Bloggingheads Diavlog With Craig Callender

There’s a new Bloggingheads Diavlog up today, where philosopher of science Craig Callender and I discuss the topic of Philosophy and the String Wars. Regular readers of the blog will just get to see me make the same points as usual in video format, more interesting might be to hear Craig’s point of view on some of this. We agree about the anthropic principle.

Those who follow science-blogging controversies will have heard that certain science bloggers have announced a boycott of Bloggingheads, based on the fact that two creationist/ID types had recently been allowed to participate. I heard about this after agreeing to do this latest one, and initially the idea of such a boycott sounded to me completely bizarre. Why would anyone boycott a media outlet that produces a lot of serious and interesting content on the grounds that two out of its hundreds of participants were cranks (I can’t think of ANY completely crank-free media outlet)? So, I recently read much of the on-line discussion, including that of the original boycotters, some non-boycotters (here and here), and the discussion here with Bloggingheads founder Robert Wright, who put up a clarification of the organization’s policy here. After wading through all this, I concluded that, yes, the boycott thing is completely bizarre. For one take on the question that I pretty much fully agree with, see this one by John Horgan.

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9 Responses to Bloggingheads Diavlog With Craig Callender

  1. Thomas R Love says:

    Interesting discussion. Even the ID types should be allowed to speak, then we can all see how silly their ideas are.

    I especially enjoyed your discussion of the beauty of mathematics.

  2. David Nataf says:

    I don’t know Peter, I think “bizarre” might be a bit strong. Progress is not inevitable on a global scale and certainly not on a local scale, I don’t think it’s obvious what the best way to deal with these kinds of questions is.

    What the Mainstream media does on GW for example is present two sides as equal, get a quote from each, etc. Is that parity the right way to go?

  3. Complaints about Behe seemed to have caused the boycott, but he is not even a creationist in the sense of a young Earth creationist. He accepted much of evolution. His views were clearly labeled as being outside the mainstream. Yes, the boycott is bizarre. It is odd that anyone would be so threatened by Behe.

  4. Peter Woit says:


    I just don’t think what Bloggingheads is doing is anything like giving parity to cranks. See their announced policy, which is what the boycotters find worth boycotting.

    Roger and others,

    Please avoid any temptation to start debate here about creationism, ID, evolution, Behe, etc. etc. It will be ruthlessly suppressed. My strongly held belief is that the last thing the internet needs is more discussion of this in more places…

  5. Geoff says:

    I can think of at least four different completely crank-free outlets: Physical Review, Classical & Quantum Gravity, Journal of Mathematical Physics and of course everyone’s favorite ArXiv. So should a string oriented cosmologist peruse any of the above and come across a paper about LQG they should immediately conclude that the outlet has been taken over by crackpots and stop publishing in those places. No, really, please stop publishing.

    Now if you’ll excuse me I’ve got to go back to the kitchen where I’m trying to get my clock to run backwards by unscrambling an egg.

  6. Peter Woit says:


    There are several reasons to characterize this particular boycott as “completely bizarre”….

  7. Giotis says:

    This bizarre boycott has a simple explanation. Some people are obsessed with certain topics and their obsession dim their judgment. You are not obsessed with the whole ID thing and thus you have correctly identified their bizarre behaviour.

  8. wonderment says:

    Peter, I think you missed the point by being too cerebral about this “boycott.” I followed the controversy closely on Bheads, and my impression is that it has little to do with science v creationism and much to do with a personal misunderstanding between Bob W. on the one hand and Carl and Sean on the other.

    After the first creationist appeared, Bob has a conference call with people who included Carl and Sean. Carl and Sean felt (perhaps mistakenly) that Bob had committed to pulling the plug on future creationists. Then when Behe appeared, they felt betrayed. They quit defending a principle, but there was a lot of emotional baggage. The issue got further muddled when other bloggers, like PK Myer, boycotted Bheads out of solidarity with Carl and Sean.

  9. Peter Woit says:


    I agree that the whole boycott thing cannot be understood “cerebrally”, it’s pretty clearly irrational…

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