I walked away to give my lecture on quantum mechanics, and I came back to find a brief, affronted note from a creationist.
You have to understand how upsetting I found such a transition. I love lecturing. I’ve got thespian blood — my grandmother performed with Orson Welles’ players — and every trip to the blackboard is a chance to shine. What’s more, I was speaking to people who had a strong math background, so I could employ matrices, commutators and other linear algebra trickery without fear. My lecture, part of our effort to get the math people up to relativistic speed with the physics we want to study, started with the canonical commutation relations between position and momentum, derived the form of the momentum operator in coordinate space, and solved for the position representation of momentum eigenstates. I then covered the particle-in-a-box and the simple harmonic oscillator, after which I did a little kaon physics to lead up to Bell’s Inequality, which we will discuss next time.
And after all that fun, I had to come back to my laptop and read indignant creationist snark. I considered my response during the walk home, and after due contemplation, I decided to embrace Scott Aaronson’s comment policy:
If you reject an overwhelming consensus on some issue in the hard sciences â€” whether itâ€™s evolution, general relativity, climate change, or anything else â€” this blog is an excellent place to share your concerns with the world. Indeed, youâ€™re even welcome to derail discussion of completely unrelated topics by posting lengthy rants against the academic orthodoxy â€” the longer and angrier the better!
However, both the esteemed Dr. Aaronson and I insist that those who do wish to reject the collective wisdom of human inquiry fulfill the following:
1. Publish a paper in a peer-reviewed journal setting out the reasons for your radical departure from accepted science.
2. Reference the paper in your rant.
Comments which do not meet these standards will be disemvowelled, deleted or mocked, depending upon my mood.
Let me be clear on this: I like free discourse. As part of this, I acknowledge and indeed welcome the voicing of views different from my own. I also face the reality that communication requires a medium: those who wish to communicate must agree upon a language, an encoding scheme and so forth. The ideal state of rational actors exchanging clear content in enlightened deliberation is just that — an idealization. We attempt, imperfectly, to realize it through our efforts. Inevitably, blood will be shed during this process.
As a fiction writer, I could invent a scenario in which one would be expected or even compelled to shout “Fire!” in a crowded theater. Circumstances may conspire to make that act a moral obligation. (Stranger things have happened in plenitude.) It is more difficult to justify shouting “C1al1s!!!” in a crowded blog; and that, gentle readers, is the moral equivalent of creationist trolling.
No, I donâ€™t care about being polite. Creationism is a blot on the world, and if our species survives long enough to write a historical chronicle of this time period, creationism will be a black mark against organized religion, politics and science education alike.
If I disemvowel, delete or mock anything you say, just hop over to Pharyngula and complain about it. When the site isn’t being invaded by outraged Dilbert fans, we Pharynguloids suffer a lamentable lack of entertaining examples of psychopathology.