Intelligent Design

Hi all, from Denyse O’Leary

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As Bill Dembski noted here, I will be sharing the task of moderation with him.

Joining us will be Bill’s research assistant, Joel Borofsky, who can say a bit more about himself in his own posts.

Anyone wondering what sort of changes will ensue at UD should note that I am a journalist and my main interest is in promoting a responsible public discussion of ID.

I am not qualified to evaluate hypotheses in mathematics, biochemistry, or exobiology. But I am well qualified to study public issues and attempt to pull a discussion back from the abyss.

My approach will combine “editor of the Letters section” and “moderator of a discussion group.” In my experience, this approach best serves the needs of the blog visitor.

And after all, the visitor is the reason – and indeed the only justification – for the blog.

Blog policy, like gardening, is an ongoing work of art. But for now, the following ground rules will help commenters and visitors find the blog interesting and worthwhile:

1. This blog solicits and welcomes vigorous argument, backed by facts.

2. Here we critique the argument, not the person. Therefore, we don’t do personal abuse or cussing.

3. Abuse involving race, religion, social class, sexual preference, et cetera, is a banning offence. We judge people on the strength of their arguments, and expect the same treatment from others.

4. As a moderator, I blog on the site, and will therefore only occasionally comment in the Comments section, usually to remind posters of blog policy or redirect a discussion that has gone way off track. When I do, I will post my own comment.

5. In the unlikely event that things get hairy, we may have to close or remove the Comments section without notice. But if we all cooperate to further a lively and fruitful discussion, that won’t ever happen.

So, ladies and gentlemen, … start your engines!

Cheers, Denyse

P.S.: A bit more about me: I wrote an investigation into the intelligent design controversy (By Design or by Chance? (Augsburg 2004), after two and one half years of research. Essentially, I predicted in mid-2001 that the ID controversy would be very hot by mid-decade, and events seem to have borne that out. My own blog is the Post-Darwinist.

14 Replies to “Hi all, from Denyse O’Leary

  1. 1

    Comments are back up and running. Remember the rules.

  2. 2
    jacktone says:

    Welcome Denyse. I always enjoy checking your blog as well as the articles you write for ARN.

  3. 3
    apollo230 says:

    Welcome, Denise!

    I take it that the Darwinist opposition will be given latitude to present their cases against ID as long as they back their claims and remain civil?

    I for one would welcome vigorous discussions and sustained debates on this blog. The ID camp should not shy away from challenges. Let the proceedings begin!

    Best regards,

  4. 4
    apollo230 says:

    Whoops, rather, Denyse. (sorry about the mis-spelling) πŸ™‚

    Best regards,

  5. 5

    Welcome Denyse, look forward to working with you here.

  6. 6
    crandaddy says:

    Ah wonderful, comments are back up! Welcome aboard, Denyse and Joel. I look forward to your contributions!

  7. 7
    scordova says:

    Welcome to Denyse and Joel!


  8. 8
    nightlight says:

    I hope the user interface will become more usable. Here are few problems that would help new visitors stay and repeated visitors spend more time on the substance:

    1) The front page lacks top level site navigation in any easy to find places.
    In particular, one would like to see what are the latest posts that were
    added (e.g. if one is waiting for a response to their comment or wants to
    know which topics are currently the most active).

    To locate ‘Latest posts’ one has to scroll down and by trial and
    error locate little section called “meta” and within it there is
    an option labeled “site admin”. Once clicked, one gets to “site admin”

    2) The admin page is top heavy with information unrelated to the ID
    discussion. Very little space is given to options visitor might be
    interested in, and these options a buried on right and require
    scrolling to find.

    3) Even after seeing the little options, a new user will find 2 sections
    which seem to be related to the ‘latest posts’, one called “Posts”
    another called “Comments”. The section “Posts” does not contain
    letest posts but points to a blank page with tiny sentence at the
    top saying: “You do not have sufficient permissions to access this page.”

    4) Finally the remainings section “Comments” is a list of the new latest
    posts in the discussion. Only 5 latest comments are shown. One would
    need to come in just the right short time interval to find a post one
    may be interested in. The rest of the page is covered with information
    vistor is not interested in or information which changes several
    orders of magnitude more slowly than the post list. If something has
    to have tiny links buried deep down, it should be information visitor
    is least likely to need or to need often (slowly changing stuff).

    5. Getting back to the list of topic is again another hide and seek puzzle.
    Eventually, vistor will scroll back and click onto a parenthesized tiny
    link saying “main site”, which puts you back to the list of topics.

    6. The topics themselves occupy large space, so one can usually see
    one, at best two latest topics without having to scroll/page down.

    7. Editing box for posts allows no preview. The input box is
    too small. There is no instruction on syntax for highlighting,
    italics, links, pictures,…

    As an example of usable site, streamlined to be self-evident to new
    visitor and yet not get in the way of experienced site users, check
    the [url=]Free Republic[/url] site:

    URL: –>

    * The screen is filled with topics with a small lead paragraph
    below the title. All items shown are relevant to the users
    (and mostly act as links to access the topic feature).

    * At the top right are 2 options a visitor is likely to need
    most often: “Threads” and “Messages” which are self-evident
    and unambiguous (compare to misleading ambiguity of
    “Posts” and “Comments” here).

    * The “Messages” option lists a full page of latest messages,
    each entry containg the thread title, poster name, message
    number within the thread, date:time posted, category. One
    can easily click to get to the message itself or to the
    topic or to the section.

    * The page with actual posts has easy navigation and info
    with each message, showing to which message it replies
    (this back reference is a link).

    * Although the site is moderated, that is unnoticable to
    the regular user. Most regular, responsible posters
    see their posts right away. In case someone sneaks
    sneaks in with inapropriate post, their posts are
    deleted by the main moderators or numerous trusted
    users with limited deletion priviledges.

    * There are numerous other thoughtful touches, making
    it obvious to the visitor that somene has gone through
    each step, simulating a new and an experienced visitor,
    thinking through how best to serve both, to save the
    visitor’s time for the substance of the site, instead
    of having them squander their time and patience on
    needless trial and error. That site is an excellent
    example of “Intelligent Design”.

    Regarding the web usability, the place to learn about it
    is the Nielsen’s [url=]Alertbox.”[/url]

    Nielsen’s Alertbox:

  9. 9
    RyanL says:

    Hi, welcome!

    I haven’t been around here for a while, so perhaps you can help me understand what an appropriate comment would look like.

    For example, if I wanted to point out that Al Gore was using intelligent design to support his global warming stuff, would that be acceptable? Of course I would back it up with a quote from him. Like this:

    Al Gore: “There is a precise chemical signature that allows scientists to separate manmade CO2 from the burning of fossil fuels from the other kind. They have dug ice cores down into the ice that enable them to measure the CO2 content. They’ve gone back 650,000 years and precisely correlated temperature and CO2 and they can separate out in the modern era what comes from human beings.”

  10. 10
    BarryA says:

    Welcome Denyse.

  11. 11

    Nightlight: Are you in the position to implement these changes, or are you merely giving us a wish list?

  12. 12 says:

    Hi Denyse and welcome from down under.

  13. 13
    lucID says:

    Hi Denyse

    Great to have you on board! Look forward to your insights and writing expertise

  14. 14
    nightlight says:

    > Are you in the position to implement these changes, or are you
    > merely giving us a wish list?

    Although I design & program networking software, it is a system level code in C/C++. That is unfortunately quite a different expertise, very far from the blog/discussion board UI design & coding (which is usually php code). So, it would be only a wish list. The FreeRepublic site I mentioned, is the most streamlined, hand crafted compiled server code I have seen. Unfortunately, it is not available for general public (the owner of the site wrote it by himself for himself).

    Among the free php based blog/discussion board software, a very popular & well designed one is phpBB:

    For an example of phpBB see a ComputerChess site:

    Looking at the your current WordPress software features (at their home page), it seems flexible enough to make user interface quite a bit more usable as well. Even few small touches, e.g. along the lines sketched earlier, would go a long way toward helping new users stay and present users be more efficient.

    An alternative (or in addition to blog) would be to start a moderated usenet newsgroup (google groups) for high quality, low noise ID discussion. That would not only resolve the site usablity issues, but provide a much greater exposure (especially in colleges) to this worthy topic.

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