Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Some Pies for "The Skeptical Zone"

In 2015, there some 45,000 comments were made at The Skeptical Zone. Here are the top ten of the commentators (just a quantitative, not a qualitative judgement.) I'll stick to the color scheme for all of figures in this post... "The Skeptical Zone" has a handy "reply to"-feature, which allows you to address a previous comments (with or without inline quotation.) It is used to various degree - and though some don't use it at all, nearly 50% of all comments were replies.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

"Uncommon Descent" and "The Skeptical Zone" in 2015

Since 2005, Uncommon Descent (UD) - founded by William Dembski - has been the place to discuss intelligent design. Unfortunately, the moderation policy has always been one-sided (and quite arbitrary at the same time!) Since 2011, the statement "You don't have to participate in UD" is not longer answered with gritted teeth only, but with a real alternative: Elizabeth Liddl's The Skeptical Zone (TSZ). So, how were these two sites doing in 2015?

Number of Comments 2005 - 2015

year 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
UD  8,400 23,000 22,400 23,100 41,100 24,800 41,400 28,400 42,500 53,700 53,100
TSZ - - - - - -  2,200 15,100 16,900 20,400 45,200
In 2015, there were still 17% more comments at UD than at TSZ.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The "Discovery Institute" trembles before the mighty powers of DiEbLog!

Just kidding. It isn't. But they published some of the pages the absence of which I had criticized in my previous post: John G. West wrote an article on Dennis Prager Was Right: Atheists Are More Open-Minded on ID than Some United Methodist Officials, in which he included further pages from the poll which the Discovery Institute (DI) had ordered on the subject of being snubbed by the United Methodist Church.

I assume that this little blog mainly flies under the RADAR of the DI, but they most probably follow astutely the very amusing Sensuous Curmudgeon, where I raised the problem earlier.

So, as I have guessed there was a question Q9, regarding the religious beliefs of the participants of the study. Why did the DI need an extra day to put a spin on the answers to this questions? Did they think it to be especially juicy, so that they were able to get yet another article from it? Or were they annoyed that one third of the participants of the poll identified themselves as agnostic or atheists?

Let's wait and see for Q8 - the question for the degree of education. Perhaps some scientists named Steve were involved, that result could be unpleasant...

OMG - The Discovery Institute is Committing Censorship!!!11!!1!

Does the Discovery Institute (DI) want to keep its much coveted Censor of the Year Award for itself this year?

If you are interested in this kind of things, you will have noticed the tantrum John G. West and his friends are collectively throwing over at Evolution News & views (EN&V) because they were somewhat rebuffed by the United Methodist Church (UMC). Here is some background as it presents itself to me (EN&V's viewpoint may differ): The UMC is holding its ''General Conference'' once every four years. In May 2016, it will be taking place at the ''Oregon Convention Center''. ''Sponsors and exhibitioners'' may rent booths at the center to present themselves to the estimated 6,500 participants of the event. The DI was willing to pay the 900 Dollar - 1200 Dollar fee to become an exhibitioner, but their application was turned down. There may have been various problems, but unfortunately for them, it did not seem to match the fourth criterium for eligibility:

Proven Business Record: Purchasers must have a proven business record with their products/services/resources. Exhibits are not to provide a platform to survey or test ideas; rather, to provide products/services/resources which are credible and proven.
It is fair to say that the DI has not recovered from this blow yet- over the last eight days, there have been at least fourteen articles been published on this matter at EN&V. One of the highlights was this New Poll: Most Americans Turn Thumbs Down on United Methodist Ban on Intelligent Design: The DI spent the money it has saved on the booth to have a survey performed by SurveyMonkey. It asked:
The United Methodist Church recently banned a group from renting an information table at the Church’s upcoming general conference because the group supports intelligent design—the idea that nature is the product of purposeful design rather than an unguided process. Some have criticized the ban as contrary to the United Methodist Church’s stated commitment to encourage “open hearts, open minds, open doors.” Rate your level of agreement or disagreement with the following statements:
1. The United Methodist Church should not have banned an intelligent design group from renting an information table at its conference.
2. The United Methodist Church’s ban on the intelligent design group seems inconsistent with the Church’s stated commitment to encourage “open hearts, open minds, open doors.”
What surprised me: thought the question was obviously leading, still 30% didn't agree with the first statement and 22% didn't agree with the second one! Or, as the DI describes it:
More than 70% of the 1,946 respondents to the nationwide survey agreed that “the United Methodist Church should not have banned an intelligent design group from renting an information table at its conference.” More than 78% of respondents agreed that “the United Methodist Church’s ban on the intelligent design group seems inconsistent with the Church’s stated commitment to encourage ‘open hearts, open minds, open doors.’”
But here is the cinch: Though EN&V announced that the "full report" can be downloaded from here, it is obvious from the pagination that at least two pages are missing!

Enter panic mode: OMG! The Discovery Instituted is censoring its report! What are they covering up? Are they beating puppies? Like Darwin! They should get their own Censorship Award!!!!11!!1

The truth is a little bit less sinister: Survey Monkey asks you about your age (Q11), your gender (Q12), your income (Q13), your party affiliation (Q10) and the region you are living in (Q14). What is surprisingly missing are questions about your religious orientation and your education. These two characteristics are of obvious interest for a poll like this one - so, I am guessing that the questions Q8 and Q9 were about these matters. Maybe the results did not please the DI and thus, were omitted from the final report.

Edit: Instead of trying to claim that it was meant to be ironic, I just corrected an embarrassing spelling mistake in the headline...