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Uncommon Descent

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The divine comedy
Creationism
Icon creationism.svg
Running gags
Jokes aside
Blooper reel
Everyone has a religion, a raison d’être, and mine was once Dawkins’. I had the same disdain for people of faith that he does, only I could have put him to shame with the power and passion of my argumentation.
UD contributor Gil Dodgen,[1] championship checkers programming demigod and 70's lounge pianist[2]

Uncommon Descent is a blog created by William Dembski in April of 2005.[3]

Dembski lost interest in his creation for the first time in December of 2005, commenting;[4]

I’ve decided to put Uncommon Descent into mothballs indefinitely. Although I’ve enjoyed blogging, I find it distracts from more pressing work that I need to get done.

Work on the blog was later carried on by him and his friends, e.g. Denyse O'Leary.

It still seems to be the place where he makes his announcements however, as his alternative projects have not gathered a comparable amount of interest.

History[edit]

Dembski founded UD in 2005. It was originally just Dembski being his egotistical self, but he subsequently decided to mostly abandon that as well. Instead, he turned control of his blog over to a group of imbeciles headed by ID journalist shill Denyse O'Leary and wannabe marine/infamous internet troll Dave Scott. Several other cranks are also allowed to post blog entries on the site. Towards the end of 2008, he officially handed over control of UD to Barry Arrington - a lawyer, who now runs the site.

Dembski claims that his abandonment of UD is so he can focus on his research into Intelligent Design, teasing with the promise of some significant "peer reviewed" publications in the works. No doubt the scientific community is holding its collective breath in anticipation of such an event.

Stats[edit]

threads at UD
comments at UD
comments per month
new threads per month
boxplot: comments per thread

From April 2005 until February 2012 more than 8,400 threads were created at Uncommon Descent, most of these by the blanket persona of "News" - or by "Dembski". Obviously, not everyone is allowed to start a thread - you either have to be a moderator, or have been invited to do so.

In the latter instance, you are allowed to moderate the thread you have created, i.e. tamper with the comments of other users. The real moderators can do so on any thread - an ability they unsurprisingly abuse in order to quell criticisms.

All editors (after enrolling with Wordpress.org) are allowed to comment on most of the threads. During the year 2011 there was an increasing number of threads for which commenting was disallowed, possibly to reduce the overhead generated from constantly placing every non-creationist commenter into the moderation queue or outright banning them.

Having a comment in moderation is an annoying experience, as the comment won't appear on the site until after a moderator has approved of the edit. There is no discernible method to the system of approval, which also lacks an upper time limit: a waiting period of a couple of days is not unheard of - literally the latency of discussing via snail mail (assuming all participants live reasonably close).

Obviously, this is a very serious disadvantage in any discussion, never mind the fact that comments which arrive late to the party due to having been impounded awaiting approval tend to be ignored once they do appear.

Nevertheless, more than 3,000 users have commented on Uncommon Descent, generating nearly 200,000 entries which can still be retrieved. A patient bunch, no doubt.

The traffic and amount of comments at Uncommon Descent depends on the general buzz level in the creationist echo chamber - the aftermath of the Dover trial, of Lenski's experiment and similar circuses. This is sometimes amplified by the major players at the blog, rarely missing a chance to use astonishingly childish humor (even by our standards).

On the other hand - delicious scandals aside - some editors are in fact drawn to the blog by the actual work of Dembski et al.; as there is no other place (except here at RationalWiki) to really discuss (and rectify) Dembski's mathematics, one would think that this process could be accommodated at Uncommon Descent. Various mathematicians in pursuit of this line of reasoning were left wanting.

Another source of endless debate stems from the fact that most of the regular editors at Uncommon Descent are factually wrong. Per the standard IDiot operating procedure, they still perpetuate their errors even as corrections have been provided - the best one can hope for is that they wait a couple of days until they repeat their old canards.

For the first six years, the number of threads per month was manageable, three, at most four a day were posted. In 2011, this changed quite a bit, reaching about four to nine a day (though many of these are posted as announcements, i.e., with comments disabled). Despite this, 2011 was the year with the most comments thus far;

Year 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011
#Comments 8,400 23,000 22,500 23,000 41,100 24,900 41,900

But one effect was obvious: in the span of October to December of 2011, half of the threads were commented on only twice - and in general, the median of the comments on threads stayed in the single digits throughout 2011 - a sharp contrast to the years from 2006 to 2009. Thus, the year 2009 saw the thread with the most edits;

Year longest thread #comments
2005 Stephen Jay Gould’s Contempt for the John Templeton Foundation 259
2006 Gil Has Never Grasped the Nature of a Simulation Model 200
2007 Kevin Padian: The Archie Bunker Professor of Paleobiology at Cal Berkeley 387
2008 Complex speciation of humans and chimpanzees 571
2009 Answers for Judge Jones 768
2010 Intelligent Design and the Demarcation Problem 712
2011 Science and Freethinking 685

Moderation[edit]

The moderation policy at Uncommon Descent led to some controversy with critics of Intelligent Design, who complained that they weren't allowed to post comments on the blog without moderator approval - and that critics of ID could also find themselves banned for patently arbitrary (and sometimes completely undisclosed) reasons. Since then, ID critics have pointed out that Barry Arrington's moderation tactics include deleting or denying publication of select comments from ID critics, followed by him proclaiming that the lack of comments from ID critics means he has won the argument. To counter these attempts by Uncommon Descent to stifle academic freedom and misrepresent critics of ID, a series of discussion pages exist at Antievolution.org under the banner "After the bar closes", where attempts are made to record critical comments posted at UD before they are deleted by the moderators, to create an honest archive of dissent.

The Skeptical Zone[edit]

"The Skeptical Zone",[5] often abbreviated "TSZ" and not to be confused with the Australian podcast of a similar name,[6] is a blog started in 2012 by Dr. Elizabeth Liddle to continue conversations at UD while escaping that site's "format."[7][8]

Similar to UD, posts at TSZ are written by a variety of authors who submit "OPs," though these are not necessarily limited to anti-ID positions.[9] Series of rebuttal posts between the two sites are becoming increasingly common, on topics such as Complex Specified Information[10] and the nature of consciousness.[11]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

References[edit]