In Pursuit of a Good Conversation

I came a across this article today. I think it touches on a lot of what happen’s here at Peaceful Science, why the conversation here works, and why sometimes it doesn’t.

In Pursuit of a Good Conversation


I think you are rigtht. This is a great article. I hope everyone reads it. What are your thoughts about it @mung? @T_aquaticus? @colewd? @gbrooks9?

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That’s a great article and a great model for this forum.


Can someone list out and summarize the key points?

  1. Don’t misrepresent what others are saying
  2. Ask questions
  3. Seek clarification
  4. Listen
  5. Respond kindly
  6. Assume good intentions
  7. Repeat as necessary
  8. Repeat as necessary

(couldn’t help adding #8)


Yes, a very helpful article.

The idea of “steel-manning” the other’s position is also helpful. Rather than straw man, steel-man. Before engaging in reply you put forward the other’s position and point out, in your view, their strongest arguments or proofs. You are not finished steel-manning until the other agrees that you have accurately and fairly represented their claims.


I like to differentiate between conversation/dialogue and debate. In a conversation we seek to understand and be understood. In debate we attempt to convince or prove a point. The funny thing is that I we are often more convincing when we stick to conversation, as it allows others to process our points of view, and facts we present without putting them in a position of “losing” the debate.


What we need, also, is to continue improving our systems and structure to reward and protect the type of conversation we are after, without excluding those still struggling in participating in productive ways.

I’ll vote for conversation.

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As a non-scientist it has been surprising to me to see the way in which the conversations around here between the scientifically minded get divisive rather quickly. It appears, to a scientific outsider like me, that among scientists there are “denominations.” People from different scientific “denominations” come to argue with others as to why their scientific “denomination” is correct and others are wrong. It doesn’t always seem to me an argument from the evidence because one’s view of the evidence is already established due to a priori assumptions and reasoning from their “denomination.”

It reminds me of the theological discussions I often find myself in. Nor do I claim to be free of such a priori reasoning myself. However, for some reason, I thought scientific discussions would be different.

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I’m not seeing that. Presumably, that’s because I’m from the science side of the house.

Yes, there are disagreements between scientists. Whenever science has less than a complete account (which is most of the time), there will be disagreements on the direction to go. But I see those as friendly disagreements. And the aim is for evidence to settle the disagreements.


That is a helpful point. I appreciate that.


You should keep in mind that scientists are arguers by profession. The primary output of scientific research is arguments for a conclusion being right. For better or worse, science is not for the timid. There is also an ethos in science that arguments are a good thing.


21 posts were split to a new topic: Eddie and Tim Work It Out?

This is an excellent point. In science one is taught to invite and embrace sometimes harsh criticism of one’s work knowing that will either make the work better or stop one from embarrassing himself/herself by pushing weaksauce conclusions. With ID-Creationists we see just the opposite. The very act of criticism is rejected or opposed as “insulting to the integrity” of the IDC scientist. We saw a textbook example of that here recently with the criticism of Behe’s new popular press book.

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Fairly ironic that this thread swallowed by an off topic bad conversation.

Closed. Split. Reopened.

I’m still convinced we need better structure on the forum to encourage better conversation.

This comes from the subject article:

Respond kindly
“Good conversation is only possible in an environment of kindness and mercy. If we are harsh and condemnatory; if we pounce upon errors or misstatements as a predator upon prey, then we will shortly become a community of creed reciters and regurgitators.”

@swamidass concludes:

What I hear in these sentiments seems unachievable as practiced here for the last 5 years!

If we insist that bad sentiments cannot be segregated, let alone deleted, how is this protecting and rewarding good conversation?

What my critics suggest is that “tolerating offensive or hostile statements” is as “protected” as it gets here.

Imagine being in church and being bombarded by all sorts of negative “testimonies” (in the name of inclusiveness). If a newbie visited such a church, he or she could only wonder when the Pastor lost control of the congregation!

To protect good conversation must, by definition, mean giving some extra privilege to the good posting, or not being subject to being deleted (like non-peaceful assertions are).

I have proposed “accessible segregation” - - INSTEAD of deletion (of the posting, not of the poster) - - as a way of sustaining group access for “lose cannon” posters.

If we offer ZERO consequences, how exactly can we say we encourage or protect the good?!

Why do you keep trying to reanimated long-ceased conversations?

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