While travelling in North America, I've been busy catching planes, surviving airports, meeting new people, and squeezing in some much-needed work that I've promised to various folks. Commenting on the day-to-day antics of the Colgate Twins has been low on my list of priorities ... but, yes, I've been more or less keeping up via the fine blogs and sites of such people as Jerry Coyne, Ophelia Benson, Richard Dawkins, and PZ Myers. Just in case any of my readers have not seen it, and have not become totally bored with this issue, here's the latest nonsensical rant from the twins. Enjoy. Or not.
Edit: All the above said, I should add that I support the entirety of what Jason Rosenhouse has to say on this topic in his most recent comment.
In particular, I join with Jason and others in objecting to the metaphors of violence that the twins have taken to using whenever they characterise the actions or speech of the people they have constructed as opponents - all those horrible "New Atheists", such as Jerry Coyne and Richard Dawkins. More specifically still, I object to the over-the-top language that has been used to describe the views of the small number of people who have, relatively recently, protested the more religion-friendly statements made on behalf of the the National Center for Science Education (NCSE).
The position is that some of us, most notably Jerry Coyne but also me among them, have argued in a civil and constructive style that the NCSE should not endorse any particular religious view, or claim that certain religious views that it believes to be mainstream are compatible with the scientific image of the world, including the well-established facts of biological evolution. Rather, the NCSE should concentrate on the purely secular (and intellectually overwhelming) arguments for evolution. It should not, furthermore, publish official documents that appear to endorse a highly controversial philosophical position such as the doctrine of Non-Overlapping Magisteria. Nor, however, should it express the view that evolution creates problems for some, or many, religious positions. That claim may well be true (I believe it is), but the NCSE should concentrate on the secular arguments for evolutionary theory, allowing the implications for religion to fall where they may.
Regardless whether we are right or wrong about this, we are entitled to express such a view, and it is in the public interest that we do so. The Colgate Twins have - and should continue to have - every legal right to exhort us to self-censorship, but such self-censorship is not in the public interest, and it is morally reprehensible for them to urge it ... rather than simply addressing our arguments on their merits. The twins have moved the debate to a meta-level where our actual arguments are not addressed and we are forced to defend our very right to put them. This is a time-wasting distraction. Worse, we are presented as vicious and violent; we are demonised, rather than being treated as reasonable, peaceful people with a valuable role to play in public debate on serious issues.
When faced by this, we quite properly respond with anger and contempt. There is an appropriate time for those emotions - a time when they are healthy - and this is one of them. The twins have shown that they are not just reasonable people who happen to disagree with us on important issues. That would be fine. But they have no rational arguments relating to the issues of substance; instead, they are purveyors of hatred and bigotry who choose to demonise opponents. They choose to treat us as beyond the pale of substantive discussion of our ideas. Well, we are entitled to say what we think of them; we are also entitled to go on making our substantive points, patiently, civilly, and reasonably, as we have done throughout.
It will take more than these two privileged nitwits with bright, toothy smiles to get us to shut up.