How to have a fruitful and respectful conversation

Yes this was a silly mistake on my part. Perhaps I need to think better on how to rephrase my question. Or just not ask it.

I didn’t mean to discourage questions. :slight_smile: Just meant to encourage you to think about what you want to know, and definitely meant to encourage you to reconsider any framework in which “design” occurs exclusive of evolution or natural explanation. IMO, such a framework is logically/intellectually indefensible, but on the positive side it means (IMO) that people interested in design and designers need not deny science or cook up bizarre pseudoexplanations. I’m not saying that’s what you were doing but I want you to be freeeeeeeeeeeeeeee :smiley:


This obviously isn’t my field. There is a great deal of jargon and the barriers for fruitful discussion are large. Unfortunately I often see condescending tone make their way into the discussions on this website, which seems counter to the stated objective.


Do you think your comments so far have adequately reflected your level of understanding? More below, but I am asking you to give that some thought.

I can only speak for myself when I say that I’m working on this, and I agree that respectful dialogue is The Goal. But. I’m not sure that tone policing should be a major effort here, partly because most of the brusqueness/sarcasm/etc that I see is in response to comments that are actually flat-out disrespectful. When an uninformed Christian comes to a discussion forum that includes global experts on multiple aspects of evolution and general biology, and announces that they are “not particularly impressed” by the professional literature on a topic of active discussion, they are being disrespectful. We have scores of posts and “conversations” involving “skeptics” who don’t know what they’re talking about.

I will never claim that this justifies rudeness or verbal abuse by fed-up scientists. What I will claim, strongly, is that “condescension” almost always follows a shocking but all too common example of a person manifesting a noxious combination of arrogance and ignorance. This is a far bigger barrier to “fruitful discussion” than jargon and technical complexity will ever be.

The cool thing about PS, IMO, is that it (we) can acknowledge this challenge and then resolve to meet it. I don’t mean the challenge of clearly explaining technical stuff. I mean the challenge of tolerating boorish behavior on a daily and sometimes hourly basis, while generously seeking some way to build trust enough to get the person to see how wrong they really are. If you want to help with that, I suggest you reflect on what might have led you to approach a topic about which you know so little, in a forum populated by experts who are here specifically to talk about those topics, with a faux skepticism that turns out to be perfectly normal ignorance.

Maybe while the experts continue to work on how to answer loaded questions, deal with strawmen and outright falsehoods, explain basic principles that can be gleaned by reading 5 pages of a free textbook, all while respecting religious commitments and the challenges of explaining technical detail, you can work on respecting their work.


First let me state that I am very grateful for the opportunity to get responses from experts on these subjects. Many of you have spent a lot of time giving serious responses to my questions, and have provided many sources to consider. I have tried to carefully read all sources provided. Rumraket’s explanation of CNE was definitely compelling, and I think it discredits IC as a barrier to naturalistic complexity. So I am obviously willing to change my position, and am willing to consider new evidence/arguments against ID ideas.

When I said:

I was not trying to be disrespectful or ungrateful. I simply did not find the material convincing. This is not meant as a slight against anyone.


When believers do this, they never intend to be disrespectful. That’s why I asked you to give some thought to the whole thing. In how many arenas of life, and especially of intellectual endeavor, is it a reasonable action to arrive at a gathering of experts and announce something like that? Do you see a difference between saying “I still don’t get where you’re coming from” and saying “I’m not particularly impressed by the work your colleagues do and that you just cited to me?”

I am offering you an opportunity to grow. If you take it, you will be in a small but–I really hope–growing minority of Christians who claimed to be skeptical of evolutionary theory but who then discovered that their skepticism was just ignorance.

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Everyone, I think it’s important to recognize a few things here.

  1. @ETVB is asking good faith questions and has been an excellent conversation partner. He is not a polemicist and is not being hyper-skeptical and impervious to evidence.

  2. It is going to be hard to engage here for him, because he has a minority position. So any slights directed his way are going to be multiplied. Likewise, I’m not sure how much word parsing him is going to help.

  3. I think, in fact, he is trying very hard to understand the best arguments against his position, and perhaps even change his position.

For all these reasons, I suggest pausing for a moment, and thinking about how to best engage the substance of his response.

For example, he stated that he has been disappointed with the papers he has seen. @ETVB, I’d like to know why you were disappointed. What exactly were you expecting? What was missing? Perhaps that might reveal something about how we are thinking differently about science.


Now, I propose that we move on from this discussion of approach and instead see if we want to return to the topic of new gene birth (perhaps in a new thread) or any of the other scientific topics in the thread above. I would be most pleased to do that with you.


Thank you for saying this. Let me also take this opportunity to concede my previous response to you (the one including the comment about an incredulous stare), while certainly combative in tone, was not intended to be condescending.


Thanks @Rumraket, but I also don’t think this particular conversation calls for combativeness. @ETVB has not been combative at all. I understand you disagree with him, and that’s okay. However, he certainly deserves respect.

@moderators, can we split out the conversation that @ETVB started several posts up into a different thread than this? He has been bringing a range of excellent questions that deserve its own focus.

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I agree and I don’t want to keep belaboring the point, but I have to point out that if someone says “I don’t find that convincing/I was less than impressed” without suppling any additional clarification or attempt to specify what they’d be looking for to be convinced, it’s hard not to take that as a sort of challenge, figuratively speaking.
He could just as well have said, “really, that’s the best you can do?”. He may not have intended it to sound like that, but that’s just one of the pitfalls of written communication. You can’t put a tone of voice, facial expression, or body language on it. There’s just those words to grapple with.

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Instead of picking at him, you could have just asked, “can you please clarify what you meant?”

Well I did actually go on to do that in that same post. I provided additonal clarification to a previously made explanation of de novo gene birth, and then went on to ask what more one could hope for? That was basically me asking what else he would have liked to see by way of evidence for de novo gene birth.

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Welcome to the Peaceful Science forum, @ETVB.

I really appreciate your excellent questions and your willingness to fit into the “culture” here. We too are navigating our way through a process of determining what a “peaceful” course of dialogue means and how we can best present and discuss a very broad spectrum of ideas to the benefit of all. In so many ways, Peaceful Science is a kind of experiment—and anything involving a collection of humans and complex topics will have its ups and downs.

Your humility in this context is a good example for us all. (I’m a Christ-follower so Proverbs 15:1 comes to mind here: “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”)


I apologize for my comment. In hindsight I can see that being received in an unintended way. I know it is probably very frustrating when dealing with people like me. I really do appreciate your efforts to teach me your point of view.

I’d like to share a bit of context and background on where I’m coming from. I was an atheist for most of my life (I’m 34 now). My atheism led to a crippling nihilism, which was not a fun place to be. I grew up with severe dyslexia, this has perhaps made me more sensitive to perceived condescension than your average person.

I became interested in biology after reading Darwin’s Doubt, which used arguments and evidence that I found highly convincing. I also learned how many core concepts I learned about evolution were flat-out fabrications, and/or wildly out of date with a modern understanding of biology. I was furious and felt mislead.

A few years later after reading Lee Strobel’s work, I became a practicing Christian. Since then I have continued reading on ID and Christian Apologetics. I realized I was existing in an echo-chamber and I wanted to challenge myself to understand and be able to steel-man arguments from ID detractors and hopefully become more objective. I found this forum where I read an exchange with Ann Gauger on the rarity of stable proteins (I read Doug Axe’s book). It looked like her detractors were making some good arguments and I don’t think she did a very good job defending her position. So now I am engaging with you folks directly to try and understand your arguments and the science that backs them up.

Just to add a bit a levity, this is one of my favorite lines from the Movie Margin Call… perhaps its fitting :slight_smile: :


What ever you believe in the end, this is admirable and evidence of intellectual character.

Which specific thread? There were a couple?

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I appreciate the kind words. Hopefully I can continue to be a part of this experiment!


If your information is coming from Darwin’s Doubt, that’s unfortunate. Very little in that book is actually true. You have been deceived, though to be charitable, the author was probably deceiving himself first.

Here’s a critique written by my favorite author. I would be interested to know what core concepts you learned about evolution are wrong or out of date; I’m suspecting that may not be true for a great many of them. The echo chamber is a dangerous place to get your information.


That’s really sad to hear because Meyer’s Darwin’s Doubt was one of the worst pieces of pseudoscience garbage to come down the pike in years. Meyer is a Philosopher of Science, not a scientist and certainly not a paleontologist. DD was absolutely eviscerated by actual professional paleontologists for its many errors and flat out falsehoods.

Here is a review of DD written by Dr. Donald Prothro, an actual highly respected and published paleontologist.

Stephen Meyer’s Fumbling Bumbling Cambrian Amateur Follies

One of the main reasons many of us here can’t stand the DI is exactly for cases like yours. They publish pseudoscience trash in the popular press and end up giving very false impressions of science to honest but unsuspecting laymen. It sometimes takes years to undue the damage these DI charlatans produce.


Someday I hope you get an apology for how you were misled so badly by that author. If you sought to learn about biology, you were betrayed. I’m really sorry that happened to you. I do know what that’s like.

Props to you. Good luck, and count me in if you want to learn about evolution. FWIW, I think there is a lot of room to think about design and creation without the damaging poison of science denial and distortion. (I’m an apostate, happily free now of religion, and I think that design is interesting and real.) No one, Christian or otherwise, should be forced to choose between a vision of design or goodness or divinity and an honest understanding of the biological world. You are at a disadvantage because you started with sources that are not credible. But it doesn’t have to end there.