Request For Comment: Possible Changes to Forum

I like this.

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My two-penn’orth:

  1. Decide on an objective.
  2. Consider what might work towards that objective.

Re 1, I’m not sure what the objective is but let me assume it is to promote understanding and learning between religious and scientific viewpoints. Openness and honesty and acknowledging when others attempt openness and honesty works as I have seen here and condescension and dismissal doesn’t. But structuring that objective into rules might be self-defeating. Better to be reactive than proactive.

Which brings me to 2. The rules.

If there is going to be a distinction regarding expertise, it would be simpler to have two separate forums. Let experts (scholars) meet in the virtual faculty common room. Make those conversations visible if you want but set a threshold of competence. Keep the hoi polloi out.

The non-specialist forum should be egalitarian and no deference should be given to experts (scholars) who join in. Rules should be simple, minimal, fair and clear.

People will stop by, read and comment as the mood takes them. Making things so complex even regulars are confused may be discouraging to potential posters.


I can see two forums - a Specialist forum and a non-Specialist forum developing in a bad way.

  1. The Specialists discuss things at their level among themselves (so far so good), but there is little or no opportunity for non-Specialists to ask honest questions (I don’t think this is good).
  2. The non-Specialist forum becomes a place where vocal non-Specialists seek to debate/refute any Specialists. This is not so good.

I think there should be more of a middle ground where Specialists can post and discuss relevant topics and non-experts can ask questions but without non-experts trying to argue with the experts.

That is a good point. I am not a scientist so I wouldn’t feel comfortable arguing with a scientist but I would like be able to ask questions to check my understanding and to learn more.


Yeah there’s not much need to discuss that. There were some specific operational/organizational ideas to consider in the OP. The goals were laid out in the same post, and while they are necessarily ambiguous in some cases, they are there. I encourage us to stay focused on those goals and the changes proposed.

Thanks for the deference here.

Don’t you think there is value in threads like these?

  1. Winston Ewert: The Dependency Graph of Life

  2. Darwin Devolves: The End of Evolution?

That’s in dialogue with ID, which is not mainstream science. We could also find threads involving YEC. I think there is value in engaging some of these arguments directly with ones who prominently champion them. In contrast, I’m not sure the value of debating them endlessly with non-experts parrots that don’t even know the best versions of the argument.


Darwin Devolves wasn’t science, nor do I suspect it was ID. (I read the QRB article but not the book.) That silly “law” was a pitiful attempt to discredit real science by misrepresenting what it claims. I haven’t read the Ewert thing but I suspect that we’re not thinking of the same thing when we say “non-mainstream science.” If it’s anything like Behe’s work, it’s misuse of real science to create doubt about reality. I guess if that’s what you mean by “non-mainstream science” then okay, but once we’re talking about YEC stuff, it will be offensive to many people to refer to these puddles of falsehood as “science.” Some will argue, and I’d likely agree, that talking about “mainstream science” in “dialogue” with “experts in non-mainstream science” is an example of one of the great falsehoods of our age: that those who dispute reality or deny facts are just the “other side” of a legitimate debate.

“Non-mainstream science” is not a phrase I’ll tend to respect. Dialogue about science–or about any of the many things that should interest humans–is another thing entirely, to me.

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Well, one way to look at it is as scientific analysis of their claims. :slight_smile:

Some people call it “bad” science, but I tend to call out “outside the mainstream.” My observation is that engaging it carefully and directly make it clear why exactly mainstream scientists reject these ideas; that’s valuable. Every now and then, we learn something too. That’s valuable too.


I’ve often heard people say that engaging creationists publicly is bad, because it confers legitimacy on them and a “both sides are equally valid” perception. But is that really true? Has there been any scientific study on how public perception of (mainstream) science changes in response to publicly engaging creationists? Perhaps certain kinds of engagement (focused, only experts, moderated) are more beneficial than others.


It would be great if there were a way to highlight who is a specialist vs non specialist. Most specialists here state their speciality in their description of themselves, which is very helpful. Maybe also give scholar badges. Could also encourage people to fill out a bit more on their bio to clarify the field and their belief system.


I agree with @AlanFox that the objective is important.

Is your objective to end up like a newsletter with an option for experts to publish articles, discuss with each other on it and answer questions from “non-experts”?

Just my $0.02.

I would most likely not engage any longer if my input were reduced to “not legitimate because of lack of specialist credentials.” Maybe I would with lesser interest. I think that a positive quality of this site is that the engagement between experts and non-experts produces unique conversations. I learn just as much from non-experts (at times) as I do from experts, and find that most experts of science are not experts of theology. Not that the two are mutually exclusive, some clearly have both, but the scientist evidentiary based mentality operates counter to theology. Then you have the issue of where to draw the line of “expert”, difficult when you are discussing theology in concert with science and where the two meet.

Perhaps a moderator ability to bounce a post back prior to approval with simple editing instruction like “soften the language” or “stay on topic” or “provide reference”…thinking out loud here, not sure if that’s a possible function for the site.


When I read these posts I replace the words specialist and expert with “ELITE”. It makes more sense to me
Just my two cents

I’ve not kept current with all of the discussions about the evolving standards for improving Peaceful Science—but I am assuming that these changes are part of an effort to create different kinds of environments for different kinds of discussions. For example, PS has always had instances where most of us are interested spectators learning from just two or three specialists discussing a topic important to their field of research. (So the rest of us may only post when asking questions.) On the other hand, most of the time most threads are far more “come one, come all” than that—but that can sometimes leads to a few people with very limited knowledge repeatedly derailing the thread with irrelevant tangents or claims that 2+2=5 and that anyone who doesn’t agree is either a bad Christian or an atheist. (Yes, I’m being hyperbolic but not by as much as I might wish.)

And I think we all hope to preserve those opportunities as much as is practical.

@Michelle make a series of good points. PS has never tried to “standardize” member descriptions and labels. We probably need to brainstorm in the areas you’ve mentioned.

Welcome, @Robertm. Good to have you with us!

A standard definition of elite is “a select group that is superior in terms of ability or qualities to the rest of a group or society.” Isn’t elite a good thing? Would you agree, for example, that a group of PhD 's in geology is a select group whose training, knowledge, and experience are probably (but perhaps not 100.00% of all possible instances of comparison) superior to those without PhD’s? I think I have something like 6 credit hours of university training in geology, so I’m not anything remotely close to being considered an expert or specialist. Therefore, I’m very interested in what the “elite” geologists of the academy can teach me. Meanwhile, my opinions on geological technicalities will probably be of little value to those specialists.

Let’s not risk equivocation. The word elite has a lot of negative connotations, especially from political science and sociology theory, because “the elite” are often derided as the small group of wealthy and/or powerful people in a society who may exert excessive and unfair influence to favor themselves and harm others. That’s hardly the same thing as being an elite scholar and/or scientist, such as a Nobel Prize winner. In that regard, I would consider it a great advantage if Peaceful Science attracted many elite scientists, and not-at-all-elite people like me could learn from them in these forums.

It’s also worth mentioning that well-designed community standards can not only make a discussion forum a more informative and pleasant place, they can greatly ease the workload of the volunteer moderators. (Keep in mind that many participants on these forums—moderators included—are multitasking their work duties and publishing projects while participating here.)


We could take a cue from high-quality communities on Reddit. For example, r/science allows users to apply for special flairs which indicate their expertise in a certain topic. Similarly, r/askscience has a “panel of experts” that one can apply for membership. In both cases, users have to point to posts in the subreddit which show some of their expertise.

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I would love any modifications that help control the toxic side of discussions that you have so ably described!


Obviously I don’t agree with this, which is an implicit argument from authority.

Here’s a suggestion for you if you want to achive this goal. Create a division on your forum between threads for experts and threads for non-experts. That way you can shield the experts from being disagreed with or debated with by non-experts. You could, of course, take questions for the experts from the non-experts and have them delivered indirectly.

Moving this forum in the direction of Reddit is the worst possible idea. Might as well dissolve it altogether and usher everybody over there. People are already being represented by their expertise here as it is.

One thing that I would benefit from seeing more of is a focus on an element of a topic at a time before moving on.
There seems to be a lot of scattergun threads, where someone mentions X in support of their view, someone says yes - but Y, then as X isn’t properly finished people revert back to using it as support for their view later. Just seems to go around and around sometimes


I think that it is also important for the forum to be clear that theologians are experts in their respective fields, as well. I have seen a few cases where theologians are disrespected as non-scholars. We should be clear that type of language is inappropriate on this forum.