Science: Explanation versus obfuscation

Discussion in 'SF Open Government' started by DaveC426913, Mar 3, 2023.

  1. exchemist Valued Senior Member

    Interesting information, especially about losing members due to being too strict in the past. I’d be curious to know how the site knows that.

    Re hounding and flaming, I presume that sort of behaviour could in principle be controlled through moderation too. But perhaps the problem might be that a lot more pro-active moderation would be needed, which would be too time-consuming.
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  3. foghorn Valued Senior Member

    Bells, is it possible to have a mod help a member by not issuing an infraction?
    The automatic cycle only works on the input of mods. So, can a mod, with a soft spot for a member, knowingly help that member play the system?
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  5. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Valued Senior Member

    I would do the Beverly Cleary joke, but you probably wouldn't appreciate it.

    Meanwhile, remember, the point↑ of asking actually has to do with a question of member comportment↑ and why people generally can't tell us what they want. And inasmuch as you refuse to tell me what you think an appropriate post looks like, do you think a few more Gamera posts are going to make things better? (The actual discussion of what to do about quippy, off-topic one-liners is a bit more subtle than what you've been willing to tolerate.)


    Still, let's take a look at this:

    Well, no, Dave, actually, it's not: Take a moment and think about the implications of your boldfaced, block-capped bit about "the spirit of the rules we all agreed on". Are you sure about that, Dave, did we all agree to the same spirit of the rules? Because one of the reasons we're even having this discussion in the first place is that staff have moderated the site in accordance with some version of the spirit of the rules, and, clearly, you're not happy with that.

    Let's simplify this, a little, looking at two basic offenses included in your list. There is a question of what is on topic, and then there are the limits of insult, flame, and ad hominem.

    The question of what is on topic is subtle, or not, generally fraught, and oft to the point of stupidity. Some threads wander; the difference between off-topic and a related subject often comes down to individual perception, such as whether a given change of subject, or even comment from the peanut gallery, is on topic.

    Moreover, while the question of what is on topic is generally fraught, I also recently encountered a new variation, arbitrarily declaring subject matter irrelevant to itself, judging relevant, topical material irrelevant to the subject at hand simply because someone didn't like the person who posted it. Even stranger, the underlying subject was itself crackpottery, thus crackpottery was legitimized in order to disqualify as irrelevant what was essentially the same manner of crackpottery.

    Perhaps the idea that people should "post on topic" and "avoid going off on a tangent" seems straightforward enough to yell about in boldface block-caps, but history already shows it's not.

    Furthermore, remember, people's ideas of what is on topic or irrelevant also lead to a lot of flaming, insulting, and ad hom.

    Thus, again, what spirit of the rules or forum? Remember that I can apparently insult people simply by writing a post; not for its content or that it actually insults any person, but because someone feels insulted by their own perception↗, or something like that.

    Think, Dave, of a spirit that would legitimize crackpottery in order to complain about crackpottery. Compared to this thread, in which we consider "reasonable standards of intellectual integrity and honesty", that sort of sleight clearly asserts a different spirit. I could go on all day about ad hom and insult; for all the bigotry people have been allowed to utter so easily, calling it bigotry is apparently an insulting, flaming, ad hominem attack, and that is one of the reasons "respect for the scientific method, which demands critical analysis, clear thinking and evidence-based argument" came to be viewed as dangerous aggression against free speech↑, i.e., an interpretation of the spirit of whatever.

    At the heart of the spirit of the rules, Dave, is that we depend on good faith. To the other, we aren't really supposed to assess people's good faith; dangerous aggression, a spirit of the rules, &c., it's a longtime conundrum, around here. But good faith helps define what is on topic, or the range of acceptable wandering; good faith helps to measure what is and isn't an insult; good faith helps understand the burdens of critical analysis and evidence-based arguments.

    It's easy enough to doubt a person's good faith, around here, especially given the flaming tire-heaps of bad faith we've endured over the years.

    So please consider Dave, that you are one who would seem to endorse↗ the off-topic one-liners of the peanut gallery, while also complaining something or another about blogging↗. And if I mentioned to you↗ that we've heard the whole blogging complaint, before, we might observe the occasion when another moderator, i.e., someone who is not me, had occasion to ask↗:

    So who do you think undermines this forum more?

    Someone who goes at length to research what is being posted, is able to back up any claims with evidence? Or the one flaming with one liners and whining about posts that are just too long?

    So, tell me about the spirit, Dave: Somewhere between the peanut one-liners and the bloggers there is a "respect for the scientific method, which demands critical analysis, clear thinking and evidence-based argument" that you find important. And perhaps you find my colleague's assessment, a "rhetorical question" to which the "answer should be obvious", unsatisfactory or problematic or whatever. But toward whatever it is you actually find appropriate, or your spirit of the rules, maybe you could afford a more specific hint.

    Thus, were you clear enough, Dave? Well, if that sort of sketch had been sufficient, this thread likely would never have needed to be.
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  7. Pinball1970 Registered Senior Member

    Thanks, that was a nice comment.
  8. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    And therefore nothing should or need be done? I have a lot of power.

    What do you mean apparently? Is it or isn't it?

    You're a moderator. You get to (are responsible for) make that call - and stick to it (and yes, suffer the slings and arrows).

    That is not how free speech works. This is a privately run site, with a documented mission.

    No one is preventing anyone from expressing their views elseweb.

    That's an invalid excuse.

    Oh you're being silly. There is a vast gulf between two one-liners four years apart and great gouts of blogging on a daily basis.

    You know this; I know this; everyone knows this. You are making excuses for your inaction.

    Personally, I don't want to shut down your blogging. I'd happily let that continue if it meant some semblance of control were kept in the science subforums.

    Or maybe you're deliberately being obtuse, because - to admit you know what's wrong and what can be done to fix it without being explicitly told - would require you wake up from your moderative torpor.

    I bolded and emphasized, above, what I personally consider policy in regards to the spirit of the rules. And now I've started a whole thread on it.

    And you still mindlessly pretend I haven't told you many times. Further claims that I haven't will be called out as the trolling they are.

    Look, this is starting to become all about you. That's not how it should be. We should be all looking in the same direction instead of pointing fingers at each other.

    The problem is, you actually have the means to act. So it ends up being you who stands in the way of change. That's unfortunate but inevitable.

    I guess there is only one question that need be asked before any other work be explored: Do you want to figure out what might done to make the site thrive again? It may or may not be realistic a goal and may never happen, but if you're not willing to do it, there's no point in exploring this further. So, a simple yes or no?
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2023
  9. wegs Matter and Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

    It takes time to change things. The decline of any forum usually has been a few years in the making so with consistent effort on the part of every member, it probably would take roughly two to four years to see a regular flow of increased traffic and new membership on SF. And keep building from there.

    We have to get out of our own way though, in order for actual change to feel organic.
    C C and DaveC426913 like this.
  10. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Valued Senior Member

    You do understand, this fallacious manner of retort only calls your good faith into doubt.

    Dave, your reliance on make-believe only calls your good faith into doubt.

    I'm a moderator, Dave; I don't get to run roughshod like an administrator. As I have told James along the way in issues related to his moderation, he can stop me, but I cannot stop him. This isn't news, Dave. Compared to what you don't know because you didn't read that discussion, weren't in that fight, or apparently stay away from entire regions of the website—(there's always a reason, isn't there)—this one isn't really so hard to figure out.

    Meanwhile, the policy history is clear, asserting an offense worthy of infraction to call a racist a racist. (Nor is it surprising that you actually commented on a discussion including that very point and somehow failed to notice.)

    Your incoherent accusations derived from make-believe only call your good faith into doubt.

    Lying in order to call someone silly pretty much wrecks any pretense of your good faith, Dave. So, to be clear, look, it was a little detail that I let slide↑ the first time↑, because it shouldn't be so important. To be clear, I gave you three examples↑, a couple years apart; you chose to omit one in order to say two examples four years apart. And, sure, in your projected make-believe, just as in practice, it is kind of a small issue. However, what you either have not yet grasped or simply refuse to countenance is that "intellectual integrity and honesty"—(you know, ostensibly the heart of your complaint↑)—kind of speaks against behaving that way. Maybe it's not surprising if you're not up to discussing the detail of what that "intellectual integrity and honesty" is supposed to mean.

    Furthermore, while the point about Gamera posts is small, and your two-bitting hardly anything we would ordinarily fret about, remember also that we've been having other discussions on theses issues, as well, and you have seen fit to lie to me in order to justify your anger. As a point of E&O, sure, the difference between two posts or three isn't a big deal compared to the third post being a different spelling, but even if we pass over the arguments and appeals from ignorance, and continue to ignore a question of priorities, all of the little stuff askew along the way starts to look more important when you're caught in deception.

    See, this is pretty much what this thread seems to be about, the common aspect of the various discussions we've had, these recent months.

    Again, Dave: If that sort of sketch had been sufficient, we probably wouldn't be having this discussion.

    Of course, that statement pretends your complaint is in good faith, and presuming someone's good faith despite evidence to the other is more than mere customary courtesy; it is policy expectation the moderators have disputed repeatedly over time, and at present, that presupposition is still the standard.

    As you're aware, Dave, if this is becoming about me, that's largely your doing. Need we really go back and enuemerate how I might say something about history, policy, and circumstance, and you just whine about me? It's one thing if you want to respond to the details of what we're talking about with petulant demands and moralizing, but if you're going to complain that this is starting to become all about me, then maybe you should stop trying to make it all about me.

    For instance:

    That's not quite how it works, but six months in you just don't seem able to do any better.

    The actual problem, there, might have to do with this thread being about something other than what it pretends. You refuse to describe the change you want any more specifically than what is to be interpreted by other people. If you stop and look at how that language works, you're basically demanding satisfaction of a personal standard you refuse to enumerate in any useful detail.

    For instance, how do you not comprehend the basic circumstance that two people can agree on a general principle, such as "integrity and honesty", while disagreeing on what that principle means in practice?

    Or, the good fight against ... uh, well, what is that good fight against? Ignorance, superstition, and misinformation? No, that's far too broad. How much of your complaint is made up of projection, for instance? And what are the limits of which crackpottery you would legitimize and attend in order to have after someone you don't like? At some point, it really does start to read like you want me to wave a magic wand for yet another iteration of satisfying someone's particular aesthetics.

    The answer is most likely, Yes, but what makes it not a simple question is what you mean by "thrive". Toward that, these last six months have made one thing clear, this thread isn't really about "integrity and honesty"↑:

    1) The pathway from where we are to "reasonable standards of intellectual integrity and honesty" is long, tortuous, fraught, and requires much cooperation; if nobody seems anxious to start down that road, it's a labor-intensive prospect with no guarantee of useful return. That's not outright, categorically prohibitive, but ...

    2) ... as we have discussed these issues, you have made clear to me that part of what you want has nothing to do with "integrity and honesty", but, rather, some measure of personal satisfaction.​

    That whiff of personal interest is one of the perpetually complicating factors; if we can't find a way past that, then we will never be able to properly address the practical implications of potential policy resolutions.

    Because, you will find the first point comes up along the way in your traffic thread↗, such as the observation↗ that part of the solution will come down to what people choose to post: Inasmuch as that doesn't mean some boundless cacophony, the question of what people choose to post will inevitably arrive at the question of what is appropriate, as individuals have different perceptions of what is on-topic, what constitutes insult, ad hominem, flaming, harrassment, &c.

    And maybe I can tell you what an appropriate post looks like, but that's only one kind of post; if it is impossible to predict all the variations on appropriate posts, I still would rather not moderate according to the proverbial definition of art, i.e., I know what it ain't.

    Still, though, of that one kind of post, what would a supportable argument really mean? Writing citations like I do is laborious and many would find it an unreasonable expectation; to the other, hyperlinks often break, and requiring people to go fish at Wayback isn't necessarily fair compared to having source information to follow up on more easily. And beyond that, there are questions of reliability pertaining to both, how the source is represented in a post, and the source itself.

    Or the question of more Gamera posts; as I said↗: In an actual pub, two-bit distractions from all around can pass by more easily compared to inline side chatter and self-gratifying disruption arranged sequentially within the confines of an online thread. Right now the boundary of appropriate off-topic one-liners is like the definition of art.

    Y'know, just for instance.

    And if it happens that along the way, I found some old notes from eight years ago, it's one thing if you wouldn't believe, but it's also unlikely that you would actually care. Still, if the general sketch had been sufficient.
  11. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    As a matter of fact, it is.

    I may have been wholly obtuse about this but I've always assumed that, here, "mod" and "admin" were used interchangeably. And therefore that you and James R were - in principle, if not in practice - equals.

    Colour me clueless. I need to ruminate.

    And I guess I owe you an apology for burdening you with more than is your burden.
  12. foghorn Valued Senior Member

    It's ok, I have found the answer to my question.
    JamesR to Magical Realist:
  13. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Valued Senior Member

    Borrowed from a Different Thread, Toward Yet Another

    So, the occasion provides a particular illustrative example: This is why.

    That is to say, no, you're not the only one, but posts like yours, and others↗, are part of the reason we keep certain crackpottery around. That is, when you wonder why we have tolerated certain behavior for so long, this is why: Without members like KX, it's harder to complain about who needs to be silenced ("This sounds like a sermon") or show how much smarter someone is compared to the next ("Why don't you collect your thoughts and answer some of these questions yourself?")

    Really. In all these years, it's the answer that remains.


    For instance, in your consideration of traffic at Sciforums↗, a neighbor notes↗ "topics of interest", and perhaps we might reflect on what it means to be interested in something.

    The short answer is that we keep certain people, subjects, and behavior around so that some other folks have someone to talk down to. Think of member interests: Despite the presence of science enthusiasts, we're probably not getting ten pages of discussion about lead ions↗, and more bots will see that thread than people. The Religion subforum has long been a place for atheists to shit-talk religion and religious people, but what is anyone's actual interest?

    The same applies to history in general, as well as the politics by which history is defined.

    There is an emotional experience that comes with our interactions; that emotional value appears to be a more popular interest than any given subject itself.

    But for some people, reality didn't work out, and they feel the weight of being wrong. And that's where some of the traffic went. Quite a lot, frankly. For various reasons, many people see their enthusiasm diminish when what they seek requires work.


    Our neighbor KX has posted an inquiry that might be Biblical, or it might come from manga, whip-its, vanity press, &c. Referring out to what he means, and everything that goes into it, probably becomes a midlength tract more than a blog post, and no, we have never really required that sort of effort from the faithful, or anyone else; the standing policy example is to discourage such effort or obligation. Per the question of what interests people, neither advocate nor critic show any interest in what is supportable. For the faithful evangelist, it's hard to do, and disruptive to the evangelization. For the oppositional critic, it's hard to do, and disruptive to the emotional experience of talking down to inferiors. And if at Sciforums some people are iffy about obligations to have a clue, there isn't really any mystery about why.

    What does ten pages of discussion among science enthusiasts look like? How much discussion and traffic will the simple fact of heavy-ion collisions actually generate, especially if there isn't someone to talk down to? History suggests it's much easier to generate "traffic" if the "smart" people around here have someone to despise. And maybe some find that summary severe, but what, really, is the interest anyone else has in dubious theological balbutive?

    And per the question of what it means to be interested in something. We all have our reasons for continuing to show up and participate, and if I can understand the trolls and crazies, on this count, more than I do the rest of us, the question of what it means to be interested in something just happens to attend that difference. It's like when I said↗ what goes on in the Religion subforum would make a lot more sense if the threads and posts therein did, but that's not what the people posting there want.

    And, yes, the fallen angel thread is an obvious example.

    Anyway, sure, the superstitious are going to do their thing, and crackpottery is in no small part its own motivation, but watch the proverbial rest of us, as such.

    Theological speculative fancy isn't exactly new. It's one thing if evangelists are going to try their variations on themes, but around here the response is not so much to analyze, comprehend, or correct, but to confront, because that is what interests people. And, sure, we might suggest low-hanging fruit is just begging to be picked, but there is no purpose in spoiling the harvest just to spite the tree.

    The thing is, it does take a bit of work to save some harvests, but a speculative inquiry about fallen angels is not, at Sciforums, going to generate traffic and content on the merit of analysis including history, anthropology, art, psychology, semiotics, &c.; we are, however, capable of generating pages of solipsistic dispute for the sake of condescenscion and spite. And toward that, we might wonder what it is people are actually interested in.
  14. parmalee peripatetic artisan Valued Senior Member

    There’s this moment in the Slint documentary, Breadcrumb Trails, in which James Murphy discusses this brief period in the 90s during which Britt Walford was his roommate in New York. Britt was working at an erotic bakery, and that seemed to be all that he was about—making boob and penis cakes—despite not really having any real passion for baking. And James was, understandably, like, “What are you doing, man?”

    I look at things like the UAP threads and find myself asking that question all the freaking time. I, for reasons I do not fully understand, recently started a thread asking whether anyone was actually doing anything about climate change. I get a few of those “we’ve got men on the job” type responses, and I wonder whether people were thinking that that is actually what I was asking, so I make a half-assed attempt at clarification of query. Emphasis on the “half-assed.” Didn’t really clarify what I was actually asking, but then I got a bit perturbed over whether or not to point out that I said absolutely nothing about meat consumption being a cause of obesity, and then I got one of those posts from Seattle where you can’t really tell whether he’s simply trolling or whether he truly does struggle with reading comprehension, so I was like, “Fuck this shit.”

    I should point out that I am criticizing myself as much as anyone else here, but what I characterize as my own “laziness”—explicit refusal to be thorough and straightforward—is of a very different nature than that of other folk. Misunderstanding arise, sure, and I’ve got a bit of a short fuse, but c’mon. It’s a bit like Poe’s Law—that ought only be a thing when, say, conversing with non-native speakers; otherwise—and I’m going to put on my Roger Waters hat here—it’s not on the writer to explicitly inform when they are fucking “joking” or being hyperbolic or whatever. (And the Anti Defamation League are a bunch of freaking Na… fascists, albeit with even less capacity for discernment.) I mean, that’s kinda what we went to school for, innit?

    Parmalee the dog would never bring an item to be thrown and retrieved directly to his victims/servants. He would always stop three feet short and then throw it at you. Equal parts obnoxious and hilarious. When that got old, he devised new ways to torment. He developed this game with my mom, wherein he would wait til she sat down and then throw a toy at her. She’d throw it and he’d throw it back a couple of times. Then he would start throwing it under the sofa, or somewhere that necessitated my mom getting up to retrieve it. She fell for it every time.

    Low hanging fruit is irresistible, even to the most ambitious among us. It’s also incredibly frustrating. But it’s never all that clear of whom we really ought to be asking, “What are you doing, man?” Or, for that matter, what really can be done about it.
  15. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    Please don't ascribe to me your own interpretations. That's projecting.

    I never said anything about silencing anyone, let alone KX.

    "This sounds like a sermon" is an observation. KX may be simply espousing his own personal views to in a one-way sermon, rather than a group of debate opponents. The answer will help frame how the thread progresses.
  16. parmalee peripatetic artisan Valued Senior Member

    You didn't ask for anyone to be silenced, if anything, you requested clarification. But I've gotta ask, did you honestly expect said clarification to be in any way, well, clarifying? To me, it just seems that you are setting yourself up for disappointment with such a response--and knowingly so.

    In the spirit of that thread (kinda, maybe, I think?), I offer this:

    Many years ago I saw a dark angel. OK, well, not really--it was just a seizure. Quite a spectacular, pants-shitting seizure to be certain and it left me out of sorts for quite a long while, but that's all it was. (Actual visual hallucinations, as opposed to perceptual anomalies or distortions, are not uncommon with temporal lobe disorders.)

    But supposing someone were to state that they saw an angel, and that is precisely what they meant. How do you respond to that? Not a rhetorical question, I am genuinely asking. I honestly don't know where you go with that. You might ask what exactly the person means by "angel", and how they know that that's what it was, but it's most unlikely that you will disabuse this person of this notion. It's also most unlikely (imho) that any sort of fruitful discussion will ensue. That may sound cynical, but I can offer you innumerable threads to support this contention.

    In other words, what are you doing, man?
  17. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    If I - or anyone else - is going to engage at all, we should know what were getting into.
    We generally assume that a SciFo poster is here to discuss, but this OP seems to belie that intent. Which is why I asked for clarification. I am often happy to suspend my disbelief for the sake of a good academic discussion, if all parties agree, but it doesn't work if one party just wants to preach their beliefs one-way. It would be disingenuous to go in pretending it's a discussion if it isn't.

    Hence, a perfectly valid question, with no malice, and no negative consequence either way.

    But all that is pretty moot since this is here, in the Open Government forum, rather than the OP's thread. I'd put that on Tiassa, bending the OP's thread make it into a meta discussion about silencing people.

    Frankly, that seems pretty black and white to me. There is quite a bit of nuance to moderating a forum - a lot of overlap and grey area. Some posts and members can be engaged with, some need reminders, some need guard rails. KX's thread may turn out to be preaching, in which case a good moderator might guide them back to the path. The first step for me would be to simply seek clarification (done). I would say Tiassa has jumped the gun by bringing this to open government thinking the transgression (by KX) and the judgment (by me) is fait accomplii.
  18. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    I'll add this meta-note here because it's actually germane to this issue of explanation versus obfuscation:

    Talking about God and angels is qualitatively different from stating that, say, UFOs exist. It is possible to have a discussion about the self-consistent logic (or not) of God and angels, whether or not it actually attempts to objectively describe reality. That's not the same thing as saying "who is flying these UFOs"?

    Here's another example: The issues being discussed (what did Matthew say about Jesus) do not have to be determined to be factual or not in order to discuss them.

    Interestingly that speaks to bias in the meta-category of believerdom.

    God-believers tend to accept that not everyone believes in God - and that God can never really be proven to the skeptics. There is a strong subjective "accept him in my heart" component to God (I mean, the believers sill think skeptics are wrong, but that's beside the point.)

    Both sides (believers and skeptics) can, in theory, set aside their beliefs to have an academic, philosophical discussion about, say, what angels might do. "On the premise that God exists ..."

    UFO believers are generally out to prove that UFOs are objectively real - for all of us. Their views are generally incompatible with skeptics' - in that there must be an objective yes or no answer to the question of existence. It tends to be about facts, and there's no compromising on facts. It's pretty difficult to have a philosophical discussion about the existence of UFOs.

    UFO believers generally won't accept such a philosophical arena, and run into a problem when they try to analyze the purpose and motivations of these UFO denizens with a scientific toolkit, rather than a philosophical toolkit.
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2023
  19. parmalee peripatetic artisan Valued Senior Member

    Still, consideration of history and observance of patterns of behavior ought to factor into how--or even if--one chooses to respond. I certainly would not characterize your response (in that thread) as disingenuous, but I would say that it simply prolongs the inevitable.

    I think that Tiassa was incorrect in ascribing that interpretation ("silencing") to you, yet, at the same time, I'm still not entirely clear as to what it is that you want. Rather, I don't know how you think that such matters ought to be dealt with. Interpret that how you will, but I think that I understand the spirit of how you believe things ought to be here--and I think that I am largely in agreement with you and am sympathetic to your frustrations--but the specifics are a whole 'nother matter.

    We've all got different notions as to what constitutes an acceptable signal to noise ratio. And, as you are well aware, there are other "science" forums with more moderators and much more heavy-handed moderation. I seldom post--note that in 15+ years I've made all of three thousand posts--but I do spend a fair amount of time perusing such forums. When I get frustrated here, which is fairly often, I look elsewhere.

    I think that the primary difficulty, for posters and moderators alike, is that, despite the absurdity and futility of such (or even the supposed (ir)relevance, for that matter), we strive to discern motivation and intent. See my post prior to the one to which you respond here: I am quite serious where I mention my difficulty with distinguishing trolling from functional illiteracy. You shut down trolling and you deal with the latter in the manner which you outline below, but... There is, of course, a third possibility, which is simply carelessness. We are all prone to that, and more often than not, misunderstandings of that nature tend to resolve fairly quickly, so I consider that a non-issue.

    So I don't think that Tiassa was wrong by introducing that thread here. There are those who, contrary to what they may claim to believe, do not even hesitate when it comes to assigning motives to another, and then there are those who bend over backwards in order to demonstrate that they do not in any way consider themselves to be a mind-reader. But is there a difference? I don't know. But I do know (or think I know) that those who are quick to point out that they are not, say, racist, for instance, typically, very much are. I think that people often know as much about their own motivations as they do about anyone else's. And, please, try not to read too much into that. I'll reiterate: I don't think that your response in that other thread was disingenuous, but I also don't think it's apt to elicit any fruitful response.

    Yeah, can, in theory... I know that sounds glib, but there is something to be said for "more moderators and much more heavy-handed moderation." Again, in my experience, discussions of a philosophical nature are seldom fruitful here (and, of course, there are other forums more expressly philosophy-based... blah blah). A lot of possible reasons for that (including a general lack of interest and lack of requisite knowledge-base), but I think that the absence of "heavy-handed moderation" and this being more of a general discussion board than anything are paramount.

    But heavy-handedness goes both ways. For instance, one particular forum almost automatically assigns any discussion of Ayn Rand to the equivalent of the Cesspool. Now, I personally do not consider that all that unreasonable (a person who discusses Kant at length without ever actually having read Kant is simply not a philosopher. Full stop.), yet it is entirely possible to have a genuinely philosophical discussion in which Rand factors, it's just extremely unlikely.
  20. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    If I were to assume where the thread is going - without clarifying with the poster - I would be guilty of the thing Tiassa just appeared to do: put the noose around the poster's neck. The idea is let the poster put the noose around their own neck.

    I try to give people the benefit of the doubt. Some SciFo members have eliminated the doubt - but, for others, in principle, I like to try.

    I am having a perfectly cromulent discussion about God with DaveWhite here about the internal logic of God of the Bible. So far, Dave has not attempted to state that objectively God exists, or that his beliefs are right and mine are wrong. It is a perfectly fine philosophical discussion.

    (I confess however, I do not know how long it will keep my interest. I can have a discussion about the mechanics of Gandalf the Grey's fireworks in the Shire, but I'm not so much a nerd that I can sustain such a discussion for very long before questioning how much of my time is warranted.)

    Hm. Clarification please.

    Are we talking about the thread(s) in the Religion forum (which is where this started), and what I'm doing engaging there?
    Or are we talking about this 'Explanation versus Obfuscation' thread and the bigger picture of what I want for SciFo?

    Because those are two different things. I have been talking (with you) about the former.
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2023
  21. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    This might be my first post to this thread. There's some interesting discussion here. Also various people pushing certain agendas, as we might expect. With some trepidation, I would like to comment on a couple of things. You can be sure that I'll be pushing my agendas, along with the rest.

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    It has been said that people can't be argued out of ideas that they weren't argued into. In other words, if somebody holds a belief for emotional reasons, or for cultural reasons, or because they trusted somebody or something (a book, say) not to tell them lies, or that kind of thing, then they might be unwilling to allow that belief to be challenged by appealing to such things as reason, evidence or thought.

    On the other hand, it is an observed fact of life that, from time to time, people with strongly-held beliefs can and do change their minds after learning new facts or, in some cases, better ways of evaluating claims.

    It is often the case that some beliefs are held onto very tightly. Challenges to those beliefs can be met with anger, denial and/or hostility. Lots of people prefer to double down on their own brand of crazy rather than trying to look at a thing through another person's eyes. But some people only need to be shown different ways of thinking about things and then they get on a roll and start to seriously reflect on their own beliefs, even ones that are "core" to their identities.

    If somebody claims "I was visited by an angel", you're almost certainly not going to change their mind by saying "That's nonsense. There are no such things as angels!" With that sort of response, they will probably just double down on their belief. In fact, if this is the only response they get, they are as justified in standing by their initial claim as they would be in changing their mind, because all we have at this point are two competing claims, one no more obviously true than the other.

    Having said that, I do think it is worth taking a moment to ask the person how they knew it was an angel and how they know what an angel is supposed to be like in the first place. If they are willing to discuss the matter, rather than just repeating the initial claim and doubling down, then these kinds of epistemological questions can lead them to question whether the ultimate foundations of their belief in angels is objectively reasonable or not. If they care about believing what is true and rejecting what is false, then at some point they should realise that objective truth is more valuable than subjective impressions, which is a big advance if they have never properly considered that idea before.

    It is important to realise that these kinds of questions often provoke cognitive dissonance in a person whose beliefs are not well-founded. How that person reacts to that cognitive dissonance is, I personally think, a test of character. Some people, when faced with the option of acknowledging an inconvenient truth or rejecting it out of hand, will choose to be honest with themselves (and, by extension, with other people); others will choose the opposite. Those who are very attached to a belief and who feel particularly put upon and backed into a corner might well find themselves in the strange position of vociferously attempting to defend a position that, at some level, they know is unsustainable. For some, that is a self-protection mechanism, albeit a contradictory one; for others, it's a case of trying desperately to save face, even if it means acting unethically.

    If I believed it was impossible to change people's minds - even, on occasion, people with very extreme views - I probably would not spend as much time posting here as I do. However, there is abundant evidence out there in the world that people - even ones with very extreme views - do changes their minds, and that they do so in some cases after having conversations with others about their strongly-held beliefs. There are no guarantees, of course, but I think it's worth trying.

    One more thing: sometimes you don't get to see the change you initiate come to fruition. A person might come here as an ardent believer in angels, say. Then, they have some discussions, and some seeds are planted that make them start to have second (or first!) thoughts. They might even leave here in a giant self-immolation of ridiculous assertions and deliberate trolling, cursing everybody who has taken the opposite position to them. But afterwards, after they have calmed down, some of the ideas they were introduced to and questions they were asked just keep popping into their heads, unbidden. Maybe they start to do some independent thinking, at last, and that leads them down a path towards the truth. They might never come back here to say thank you. Maybe they don't even recognise what it was that first set them on the path. Or maybe they are too embarassed to come back and admit they were wrong (another test of character, there). Or maybe they still have baggage. We might never know. However, the job is done.
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2023
  22. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    I don't think God and angels are qualitatively different from imaginary aliens. (Of course, as an atheist, I would say that.)

    I don't see why it is any harder to have a discussion about a self-consistent logic (or not) of aliens, compared to one about God and angels, assuming that these things have objective existence. We can just as easily consider "What might aliens be like, if they exist?" as "What might a god be like, if it exists?"
    That very much depends on which God believer you're asking.

    Some God believers will insist that even atheists believe in God, deep down; the atheists are all in denial, you see.
    Some God believers will insist that (their) God can be proven, and (again) that any hold-out skeptics of that claim are in denial.
    Some God believers will claim that anybody who fails to accept that their God is real must be literally insane.
    Two problems here, which have been extensively discussed on this forum before:
    1. It is a logical fallacy to claim that a specific fact or state of affairs can be "true for me" and simultaneously not "true for you". It's equivalent to an assertion that A and NOT A can both be true simultaneously.
    2. "Faith", by which I mean believing in things without any evidence, is not a reliable path to knowledge. (This is different from "faith in" a real person or thing, in the sense of having trust in that person or thing. If somebody claims to trust in God, a prerequisite for that trust to be meaningful is to show that the God exists in the first place.).
    And both sides can set aside beliefs and discuss what aliens might do, if they exist. I don't see any difference.
    Many theists will tell you that the existence of God is a self-evident truth. Or they will tell you that our existence - or the universe's existence - is proof that God is objectively real, for all of us. There are other common theistic apologetics. Many theists don't know what's wrong with these kinds of arguments, in the same way that UFO believers often don't know what's wrong with believing that aliens are here on account of so many people having reported seeing the spaceships in the sky.
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2023
  23. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    Yes, that would be the equivalent. But my point was not about the equivalence of believing in God and believing in aliens.

    I should qualify by saying this is about my personal experiences discussing them, here, which I can entertain and which I cannot.

    We haven't been talking about aliens; we have been talking about UFOs. One is a hypothetical; the other is a phenomenon, here, reported by people.

    -believers here pretty much universally demand that they exist objectively - for everyone - and that skeptics are wrong from the get-go. And that their explanation is ... transmundane. UFO believers and skeptics are at-odds over extant things, facts.

    God believers do not seem to have the need to lay the groundwork that God really exists before they can discuss his machinations (as written). That allows skeptics to discuss the internal logic of, say, God of the Bible, without getting stuck on whether it is an extant fact.

    I am explaining why I can engage in God theorizing in the Religion forum, but I poo-poo UFO theorizing in the UFO forum. The goals of the participants are different. One is content to play in a philosophy sandbox, the other demands to play in the science sandbox.
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2023

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