Darwinian Debating Devices

Darwinian Debating Device #14: “Chasing Irrelevant Tangents or ‘Threadjacking’”

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The word “tangent” when used in a non-mathematical context means: “diverging from an original purpose or course.”

Darwinians love to try to derail debates by latching onto irrelevancies in order to push the discussion away from the issue under review. This is especially true when they are unable to counter a proposition. Rather than admit defeat, they say “let’s talk about something else!”

Here are a couple of examples.

In this post I put up a string of letters that resulted from my haphazard banging on my keyboard. I then compared that string to the first 12 lines of Hamlet’s soliloquy. The obvious purpose of the post is to demonstrate that there is a clearly perceived difference between a more or less random string of letters and a lengthy string of meaningful English text as a way to demonstrate the design inference. Notice how the Darwinian commenters latched onto an utter irrelevancy – the fact that the first string was not rigorously random – and completely ignored the point of the post.

The point of this post is that a particular Darwinian’s [i.e., ES’s] prior metaphysical commitments forced him to deny a self-evident truth. Notice Mark Frank’s attempt to derail the discussion by fussing over whether this or that proposition is really “self-evident.” MF utterly ignores the context of the OP (the self-evident difference between a pile of sand and an elaborately designed sand castle). He does not deny that there is in fact a self-evident difference between a pile of sand and an elaborately designed sand castle. Nor does he deny that ES’s prior metaphysical commitments forced him to deny this self-evident truth. Instead he tries to change the subject.

Finally, we have this post. I admitted that I incorrectly identified Dr. Feser as a materialist. Whether Dr. Feser is a materialist is neither here nor there with respect to the point of the post (that Feser’s glib attempt to dismiss the design inference is easily shown to be way off base). Notice, however, how ES fixates on that irrelevancy as a means of distracting from the point of the post.

5 Replies to “Darwinian Debating Device #14: “Chasing Irrelevant Tangents or ‘Threadjacking’”

  1. 1
    kairosfocus says:

    Threadjacking . . .

  2. 2
    tintinnid says:

    Barry, your first example is a very poor example of threadjacking. I agree that it went off on a tangent, but it was never very clear what your original point was. In fact, the link that you provided above (September 25) was not the beginning of this discussion thread. It actually started in a comment you made to an OP posted on September 9.

    Does threadjacking occur? Yes. But both sides are equally guilty. And in many cases it is more a case of an evolving discussion throughout a long string of comments than it is an intentional attempt to highjack the discussion. After all, after ten or twenty comments, people tend to be responding to previous comments as opposed to the original OP. From that point on, you are playing the old telephone game.

  3. 3
    kairosfocus says:

    TT: Given specific context all the way back to Thaxton et al 1984, the context was quite obvious save to those with a hyperskeptical agenda. As has been happening in the coming on six weeks since. KF

  4. 4
    Joe says:

    tintinnid- evos love to theadjack mostly because they cannot deal with the topic at hand.

  5. 5
    Silver Asiatic says:

    tintinnid #2

    The point of those discussions should have been clear. Barry was looking for responses on how and what we observe as differences between typed-gibberish and an excerpt from Shakespeare. That could have been an interesting discussion. How would we describe the differences? Are they measurable?

    But instead, right from the beginning, Shallit started “chasing an irrelevant tangent”. It was actually humorous because he used design-detection to point out that Barry’s gibberish showed evidence that it was “not truly random”.

    From that point, others joined in and the thread went on for days – completely ignoring the main point. None of the threadjackers seemed to care that an alternative excerpt of gibberish could have been (and was) provided that was more purely random. Instead, they tried to claim victory over Barry’s point by observing that his text showed signs of human/keyboard intervention.

    So, that whole thing was a perfect example of chasing a tangent. I can’t judge if it was deliberate, but when ID-opponents were asked to compare the two strings, nothing came of it.

    This DDD #15 is similar to #7 “Definition Deficit Disorder”. I compared it to arguing about spelling errors. Threadjacking occurs when a minor point in the argument is isolated and discussed as if it is the primary point. Arguing about the definitions of words is an example of that.

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