Argumentation versus Criticizing with Kindness

Argumentation is a skill, and most of us here are pretty good at it. We’ve honed our skills with years of practice in online forums. You may have seen this infographic describibng the heirarchy of argumentation before; it’s a good one. If you want to WIN an argument, this is the way to go:


BUT that is the rest of the Internet. Here at Peaceful Science we are trying to do something different, something better, where we talk to each other rather than talk at each other. And for that argumentation is not enough.

Criticism is harder than argument. It requires listening, understanding, and admitting to points of agreement (common ground) before offering the critical comments. Daniel Dennett puts it like this:

My goal here at PS is to encourage this sort of kind criticism, rather than the endless cycle of pointless argument we see in so many other forums. I realize just how hard that can be, the temptation to jump ahead to “YOU ARE WRONG” can be overwhelming. But that approach gains nothing, and we really need to work on understand each first, and put any wrongness second.

This is my appeal to the more … firmly opinionated … members of this forum: Please try harder to understand, and less on being right. I think you will find the satisfaction of a sincere discussion is far better than to momentary victory of refuting a stupid numpty. Give it a try, please!


This is a really important post I hope that we all read.


We need to start a fight - that always attracts lots of attention.

Speaking of fight, where is @Michael_Callen when I need him!?! :laughing:


I’m here Dan and ready to play the role of the jerk that everyone hates. Born for it!

Hahaha… thanks for checking on me and helping me to find a special purpose.

*** Seriously, @Dan_Eastwood @swamidass, what a timely post. Thanks for calling it out!


I’m think I’ll let the automatic bumps stay for this one - some people clearly haven’t read it yet!


Yup! its everywhere.

Thanks for making this post, and yes, let’s keep the automatic bumps on it!


Daniel Dennett was so charitably persuasive during one of his lectures on the lack of “real Free Will” - - he managed to convince me that the point of believing in a deity was to better invoke the plausibility of Free Will!!!

Pretty good charity on his part - - though, of course, the opposite of his intentions!

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Doesn’t Dennett look just a bit like Moses ? Or maybe more the father of Moses… who doesn’t get much appreciation during the last few millenia.

Dunno, I never met either one. Some resemblance to Charlton Heston tho! :grinning:

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Love this Dan! I want to take a shot at modeling responses after this list! Sounds so time consuming, though!

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If you would accept a little constructive criticism, I think the aim, the strategy, is admirable. The tactics don’t always align with the strategy in my view. If I had to sum it up in one word, it would be consistency. The rules of engagement are very unclear to me and I think I’m a fairly regular reader. Whether a thread has pre-moderation or not seems capricious. The closing of threads also. Most odd is the comment time-interval limit. I’m very easy to irritate so I may not be typical but discovering that my comment will stay in limbo for an indeterminate period before appearing after I’ve posted it or being obliged to wait 4 hours between comments when there are replies needing answers is not conducive to discussion.


These are good points. It is hard to maintain consistency, and I can see how this creates confusion.

I do not know the solution to this.

It is time consuming, but less so than a discussion where people are talking past each other. :

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Perhaps we lean on the comment timer a bit too much. It’s a great device to cool-off a hot topic, but 4-hours might be too much. I think the only time I set a 4-hour timer was to stop a thread from going full train-wreck when I didn’t have time to deal with it any other way.

Consistency problems usually mean the mods are communicating enough - I’ll keep bugging people. :slight_smile:

Well, maybe pre-moderation applied routinely is unnecessary. Allow people to either respect the idea of reasonable dialogue and rein in transgressors as necessary. The problem I’ve found elsewhere is people make their own assessments and either stay or walk.