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Why is Barry Arrington Stifling Dissent at UD?

If you visit some of our more vociferous opponents’ websites that is the question being asked. The answer, of course, is that I am not stifling rational argument on this site. In fact, just the opposite is true; my purpose has been to weed out those who refuse to engage in rational argument so that rational argument can be pursued by those who remain. Since, however, recent modifications to this site’s moderation policy have caused such a brouhaha, I feel compelled to lay out a formal defense.

1. The Rules of Thought.

The rules of thought are the first principles of right reason. Those rules are:

The Law of Identity: An object is the same as itself.

The Law of Non-contradiction: Contradictory statements cannot both at the same time be true.

The Law of the Excluded Middle: For any proposition, either that proposition is true or its negation is true.

Importantly, the second two laws really boil down to the first law. As the Wikipedia article explains:

The law of non-contradiction and the law of excluded middle are not separate laws per se, but correlates of the law of identity. That is to say, they are two interdependent and complementary principles that inhere naturally (implicitly) within the law of identity, as its essential nature. To understand how these supplementary laws relate to the law of identity, one must recognize the dichotomizing nature of the law of identity. By this I mean that whenever we ‘identify’ a thing as belonging to a certain class or instance of a class, we intellectually set that thing apart from all the other things in existence which are ‘not’ of that same class or instance of a class. In other words, the proposition, “A is A and A is not ~A” (law of identity) intellectually partitions a universe of discourse (the domain of all things) into exactly two subsets, A and ~A, and thus gives rise to a dichotomy. As with all dichotomies, A and ~A must then be ‘mutually exclusive’ and ‘jointly exhaustive’ with respect to that universe of discourse. In other words, ‘no one thing can simultaneously be a member of both A and ~A’ (law of non-contradiction), whilst ‘every single thing must be a member of either A or ~A’ (law of excluded middle).

Thus, anyone who rejects the law of non-contradiction or the law of the excluded middle also rejects the law of identity and vice versa.

Note that the three laws of thought cannot be proven. They are either accepted as self-evident axioms – or not. The fundamental principles of right reason must be accepted as axioms for the simple reason that they cannot be demonstrated. There is no way to “argue for argument” and it is foolish to try to do so. If one’s goal in arguing is to arrive at the truth of a matter, arguing with a person who rejects the law of idenity is counterproductive, because he has rejected the very concept of “truth” as a meaningful category.

And just here is the rub. If a person rejects the laws of thought, he is not disagreeing about the evidence. He is not disagreeing about the logic. He is not disagreeing about meaning. He is saying, essentially, that the terms “evidence,” “logic” and “meaning” are meaningless concepts. It does no good to show such a person that his statement is self-referentially incoherent, because self-referential incoherence is exactly what he intends and he is not bothered by it. Whitman captures this attitude nicely:

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)
Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself”

The issue, then, is not whether persons who disagree with us on the facts and logic will be allowed to debate on this site. Anyone who disagrees about the facts and logic is free to come here at any time. But if you come on here and say, essentially, that facts and logic do not matter, then we have no use for you. Would any of my readers try to argue with a person who tells them that he is going to employ the means of rational argument to demonstrate that rational argument does not exist. Of course not, because such a person is either a fool or evil or both.

Anyone who says a proposition can be simultaneously true and false demonstrates that his understanding is deeply disordered. It is pointless to argue with him, because he has rejected the basis of all argument, and arguing with him will only cause confusion and frustration, which is why Ibn Sina (Avicenna) famously wrote: “Anyone who denies the law of non-contradiction should be beaten and burned until he admits that to be beaten is not the same as not to be beaten, and to be burned is not the same as not to be burned.”

Of course I am not suggesting that anyone should be beaten or burned and neither was Avicenna. He was employing hyperbole to demonstrate that it is useless to argue with someone who rejects the first principles of argument. As someone else has said, that person does not require an argument; he requires therapy.

2. Argument on this Site

Anyone is free to come onto this site and, abiding the rules of rational debate, engage in rational debate. We will not, however, tolerate those who refuse to abide by the rules of rational debate any more than we would get into a boxing ring with someone who announces in advance that they do not feel bound by the rule against hitting below the belt.

If we are wrong, show us that we are wrong. But don’t try to tell us that we can be wrong and right at the same time.

If the evidence is against us, show us how the evidence is against us. But don’t try to tell us that the evidence can exist and not exist at the same time.

If our logic is faulty, point out to us how our logic is faulty. But don’t try to tell us that the fundamental principles of logic are false.

For example, I just put up a post on the tautology question. Anyone is free to come onto this site and try to convince me (or, more importantly, the lurkers) that what I have said is not true. No one is free to come onto this site and try to convince me that it is “true” that there is no truth.

Some have made the ludicrous suggestion that I have banned all Darwinists from this site. Do you really mean to suggest that there were only eight Darwinists in all of the blogosphere and I’ve banned them all and UD is now destined to become an echo chamber for all time? Piffle. There are literally millions of Darwinists with access to the internet. And every single one of them who is willing to abide by the rules of rational argument is free to come onto this site and do their very best to show us we are wrong.

But to those who wish only to engage in vain and useless babbling that serves only to sow the seeds of confusion, discord and error, I say go spew somewhere else.

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112 Responses to Why is Barry Arrington Stifling Dissent at UD?

  1. To prevent the forum getting cluttered up with opinions we have not a scintilla of respect for or interest in, since they are illogical on a primordial level. Not to put too fine a point on it – completely irrational assumptions.

  2. my purpose has been to weed out those who refuse to engage in rational argument so that rational argument can be pursued by those who remain

    Barry,
    You remoived just about every critic of ID from the site. So I conclude that you think they were all being irrational. Is that true?

    I asked you a similar question on the related post, and you half answered:

    As a matter of fact, I assume until it is demonstrated differently that someone who disagrees with me does so in good faith.

    which only answers whether you think the ID critics here were being honest. It doesn’t answer whether you think they were rational.

    So, I ask again. In your opinion, can you remember any rational critics or criticisms of ID on this website. If not, if there is no rational criticism of ID, why ask the question about the moon. Why not simply ask, “Are you on our side or their side?”

  3. You remoived just about every critic of ID from the site.

    Please define “critic”. And then please demonstrate how those who have been banned fit that definition.

    In your opinion, can you remember any rational critics or criticisms of ID on this website.

    Interesting thought- can anyone who thinks that our existence is just a happenstance, be rational?

  4. 4

    lastyearon: “You removed just about every critic of ID from the site.”

    Nonsense, as your very presence demonstrates.

  5. Congratulations, Barry. Darwinism is self-defeating and it is usefull to remember that to the fairy-tales maker. And it´s not very good to waste time with people whio don´t respect the LNC.
    (Juan, from Spain, read UD everyday and agree with almost everything)

  6. lastyearon: “You removed just about every critic of ID from the site.”

    That’s a big claim. Lastyearon, please give your top three examples of ID critics being banned from here by Barry for reasons other than refusing to adhere to the three rules of thought detailed in this topic.

  7. Do you really mean to suggest that there were only eight Darwinists in all of the blogosphere and I’ve banned them all and UD is now destined to become an echo chamber for all time?

    I think what people are saying is that those eight were a large proportion of the vocal evolutionist/materialist folk here who were offering a different view. Not that there are “eight Darwinists in the blogosphere”.

    Frankly, it is difficult for me as an outside observer to see that the rules have been enforced evenly. People like Joe stream invective at whoever he sees as his opposition, often without adding anything to the discussion at hand – saying many much worse things than what has seen others banned. He’s still here. For example.

    Ultimately, this all undermines the ID position. Whenever ID advocates start asking why no ‘Darwinists’ are on UD addressing their arguments, one of the prominent reasons will always be ‘because they were banned.’

  8. 8

    In principle, these laws are entirely reasonable. In application, not so much. Consider the legal system. The laws passed by Congress are intended to be clear, understandable, unambiguous. Yet legal disputes fill the courts every day and always will.

    The law of the excluded middle, for example, is perfectly fine IF a statement is unambiguous. Take the statement “people like chocolate.” Is this claim true? Well, SOME people like chocolate, but certainly not all. Many people are allergic to chocolate. So then is the negation of this statement true, that people do NOT like chocolate? No, that’s not true either – plenty of people like chocolate.

    So is the original statement ill-formed? What would constitute a well-formed statement, without being so vague as not to communicate anything? This question becomes important in the realm of ID, where there seems to be plenty of scope for interpreting exactly what ID implies, what its limitations (if any) might be, to what degree it can be demonstrated or tested, whether or not any part of what it implies can be falsified, and so on.

    I suppose one might make the somewhat non-referential statement that ID holds that life, and probably other stuff, was designed by an intelligent agent or agency other than natural feedback processes, by means and at times currently unknown and apparently unknowable. Unless ID means something else, of course. I wouldn’t even want to try to formulate the opposite claim. What exactly would the negation of this look like?

    Part of this problem is the inherent ambiguity of language itself. Nearly every word in the language has multiple meanings, and most common words are encumbered with connotations, implications, and suggestions. Just as one example, consider the term “Darwinist” as used by Barry. In modern biology, Darwin is respected as one of the early pioneers, although everything he wrote is now regarded as either wrong or very incomplete, just like the writings of Newton or Galileo. Great men, but not current. The term “Darwinist”, technically meaning (I suppose) one who accepts as important the evolutionary process of random mutation and natural selection, has in practice taken on a pejorative flavor. Those who accept the modern theory of evolution don’t think of themselves as “Darwinists” at all. The theory has left Darwin far, far behind. He’s a historical curiosity anymore.

    Barry writes of the importance of evidence, and who would disagree? Yet in practice, two entirely different meanings of “evidence” emerge. Sure, evidence consists of those observations in support of some conclusion. But does the conclusion rest on the evidence (meaning the conclusion can be a surprise, or that multiple conclusions can be derived from the same body of observations), or does evidence rest on the conclusion (like the ICR agreement members must sign, that if their evidence refutes gospel, it is not evidence, since it must be false.)

    This matters, because in practice evidence is slippery stuff. Court experience tells us no two eyewitnesses saw the same event – the collection of evidence is contingent on the method of collection. And it’s all too human to confuse observations with conclusions. It’s easy to confuse what the facts ARE, with what they MEAN. And it’s easy to regard opinions as facts, like saying Einstein was a great physicist, or even that he was very smart. These are value judgments, not evidence but rather conclusions drawn from one particular interpretation of the evidence.

    And all of this is compounded by the human tendency to regard anyone who disagrees with us as having questionable judgment if the matter is not important to us, and being either abject idiots, liars, or deliberate trolls if it IS important to us. It’s human for all of us to take it for granted that if there were a better opinion than ours, we’d already hold it!

    We understand that this site is dedicated to promoting one particular view, and enthusiastic disagreement with that view is almost guaranteed to be regarded as perverse, irrational, troublemaking, in violation of simple rules, etc. I would argue that it’s the responsibility of those who disagree with the Official Truth this site was created to promote, to be polite and thoughtful. But it also helps to bear in mind that there is plenty of scope here for legitimate disagreement, and that rational debate doesn’t necessarily imply agreement.

  9. 9

    lastyearon and paulmc: “You’ve banned all of us Darwinists!!!”

    Barry in his best Monty Python voice: “You don’t look like you’re banned.”

    lastyearon and paulmc (with a bemused look on their face): “Well, uh, we got better.”

  10. Stuart,

    please give your top three examples of ID critics being banned from here by Barry for reasons other than refusing to adhere to the three rules of thought detailed in this topic.

    Elizabeth Liddle, Eigenstate and DrRec.

    None of them have ever refused to engage in rational argument here. Quite the opposite. But it seems that Barry disagrees, and considers their input irrational and unworthy of this blog. And it seems many of you agree with him.

    My hypothesis is that according to Barry (and most pro ID posters here), there are no ID critics that can pass this test. And all this stuff about the LNC and the moon are just pretenses, to avoid making the less subtle, but more truly felt claim that there are no rational arguments against ID, and hence every ID critic that posts here is irrational and unworthy to post here.

  11. lastyearon and paulmc: “You’ve banned all of us Darwinists!!!”

    Barry in his best Monty Python voice: “You don’t look like you’re banned.”

    lastyearon and paulmc (with a bemused look on their face): “Well, uh, we got better.”

    Kindly re-read my words. I said three things:

    1) You banned a large number of the vocal non-ID commenters here – not “you banned all us Darwinists”. I spend sporadic bursts here, I am not a regular like Elizabeth Liddle or DrREC.

    2) The banning does not have the hallmarks of evenness.

    3) You undermine your own position by silencing critics like Elizabeth Liddle, who have given a lot of time to engage here and put up with quite a lot of abuse and flak while doing so.

  12. 12

    David W. Gibson asks “what about ambiguity?” Aristotle allowed for ambiguity when he formulated the laws:

    “It is impossible, then, that ‘being a man’ should mean precisely ‘not being a man’, if ‘man’ not only signifies something about one subject but also has one significance. … And it will not be possible to be and not to be the same thing, except in virtue of an ambiguity, just as if one whom we call ‘man’, and others were to call ‘not-man’; but the point in question is not this, whether the same thing can at the same time be and not be a man in name, but whether it can be in fact.”
    (Metaphysics)

    In other words, we’ve known for thousands of years that ambiguity does not defeat the laws of thought.

    Take Gibson’s own example of chocolate. It is probably true that “people like chocolate” is ambiguous and it needs to be revised as a formulation. How about: “All people like chocolate.” We could test that proposition and if we find that one person does not like chocolate it is false. We would then be obliged to say that the proposition “all people like chocolate” is false, which means under the law of the excluded middle that it cannot possibly be the case that the proposition “all people like chocolate” is simultaneously true.

    For purposes of the moderation rule it is important to keep in mind that disagreements about whether a proposition is ambiguous are not the same as denying the law of the excluded middle.

    I won’t even bother to address Gibson’s assertion that “language is so inherently ambiguous that it is all but impossible to convey meaning” other than to note that he conveyed that thought in, yes, language. It always astounds me that people who say things like that (1) don’t seem to recognize the irony of their statement; and (2) hypocritically insist on an unspoken exception for their statements.

  13. lastyearon: “Elizabeth Liddle, Eigenstate and DrRec.”

    Flesh that out a little. What were the proximate causes that led to these individuals being banned? Perhaps Berry can add something too.

  14. Is “Some people like chocolate” ambiguous? Isn’t that the same as saying “Two or more people like chocolate?” That’s assuming agreeable definitions for “like” and “chocolate.”
    I like it and my wife likes it, so that statement is unambiguously true.

  15. What were the proximate causes that led to these individuals being banned?

    In my opinion, they were banned because the represented exactly what Barry and co. don’t believe are possible–articulate, informed, rational arguments against ID, and the cognitive dissonance was too great.

  16. I think I’ve finally discovered why the meaning of the word, ‘design’ is ambiguous in the eyes of the materialists.

    Pace the Academie Francaise, words are coined, not by learned institutes, but by people. By definition, the term, design’, in its various languages, via an instinctive, world-wide consensus, signifies the template for an artefact of some kind.

    Every now and then we read in a newspaper that a small group of people somewhere have found a turnip that looks to them remarkably like a human face, etc. Or it might be a cloud formation.

    Personally, as a Christian, I doubt if God meant us to draw any such conclusions from them, but would this not be the version of an otherwise oxymoronic concept of randomness of design that the materialists invoke? That, perhaps the universe and its contents share a kind of kinship in this regard with these curiously anthropomorphically-configured turnips?

  17. What’s so special about that flagellum thinggy?

  18. ‘Elizabeth Liddle, Eigenstate and DrRec.

    None of them have ever refused to engage in rational argument here. Quite the opposite. But it seems that Barry disagrees, and considers their input irrational and unworthy of this blog. And it seems many of you agree with him.’

    My hypothesis is that according to Barry (and most pro ID posters here), there are no ID critics that can pass this test. And all this stuff about the LNC and the moon are just pretenses, to avoid making the less subtle, but more truly felt claim that there are no rational arguments against ID, and hence every ID critic that posts here is irrational and unworthy to post here.’

    Apart from your initial assertion that is correct, lastyearon, although it is, rather, a felicitous side-effect of Barry’s clearly-defined, logical criterion.

    Why do you expect people who have wholly antithetical assumptions, basic assumptions, concerning the nature of the scientific method and the requirement to adhere to it, to wish to argue with you, or Elizabeth or the others?

    paulmc bafflingly wrote:

    ‘Whenever ID advocates start asking why no ‘Darwinists’ are on UD addressing their arguments, one of the prominent reasons will always be ‘because they were banned.’

    I don’t think you get it at all, Paul. Few, if any, will miss their ‘insights’. Some folk like arguing for its own sake, but I don’t think there are many of them on here. I believe it’s more about discussions about our broadly- (but no too broadly) agreed views, and about recent developments in science and pseudo-science.

  19. 19

    I won’t even bother to address Gibson’s assertion that “language is so inherently ambiguous that it is all but impossible to convey meaning” other than to note that he conveyed that thought in, yes, language. It always astounds me that people who say things like that (1) don’t seem to recognize the irony of their statement; and (2) hypocritically insist on an unspoken exception for their statements.

    I was quite startled to discover this quote of my words in Barry’s post, since I never said it. And indeed, it would have been a stupid thing to say, since it’s not true. Certainly it’s not what I intended. So I actually went back to see what I had actually written. To my surprise, it’s still there.

    Here is what I actually wrote:

    Part of this problem is the inherent ambiguity of language itself. Nearly every word in the language has multiple meanings, and most common words are encumbered with connotations, implications, and suggestions.

    I went on to give an example. I notice that
    1) My point was completely misrepresented
    2) My example is carefully omitted
    3) Barry mocks me for something not said and not intended. No wonder he “won’t even bother to address” the false quote he attributes to me.

    And incidentally, I entirely agree with Barry’s dismissal of the claim he falsely attributes to me, and for the very reasons he gives. It’s basically for those reasons that I made no such claim.

  20. Axel, you don’t think that non-ID scientists working in evolution-related disciplines are able to make insightful contributions to these discussions?

    You seem to want UD to be a closed community of IDers. If that’s typical of UD folk, fine. But that has never been the impression I’ve gotten. Obviously, this is an ID-focussed forum, but it has also served as a testing ground for ideas. I’d note that what’s particularly important for the non-IDers who venture here is that the tropics often are discussions of mainstream evolutionary science. There are threads on the homepage at the moment discussing whether epigenetics could be an icon of ID, and whether a particular definition of evolution is a tautology. Is it surprising that people might want to chime in with comments on these topics?

    In my case, it isn’t a matter of enjoying an argument for argument’s sake. It is a matter of disliking the misrepresentation of science. On topics like junk DNA, I regularly see the science misrepresented. I am yet to meet an IDist with an adequate understanding of population genetics to fully engage in a discussion of junk DNA – and I include Jonathan Wells in that, by the way. That doesn’t stop folk from making all manner of outrageous and erroneous claims about the ‘death of junk DNA’.

  21. 21

    Axel,

    I think I’ve finally discovered why the meaning of the word, ‘design’ is ambiguous in the eyes of the materialists.

    Pace the Academie Francaise, words are coined, not by learned institutes, but by people. By definition, the term, design’, in its various languages, via an instinctive, world-wide consensus, signifies the template for an artefact of some kind.

    Allow me to suggest an alternative explanation. The word “design” is both a verb and a known. As a verb, it denotes a process, which involves conceiving or inventing. As a noun, it denotes the output of this process.

    Imagine if some unknown space alien left something on your doorstep. Is it designed? Knowing nothing about either the object or the alien, at best you can flip a coin. And that’s because you have no background knowledge.

    So the bottom line, at least to materialists, is that no object inherently “has design”, except in light of the historical knowledge of the design process that produced it. And to be honest, this process must be understood in some detail – what was the intent, what were the mechanics, etc. In other words, you must know the design specification. There is no object you can point to and say “this is designed” that will satisfy a materialist UNLESS you can show the designer and derive his intent – even if the designer is a spider, a bird, etc.

    ID proponents attempt to circumvent this issue by the simple expedient of formulating their claims so as to avoid mentioning the designer, the intent or purpose, the specification, the process’s mechanics, etc. We all know who He is, right? But if we mention Him, ID suddenly becomes religion, and the courts don’t like that. But implicitly, ID proponents are nonetheless recognizing that if the design history is unknown, design simply cannot be inferred.

  22. paulmc:

    People like Joe stream invective at whoever he sees as his opposition,

    Wrong. Anything I do is in response- IOW my invective is due to some invective directed towards myself, some other person or ID.

    So perhaps you need to take a real good look at what is going on because you are clearly biased.

  23. Must rush, but an imperative to know the origin of a design is nonsense. Although only because the idea of IDers yearning to convince any materialist is simmply fanciful.

    They want the truth out there. That’s all. If they never had to interact with materialists, charming people though they might be, in private, it would not be an occasion for regret. Nothing personal, you seem to write courteously and in good faith. But for exchanges of ideas, another subject and another forum would, imo, be desirable.

    Our position, our take, on your absolute want of scientific rigour, heck scientific anything, must bore you to death. Your take on IDers’ take on the fundamental issue ought to bore you to death, since you must have seen so much of it, without being persuaded.

  24. The first paragraph of mine, above, was unclear. It is nonsense, because if I saw an old car radiator on a desert island, I would know with virtually irrefragible certainty that someone had been there before.

    Common sense, not sophistry is required here. It’s not brain surgery or rocket science. If you play tortuous philosophical games, instead, you end up with that terrible oogly-oogly bird syndrome.

  25. Barry Arrington

    “I won’t even bother to address Gibson’s assertion that “language is so inherently ambiguous that it is all but impossible to convey meaning” other than to note that he conveyed that thought in, yes, language. It always astounds me that people who say things like that (1) don’t seem to recognize the irony of their statement; and (2) hypocritically insist on an unspoken exception for their statements.

    David Gibson:

    “I was quite startled to discover this quote of my words in Barry’s post, since I never said it. And indeed, it would have been a stupid thing to say, since it’s not true. Certainly it’s not what I intended. So I actually went back to see what I had actually written. To my surprise, it’s still there.

    Your point was that ambiguity of language is one the many reasons that the law of non-contradiction is “unreasonable” at the level of application.

    The problem is first with your theme, which is false, and second, with your failed attempt to elaborate on it in a meaningful way.

    Legal confusion comes about as a result of varied interpretations of a given statute and disagreements over its application in a specific instance. There are no varied interpretations of the LNC nor is there any confusion about its application. So, your example is misplaced.

    Example: The PRINCIPLE is the Law of Non-Contradiction. One APPLICATION would be that Jupiter cannot exist and not exist at the same time and in the same sense. There is no ambiguity either in the principle or the application.

    If ambiguity does occur, it is because the person who appeals to the law (or wants to discuss it) does not effectively use language to articulate his point. So, the take home message, here is that problems with ambiguity in language is the fault of the author, not the law itself.

  26. But the words in the propositions may not be clearly defined, so that even though the LNC is applied, it still misses the heart of the manner, which is is there a meaningful topic at hand?

    For instance, consider this:

    “The PRINCIPLE is the Law of Non-Contradiction. One APPLICATION would be that Flugglebeam cannot exist and not exist at the same time and in the same sense. There is no ambiguity either in the principle or the application.”

    This is true, logically, but does not (as far as you or I know) refer to anything real at all. If statements of this sort can be written about anything all, they may be logically valid but empirically worthless.

  27. 27

    StephenB,

    Your point was that ambiguity of language is one the many reasons that the law of non-contradiction is “unreasonable” at the level of application.

    Not exactly unreasonable, but merely often difficult. Words are generally multi-purposed to facilitate approximate communication, which for most purposes is close enough. The trade-off is between an unmanageably large and dynamic vocabulary on the one hand, and occasional miscommunication on the other. In the sorts of matters discussed her, sufficient precision of expression is often difficult to achieve. And this very exchange illustrates it.

    Legal confusion comes about as a result of varied interpretations of a given statute and disagreements over its application in a specific instance. There are no varied interpretations of the LNC nor is there any confusion about its application. So, your example is misplaced.

    But the problem as I see it is, we are attempting to apply strict principles to discussions where “disagreement over its application” is rampant. Is ID essentially religious? This question LOOKS like a straightforward yes or no question, but it’s far from one. What do we mean by “essentially” or by “religious”? These questions matter. To paraphrase one Supreme Court justice, reasonable, intelligent and knowledgeable people can legitimately disagree about the meaning of all but the most trivial statements. And what’s discussed here is certainly not trivial.

    Example: The PRINCIPLE is the Law of Non-Contradiction. One APPLICATION would be that Jupiter cannot exist and not exist at the same time and in the same sense. There is no ambiguity either in the principle or the application.

    In the case of Jupiter, this is very true. But instead of Jupiter, let’s substitute things like “justice” or “God” or “the greatest good for the greatest number.” There is without question considerable ambiguity as to whether such things “exist” in any absolute sense. Probabilistic statements are another problematic category, especially under conditions where not all relevant factors are quantified or even identified! What IS the opposite of “there’s a 60% chance of rain tomorrow”?

    If ambiguity does occur, it is because the person who appeals to the law (or wants to discuss it) does not effectively use language to articulate his point. So, the take home message, here is that problems with ambiguity in language is the fault of the author, not the law itself.

    If I’m reading you correctly, you are presenting here the assertion that all possible statements, however poorly understood the subject matter to which they pertain, CAN be formed with such precision as to eliminate any ambiguity. My contention is that languages did not evolve to be constructed for this purpose. I attempt to write as clearly as I can, but your observation that I “failed to elaborate meaningfully” illustrates the difficulty, at least for me.

    So: I agree with the principle of LNC, it’s self-evident in principle. Applying it in discussion where basic axioms are in dispute, is another story.

  28. Nice post, David. I agree with all that.

    A relevant quote (perhaps) from Yogi Berra: “In theory, there’s no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.”

  29. I think this is now the only blog I know where, in order to contribute, one must conform to particular rules of thinking and logic. I guess the owners of the blog can do whatever they want, but I can’t help feel that by policing and constraining how people comment here, it is only going to be detrimental to the cause of ID.

    I never contributed here much, but not only do I no longer feel inclined to do so, I think there is little point in continuing to read the blog either (although if one day ID hires a real science writer rather than the poor excuse for science writing demonstrated by “News” I might return).

    So congratulations on making what is a rather irrelevant corner of the Internet even more irrelevant.

  30. I think this is now the only blog I know where, in order to contribute, one must conform to particular rules of thinking and logic.

    This sort of thing just continues to make me grin. Those intolerant monsters at Uncommon Descent, demanding that the people they discuss things with adhere to the Law of Non-Contradiction. Madness!

  31. David W. Gibson:

    Take the statement “people like chocolate.” Is this claim true? Well, SOME people like chocolate, but certainly not all. Many people are allergic to chocolate. So then is the negation of this statement true, that people do NOT like chocolate?

    The negation of ‘some people like chocolate’ is ‘no people like chocolate’. For which all the normal laws of thought apply. This doesn’t change whether you meant ‘people’ as ‘some people’ or ‘people as a general rule’.

    Misunderstanding this, and flipping between contraries or subcontraries as what you desire to be negation is a common mistake. With contraries, quantified anyways, it leads to a False Dichotomy, while with subcontraries it leads to apparent violations of the LEM and LNC together.

    That lawyers get this wrong is no surprise. They’re in the business of exchanging freedom for money. Winning is more important than soundness. For what it’s worth, those in ancient Greece that wanted to be lawyers attended the school of the Sophists.

  32. 32

    Maus,

    I’m certainly not disputing LNC. I’m arguing that when dealing with really complex issues involving unknowns, and psychology, and probabilities — that is, non-trivial issues, the LNC becomes very difficult to apply.

    As an analogy, even supercomputers cannot solve NP-complete problems with more than a few instances. This doesn’t mean there IS no solution, only that we can’t find it and must approximate and satisfice.

    Consider the statement “there are at least two gods”. This sounds perfectly straightforward, but is it? It often seems to me that no two people claiming they believe in the One True God, actually believe in the SAME god. So maybe there are as many gods as there are believers. Maybe there are’t any gods at all. When there are disagreements over scripture, often the result is a schism. There are over 30,000 Christian sects. Is it possible to apply the LNC to eliminate all but one?

    What lawyers often illustrate, especially at higher levels of appeals, is that laws ARE ambiguous despite the best attempts to avoid it. I’ve taken law courses (I’m not a lawyer, but the courses were interesting), and the students legitimately disagreed. They had no axes to grind, no money to gain. The old aphorism holds that “hard cases make bad law”. Hard cases happen when there is much force behind the arguments of both sides, and our legal system can’t compromise, it must decide ONE side is ENTIRELY correct, denying the excellent arguments of the losing side – until the next case comes along. Real Life is like that.

  33. The bottom line: whiners can whine somewhere else. The sub-average IQ folk have their sites to rant on. Rant away.

  34. David:

    Not exactly unreasonable, but merely often difficult.

    “Reasonable” was your word, not mine. If you meant “difficult,” you should have said difficult.

    But the problem as I see it is, we are attempting to apply strict principles to discussions where “disagreement over its application” is rampant.

    There was no disagreement or confusion about the rule.

    Is ID essentially religious?

    You are not effectively using the language to express your meaning, possibly because you don’t know very much about ID. If you mean ID science, the answer is no. Also, the word “essentially” is ambiguous. It leaves too much room for interpretation, which does not lend itself to deductive analysis.

    ”This question LOOKS like a straightforward yes or no question, but it’s far from one. What do we mean by “essentially” or by “religious”? These questions matter. To paraphrase one Supreme Court justice, reasonable, intelligent and knowledgeable people can legitimately disagree about the meaning of all but the most trivial statements. And what’s discussed here is certainly not trivial.

    The question was not properly crafted. No would could possibly discern its (your) meaning. If you are asking, “Does ID methodology assume, presuppose, or depend on religious faith in any way,” then the answer is no. That question can be tested for logical validity. ID methodology either presupposes religious faith or it doesn’t. There is no excluded middle ground. If you could show, for example, how ID methodology does presuppose, or depend on, or assume religious faith, you would prove conclusively that my claim is false.

    In the case of Jupiter, this is very true. But instead of Jupiter, let’s substitute things like “justice” or “God” or “the greatest good for the greatest number.” There is without question considerable ambiguity as to whether such things “exist” in any absolute sense.

    Again, one must know something about the subjects being discussed. I would have no difficulty applying the law of non-contradiction to any of them.

    Examples:

    Plato wrote about Justice in the “Republic.” Either he did or he didn’t. It can’t be both.

    According to Christian tradition, a Divine God took on a human nature. Either He did or he didn’t. It can’t be both.

    Utilitarianism is a form of consequentialism. That statement is either true or false. It cannot be both true and false.

    Probabilistic statements are another problematic category, especially under conditions where not all relevant factors are quantified or even identified! What IS the opposite of “there’s a 60% chance of rain tomorrow”?

    Probability, which pertains to inductive reasoning, has nothing to do with it. The law of non-contradiction provides the foundation for deductive reasoning.

    If I’m reading you correctly, you are presenting here the assertion that all possible statements, however poorly understood the subject matter to which they pertain, CAN be formed with such precision as to eliminate any ambiguity.

    You are not reading me correctly.

    So: I agree with the principle of LNC, it’s self-evident in principle. Applying it in discussion where basic axioms are in dispute, is another story.

    If you understand the subject matter, the LNC, and the language, there is no problem.

  35. lastyearon:

    Elizabeth Liddle, Eigenstate and DrRec.

    None of them have ever refused to engage in rational argument here.

    That’s a shame, I didn’t know Elizabeth caught a ban hammer. But while I liked here, and she certainly never refused to enter an argument, I would not have characterized her as engaging in rational argument. Rationalized, but not rational. Now that’s not a knock against her as we’re all terribly prone for the same thing. But being prolifically vocal isn’t the same thing as providing a good argument for or against any position at all.

    And all this stuff about the LNC and the moon are just pretenses, to avoid making the less subtle, but more truly felt claim that there are no rational arguments against ID, and hence every ID critic that posts here is irrational and unworthy to post here.

    Let’s assume we’ve a Delphic Oracle at hand that can answer this definitively, and that it does so in the affirmative. The question then is: So what?

    Certainly if you’re talking about normal human tribalism then it’s a good assumption about Barry’s opinion on the matter. Likewise, it’s a good assumption to make about Dawkins, Gould, or anyone in the Darwinist camp. Indeed, since it’s normal human tribalism then it’s a safe bet about anything that anyone believes in.

    So I’m curious as to whether your intent is to impeach all humanity and all discussion; both those on your philophical side and otherwise. Or if your intention is to state that the idea of using reason, and being honest in debate, is a brass ring too far out of reach for advocates of Darwinism.

    I reject the utility of the first, and categorically reject the latter. But I’m willing to be swayed in my opinion.

  36. David W. Gibson:

    I’m arguing that when dealing with really complex issues involving unknowns, and psychology, and probabilities — that is, non-trivial issues, the LNC becomes very difficult to apply.

    I don’t mean to slander you or characterize you here, but simply let you know the context I’m working from: In my experience the folks that make this argument don’t understand the LNC.

    The LNC isn’t something you ‘apply’, it is an unavoidable consequence of the logical connectives, equations, and propositions. The problem here is not any difficulty with the LNC or with complex topics and unknowns. It’s a problem of complex propositions. So to say, that if someone cannot break a complex proposition down into small pieces that can be inspected easily then it is simply the case that they are speaking outside the depth of their knowledge. If they will not then they’re engaging in medacity and sophistry.

    It often seems to me that no two people claiming they believe in the One True God, actually believe in the SAME god.

    Sure, or it’s a hooded man fallacy.

    Is it possible to apply the LNC to eliminate all but one?

    Once again, one doesn’t ‘apply’ the LNC. There are several problems here. We can utilize empiricism to reject some of them. We can use deductions to show a contradictions within one, as it speaks about itself, and then ‘recognize’ that the LNC shows that the premises are in error.

    But we cannot affirm the antecedent empirically or logically. That’s a massive no-no. Just as well, refuting the argument as it follows from the premises doesn’t tell us anything about the conclusion itself as it may or could be out in reality. It only tells us about the manner in which we come to that conclusion from the premises we have. There are finer points, but I don’t want to drag on.

    What lawyers often illustrate, especially at higher levels of appeals, is that laws ARE ambiguous despite the best attempts to avoid it.

    Sure, humans excel at creating unnecessary ambiguity and holding contradictory opinions. What lawyers illustrate is that sophistry is not valid argument. And that unless science is law, that sophistry is a gross error to be avoided.

    Point of fact, it’s considered good jurisprudence (depending on jurisdiction) for Judges to throw out laws that are too ambiguous or that are contradictory. Such that it is that even Judges put limits on the amount of bad faith that comes into their courtroom. Just the same, really, as Barry here.

  37. woodford:

    I never contributed here much,

    Correction- you have never contributed here because you don’t have anything to contribute.

  38. As a supporter of ID I have to protest that I really don’t like this trend. Of course I accept the three laws of thought and I know how frustrating it can be to deal with someone who tries to wiggle around the LNC. There are some people that will never be convinced of our reasons. And there are some people that are clearly incapable of logical thinking. Who knows even I might belong to that camp. But just because someone engages in what we perceive to be illogical some of the time, does not mean that 1 time in 20 they can point out a valid flaw in our thinking. I’ve seen too many people at other websites cook up absurd excuses to kick people out. There is no certain knowledge in philosophy. And we can never be certain that our opponents are not at least speaking a half truth a tenth of the time. I know how hard it is to deal with people that refuse to admit they’re wrong in spite of enormous evidence, but I think even more frustrating would be being unable to listen to one’s critics.

    I saw just ban those people who use vociferous profanity or are spammers.

  39. I’m sorry poor Libby got herself banned, but she really was quite the dessembler. Saw that early on.

  40. noam_ghish: As a supporter of ID I have to protest that I really don’t like this trend.

    I’m a supporter of ID and I like what Berry’s doing. I’ve tuned out of UD the last couple years mainly because the comment sections almost immediately go way off track into meaningless squabbles rather than interesting discussion. I like to read comments that are honest and to the point, or if they swing off topic are at least rational.

    I would suggest that UD go further and allow each person that posts a topic to have full control over comments so that they can simply delete ones that are irrationally argumentative. Would this mean that some of the UD posters would delete some valid comments? Yes, but I think it would be better than the free-for-all that leads to boring, unreadable comment threads.

  41. “Axel, you don’t think that non-ID scientists working in evolution-related disciplines are able to make insightful contributions to these discussions?”

    Exactly right, paulmc. In contrast to their evolutionist opponents, the people who run this forum are anxious to
    use the findings of empirical research to refute the arguments – which are bereft of empiricism – of the evolutionists. The latter conjecture, period.

    They know that the evolutionists are, in fact, bringing a knife to a gun-fight. But until now, they’ve been humouring them. ‘My conjecture for your empirical research findings, bornagain77″, pretty much conveys what I mean, in terms of the evolutionists’ contributions here.

    ‘Is it surprising that people might want to chime in with comments on these topics?’

    Not at all, paul. But that doesn’t mean such comments are rational. It IS a tautology to state that those fit to survive, do so, and those insufficiently fit to survive, don’t. I mean I find it extraordinary that evolutionists should deny it.

    ‘I am yet to meet an IDist with an adequate understanding of population genetics to fully engage in a discussion of junk DNA – and I include Jonathan Wells in that, by the way.’ – paul

    Give it a try on here, paul, and see.

    ————–

    David.

    ‘So the bottom line, at least to materialists, is that no object inherently “has design”, except in light of the historical knowledge of the design process that produced it.’

    Your words, ‘…at least to materialists…’ are pivotal.

    ‘Imagine if some unknown space alien left something on your doorstep.’

    David, we try to view the world through our experience – which tends not to include aliens. Reports by pilots to the effect that they encountered incredibly fast, palpably alien aircraft, does indeed suggest that, if they were real, they were designed to extraordinarily sophistated specifications, in comparison with our level of scientific development; ‘design’ meaning exclusively, produced by an intelligent and purposeful mind – which is all we are familiar with. The rest might as well be an event horizon.

    We have no acquaintance at all with random designs; patterns, yes. Well, sometimes clouds and turnips, etc, might figure among the former, but it would be stretching it to compare them with the structure of the universe and the rest of its contents.

    In short, the notion that we need to know the provenance of an article, in order to correctly assess whether it was designed or a meaningless lump makes no sense at all. I look at what mathematicians write on their blackboard in video clips, but if it were drivel, I’d still recognise the symbols and numbers as artefacts. I suppose a rock used as a door-stop might qualify for your pruposes, but that’s stretching it to make an argument. Though if you saw it in situ, you’d still know it wasn’t there by random chance – but by design.

    Why would putatively random processes not only have produced a whole universe of regularity to challenge our intelligence, but continue to do so. It’s madness to think they do. Indeed, such processes ought to produce wall-to-wall nonsense – such as to confound rational thought. And invoking paradoxes here won’t do.

    It’s as if God had gone out of his way to encourage such madness in atheists. Couldn’t he even have spared them a genuine 100% vacuum in space? Or enabled them to make a machine for producing truly random numbers? But, alas, intelligence-in does not make for garbage-out, any more than random garbage-in makes for an intelligible, designed, output.

  42. Stuart Harris,

    You’re just assuming that you know what is rational. Philosophy, by definition, is the quest for uncertain knowledge. You can never know for certain if you’re in the right. Critics challenge you to justify your assertions.

  43. Haven’t read the 42 comments yet (don’t have time, still digging thru the thousands of comments scattered on the subject of laws of reason since the Dembski Methodological Counter-Intuition thread, want to make sure I have read everyone’s thoughts) but had a question.

    Could the christian conception of god violate the laws of reason as outlined by Arrington at top?

    I guess this is equivalent to the satirical question, could god make a rock so big god couldn’t move it?

  44. “Could god make a rock so big god couldn’t move it”

    This is an old incorrect argument used by atheists to try denying God omnipotence.

    God omnipotence is in theology what Total Possibility = Metaphysical Infinity is in metaphysics. So let’s see why the above god-make-a-rock-so-big antinomy is metaphysically absurd. The Total Possibility, which has no limits, contains all what is possible, but doesn’t contain what is impossible. For example it doesn’t contain a circle that is in the same time a square. Of course it can contain multiple circles and squares as separate figures. But a single figure cannot be in the same time circle and square because these two possibilities are incompatible, when applied to the same figure.

    Now “god make a rock so big” and “god couldn’t move it” are two incompatible possibilities, exactly as a circle-square figure.

    The concept of incompatibility between possibilities doesn’t refute at all the unlimitedness of the Total Possibility, because incompatibility discards only impossibility, which is pure nothingness. Similarly incompatibility/impossibility doesn’t refute at all God’s omnipotence. Whoever claims that logical incompatibility/impossibility refutes God’s omnipotence shows only his own inability about logic.

  45. My humble take on the argument.

    I would copy and paste it, but it’s fairly long. I may argue it a little differently now, I think, but critiques are welcome.

  46. Podcast – “Responding to the Challenge of the New Atheists”

    “Responding to the Challenge of the New Atheists” – Andy Bannister – podcast
    http://networkedblogs.com/u8mRc

  47. Hi everyone,

    Regarding the “Paradox of the Stone,” this article by Yujin Nagasawa might be helpful:

    Anything You Can Do God Can Do Better

    Cheers.

  48. You banned Elizabeth Liddle? How cowardly.

  49. Driver:

    Kindly, cf. the original post above on what was banned, why:

    If you visit some of our more vociferous opponents’ websites that is the question being asked. The answer, of course, is that I am not stifling rational argument on this site. In fact, just the opposite is true; my purpose has been to weed out those who refuse to engage in rational argument so that rational argument can be pursued by those who remain.

    BA goes on to point to the issue of the basis of rational discussion. The subtext, being tha there has been a problem of outright abusiveness that required gavelling to control, and that here has been a second problem of evasiveness and sniping from the shadows. The past year has shown that in fact there has been a more focussed discussion at UD. Never mind that many of us thought, that’s harsh.

    We must give Jack his jacket, a lawyer will know more about gavelling pointless evasive circles and the like than us laymen.

    There is a reason a Judge has a gavel in court, and uses it.

    KF

  50. The assertion that Elizabeth Liddle is incapable of rational argument is hilarious.

    She is a penetrative critic of ID, and a capable defender of the theory of evolution, and you all know it. Barry is afraid of her.

    She is not someone who writes long sentences on the preparation and cooking of herring before she even starts. She does not post twenty links, tangentially related to the topic at best, in lieu of argument. She does not compare use of twitter to the methods of the Inquisition.

    I fully believe you when you say the last year of conversation has been more “focused”. There are no doubt fewer commenters, and less disparity of views.

    Eventually you will get to the point where it’s just Barry, KF, vjtorley, and BA, if you haven’t reached that point already. Then the discussion will be really focused.

  51. Out of interest, I wonder if anyone can post examples of Elizabeth being irrational. It would be great if Barry could post the “final straw” that got her banned too.

  52. Go do your own homework. The final straws for several commenters had to do with not only what was posted at UD, but — in a general context of vulgarity used against the blog owner — revelations of enabling behaviour elsewhere in the face of some pretty serious nastiness of the ilk of certain hate sites that will not be otherwise detailed; I did not and do not see any material sign of concern for and policing of the abuse, threats against families, outing behaviour, abuse of RW pictures etc etc on the other side on your part; should we take this as approval or further enabling? As to the gap between what EL is capable of and what she ended up doing here at UD and elsewhere, that, sadly, speaks for itself. Your attempt to resurrect the matter a year later fails, I comment for record for onlookers who may not know the wider story.

  53. I “resurrect the matter” because I haven’t looked at UD in over a year.

    It speaks plenty of your credibility, KF, that you persist with the implication that Elizabeth Liddle did not present rational arguments at this site.

    Have fun in the echo chamber!

  54. 54

    So, Driver implies that KF is not credible for his position on EL without Driver even looking at the evidence?

    I prefer the echoes of reason over fresh incursions of nonsense any day of the week.

    I think Liddle was banned more for cumulative, ongoing prevarication and dissembling than any single “final straw”, such as her position that the scientific community had “no vested interest in maintaining the status quo”.

  55. WJM, the sad thing, is, that asking for civility and reasonableness 101 in discussion, is seen as censorship [without bothering to do homework], meanwhile outright hate walks naked and rampant, and is accepted or enabled as though it were freedom of expression rather than the very opposite. KF

  56. 56

    @54:

    “no vested interest in maintaining the status quo”

    A look at the NCSE or the Biola U. website would dismantle that claim.
    Wasn’t she banned because she denied a major logical axiom?

  57. GEM to Driver:

    Go do your own homework.

    Hilarious!

    Like telling me to look for a genuine exposition of CSI! Dr. Liddle, though sorely provoked, managed the incomparable feat of remaining reasonable and polite in her attempt to tease out some substance from the “usual suspects”. The reason Lizzie can no longer post here is that she made people here seem petty, rude, dishonest, arrogant, misogynistic; condescending.

    I challenge anyone to find anything remotely objectionable in anything she ever posted here.

    Surprise me for once!

  58. I think Liddle was banned more for cumulative, ongoing prevarication and dissembling than any single “final straw”, such as her position that the scientific community had “no vested interest in maintaining the status quo”.

    Murray, do you really believe what you write here? It’s so far from reality that I suspect that it is even too far for you to really mean what you say.

  59. I think Liddle was banned more for cumulative, ongoing prevarication and dissembling than any single “final straw”, such as her position that the scientific community had “no vested interest in maintaining the status quo”.

    Murray, do you really believe what you write here? It’s so far from reality that I suspect that it is even too far for you to really mean what you say.

  60. 60
    William J Murray

    KF,

    Materialists have no need to be reasonable, or civil, because for them, the point isn’t to find truth, but rather just to win. Whatever wins, is true – that’s Darwinism! And the prize they fight for? Nihilism. I guess with a supposed 95% extinction rate, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the self-claimed products of mindless evolution gravitate towards self-annihilation.

    They will only act civil and pretend to be reasonable as long as such behavior purchases them the time and a forum to spew their destructive nonsense, rhetoric and sophistry.

  61. So, Murray, nothing to support your insinuation about Dr. Liddle. No surprises there.

  62. 62

    Nothing impassions ID’s critics more thoroughly than their moral outrage at UD’s banning history. Even Alan ascends shallowly from common snark to indignation at the mention of it.

  63. Nothing impassions ID’s critics more thoroughly than their moral outrage at UD’s banning history. Even Alan ascends shallowly from common snark to indignation at the mention of it.

    It is not that UD banned Elizabeth Liddle from commenting that annoys me. It is the dishonest suggestions that there was justification for it; that she somehow transgressed some unwritten rule of polite debate. It is obvious to any disinterested observer that she was banned because she made ID proponents look bad with their inability to counter her arguments and analysis.

    (That’s why I still get to post here. ;) )

  64. ‘It is the dishonest suggestions that there was justification for it; that she somehow transgressed some unwritten rule of polite debate.’

    In that you are correct, Monsieur Renard. If my memory serves me – which should not be necessarily assumed, these days – Kairofocus dilated at great length in writing on the transgressions against certain formal rules of logic that La Liddle habitually breached. But, overall, you are thoroughly mistaken in your belief that she was not justly defenestrated.

  65. 65

    “It is obvious to any disinterested observer that she was banned because she made ID proponents look bad with their inability to counter her arguments and analysis.”

    It’s been seen before, fans of EL promoting the infallible image, and attempting to make her look like a martyr. It’s bizarre and perhaps a little creepy.

    Confirmation Bias

  66. ‘Have fun in the echo chamber!’

    It will never be an echo-chamber, Driver, as long as you people bore yourselves to death on your own forums (see the post, above, about not coveting truth, but only wanting to win arguments), and as long as you people are (to me, mysteriously) tolerated on this board.

    But then, I am more inclined towards totalitarianism, so should really be part of the Consensus, at least, among the general public.

  67. The fact that it was habitual transgressions against specific, formal rules of logic, not ‘some unwritten rule of polite debate’ that caused he to be ejected is a mere detail isn’t it, M Renard?

    Ah ha, mon ami! Does that give you a different perspective on l’affaire Liddle? Mais non!

  68. 68
    Kantian Naturalist

    As I recall, Liddle was banned because she denied that the law of non-contradiction was a priori. Apparently that’s an offense against St. Aristotle or whatever.

  69. 69
    Kantian Naturalist

    To be more specific: she didn’t violate any logical principles in what she actually argued — she merely claimed that the law of non-contradiction doesn’t hold under certain empirical conditions.

  70. ‘Barry,
    You removed just about every critic of ID from the site. So I conclude that you think they were all being irrational. Is that true?’

    No, Lastyearon, this is a particular case, in which Barry realised that a specific, utterly fundamental law of logic was being repeatedly breached. It is only to be expected that the general thought-processes of ID critics should be irrational, and so it’s perfectly natural that Barry should tolerate them on here.

  71. 71

    Alan,

    Dr Liddle came here and made two claims. She claimed that she had never heard an ID argument that could not also be resolved by Darwinian evolution, and she claimed that she had never heard an ID argument of any merit. Both of those claims are ridiculous on their face, but she was trying to provoke a response, so we can give her the benefit of the doubt.

    Obviously, the first claim takes care of the second. If she had ever heard an ID argument that couldn’t also be resolved by Darwinian evolution, then for her, she’s clearly heard an ID argument of merit. And as far as her first claims goes, I gave her one in spades – one which she could not refute. After having wagered that she could write a simulation to prove the argument false, she came to finally understand (perhaps for the first time in her life) what information transfer actually requires, and she backed completely away from that wager (to no one’s surprise).

    She was only asked to be forthright enough to acknowledge the argument given to her, but her response was to do just as you have done – she simply refused. Her tactic was to save face by admitting to the blatantly obvious problems within her position, while simultaneously protecting herself from the substance of the argument. She accomplished this by pleading that she didn’t understand the previous months of conversations, even though she willingly and effectively participated in every one of them. In other words, she bullshitted her way out of it. Your method is much the same; after agreeing to each of the principle observations made in the argument, you simply act like nothing ever happened and quickly return to your endless talking points.

    So much for empiricism…

    (Dr Liddle) You have been asked several times to do the intellectually honest thing and retract your claim, but thus far, you have refused to do so. This situation eventually led to a particular example of twisted logic (which took place well after the observations had been found legitimate and accounted for):

    BIPED: You have thus far refused to acknowledge that one cannot logically be testing a falsification of an ID argument, while simultaneously claiming it doesn’t exist.

    LIDDLE: It’s a fair cop. In mitigation, I plead that I did not understand the charge. I do now. I did not mean what you thought I was saying, but as I now understand what you thought I was saying, I willingly clarify that I did not mean what you thought I meant.

    .

  72. Upright Biped illustrates my point neatly. A better example of dishonest justification would be hard to imagine!

  73. She claimed that she had never heard an ID argument that could not also be resolved by Darwinian evolution, and she claimed that she had never heard an ID argument of any merit.

    I suspect your “claimed that she had never heard an ID argument that could not also be resolved by Darwinian evolution” is a misrepresentation of what she wrote (it would be too much to expect a link to the actual exchange) but that “she had never heard an ID argument of any merit” is only too true! There is no ID argument of merit; there is only carping about the alleged inadequacies of evolutionary explanations.

  74. 74

    I challenge anyone to find anything remotely objectionable in anything she ever posted here.

    You asked for anyone to post an example of anything “remotely objectionable” from Dr Liddle. I answered your challenge with such an instance, so you immediately call me dishonest.

    You are in perfect form Alan.

    Liddle: I simply do not accept the tenet that replication with modification + natural selection cannot introduce “new information” into the genome.

    It demonstrably can, IMO, on any definition of information I am aware of.

    BiPed: Neo-Darwinism doesn’t have a mechanism to bring information into existence in the first place. To speak freely of what it can do with information once it exist, is to ignore the 600lbs assumption in the room.

    Liddle: Well, tell me what definition of information you are using, and I’ll see if I can demonstrate that it can

    …and then months later…after discovering what is actually required to demonstrate the rise of information, i.e. her claim…

    BiPed: You have failed to produce any documentation that neo-Darwinian processes can establish such a system, and were therefore going to create a simulation where such a system would arise by chance contingency and physical law alone. The very fact that you have to create such a simulation is a real-time demonstration that you have (in fact) been given an argument for design that is not also known to be the product of neo-Darwinian processes. So your claim has been refuted by your very own involvement.

    Liddle: No, it has not. My original claim was made for CSI or other Dembski-derived information,by Darwinian processes.

    You tell me Alan, did she ask for my definition of information, or Bill Dembski’s?

  75. Elizabeth Liddle proved that she doesn’t belong here discussing anything. She, like all evos, only equivocate and attack starwman arguments. Alan does the same so it is puzzling why he is allwed to post here when it is clear he has nothing to offer.

    My guess is Barry, et al., want people to see how lame anti-ID “arguments really are, so Alan stays.

  76. Alan Fox:

    There is no ID argument of merit;

    Not to you. However you cannot provide any unguided evolution argument that has any merit.

    there is only carping about the alleged inadequacies of evolutionary explanations.

    That is a lie. Blind watchmaker explanations- ID argues against the blind watchmaker, Alan- 8+ years and you are still ignorant of ID and what is being debated.

    Also all design inferences HAVE TO eliminate necessity and chance- those be the rules.

  77. Upright Biped

    I should very much like to see the complete context of the exchange where you claim Dr Liddle transgressed the rules of polite discourse such that a ban was merited. Are you able to identify the thread or provide a link?

  78. Upright Biped- tell Alan to eat static. Lizzie doesn’t understand ID. She doesn’t understand natural selection. That much was very clear when she tried to demonstrate that natural selection can produce CSI- her “demonstration” had nothing to do with natural selection and she didn’t produce any CSI. Yet she insists natural selection didit.

    She, like you, is a waste of time.

  79. Driver:

    It speaks plenty of your credibility, KF, that you persist with the implication that Elizabeth Liddle did not present rational arguments at this site.

    She didn’t. I would love to see one rational argument Lizzie put forth here. Anyone?

  80. 80

    Joe:

    I think the anti-ID crows confuses being polite with being rational. Dr. Liddle was always polite, as far as I remember.

  81. WJM:

    I think, on balance, I need to speak for record.

    First, the immediate trigger for the event in question, where there was a gavelling of out of control behaviour at UD, was a commenter who in the midst of exchanges, used a grossly insulting and vulgar term to the blog owner. I think that told him things had gone beyond the pale and were out of control. He hammered down hard with the gavel, a lot harder than I would have.

    The background for that, is the behaviour, over a long time, in a circle of frankly obsessively hostile or outright hateful and uncivil objector sites. Pictures of people taken and defaced. Vulgar insults and slanders. Outing tactics meant to cause economic injury. Threats against family, and more. Fever swamps is not too strong a word for some of what is going on, some of it tracing to a tone set by leaders of the so called new atheist movement.

    Objectors to design theory, that is the asp you have clutched to your collective chests. Face it, and deal with it.

    Next, there was a problem of not only the directly vulgar and outrageous, but those who indulged enabling behaviour in their company, to a point where things done at UD were in some cases obviously setting up smear campaigns elsewhere. And where, shockingly, some of the least offensive objectors here at UD were implicated in the go-along, enabling behaviour.

    (And, quite frankly, what is happening here just now smells a lot like that, and the scent is not sweet. That is why I will speak for record but will not entertain a debate.)

    Going on, there was a problem of evasion, dissembling, obfuscation and evident willful obtuseness that frequently side tracked UD discussions in fruitless circles.

    BA’s digging in led him to the conclusion that a lot of it pivoted on the rhetoric of denial of first principles of right reason, so that issues over clear terms, non-contradiction and the excluded middle multiplied games of distraction, distortion, evasion, drumbeat repetition of talking points regardless of corrective evidence and the like.

    He cut the Gordian knot by introducing a moderation rule: if a commenter was not willing to acknowledge first principles of right reason — and particularly the law of non contradiction (which is the law of non-confusion) such a party was either hopelessly confused and irrational or utterly insincere and playing manipulative rhetorical games. So, if one was obstructionist, evasive and tangential or going in circles habitually he proposed to directly challenge objectors like that on these first principles of clear discussion, without which not even quantum theory can be built. (More on that later.)

    If such a commenter failed the test, that in his view was grounds for taking such a person to be an obstacle to reasonable and productive discussion, not a benefit to the discussion.

    Now, I know, I know.

    There is a common view out there that those laws have been discredited, especially by quantum theory.

    That view is wrong, and utterly confused.

    That is why a new corrective was added to the UD collection, and it is why it has an extension that shows in more details how gross the error involved is.

    That this has to be pointed out, is a measure of how deeply broken our intellectual culture is. Indeed, just this alone goes a long way to explaining some of the difficulties people have with major issues in our day.

    But, there is more.

    Time and again, I see all sorts of accusations of censorship and cowardice, and assertions that people have been banned from UD because they have effective arguments against ID. Such is overblown or outright willfully misleading.

    The characteristic first problem has been abusive commentary, following a pattern of tangential distraction, led away to strawman caricatures soaked in personal attacks meant to wound personally, and to cloud, confuse, choke, poison and polarise the atmosphere for discussion. Indeed, given the suspicious timing of this latest foray, it seems to be a case of that.

    Second, with those who have been more civil, there has been the dual problem of enabling behaviour and evasiveness, sometimes amounting to willful obtuseness and stubbornness in drumbeat repetition of long since adequately corrected assertions.

    That is a part of why, to eliminate all the pointless and polarising debates and endless going in toxic talking point circles, six months ago, I put the following challenge on the table:

    UD PRO-DARWINISM ESSAY CHALLENGE: Compose your summary case for darwinism (or any preferred variant that has at least some significant support in the professional literature, such as punctuated equlibria etc) in a fashion that is accessible to the non-technical reader — based on empirical evidence that warrants the inference to body plan level macroevolution — in up to say 6,000 words [a chapter in a serious paper is often about that long]. Outgoing links are welcome so long as they do not become the main point. That is, there must be a coherent essay, with

    (i)an intro,
    (ii) a thesis,
    (iii) a structure of exposition,
    (iv) presentation of empirical warrant that meets the inference to best current empirically grounded explanation [--> IBCE] test for scientific reconstructions of the remote past,
    (v) a discussion and from that
    (vi) a warranted conclusion.

    Your primary objective should be to show in this way, per IBCE, why there is no need to infer to design from the root of the Darwinian tree of life — cf. Smithsonian discussion here – on up (BTW, it will help to find a way to resolve the various divergent trees), on grounds that the Darwinist explanation, as extended to include OOL, is adequate to explain origin and diversification of the tree of life. A second objective of like level is to show how your thesis is further supported by such evidence as suffices to warrant the onward claim that is is credibly the true or approximately true explanation of origin and body-plan level diversification of life; on blind watchmaker style chance variation plus differential reproductive success, starting with some plausible pre-life circumstance.

    It would be helpful if in that essay you would outline why alternatives such as design, are inferior on the evidence we face. [As an initial spark for thinking, contrast my own survey of origins science here on (note the onward resources page), the definition of design theory in the UD resources tab top of this and every UD page, the Weak Argument Correctives in the same tab, the general resources that pop up on clicking the tab itself, and the discussion of design theory in the NWE article here. You may also want to refer to the site of the IDEA Center, and the Discovery Institute CSC site as well as Mike Gene's Telic Thoughts. Notice IDEA's essay on the case for design here.] . . . .

    I would put this up as an original post, with preliminary contextual remarks and an invitation to respond in the comments section.

    I will not submit the post with a rebutting markup or make an immediate rebuttal. In fact, let me make the offer to hold off my own comments for at least five initial comments. I will give you two full days of comments before I post any full post level response; though others at UD will be free to respond in their own right.

    And BTW, I am making this offer without consulting with the blog owner or others, I am sure they would welcome a serious response . . . [NB: I have given how to contact me in the original Sept 23 post, I will not repeat that in a headlined original post.]

    Obviously, six months is more than enough time to provide what should be out there all across the Internet, if the evolutionary materialist system were as well grounded as those who tout it so often proclaim.

    What has happened?

    There were several refusals to even try.

    There were some strawman tactic games.

    There were offers that have languished for months unfulfilled.

    I take it as on balance clear evidence that the evolutionary materialism champions don’t have the goods to back up their claims.

    And, the sort of rhetorical antics that continue to be played, speak volumes when they are set alongside the direct offer to host here at UD the knockdown case for evolutionary materialism.

    So, next time you see poisonous side track or evasive tactics, put them in the context of widespread refusal or evasion to take up an ultimate free kick at goal offer.

    I would say that a bluff has been called.

    And, sometimes, knowing a bit of context makes all the difference to understanding what is really going on.

    KF

  82. 82
    Kantian Naturalist

    The idea that the capacity to engage in reasoned discourse depends upon a commitment to “the rules of right reason” is silly (at best). For one thing, there are no such rules.

  83. KN: Suppose I took what you were just saying as a ringing endorsement of BA’s point, and that you really meant that you affirmed that there are first principles of right reason that demonstrably exist and are foundational to reasoned and reasonable discussion? (Recall, one of those principles you are trying to dismiss is, in one rough expression, that A does not simultaneously mean Not_A.) KF

  84. Kantian Naturalist: “The idea that the capacity to engage in reasoned discourse depends upon a commitment to “the rules of right reason” is silly (at best). For one thing, there are no such rules.”

    Define reasoned or reasonable discourse and distinguish if from unreasoned or unreasonable discourse.

  85. 85

    Just because one might not be aware of the rules does not mean they are not required for reasoned (logical) discourse. It seems to me that the rules provide exactly the context necessary for two people to even begin to have a rational discussion that can be anything but subjective babble, void of actual communication. Toss out the rules and reason goes with them. Deem them unnecessary and objectivity is kaput. Of course, one might already have abandoned belief in objectivity, in which case nothing really matters anyway, and we might as well just talk about the weather, because sound versus fallacious reasoning would maintain no distinction.

    Is A=A always true, always false, or conditionally true? What about ¬(A∧¬A), or A∨¬A, and how do we know? Can something be contingent, impossible, and necessary at the same time? How might one argue for that proposition, or against it, without presuming the rules?

    By the way, the weather’s fair here, and it’s not. And that’s both true and false, which may or may not be the case. Therefore there’s nothing meaningful which can be said about the weather; but even that conclusion depends upon self-evident axioms, which don’t exist, and do. Down is up, which it’s not, while being so; left is right and left, but neither. If you walk forward while I walk backward, perhaps we can have a nice chat together along the way, about presuming reason’s rules in order to deny them.

  86. 86
    William J Murray

    For one thing, there are no such rules.

    Except for that one?

  87. 87
    William J Murray

    I suppose that if there are no rules of right reason, then I am free to reach whatever conclusions I wish from KN’s #82. If I conclude that KN is a sophist that is only attempting to amuse himself by concocting inscrutable positions and assertions, then that – by KN’s “no rules” paradigm, is indeed a fair conclusions.

    It’s no wonder that it’s so difficult to engage in meaningful conversation with KN; he doesn’t abide any rules of reason. That explains a lot.

  88. 88
    “For one thing, there are no such rules.”

    Except for that one?

    And this one: Every rule has an exception ;)

  89. Barry,

    IMO, you should give all ban posters another go.

    But this time, when you ban a poster, put up the evidence for all to see; i.e such and such poster has jsut been banned and here is the post that violated the rules (with the infraction highlighted for easy referral).

    It may never satisfy ‘the banned one’. But it will go a long way to dispel any notion that you are banning on a whim.

    2 cents in the jar. Cling, clang.

  90. Driver @50:

    [Elizabeth Liddle] is a penetrative critic of ID . . .

    Driver, you’re a hoot! Thanks for the laugh!

    Just for the record, I should add that I was against her being banned and said so at the time. I think there is value in having more ID critics on UD. But then again, I didn’t have quite as long of an engagement with her as some others had, so perhaps my patience hadn’t yet worn so thin . . .

  91. I think there’s tremendous value in having dissenting voices on UD, but like anything else too much of a good thing is a detriment. How many fascinating threads have been totally derailed by facile objections and sophomoric arguments? We’ve all watched as commenters (coff..Gregory..coff) engaged in obsessive diatribes about punctuation, incessantly motive mongered, ignored the OP, etc. At some point enough is enough. If UD is to function as a place for productive exchange on fairly controversial subjects, then sometimes the weeds have to be pulled. Imagine what this place would look like without moderation!

  92. Incidentally, I find it quite interesting that the ID bashers who show up on UD usually exhibit trollish behavior (AF and NM being prime examples). For some reason I don’t think it’s mere coincidence…

  93. Notice, no takers on the essay offer.

  94. 94

    I’m happy to give EL another chance if she wants it.

  95. Just don’t expect a different result. :razz:

    d’oh

  96. It would seem that if we have room for Kantian Naturalist, who rejects reason itself, we could also make room for Elizabeth Liddle, who merely rejects the evidence and arguments from reason. The former crime is more serious and more fundamental.

  97. 97

    StephenB, I am coming more and more to the view that allowing people like KN and Liddle to spew their sophistry can actually be a good thing. It does put the onus on folks like you and GEM and Eric and BA and UB and WJM and many others here to post correctives (over and over and over and over again) and that can be irritating and time consuming. In the end, the people can choose.

  98. Barry:

    I’m happy to give EL another chance if she wants it.

    I’ll pass the invitation on, though I suspect Dr. Liddle has many calls on her time currently and may be of the view that participation here is perhaps not worth the time she devoted. But that’s just my impression and let’s see what happens.

  99. Alan Fox:

    …may be of the view that participation here is perhaps not worth the time she devoted.

    She definitely didn’t didn’t devote any of her attention to what ID and IDists actually say. But then again, neither do you nor any other evo-k-nevos

  100. Barry,

    Just so you know- you have been invited over to the septic zone where you can present your arguments to the willfully ignorant.

  101. Barry @97, I suspect that there is a cost-benefit trade off that cannot be avoided. To me, the question of numbers and space taken is one important criterion for stringency. An ideal mixture might be something on the order of 60-65% ID commentary and 35-40% anti-ID commentary. When an inordinate amount of verbiage is dedicated to the latter, the reader can easily get the impression that the quantity of words written reflects the validity of the arguments being made. If no one takes the time to respond, onlookers may think that no answer is possible.

    What I am suggesting is that we can be more tolerant of nonsense when there is plenty of intellectual talent around to counter it and less tolerant when it comes in the form of an unmanageable tidal wave. To be sure, substance is more important than perception, but perception does matter, especially in this era of rampant anti-intellectualism. Notice, for example, that Kantian Naturalist, who claims to be a philosopher, cannot even provide his own definition of rationality.

    On the question of reason’s rules, I agree that it is impossible to have a rational discussion with those who disavow them. The daunting fact is that many (perhaps even most) of our adversaries are in that camp, though few of them are conscious of being that way. To be sure, some will claim to accept rational standards after having receiving the requisite remedial education, but once we probe with concrete examples, it becomes clear that they reject its application, which is just another way of rejecting the principle that informs it.

  102. 102

    SB at 101. Just so.

  103. 103
    William J Murray

    For many atheists, when reason leads towards god, they abandon their reason, not their atheism.

  104. KN has always been polite and, even in those cases in which he seems out on a limb, has nearly always been willing to have a gentlemen’s discussion. I enjoy having him on this site.

  105. PS @ Barry,

    If you genuinely want Lizzie to be able to comment at Uncommon Descent again, you may want to think about the technical aspect such as reactivating her account, removing moderation restriction or whatever you did that requires undoing.

  106. For many atheists, when reason leads towards god, they abandon their reason, not their atheism.

    Know many atheists well enough to know what they think, Murray?

  107. Alan Fox:

    Know many atheists well enough to know what they think, Murray?

    I do because I have had that conversation with them and they agree.

  108. 108
    William J Murray

    Alan @106,

    Nobody can know what someone else thinks; one can only judge by what they write and say. It has been my experience with friends, online debates and from reading some well-known atheists that they, for the most part, will entertain any explanation, no matter how unsupportable or absurd, and deny any argument and evidence, no matter how obvious, in order to avoid even approaching the conclusion that god exists.

    Thus, we get Hawking making the claim that infinite universes and everything in them can come from nothing, Dawkins admitting that biological features absolutely appear as if designed; but then outright denies that design might be part of the explanation, and Lewontin flatly insisting that no divine foot shall be let in the door of explanation.

    I think a lot of atheists come to atheism the same way I did; they were exposed to ham-fisted teachings about what was to them a frightful, vengeful, arbitrary, warmongering “bronze age god” (as KN put it) in their youth and rightfully rejected that notion of god.

    Unfortunately, as I did, they threw the baby out with the dirty bathwater. They were not exposed to the more reasoned concept of god offered by CS Lewis, Aquinas, etc., nor more reasoned arguments for the existence of god offered by many good theistic philosophers.

    Their education about the concept of god stopped with their moral outrage against the “bronze age god”, which is clear by how the modern cadre of published atheists argue against that god, and is clear enough when atheists here often refer to the “stone age god” or “bronze age god” in their diatribes. They are stuck in rejection against an adolescent caricature, not against an adult, well-reasoned and evidenced theism.

    Unfortunately, whenever someone uses the word “god” in an argument, it triggers their juvenile “sky-daddy” concept and they go into automatic full rejection and ridicule mode, and reason goes out the window.

  109. 109

    This has come up over and over again, and is understandable.

    WJM always has to clarify who he is and who he isn’t.

  110. Looks like William got author privileges because Barry thought he was someone else! :)

  111. 111

    My mistake. WJM got author privileges becuase he writes cogent, thoughtful comments. You could learn something from him Alan, but I doubt you will.

  112. BA @111:

    WJM got author privileges becuase he writes cogent, thoughtful comments.

    Dang. I don’t have author privileges so I’ll take that as an indirect affront to my comments. I always thought my comments (well, some of them at least) were cogent and thoughtful. :)

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