Russell checks in on the twins.

I join with Jason and others in objecting to the metaphors of violence that the twins have taken to using whenever they characterise the actions or speech of the people they have constructed as opponents – all those horrible “New Atheists”, such as Jerry Coyne and Richard Dawkins. More specifically still, I object to the over-the-top language that has been used to describe the views of the small number of people who have, relatively recently, protested the more religion-friendly statements made on behalf of the the National Center for Science Education (NCSE).

Quite. I think the metaphors of violence have been steadily increasing in the twins’ articles lately; my guess is that that’s a reaction to the strong (but not violent) criticism they’ve been getting. It would be better if their reaction to criticism had been to try to make better arguments, or to admit that their arguments were feeble and take the whole thing back, or even to admit that their arguments were feeble and make more limited and tentative claims. But no. Instead they have simply repeated their claims more insistently and with even more pointing and naming (Dawkins! Coyne! Myers! Myers! Coyne! Dawkins!), and with the addition of increasingly violent metaphors. Let this be a lesson to us all. If we make large claims, and sensible people line up around the block to tell us why the claims are too large and too free of support, the thing for us to do is not, repeat not, just increase the volume or ratchet up the rhetoric or both.

They didn’t do enough thinking while they wrote the book. That’s their problem right there. It’s all too obvious when you read it – you think as you read, ‘Jeez, this is just thrown together, it’s like some sloppy piece of homework a kid does last thing on Sunday night and expects to get a crappy grade on.’ There is no thinking here. It’s very odd that they didn’t notice that – and that their editor didn’t notice it either.

Russell explains what Coyne and he and others have been soberly arguing about the NCSE and then adds:

Regardless whether we are right or wrong about this, we are entitled to express such a view, and it is in the public interest that we do so. The Colgate Twins have – and should continue to have – every legal right to exhort us to self-censorship, but such self-censorship is not in the public interest, and it is morally reprehensible for them to urge it … rather than simply addressing our arguments on their merits. The twins have moved the debate to a meta-level where our actual arguments are not addressed and we are forced to defend our very right to put them. This is a time-wasting distraction. Worse, we are presented as vicious and violent; we are demonised, rather than being treated as reasonable, peaceful people with a valuable role to play in public debate on serious issues.

When faced by this, we quite properly respond with anger and contempt. There is an appropriate time for those emotions – a time when they are healthy – and this is one of them. The twins have shown that they are not just reasonable people who happen to disagree with us on important issues. That would be fine. But they have no rational arguments relating to the issues of substance; instead, they are purveyors of hatred and bigotry who choose to demonise opponents. They choose to treat us as beyond the pale of substantive discussion of our ideas. Well, we are entitled to say what we think of them; we are also entitled to go on making our substantive points, patiently, civilly, and reasonably, as we have done throughout.

It will take more than these two privileged nitwits with bright, toothy smiles to get us to shut up.


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