On Mean and Snarky Websites

I have discovered a relatively new tactic for those who hate science.  They ask “what is the evidence for evolution”?[1]  Then they bitterly complain that at certain websites (Phryangula, Panda’s Thumb, After the Bar Closes), the people there refuse to give the evidence for evolution, almost as if there wasn’t any.  So, let’s take a look at a few things and see if we can help these poor, mistreated creationists figure out what’s going on.

First, let’s examine the websites in question.  Since these were specifically mentioned, let’s look at them.

I don’t know if you have visited Phryangula, but it’s not a place for neophytes.  I don’t always agree with PZ (the proprietor), but he is remarkable consistent.  And what his message is, is that religion is stupid, if not evil.  There’s not a lot of, well, science on his site.  There is some and it’s very well thought out and deep.

The main thing about Phryangula is that they, as a group, do not suffer fools gladly.  This a hard-core bed of militant atheists and some (like me) who find it amusing (in a laugh so I don’t cry kind of way).  Expecting one to be hand led to the font of knowledge here is like asking the fox to guard the hen-house.  If you start posting on Phryangula, you better have your shit together and be prepared to defend one’s argument with lots of facts.  Even if you have questions, you better at least have something beyond a layman’s understanding of the topic under discussion.  As mean and vicious as some of the people there are, they are some bloody smart people.

Panda’s Thumb is next.  One needs to keep in mind that the guiding purpose of PT is to act as a counter to creationism and Intelligent Design.  That’s its function.  If you go there with a creationist mind-set, be prepared to be hammered and not necessarily politely.  It’s nothing personal.  But, let’s be blunt.  There is nothing that you or anyone else can say that hasn’t been said before.  There is nothing new under the creationist sun.  Heck, the central premise of ID is over 200 years old (the watchmaker argument of Paley).

Again, I know there are at least 8-10 people with Ph.Ds in relevant fields who regularly post and comment at PT.  If you ask reasonable questions, then you will get reasonable answers.  If you are new, then you might get away with a question or two of stupid questions, then participants will see you as you are and treat you accordingly.  It’s just the way it is.  Don’t like it?  Then learn about what you are talking about.  BTW: Here are some hints.

After the Bar Closes is something of an amalgam between Phyrangula and Panda’s Thumb.  Much more hard-core than the usual PT participant and much more dedicated to anti-creationism than the usual Phyrangula generalist.  It’s a fun place.  It’s not so fun for those that come in with a creationist mindset. 

Again, some of the people at AtBC have been fighting against creationism for decades.  They have seen it all.  They have defeated better debaters than any relatively neophyte creationist come in to preach to the heathens.[2]

The rope is much longer at AtBC than at PT and Phyrangula.  It allows the full measure of the creationist to be seen in all his glory.  The lies, the refusal to answer questions, the complete lack of knowledge about Biology (or theology for that matter).  It’s all there. 

And yes, this is a pretty general picture of the creationist mindset.  Honestly, I have yet to meet a creationist that could even properly define evolution.

The final thing to keep in mind, is that all of these, like this blog and everything else on the internet, is owned by one person (or perhaps a business entity), and whatever they say goes.  If PZ says you have to post “Napoleon for Emperor” at the top of every post or it will be deleted, then, if you want your post read, you better have that phrase at the top. 

Now, what about the ‘meanness’ and ‘sarcasm’ one might encounter at these internet establishments? 

Well, if you go into a bar that has 100 Harley Davidson riders, with their bikes out front and loudly shout, “Harley’s are for chickenshits.”  You are going to get your ass beat.  It’s that simple.  We do it with words and logic.  It’s that simple.

If you honestly have questions about Biology, then I don’t know of anyone at any of these three websites that will not help you.  However, the continued goodwill towards you is equal in measure to the effort you undertake to understand what’s going on.

I can’t count the number of times a creationist has told me that, “I’ve read all about evolution.  Now why don’t you give me the evidence for life coming from non-life.  There isn’t any.”  Which means that the person making this statement is either a liar (he has not read anything about evolution or origins of life research (which is not the same)), stupid (he has read it, but didn’t understand any of it), or looking for a fight (which he will probably get because the first thing out of everyone’s mouth will be “evolution has nothing to do with abiogenesis” usually followed a snarky comment questioning the person’s thought processes or lack thereof).

I have had some perfectly delightful arguments with people whom I disagreed with.  We both had information and evidence and a hard-core discussion followed.  When one of the participants has neither knowledge nor evidence, then the discussion is usually brief, one-sided, and very unpleasant for one of the participants. 

If, as a questioner, you are presented with several websites and it is suggested that you read them.  Then read them.  If they don’t answer your question, then ask, but know what you’re talking about.

On the subject of stupid questions.

Every teacher (except one) has told students, “There’s no such thing as a stupid question.”  The one exception is me.  Yes, Virginia, there are stupid questions.  A student raising his hand during a lecture and asking ‘Is this going to be on the test?” is a stupid question.  If it wasn’t, it for sure is now.

Asking a man lying on the floor bleeding from his stomach if he’s ok, is a stupid question.  I could go on.

It’s the same way with science.  Asking any scientist for proof of any hypothesis or theory is a stupid question.  Science doesn’t deal in proof.  We leave that for mathematics (they need something to do).

Asking for evidence that the first life form arose using x method, is a stupid question.  No one will ever know how it happened.  Abiogenesis research is a huge area and just shows that something is possible, not how it actually happened.

Asking which fossil is the nearest ancestor to a T. Rex is a stupid question.  The nearest ancestor to anything is the parent.  Asking anyone to find the parent of a specific organism that died over 65 million years ago is stupid.

You will get treated like you are a small child of limited intelligence if you ask these kinds of questions.  You should know this already.  If not, then you should educate yourself (and not just from certain nameless websites that are known for a lack of ethical behavior and academic rigor).

Finally, a very important point.  If you disagree with the facts or evidence presented anywhere, then feel free to not like it.  Reality doesn’t care.  If you have specific objections, then raise them.  Those objections should be very specific with a fair amount of data and/or a detailed explanation for why the evidence already presented is incorrect.  This should have a significant number of references in support.  “So and so said so” is not evidence.  “I don’t believe it” is not evidence.  “It can’t happen” is not evidence.

Unless you can present the same level and volume of contradictory data (not statements), then you are wrong.  It’s that simple.  If you don’t like being wrong, then take some effort to figure it out.  We’ll help.  Believe it or not, we will help… again, if you’re willing to put forth some effort on your own.  If not, then we’ll just laugh at you.  Why?  Because that’s all that’s left.


[1] The evidence for evolution.  When you were born, the allele frequency of the human population changed.  That’s evolution.  That’s all that it is. 

Oh, you want more?  Then go here, here, here, here, here, and/or here.  once you have read all of that, then let me know and we can talk further.

[2] I mean this literally.  One Dr. William Dembski, currently at Southwest Baptist Theological Seminary, has a class in which he gives credit to students who visit a pro-science site and ‘engage’ the unbeliever or something like that.

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One Response to On Mean and Snarky Websites

  1. Tomato Addict says:

    I enjoyed the essay, but I disagree with the opening statement. This is not a new tactic, it’s pretty much the ONLY tactic there has been all along, as far as I can tell.

    Maybe what it new is the growth of strongly rational web sites, with large groups of knowledgeable people who won’t put up with crap.

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