Two Rooms in the Forum?

Just a suggestion. Many forums I have frequented over the years have had subsections dedicated to specific topics. They seem to have worked fine. People can click on the topics they find interesting and read and participate under a ruleset that says off-topic posts will be moved to different categories.

A “science” topic, possibly with sub-categories for biology(with a medicine sub-category), chemistry, physics and/or astronomy, and possibly also mathematics. This is just for reporting on or discussing new and interesting or particular scientific findings, not for discussing their relevance to theism or atheism, nor creationism/intelligent design). Bringing up Jesus or atheism in such topics will get the post moved to “theism and atheism” or some other appropriate category.

A philosophy section for philosophy in general(almost anything goes in philosophy, but typical issues are epistemology, ontology, free will, ethics etc.), a section for “theism and atheism”(explicitly for discussing and debating the possible truth of theism), which might or might not have a sub-category dedicated to “creationism and intelligent design”(some times this was an entire category on it’s own outside of both the science and philosophy sections), another for “Christianity”, “islam”, and so on.

Discussions could be moved into these categories as appropriate.

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The overall idea, of having a few rooms or categories or whatever, devoted to broad topics or goals, seems fine to me.
Risks/costs:

  • Risk of siloing, with community existing as a few separate communities.
  • Risk of unreasonable demands on moderators

Comment on those risks/costs:

  • For me personally, both are already challenges at PS, since posters can and do choose particular topics to discuss and moderators already have a big job after the recent decision to subject some threads to active moderation.
  • The siloing thing is for me a huge risk and would undermine what I take to be the mission of PS. More below.

Benefits:
A bit more organization will help people find information or discussions of interest.
Moderation strategies/policies/norms might get clearer and this might make the job less onerous.

Big big big challenge:
Defining and protecting the mission of the whole thing.

The proposal in the OP is not about Peaceful Science. That proposal seeks to organize the whole community based on religion, and the proposal gives the impression (to me) that theological discussions are a huge goal of the forum. Like at least one other commenter here (@NLENTS), such a forum would be of no interest to me. I think we can use the proposal as a springboard for discussion and redesign, but also to ask ourselves whether the ‘Science’ in Peaceful Science is central to the goal(s) of the forum.

There is no right answer to the question. We might not even really know who ‘we’ are and what ‘we’ want. So my comments above are not about whether the proposal above is ‘right’ or even ‘good’ but whether ‘we’ ever wanted to put time and effort (and emotional resources) into a discussion board about theism and theology.

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It also acts as a form to discuss evidence for Christianity.

@NLENTS

Ahhh… I see the “sticky wicket” here…

Eddie described Room #2 as for Christian believers. And no doubt I have offered that kind of description at least once myself.

What I have intended to mean is that Room #2 is not about challenging Christianity… but including discussions for what Christians can do to embrace science.

Thanks, @swamidass, for sending this thread in the right direction!

With that as the description, that would very much interest me. We non-believers (or non-Christians, more broadly) could be reminded to stick to explaining, discussing, and questioning the evidentiary basis of whatever scientific matters are being discussed, and refrain from challenging the evidentiary basis of religious matters. I could live with that restriction. There are plenty of forums for the latter anyway, and the uniqueness of PS is its work in the former. (Perhaps this underscores a “separate magisteria” approach that @Eddie laments, but I don’t think so. It’s not that religious topics would be forbidden altogether, it would be for scrutinizing and explaining the science side of things, not the religious ones, and those interested in how science can inform religious views can explore that without constantly being attacked for those views.)

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I would suggest that there are two different topics here, at least that’s what it looks like to me.

One topic is about the mission and values of Peaceful Science. @swamidass and his team have been working on setting and clarifying those things, and have made significant changes on the forum to solve some problems but also to better align the forum with those values. They are discussed here:

At one point, Joshua is explicit about the non-religious nature of the core mission of Peaceful Science. That’s here:

The other topic is the goals/nature/values/mission of the forum. It seems to me that some in this conversation are equating the forum with Peaceful Science. It’s a common mistake–for example, people regularly talk about what BioLogos “thinks” about something after they read a comment on the open forum there. I am sure the PS team wants the forum to align with the organization’s mission and values, and again, that seems to have motivated some significant recent changes. But, at least in my opinion, the forum and Peaceful Science should not be equated.

This can help us a lot, I think. It can mean that opinions about the value of theology or the utility of debates about god’s existence need not be judged “off mission” but also cannot be defined as the mission (or even a primary mission) of the forum. First, because the mission of PS is pretty explicitly NOT centered on Christianity or even on religion. Second, because the forum is not itself Peaceful Science. It’s a forum hosted by and aligned with Peaceful Science.

Disclaimer: I don’t speak for @swamidass or in any way for Peaceful Science, and my impressions are my own and may very well misrepresent what the Peaceful Science team intends or wants.

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I think my original proposal of just two “rooms” was too crude to capture what I was driving at. I think the objections above from Nathan and Neil could be accommodated within my general idea, thus:

Section 1: Discussions for People Interested in Debating the Truth, Usefulness, or Goodness of Christianity, or Theism in General, or Religion in General. (Debates and quarrels about the Bible, about the existence of non-existence of God, about whether religious people are on the whole any more moral or socially co-operative than non-religious people, etc., would take place here.)

Section 2: Discussions for People Not Interested in the Discussions of Section 1.

Section 2 would be divided into any number of “Rooms” which might include:

Room A. Proposals Regarding the Synthesis of “Good Science” with Various Religious or Theological Positions. (No subscription to Christian faith required, only openness to the questions as valid intellectual questions, and a promise not to try to turn the discussions into Section 1 Discussions.) In Room A, proposals such as GAE would be discussed, and also other proposals, e.g., those of Robert Russell, Hugh Ross, Alvin Plantinga, William Lane Craig, etc.

Room B. Discussions of the Relationship between Intelligent Design and Evolutionary Thought. (Deliberately avoiding personal and political speculations about the social, political, or other motivations of ID proponents and evolution defenders, and concentrating on the scientific data, philosophy of science issues, method issues, etc.)

Room C. Discussions of Various Scientific Subjects Impinging upon Origins Questions, Evolution, etc. (These would not need to have any theological focus at all, and usually wouldn’t discuss theology except in passing; they would be more like an information exchange regarding the latest findings and notions scientists have put forward regarding origins or the sciences connected with origins.)

Room D. Discussions about Science in Modern Society. (These could include discussions about anti-science attitudes in culture, where they come from, how they can be constructively addressed; discussions about the place of scientific expertise in the political ordering of modern democratic societies; discussions about the problems with Scientism; etc. People who wanted to complain that Bush or Trump or Republicans etc. were anti-science, or that science research should receive more generous funding, or that Science should not be privileged as the only or even the most important road to Truth, would post their ideas here.)

Room E. Ethical Issues Potentially Connected with Evolution. This could include discussions of real or alleged historical connections of Darwinian ideas with eugenics, with Nazi ideology, etc.; it could also include questions of medical ethics that might arise from an evolutionary perspective, or questions whether close evolutionary relatives of man such as chimpanzees should have legal rights, etc.

I have given only a few examples of the “Rooms” that would be possible. But I think they are enough to show that atheists, agnostics, etc. would be able to participate in discussions in any of the Rooms, subject to their willingness to respect the purpose of discussions in that Room. If ever they found a particular Room too confining, they could go and converse in one of the other Rooms where their specific concerns could be aired more freely and fully.

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Well said. Any proposal for reorganizing the discussion depends on what people perceive the discussion here to be for; i.e., why are the various people that are here, here in the first place?

My understanding was that Peaceful Science was founded, not to deal with “science in general” or “how to have peaceful discussions about anything that has anything to do with science”, but to deal with the friction and acrimony and partisanship that often seems to attend origins questions – questions which inevitably bring in people’s own leanings regarding both religion and science. Joshua’s idea, I took it, was that the discussions don’t have to be so polarized and acrimonious; there are ways of approaching the questions that allow for constructive dialogue, give and take, and arrival at some agreements, even if not total agreement.

The Genealogical Adam proposal is an example of a proposal that allows “good science” to inhabit the same universe as Christian theology. And, given that in the USA, origins questions tend to revolve around the relationship between science and Christian theology, I would expect that any discussion based in America, with a large number of American participants (and the remainder apparently quite familiar with American culture wars, religious vocabulary, etc.), will frequently refer to Christianity. It’s not that other religions are entirely irrelevant to the discussions, but the people who seem most interested in religion/science discussions regarding origins seem to have strong positions regarding Christianity.

If most people here are genuinely interested in the intellectual possibility of a constructive synthesis of science and Christianity regarding origins, even if they aren’t personally Christian, then it should be possible for discussions here to have common goals, even without reorganizing the forum as I suggest.

However, if a number of people here have a natural aversion regarding Christianity (or religion in general, or at least theism in general), to the point where any even hypothetical proposal of synthesis irritates them and gets the finding fault with Christianity, then I would suggest that there aren’t common goals animating everyone here. Hence the idea (floated by George before) of creating sections of the forum where certain kinds of discussions can go on peacefully (peaceful science, remember) without constantly bringing in all the centuries-old arguments about atheism vs. faith, the historical accuracy of the Bible, etc.

My perception here is that a number of people have already pretty firmly made up their mind that Christianity is false, that theism is false, and that religion in general is not a good thing for human beings to engage in, and that these people just can’t restrain themselves from voicing these views, sooner or later, in discussions of any topic brought up here. That’s why I have proposed some kind of limiting structure, so that “peaceful science” discussions (meaning peaceful discussions of origins, among people who are least in principle interested in proposals harmonizing Christianity and science, or theism and science, or faith and science) can take place on a regular basis.

I’m not wedded to any particular set of subtopics or “rooms”; my original suggestion was just to give a rough idea. But Joshua had made a remark that here in this forum, my ideas could be discussed in a more constructive and forward-looking way. (I.e., if I could forget about the flaws of BioLogos, and discuss the subjects in a better way than BioLogos did.) My point was that they can’t – if every time I or a similar poster airs a suggestion, the same tired old discussions that kept BioLogos from ever reaching its proposed synthesis of Bios and Logos (the tired old discussions about whether the Bible is true/revealed, whether miracles can happen, whether Jesus can be proved to have risen from the dead, whether Discovery is controlled by Bible thumpers who want to turn the US into a theocracy, whether God exists, etc.) keep coming up. If there were some way device to allow those with anti-religious animus to “vent” – some separate section of the forum where people whose main interest is not synthesizing the best of science and religion but “debunking” religion could get rid of all their hostility by dumping on religious people and politicians and beliefs – that might clear the air in the rest of the forum for the discussion (even if only “for the sake of argument” in the case of unbelievers in religion) of how science and religious belief regarding origins might be synthesized. I think that such an approach would help Peaceful Science live up to what I took to be Joshua’s original goal – to create a more civilized, positive, and constructive forum for origins discussions that involve faith and science.

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That’s why I come here. I enjoy hearing the different perspectives.

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It is understandable that you’d think this but it isn’t true. See here:

We are topically organized around the question: What does it mean to be human? We are launching, initially, with three topic areas: ancestry , art , and artificial intelligence . Questions about human origins are included , but our interests extend far beyond those of origins.

While I’ve personally made several contributions to the conversation on human origins, we are already expanding far beyond merely this. We intentionally chose the term “ancestry” rather than “origins” or “evolution” to include topics such as “race” and “adoption” as first class citizens alongside our work on Adam and Eve.

While a lot of Christians have cared about Adam and Eve, questions of race are equally important to me, and non-Christian members of PS are deeply motivated to see us engage more deeply on this aspect of ancestry. It is no surprise that this is why our first podcast was on philosophy of the mind, and the next two are on race. We are not merely about origins.

This pattern, however, we expect to take into all areas.

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I think you got it right.

I’d just add that I expect that the forum will require a lot more adaptation before it hits its final form. It is very difficult to do a quality forum on a contentious topic. We’ve done amazingly well so far, but I think this is only a small fraction of what it could be, and the forum still ends up sabotaging our larger goals.

Also, the forum is a community, and many of us even became friends here and have ownership in what is happening here.

For both those two reasons, this conversation is important. I’m listening closely, and this conversations and others like it will certainly influence the next iteration. If we make missteps, please give us the benefit of the doubt. My aim is honestly to serve you in our shared goals and mission.

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When I first joined PeaceFul Science, I specifically asked @swamidass whether this was a place for discussions about theology (as it relates to science). Joshua replied that it was.

Am i to understand that has changed?

As a Christian, I am interested in the pure science. However I’m even more interested in the intersection of science & theology as @Eddie is describing.

The problem as I see it, is any discussion of science and faith quickly devolves to a discussion of whether faith is valid (or similar themes). Many of the most prolific posters seem to enjoy pulling all theology related threads in this direction, making it essentially impossible to good discussion of theology and science.

I would add my voice to those suggesting a room where this kind of discussion can exist without these threads always disappearing down the same rabbit hole.

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That’s true from the text you quoted, but there is undoubtedly a larger de facto religious context to Peaceful Science, as seen in the types of people that it brings to its fold (not just the forum) and the personal characteristics and situation of its founder, Josh. There are people who are primarily interested in the science (who might be at home in a venue like the AAAS, NCSE, or other regular public outreach scientific organizations), but also many who are interested in the intersection between science and theology.

I agree, and I hope that more serious Christians interested in the theological questions would post more. However, I think this situation is mostly the result of aggressive atheists and agnostics (or in general, people uninterested in theology) being over-represented among the most prolific and dedicated posters on the forum. This may inadvertently result in a sort of self-censorship effect: people interested in theology are reluctant to spend too much time here discussing theology because the responses will be mostly hostile or skeptical. This leads to a vicious circle.

What is needed is a critical mass of like-minded people who actually want to spend time on these discussions.

“That’s true from the text you quoted” is a baffling response to me. I assumed that my statement might be true because it’s accurate.

There is no question about the place of religion in PS, in its topics of focus, and in Joshua. I would think that was obviously not my point.

What is interesting and valuable about PS to me is the focus on “what it means to be human.” The comparison to those other organizations is weird, and maybe it’s just me, but this seems a backpedaling on what we have already discussed in this thread.

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Thanks for clarifying, Joshua. So you are aiming for a wider discussion than just origins. I get this now. At the same time, my original problem remains. You grant that the science/theology relationship on subjects of origins is still a topic of great interest to many here. And whenever we do discuss science/theology/origins here, the question: “Would scenario X be a possible harmonization of the truths of theology and the truths of science?” seems almost always to turn into: “Why should anyone accept anything theology says, anyway? And in addition to being intellectually unsupported, religion is bad for society.”

As Daniel says in another post, I think this is a function of the particular set of posters we have here. And it’s not unique to PS. Discussions took the same turn on BioLogos. It might start out with an atheist supporting a TE against a creationist regarding the science of evolution, but very often it ended up in some form of “religion vs. science”, with the atheist bashing Christianity in particular or religion in general. So the question is: how to prevent every discussion of the relation between God and evolution, or between theology and science, from getting sucked into that vortex. It seems to me that some refinement of the ideas George and I have put out would solve the problem, and in a way that would not exclude any atheist or agnostic from participating in any discussions. I leave to to greater minds here to fine-tune the suggestion and turn it into something practical.

Thanks for listening.

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What evidence? :laughing:

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No Eddie, that simply isn’t true. Rarely if ever do discussions around origins turn to those topics. In my experience they almost always devolve into the same few people declaring “X is evidence for design” and “can’t be explained by chance”, and the rest of us asking for the (still absent) design model that predicted X. In fact that’s almost exclusively what they’re about.

Sorry but this is simply not true Eddie.

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@Eddie

I think you are proposing way too many rooms.

Some of these topics are attempts to put the entire burden of Evolutionary theory on Joshua’s shoulders…

When all we really need to do is avoid the futile debates over epistemology, or on the irrelevance of Evolution-without-God, and explore how Christians can have their Miraculous Creation AND embrace mainstream science!

George, read what I wrote again. Those are examples. I’m not actually proposing any particular number of rooms. I was merely trying to show that any question that anyone might have, could be explored someplace on the site without subjecting people like you and me to constant off-topic anti-theistic excursions by atheists. I don’t care how many rooms there are or how the topics are divided.

That wasn’t my intention at all, and I have no idea why you would think that was what I meant.

How and whether – let’s keep questions open, rather than assume conclusions before a discussion has even started!

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@Eddie,

Well, I am certainly on-board with what you write above!!!

I do want to make sure that we don’t set too high a standard for our atheist scientists; all I expect from them is to not denigrate the mindset of people who believe in a God.

And I want to make sure it is clear to YECs and I.D. supporters that Christians can believe in a creator God without thinking we automatically endorse creation as something that Science can prove!

See how I re-stated my position (yet again) while endorsing your viewpoint?