Thursday, January 12, 2017

Heaven help us be humble

Monday, I posted my response to David MacMillan at the Panda's Thumb for his criticism of AIG's peer review of an exchange I had with O'Micks over the finer points of statistical baraminology.  Now I don't really want to get into a stupid argument over the internet, but there have been some responses in the comments to that article that are so perfect that I think we have an opportunity to learn a little more.

So let's learn a little more.

To review: MacMillan wrote his article to criticize Answers Research Journal for editorial shenanigans.  According to MacMillan, "Posting a concurrent rebuttal demonstrates that ARJ’s claims of academic integrity and peer review are pure nonsense."

In my response I pointed out a number of factual errors in MacMillan's article, most awkward of which was that sentence above.  Publishing a critique and rebuttal concurrently is extremely common.  There's absolutely nothing about that singular act that says anything about the editorial quality of ARJ.  It's basically up to the journal editor's discretion.

As I mentioned above, the comments on that Panda's Thumb article that appeared after I posted my response were extremely telling.  Before we go into that, let's encapsulate exactly what happened at PT.  They posted an article with multiple factual errors that criticized creationists for publishing an article with multiple factual errors that reinforced what MacMillan perceived as creationist dogma.  Now, isn't it anticreationist dogma that creationists are always engaging in intellectual and academic nonsense?  So MacMillan's critique with multiple factual errors supports anticreationist dogma that creationists publish nonsense with multiple factual errors to support creationist dogma.  See the irony?  Of course you do.

Now to the comments.  One comment contends that the errors were reasonable assumptions but that the overall message was correct.  Other comments encourage us not to lose sight of the pertinent point that creationists engage in intellectual and academic nonsense.  And finally there is denial.  Supposedly, AIG still shouldn't have published the rebuttal concurrently with my critique (even though that's pretty standard practice).

Frankly, they sound like creationists responding to anticreationist critics.  "Those errors were reasonable assumptions, and we're not wrong about those other statements.  Besides, the important point is the central dogma that the other side are the bad guys."

What to do?  If there are problems with creationist editing, which there certainly are, we cannot hope to improve the situation by responding with exactly the same behavior that we're trying to critique.  The problem of course is that Panda's Thumb has no interest in improving the situation but only in defeating creationists.  So I don't think they care if they get some facts wrong, but a cavalier attitude towards factual errors is precisely the "sin" they decry in us.  Even if they don't want to help us, they still ought not throw stones while living in glass houses.

I think we all have a higher calling, though.  As a Christian, I definitely have a higher calling.  I have a genuine interest in seeing creationists improve the work that they do and the articles that they write.  That's why I publish the critiques that I do.  I know that I've done a lousy job in the past, and I genuinely want to improve that aspect of my work.  Too often, I've let sarcasm and passion take over, and I've burned (nuked, really) bridges that shouldn't have been.  Shame on me.

So I want to learn from the Panda's Thumb.  I want to ponder my writing a lot more.  I want to think carefully about how I respond as much as I think about what I say.  Tactics matter.  That's the lesson I'm learning here.  It's not enough to be on the right side.

When the time comes, God help me be humble enough to just say, "I was wrong."  No excuses.  No special pleading.  No "from a certain point of view."  Just get over it and get on with the important stuff.

Feedback? Email me at toddcharleswood [at] gmail [dot] com. If you enjoyed this article, please consider a contribution to Core Academy of Science. Thank you.