Request for Input - SubForums and Mission Statement

Discussion in 'SF Open Government' started by Kittamaru, Nov 28, 2017.


Should the non-science sub-forums be rearranged / changed?

  1. Yes - Condense The Fringe to one sub-forum, including Religion

    0 vote(s)
  2. Yes - Condense The Fringe to one sub-forum but leave Religion as it stands

  3. Yes - Eliminate The Fringe entirely (combine with The Cesspool), this is a Science site

    0 vote(s)
  4. Yes - Eliminate The Fringe and Religion entirely (combine both with The Cesspool)

  5. No - Leave things as they are

  6. Other - Please Explain Below

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  1. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Valued Senior Member

    Then do you think, maybe, you could offer up a narrative blaming someone else that actually makes sense? Look, I just went back through pages of that thread, and—

    —yes, and being mentioned more than once is not as persuasive or meaningful to me as it might be to you, but, really, I'm not going to nitpick the point because, yes, this attitude does exist. You and I could probably have a fascinating discussion about what we think it's made of and how we think its influence works; there are some clues suggesting we view the attitude in different contexts. Still, though—

    —neither would I contest this. I can even remember one moderator who quit over the issue, some years ago. Interestingly, his were some of the most bigoted arguments against "religion" we have seen; it's only because I was here to witness the decline that I wouldn't believe him a religious provocateur trying to discredit atheists.


    —I'm sorry, this point requires some manner of resolution before it even begins to make sense.

    James wanted Religion and Fringe so directly juxtaposed? Which page was that on?

    I'm sure that means something to you.

    Look: Who forced you to juxtapose the two like that?

    There is no rational reason to do so.

    That you actually have such trouble seeing this point is kind of weird.

    Do you disagree with the proposition that one should at least respond to certain information before demanding that what is already there be presented? Since it's on the record, what is the honest point of pretending it's not?

    Consider the record:

    Honestly, Kittamaru, do you have some objection to addressing what is there? It's one thing if a person disagrees, but do you consider the proper and honest thing to do to skip out and make excuses↑?

    No, really, priorities are each to the beholder, but still, pride before fact never really works out.

    You can't justify the juxtaposition; you might help me understand why we're looking to James on this one. Really, I'm happy to climb the ladder on this one. Right over James, too, and have out with whichever members we're supposedly accommodating by this bullshit. But I need you to please finish blaming other people, first, or at least explain how some perception of market conditions means the marketplace has a clue. Seriously, people will buy anything; welcome to the world. Is that what we're selling, though?


    You've lived through a period in which our society has continued to insist, for whatever reasons, that it needed to vote to approve or disapprove of people's human rights. To some degree, this is simply a bad idea inasmach as the only reason anyone ever wants to vote about human rights like that is in order to forestall them.

    There are not any noncontroversial or not unpleasant setups, so, right. The part I would like you to consider about that is quite simply whether or not certain questions, having been asked, are still bad ideas, such that it doesn't really matter that someone asked insofar as we're not going there because it is a bad idea to do so. If that concept at least makes sense to you, that, "Yeah, someone asked, but still, no", we're in a weird range of that.

    I do think framing the Sciforums community as incapable of rationally and responsibly attending records historical and literary is rather quite a "bad idea™". And maybe it's one thing to say, "Oh, hey, that's the marketplace", but you can't even see the problem beyond pointing to James, and eventually resorting to bottom-shelf theatrical politicking↑.

    So, yeah, if you want to point to the marketplace, okay, I get that there is some swirling sentiment of some sort out there, but c'mon, really, if that poll reflects this marketplace, holy shit.

    If the marketplace says this issue needs consideration, and the marketplace says that issue needs consideration, then we might immediately note there is nothing about such conditions requiring that we juxtapose this and that, nor that we address the two elements as one. If we simply shrug those points off, well, right, we can construe marketplace circumstances suggesting any number of questions any number of people find unpalatable, but the point remains that regardless of politics I would still find them utterly dysfunctional.

    Remember questions of function any time you see a public poll, for instance, having to do with sexual harassment and including some bit about women tempting, confusing, or otherwise compelling men to the behavior. The "marketplace" might be able to construe enough of a squeaky wheel that one can flaccidly pretend they had no choice if they intended to be fair to the marketplace, but legitimizing a bad idea for the sake of market satisfaction is still a bad idea. I mean, I'm quite certain you're already aware that much of the "both sides" equivocation necessarily omits consideration of function.


    It might be worth considering that the "fabled 'conversation'" probably means different things to different people, which is part of the reason it doesn't happen in any way you and I might agree on in order to say it happened. And it's true, it generally doesn't happen. Nothing about any of that means any assertion of said discussion actually achieves the fact of being that conversation.


    By the way, does it ever stand out to you that no matter how many times we tell people why the Fringe subfora exist, people just ask why they exist? It's not like there's any evolution of the question.

    Then again, that might not be our problem to worry about? I mean, not just as people who might have to deal with that behavior in the community, but also as the moderators people generally never pay attention to, anyway. Y'know, it's possible.


    So, hey, here's a way of looking at it: So, are we talking about disqualifying the whole of the human historical and literary record, or just whatever parts one happens to prefer not dealing with?

    That's the problem with the juxtaposition; there is no rational justification for such rhetorical catastrophe.

    You know, in terms of proverbial conversations we never get through, there is also one you're probably familiar with in which the objection asks who decides what constitutes intellectual dishonesty.

    Well, this is a different vector: Who decides what part of the historical record doesn't count?

    You know, there are days with intellectual dishonesty when you and I might be sitting there, thinking, "How is there any doubt about this bullshit?" and yet find ourselves disagreeing with a colleague who just doesn't see the problem, or, really, anything amiss about the episode.

    But it's also true we already had an answer to the question: The poll considers disqualifying a significant and influential portion of the historical record because some portion of the marketplace disdains those aspects.

    Regardless of how you think you got there, it's an astonishing characterization of the marketplace.
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  3. Seattle Valued Senior Member

    You would make a greater point if the posts in the Religion sub-forum were primarily about the "human historical and literary" record. They're not. They are infected with the same non-sense that has taken over most every other sub-forum on here.

    I agree that the impact of religion is different in kind that the impact of the fringe areas.
    The level of the discourse in the religious sub-forum isn't much different than the level of discourse in the fringe areas.
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  5. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Valued Senior Member

    Technically, though, that's the fault of those who disdain religion and don't want or see any reason to know anything about what they criticize.

    I've been around this place for a long time; it's one thing to say the religious have never been able to hold the line, but that doesn't excuse anyone else. The thing is that it was always a political argument. It felt good to boast about income and education and intelligence, but in the question of irrationality, this bit about "God" was all there really was to go on; that is to say, Sciforums' atheists, over the years, has been just fine with irrationality and bullshit presuppositions, but just not this one.

    That's why I asked what people knew about what they criticized. Even people who would seriously consider the question of whether Sciforums is a science site can be found arguing against discourse with a clue.

    And the pathology is pretty clear, too, because it is extraordinarily shallow.

    The point is the total delegitimization of religion and religious people. As I said, examples or setups that are not unpleasant are generally unavailable, but look at basic political narratives.

    There is an argument, for instance, some men raise in questions of street harassment about just being friendly, but in the end, when it comes right down to it, the underlying argument is to tell a woman that a man will tell her what she thinks and experiences. Trying to assess the question of street harassment without attending what the women are saying would really botch up the assessment.

    Similarly, we might watch Israel and Palestine.

    Let us try it in an American nonsense variation:

    • While there is, in fact, a strange American debate going on about the propriety of tearing up the land with motorcycles and quad-bikes, that's not what I'm after; simply, what about your front yard? Hey, all he's doing is riding, minding his own business, not hurting anything. (But your lawn!) And the police want to know why you're harassing him. (But ... trespassing laws! Vandalism! The rocks flying through the air and breaking windows!) And the judge lectures you at sentencing for going out of your way to cause people trouble, so we'll tack on an extra year because you were such a jerk about it. So, in this illustration, at no point will anyone acknowledge private property and laws against trespassing or wilful damage to private property. It's not that the laws aren't there; it's just that what you have to say doesn't matter.​

    I admit, it's a lot harder to see if one has sympathy for such denigration, but that's the whole point about editorial context or prevailing narrative.

    American society does it a lot in defense of killer cops.

    This isn't uncommon behavior; it's just problematic wherever it shows up.

    And in this case, it's pretty simple: Since there is no God, religion is false and has nothing to say, therefore religious people have nothing to say, therefore there is no difference between a history of human endeavors that change the face of the planet, to the one, and superstitious conspiracism, to the other.

    One of the results is that while atheism really can be construed as a simple denial of a proposition, there is also an identity movement using the name that really does behave like an inchoate religion. And just like the religious, their zealots are advocates of ignorance.

    The point of this particular range of evangelical "atheism" is entirely about self-gratification. Its lack of pathos is kind of hard to miss.

    And that's why all it does is look around for easy marks to grift with inflexible talking points.
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  7. Seattle Valued Senior Member

    Your argument is a little one-sided, it seems to me. This forum has some people who are capable of thoughtful discussion (they may not always choose to do so given the non-nonsensical nature of much of the discussion) and you have some who are not (seemingly) capable.

    It's not just the atheists who often go for the easy argument. I don't see a lot of thoughtful historical and literary biblical discussion among the theists either.

    This is not just in the religious sub-forum. Most theists who "contribute" in the science sub-forums do so is a rather shallow and one-sided way as well.

    So, where religious discussion is concerned on this site, I don't see much of the type of discussion on either side that you are arguing for. It just doesn't exist. It's in much the same way that little sane discussion on any subject takes place.

    It's not that the fringe is represented. It's statistically all that is represented here.

    Every "normal" subject or discussion is soon brought down to the lowest common denominator by the fringe element. Most discussions involve fringe elements who also can barely speak English and are potentially "crazy". When you combine those 3 elements it's hard to know who you should give a break to.

    Normally that would be to someone for whom English is a second language but why give a break to a non-English speaker who is also only interested in the fringe and potentially beyond all that may actually be mentally ill?

    In any event, many, many threads start out as pure gibberish and then someone tries to figure out if there is something there, tries to give the thread starter the benefit of the doubt and has that ever worked out well here?

    With no direction from above, no structure at all, there is little structure for the kind of thoughtful discussions that you wish to take place.
  8. exchemist Valued Senior Member

    The dominance that you describe, of low-quality contributions of one sort or another, does seem to apply to many threads and all subjects. I suspect it is hard to avoid, unless there is very active and judgemental moderation to steer discussions and call out unconstructive posts more or less as they occur. While I would quite like to see that sort of moderation, it is clear that there are not the resources, either in availability of people or in subject expertise, to do it. Interestingly, rpenner did actually do it for the physical science sections for a while and I thought it was excellent. But it was pretty labour-intensive for him or her and I'm not surprised it didn't last.

    Where I sympathise with Tiassa's point of view is that it seems to me the religion section in particular attracts trollish posting, by which I mean coat-trailing (a.k.a. flamebait) by ignorant people looking for a fight. I suppose religion is one of those subjects on which people feel entitled to have strong views in spite of having little knowledge. There are many quite educated people here who I am pretty sure have no respect for Theology as an academic discipline, even though religious ideas are central to understanding much of human history and society. This lack of respect is not something one generally finds with Physics or Earth Sciences. And, sure enough, from time to time there are nuggets of really interesting information in these sections, amongst the dross from the inevitable cranks and nutters. And, as I have observed before, it is quite often surprising people that start threads, and by accident, lead good discussions to occur. Timojin's one about floods in Earth Sciences is a recent example.
  9. Xelasnave.1947 Valued Senior Member

    I start many silly threads in religion.
    Mostly because nothing is happening.
    Sometimes they develop sometimes not.

    I would start threads in the UFO section but I can't bring myself to do that.

    The bar is low here but really without someone posting something the doors will close.

  10. exchemist Valued Senior Member

    Yes I have some sympathy with that. But then in your case I know that you are not someone who is looking for a fight.

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  11. Kittamaru Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Adieu, Sciforums. Valued Senior Member

    Which would seem to beg a rather simple question for some folks - why bother keeping a religion subforum when it attracts a bunch of trolls and is not held to standards of good evidence (or even good conduct), resulting in what could gratuitously be called a shitshow?

    As an example - the Linguistics sub-forum was always a rather tightly run ship - it had its fair share of strangeness, as one would expect with the English language, but things were generally kept on-point. I am curious to see how long this lasts, given the current situation and lack of a dedicated moderator; without a curator, will it become yet one more dumping ground of spontaneous crap?

    Or, as an alternative, maybe it's time to "rebrand" SciForums and do away with the "a place for intelligent discussion" pretense.
  12. Seattle Valued Senior Member

    I get the concern that it would be too moderator intensive to keep some subjects on track given the current culture on here. I wouldn't try to make changes that way. I'm not in favor of excessive moderation on any forum. Change the culture. Don't sent psychotic messages to the posting public..."We are a science forum that tolerates and hopes to influence the fringe, oh, and we have a large fringe set of sub-forums and we never discourage the fringe from taking over every other sub-forum". That makes no sense.

    There is no need to do it on a point by point basis. The way to do it is just to gradually try to reduce the overall nonsense. Baby steps.

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    When someone starts a thread that is just gibberish just immediately delete that thread.

    When someone tries continually to game the system by posting in the science sections when it's clear their underlying intent isn't to discuss science but instead to repute it...send it to the fringe every time and immediately.

    That's all that needs to be done here (other than just to have one fringe section). I wouldn't personally have a fringe section but I'm trying to be realistic here.

    Regarding religion, it's going to be a more combative place potentially. It's hard to moderate that. I don't think it should be in the fringe section. It's more like the other subjective sections (art, humanity, politics).

    I don't think it should be over moderated. Sure there will be some "trolling". Much of the current posting is in effect trolling by the religious so of course there is the reverse as well.

    If there is any moderation it should only come about if the quality of the discourse there actually does improve and become more of the "historical and literary" aspects of religion.

    When it's about debating God, you get what you get.

    I don't think this has ever been a "science" forum but I don't look at it that way anyway. I would look for it to be, potentially, as a high quality discussion forum for many subjects. Just as it is currently laid out if there was no fringe section.

    After that, it's just a matter of doing the minimum necessary to improve the culture and the posts that it attracts. There's only so much you can discuss science. It is what it is. Discussion occurs more in subjective subjects.

    Regarding polling. I don't think that accomplishes much given the current circumstances. You are asking the fringe if we should just leave things alone. Of course their answer is "yes".
  13. Kittamaru Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Adieu, Sciforums. Valued Senior Member

    *nod* And that is, in essence, what I'm trying to accomplish here.

    Right now, our rules are contradictory to what happens in the non-science sections, in particular the "extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence". We should either modify the forums and expected behavior to fit the rules, modify the rules to fit the current behavior, or some mix in the middle.

    Of course, we can also keep doing exactly what we've been doing and see nothing change nor improve. My entire premise is that we should do something. Doing the same thing and expecting a different result... well, seems like insanity to me.
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  14. sweetpea Valued Senior Member

    I may be wrong, but I think Tiassa was saying these polls may have given the loons here the chance to take over the asylum. But having said that, can I ask Tiassa if s/he is satisfied with the present state of the site? And if not, what and when would you be getting around to trying to change things?
    Of course, you may be one of those wishing for things to stay as they are.
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2017
  15. Bowser Namaste Valued Senior Member

    I think it has become what it was meant to be.
  16. Xelasnave.1947 Valued Senior Member

    Adhoms, bullying and gate keeping should be strongly moderated in the real science sections.

    Someone who can make scientific contribution won't hang round if they have to experience any of the above.

    Fringe its a mud pit but that is a good thing.

  17. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    It seems that there is a certain level of dissatisfaction, at least from some members, with the way our subforums are organised right now. I will take some time to consider the various suggestions that have been put, and will talk things over with the moderator group before making changes. In the meantime, I will be keeping an eye on this thread.

    I would ask members to be mindful of the thread topic here. This is not intended - correct me if I'm wrong, Kittamaru - to be a thread in which people bitch and moan about how much they hate certain members who post in the Fringe sections, or in Religion or whatever. Nor is it a thread about how moderation of members should be stricter than it is now. The focus here is on what subforums we want to have, and how they should be organised.

    One other thought that you might like to comment on: it is possible to have more than one "level" of forums. This means that not every subforum has to appear on the front-page listing of subforums. So, for example, it would be possible to have Religion as the top-level forum, with a subforum underneath for arguments about whether God exists. Or, we could have one Fringe forum on the front page, with a few subcategories embedded if you click through to it. We have not previously organised the forums this way. That was originally a deliberate design choice to have a WYSIWYG front page. But it doesn't have to be that way.
  18. Bowser Namaste Valued Senior Member

    I'm curious who actually haunts the Religion forum more, atheists or theists. Though I don't venture much in the Fringe forum, it does have occupants. My feeling is, if it's generating traffic, why change it?
  19. Seattle Valued Senior Member

    The problem isn't with the fringe section itself. The problem is the people it attracts to the rest of this site and it's with their behavior in disrupting the rest of the site.
  20. Seattle Valued Senior Member

    I think it would be helpful to listen to what people have posted rather than to try to tell them what they should be addressing here.
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  21. exchemist Valued Senior Member

    James you are of course right about the thread topic, but I suggest the reason why these moderation, post quality and other issues have come up is because these are the things that one might hope to influence for the better by any restructuring of sections that is done. There is no point in changing things just for aesthetic reasons or on a whim. We would do it to deter certain kinds of posting and encourage others, would we not? Basically we are acknowledging the practical (and site ideology?) limitations on moderation, and looking for other means to achieve a similar beneficial effect.

    It sounds to me as though it is hard to make a compelling case to do anything about religion. It's not fringe and you do need it, due to the boundaries between science and metaphysical philosophy which are legitimate topics for debate. The quality and aggro issue there can only be handled by moderation, so is not for further discussion on this thread.

    There could be a case for reducing the impression of seriousness with which the Fringe topics may appear to be taken, due to the detailed classification we have at present. I quite like your idea of making the Fringe subsections not something that appears at top level for casual readers.

    Would could possibly take it a stage further, by treating the Fringe section as one that is not visible to unsigned-in readers, rather like the Cesspool. That would send an unambiguous signal about the values of the forum and would deter the casual crank or nutcase reader from thinking he would find an audience here.
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2017
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  22. Kittamaru Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Adieu, Sciforums. Valued Senior Member

    I actually really like this idea - it would give us the "holding pen" for the fringe topics without advertising SciForums as a venue where such discussion is wanted as the "main course" so to speak.
  23. Seattle Valued Senior Member

    There is another issue that seems unique to this forum and I don't know what the solution would be.

    We understand that the fringe section was created so those subjects wouldn't disrupt the other sections. Then came "gaming the system" where the same things are discussed in the science areas but but now it's in the form of a question (playing dumb).

    Related to that are just stupid questions where it seems hard to believe that the poster is sincere. The current example is something like "How could man move out of Africa with so many large, dangerous animals around?". That's not fringe I suppose, it's not science, it's just stupid but I doubt if the thread starter is actually that stupid. It's trolling I suppose.

    Maybe the solution is for one moderator to monitor the "new posts" thread and if those results don't set a good first impression for someone coming to this forum for the first time maybe some action should be taken.

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