory means that I am engaged in a hate compaign

        Translation: “I don’t think having people fired for their opposition to same-sex marriage, or fining and even imprisoning them for failing to bake a cake specifically for a gay wedding, and villifying these people by comparing them to nazis and klansmen, is a hate campaign. Even if the people would happily serve gays and lesbians knowingly so long as they didn’t have to directly take part in a gay wedding, they should be punished. There should be laws against such Christians.”

        At which point, good God James, what do you have to do to consider it to BE a hate campaign? Gun them down personally?

        Look – you’re engaged in a hate campaign. You want to villify, bully, support the firing and persecution of Christians who disagree with you. You’re… well, kind of a hatemonger when it comes to this subject.

        If this upsets you, well – then I think you’re too sensitive about this.

        I do not share his viewpoint, but I understand it and certainly do not hate him or it.

        Sure, but if someone decides that his opposition to same-sex marriage is sufficient to terminate his employment, well, James McGrath will be there to console his friend. What will you say James? “Well, pal, you gotta realize these are the stakes for supporting what you do. We just can’t let bigots like you feel like you can spread your filth without repercussion, right?”

        Or wait, maybe something else. “I think it’s a shame what happened to you! How about you just change your views, eh pal? Go up there and recant, and I’ll be right behind you!”?

        I think part of the problem in the “culture wars” is precisely the tendency to feel that, if anyone who holds a view remotely on my “side” has been criticized, I am under attack.

        “My side”? You mean ID, which I’ve said repeatedly in this thread is not science? Which I happily criticize, even if I think some of their inferences are broadly intellectually reasonable, even if not science?

        I pointed out to you that mocking and belittling is not “defending science”. You’re the one who engaged in as much – you’re the one who linked to your own evidence showing you engaging in as much. You think I’d regard you as an enemy for trashing ID? I’ve defended philosopher Edward Feser’s criticisms of ID in the past – which, might I add, were intellectual criticisms of their project, their inferences, and their connections to theology, not mere namecalling and mockery.

        Maybe, just maybe, you weren’t “defending science.” Maybe your behavior played a role in whatever tension there was between you two. I don’t know, I’m not privy to your friendships. I am, however, privy to your blog posts – you rely on mockery, on hateful comparisons and more quite often when it’s a subject that is politically charged. But hey, go ahead marveling that everyone is just s’damn sensitive when they’re mocked, laughed at, or compared to nazis and klansmen. And then wonder why a friendship can get strained now and then.

        • Guest

          I’

  • Matt Brown

    I find your friends action absurd James. As if one should de-friend someone because they agree with the Scientific evidence that doesn’t it anyway disprove one’s faith. I pray for you that it will get better.

  • Preston Garrison

    Mr. Wilcox has some interesting thoughts on conversations and the effects they have on us in the verbal intro to this song (song is nice too.) The kind of thing he is talking about here doesn’t happen with ideologically motivated screaming, no matter what the ideology is. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c8gnGnMElkM

  • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

    Hi James!

    I’m going to post this comment again to make sure you see it.

    You may not remember, but the last time you and I spoke, you testily asked why I wasn’t revealing my real name in these conversations. I mentioned the potential Real Life repercussions – you know, being fired or harassed RL because of my opinions that run counter to the “progressive” view. You laughed that off.

    Now, in your own comments section, we’ve got one “stuart32″ referring to me by what he thinks is my RL name – and not coincidentally, making ominous statements about my “employers”, and whether they’d approve of my discussing these topics, airing my opinions. For instance: Sorry, Ed. If you were going to bluff it out you needed to be quicker off the mark. Do your employers know about your double life of spouting nonsense on the internet?

    Now James, notice how I came here talking about your spreading of hate, your promoting threats against Christians. And here we have one of your admirers doing that with me. The worst part is that he’s complete off-base with his would-be identification of me, but I want to have you outright saying whether or not you approve of stuart32′s behavior.

    Has your blog really come to this point? Allowing people to make ominous threats and references to ‘outing’ people, and alluding to getting them in trouble with their employers?

    • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

      Oh, and just to add to it?

      Imagine, James, someone intuited to you in the course of a conversation online – a conversation where you disagreed with them about politics – that they knew some RL details about you. More than you reveal publicly. They start suggesting that the penalty for arguing against them may be that they use that information – make a few calls, perhaps – in the hopes of harming your livelihood, possibly your life, RL.

      When you call them on it – while the blog admin is turning a blind eye to it, by the by – they mockingly say that oh they would NEVER do such things, and they have no plans to take further action.

      It’s “Enough that you know that they know.”

      This is tolerated here. It comes up in the conversation, and none of the regulars speak up and say woah, Stuart, this is going a little too far. I don’t see you saying as much either.

      But you are absolutely not engaged in any hate campaigns, eh? People’s RL livelihoods are threatened – in my case, by a lunatic who doesn’t even have who he thinks he has – and… oh, let me guess, they’re just being too sensitive?

  • Billy Squibs

    Whatever about the truth behind the supposed hate campaign, James, that you allow stewart32 to post veiled threats reflects very poorly on you.

    • stuart32

      There are no threats. The person in question knows that he can’t express his views openly. If his identity becomes known his reputation will be damaged. That’s just a prediction. If he can’t express his views openly, perhaps he shouldn’t be expressing them at all.

      • Billy Squibs

        Then in that case I think we have different understanding of what constitutes threatening behaviour. If the shoe was on the other foot and you, for whatever reason, valued your anonymity I think that you would be crying foul.

        • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

          Billy, thanks for speaking up about this.

          Look at all these thinly veiled threats I’m receiving – and for what? Because I disagreed with Skippy about Intelligent Design? For that he justifies threatening me, alluding to the sort of bad experiences I could have RL if he decides to make a phone call, send an email?

          And as I keep saying, Skippy’s got the wrong guy. You’d think he’d notice, since if he thinks he has me over a barrel and can threaten me – well, I don’t appear to threatened, now do I? His attempts to get me to be quiet have failed miserably. Yet he keeps trying – and keeps being tolerated.

      • The original Mr. X

        “Look, I’m not saying I’ll hurt you, I’m just saying that if it turns out you have been snitching to the police, you might end up wishing you hadn’t, hint, hint.”

  • Steve Webb

    James, I did not reject you as a friend. I unfriended you on Facebook because you were cyber-stalking me and harassing me. Everytime I write about this issue, never with you in mind, you post an incredible number of responses to my articles, and we never have a productive conversation. Every time I pin you down on something, you hop to a new topic, and you use a lot of name calling (you’ve called me a crank, for example). You write like a true believer cultural warrior, which is fine, but it is exhausting for me to deal with you. You don’t argue with me; instead, you belittle me. That is why I unfriended you. Life is too short to mud wrestle with someone who wants to win at all costs and will not listen to opposing viewpoints.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      Hi Steve. I’m so glad you made contact. I apologize that my comments seemed excessive in number. I thought I had commented only on a total of two posts, which were the first I had ever seen on the topic in your feed, and which thus took me by surprise. My big mistake was that I didn’t click through the links – I saw the source and commented based on my extensive past experience with those sites. That led me to make generic comments about the Discovery Institute without realizing that I was commenting on posts that you yourself had written. For that inexcusable act, I am deeply sorry.

      I am happy to hear that you are still willing to consider me a friend. The feeling is mutual. I would like to propose that we take an indefinite hiatus from talking about matters related to Intelligent Design with one another. I trust that we can both continue to write about this subject in articles and blog posts, as we have in the past, without either of us getting upset that the other has done so, and not engaging with one another directly. And at some future point, I hope that we can find ways to actually talk about this subject without there being any felt need on your part to end the conversation. I value the opportunity to talk with well-educated and well-informed people who hold views different from my own. There are things that it is possible to learn from conversations with such individuals that one will most likely never learn anywhere else – sure, we can read books and articles, but they do not always challenge one as directly as a conversation partner may.

      But that is for the future. For now, I am happy simply to know that you are as persuaded as I am that we can have a friendship across our differences.

      • Steve Webb

        Since I have never posted on anything you’ve written about this topic, but you keep posting on everything I’ve written about this topic, asking for a hiatus is a bit disingenuous. You have to be the one to take a hiatus from stalking me, and I’m glad that you are going to do so. I was also deeply offended by your use of our friendship to score debating points. You trumpeted the idea that you lost a friend to your defense of neo-Darwinism as a way to gain martyr status and write a titillating post. Unfriending someone on facebook is not the equivalent of losing a friend. So yes, let’s disengage on this issue, something I’ve asked from you several times in the past. thanks,

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

          I feel I must inform you that most people who share links to articles on Facebook expect their Facebook friends to comment on them. When they do so, after Facebook draws them to those friends’ attention, I have never heard anyone consider that “stalking.” If you had simply asked me to not comment on your posts any longer, I would have done so. I had no desire to gain martyr status. Unfriending someone on Facebook that I know in real life, instead of communicating with that person directly about my feelings and desires, is something that I have never contemplated doing, much less done, and so I apologize that I misunderstood your action and its significance in your eyes.

          • Billy Squibs

            This entire thread has become rather publicly messy, James. Does it no longer seem like a good idea?

            • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

              On the contrary. Someone whom I consider a friend and who had broken off contact with me has gotten in touch. That is a far better outcome than I had hoped for.

              • Billy Squibs

                It looks to me like there is more going on then science costing you your friendship.

          • Steve Webb

            You’ll find that I several times said “enough please” both on Facebook and in our exchanges on other sites.

  • http://www.chuckshingledecker.com/ Chuck Shingledecker

    Another poster said it well — welcome to the club no one wants to join.

    It’s more liking a club into which some of us forced against our will.

    So sorry about this. It really sucks.

  • taizegoose

    Thank you, James.

    Though we were not friends in seminary, Al Mohler and I were contemporaries. When I gently challenged his assumptions on his facebook page, his admin soon removed me. Sad.


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