Uncommented Descent

Someone on the forum After The Bar Closes has drawn attention to the “Comment Policy” at Uncommon Descent. It is in fact the comment moderation policy, and I find it fascinating. This is how the moderators there understand their role:

“The main thing to remember is that moderators are editors and it’s their job to make people’s words disappear before anyone else sees them.”

There is then a list of three categories into which commenters are placed, the first two of which are as follows:

“1) Trusted – you have to earn a place on this list by consistently submitting constructive comments. Once on it your comments appear immediately after submission.
2) Potential Trouble – newly registered users go on this list at least for their first comment and if you are an ID-critic you’ll probably stay on it. Anyone from the trusted list who has gone astray also ends up here. People on this list must have all their comments approved by an editor before they show up on the blog. “

Did anyone else notice that “constructive comments” and “ID critic” are in separate categories by definition? Critical analysis is potential trouble. Constructive comments means toeing the party line. Can anyone say “this isn’t science”?

Linked from that page are two other pages. One of them is a list of arguments that they do not allow one to make on their forum (this page is entitled “Put A Sock In It”). The second page about moderation has an “explanation” from Dembski as to why he ruthlessly moderates comments. It is an e-mail he received from someone he banned:


Is there the slightest possibility you might open your ID forum to dissenting views?

You have some very dedicated apostles stroking your online ego, and insulating these young scientists from the Borg is very Christian of you indeed; however, to many of us on the outside your questionable editing practices suggest little more than self-aggrandizing censorship.

You are a curiosity, your theory a religious oddity, and your designer is wearing your hat.



The person who wrote this e-mail was extremely insightful, and the banning of this individual shows what everyone knows or ought to know about Intelligent Design. It cannot stand criticism or critical analysis. This is antithetical to science, but typical of many religious believers’ attitude in our time: “That’s what I believe. Don’t show me evidence. Don’t ask me difficult questions I can’t answer…”

If your faith can’t stand up to critical scrutiny, it is self-delusion. If your science can’t tolerate critical scrutiny, it isn’t science. And if you do expose your view to scientific evaluation and is shown to not fit the evidence, then it is destined for the scientific (s)crap heap. But many religious believers and pseudoscientists manage to gather communities around themselves into societies offering mutual self-congratulation. The Bible warns about this:

“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths” (2 Timothy 4:3)

That’s the ID and young-earth creationist crowds in a nutshell. In order to avoid criticism (because, to be able to take criticism, one needs the Biblical value of humility, which is not highly valued in these circles) they find teachers who say what they want to hear. We don’t need to rethink our views. Everyone else is wrong and we are right. Our kids aren’t going off the rails because we’ve failed to be good parents – we can blame evolution! It doesn’t matter where the evidence leads – we can define our own truth and most Christians are insufficiently educated on biology or Biblical studies to realize how we’re twisting both science and Scripture.

Let the above post be the caption to the picture Nick Norelli recently posted…

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  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08014885672703727636 Ken Brown

    I’m no fan of Uncommon Descent; I avoid it like the plague, even though I am somewhat favorably inclined to ID (the idea, not the movement). But in their defense: the arguments they disallow are not the ones they see as difficult to answer, but the ones they see as fundamentally misguided or red herrings. They don’t think these are unanswerable; they are just sick of having to repeat the same answers ad infinitum. Right or wrong (and probably wrong), from their perspective this comment policy is an attempt to raise the level of discourse, not stifle it. That said, perhaps they would more convincing if they maintained a similar policy forbidding misguided arguments for ID!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11659031096782543291 Christopher Heard

    Ironic, since the DI crowd constantly repeat the mantra, “Teach the controversy.”

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    Indeed, I think the irony is not that comments are moderated, but that they are censored in a way that cdesign proponentsists would object to if it were practiced against them. But apparently censorship is only bad if it is done to them…To paraphrase Chris, “Teach the controversy” means to the bunch at Uncommon Descent “let my foot (= wedge) in the door”, not “let’s be fair”.