The Problems With the IDW: The Intellectual Dark Web

When the "IDW" label became known to me, I thought it was a bit silly. Then some intellectuals started taking it very seriously. This part was funnier. When I saw who made the cut for the exclusive list of IDWers, my immediate thoughts were:

Why the list?

Who are some of these people and what have they done?

Where is Richard Dawkins on this list and so many more of the highest level intellectuals who have been engaging in groundbreaking, good faith, "taboo" discussions for over 40 years?

I had more questions regarding logistics, but first I had to deal with the "Dark Webness" of it all. The "Dark Web" is a place where you can find illegal things like guns, drugs, hitmen, child pornography etc. People sell things on this platform because it can be accessed by anonymous browsers and search engines. This makes your activity almost impossible to trace. Not only is it home for all things illegal, but is also known for being a platform that is difficult to navigate, creepy, unprofessional, spammy, underground...

How does this label have anything to do with the intellectual enlightenment? Engaging in good faith discussions may be difficult for some people, but these are not illegal ideas that are being presented. We are trying to sort the good ideas from the bad ideas. There is not a conspiracy or governing body trying to silence this. Richard Dawkins has been at this forever.

This intellectual movement isn't a dark web... it's a warm blanket. It's about people moving toward good faith discussions, with those you may or may not disagree with, and releasing your anxiety connected to the possibility of disagreement. It's inviting, open, easy to access, non-exclusive and comforting. Essentially the antithesis of a "Dark Web." This is a global enlightenment working toward implementing ideas that can produce a greater amount of well-being to go around. It's warm, inviting and calming. The warm blanket is for each and every person and will bring the world comfort.


ie. Being able to put your arm around your ideological opponent and engage in the war of ideas.

ie. Being able to put your arm around Donald Trump and talk about your ideological disagreements instead of screaming "racist!" while accidentally running into oncoming traffic.


This movement is the antidote to social extremism. However, it must continue to be grounded in skepticism, including applying it to its own existence.


Now that we have moved passed this inappropriate label, let's talk about the list of intellectuals.

“ The first thing you will notice about this list of leading figures of the Intellectual Dark Web (IDW) is that they vary in gender, sexual orientation, race, and political affiliation. They do not form alliances based on their identities or tribal affiliation.
But they all share two distinct and (now) uncommon qualities. First, they are willing to disagree fiercely, but talk civilly, about nearly every meaningful subject worthy of public discourse: religion, abortion, gender identity, race, immigration, the nature of consciousness. Many of the opinions they hold on such topics can sometimes be in contrast with the orthodox opinion of their respective tribe. Second, they are intellectually honest and thus resist parroting what’s politically convenient or politically correct.  "
(From the IDW website: https://intellectualdarkweb.site/ )

This description of what a "leading figure" of the IDW is (based on this excerpt from the IDW website) sounds a lot like Richard Dawkins. He is willing to "disagree fiercely, but talk civilly, about nearly every meaningful subject worthy of public discourse." Richard is also "intellectually honest and thus resists parroting what's politically convenient or politically correct." However, I doubt Richard would ever accept this label. It seems like an attempt to center the focus of the movement around the intellectuals themselves instead of promoting good ideas or useful cognitive tools required to have good faith conversation.


Let's not kid ourselves about who the real titans are in this movement towards rationality. Most of the names on this list are great thinkers and entrepreneurs, but that doesn't mean that they are leaders of this inaptly-named movement.


The List. Check it twice.


Here is the list of "leading members" copied from the 'IDW' website with my comments:


Eric Weinstein - Not a leader of this movement. Sam Harris - Sam is one of the leaders of this movement. Jordan Peterson - Jordan is one of the leaders of this movement. Maajid Nawaz - Not a leader of this movement. Dave Rubin - Not a leader of this movement. Claire Lehmann - Not a leader of this movement. Ben Shapiro - Not a leader of this movement. Douglas Murray - Not a leader of this movement. Ayaan Hirsi Ali - Not a leader of this movement. Joe Rogan - Joe is one of the leaders of this movement.

Christina Hoff Sommers- Not a leader of this movement. Bret Weinstein- Not a leader of this movement. Heather Heying- Not a leader of this movement. James Damore- Not a leader of this movement. Michael Shermer - Michael is one of the leaders of this movement. Debra Soh- Not a leader of this movement. Jonathan Haidt- Not a leader of this movement. Glenn Loury- Not a leader of this movement. John McWorther- Not a leader of this movement. Coleman Hughes- Not a leader of this movement.

If one is going to claim leadership, they must be able to provide the evidence to support this. For example, there is no evidence that Eric Weinstein (who originally coined the IDW label) is a leader of this conversation enlightenment. He is a powerful thinker and entertaining communicator, but can we honestly say he is a leader of this movement? Why would we say this? Where is the data? No is my answer. However, if we look at Sam Harris, we can provide evidence to satisfy every category when claiming him to be one of the leaders in bridging the conversation gap between ideas. His work on Islam is the most obvious example. Apply this skepticism across this list. Rinse and repeat.


A quiz mark of 4 out of 20 is a failing grade and points to the obvious smoke-filled conversation that led to the influenced creation of this strange list. #420


If you need to have a list like this, which I don't think you do, it must include Richard Dawkins or no one at all. He would probably turn down the invitation (if offered) and giggle while thinking "Join? I am this movement, muthafucka!"


I have spent a great deal of time with some of these noted intellectuals. I created opportunities for them to speak in large auditoriums in front of thousands of fans. We traveled, sat in bars and enjoyed dinners. Some have also been guests on my podcast.

My sense is that they all want to do good for this intellectual movement and that they do in fact engage in good faith discussions. Individually, they do extremely important work for humanity. This isn't without some bugs, however. I've witnessed some fraternal instinct when members have jumped in quickly to defend a member of the IDW before acquiring the evidence necessary to adopt their fellow member's position. There is evidence to suggest that there are cases where evidence isn't the most important thing and not even necessary when warranting belief among some in the group. Protecting a member becomes more important. You need look no further than my falling out with Sam Harris (pang-burn.com/response) and how his claims seemed to be accepted as true by some of his fellow members (without evidence) who then joined in on the attempted assassination of my character. Sam's claims should be challenged as though he isn't a member.

Group membership must never t(T)rump skepticism. This was an example of skepticism failing and group-think winning. This is why I believe that any level of fraternity is not helpful to this movement.


It's okay to label a movement, much like we did with the Enlightenment, but don't label it something that it is not. I understand that this term was or is considered to be semi-ironic to some, but it seems to have taken on a life of its own, creating an exclusive club with names on a list, group attribution and advertising on a website.


All members of humanity are on the list for this movement. It is warm, comforting and inclusive. No group identity, no invitation required. Simply a passion for the war of ideas and the pursuit of truth. It is the Intellectual Warm Blanket.


By Travis Pangburn

pang-burn.com









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