April 17, 2024

The League of Reason

I think it’s funny when someone demands that I explain the entire evolution of life “from molecules to men”—on Twitter. My video series to answer that question takes 47 episodes at an average of ten minutes each, but my would-be interlocutors expect me to explain all that in a single tweet of 240 characters or less?! Twitter is NOT the place to have an intellectual discussion of any depth about anything.

Likewise, debates on Facebook are similarly frustrating even without such a tight restriction on text; partly because I can only show one associated image at a time, and also because those conversations are so easily lost. Such that all that work will disappear in the fog within a few days, if I didn’t remember to save a link to it. And where would I keep it saved so that the public could find it? For posterity? Even if I managed to do that, the way that multiple sub-threads develop on Facebook is such that specific topics jump about. Thus no one who wanted to could follow a whole discussion intelligibly.

I first started arguing this subject on Talk.Origins, back when news groups still existed. Then when those went away, I started posting to discussion boards, which were perfect for this type of interaction. They allowed quoting, so that a single post could be divided and addressed point-by-point, with all the graphs and illustrations necessary, and anyone reading along could follow a single linear progression between those two debaters without having to find side-threads.

I used to like posting to ChristianForums, because that’s where my target audience is. In fact, that’s where I met my wife. She was an Old Earth Creationist at that time (known then as ConsideringLily) until that forum allowed a clear presentation of the facts of the matter sufficient to change her mind. However, that cite often censored or deleted posts calling out the frauds, falsehoods or fallacies within the Christian religion. The first time I ever wrote the words, “foundational falsehoods of creationism” was a post to that forum, which was censored. So I left that forum to post somewhere else.

There used to be several discussion boards focusing on the subject of religion conflicting with science, education and politics, but most, if not all of them that I’ve ever been to are gone now. My favorite of all of these forums was the League Of Reason. It was appropriately named because it literally was a league of reason. Most of the posters there were professional scientists in various fields. If you want to know the truth about any alleged controversy in or with science, go to where actual scientific specialists will see and contribute to that discussion.

The League Of Reason site was owned by an astronomer who participated on a web show with me back in the days of BlogTV. Our show was also called the “League of Reason”. The original panel included that astronomer, along with a chemist and a geneticist, as well as myself representing evolutionary science, and a lawyer, who was relevant whether evaluating evidence or secular issues. At some point, the astronomer moved on to a long-running TV series on the BBC and he didn’t want his discussion forum to be confused or conflated with the BlogTV show, especially now that he was no longer on it. So we were forced to change our video series to a less relevant and much sillier name, The Magic Sandwhich Show.

I kept posting written debates to the LoR discussion forum whenever I wanted to have a serious debate beyond the limits of social media. The best way to debate science is in writing, where you can each read the other’s citations before replying. Once I argued with a creationist on his radio show where he claimed all sorts of scientific support that I could not verify on the fly. But then when that same guy agreed to debate me in writing, I showed that none of the papers he cited actually said what he claimed they did! That’s why scientific debates are NOT done live on a stage but in text, where misrepresented misinformation WILL be found out and exposed.

Several months ago, I noticed the League Of Reason site was offline. I contacted the former administrator, who said that the site hadn’t been maintained or updated and that it didn’t even work with the recently-updated format of the host anymore. I asked if that could be fixed, and he said it probably could be, but only if I take it over. So I did.

One of the database engineers on the Phylogeny Explorer Development team said he knew exactly how to fix the League of Reason site too. So we transferred all the data to a new server linked to a newly purchased domain. I had no idea then that it would take a couple weeks of manually changing code to make the site work again. The engineer told me later how meticulous every step of that turned out to be, and all I could do was apologize for him having to work so hard at it. If I had known in advance how much trouble that would be, I never would have asked him to do it. But it’s done now, and we’ve emailed notices to everyone who had an account on that site before.

We’re still in the process of restoring some portions of it, but I am personally very happy that the League Of Reason is online and usable again, and that it is under my name now.

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