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A note on writing talk.origins FAQ’s

When writing an FAQ one has to take into account the target audience which is often innocent in their biological knowledge. There are seven different audiences:

  1. The evolutionist who wants to answer a common question definitively in a debate. He needs a crisp answer, not too long, that doesn’t leave obvious holes for the creationist grasping for holes.
  2. The layperson who genuinely wants to understand at the level they can understand.
  3. The honest creationist who is misinformed. He can see the point if it is made clearly and simply. He will discount it if the point being made is muddy.
  4. The intransigent creationist. He knows nothing, learns nothing. However you can shut him on a particular point and let everyone else (including the lurkers) see that he is wrong.
  5. The honest evolutionist who is misinformed. This is usually the most difficult audience to write for. The point has to be made clearly and backed up with references to the scientific literature. It is often necessary to explain the standard misconceptions at some length. If Richard Harter doesn’t get it you have failed.
  6. The dishonest evolutionist who is more interested in the politics of the debate than in facts. It is almost impossible to write a FAQ that will help this group. They think they know all there is to know about evolution.
  7. The obsessive-compulsive evolutionist. He scans all statements about evolution, looking for over-reliance on natural selection to explain evolved phenomena or misstatements about how some species has not changed much in the last so many million years. This evolutionist will be greatly distracted by any such mistakes and will be unable to address any other issues until the FAQ has been corrected.

Note: Items 1-4 are by yours truly. Items 5-6 is by Larry Moran. Item 7 is by Adam Noel Smith.

This page was last updated April 17, 1998.