I've been trying to keep my conversation style lately to 'focused, minimally sarcastic, minimally taunting' - it just doesn't help promote any meaningful dialogue, and even if I've got a strong argument, I'd rather people hear me out and consider changing their mind. Saying 'you're an idiot' in howevermany words only makes people retreat into their shell.
This rule gets lax with the Cult of Gnu, because they're immune to thoughtful discourse anyway. Literally. If they weren't, they would not be in the Cult - they'd be some other subspecies of atheist.
Either way, I poked my head in over at James Chastek's blog and got into a minor dustup there, so linked, with a guy named tildeb. Standard Cult of Gnu. Slightly better command of grammar than normal. I usually keep quiet on James Chastek's blog, along with Brandon Watson's, as they're both intelligent sorts given to a more refined style of discourse than I care to manage even when I'm trying to be polite. But hey, a threadshitting cultist? I don't feel as bad getting into it.
Anyway, it followed a few interesting patterns that tend to show up in Cultist discourse.
The Incredible Shrinking Claim: What started off as a statement that science had demonstrated that there was no fall and therefore humanity was in no need for a savior / Christianity has been falsified as science, by the end, turned into some kind of vague wharblegarble about "You don't respect science!!!"
Hook Line and Sinker: The claim trope went down partly because tildeb put way too much stock in Jerry "Specializes in making Fruitflies Fuck" Coyne's proclamations. See, he referenced Ed Feser's argument about first parents and argued that genetics show there can be no 'first parents of all humanity' in the past, even within a larger population, because then the mitochondrial Eve and Y-chromosomal Adam date estimates would converge. The problem was, this only holds if the claim is that Adam and Eve exclusively interbred or similarly such that their patriarchal/maternal lines were unbroken. Oops! Coyne forgot to mention that this wasn't the case. (Because if he mentioned it, it turns out there's no scientific problem after all for the scenario Feser and the like suggested.) So Coyne's attempt to sweep an inconvenient scientific/argument fact under the rug for PR purposes screwed over one of his disciples.
Those Who Love Science Rarely Understand It: My favorite part was the end bit about how science's methods == "respecting reality", but more than that, the fact that the exposure to science on display indicated a very, uh... fractured view of science. Insisting the 'evolution, by definition' doesn't allow for any guidance is just stupid beyond words. Evolution is descent with modification, period. And the idea that a scientific theory includes within it, implicitly or explicitly, a claim that God does not oversee or determine any outcomes is itself a laugh that's easy to poke a hole through. Just ask for the peer-reviewed research showing God's activity being tested for. But if your exposure to science by and large comes from 'shit talk in the comments section of Dawkins' site', well, you're going to just set yourself up for a sandbagging.
I write all this out mostly because I feel like it'd be fun to start a list of tropes the Cult of Gnu engages in, maybe even a field guide to the various species and subspecies of internet atheist. And it was kind of fun to have a good slugging-out after a long, long break.