Evolution News and Views (ENV) provides original reporting and analysis about the debate over intelligent design and evolution, including breaking news about scientific research.

Evolution News and Views
Evolution NEWS

You Go, Larry Moran!

Professor Laurence A. Moran, biochemist at the University of Toronto, explains why he thinks it's a smart tactic for Darwinists to respond to skeptics by taunting them with infantile insult terms (e.g., IDiot) that Dr. Moran mystifyingly thinks are witty:

My audience is not the creationists I'm debating, it's the readers who might not have made up their minds about Intelligent Design Creationism. They will read the viscous [sic] attacks of these creationists on scientists (Darwinists) and wonder whether there's some truth behind them. I could reply with polite phrases like "rationally indefensible" "unsupported by evidence" and "empirically refuted" but that would be like bringing a flyswatter to a gunfight.

The general public needs to hear what passionate scientists really think of these IDiots. The best way to do that is to fight fire with fire. The idea is to plant in the public's mind the notion that these creationists are crazies and kooks, not respectable scientists with a different, but scientifically valid, opinion. We tried treating them politely for several decades and what did it get us? It got us leaders and politicians in many countries who think it's perfectly respectable to believe that evolution is false.

Moran finds his approach to be reminiscent of something British wit Stephen Fry once said about how Brits freely insult each other's ideas around the dinner table, a style that makes Americans (says Fry) uncomfortable. But one difference between Fry and Moran is that Fry is funny whereas calling your opponents "IDiots" over and over and over again must be considered tedious and grating even by Larry Moran's own comrades.

If I'm wrong, I invite his fellow members of the Internet Darwin brigade to assure me that they find Moran's signature term effective and amusing. PZ Myers, for example, what do you say?

If I were cynical I would encourage Moran to keep right on with his style of "debate."

Just think. Imagine you're one of those undecided fence-sitters on the Darwin question that he thinks he's appealing to. Or say you're a journalist, reflexively pro-Darwin but one who's never had an occasion to follow the controversy in the past. Now something's come up in the news that touches on evolution and you figure you'll sample the arguments on both sides with a view to writing on it.

You stumble upon the blog, named in honor of Charles Darwin's famous "Sandwalk," of a University of Toronto biochemist and man of mature years who writes this way, over and over and over. He will, for example, reproduce a photo of an Internet Darwin critic with the words "I'm an IDiot" superimposed. This same biochemistry professor and Darwin advocate writes blog posts trying to defend and recommend this approach, including his favorite term "IDiot," to others. Are you impressed? That's a self-answering question.

Of course it would be different if Moran were not a guy who teaches in a relevant scientific field at a university you've heard of. If he were just another one of those pseudonyms that populate comment boxes around the Internet, and who dish out their own vicious/viscous stuff, no one would care. Much as it's distasteful to read Moran's blog (as I very rarely do), there's reason to be grateful for its existence.

Now watch, he's going to trawl the Internet for a picture of me and write "I'm an IDiot" on it and post that.

If I were purely strategic, I would say: Give us more, Larry Moran! Pour it on. Please!