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Welcome to!

by Andy Peters
Copyright © 1993-2004

[Please note that Andy Peters is the author of this specific file and not the maintainer of this web site. ]

(Idea contributors' initials are indicated in brackets below.)

What is ("t.o.") is a newsgroup devoted to the discussion of issues related to biological and physical origins. Topics discussed include, but are not limited to, evolution, creation, abiogenesis, catastrophism, cosmology, and theology. Be assured that you will find lively, often heated, exchanges between people of all persuasions.

Much of the bandwidth of t.o. is used for discussion of the merits of various ideas about origins. Other types of posts, however, are welcome (and, in fact, refreshing!), particularly [MI]:

What is the purpose of this file?

This file is intended to explain to new participants, in particular those who do not accept the currently dominant scientific explanations of origins [TS], how best to avoid flames. Following these guidelines should facilitate intelligent, thoughtful interaction while minimizing distracting flamage. Though this FAQ is addressed mainly to creationists, the guidelines are general for the most part, and should be followed by everyone. There is also a short section addressed to non-creationists in a later section of this document.

Understand, however, that following these guidelines, while we hope it will reduce the heat directed against you, is far from a guarantee that you will be treated politely at all times. Expect your every statement to be gone over with a fine-toothed comb, every assertion to be challenged, every assumption to be questioned. Some of these actions will take the form of polite discourse, but many will not. You can count on being flamed sometimes, no matter how rational you act, no matter how good your arguments are [WE]. These flames, however, will be nothing compared to the flames incurred when someone fails to follow the basic rules of courtesy and argumentation suggested here.

How can I get the most out of discussion on t.o.?

I am assuming here that your purpose is to engage in rational discourse. Thus, "getting the most out of a discussion" implies a give and take of ideas, with a willingness to consider the ideas and points put forth by one's opponents, and the assumption that he/she has the same willingness. This willingness, however, does not imply that one's opponent will immediately accede to the superior power of one's argument. Remember that the t.o. regulars have been at this a long time, and have seen lots and lots of arguments. With that in mind, let's jump into the guidelines I've been babbling about.

Understand your argument - Be prepared!

Use Good Argument Style

Miscellaneous suggestions

Guidelines for non-creationists [JA]

Of course, everyone is expected to follow the general rules of conduct outlined above. Some additional points need to be made, however, specifically to non-creationists. Since there are many people in the science/evolution camp, it can be difficult to resist falling into a group mentality. Before you submit to the temptation to "pile on" to an argument, consider: (1) whether the point you wish to make has already been made, and (2) whether you're really adding anything. Humor is always appreciated, but it often detracts from real discussion to add a content-free post to an already-excessive pileup of responses [JA]. Also, it's a good idea to make sure that you know what you're talking about before you post on a technical topic. Several t.o. regulars have advanced training in the subjects we discuss here - wait for responses from the experts before replying to questions about such topics. Remember that, while what you have read in popularizations of technical topics is not likely to be wrong, it is often oversimplified to the point of being misleading. If you post statements based on a gross misunderstanding of some topic, you are just as likely to be reprimanded as a creationist. [PS]

If you fail to follow these guidelines, you can count on being soundly flamed within your first several posts. If you continue to post without following them, the flames will get hotter and hotter. Many construe this behavior on the part of the regulars as an unwillingness to discuss their ideas. On the contrary: discussion of various ideas of origins is the very reason we are here. Discussion is likely to be much more productive, however, if all participants agree to follow standard rules of argumentation and etiquette [PN, KvR]

Am I really expected to read all these FAQs?

Some new participants become offended when they ask a question and are repeatedly told, "Read the FAQ." However, if you think of it from the t.o. regular's perspective, you can see that it must be very frustrating to have someone insist on a spoon-fed explanation when the information can be just as easily found in a concise, well-written document like the t.o. FAQ's. [OA]

As I have said, t.o. has a lot more FAQ's than the average group. Therefore, it is probably unrealistic for us to expect you to read them all. You should, however, definitely read those that are relevant to the arguments you intend to make. In addition, if you are directed to a particular FAQ for the answer to a question, don't insist on a personal answer from the person directing you. Make use of the FAQ's when they are relevant. Since most discussions on t.o. revolve in some way around the predictions and assumptions of evolution, most new participants will definitely want to read Chris Colby's Introduction to Evolution FAQ. Other FAQ's deal with specific issues surrounding the debate; if one of those issues is related to your argument, read the FAQ associated with it. Some FAQs which you are likely to find to be relevant are [MI]:

How do I get the FAQs? [MI]

Visit the Talk.Origins Archive at

We hope that, if you try to follow the suggestions in this file, your experience on t.o. will be a stimulating, educational experience. Welcome aboard!


I would like to thank the following people for their invaluable assistance in the preparation of this file. They offered criticism and suggestions, only a few of which could be adequately acknowledged within the text.

If you have comments, criticisms, or suggestions for improvement of this file, please contact me.

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