Alas, my time here at Scientopia is running out and the time for a new guest blogger draws nigh. I've written far less than I had hoped, but hopefully you have enjoyed at least some of what I have written. Part of the reason for the paucity of posts was that I became somewhat side-tracked by moderating and responding to comments from proponents of a version of Intelligent Design, who had picked up on the mention of Darwin in my first post and started trolling.
Many other science bloggers have been bothered by the now infamous John A. Davison (and his trusty sidekick VMartin) and John usually ends up being banned. He thinks it's because his dazzling insights are too much for entrenched 'Darwinians', but I think it has more to do with his modus operandi. PZ Myers has provided his reasons for banning John here.
Fortunately I am not in the same position as PZ Myers when it comes to visitor figures, so I don't need to worry so much about huge volumes of nonsense being posted in my comments sections. It means I can afford to be a bit more tolerant of cranks and kooks that inhabit the internet. My grounds for banning relate to behaviour towards other commentators - I am a supporter of free speech, so I didn't want to ban John on the grounds of his content, but I did come close to barring him for his lack of respect for the privacy of others.
Unfortunately, due to my time limitations I never really got to address John and VMartin's points in any detail, which is something that I find a little irksome, since their points are very clearly spurious. I know that I won't change their minds, but I hate to give the impression that I am unable to see the flaws in what they say. But of course, that's how trolls work, they make inflammatory statements that take time to refute (often such statements are copy-pasted to save their own time - for example, compare John's comments from 2011 with his comments from 2007), they then ignore or fail to engage with the response. The best bet is to simply not bother trying - don't feed the troll.
When I first started blogging one of my earliest posts was about Creationist trolls and their comments and from the inevitable response to that I wrote myself a list to remind myself of the rules of engagement adopted by Creationists. Good old Johnny-boy doesn't fall into the Biblical Literalism camp, but many of the rules still apply to him and his buddy VMartin. The differences (where they occur) tend to relate to interpretations of evidence, so the rules of engagement that John uses includes use of logically fallacious arguments, cherry-picking and misrepresentation of results. As one of my very good friends texted to me:
"While eloquence and clarity of expression are not the same as absolute coherence, and an ubercrank does not represent a whole community, it's notable that your ID posters adopt the same, shall we say, idiosyncratic rhetorical style as the pro-homeo crew"
Which I consider to be an astute observation. Homeopathy and Davison's Evolutionary Manifesto both rely heavily on references that are old and have been written without an insight into new methodological or conceptual developments in the fields that they oppose (for homeopaths there's Hahnemann, for Davison there's Leo S. Berg and Robert Broom). They rely on unsupported assumptions (homeopaths rely on the action of a 'vital force' - whereas Davison relies on theistic input). They rely on critique of other theories, rather than finding robust support for their own - and that critique is often based on logical fallacy. Their own research is also usually of low standard and is published in a low impact journal (CAM studies with positive outcomes are more likely to be published in low or no impact journals and Davison only seems to publish in Rivista di Biologica).
One of the most frustrating aspects of Davison and VMartin's comments is that they repeatedly assert in pejorative terms that there is no evidence for Natural Selection and there is no active research being conducted in the field of evolutionary biology, which is grossly misleading - some great examples of good studies (in a very good journal) can be found here (as a pdf).
I realise that this post is likely to be seen as an ad hominem attack by John A. Davison and VMartin and I'm sure that they will duly comment that I haven't addressed any of their questions. However, this post is not a response to their comments, it is an observation on the activities of trolls. After all, they came to my blog and started making off-topic comments. I think it is pointless to address the 'Gish Gallop' that John employs, since I am certain the outcome would be rather like the parody 'John A. Davison orders a pizza' from 2005. I find myself in total agreement with a post on The Bad Idea Blog, back in 2007:
"I’m generally not one for poisoning the well. I could try to go into some of Davison’s actual arguments against evolution (though that would be hampered by the fact that his writing style and lack of coherent organization is very very hard to make sense of what he’s even claiming). Normally I would. But if you spend any time reading through his “posts” (i.e. the comments), or catching sightings of his rambling comments at the Expelled! blog and elsewhere, I think you’ll come to the conclusion that going with the “crackpot” label and leaving it at that is perfectly forgivable"
This sums up why I'm not going to get involved - it's a waste of time that could be spent with my wife and friends, or maybe writing something that will actually be appreciated. On that note, I hope you have enjoyed some of my ramblings here and I also hope you might visit Zygoma in the future. Thanks for having me!