How Keiths Left Peaceful Science

(Jon Garvey) #133

“Unfortunate” depends on viewpoint, Guy. Even more common than the “Deconversion Testimony Genre” is the “Unjustly Banned from Website Trope,” which is used by a number of different types to paint ones opponents as unreasonable. It seems commonest with Fundamentalists and with Anti-theists - you bomb a site whose position you oppose with unreasonable posts calculated to offend or disrupt, and when you are inevitably banned, it (a) gives you victim status to confirm your own position back home and (b) leaves the target website talking about your hurt and your agenda, rather than their own. For example, a website dedicated to bringing Christian positions on science together might find a majority of its posts discussing atheism instead, and scarcely notice that its raison d’etre had been undermined.

On my site, my few bannings were mainly of the same person under different aliases, who happened to be an anti-evolutionist. The only atheists I’ve banned were the occasional drop-ins cleverly making an irrelevant comment with f-words. But in other ways my Fundamentalist resembled Keith a lot.

Keith’s case is worth examining for other reasons too. His disagreement was entirely on the right to absolute freedom of speech on his own terms, and this he treated as if it were a moral absolute. This seemed, in his mind, to be closely related to the very nature of atheistic freedom of will over religious authoritarianism, at least to judge from the “protest” of posting gratuitous (and puerile) blasphemy to prove the point that he wasn’t going to be censored.

The internal coherence of that philosophy is one thing, but that it is purely culturally conditioned, or personal psychology, rather than a logical outcome of atheism is shown by contrasting it with atheism elsewhere. To quote the Chinese director of the State Adminstration for Religious Affairs, writing not long ago to Communist party members, he said that they:

…should be firm Marxist atheists, obey party rules and stick to the party’s faith … they are not allowed to seek value and belief in religion.

So atheism in China, where it is the official doctrine of some 89 million party members, is all about obedience and discipline, and not about freedom of speech in any way. One might even say that it is about the suppression of free will amongst the 50-100 million Christians.

In the end it seems to be more about the assertion of power rather than freedom of speech or will: if you make sure your hackles rise regularly when responding to people usually disposed to turn away wrath with a soft tongue, you’re pretty much guaranteed to put the meek on the back foot. You have the satisfaction of having thema apologise to you for your own faults. Most people will have experienced that as a management style at some stage in their lives, with or without some misplaced appeal to Darwinian “survival of the fittest” ideology.

(Charles Edward Miller) #134

You are right, Jon.

(Guy Coe) #135

Geez, @jongarvey , do you show this little mercy with all your victims? I’m hurt! ; )
“Survival of the hurtest?”

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #136

Let us remember, I did not ban @keiths. He left on his own. He is welcome back when he wants to be a friendly guest.

(Charles Edward Miller) #137

You are correct, good Doctor!


Jon Garvey,

That was an interesting polemic, but you could have saved yourself some embarrassment by simply checking my words before assuming that I was playing the “I’ve been banned” card. Here they are:


I received a private message from Joshua that basically broke the camel’s back, and persuaded me that this blog is not the place for me, at least not with Josh in charge. As an undeserved favor to Josh, I’ll leave it at that.

I’ve enjoyed meeting you. Feel free to stop by The Skeptical Zone, where discussion is free and open and comments are never deleted.

So long and good luck,

Josh has since apologized for the private message, and I give him credit for that. However, the volatility itself – sending a message one day, and regretting and apologizing for it the next – is part of the trust problem. I came here assuming good faith, but my comments were censored, an action which Josh has acknowledged was wrong. When he says “Problem addressed – you can trust us now”, but then shows via PM that I shouldn’t yet trust him, there’s no longer a basis for the good faith assumption. Trust has to be re-earned in a situation like this, and in the meantime, I simply don’t feel comfortable posting my comments here and entrusting them to Josh and the local moderators.

I am still quite happy and willing to engage all of you, however – but at a venue, TSZ, where no one has to worry about their comments being deleted.

I will post a longer response there and leave a link in this thread. You’re all welcome at TSZ, and I’d encourage you to give it a try. If for some reason you feel uncomfortable with the idea of posting at TSZ, you can put your comments here and I will respond to them at TSZ. Inter-blog conversations can be a bit awkward, and they’re definitely not preferable, but we’ve conducted them in the past between commenters at TSZ and Uncommon Descent.


ETA: I should add that the post at TSZ will probably not go up until tomorrow. I’ve been working on a different OP that I want to post first.

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #139

I did not apologize for the message, but for creating a situation that required a thread to be made private. That was not your fault. Though, if that message came off harsh I am sorry about that. I do not regret sending the message per se, and quick apologies are not a sign of volatility. They are sign of humility.

No problem. I understand this. I’m sorry it worked out this way. As I said, we are new to this whole thing, and sadly mistakes do happen. Peace.


Then you’ve just made the trust problem even worse, because not only did you violate someone else’s trust, thus creating this situation in the first place – you also blasted me, writing "Take a clue dude”, as if it were my responsibility to go out of my way, figure out that you had violated a trust and gotten yourself into a bind, and then leap immediately to your rescue.

You could have approached me saying “Hey, I made a big mistake and violated a trust, and I was wondering if you could help me out by not talking about this for a while”. Instead you attacked me as if I were somehow responsible for your own egregious action.

Also, as I noted in my reply to your PM, it did not increase my trust in you when you created a private “Atheist Backchannel” thread, visible only to the resident atheists, in which you discussed the shortcomings of your fellow Christians and gave unsolicited advice on how we atheists could deal with them. (I just went looking for that thread and couldn’t find it. Please, please tell me that the evidence hasn’t been erased.)

There’s more, but I think I’ve related enough to make my point. This ain’t paranoia on my part; not by a long shot. You’ve given me (and others here) serious reasons to doubt your trustworthiness, and so it’s best for me to make my future posts and comments at TSZ, where I don’t need to trust you and where they cannot be deleted.

(And yes, I’ve made a local copy of this comment just in case.)

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #141

I’m sorry about that quick response. I privately did say to get a clue. I should have been kinder to you.

I did encourage you to share if you had any concerns. I’m sorry that was offensive to you.

No need. I’m not deleting this. As I’ve explained several times.



I notice you sidestepped this question of mine regarding the Atheist Backchannel thread:

(I just went looking for that thread and couldn’t find it. Please, please tell me that the evidence hasn’t been erased.)

Your silence is ominous. Did you actually delete it?

If so, do you recognize what a huge breach of trust that is? To start a private thread in which you diss your fellow Christians, out of their sight, and then to delete the evidence before they can see it?

Holy crap, Josh.

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #143

@keiths I did not delete it. It is still there.

I did not discuss other christians. I just invited you to tell me if any atheist specific concerns arose so I could help you with them. Nothing to hide there. Most people would take it as being a good host. Sorry it offended you. Nothing to hide from everyone else here, because no one ever used it.

For having “left”, you still like being around here.

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #144

@keiths, I’m gonna copy here every message I wrote there, because I stand by it all.

The Atheist Back Channel

My Atheist friends,

There are more of you here, and that is a good thing. I wanted to initiate this back channel, so we have a way of communicating together. As more atheists comes, feel free to nominate them for addition here if I have not yet done so.

When you get a chance, please read here why we are actively welcoming atheists to this forum: The Rift Between Atheists and Christians. I want to find ways to bridge this rift. I know it is a fun pastime of many atheists to pick on Christians, but we are trying to do something bigger here. A lot of Christians despise and fear atheists, but I want to build a community here of mutual respect where you will not be seen as their enemy. I know some Christians can be socially inept with atheists. I’m sorry about this, and I’ll do what I can to keep them in check. Whatever happens, as long as you are kind and respectful, you are always welcome here.

I want this to be a trusted place where Christians can come to have their beliefs challenged by science. Remember. It is never enough to be right. We also have to be trusted. Help me build trust with them, so that we will be trusted on the science…

With that in mind, remember this is Peaceful Science. Talk about religion, politics and so on, but use science as a place of common ground. @Patrick, for example, has done a lot of good here by introducing Christians to interesting articles and important things that are being discovered. That is important. We have some larger goals here. You can help us get there.

If any special issues come up related to atheism, please let me know. I will treat you fairly. I’m very glad you are here.

It would make atheism look really good if you guys could show the Christians how to be fair to their opponents, by being fair to yours.

A moderation complaint from Keith’s came to my attention. I can not deal with now, but will soon. Please be patient.

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #145

You might be the first person I’ve ever met that would take offense at this.

Also, @keiths you were not patient. You just raised a ruckus while I was occupied with other things. It is not difficult to be disruptive. It is much more difficult to build bridges across divides.


What are you talking about? I didn’t object to that. I waited for you to address the moderation complaint.

Dude, when your honesty is in question, do you really think it’s a good idea to make stuff up?


I didn’t ask you whether you “stand by it all”. I asked you – twice – whether you deleted the thread. You avoided the question twice.

Did you delete the thread?

(John Dalton) #148

I’ll confirm it’s still there–you can’t see it because Josh removed you from the conversation. That’s how PM’s work in Discourse.

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #149

@keiths i know you want to be outraged, but just read what was written.


Oh, please. I asked you twice whether you had deleted it, and you avoided the question twice. If you had nothing to hide, why not answer it straightforwardly the first time?

And why on earth would you go out of your way to remove me from the access list if you weren’t trying to hide something?

Man, oh man, Josh. You are really doing a number on your credibility.

(Guy Coe) #151

Arrival of the hurtest? Credibility assessments from one who’s already announced a departure, and then returned? What’s your actual beef, or is it all just thin air?

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #152

It is possible he is trying to get banned.