A real science discussion - Sam, are you listening?
Posted: 31 March 2005 03:19 PM   [ Ignore ]  
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Sam,

If you are ever monitoring these threads, I have a request.  Could you sponsor a moderated (possibly closed) forum for discussion of the scientific aspects of faith, belief, reason, wisdom, etc.?

I was very excited to see this forum originally, but as things have developed it seems this forum is evolving the way usenet did after the internet went commercial in 1991.  Usenet today is virtually un-usable except for a limited number of moderated groups.  The reason - evey tom, dick and jane who has an opinion about some subject feels perfectly free to post whatever comes to their minds at any given moment.

Maybe you had some purpose in providing an open forum.  Perhaps your doing some content analysis on these comments and trying to measure the evidence that people spout off without doing the research.  I don't know.  But I think a real Science Forum would be useful and deliberative discourse on these topics would be most welcome.

Thanks

g

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Posted: 31 March 2005 05:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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Gman,

I believe that I have previously pointed out that anyone can, fairly easily, create a moderated forum.  In fact, I would be more than happy to donate my time for the initial setup of PHPBB for such a project.

The problem that you will find, however, is that to run a good moderated forum takes rather a lot of time and effort, and, when that time and effort are uncompensated, it tends to seriously restrict the number of qualified people that can actually participate.

In addition, I would like to, very humbly (and I mean that in all honesty), suggest that the notion of a moderated forum being essential to improving the signal to noise ratio is, perhaps, flawed.  I would offer up the notion of a Wiki as a counter-proposal.  A Wiki would impose a different structure, and, I feel, allow for a non-moderated approach to establishing a set of meaningful essays on a variety of subjects within this space.

-Matt

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Posted: 01 April 2005 03:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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[quote author=“gman”]Sam, If you are ever monitoring these threads, I have a request.  Could you sponsor a moderated (possibly closed) forum for discussion of the scientific aspects of faith, belief, reason, wisdom, etc.?

what do you envision such a forum to be like?

[quote author=“gman”]evey tom, dick and jane who has an opinion about some subject feels perfectly free to post whatever comes to their minds at any given moment.

every tom, dick and gman….

[quote author=“gman”]But I think a real Science Forum would be useful and deliberative discourse on these topics would be most welcome.

Show us the way…..

 Signature 

Delude responsibly.

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Posted: 04 April 2005 01:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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[quote author=“psiconoclast”]Gman,

I believe that I have previously pointed out that anyone can, fairly easily, create a moderated forum.  In fact, I would be more than happy to donate my time for the initial setup of PHPBB for such a project.

The problem that you will find, however, is that to run a good moderated forum takes rather a lot of time and effort, and, when that time and effort are uncompensated, it tends to seriously restrict the number of qualified people that can actually participate.

In addition, I would like to, very humbly (and I mean that in all honesty), suggest that the notion of a moderated forum being essential to improving the signal to noise ratio is, perhaps, flawed.  I would offer up the notion of a Wiki as a counter-proposal.  A Wiki would impose a different structure, and, I feel, allow for a non-moderated approach to establishing a set of meaningful essays on a variety of subjects within this space.

-Matt

Sorry I missed this Matt.  Maybe we could start at thread to discuss the pros and cons.  I actually use a wiki in my teaching, to allow my classes to share annotated bibliographies and web resource links. And, of course, this forum is using phpbb.  Also, I did moderate a forum for a while back in the 90’s in usenet.  So I do know the problems with time.  However, that assumes you have an open forum where anyone can post something.  The big time drain is filtering out all the off-topic comments, flames and trolls, etc.  Before 1991 (when the internet was still just .edu, .net, .gov and .org it was a lot easier.

I’m not inclined to start one myself for the topics Sam has raised.  I had hoped that he would at least participate in this one to keep us on topic, if not moderate.  I would be willing to register on this one if I knew that I would be talking with people I can trust.  But this open format has not been very conducive to discourse.

One of the people that had started participating here, but later pulled out because of the noise and the downright meaness of a few posters, and I started communicating via email because I thought he had some neat ideas.  Turns out he does research in the area of what he calls collaborative, deliberative e-discourse. We talked a bit about wikis and other open forums and how they are not really very productive when it comes to solving problems.  He is working on a new kind of system that he thinks will solve a lot of the problems with these open forums.  But I don’t think his stuff is ready for prime time.

My pet peeve with many on this forum is that while proclaiming themselves rational they engage in efforts to try and reason with TheChampion, or they spout ideological opinions with every bit the unfounded belief of those they would seek to demean - the blind faithers.  In fact that’s what this thread was about, if I recall.

Anyway, I keep looking in to see if there is any reason to keep participating.  So far you, Dave, Hypothesizer and Geoff have been the few reasonable voices I’ve heard here.  There have been others who seem to have disappeared, probably because they got fed up with the noise too.

But as long as I see a post from psiconoclast (really cool handle BTW) I will keep reading!

g

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Posted: 04 April 2005 01:52 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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gman,

Thanks for the kind words.

I agree that wiki technology may not be good for solving brand new problems, but sometimes I think that the problem with discussions such as those that arise here has more to do with organization of existing information than the solving of new problems.  Most dogmatic assertions of major religions have been addressed, somewhere, to different degrees of scholarship.  I still think that a wiki might allow for the current debate to be well cystalized and made easily available to scholar and lay researcher alike.

However, it is also quite clear that many people are simply highly resistant to the core assertions of a rationalist view of the world, and in my experience, unless somone internally recognizes the validity of the rational orientation, it is difficult to persuade them.  As I understand it, this is a large amount of what Sam is investigating in his current scholarly inquiries, the neurobiological basis of belief.  In order to develop a superior methodology for helping someone come to realize the importance of a rational outlook, and to realize those things about their current outlook that are not rational, well, I agree, a new methodology would be most welcome.

As far as reasoning with TC goes. . .  Well, the way I look at it is that two people can both sit down at an 8x8 square board, but if one person thinks the game is checkers, and the other chess, they are fundamentally incapable of playing a game, let alone deciding a winner and a loser, and the sooner that people realize that, the better.

I know that Sam is hard on religious moderates in his book, and I basically agree with him, but at the same time, I do value the fact that most religious moderates are willing to agree to a framework for the sake of discussion, which means that civil discourse is at least possible.

Keep of the good work gman, and as long as you are out there to read my posts, I will try to keep them worth your time.

-Matt

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Posted: 07 April 2005 02:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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[quote author=“gman”]
The reason - evey tom, dick and jane who has an opinion about some subject feels perfectly free to post whatever comes to their minds at any given moment.

Do you ever consider yourself to be one of these people. If not, why not? If so, then you should probably think for a given moment before you come to such conclusions.

It is possible to debate something until your blue in the face, and have dick or jane come along and say something that you might not have considered which is crucial to your resolution. Would you rather stay blue in the face or reach a resolution?

Without saying whatever comes to your mind at this given moment, why do you think Sam Harris does not participate in this forum?

I digress

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Posted: 07 April 2005 06:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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[quote author=“Anonymous”]

[quote author=“gman”]
The reason - evey tom, dick and jane who has an opinion about some subject feels perfectly free to post whatever comes to their minds at any given moment.

Do you ever consider yourself to be one of these people. If not, why not? If so, then you should probably think for a given moment before you come to such conclusions.

It is possible to debate something until your blue in the face, and have dick or jane come along and say something that you might not have considered which is crucial to your resolution. Would you rather stay blue in the face or reach a resolution?

Without saying whatever comes to your mind at this given moment, why do you think Sam Harris does not participate in this forum?

I digress

Don’t know the answer to the latter.  I am curious about his motives and wonder what he thinks about the (speak of digressions) posts on gun control, etc.

To answer your question, yes and no.  I don’t consider myself in any way special or different from tom, dick and jane in terms of holding and wanting to voice opinions.  On the other hand, I try to stick to subjects in which I have some sufficient knowledge to “believe” my thoughts can contribute to the discussion.  Also, though I am just as falable as anyone, I do think I try to think out what I want to say before posting.  I won’t claim I’m always correct or right.  I will claim that I can back up my statements with evidence, usually from the literature on the topic (when I’m in the science forum).

I am complaining about the posters who have not done any background reading other than, perhaps, what they heard on CBS news, in a subject but never-the-less feel quite free to voice opinions and then (and this is the critical part) when challenged or an error in their view is pointed out, revert to name calling and personal attacks.  This forum is full of posts of that kind.  And, not just to me.  If you had any experience of the usenet newsgroups back before the internet went commercial (pre-1991) and then saw what happened when the general public flooded the postings, you would better appreciate this perspective.  I have seen top people who were participating in serious discussions get ridiculed and verbally persecuted when they tried to correct some “tom” who just knew better that his opinion was right, no matter what the expert had to say.  I watched the sad exit of those people (most of us fled to listservs which were ok, but had some drawbacks of their own).

Bottom line is, I would love to have serious discussions and I do treasure multiple points of view, as long as they are backed up with knowledge (citations, etc.) and reason.  There are a number of posters who have made a lot of noise about how they are rational (i.e., have rejected religion) and use reasoning to back up their opinions.  However, many of them seem not to be knowledgable about the topics they choose to post on, and rationality without a knowledge base is pretty worthless.

g

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Posted: 07 April 2005 07:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
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Bottom line is, I would love to have serious discussions and I do treasure multiple points of view, as long as they are backed up with knowledge (citations, etc.) and reason.  There are a number of posters who have made a lot of noise about how they are rational (i.e., have rejected religion) and use reasoning to back up their opinions.  However, many of them seem not to be knowledgable about the topics they choose to post on, and rationality without a knowledge base is pretty worthless.

I agree, rationality without a knowledge base is indeed worthless. However, to add to the bottom line, would you agree that the proper level of knowledge (however interpreted) that is required to carry on a worthwile discussion cannot be measured. If so, then should not the more knowledgable accept the fact that there will always be less knowledgable or vise versa, in any discussion. Does it not just boil back down to the need for patience and openmindedness? I’m positive that you are a brilliant individual, I would hate to see you become tucked away in a private forum. How would I learn anything from you if you chose to do just that?

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Posted: 07 April 2005 07:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]  
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[quote author=“Anonymous”]

Bottom line is, I would love to have serious discussions and I do treasure multiple points of view, as long as they are backed up with knowledge (citations, etc.) and reason.  There are a number of posters who have made a lot of noise about how they are rational (i.e., have rejected religion) and use reasoning to back up their opinions.  However, many of them seem not to be knowledgable about the topics they choose to post on, and rationality without a knowledge base is pretty worthless.

I agree, rationality without a knowledge base is indeed worthless. However, to add to the bottom line, would you agree that the proper level of knowledge (however interpreted) that is required to carry on a worthwile discussion cannot be measured. If so, then should not the more knowledgable accept the fact that there will always be less knowledgable or vise versa, in any discussion. Does it not just boil back down to the need for patience and openmindedness? I’m positive that you are a brilliant individual, I would hate to see you become tucked away in a private forum. How would I learn anything from you if you chose to do just that?

Really good addition.  You speak wisdom! And I agree totally.  I teach undergraduates and graduates and go to conferences of peers and I am exposed to various levels of knowledge (mostly above my own!)  If you talk to any of my students you will find that I am exceedingly tolerant of the “dumb question” and work with students in a mutually respectful atmosphere to develop their understanding of topics that I am (at least in theory) qualified to teach.  I even feel free to ask the dumb questions to my mentors and colleagues. 

What I object to, is those who insist their opinions must be right and are willing to denigrate those who just might be a little more knowledgable.  Often there is no acknowledgement of lack of understanding and a humble question to clarify.  Its straight to the ad hominem rebuttals.

Thanks for the undeserved but flattering benefit of the doubt.  I sincerely wish to participate in civil discourse on many of these topics.  But I do remember how productive the old usenet was as an essentially closed forum.  So naturally, I long for that kind of environment.  And, let me add a quick note: those forums frequently were populated with people with very different views and opinions, etc.  It wasn’t that we all enjoyed it because we were all of like mind.  Its just that we tried to be principled in our discourse and that made it very useful.  That was when emoticons were first invented, by the way!

But if I can learn something here (and I have actually) and occassionaly add something useful, I certainly would like to stay on.

g

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