Home| Letters| Links| RSS| About Us| Contact Us

On the Frontline

What's New

Table of Contents

Index of Authors

Index of Titles

Index of Letters

Mailing List

subscribe to our mailing list:


Critique of Intelligent Design

Evolution vs. Creationism

The Art of ID Stuntmen

Faith vs Reason

Anthropic Principle

Autopsy of the Bible code

Science and Religion

Historical Notes


Serious Notions with a Smile


Letter Serial Correlation

Mark Perakh's Web Site


[Write a Reply] [Letters Index]

Title Author Date
Academic Extinction Elsberry, Wesley R. Apr 13, 2005
I think that David Berlinski's point concerning "acceptable" rhetoric does not hold up to scrutiny. "Panda's Thumb" has a generally open comment system. The public can, and does, offer comments upon topical posts, as well as in an off-topic thread, "The Bathroom Wall". The rhetorical content of public comments ranges from the coarse to the profound. What do we generally find "unacceptable" at the "Panda's Thumb"? Illegal comments, for one. Offensive comments, for another. Yes, we who run the weblog determine what is "offensive". There are people who abuse the comment system, and we are working on ways to encourage those who leave thoughtful commentary and discourage -- or disbar -- those who habitually abuse the comment system. We, meaning those of us who are official contributors to the "Panda's Thumb" weblog, try not to interfere too strongly with the comment system. Let me note that we tolerate quite a bit of coarse rhetoric that is aimed our way, as well as that aimed at ID advocates.

Berlinski's complaint as amended by his letters shifts from an accusation against "Darwinian biologists" actually making coarse rhetorical jests at the expense of ID advocates to an accusation that the contributors at PT or TR tolerate coarse rhetoric aimed at ID advocates. Since at PT we pursue a generally open comment policy, yes, we do tolerate rhetorically dubious content there. As noted before, dubious rhetoric in public commentary has targets on all sides of the issue, and PT has tolerated copious helpings of such even when those targets have been our contributors. Contrast this situation with that of weblogs run by and for the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture, which do not accept comments and have had critical trackbacks removed as well. Fortunately, the DI has lately become more tolerant of critical trackbacks.

As a contributor on PT and TR, I have my own views on the proper approach to dealing with rhetoric. I do take note of and comment upon matters that are plainly issues of rhetoric. I am sincere in my belief that the ID movement is one based primarily on social and political issues, and has only a distant secondary interest in scientific issues. I have put in the time and effort to take up and critique many technical claims of ID advocates on their lack of merit. I also point out the all-too-common lapses that may be seen in the rhetoric deployed by ID advocates, as in the essay that Mark Perakh and I wrote concerning the improper use of analogies ID advocates made of biologists being like Soviets and Nazis. And I certainly have no problem in being scornful of behavior in ID advocates that merits scorn. I don't intend to handicap myself by failing to comment upon the rhetoric of ID advocates. I find it amusing that ID advocates often fail to properly note the existence of the technical critiques while managing to take offense at the rhetorical arguments.
Related Articles: A Response to Berlinski