How to behave in someone’s living room: do not threaten the host

I’ve always said that anybody posting here will enjoy complete anonymity—unless they say something that I perceive as a physical threat to myself or any of my readers. That happened yesterday for the first time, so I’m putting up complete information about someone who was acting like a threatening bully.

It started on the free will post yesterday, when “John Witton” left a comment:

Picture 1

That point, of course, could have been made without the rudeness, something I pointed out in a response:

Picture 2

But soon after, the posts by John Witton began coming quickly, and escalating to the point where I felt they constituted threats.

There are two responses to my requests for apologies when either I or my readers are insulted.  About half the people apologize, which I appreciate and allow the person to continue commenting.  But about half the time the people get nastier, and it escalates as I don’t allow their rancor to be posted.  Some people, I guess, think they have the right to be as rude as they want on the internet, and bear no consequences.

That doesn’t fly here, for, as I’ve always emphasized, I try to allow discussion here without anyone insulting other commenters—or me.  Please behave in this forum as if you were having a conversation in my living room, and that means don’t diss the host or the other guests. I try to enforce this, but sometimes things slip through (I try to read all comments but occasionally miss some).

At any rate, John Witton appeared to lose it, and I append below two of the comments he submitted next.  They seem unhinged and threatening, and I am also putting his IP information and email. He appears to reside in Canada.

I am putting this up to see a). if anyone has more information on the person, and b). for the record, in case he goes after (or has gone after) anyone else.

I will try to formulate the rules for posting and find a way to attach them permanently to this site, but in the meantime be aware that the #1 rule is civility. If you post as if you’re discussing these matters in my living room, you’ll be fine.

Here are Witton’s attempts at commenting:

John Witton commented on A bit more on free will Are you talking to me? Again: Are you talking to me??? Let me know, because, if that’s true I will make sure that I will never bring a subject that doesn’t suit your scientific beliefs again. You are supposed to be a scientist and not a baby. You can’t take the heat, you go and do something else. You go and teach typewriting… I have taken the liberty of taking screen pictures of your blog just in case… BTW: I like your insecurities., It makes me feel strong… because it means you are weak, vulnerable… I will see you soon…BTW: I will not apologize to weak freaks of evolution like you. You are nothing. You were nothing and you will be nothing…Approve  Trash | Mark as Spam
John Witton commented on A bit more on free will. Forgot to tell you I will sue your ass. You have no money but I will try to stop you from screwing ass. You know what I mean-you sick, sick asshole? My la gets 85-120 mils a year. Some of that money I will devote to destroy fagots like you. Make me stop it. Apologize!! Now. You have 24 hours or your blog will be suspended.Approve  Trash | Mark as Spam

More information about John Witton



  1. Posted October 13, 2013 at 4:37 am | Permalink

    Whoa! Ceiling Cat has claws!


  2. Peter Beattie
    Posted October 13, 2013 at 4:57 am | Permalink

    Sounds like a deranged troll to me, TBH. Block and forget, I’d say.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted October 13, 2013 at 6:40 am | Permalink

      The irony of the self-referential badmouthing in the last comment implies someone deranged, as well as the overall posting behavior to boot.

      Speaking of which, this guy needs to be booted. Luckily Jerry has nice boots!*

      *Maybe I shouldn’t try a feeble joke, day after partying and on a serious thread and all. Oh well, at least I spread the hurt. 😉

      • Marella
        Posted October 13, 2013 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

        Oh well, it made me chortle, so it was worth it!

      • eTourist
        Posted October 13, 2013 at 11:20 pm | Permalink

        Jerry not only has boots, he has pointy boots!

        • JBlilie
          Posted October 14, 2013 at 5:57 am | Permalink

          Pointy-toed boots: For kicking snakes in the ass!

          • John Scanlon, FCD
            Posted October 14, 2013 at 7:34 am | Permalink

            I’m sure Jerry wouldn’t do that. What have snakes ever done to him? How can honest, civil, limbless predatory reptiles be compared to a deranged troll? Apologise, please!

      • Marcel Volker
        Posted October 14, 2013 at 10:15 am | Permalink

        No that’s not a feeble joke at all.

        It reminds me of that Nancy Sinatra song. Totally appropriate.

  3. Andrew van der Merwe
    Posted October 13, 2013 at 5:09 am | Permalink

    Good grief! What a dork! If he has to fight you with money, then maybe it’s because he feels out-gunned intellectually.

    I was going to post a whole thing about how objections like his (and the oke who spoke about choosing to lift his arm) need to be taken seriously because one’s sense of agency is a qualia, but maybe some other time …

    • Andrew van der Merwe
      Posted October 13, 2013 at 5:35 am | Permalink

      Eish. The first paragraph of that comment throws the same stone it was disgusted with. Sorry.

  4. John Taylor
    Posted October 13, 2013 at 5:09 am | Permalink

    Oh my, not the sort of comments I expect to see on WEIT. That sort of thing seems more common on MMA forums.

    • MD
      Posted October 14, 2013 at 11:44 am | Permalink

      Which is also a sad thing. I do wish my crowd co-travelers in the MMA/Submission Grappling?BJJ world were just a bit more progressive as athletes go.

  5. eveysolara
    Posted October 13, 2013 at 5:13 am | Permalink

    this guy is mentally disturbed.

    • gravityfly
      Posted October 13, 2013 at 5:20 am | Permalink

      Yeah…a jerk too!

  6. Posted October 13, 2013 at 5:21 am | Permalink

    Oh Jerry – what *is* his problem! That is so not OK. There is no call for peopel to behave in such a fashion. You’ve been gentlemanly. May Ceiling Cat show you his approval.

  7. Woof
    Posted October 13, 2013 at 5:22 am | Permalink

    PZ’s “friend” from Canada?

    Nah. Too rational.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted October 13, 2013 at 6:41 am | Permalink

      I was thinking the same.

      PZ’s “friend” from Canada, on meds?

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted October 13, 2013 at 6:43 am | Permalink

      But see the next comment (#8)!

    • John Perkins
      Posted October 13, 2013 at 10:52 am | Permalink

      Maybe Dr.Coyne might consider a gentle apology to all his Canadian followers, of whom I am one. Canadians should be accustomed to being blamed for bad things that are supposed to originate in Canada and end up in the US – it started with the 9/11 hi-jackers,who as it turned out were all ‘home-grown’ and not from Canada at all. The myth continues – now it’s Witton – who is clearly a member of the British National Party, of which no branches exist in Canada.

      • Posted October 13, 2013 at 10:59 am | Permalink

        Pray tell, Mr. Perkins, exactly what am I supposed to apologize for? In my post above, I said that the miscreant “appeared to reside in Canada”? Is that my misstep? Or do you think that I blamed 9/ll on Canadians? As my Canadian readers can attest, I have no bias against their country; indeed, I much enjoy visiting it.

        As for the guy being a member of the British National Party, it’s clear that a reader and not I sussed that out.

        So again, what am I supposed to apologize for?

        You’re new here, aren’t you?

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted October 13, 2013 at 11:42 am | Permalink

          Oh dear. Yes, I can attest that Jerry is quite fair to Canada. He even knows about Tim Horton’s.

          Pointing out dude’s IP appeared to originate in Canada wasn’t a slight on Canada.

  8. rareflightlessbird
    Posted October 13, 2013 at 5:24 am | Permalink

    A google search on the guy’s email address reveals that he is a BNP supporter and a very angry man!

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted October 13, 2013 at 6:46 am | Permalink

      Oh. So his trouble with evolution is that modern man has no anthropological motivated races, but rather Neanderthals and Denisovans may be those?

      ‘Wonderful’, a politically motivated creationist! There are derangement and derangement, but now we are getting at the bottom of the barrel.

      • Posted October 13, 2013 at 7:48 am | Permalink

        He seems to be at the edge of madness. The last guy then you are on your own!

    • michaeljefisher
      Posted October 13, 2013 at 10:00 am | Permalink

      The John Witton in the Youtube comments has a UK I.P.

    • teacupoftheapocalypse
      Posted October 13, 2013 at 10:35 am | Permalink

      The content of the other posts that show up when his email address is googled suggest a number things, including his being a card carrying, jackbooted white supremacist who thinks that flamethrowers are pretty neat. The language used in his posts also suggests that he was brought up in either the UK or Australia.

      While the IP is Canadian, that particular address is used by a small, independent ISP, so it is not beyond the realms of possibility that he is using an IP proxy service.

      If I had to put money on it, I’d say that he is a British ex-pat, living in Australia.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted October 13, 2013 at 11:37 am | Permalink

        He does sound like an Aussie. Canadians don’t use that same slang he is using.

      • Marella
        Posted October 13, 2013 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

        He may be an Aussie, (god I hope not) but he’s using the US spelling of both apologise and arse (ass), though this isn’t surprising if he spends a lot of time trolling on the interwebs. My own spelling has become a bit erratic these days.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted October 14, 2013 at 7:55 am | Permalink

          Or he is a Canadian since we use the “z” as well…. it’s a mystery.

    • Bob J.
      Posted October 13, 2013 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

      My top hit on a Google search on his name yields begins banned at Sandwalk in March 2013

      • Posted October 13, 2013 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

        I’m a regular reader of Sandwalk and John Witton has recently resurfaced there, with deranged comments very much like those made here (including bragging about how much money his lab takes in).

        • BilBy
          Posted October 13, 2013 at 9:03 pm | Permalink

          With much sock puppetry as well

    • launcher
      Posted October 14, 2013 at 12:18 am | Permalink

      Looking over the comment thread at one of his videos (, I have to wonder if John himself is posing as one of the odd yet hateful pro-ID commenters.

  9. crusherofdreams
    Posted October 13, 2013 at 5:28 am | Permalink

    A troll in need of a liberal dose of Xanax and a bran muffin or two, methinks.

    It’s nice to see that a tight rein is kept on this sort of behavior here and the atmosphere the tolerance of that behavior promotes, unlike some other science/atheism oriented websites.
    In addition to having a terminal illness, I’m currently recovering from open heart surgery. I can do without the blind tribalism, rancor and rage all too many websites tend to promote.

    Although I very rarely post here,I find comfort in Jerry’s virtual living room with it’s eclectic mix of topics. And I hope that never changes.

    • Posted October 13, 2013 at 9:49 am | Permalink

      “..and a bran muffin or two” – Hahaha!

      I have been called “sick” and “demonic” for things I’ve written before, but my all time favorite is “depecable idot”. In the Urban Dictionary, “idot” is how idiots spell “idiot”.

      At this point I’m noticing the internet loons & trolls have a pattern of behavior. Their “attack of the idiots” strategy doesn’t always start crazy, but it always ends that way, and you’re left wondering if beyond your initial urge to deride and disregard these fools, if you should actually be concerned for your safety.

      In this case, however, I would laugh and move on. The guy is probably holed up in some freezing northern Canadian town with a boil water advisory and a dial-up connection. He’s just trying to find a way to pass the time until he saves up enough pennies for the mail-order bride he found on Craigslist. He’ll be waiting awhile though, as those Canadian pennies have been taken out of circulation. In the meantime, it’s likely he’ll unwittingly become nominated for a 2013/2014 Darwin Award after an unfortunate accident involving a bottle of Molson Canadian with a twist-off cap, a can-opener and a bucket of raw sap.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted October 13, 2013 at 11:38 am | Permalink

        The guy is probably holed up in some freezing northern Canadian town with a boil water advisory and a dial-up connection.

        Hey don’t make fun of my new igloo! 😀

  10. Dennis Hansen
    Posted October 13, 2013 at 5:34 am | Permalink

    You’re not the only one to suffer his outbursts – but it seems like he’s a chicken when someone tries to follow up on his inanities:

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted October 13, 2013 at 7:16 am | Permalink

      Oh good! I needed something to work my brain around: Witton’s astrobiology (or not) questions.

      vitalism vs entropy barrier, self assembly of proteins, self-cell membrane formation, metabolism first vs RNA world,

      Some of those are open, so people could get much more that $1 kUSD to answer them! But if they are considered showstoppers, let me have an attempt of those Moran didn’t take (self-assembly of proteins)

      – “vitalism vs entropy barrier” ?

      No vitalism, for sure. Seriously, or just trolling? =D

      And there is no specific entropy barrier for chemical evolution!

      As far as I know entropy isn’t involved at all. Chemical systems like cells don’t evolve their inner entropy much except during growth, even in far from equilibrium systems when energy is plenty. Presumably we can take growth for granted.

      Two exceptions would be

      a) the case of initial “crystallization” of replicators (repeated structures through time, not space) that has to work against Eigen’s error catastrophe.

      But that applies to all crystals. When people got down to look at thermodynamics of RNA replicators, they do ‘crystallize’ from random ‘gas’ strand assemblies from free energy forcing.

      b) vesicle formation, which drags in:

      – “self-cell membrane formation” ?

      “Self-cell”, I assume that is de novo formation. Bubbles are funny beasts in thermodynamics, because only in special cases you would expect thermodynamic self-assembly and then they wouldn’t like division.

      Seems bubbles we most often see are quasi-stable, more bubbles are produced by mechanical stirring and they pop or divide easily. Presumably we can take bubble formation for granted.

      – “metabolism first vs RNA world”.

      Neither, most likely. Right now I hear “the dirty RNA world”, coevolution of chemistry, is mainstream. It is also the underpinnings of the chemistry that allowed Lane & Martin to clade life within alkaline hydrothermal vent chemistry.

      This is still an open question. Perhaps astrobiology will return to old school notions if forced to, but coevolution seems arguably more useful for the moment!

      On the other hand, the putative and arguable existence of a phylogeny makes the details less important. If Witton are interested in actual results, not the fate of his questions as such, that is.

      • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
        Posted October 13, 2013 at 7:34 am | Permalink

        “and then they wouldn’t like division.”

        Oy, teleology and in a response to an easily adoptive creationist.

        In physics speak, “they wouldn’t divide easily”.

  11. Scott Reilly
    Posted October 13, 2013 at 5:34 am | Permalink

    Brave of John to post here when English clearly isn’t his first language. I’m off to a Spanish forum to make barely coherent, infantile threats to people I don’t know

  12. staffordgordon
    Posted October 13, 2013 at 5:45 am | Permalink

    Argumentum ad hominems and ignorantiams are never acceptable.

    I stand to be corrected on my spelling of the plural form.

    • Mark Joseph
      Posted October 13, 2013 at 8:39 am | Permalink

      I’m thinking it’s probably “argumenta ad hominem ignorantiamque”.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted October 14, 2013 at 8:03 am | Permalink

        Don’t forget ab irato and the literal translation works best in this case. 🙂

  13. Gordon Hill
    Posted October 13, 2013 at 5:46 am | Permalink

    For me, the essential issue is, “… I think it is totally determined that you were going to post that comment…”

    “I think…”, not “I know…”

    I think the question of whether we have totally unconditional free is intuitively obvious, that our behavior may be deterministically based, but that leaves the question of whether we are accountable for our behavior and should be held responsible for the outcomes?

    • eric
      Posted October 13, 2013 at 6:46 am | Permalink

      To take a crack at your last question as it relates to this particular issue – whatever the answer is, it applies equally to JAC and Witten, and that consistency provides a defense for JAC’s response.

      So, if JAC is right, we can’t hold either JAC or Witten morally culpable for their actions. In which case the question of whether Witten’s post or JAC’s responses were immoral goes away entirely. Can’t blame Witten, but also can’t blame JAC either.

      OTOH if JAC is wrong, both are responsible for their actions. In that case, just my opinion but it would seem to me that banning is a reasonable response, especially given JAC’s prior statement(s) of da roolz.

  14. Posted October 13, 2013 at 5:58 am | Permalink

    JW — sad specimen.

  15. Chris
    Posted October 13, 2013 at 6:00 am | Permalink

    To be honest idiot-troll could do with spending some of his so-called money on remedial spelling classes.

    Block and ignore, Prof Coyne!

  16. Posted October 13, 2013 at 6:05 am | Permalink

    It seems you ‘made’ him mad. It’s settled, then. Everyone is a determinist. The only question is what we think does the determining.

  17. gbjames
    Posted October 13, 2013 at 6:28 am | Permalink

    Mr. Witten seems to be stricken by LOSS. (Looseness of Screws Syndrome)

  18. Lianne Byram
    Posted October 13, 2013 at 6:53 am | Permalink

    Sorry you were subjected to that kind of abuse Jerry. Totally unacceptable!

  19. wildhog
    Posted October 13, 2013 at 7:03 am | Permalink

    Googling him turn up plenty of insanity.

  20. Posted October 13, 2013 at 7:10 am | Permalink

    Jerry does the right thing by keeping things civil here, and that’s perhaps why Witton’s rants seem especially bad here.

    But with respect to what’s “out there” on the Web…. it’s pretty standard stuff. Which is to say, I’ve seen plenty worse.

    Not that I condone such stuff, but considering (a) how much of this sort of thing is out there and (b) how few acts of actual violence result, I think this kind of behaviour may constitute a “release valve” of sorts.

    • gbjames
      Posted October 13, 2013 at 7:13 am | Permalink

      Release valve? Possibly. It also might be an accelerant.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted October 13, 2013 at 7:29 am | Permalink

      I don’t think I have the free will to suggest anything else than strict policing.

      Or rather, what I have seen from (sloppily) reading press releases on “release” therapies (primal therapy?) they don’t work as suggested. But perhaps promote (by training?) the behavior they were supposed to “safely release”.

      I don’t know how factual those vaguely remembered research headlines were. But my bias right now would be to do like Jerry does.

  21. Posted October 13, 2013 at 7:29 am | Permalink

    This is what happens in societies that do not value treatment for mental illness. I’m sure there’s enough in those emails of John’s for a mental health professional to make a surprisingly accurate diagnosis, though, of course, nothing can substitute for a full clinical evaluation.

    Remember the sanitariums of a century ago, the hellholes where we locked away the mentally ill? When we closed them down, a great many of the former inmates wound up homeless on the streets, which is where most of the mentally ill used to wind up until recently. Today, they’re back in hellholes…prisons. The numbers of people with mental illnesses in prison and the proportion of prisoners with mental illnesses is truly heartbreaking. It’s the sanitarium insanity all over again — with a helping portion of non-violent dark-skinned casual drug users thrown into the mix for good measure.


    • still learning
      Posted October 13, 2013 at 8:05 am | Permalink

      A nation should be judged by how it treats the young, old, and disabled. We aren’t doing very well…

      • Marta
        Posted October 13, 2013 at 8:44 am | Permalink

        And its women.

        • Posted October 13, 2013 at 8:47 am | Permalink

          And its animals.

          Also, Larry Moran doesn’t ban too many people, but as others have noted, Witton is a goner at Sandwalk.

    • Marella
      Posted October 13, 2013 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

      Well that certainly would implicate Australia then. While our health system is generally pretty good, about 20 years ago we shut down most of the mental hospitals on civil liberties grounds. Now most of the mentally live on the streets, or with long suffering families until they do something bad enough to get them put in prison, or shot by the cops. It’s disgraceful.

      • Larry Cook
        Posted October 15, 2013 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

        Back in the 1980’s after the U.s. emptied our mental institutions during the Carter administration on civil liberties grounds, we were told we had a homeless problem and the media here and in the rest of the world blamed it on the harsh capitalist system and Reagan’s harsh economic policies. Many Americans knew then that most of the homeless were former mental patients, but we were incessantly told that we should be ashamed of our country for being so insensitive to the plight of the poor. And I’m now trying to figure out in what way are we mistreating our young, old and disabled.

  22. Christopher
    Posted October 13, 2013 at 7:30 am | Permalink

    Reading these comments (John Witton)…wow, I can’t help remarking just how sad and pathetic this person is. I never ceased to be amazed. Though, I also laugh…it is probably just a 16 year old ‘indoctrinite’ (if I may invent an expression”). Certainly sounds like one. Either way, though not explicitly stated, I am sure this is yet another wonderful example of a pious Christian.

  23. steve oberski
    Posted October 13, 2013 at 7:50 am | Permalink


    My condolences to the other John Wittons out there.

  24. still learning
    Posted October 13, 2013 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    People whose ideas need strong criticism are always people who can’t tolerate being criticized. Witton is a good example of this. If he is mentally ill, he has no choice in his behavior. I hope he can get some help.

  25. Posted October 13, 2013 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    These comments echo a series of threats I once received years ago — almost verbatim actually. The similarity was so striking that I just did some Google searching, only to find that my former stalker had ended his life in a very tragic way. I’m not sure what a blog host can do about visitors who exhibit signs of mental illness. In my case, I tried to engage him, to see if we could arrive at some normalized interaction. After a few months it was clear I was in well over my depth; you could easily chart his mood swings by the calendar, and in his darker periods he became increasingly hostile and the threats more personal and dangerous. Eventually I blocked him; and later I walked away from the blog completely. I feel strangely guilty now, seeing comments from his former friends and family. All describe him as someone brilliant, who could have contributed much to society, but couldn’t figure out how. Instead he got stuck doing things like this. I agree with Ben Goren’s sentiment that it is a sort of collective social failure when we lose a gifted person to madness. It is impossible to say, based on these few comments, whether John Witton is the same sort of sad case. Certainly the easiest action is to block him, put him out of mind, and hope he finds help if he really needs it.

  26. will
    Posted October 13, 2013 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    If it’s “totally determined” somebody is going to make a rude comment before they’ve made the rude comment then why do half the people apologize and half not? It seems to me there’s free will implicit in apologizing (or not). Maybe I’m not grasping the current idea of what constitutes free will, but to say a comment WILL BE totally determined BEFORE IT’S POSTED seems absurdly simplistic. A reductio ad absurdum. Am I being rude with this comment? If somebody decides I am, then is this rudeness predetermined? We’ve all had the experience of writing a comment, then deleting it, reposting from a completely differnet angle, arguing the reverse. We’ve all changed perspective. Our consiousness is too multitudinous for “totally determined”.

    And GOOD MORNING, everybody!

    • gluonspring
      Posted October 13, 2013 at 10:37 am | Permalink

      Why do half the pachinko balls go to the right and half to the left? Free will?

    • Posted October 13, 2013 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

      Are you free, will?


    • John Scanlon, FCD
      Posted October 14, 2013 at 7:51 am | Permalink

      About half of all commenters manage to be civil nearly all of the time. About half the time, the rudeness level of the rude-commenter is moderated after some reflection; about half of those times, this happens even before the rude comment is posted. About half of all commenters acquire the habit of reflecting before hitting ‘Post’. About a half of a half of a half of… end up acting as total jerks for at least half of their lifetimes. That’s just the way things came out in the Big Bang.

      • gbjames
        Posted October 14, 2013 at 7:56 am | Permalink

        Can this principle of the half-life of rudeness be formulated as a law?

    • Notagod
      Posted October 14, 2013 at 10:04 am | Permalink

      Due to the properties of the functioning of the brain I would think that the content of your comment was largely predetermined before you began to write it, I don’t think you had the “free will” to have written a comment that was substantially different. However, I’m less convinced that comment was destined to be written by you when you were born.

  27. Marta
    Posted October 13, 2013 at 8:42 am | Permalink

    I’ve always thought that people who didn’t comply with your request to them for an apology just, you know, went away. Can’t imagine why it’s not occurred to me that they continue to post, and that their comments may escalate to abuse.

  28. Diana MacPherson
    Posted October 13, 2013 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    I thought his first comment was very rude and I responded tersely. I’m glad Jerry directly told him he was rude. I figured he was just cocky and lacking social graces but wow he was worse than that.

    I think people like this can too easily be dismissed but they should always be taken seriously and I’m glad Jerry has. I once didn’t take threats I received from someone over the phone seriously but once things escalated and he received a visit from the police, it stopped. Later I learned that same person did jail time for sexual assault.

    • will
      Posted October 13, 2013 at 9:07 am | Permalink

      Diana: I don’t mind cockiness, though. YOU can be quite cocky. I LIKE the posters who challenge Jerry. Saying our actions are totally determined seems like psuedoscience to me. But this poster was rude and not very bright in his “arguments”. I prize irreverence and humor and hope this plays some part in this WEIT experience.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted October 13, 2013 at 9:31 am | Permalink

        I can be cocky? I’m “conceited or arrogant, esp. in a bold or cheeky way”? How so? This person was guffawing without knowing what he was talking about. He was implying he knew it all and others were foolish. I fail to see how I do this. Please explain.

        • will
          Posted October 13, 2013 at 9:43 am | Permalink

          I meant cocky in the boldy self-confident sense! 🙂 You can have a nervy wise-guy tone to your posts which I admire.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted October 13, 2013 at 9:49 am | Permalink

            Okay phew. I was hoping that’s what you meant. 🙂

            • js
              Posted October 13, 2013 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

              Perhaps he meant like a ‘cocky’ which is what us Aussies call a cockatoo.
              When you put your finger in the cage, they bite it hard.

            • Posted October 13, 2013 at 10:15 pm | Permalink

              Diana, it seems to me that Willy is trying to chat you up! 😉 So transparent. LOL.

          • Notagod
            Posted October 14, 2013 at 10:24 am | Permalink

            There are a lot of expressions in her comments including concern, sympathy, confidence, humor, intelligence. A well balanced personality I should think. Cocky? Not so much, from what I’ve seen.

        • gbjames
          Posted October 13, 2013 at 9:45 am | Permalink

          [audio src="" /]

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted October 13, 2013 at 9:50 am | Permalink


  29. Kevin
    Posted October 13, 2013 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    Block and ignore is reasonable advice. However, I hope that John Witton knows that if he were in my living I would feel uncomfortable with what he says, or maybe more to the point, how he would say it. I hope he finds someone that he can talk to locally and share his ideas (many of which sound unhinged). If he reads these comments he might be get the impression that his comments reflect an abnormal condition and he would be better off to be more conscious of that.

    Advice to John Witton:
    Try to relax, take a long walk, stay off the internet. Answer some of your own questions with pen and paper.

  30. Taylor M. Brown
    Posted October 13, 2013 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    What a jerk!

  31. Pliny the in Between
    Posted October 13, 2013 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    My current plan with particularly serious trolls is to find a picture of them online (not that hard really) – then use it as the basis of a new comic character wearing a foil hat or a condom on their heads. It’s a time honored artistic tradition which is even present in the Sistine Chapel (a contemporary critic of MIC. shows up as the donkey-eared boatman).

  32. Dan
    Posted October 13, 2013 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    Witton’s troll is not unusual; there lots of crazies like him. Even more vile and abusive comments are published in ffrf’s “Freethought Today” newspaper.

  33. gmaduck
    Posted October 13, 2013 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    Whoa. His later comments were horribly rude, but I think you over-reacted at his first message. I did not find it rude. It certainly would not have been a response from a college debate team member, but it is something I, myself, would have spoken if we were sitting at Starbucks. “Are you serious?” simply means, “I can’t believe what I just heard.” And then he asks you to prove it. Doesn’t sound rude at all; sounds quite human-like. However, his humanity walked out the door shortly thereafter.

    • gbjames
      Posted October 13, 2013 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

      No, gmaduck, it was clearly rude by standards that we are accustomed to on this site. His subsequent comments demonstrate exactly how rude was his intent.

      • gmaduck
        Posted October 13, 2013 at 10:45 pm | Permalink

        Rude? No. Brash. But then you say potato and I say potato. He sure wound up yanking several chains. And his response proved he’s not worth the time.

        • gbjames
          Posted October 14, 2013 at 4:19 am | Permalink

          His response proved his rudeness. If it was a potato/potato matter the response would have been very different.

    • Diane G.
      Posted October 14, 2013 at 1:32 am | Permalink

      gmaduck, I was with you about the first comment. Perhaps it all depends on how we imagined it was “said”–with an incredulous smile, or knitted brow?

      But then I always tend to give the benefit of the doubt; sometimes its deserved, sometimes not…

      • Diane G.
        Posted October 14, 2013 at 1:32 am | Permalink


  34. John
    Posted October 13, 2013 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for keeping this forum civilized. I suppose some folks can’t separate these discussions from the often atrocious rants and personal attacks found in many internet discussion groups.

  35. @eightyc
    Posted October 13, 2013 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    I’m not quite sure how that initial post was rude?

    I’m only speaking about the first post and not anything else he wrote afterwards.

    Can someone explain in what way it was rude.


    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted October 13, 2013 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

      The tone made it rude. The way he starts off with a “are you trying to tell me…” and all the “?” is somewhat mocking. Even if you ignore that first bit, he ends with:

      “Well, I hope you have more than just wishful thinking to support such a ridiculous idea.”

      Starting with “well,” and calling what Jerry wrote a “ridiculous idea” is rude and then to finish up with more arrogance with “I can’t wait to see the proof…” just seals the rudeness, arrogance. If I honestly didn’t know what was going on with the definition, I’d first look up determinism then ask polite questions. Maybe I’d say:

      “You seem to suggest that physics plays a role in something like whether I post a comment here or not. Is this what determinism is? I find that hard to get onboard with.”

      Then some nice soul may have explained determinism to him. I know I had to learn all these things and I really refined my position by engaging people here nicely.

      • Nick Evans
        Posted October 14, 2013 at 8:30 am | Permalink

        I don’t see that starting a sentence with “well”, or calling an idea – not a person – ridiculous, is particularly rude.

        Having said that, clearly my rudeness sensors are less finely attuned than Jerry’s, given the way Whitton descending into ludicrous quasi-threats.

      • gmaduck
        Posted October 14, 2013 at 9:21 am | Permalink

        “Tone” is correct. Look at it this way in his first contact. If a friend said it, it would be guffawed. If an opponent said it, it would be offensive. “Tone” is subjective. Jerry’s first impression turned out right. Maybe he has better intuition than I do because I saw no rudeness.

        • gbjames
          Posted October 14, 2013 at 9:26 am | Permalink

          He clearly has better “intuition” than you on this subject. But it isn’t that his “intuition proved right”, it is that he recognized the post for what it was while you didn’t.

          Are you new around here? There is a long history of what is expected from commenters in these parts. These are informally known as “The Roolz”.

          • gmaduck
            Posted October 14, 2013 at 9:35 am | Permalink

            GBJames, new only to posting. However, I have a question. For the last couple years I get at least 3 posts, many times more, each day! Does Jerry write them all? How does he manage to put more than 24 hrs into each day?

            • gbjames
              Posted October 14, 2013 at 9:41 am | Permalink

              Jerry writes most of the original posts. From time to time someone else fills in for him but these are always identified.

              If memory serves, all of the original posts about site etiquette have been written by Jerry. This is his “living room”.

              I don’t know how he finds time for everything he does. Only Ceiling Cat knows that.

              • gmaduck
                Posted October 14, 2013 at 9:52 am | Permalink

                What does the little h/t + a name at the bottom of some posts mean? A contributing author?

              • Posted October 14, 2013 at 9:56 am | Permalink

                “Hat tip.” As in, “A tip o’ th’ hat to ____ for bringing this to our attention.”



              • gbjames
                Posted October 14, 2013 at 9:56 am | Permalink

                “h/t” means “hat tip”. Someone sent the post’s author information that forms the basis of the post.

    • @eightyc
      Posted October 15, 2013 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

      I don’t see how that first statement was rude at all! Am I missing something here??

      The Hitch liked to say “that’s a silly point” at some of his discussions. Is that rude??

      I think Jerry gets a little too sensitive at times when people disagree with him.

      Setting the topic aside, someone can be rude and make a good point. Conversely, someone can be nice and make a stupid point.

      It depends on what you value. I have no problems having someone be “rude” to me. If they have a valid point and I can learn from it, then by all means, they can be rude as much as they want!


      • gmaduck
        Posted October 15, 2013 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

        I agree BUT Jerry’s sense of the rudeness was right-on once you read the jerk’s follow-up comments. He may not have started out with what we think of as rude but he soon revealed his true nature. Whether Jerry’s answer antagonized him or not he went off the cliff! Now he deserves the criticism; while Jerry winds up on top.

        • @eightyc
          Posted October 15, 2013 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

          Well I’m not sure what you mean by “true nature”.

          For example, if someone started off rude but then became nice, did that reveal his/her “true nature”; that is, he/she was nice to begin with?

          lol at the risk of being called “rude”, that’s a silly point.

          • gmaduck
            Posted October 15, 2013 at 9:57 pm | Permalink

            I didn’t consider his first message rude. His true nature revealed itself in further replies because he’s a schmuck. Had he been “nice” in a further reply we wouldn’t be commenting.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted October 15, 2013 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

        Personally, I don’t see a reason for being rude just because you believe you are right. If someone is rude to me, they pretty much have lost my attention and won’t succeed in convincing me of anything. As I used to say to customers who would yell about their service when I had to do those types of jobs, go ahead, yell, swear if you want but as soon as you make it personal, we’re done. I enjoyed hanging up on someone who called me a c*nt because he had to wait a really long time on the phone to get back to a person and seethed all the more.

        • @eightyc
          Posted October 15, 2013 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

          Well then you likely need to discern the message from the way the message is delivered to you.

          What may be “rude” to you may not necessarily be “rude” to others.

          So is it now “rude” to call theists on their bullshit? Do I have to call them out on their bullshit using a special voice? Do I have to use a certain string of words as not to fluster them? Basically suck up to them so that they “receive” the point properly?

          lol. Come on now. Let’s not be silly.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted October 15, 2013 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

            I think you are conflating “sucking up” with being polite. It’s a matter of respect. I can respect someone and argue with them or I can disrespect them and try to make them angry. Those are two different purposes with two different outcomes. It also reflects on my character. Not too many people will respect me or wish to engage me if I am disrespectful.

            Do you think when you have a disagreement at work or with someone else you would prefer to have further social interactions with that you are “sucking up” and somehow being submissive to them?

        • Diane G.
          Posted October 15, 2013 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

          Agree with you, Diana, and admire your proactive approach. (Unfortunately a lot of customer service reps can be fired for hanging up.)

          FWIW, when I analyze my initial (lack of) response to the tone of Witten’s first post, I suspect it stems from the fact that I just didn’t find it outside of the bounds of a certain type of male ego, a style that I long ago learned to take in stride.

          gmaduck may not have had the same interpretation, but we do agree that our first impression was wrong in this case.

  36. js
    Posted October 13, 2013 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    There is a lot of bad stuff on the Internet, such as trolls like this and cyber bullying, but there are also sites like this, where in the comments someone mentions a book and in under a minute I have it on my kindle, ready to read.
    I recently read ‘The three christs of Ypsilanti’ after someone here mentioned it.
    A fascinating read but also rather sad.

  37. Dave
    Posted October 13, 2013 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

    Mr Whitton is more just one more piece of evidence against ID.

    • Dave
      Posted October 13, 2013 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

      And so is my typing. Make that “… is just one more …”

  38. Marella
    Posted October 13, 2013 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

    The lack of rabid commenters like John Witten are one of the reasons I love this site. The standard of the commenting here is very high generally and I’m just not interested in that sort of invective. It doesn’t improve my life.

    I hope that man gets the help he clearly needs.

  39. Shwell Thanksh
    Posted October 13, 2013 at 11:54 pm | Permalink

    I applaud the firm insistence on civility. This person’s behavior reminds me eerily of Violet Beaureguard (“I want it NOW!”) whose rude behavior was politely dealt with by Willy Wonka by whisking her off to the “juicing machine”.

  40. Diane G.
    Posted October 14, 2013 at 1:38 am | Permalink

    Just wow. I am speechless.

    And Jerry, you must have at least twice as many hours in your day as the rest of us if you can read all the comments here and still do everything else that you do. I am used to this now but still amazed.

  41. Adriano
    Posted October 14, 2013 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    Is not often that I’m embarrassed to be a Canadian. But after reading this post, I am.

  42. imil42
    Posted October 15, 2013 at 2:58 am | Permalink

    But this guy really had no choice whether to write that comment or not, had he? Why were you demanding his apology as if it was his fault?

    Oh, I forgot – you had no choice either 🙂

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  1. […] are a number of good sites that promote constructive dialogue — Jerry Coyne’s “living room” standard for comments is a good example; I also approve of the general themes in Jack Vance’s Rational […]

  2. […] are a number of good sites that promote constructive dialogue — Jerry Coyne’s “living room” standard for comments is a good example; I also approve of the general themes in Jack Vance’s Rational […]

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