22 November 2008

And the Answer is 'No' (Emphatically)

Yesterday as I was on the plane to Seattle, Tiana received this response from Casey Luskin (after having issued a second invitation):

Dear Tiana,

Greetings and thanks for your e-mail. Of course you have made no such “assumption” that I’d rather not have such a discussion. You wrote me your e-mail to me about 24 hours ago and the fact that I haven’t replied yet means nothing other than that I’ve been debating whether to send you the e-mail I drafted yesterday in reply. I guess, now I’ll send it, even if my words turn out to be wasted.

To help you understand my response, I’d like to give you some background on me first.

I have a long track record of acting in good faith to try to build bridges between ID proponents and proponents of evolution for the purpose of having warm, friendly, civil, and serious dialogue and debate over ID and evolution.

In college, I founded the Intelligent Design and Evolution Awareness (IDEA) Club whose mission was (in part) to “Facilitate discussion, debate, and dialogue over these issues in a warm, friendly, and open atmosphere where individuals feel free to speak their personal views.” After graduating, I founded the IDEA Center as a non-profit with the same mission, and it has helped dozens of students found similar clubs. IDEA Clubs have successfully brought people on “both sides” of this controversial issue together to have warm, friendly, civil, rational, and honest dialogue, discussion, and debate over ID vs. evolution. In fact, just this week I reconnected with an old friend of mine from the UCSD IDEA Club—a committed evolutionist—and we’re planning to get together sometime.

The IDEA Club first formed in 1999, and at that time the debate was far less-politicized than it is today. Since that time, Darwinists have shown a dramatic decrease in interest in rational, friendly, civil dialogue and a dramatic increase in name-calling, antics, persecution, and scare-tactics. In my view (and this has been my view for a few years now), the most significant factor which led to the decline in Darwinist interest in serious and friendly dialogue / debate was the advent of the blogosphere around 2003-2004, because that has fostered and bred an internet “culture of demonization” among Darwinists against ID proponents. In this “culture of demonization,” status means everything. Participants in this “culture” score points and raise their “status” by mocking ID proponents or dicking around with them (your blog provides a nice example) and claiming that opponents of Darwinism are immoral, ignorant, silly, and evil, etc. In short, status among internet Darwinists is raised by the lengths one is willing to go to dehumanize ID proponents. The behavior of the internet Darwinist community highly driven by a desire to increase social-status, with intellectual pride being the hamster that turns the wheel. In many instances, this culture of demonization has spread off the ‘net into the real world. In one instance, elements of it got incorporated into a judicial ruling. Just so ya know, this “culture of demonization” does not go unseen by reasonable lurkers watching the debate, and it drives more folks towards my side of the debate than you would guess.

Though I don’t have the time to be as involved with IDEA as I used to be, I continue to take advantage of opportunities for serious, friendly, and civil discussion over ID, and in fact I’ve had had multiple private and friendly coffee / meal meetings with Darwinists in recent months to have friendly dialogue over ID. So I have pretty awesome street creds when it comes to my track record of being serious about having friendly conversation, dialogue, and debate over ID vs. evolution, and I put my money where my mouth is: I’ve invested countless hours and thousands of my own dollars trying to help students promote serious, friendly, and rational dialogue between ID proponents and evolutionists. I don’t say this pridefully: these “street creds” aren’t the kind of thing I wish to keep for myself and I wish that most internet Darwinists involved with this debate could build these same “street creds” rather than practicing their usual behavior.

This whole caricature you’re trying to label me with as being someone who is not interested in debate or dialogue is simply an extension of your involvement in the culture of demonization, and there’s no truth to it whatsoever.

With that background, here’s my response to your request:

I’d love to have coffee with someone who is interested in serious dialogue over ID and evolution, and in fact I’ve had countless such “coffees” since I started the IDEA club at UCSD in 1999. But I make it a rule to only go to such coffees when I think the person I’m meeting with are interested in serious and friendly, dialogue, and discussion and has good faith intention. You have not convinced me that you’re interested in that.

Not only did you enter our prior conversation with false intentions where you admit you were “drunk and lying” (your words), but on your blog you then proceeded to call me and my co-workers names like “dumb,” “angry tank,” “deranged,” “backwards, nearly illiterate, dangerous fundamentalist,” “scary,” “full of shit,” and other various things. (You’re also blogging about this current incident, showing that your current intent is not good faith dialogue but that you hope to use this encounter to score points in the Darwinist culture of demonization.)

I get called unjustified names all the time on the ‘net and so I made my peace with such people and such incidents long ago; so I’m not angry about this, and as I said in my prior e-mail to you, I forgive you. But just because I forgive you doesn’t mean I have to choose to further interact with who might verbally abuse me. I am under no obligation to have coffee with people who would go into our meeting not with the intention of having friendly dialogue, but to use the encounter to score points in the culture of demonization. Also, my time is very limited and I don’t have time to talk to people who aren’t interested in serious discussion. So unless you prove to my satisfaction that you are interested in serious, friendly debate, I’m not not going to take time to meet with you. But since I feel it’s important to offer second chances, so I am willing to offer you a second chance:

If we’re going to have a private conversation, then it’s going to be completely on my terms and you’re going to have to prove to my satisfaction (it’s my call in the end) that you are serious about leaving the “culture of demonization” permanently behind you and moving into my community, the culture of civility, which includes many ID proponents and evolutionists, and is a community that is interested in serious, friendly, and civil dialogue with intellectual opponents. There are many evolutionists and ID proponents in this community, and I hope you might wish to join all of us. But I will be not be able to believe you are willing to believe you want to enter this community until, at the very least, I see the following:

(1) You privately apologize for your behavior towards me and my coworkers. (They didn’t ask for this, and I don’t need an apology, but if you want to prove to me that you are serious about wanting friendly conversation, you’d probably need to do this.)

(2) At the beginning of every page on your blog that discussed your visit to DI, you should place a disclaimer that (a) states that your behavior both inside and outside of DI with respect that incident was inappropriate and publicly apologizes for your behavior and (b) encourages other internet Darwinists to change their attitude and start engaging in friendly, civil debate.

(3) You make a new series of several posts on your blog supporting the importance of having civil, friendly, and rational dialogue in the debate over evolution, explaining that you feel that your prior behavior towards me and DI was inappropriate, and calling the internet Darwinist community (PandasThumb, Pharyngula, many other ScienceBlogs, and their associated smaller cheerleader blogs, like yours) to dramatically change their attitude and demeanor towards ID proponents and start treating ID proponents with respect, civility, friendship, and warmth. These blog posts should include criticizing many (like a few dozen—they’re easy to find) specific incidents of namecalling and incivility on the part of Darwinists against ID proponents on various Darwinist blogs and discussion groups.

(4) From the time I send this e-mail, I see you exhibit no further uncivil attitudes towards me or any other ID proponents. Note: If you post this e-mail publicly or discuss any contents of this e-mail publicly without first asking my permission, that will be a sign to me that you are not interested in serious, friendly discussion, and I will not meet with you under any further terms, regardless of what you do.

So it’s up to you. If demonstrate to my satisfaction that you will go into our conversation in good faith and with honest intentions, and if you demonstrate to my satisfaction that you want serious, friendly, rational dialogue and that you are interested in treating ID proponents with respect, I’ll happily consider meeting with you. And if we do have our conversation, it will be for the purpose of private dialogue, friendship, conversation, and reconciliation, and we will both agree that since we’re all interested in the best things life has to offer (friendship, honest and introspective truth-seeking) that there is no need to blog about it publicly. In fact, if we do meet, I would ask that you NOT bring a tape recorder in such an instance. We may disagree on ID vs. evolution, but we’re all fellow truth-seekers and fellow human beings we can respect and appreciate that shared quality and treat one another kindly in friendly conversation, dialogue, and debate. But if your future behavior shows that you simply want to score more points in the internet Darwinist community, that will show me that you aren’t interested in serious conversation and I won’t meet with you.

I’m sorry but it’s going to take a long time for you to demonstrate to me your interest in leaving the culture of demonization, and you won’t be able to do it before Kate leaves. If we ever have coffee, it’s going to take many months of you building up a track record of being someone who disavows the culture of demonization and applauds and participates in the culture of civility.

Regardless of where you choose to go from here, I want you to know that I forgive you, I wish you the best in your life, and I also hope, for your own sakes that you can join the culture of civility and friendship that is very real and very vibrant. I know you’re capable of better.

Again, all the best to you.


Casey Luskin


vjack said...

I just read your tagline again. Love it! I really need to grow a beard.

Ragnar said...

I think by civility and friendship he means that you have to agree with him.

It may be immature, but I will stick to calling them names.

Crispian Jago said...

Thanks for opting to post the transcript of Casey’s email response rather than attempting to meet his outrageous demands in the hope of him deeming you worthy of his coffee drinking time. I also just listened to your interview on the Skepticality Podcast and hope that a few more people take up the Challenge to visit the Discovery Institute under non false pretences. In terms of debating with creationists, I’m coming round to the point of view that there is little value as their mindset rejects rational conclusions in favour of incredulous indoctrinated delusions. I’ve blogged a few thoughts on the following link:


I look forward to hearing any future email exchanges and anyone else’s attempts at a rational dialogue with the Discovery Institute.

Anonymous said...

(The writer does well in calling the lady to logic, and asking her to leave out all the nastiness.)
I challenge atheists who say we just don't have our brains in gear: 166 years ago Abbott' s 'Flatland' showed that contiguous geometrical worlds explain where God is and why we can't see him. So we wrote 'Techie Worlds' for mechanical people and did the scientific thing: we looked at Christian teachings like the Trinity, like resurrection, judgment, the idea of a soul. In contiguous geometrical worlds these things are logical and understandable, even though to 'this-world-only' atheists they are ridiculous imaginings.
We see a lot of belief in devils, in miracles, in good and evil spirits. Just talk with your friendly Wiccas and Satanists. Their recognition of spirit worlds makes it more probable that our view, the view of love, of the world is correct. Besides, there is Pascal's wager, pointing out that Christian belief can reward while atheism surely leads to death. The labels: Thinking, Logical, Reasonable, Rational really belong to Christians more than to those proudly acclaimed agnostics. Get a copy of 'Techie Worlds' from amazon.com and see the reasonableness of Abbott's explanation.