The comments on this answer intrigue me. As of this writing, four people have upvoted a comment that defended an answer opening with "Basically it's creationist bushwah."

I don't understand this behavior with regards to this site. Is this site more than just inherent skepticism? Is the community here okay with identifying particular opposite communities and willing to cheer on callouts like the above quoted sentence?

I understand that creationists aren't known for their rationality; Christians can be openly hostile; and sure maybe the idea of a young moon really is creationist bushwah. But why does that deserve upvotes? At what point do we get to upvote answers that vent or angst in the way we want to vent and angst?

Beyond the comment I added in response, I wanted to be sure that I am understanding the purpose of this site. It seems that there is at least some contention to this behavior because of another comment noting a downvote simply because of the quoted sentence above. This implies that people are both upvoting and downvoting an answer for the content very first sentence.

This is why this meta question is here. There is an obvious differing of opinions on this subject; I think this is an extremely important thing to hash out while in beta. One sentence shouldn't be causing so much swingyness without a very, very good reason.

The question is this: Should our answers (and even questions, but mostly answers matter here) include Take Thats at particular groups? If not, at what point do we pull the plug? Is an (albeit justified) jab at creationists okay? How about a good joke?

Or am I making mountains of molehills and, really, this isn't causing any active harm, so to each their own?

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    It certainly would have been unacceptable if "creationist bushwah" was the entire answer, or if the claim was dismissed a priori because it is often used by creationists. However, the answer was subsequently backed by evidence. Which raises the questions: is the original claim bushwah? Yes (until the evidence indicates otherwise). Is that bushwah often used by creationists? Also yes. – Monkey Tuesday May 25 '11 at 1:41
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    I just nuked th "bushwah" sentence. It was rude, pointless aggro and added exactly zero to the answer. That kind of attitude is not welcome here. – Sklivvz May 25 '11 at 12:47
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    Flag that type of comments. As @Sklivvz said, they are not welcomed here. – Borror0 May 25 '11 at 13:06
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    Is "bushwah" really that rude? Sounds to me like a very mild form of the other more common word also starting with "bu", you know the show of Penn and Teller. Would it be OK to say "Basically it's creationist nonsense." instead? I personally find it a decent abstract. Ok, maybe "Basically this is an idea commonly used by creationist without scientific proof." would be much better. – Martin Scharrer May 25 '11 at 18:46
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    @Martin: The main point here is that creationists are irrelevant. Bringing them up at all is unneeded. – MrHen May 25 '11 at 18:47
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    @MrHen: I'm not sure about that. It sounds to me like a usual creationist idea to support creationism or similar religious ideas. Pointing it out from the beginning that it comes (mostly) from this corner and not from a scientific area is IMHO a good piece of information. Nevertheless, I agree with you that name-calling, even in mild form, should be avoided. – Martin Scharrer May 25 '11 at 18:51

For the record, my opinion lands on the harsher side here. If it isn't relevant to the skepticism, don't include it. But even more, upvoting because someone called out a group you dislike is, in my opinion, Very Bad. Nothing good comes of it. It doesn't matter how true it is; it doesn't matter how much some people just don't get it. We aren't here to fight groups of people; we are here to challenge and weigh claims and ideas. From the FAQ:

Skeptics - Stack Exchange is for skeptics, rationalists, free thinkers, or anyone who questions pseudoscience. Skeptics is about applying skepticism — it's for researching the evidence behind the claims you hear or read. It is not for philosophical discussions about skepticism itself.

The emphasis is original. There isn't anything in there about groups of people. Unless the claim is about groups of people, don't talk about groups of people.


There has been plenty of pseudoscience in the name of creationism. I completely understand the desire to quash all ideas and organizations associated with creationist pseudoscience with extreme prejudice. They've caused considerable harm.

But it's clearly and obviously irrational to assume that any particular belief is untrue simply because of who holds it. Sometimes the identity of the holder of a belief can be a useful shortcut to determine where the evidence might lead, but to identify an unpopular holder of a particular belief before presenting the evidence is a clear case of poisoning the well. And using some pejorative to characterize the holders of a belief is an example of simple ad hominem.

There's also a risk of creationists becoming strawmen here. As a Christian and a creationist, that worries me. It's plain ignorance to assume that all creationists believe in a young universe, but nearly all references to creationists are to the so-called "Young-Earth Creationists". It's become such a useful strawman that many creationist have taken to calling themselves proponents of "Intelligent Design" which is itself becoming a strawman.

"Good!" I hear some of you saying, "We've got them on the run!" But don't you see that nothing has been accomplished? Skeptics have had little effect on actual creationist belief because we often do not engage that belief itself. And when skeptics do engage creationists belief, it's often only after taking a good, solid hit on the strawman on the way by. That's not rational debate, but gladiatorial conflict in which each side has its own set of judges who have predetermined the outcome.

I would dearly love to see these sort of pseudoscientific claims die a quick death, but it won't happen as long as the primary opponents of the claims are more interested in scoring debate points than in convincing people of the truth.

And I suspect that if this site heads down a path of attacking (even in jest) particular groups of people, it will become a sad ghetto populated only by the most militant and narrow-minded.

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