Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Does talk.origins still exist?

Several people have asked recently if talk.origins still exists and if the TalkOrigins Archive is still functional. As it turns out, the current king of the talk.origins newsgroup (David Greig) is going to be here (my office) either today or in the next few days to upgrade the talk.origins server. The name of the server is "Darwin" and here's what it looks like (right).

Here's a link to the newsgroup: talk.origins. Here's a description from the Wikipedia article on talk.origins.
The first post to talk.origins was a starter post by Mark Horton, dated 5 September 1986.

In the early 1990s, a number of FAQs on various topics were being periodically posted to the newsgroup. In 1994, Brett J. Vickers established an anonymous FTP site to host the collected FAQs of the newsgroup. In 1995, Vickers started the TalkOrigins Archive web site as another means of hosting the talk.origins FAQs. It maintains an extensive FAQ on topics in evolutionary biology, geology and astronomy, with the aim of representing the views of mainstream science. It has spawned other websites, notably TalkDesign "a response to the intelligent design movement", Evowiki, and the Panda's Thumb weblog.

The group was originally created as the unmoderated newsgroup net.origins as a 'dumping ground' for all the various flame threads 'polluting' other newsgroups, then renamed to talk.origins as part of the Great Renaming. Subsequently, after discussion on the newsgroup, the group was voted to be moderated in 1997 by the normal USENET RFD/CFV process, in which only spam and excessive crossposting are censored. The moderator for the newsgroup is David Iain Greig (and technically Jim Lippard as alternate/backup).

The group is characterized by a long list of in-crowd jokes like the fictitious University of Ediacara, the equally fictitious Evil Atheist Conspiracy which allegedly hides all the evidence supporting Creationism, a monthly election of the Chez Watt-award for "statements that make you go 'say what', or some such.", pun cascades, a strong predisposition to quoting Monty Python and a habit of calling penguins "the best birds".

Apart from the fun, the group includes rebuttals to creationist claims.There is an expectation that any claim is to be backed up by actual evidence, preferably in the form of a peer-reviewed publication in a reputable journal. The group as a whole votes for a PoTM-award (Post of The Month), which makes it into the annals of TalkOrigins Archive.
I forgot about penguins being the best bird. The article forgot to mention Howler monkeys.

The University of Ediacara consists of many faculty members named Chris plus some others. There's only one permanent student, me.

I won't try to name all the alumni who are still active on the newsgroup or on blogs. I'll let them confess identify themselves in the comments if they dare.

Here's the link to the TalkOrigins Archive. It contains all kinds of information on the evolution/creation debate including all the rebuttals to any argument the creationists have ever made.



35 comments :

  1. Don't forget the IPUs - invisible pink unicorns (that live in the walls). A more vivid version of Russell's teapot.

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  2. Wesley "Chris" Elsberry here. The server for the TalkOrigins Archive has transitioned a few times, from a commercially hosted service to a dual-Xeon server box to its current iteration on a Ubuntu server virtual machine. Reed Cartwright has a dedicated box for PT at his institution.

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  3. There's also Troubles in Paradise

    https://tortucan.wordpress.com/

    Which is claiming to host a similar repository. The more the merrier, I think.

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  4. Sadly, both the quantity and quality of creationists has declined sharply in recent years. There is currently nobody who comes close to the great Ted Holden or Carl "the Woodpecker" Crawford. These days they mostly post one-liner insults and attempted gotchas or cut&pastes from creationist web sites. Rather like the ones you get here, actually.

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    1. We actually got a live creationist (old-earther, fan of Hugh Ross) in Pharyngula comments the other week. He was even an engineer. Brought back fond memories.....

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    2. The kooks are still around -- but I think they learned (even Aplysia can learn!) that places like TO or the Panda's Thumb or Pharyngula are incredibly hostile to their existence. We've got dozens or hundreds of relatively well-schooled evilutionists slavering away at the opportunity to pounce on a creationist.

      I've found the old school obtuse creationists are now cruising regional forums. For instance, take a look at this guy who haunts the Pioneer Press in Minnesota.

      http://www.twincities.com/ci_27620700#comment-1885539809

      They like their little hidey-holes where they can make pompous assertions and no one is around to rebut them.

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    3. Pounced ??
      As a creationist, YEC NO LESS, I insist we get banned/censored before any pouncy effects?
      Kooks? Oh brother. is every creationist a kook? If not what percentage?
      Half of america and a quarter of english speaking canada is kookified??
      One is not defined by ones opponent.
      Creationists would be more involved if there was greater liberty of opinions and conclusions.
      I am ready to rumble and don't feel bested ever but have trouble not getting blacklisted.
      I wish there was a bigger greater forum for these matters. We could settle truth. I don't understand why there is not more activity from both sides in such famous contentions.

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    4. Oh cool PZ showed up over here! And in the same thread as Bob "marsupials" Byers, nonetheless

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    5. PZ is nothing but a rude, arrogant, big-mouthed selection-worshipping atheist pretending he is running a science blog.

      I guess that the kooks have left the kitchen because they were fed up being bullied, humiliated, denigrated, treated as shit by PZ and his followers.

      I once or twice tried to initiate a discussen on redundancy, over at Pharyngula, but nobody listens to arguments. Fed up with being bullied, humiliated, denigrated, treated as shit I left.

      Yeah, he really is great. Not for me.

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    6. I have no idea who you are. I have no recollection of you posting anywhere. I searched the comments for "terborg"…nope, nothing. That you think I'm "selection-worshipping" when I've got a squad of people cussing me out for not being selectionist enough is amusing.

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    7. Hi Peer,
      I've been reading a few of your contributions to this blog. You're main argument why every one is against you, seems to be based on Galileo's gambit.

      I quote:

      They made fun of Galileo, and he was right.
      They make fun of me, therefore I am right.

      It is freakishly common among creationists and global warming denialists alike against the evil scientific consensus.

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    8. PZ: Does the name "Peter Borger" strike a familiar note?

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    9. Or as Carl Sagan put it:

      The fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.

      Delete
    10. Oh. Borger. That was a long time ago, and yeah, he's nuts.

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  5. John "Anti-Chris" Wilkins here. I pop in from time to time.

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    1. I remember you. You were the football coach at the Univetsity of Ediacara, right?

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  6. I think the Evil Atheist Conspiracy and IPU were more of an alt.atheism thing, actually (though there was a fair amount of cross-traffic). Somewhere around half of the t.o pro-evolution regulars, back in my active days (early 90s thru mid-00s), were in fact Christians of some sort, and compatibilism/accomodationism seemed to be, if not the prevalent view, at least a popular one (I'm not arguing for or against it, just noting the history). I bailed on Usenet generally in favour of the blogosphere about 10 years back, and haven't kept up with things on t.o since then.

    My one claim to net notoriety (shared with my wife) is the University of Ediacara. Not inventing the idea -- I believe that was Chris Heiny -- but thinking it was funny enough to run with, and composing the first version of the Faculty List. And suddenly, everyone else wanted in on the joke. (And OMG, that was 22 years ago. How time flies.) Good times, good times.

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    1. Hi Chris, :-)

      The best thing about talk.origins was that everyone had the same name. It was so easy to remember. You didn't have to waste time with names like Paul Zachary.

      As far as I know, nobody has been able to find out what happened to Chris Colby.

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    2. The same name? How is that easy to remember who is who?

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    3. This LinkedIn profile is undoubtedly our Chris Colby: https://www.linkedin.com/pub/chris-colby/22/828/214 (The biology background fits, as does the interest in beer).

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  7. TO has a KING now? Who did he kill to get that position?

    I still peek in every once in a while, see that Nyikos is still spluttering indignantly, and turn around and leave.

    You're also wrong, Larry. I didn't have the same name. I didn't even have the same name twice.

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    1. I totally forgot about Peter Nyikos. Is he really stll posting?

      If you weren't Chris then who were you? There was no PZ Meirs on talk.origins as far as I can remember.

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    2. I last dropped in on t.o a couple of years ago, and I think the first damn thread I noticed was Nyikos, still rehashing his grievances against Howard Hershey and the rest of y'all, citing sins committed against him from *1999*. Which is a freakin' pathological level of grudge-nursing. Makes me feel sorry for the guy (but only a little).

      And misspelling "Myers" was second only to misspelling "Meritt" in popularity ;-).

      Delete
  8. "other topics of discussion include the origin of life, geology, biology, catastrophism, cosmology and theology."

    Why no discussion of English literature?

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    Replies
    1. Does Monty Python or Terry Pratchett count? 'Cuz the group was big into both of those, back in the day.

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  9. I enjoyed T.O. and Pandas Thumb for years. For the last decade I have been trying to be mostly active on newspaper and on-line magazine sites rather than read the same creatocrap from the same nit wits. Interestingly, there are a handful of others who do the same thing from both sides.

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  10. Most of the comments above simple show that you, Darwinians, are unable to address in a scientific way. The TalkOrigin at least had some style.

    Most pro-Darwin evolution sites and weblogs are run by rude, arrogant, Big-mouth atheists. That is a pity, since most likely there is a God, and most likely, no, surely the selection-paradigm is wrong.

    I used to run a Darwin-critical science weblog in the Netherlands, which was attacked by atheists all the time. I have come to realize that Darwinian dogmas is a belief system, and as such a science stopper,

    The Panda''s Thumb, Pharyngula, ERV, and the like, are made by unpolite, intolerant extremistic selectionists. A selectionist world is not worth living in/fighting for.

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    1. I actually have some sympathy with this view. I once made some left-field suggestions on an evolutionary topic on t.o, and the response was vitriolic. Most of the responders simply had a knee-jerk reaction to anything even slightly off-message. I quietly closed the door and never returned.

      This doesn't mean I am open to all left-field ideas, of course - just mine! ;)

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    2. Peer TerborgThursday, March 05, 2015 9:17:00 AM

      I am apolitical. What I mean is that the selection-explains-biology is just a whole load of non-sense. Its dogmatic, its is a religion. And science should be free from dogma and religion. That's all I wanted to say.

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    3. By left-field, I certainly didn't mean in the political sense! It's an expression.

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    4. Come on Peer. You're a young earth creationist of sorts. What could you possibly know about evolution other than some straw-man? For example, there's no such thing as "Darwin dogma." I suspect that you are projecting your own inability to escape from your "frontloading dogma."

      I doubt that your weblog had a lot of science in it. All I have seen from you here is assertion after assertion with no substance. All quite categorically stated, as if the mere force of your wording was enough to make your assertions into truths beyond reasonable doubt.

      Take a look in the mirror. the way you comment does not inspire a lot of respect for you. You come across as some authoritarian idiot.

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    5. Peer writes:
      "The Panda''s Thumb, Pharyngula, ERV, and the like, are made by unpolite, intolerant extremistic selectionists. A selectionist world is not worth living in/fighting for."

      Wow, Mr. Byers comments can be funny at times, yours are plain narcissistic.
      They're like a vinyl record with the needle stuck at: big mouth atheists, big mouth atheists, repeat ad nauseum.

      Like photo writes above:
      "Take a look in the mirror. the way you comment does not inspire a lot of respect for you. You come across as some authoritarian idiot."

      Delete
  11. Belatedly:
    I would be remiss in not noting what a fantastic community I recall talk.origins as being during my tenure there. It was this massive intellectual ferment in which biology, physics, astronomy, geology, palaeontology, philosophy, politics, theology, and history were all freely mixed (to say nothing of the lighter, more humorous aspects of the place). Personally, I learned an enormous amount, either directly or through reading I was inspired to do, and there is no doubt that the experience influenced me profoundly (among other things, I became an atheist somewhere along there). It's no surprise that many of the more prominent posters have gone on to be successful bloggers. I am grateful to everyone who contributed (even the creationists, for giving everyone else a reason to show up and set them straight).

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  12. In fond remembrance of the late Richard Harter, I recommend visiting his page discussing talk.origins.
    http://richardhartersworld.com/cri/origins.html
    And then there are this collection of essays, his review of the whole Piltdown Man being an especially poignant case study in what made t.o special back when the internet was young. Sadly, many of the links in Richard's site are broken but a clever gal can sometimes guess the fix.

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