Let’s Get Meta!

Dec 3, 2013


Discussion by: Red Dog

One of the most enjoyable times I had at work was when I was one of the first few people hired for a new industrial lab on software engineering. It was me, a couple other nerd friends, the lab leader who was out chasing funding, and one business oriented guy.

At first I had no use for the business guy but he was one of those people who shattered my stereotypes about what business people were like. He was fascinated by the computer science issues and eager to have me explain them to him which of course I was all too eager to do. This will probably shock people who have read my comments but I kind of like showing off what I know. At the time a big topic I was working on were meta-languages. A meta-language is a language used to describe a language, e.g. objects, relations, etc. When I explained what they were he was fascinated and from that point on whenever he wanted to move the discussion up a level, to get us to not focus on whether to use Prolog or LISP  but questions like what is the real goal of the lab he would say "let's get meta!" 

So with that long introduction I was wondering if perhaps it would be worthwhile to get meta about the RD.Net site itself? What are the issues around using it? How would we like to change it? Is it/should it be a site with a wide open agenda or should it be more focused on a few specific issues relevant to atheism and science education?

Some specific issues I have in mind are the following but these are just mine and if this topic is accepted I'm advocating a fairly wide open discussion:

1) Why not have an Open Thread topic? Crooks and Liars and other blogs do this and it's great.  Twice a day they start a new discussion that is then closed after 6 hours or so and within the guidelines of normal site usage is wide open. They will also initiate discussion by including a news item or music as part of the open thread but unlike other topics you can comment on whatever you want.

2) General tone. This site is more polite than 90% of the open sites on the Internet but that isn't a very high bar.  Especially when we get the rare theist posting a question they are usually overwhelmed and they don't stick around. (I can understand the urge to overwhelm them, some of the questions are so lame it's hard to resist mocking them even for me). I think we've done a good job there but we could and should try to do better.  What do other people think?

3) Should we divide the discussion topics into more categories? There have been several really basic questions lately. On the one hand I think this site should definitely be a place where anyone can come and ask a naive question about science and get a respectful, thoughtful answer. On the other hand perhaps it would make more sense to divide discussions into general science questions and deeper issues where those of us that want to get serious can do so.

Those are just three, my guess is that people will have many more so I will leave it there. I want to emphasize though let us not turn this into a bitch session about the site.  It's the nature of users to complain but we should remember that the people maintaining the site do an amazing job and I'm sure are doing it for little or no pay.

 

67 comments on “Let’s Get Meta!

  • 1
    QuestioningKat says:

    Meow Dog,

    I recall in the not so distant past a brief period when you were able to view many discussions at once rather than just the most recent four or five. I liked this and though it was a great update because I could then check out the other discussions. Then the site reverted to how it is now. I know this sounds strange, but it is as if discussions drop off the universe once a few new discussions hit the top of the list and the older ones end up on the notorious “other page”. Maybe discussions should be ranked with the most popular at the top for the last thirty day and then drop off?

    I also feel that it is important to allocate space and sequence of appearance in proportion to what is important to RDnet. If I were to visit this site for the first time, I would think that discussions were the least priority of the site. Upon entering the site, there is news about Richard to the left and an area to sign up for the newsletter. I understand having news about Richard, but info to sign up for the newsletter at the top – really? …and it’s so massive. As you scroll down, you see blogs, German language… scroll down lower for the New, originals, and so on. Sorry, but this site is far from inviting and very left brained. Websites should knock your socks off when the first window opens. If should be like the dashboard of your car or a control panel -you see everything right there and simply need to click to get into the desired area.

    I will see if I can hunt up a few websites for good examples.



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  • 2
    David W says:

    I find it frustrating that only one discussion topic per day is posted on this site. If you have a topic you want to discuss with other users, the chances of it being posted are rather slim. I usually resort to using the Richard Dawkins Facebook page instead.



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  • 3
    bluebird says:

    In reply to #2 by David W:

    …frustrating that only one discussion topic per day is posted on this site.

    To expand on that a bit ~ to me, a few items are not obvious, one has to hunt for them.

    To wit: the ‘submit news’ and ‘submit discussion’ links are directly under user name @ top right, via mouse hover. also…

    Clicking the ‘About’ link @ top left leads to ‘FAQ’ link; that in turn presents a menu of how to get a gravatar, etc.



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  • 4
    Malaidas says:

    unfortunately I am a bit to new to the site to have fairly formulated any opinions yet. However one thing I do feel is perhaps a category for just plain explaining something to the less educated. These are not really topics for discussion, save for pointing out any errors. But rather providing explanations of things which may have been misunderstood by people and thus raising consciousness about science as a whole.

    As it is I see a trend that I have to keep going over the same ground on different threads, rather than just providing a link to a single description.



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  • “2) General tone. This site is more polite than 90% of the open sites on the Internet but that isn’t a very high bar. Especially when we get the rare theist posting a question they are usually overwhelmed and they don’t stick around. (I can understand the urge to overwhelm them, some of the questions are so lame it’s hard to resist mocking them even for me). I think we’ve done a good job there but we could and should try to do better. What do other people think?”

    I think more could be done in this area as most of those pushing a religious agenda usually pack their bags and leave, never to return. It’s a shame, because it leaves the rest of us frequently arguing among ourselves, quite often over minor issues . Just a thought. I’ve only had a fleeting glance of one other site, so I’m very unsure about what to expect.



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  • In reply to #5 by Nitya:

    when we get the rare theist posting a question they are usually overwhelmed and they don’t stick around. (I can understand the urge to overwhelm them, some of the questio…

    There’s nothing to be done about that. Religion is adhered to out of emotional attachment to slogans which have been embedded in the psyche at an early age. They don’t have the capacity (or the wish) to conduct a rational argument. It takes an advanced degree in ‘apologetics’ to drum up a response. Actually, I suspect some of these drive-by Christians of having no ambitions other than to shout yah-boo and scarper.



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  • I think the general tone is pitched about right – I tend not to visit other atheist-focused sites because they are clannish and unwelcoming. Oh, I’d be welcomed just fine because I’m ‘one of the gang’ but if a theist shows up they get pelted with dung and abused. How, exactly, does that help them challenge their beliefs in any way, shape or form? Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for ridicule of silly beliefs but not even countering the beliefs and simply abusing the person doesn’t help much.

    I also like the way that visiting theists aren’t moderated to death (unless they’re clearly trolling or preaching). It’s important that they have an open platform with which to make their views known so they can be addressed – on the flip side, I stopped visiting theist sites because they generally don’t have this open policy and atheists (myself included) often get their posts deleted or banned for spurious reasons. I thought I’d found one recently but after a key contributing (and extremely polite) atheist was kickbanned for no good reason, all the rest of us walked out. I’m glad this site treats visiting theists better than that.

    So, tone and platform-wise, I think this site is pitched ok.

    Improvements I’d like to see include some kind of a FAQ – there have been an awful lot of questions that are really, really basic and / or have been answered to death on these very forums. The FAQ doesn’t necessarily have to answer them, just point to the relevant thread.

    Also, a more consistent way of deploying the news. What tends to happen is that topics arrive in clumps and all but the most popular one get largely ignored. Instead of nothing for a few days and then six in quick succession (that don’t even all fit on the screen at once), space them out or drip feed them to provide constant talking points. The ‘news’ is also seldom news; it’s usually days, weeks or (in a couple of cases) months old. If the intent is to get people contributing the news needs to be fresh – if people have already commented on the subject on other sites, they’re not going to want to come here to rehash the same old arguments they had last week.

    Additionally, whilst I realise me saying this is going to make little difference, I REALLY dislike this commenting system. Quoting only quotes the first few lines of someone and viewing large threads means scrolling to the bottom, clicking more, scrolling, clicking more – it’s tedious. Sorting by ‘newest first’ just means everything’s upside down! If I wanted that, I’d move to Australia! For reference, that’s not a bitch, it addresses the ‘issues around using it’ and ‘how would we like to change it’.

    Lastly, I’m not sure what changed but the old forums seemed to be vibrant and heavily populated – threads would go on for ages and posts would be coming thick and fast; now it just seems quiet. So, whatever it was that engendered that spirit of an active, energetic community, please bring that back.



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  • 8
    Malaidas says:

    In reply to #5 by Nitya:
    “I think more could be done in this area as most of those pushing a religious agenda usually pack their bags and leave, never to return. It’s a shame, because it leaves the rest of us frequently arguing among ourselves, quite often over minor issues . Just a thought. I’ve only had a fleeting glance of one other site, so I’m very unsure about what to expect.”

    Sorry, but I am with Dawkins here, we shouldn’t give them any more respect than we would give anyone else. religious view doesn’t merit some kind of special treatment.

    The problem is though, that no matter how we tone our responses, we are not going to really listen to their arguments in most cases, and they will still give up and leave the moment they realise that the people on this site can debunk their claims readily for the most part. Part of the problem is that they have no rational basis for their cherished beliefs and are easily hurt when challenged on them. They come to sites expecting to find that people will agree with them, (with what they have been sold as science), thinking that most people don’t believe in evolution for example and when people don’t agree they run away. For a precious few, this kind of situation will cause them to challenge their own beliefs but they are few and far between.

    When talking to a theist I will listen and then depending upon how moderate their views are I will appropriately challenge what they say, because (1) they are wrong and its my right to say so in a rational debate, so long as I do so reasonably, but I’m entitled to passion as much as they are. (2) religious belief/dogma is keeping vast quantities of intelligent people ignorant of the facts, the fact that people are still being taught this outdated and in many cases harmful material as fact is offensive to me.

    I tolerate moderate theist views to a large degree, they will at least accept the validity of science and simply twist things in their head so that god is still part of it, an irrational point of view in my mind, but moderately harmless, that memeplex is doomed to eventual death anyway, (probably via deism on the way), I would have thought, with such I will usually go gently and just point out problems. However fundamentalists need to be challenged for the harm they are doing, if someone starts telling me that science says the earth is 11,000 years old (just for example). I will challenge them very strongly, that is a blatant lie, as is the vast majority of the Creationism crowds ‘science’. Obviously it will also depend on the tone of the person posting this, if its posed politely and as a question I will answer it with unequivocal science/rational argument. If they come here to argue it, I will shoot them down, not using inappropriate language etc, but I’m not going to pull my blows to protect their feelings, what they are peddling is justifiably offensive to me.

    To take a metaphor (there is method in my madness): Monotheist religions in particular are the Ebola, HIV, Bubonic Plague etc. of the meme world. they are a disease which needs treating, If we are to find a treatment it wont be through live and let live.Such a memeplex is highly resilient it has built up sophisticated defence mechanisms in order to survive through the parallel of genetic natural selection, it has got tough. They wont engage in real rational debate, the only answer at the moment I have is to shock them into questioning, which isn’t a good or even very effective treatment in terms of recovery, but it does work in some cases.



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  • 9
    Stephen of Wimbledon says:

    Hi Red Dog,

    Excellent discussion idea.

    1) Open discussion. My instincts are that a free-for-all, even a moderated free-for-all, could detract from the Site’s focus. Keeping an open mind: I’d like to see a trial.

    2) General tone. I think it’s about right. I’m a huge advocate of free speech, and even I can see that rudeness, cursing and personal remarks are not designed to get people to repeatedly come here. We won’t achieve our objectives (assuming we agree that we’re here to support the RDFRS) by sending people away.

    I recently had a post censored. I didn’t say anything, there was no need, I value the goal.

    3) More categories. It’s my understanding that an FAQ is in the works (there was a post from one of the Mods about it a while back). This seems like the best way to deal with repeated, and very basic, questions. There are plenty of excellent sites that answer questions refuting things like creationism – above all else I’ve been disappointed that this Site has not teamed up with some of the better ones to create a linked set of resources for anyone arguing against an anti-science position. Whether its water flouridation, creationism, climate change, medical quackery, psychology, religious moral claims, or any one of a dozen other ways that fraudsters pursue business and politics we’re always on our own using search engines. There must be a smarter way than re-inventing the wheel every time someone comes to this Site to seek rational, scientific, advice.

    Other than that I agree that this is the perfect place for the naïve to touch down and receive a respectful, thoughtful, answer. There does seem to be a strategy gap here as it doesn’t appear to take most people long to get from angry, or confused, or ignorant, or fearful, or just plain curious, to a point where they want to go to the next level. For some the ‘next level’ means pursuing a scientific education or developing their critical thinking skills, for others it means extracting themselves from religion and de-programming, for others it’s about managing complex relationship problems, while still others see political and social goals that require activism.

    This Site has been good at demonstrating that there are other groups, other avenues to explore, depending on your personal needs. But is it time that RDFRS started to make more substantive links with some groups? Should there be, perhaps, a referral process? The Clergy Project seems to have proved that a formal referral process is not required – but is it representative?

    If you were to say that this Site doesn’t draw people in as well as it could – I would agree. Richard Dawkins has always been clear that he personally has no particular need for congregational meetings. He is also surely right when he says that atheists tend to be – almost by definition – independent thinkers. I know what he means, I feel the same way – though I never turn down a party invitation! On the other hand, there is clearly a need among many to share time, energy and thoughts – in person.

    With the above in mind, I would like to see this Site at least experimenting with making links to other sites / organisations. Something that will help people take their lives to new, unexplored (and therefore a bit scary), and higher plane.

    Other) QuestioningKat (#1) is on to something. The Site is simple and clear – if you’re a regular visitor. But what if you’re not sure what you’re looking for? QuestioningKat and I, as regular visitors, are not really qualified to give details – it requires some research.

    Other than that, I love this Site – it shows all the hallmarks of having evolved to meet the needs of many. The only qustion is; can it do more?

    Peace.



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  • 10
    Malaidas says:

    In reply to #9 by Stephen of Wimbledon:

    Hi Red Dog,

    Excellent discussion idea.

    1) Open discussion. My instincts are that a free-for-all, even a moderated free-for-all, could detract from the Site’s focus. Keeping an open mind: I’d like to see a trial.

    2) General tone. I think it’s about right. I’m a huge advocate of free speech, an…

    Do we have facts and figures to back up the claim that people are actually ‘converting’ from theist to atheist through this site. If so I would be very interested to see them. My personal belief based upon experience in other areas, is that generally those who seem to readily convert were those already effectively there anyway and just needed a bit of support. If we can provide this however then fantastic!

    Certainly we don’t need a congregation, and in the UK for instance there is such an apathy towards religion in general (outside of the Islamic and other insular communities at least) that you don’t feel isolated, I imagine, although I don’t know obviously, that such is not the same in say the bible belt of the USA. There I’d imagine that being able to talk to people openly as an atheist or doubter in any fashion would be hugely beneficial, both in terms of education and also just plain emotional support. Living as a social pariah or living with a ‘dirty’ secret is psychologically damaging.



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  • 11
    Red Dog says:

    I was surprised to see this here. I actually thought I had deleted it from the queue of pending discussions but obviously not. Sorry for the long intro, that was one reason I tried to delete it, I thought I spent too much time (as I often do) rambling on about me as opposed to getting to the point. Anyway, glad to see it’s here. Since I submitted this one thing that has occurred to me since is the following: we see fairly often basic questions about evolution, critical thinking, etc. If this were my site I would seriously think about creating a new section of the site that was essentially Dawkins for Dummies (that may sound offensive, it’s not meant that way, not sure if you have these in the UK but there is a whole series of books in the US “X for dummies”. E.g. Accounting for Dummies, User Interface design for dummies, etc. Most of those books actually are surprisingly well done. Anyway that is what I have in mind. Links, FAQs, so that when someone asks a basic question we can look at it and say “Oh a number 7” and give them a link to the page with an answer. Not that we still wouldn’t talk to them but that might serve as a good resource — especially people who don’t want to submit a topic or who want an answer ASAP. For starters I would like to see a list of some of the best sourced quotes from Dawkins. I think it’s ironic that when I want to quote something Richard said in response to someone on another site I don’t bother searching here anymore, I go to Google and that usually links me to some other site, there are actually a few good ones with well referenced quotes from Richard but if there were something like that here it would be more trustworthy than some random Internet site.



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  • 12
    Malaidas says:

    In reply to #11 by Red Dog:

    I was surprised to see this here. I actually thought I had deleted it from the queue of pending discussions but obviously not. Sorry for the long intro, that was one reason I tried to delete it, I thought I spent too much time (as I often do) rambling on about me as opposed to getting to the point….

    Totally agree.

    Yes we have the ‘For Dummy’s series, as well as the ‘For Idiots’ in the UK, my favourite was C for dummies, a fantastically witty introduction to the C programming language, unfortunately whilst useful the C++ version didn’t quite live up to it. That’s the only problem, they are of varying quality, down to I suppose the relative qualities of the authors, plus I must admit that any kind of humour is down to the reader’s taste and perhaps I was more in tune with the author of the original. Unfortunately I don’t have a copy of either now, having given them away long ago, so can’t quote author names, perhaps that’s for the best.



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  • 13
    Red Dog says:

    One follow up related to my last one: a Dawkins Greatest Hits section. There are some papers I give people links to all the time. The Gaps in the Mind paper by Dawkins is one of my favorites but if you look at that link it’s fairly vanilla. Another one is an article that he wrote on the old site, it’s a version of a chapter in Devil’s Chaplain about postmodernism and psuedoscience. I tried finding that because I wanted to link it to someone who had quoted some postmodern guy to me but I couldn’t even find it on the old site anymore. (I’m sure it’s there I just wasn’t searching using the right keywords). I would add Richard’s article on the King James Bible, that comes in handy for me a lot when I’m arguing with people who want to start bible bon fires. And so on, having around 10 of these most popular essays in one spot would I think be a good idea.



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  • 14
    Malaidas says:

    In reply to #13 by Red Dog:

    One follow up related to my last one: a Dawkins Greatest Hits section. There are some papers I give people links to all the time. The Gaps in the Mind paper by Dawkins is one of my favorites but if you look at that link it’s fairly vanilla. Another one is an article that he wrote on the old site,…

    again agreed



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  • 15
    Alexinpessac says:

    It is essential to keep this forum POLITE, seeing as so much of what is on the internet is crude (just look at YouTube comments…) Maybe a filter for swear words? Also maybe correcting the English of those contributors whose native language is not English just so that some readers may not be put off reading their comment, which would be a shame.



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  • 16
    phil rimmer says:

    In reply to #7 by BenS:

    Lastly, I’m not sure what changed but the old forums seemed to be vibrant and heavily populated – threads would go on for ages and posts would be coming thick and fast; now it just seems quiet. So, whatever it was that engendered that spirit of an active, energetic community, please bring that back.

    Hugely agree with this. Its sad and tumbleweedy now when once the mega fauna, Zara and Doc Benway (and many others) battled the likes of Dianellos over the expansive savannah of thousands of posts.

    What may contribute to this is the tedium and practicality of tackling long threads now. The fierce disapproval inculcated into all that OT posting is only ever a crime may also be a fact. The crass idea of stranded/siloed media is dying on its feet and intellectually impoverishing. To not have regular encounters with the unexpected, the chaotic curlicues and eddies of real, creative thought, is to sit in your own intellectual bathwater until it gets tepid. I hate it. Its not entertaining either. The long and rich threads of old burst into life many times and sustained more arid periods by meandering, splitting and rejoining taking in much material of incidental interest.

    Nothing ever seems to be invented here.

    I hate the idea of putting on a show for outsiders, but am keen to have them come often and stay. I have always wanted a two tier moderation system such that moderated posts drop from outside view but are accessible again after a sign in with disclaimer, so that RD.net can demonstrate the kind of thing they deem anti-social, not-worthy etc. yet still give a boost to the idea of not being as ultimately censorious as the godsquad.

    I would love to see more political discussion. Party politics is surely dead? Solutions arrived at before the true nature of the problem is identified can’t be optimum. So now what do we do? Why isn’t all dogma to be dragged out and thrashed for its temerity?



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  • 17
    phil rimmer says:

    One of the mega fauna of old still posts here and has a great set of resources that I’d love to link to. Sadly, these links are deleted by overzealous mods. As far as I can see there is nothing in the T&Cs forbidding this. Of old, indeed, the threads would be alive with useful and informed links, allowing people to hypertext their own well rehearsed arguments. Why shouldn’t they?

    We could then begin sleek and efficient posting that need lose nothing of the full argument detail, data sources and accumulated bibliographies. We all repost primary source links but our arguments connecting those links are often repeated. This is off putting for older hands who remember it only too well and want to skip to the novelties.



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  • 19
    phil rimmer says:

    In reply to #18 by halucigenia:

    Well, it used to be like this :- The original Richard Dawkins forum

    Would you like that back again.

    I, for one, miss it.

    Oops! Sorry to all here. I was pining for the old front page not the forums. Always hated the moderation there…



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  • 20
    halucigenia says:

    In reply to #19 by phil rimmer:

    Oops! Sorry to all here. I was pining for the old front page not the forums. Always hated the moderation there…

    The moderation was not too bad IMHO. Until the meltdown at the end, that is, when one person tried to take over.



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  • 21
    bluebird says:

    Blue ‘click here’, under ‘Add comment’ box, shows how to make a hyperlink, quote someone, etc.

    The ‘Old Site’ is useable (sign in to comment), but not maintained. Link is under ‘Community’, top.



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  • 22
    Red Dog says:

    In reply to #15 by Alexinpessac:

    It is essential to keep this forum POLITE, seeing as so much of what is on the internet is crude (just look at YouTube comments…) Maybe a filter for swear words? Also maybe correcting the English of those contributors whose native language is not English just so that some readers may not be put of…

    I agree that politeness is important but I’m against too much censorship. I’m really against incremental censorship. So the idea that you have to watch what words you use. Or even worse that you might write some comment that some moderator will re-write to make more polite. To me that latter is just wrong. Either remove the comment or let it stand but don’t start cleaning it up. I usually give some thought to what I write and it pisses me off when someone rewrites it. If you want to delete it OK, I probably won’t agree with the decision but I recognize that some moderation is needed.

    What I try to do is just ignore comments that are rude or full of profanity. I also try to ignore replying to someone “you are an idiot” although I think it a lot. My feeling is if someone is an idiot telling them they are an idiot won’t change them. It’s just a waste of time and they are wasting your time so just move on and talk to someone else.

    It’s odd in some ways I want more moderation but in other ways I want more free form discussion. I agree with the people who think at times there is too much “off topic” complaint from the moderators. A really interesting discussion can go off on tangents and why not? The best scientific and engineering discussions I had were like that. You start off talking about rapid prototyping and software engineering and you end up talking about anthropology and theories of cognition.



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  • OK, I’d like to add something now.

    This thread has been throwing ‘the naive’ term around and since I sort of felt targeted in Red Dog’s OP when he said “There have been several really basic questions lately. On the one hand I think this site should definitely be a place where anyone can come and ask a naive question about science and get a respectful, thoughtful answer.” since I asked such a question in the ‘Creationism?’ thread yesterday.

    I’d like to say, hopefully on behalf of other ‘naive’ posters and lurkers: it’s not that we’re ‘naive’. To the contrary, it’s that on some subjects, we understand perfectly that we are out of our field of expertise and simply ask for clarification in terms that lights the match of understanding – hardly the trait of a naive person, I’d say.

    If the shit gets repetitive, sorry, but that’s exactly what this thread is addressing.



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  • 24
    Red Dog says:

    In reply to #23 by Lilium:

    since I sort of felt targeted in Red Dog’s OP when he said “There have been several really basic questions lately…

    Just FYI I wrote this topic a long time ago. I sent it in at the end of October. Sorry if it seemed to be an attack, I have that effect a lot — not always on purpose.



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  • In reply to #24 by Red Dog:
    Sorry if it seemed to be an attack,

    No, no. Nothing of the sort. Just pointing out that maybe there could be a space for the intellectually-curious-and-basically-scientifically-literate-but-not-beyond-our-current-field-of-expertise crowd 🙂



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  • It was mentioned a while ago, that it would be great to have a separate area to go to when wishing to veer off topic. Quite often it’s the ‘off topic ‘ discussions that become the most interesting and it’s a shame that they’re not able to naturally evolve. ( sorry if someone else has mentioned this already, but it don’t feel like re-reading all the comments)



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  • 28
    LaurieB says:

    In reply to #26 by Nitya:

    It was mentioned a while ago, that it would be great to have a separate area to go to when wishing to veer off topic. Quite often it’s the ‘off topic ‘ discussions that become the most interesting and it’s a shame that they’re not able to naturally evolve. ( sorry if someone else has mentioned this…

    I agree. I miss the social aspect of the old site but I do like the on topic discussions on the new one as well. It seems like a separate thread for rambling discussion would be a cool experiment. Mind you, I haven’t forgotten all the times I slumped over my keyboard in the old days, burning mad and shaking my fist at the monitor over certain aggressive ad hom insults that were meant to upset me and certainly hit the mark. I rarely responded well to those flame wars and was sent to the “alternative thread” on a couple of occasions. Things are much more civilized here now. On the old unmoderated site the sexism was intolerable and I despaired of ever attracting a good number of women to participate there. The testosterone was thick enough to cut with a knife. Can’t even count the number of times I was called the C-word back then. I do appreciate the shelter of the mods here. Still, there’s something lost in that too.



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  • In reply to #28 by LaurieB:

    In reply to #26 by Nitya:

    It was mentioned a while ago, that it would be great to have a separate area to go to when wishing to veer off topic. Quite often it’s the ‘off topic ‘ discussions that become the most interesting and it’s a shame that they’re not able to naturally evolve. ( sorry if someo…

    Wow! I had no idea! I’m certainly glad that I wasn’t participating then. I don’t think I would have lasted very long.



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  • 30
    phil rimmer says:

    In reply to #27 by Quine:

    We had an “Off Topic Thread” on the old site, but no one uses it, anymore.

    But it was a schlepp. If something orthogonal popped into my head I wanted to be able to plonk it straight down into a post. If it flew for a bit….Yay! I want to riff with people from where we happen to be. I want to be surprised by other people’s Jazz in a flagging thread.

    Being strictly OT isn’t me. My brain just….well….its too much of a mess. I barely recognise me in the posts. Stuck up sounding, boring, shoes polished….

    (Hope you don’t mind the description of Mega Fauna…)



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  • 31
    Stephen of Wimbledon says:

    In reply to #10 by Malaidas:

    Hi Maladas,

    Do we have facts and figures to back up the claim that people are actually ‘converting’ from theist to atheist through this site.

    That seems pretty unlikely.

    My personal belief based upon experience in other areas, is that generally those who seem to readily convert were those already effectively there anyway and just needed a bit of support.

    Having never seen anyone convert or de-convert I couldn’t say. Certainly it seems logical to agree, as a rule of thumb, that the majority of people who visit this Site for the first time approach it with curiosity and a need for new thoughts. It is very clear, after hanging around here for a few years, that almost everyone who comes here is looking for some kind of support – even if it is only to hear the voices of like-minded people.

    This is why I avoided using the term de-convert in my earlier post. I don’t think this Site will ever be about de-conversion exactly. It is, and can continue to be, a first step for those looking for self-help support and a new way to appraise life without religion. I used the term next level to describe moving away from dogma and faith-based belief for exactly that reason.

    Certainly we don’t need a congregation, and in the UK for instance there is such an apathy towards religion …

    There is a lack of interest, or enthusiasm, around personal involvement. I think you may have been trying to make a different point?

    … in general (outside of the Islamic and other insular communities at least) … you don’t feel isolated

    Actually, I do feel isolated. I feel isolated from non-Christian and non-Jewish faith-based communities because they were non-existent in the Britain I grew up in. This is not for the want of trying. I reach out to Muslims, Buddhists, orthodox Christians, Hindus and others – even Methodists – where I encounter them. The results suggest to me that I’m isolated for a reason not of my making, and yet which transcends inter-religious sectarianism. It seems to me that religious people reserve a special level of tribalism for non-believers; those Muslims are okay, at least they believe in some fantastical nonsensical baloney – it’s just the wrong brand of fantastical nonsensical baloney. But don’t get me started on atheists!

    I also feel isolated because the rational and scientific views are so very rarely heard in Britain’s politics. The Media are all fanatical in support of what Richard Dawkins calls the “I’m an Atheist but .. ” argument. The fact that there are far more, and far worse, places to live doesn’t give me any comfort. Strange that.

    I also feel isolated because, while people are happy to announce their atheism in an anonymous poll, people who see the need for a rational discourse still fall silent in normal conversation.

    So much work still to do.

    Peace.



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  • 32
    Red Dog says:

    On the Open Thread (or off topic) question, I saw at least one person worrying that it would distract from the flow on the home page. That is where I typically go now to see what is new. There isn’t so much traffic that you have to worry about missing much if you don’t check each article you commented on so I agree allowing off topic stuff there might not be a good idea, also because I suspect some people would use an Off Topic space a lot. I always like to think up technical solutions to problems (especially when someone else has to do the work to build them). It seems to me it would be fairly easy to adjust the site so that new comments to the Off Topic area could just be screened out and not shone on the home page.



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  • 33
    Red Dog says:

    In reply to #18 by halucigenia:

    Well, it used to be like this :- The original Richard Dawkins forum

    Would you like that back again.

    I, for one, miss it.

    So I moved on.

    I feel like a stoner whose friend just showed him some primo bud. Woa dude! That looks awesome! I wonder why they changed it, perhaps they wanted a look less academic and more for a general audience. But I agree with you I like that format quite a bit, I came here later never saw that.



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  • 34
    crookedshoes says:

    I miss the old site for some reasons and like the new site for some reasons…..

    If any of you are pining for the “wild wild west” of the old site, go over to PZ’s pharyngula site and hit the Thunderdome thread. It is UNmoderated and pretty awesome. I lurk there because I cannot figure out how to get my “Crookedshoes” moniker to register. Damn technology can be so frustrating.



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  • 35
    Red Dog says:

    In reply to #5 by Nitya:

    Especially when we get the rare theist posting a question they are usually overwhelmed and they don’t stick around.

    That is something I’ve noticed a lot as well. Sometimes they just come posting nonsense about how God loves us all in spite of us being atheists but there have been a few that seemed like they were trying to be reasonable and the responses really do seem like people piling on. As you said those theists never stick around and I think that’s too bad. Not because I think we could be converting thousands of theists, I do think we can make some progress there but not a bunch but I think more diverse discussions in and of themselves would be a good thing.



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  • 36
    OHooligan says:

    In reply to #22 by Red Dog:

    I usually give some thought to what I write and it pisses me off when someone rewrites it.

    You mean

    I usually give some thought to what I write and I become incontinent when someone rewrites it.

    … (from an imagined re-writing moderator)

    Yes, post verbatim or delete, don’t mess with the words. I agree totally.
    Also, I support the suggestion of some kind of good/bad/ugly triage of posts, so you can access the (otherwise censored) ones after clicking past a disclaimer. Though I do get the point that the mods can’t let absolutely everything in, there’d be a pit of noxious garbage like you see elsewhere.

    On the 6-hour live discussion idea: I don’t get the point. I confess I often come in late to items I find interesting, only to find everyone else has moved on, perhaps because it’s now off the front page.

    The FAQ and For Dummies ideas are good too, it would need some effort to marshal the threads already posted into some more searchable form, but I believe that would be richly rewarding.

    Given the current bottleneck on introducing new discussion topics, the mods selections sometimes seem a bit odd. It should be easier I think to start a new topic, perhaps splitting off from an existing one (when a commenter is going OT). Widen the bottleneck somehow anyway. Weren’t comments once threaded? – you could follow an in-reply-to chain, instead of just getting all comments in chronological order. That would make it easy to “bud off” comments into topics of their own. That could be automated using something resembling the “Like” button: vote a comment up far enough and it becomes a topic-heading of its own. Just a thought.

    Certainly, for the “outsiders” visiting for the first time with questions, the first response should be a polite reference to the Usual Answers. Once they get through enough of them, then further discussion might ensue. I don’t know how that suggestion would translate into website design, I think it’s probably not a trivial challenge.

    Finally thanks Red Dog for opening this discussion. I hope the many responses here provide some useful stimulus to the mods and site designers, without whom we wouldn’t have this place at all. To them: thanks guys for all the hard work to date, and may you continue to make the world a better place, one website at a time.



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  • 37
    QuestioningKat says:

    Other) QuestioningKat (#1) is on to something. The Site is simple and clear – if you’re a regular visitor. But what if you’re not sure what you’re looking for? QuestioningKat and I, as regular visitors, are not really qualified to give details – it requires some research.

    My points were mainly regarding structure/organization which ultimately reflects the design and usability of the site. I’m sure that someone probably volunteered their time writing the code etc. It is difficult criticizing the site without knowing how it will get fixed or change. Can someone (mods) please elaborate whether the suggestions could be utilized or not?

    Regarding the old site: If you are talking about the one when I was a deist, I recall it being similar to the smut you’d find on Pz’s site. I prefer a more polite attitude. Perhaps there should be a “discussion” and “debate” section. The debate section would allow someone to post a theory, thesis, or position, etc. and then one to two people would be allowed to join. The debate would follow set guidelines regarding time allowed to respond, word length limitation, etc. – similar to a type of debate you might see in person with added limitations considering it is online. Another section can be used for the peanut gallery (anyone else not in the debate) to make our lovely commentaries.)

    I’ve noticed that most of the comments are made in the News section. Somehow that does not seem in alignment with RDnet’s goals of “Reason.” I’d like to read and see more thought provoking articles by atheists, philosophers, scientists that involved discussion and debate – something that will hang around for a while. I’m not sure if I mentioned this, but long ago when I was a deist, I googled something that lead me to an article on this site written by Dan Dennett. He made comments that I knew to be true which led me to his studies on perception. Finding Dennett led to my deconversion.



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  • In reply to #36 by OHooligan:

    In reply to #22 by Red Dog:

    “On the 6-hour live discussion idea: I don’t get the point. I confess I often come in late to items I find interesting, only to find everyone else has moved on, perhaps because it’s now off the front page.”

    The 6-hour debate worried me too, as those on GMT+10 could be seriously disadvantaged. There is a time in the afternoon (GMT+10) when there is very little activity. I could imagine discussions disappearing before the few from this time zone have a chance to take part. If the time allocation was extended to a 10-12 hour window, it would be more accessible. I really like the concept so I hope it takes off.



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  • I think we have more impact on lurkers than those who come to push religion. In the past we have gone months with some religious believers only to loop through reset after reset. Real dialog does take a long time, and I am giving more weight to Dr. Boghossian recommendations about working more on why believers trust what they believe and less about feeding them facts for which they did not ask, and to which they pay even less attention. Yes, we need to have the links to places where people can find the explanation of the scientific basis of skepticism, and the logical refutations of specious theology, but those need to wait for a prepared mind and only engender resistance when force fed.



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  • In reply to #39 by Quine:

    I think we have more impact on lurkers than those who come to push religion. In the past we have gone months with some religious believers only to loop through reset after reset. Real dialog does take a long time, and I am giving more weight to Dr. Boghossian recommendations about working more on wh…

    I like to imagine that many theists who engage in debate are actually testing the waters because they’re beginning to have doubts of their own. They’re possibly testing their own ideas ( as infuriating as they can be) to see if they hold true. As QuestioningKat #37 said, she was a deist when she first started looking in. Of course there must be those with a mission to pass on the ‘Good News’ and they’re not going to benefit from well honed argument, but as you said, those lurking could be assessing the comments. If we keep encouraging introspection it must pay off in some cases.



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  • 41
    Katy Cordeth says:

    In reply to #6 by aldous:

    In reply to #5 by Nitya:

    when we get the rare theist posting a question they are usually overwhelmed and they don’t stick around. (I can understand the urge to overwhelm them, some of the questio…

    There’s nothing to be done about that. Religion is adhered to out of emotional attachment to slogans which have been embedded in the psyche at an early age. They don’t have the capacity (or the wish) to conduct a rational argument. It takes an advanced degree in ‘apologetics’ to drum up a response. Actually, I suspect some of these drive-by Christians of having no ambitions other than to shout yah-boo and scarper.

    “They don’t have the capacity (or the wish) to conduct a rational argument.” This is both condescending and presumptuous. There are many, many intelligent religious people who are more than capable of engaging in rational discourse, and wish to do so with those whose views conflict with their own. What many atheists don’t seem to be aware of is a little thing called cognitive dissonance. There’s a view that because someone believes some bearded cat died for our sins 2,000 years ago and they have a personal relationship with the creator of the universe, this must infect every part of their intellect. It needn’t.

    Richard is also guilty of such thinking, or effects to think it in order to score cheap points, like when he tweeted that because a Muslim journalist, Medhi Hasan I think, might believe in Al-Burāq, Muhammad’s gravity-defying horsey, this called into question Hasan’s professional competence.

    No doubt many religious folks who show up are just trolling – sometimes this is indisputable: there was a discussion posted a while ago by a new member who employed a cruel avatar as a sick private joke, and the site has A4D to thank for spotting it – but that doesn’t mean all people of faith who drop in are not to be trusted and can be descended on like, like I can’t think of a simile.

    For one thing it makes for a dull site if everyone is in agreement with everyone else. I try my best to stir the hornet’s nest and generate a bit of conflict but I’m only one person, aldous. I’m… only… one… person.

    “Don’t have the capacity…” Criminy, you sound like Boris Johnson.


    In reply to #16 by phil rimmer:

    In reply to #7 by BenS:

    …I would love to see more political discussion. Party politics is surely dead? Solutions arrived at before the true nature of the problem is identified can’t be optimum. So now what do we do? Why isn’t all dogma to be dragged out and thrashed for its temerity?

    There seems to be some unwritten rule that articles about politics must be related to faith. While most of us who gravitated to this site no doubt did so because of our atheism, that doesn’t mean we’re obsessed with it and have no interest in political stories which fall outside religion’s ambit. The site’s tagline states it’s “for reason and science”. That gives it an infinitely large canvas on which to paint.


    What does puzzle me is whenever someone includes a link to their own personal blog, it’s removed. This seems counterproductive to the goal of trying to build some sort of international community. It’s not like Roedy or Q Quine (Quentin Quine would be a great name for a supervillain by the way: The Quisling?) are trying to poach site members away. A simple disclaimer stating RDFRS is in no way affiliated with any user’s personal blog and isn’t responsible for their content would suffice to distance it from any controversial stuff which might appear on them, if that is the reason these links are deleted. I don’t have a personal stake in this, because I don’t blog; as I say, it just puzzles me and seems contrary to the aim of fostering international atheist interconnectedness



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  • 42
    aldous says:

    In reply to #41 by Katy Cordeth:

    There are many, many intelligent religious people who are more than capable of engaging in rational discourse, and wish to do so with those whose views conflict with their own.

    Adherence to religion is not a ‘view’, it’s a commitment. The ‘they’ I was referring to were advocates for their faith and to do that, it’s helpful to switch off the part of the brain that deals with reality. It’s like a lawyer with a client whom the evidence shows to be guilty. He’s got to find some ingenious arguments to go for a ‘not guilty’ verdict. That takes somebody a lot smarter than average. Hence the mention of William Lane Craig and his several advanced degrees in obfuscation and twisted logic.



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  • 43
    Malaidas says:

    In reply to #31 by Stephen of Wimbledon:

    Actually, I do feel isolated. I feel isolated from non-Christian and non-Jewish faith-based communities because they were non-existent in the Britain I grew up in. This is not for the want of trying. I reach out to Muslims, Buddhists, orthodox Christians, Hindus and others – even Methodists – where I encounter them. The results suggest to me that I’m isolated for a reason not of my making, and yet which transcends inter-religious sectarianism. It seems to me that religious people reserve a special level of tribalism for non-believers; those Muslims are okay, at least they believe in some fantastical nonsensical baloney – it’s just the wrong brand of fantastical nonsensical baloney. But don’t get me started on atheists!

    This wasn’t precisely what I meant, but I take your point. What I mean though is that in Britain there is no stigma attached to being an atheist in general. Whilst its true that many people, despite not going to church or following the religious teachings (beyond treat thy neighbour as thyself etc.) still claim to be Christian, perhaps from the perception that a Christian just means being a good person, perhaps because in some way they do believe in a higher power. The fact is that for the most you can openly be an atheists and no-one will bat an eyelid. Unlike what I see reported from the other side of the ‘Pond’. I see that it must be like what being a homosexual must have been like a few decades ago over here and perhaps can still be for many.This is where I see such anonymous sites as this as vital to their psychological well being.

    I too am old enough to remember a time before the advent of the faith based sub cultures, Faith schools in my day were those who attached C of E or Catholic to their name and all this really meant is that god would be a bigger part of the educational experience as a whole, not in the sense that religious tripe would be taught in the same context and in fact higher context than science, in fact I’ve not been paying attention to this and only recently realised that outside of the Islamic community these were even going on and being supported.



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  • 44
    halucigenia says:

    In reply to #33 by Red Dog:

    I feel like a stoner whose friend just showed him some primo bud. Woa dude! That looks awesome! I wonder why they changed it, perhaps they wanted a look less academic and more for a general audience. But I agree with you I like that format quite a bit, I came here later never saw that.

    Yea, that was way back when, when I and the rest of the Cambrian fauna, way before the Megafauna (see what I did there) were in residence. It was a thriving forum for a while.

    I now reside at a thriving forum with similar format instead and just occasionally haunt this one.



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  • 45
    QuestioningKat says:

    In reply to #25 by Lilium:

    In reply to #24 by Red Dog:
    Sorry if it seemed to be an attack,

    No, no. Nothing of the sort. Just pointing out that maybe there could be a space for the intellectually-curious-and-basically-scientifically-literate-but-not-beyond-our-current-field-of-expertise crowd 🙂

    I think this is a good idea. Move the intellectually curious questions out of the conversation section. I think what we all get ticked at is the fly-by-night, drop in theist who poses a question and then leaves to never return. They never stop in and say “Thanks, keep the comments coming. I’m not able to respond on the quality of your posts, but I appreciate you spending time answering my question. I will review what has been said so that I can better absorb the information…..”



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  • 46
    halucigenia says:

    In reply to #41 by Katy Cordeth:

    What many atheists don’t seem to be aware of is a little thing called cognitive dissonance.

    You state that as if it is an admirable trait. I am not sure that you, although you are aware of the trait, understand it yourself.

    Maybe you mean compartmentalisation – which is in part, the ability to shut out cognitive dissonance.

    So, I think that I am in agreement with you that, just because one can believe in absurd religious notions like the ones you example, does not mean that one cannot compartmentalise these and keep them separate from rational thought that assists one to function from day to day in secular society. However, this does not mean that this is an admirable thing to be able to do. Also if the cognitive dissonance does kick in and the compartmentalisation does break down, watch out for a bumpy ride, one’s professional competence may suffer.



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  • 47
    Malaidas says:

    In reply to #41 by Katy Cordeth:

    What many atheists don’t seem to be aware of is a little thing called cognitive dissonance.

    Sure, not everyone allows their religious faith to interfere with the workings of their mind on an every day basis, however in order to believe what they do, they must have the ability to simply shut their rational brain functions down when it comes to religion. You don’t have to thick to be religious, you have to be indoctrinated, which is its own way is similar to brain washing. If you are not encouraged to properly make your own mind up given all of the ‘facts’ and then told that not accepting what you are told will lead you to eternal damnation that is all it is.

    If this is a personal thing, then fine, I disagree at a personal level, but if they chose this… that was their choice, but if they then go to try and convince others of this belief then I think that it is wrong, that is my opinion of course.

    My personal belief though is that everyone should have access to the facts in a fairly presented manner and be able to make thei own minds up. Organised Religion denies this, (not religious belief). You are not properly allowed to question, you have to believe the probably equally ignorant man/woman standing in the pulpit.



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  • 48
    halucigenia says:

    Anyway, back on topic, if these discussions could go to the top of the list with each new post that would be something. A popular discussion could then be seen to be more prominent and last longer on the first page. Or at least they could pop to the top of a sub category list or something.

    Rather embarrassingly though there is a thread that I started over 3 years ago on the other site that I frequent that now has over 330 pages of over 6600 comments that keeps popping back to the top on a particular sub forum there.



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  • 49
    Stephen of Wimbledon says:

    In reply to #43 by Malaidas:

    Hi Malaidas,

    What I mean though is that in Britain there is no stigma attached to being an atheist in general.

    Please forgive my arrogance but that sounds like something of a sweeping statement. It may be true that finding a place to be openly atheist is far easier in Britain, but there are pockets of resistance – mostly to be found in families with one or two True Believers, though there are entire conurbations where I would be very careful indeed: Belfast, Glasgow, Leeds/Bradford, Birmingham/Wolverhampton – to name just a few.

    Even if were true that there is no stigma to being an atheist in some isolated oasis of rational discourse (!), as I said earlier, that gives me no comfort. If this Site is reaching out to people in parts of the World that are worse off – which, the evidence suggests, it is – then I have the motivation to help this Site be better at doing that.

    We need to turn the tide globally and the only practical way to do that is to push were we can – whether we live, whether we’re in a relatively liberal country or not.

    In addition, we’re talking about a site on the World-Wide Web here. The clue is in the name.

    Whilst it’s true that many people, despite not going to church or following the religious teachings (beyond treat thy neighbour as thyself etc.) …

    The Golden Rule may be taught by religions – they may hijack it in a regular basis for their own corrupted use – but it is not a religious rule.

    … still claim to be Christian, perhaps from the perception that a Christian just means being a good person, perhaps because in some way they do believe in a higher power.

    Perhaps because the Media are so good at partisanship that people are prepared to move their identities towards Christianity in order to register their disquiet over the teachings of Islam. Perhaps because those family ties I just discussed programme automated reactions. Perhaps not all priests are kiddie-fiddlers. I humbly suggest that second-guessing other people’s influences isn’t going to help us make this Site more effective.

    From the other side of the ‘Pond’ I see that it must be like what being a homosexual must have been like a few decades ago over here and perhaps can still be for many. This is where I see such anonymous sites as this as vital to their psychological wellbeing.

    No argument here.

    I too am old enough to remember a time before the advent of the faith based sub-cultures, Faith schools in my day were those who attached CofE or Catholic to their name and all this really meant is that god would be a bigger part of the educational experience as a whole, not in the sense that religious tripe would be taught in the same context and in fact higher context than science

    Education is important, but it is not the whole picture. A site like this can only hope to influence education through policy-makers and their electorates (like a single issue party) and we have a lot of policy issues. It’s about priorities.

    Tertiary education is a more nuanced arena where a site like this can do more, but in the end it requires that we take up our political ‘cudgels’ and go to the nearest meeting of the nearest authority and make our voices heard.

    Part of the problem is that modern representative democracies (as they call themselves) are run on agenda set by Media organisations. We can combat this by making people feel empowered to act. The groups that have gone before us – Race & Civil Rights and Gay people – did this by beginning two activities, which are still required in a less emphasised way today:

    • Identity; getting people to come out and to identify as part of the group – along the way recognising that they share the burden of putting the case for social and political change

    • Organising; regularly letting policy makers and media owners aware that they are a group that can and is prepared to move the political landscape as a group

    This Site fails at one important thing. It often tries too hard to pull together a single political vision. Even if it were only US-focused, its current clear priority, this would be a road to failure. Just as Green, Gay Rights and Information Rights advocates rarely mix (politically speaking) sceptics, anti-theists and neuroscientists have little in common. There is an overlap, to be sure, and they do have some long-term goals in common. But otherwise they’re doing and thinking about different things.

    You may say that being Green doesn’t stop you from being a Capitalist – and I wouldn’t argue. But you don’t put your wellies and roll-neck jumper on to go to the local Chamber of Commerce annual dinner.

    What this Site needs is to recognise that people will pursue what motivates and excites them. It needs to stop being afraid of the idea that people who identify rational and scientific approaches as important and who want to concentrate on, say, undermining the influence of the Anti-Vaxers are not not allies they are fellow travellers – and that’s okay. It doesn’t equate to schism.

    Indeed, it seems to me that by being the Site that links all these threads together RD.net could promote itself to become the Idea Exchange for a better society. I stand by my original post: Stronger links with effective and more focused sites would be a step forward in this regard.

    Peace.



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  • 50
    Red Dog says:

    In reply to #44 by halucigenia:

    I now reside at a thriving forum with similar format instead and just occasionally haunt this one.

    What is the new forum? URL?



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  • 51
    Red Dog says:

    In reply to #41 by Katy Cordeth:

    What does puzzle me is whenever someone includes a link to their own personal blog, it’s removed.

    I agree with that, I always disagreed with that policy. (BTW, I did start a blog a long time ago but haven’t kept it up so I have no hidden agenda here) I can understand not wanting spam comments. I see them every once in a while, comments meant to seem relevant that are just spam links designed to get people to click on them and they go to a Singapore Real Estate site or something. I always flag those ASAP and they seem to get removed quickly. But that is totally different than having a link to your blog. We can link to other people’s blogs, as long as it’s not commercial and as long as it’s on topic and someone doesn’t just put comments designed to drive traffic (yes that’s a judgement call but so is a lot of moderation).



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  • 52
    YesUCan says:

    Instead of responding to the discussion topic here item by item, I suggest the following:

    • Due to the language barrier, this site is almost limited to an english speaking community, although recently german version has appeared. An international presence by language selection option may attract much more people to debates.

    • Categorization would be good. For example, science (value/methods/past-future benefits of science and reason, positioning of science and reason compared to anti-science views, science and ethics, education etc.); evolution; religion vs science; religion question (why religion is under question); atheism; deism; agnosticism; secularism; ethics; pseudoscience and fallacies; politics (pro-science and pro religion sections). These and other subjects may break down into these sub sections: 1-existing views (which will develop as discussions reveal new arguments), 2-discussions, 3-news, 4-events. This way we can avoid debating the same arguments repeatedly.

    Im sorry but memes approach looks like management gurus’ business formulas. What should be done is to develop worldwide awareness on the defects and harm of religion, which is the product of human imagination.



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  • 53
    Katy Cordeth says:

    In reply to #46 by halucigenia:

    In reply to #41 by Katy Cordeth:

    What many atheists don’t seem to be aware of is a little thing called cognitive dissonance.

    You state that as if it is an admirable trait. I am not sure that you, although you are aware of the trait, understand it yourself.

    Maybe you mean compartmentalisation…

    You could be right. I never thought of cognitive dissonance as necessarily a bad thing, although a brief look at Wikipedia informs me that the dissonance is of the sort that tends to produce mental discomfort. One definition of dissonance, here, is ‘disagreement or incongruity’, which is more along the lines of what I understood cognitive dissonance to be: just the ability to hold two or more contradictory views. I don’t know. Compartmentalization though seems like more of a willful act, rather than a naturally occurring psychological mechanism.

    I wasn’t claiming it was an admirable trait; just that those of us who don’t follow the tenets of a religion shouldn’t make the mistake of using someone’s faith as a touchstone to judge their intelligence, which is what Richard was doing with his Hasan tweet.



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  • 54
    OHooligan says:

    In reply to #22 by Red Dog:

    You start off talking about rapid prototyping and software engineering and you end up talking about anthropology and theories of cognition.

    And then the boss comes round and chases you all back to work….



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  • 55
    OHooligan says:

    In reply to #25 by Lilium:

    In reply to #24 by Red Dog:
    Sorry if it seemed to be an attack,

    No, no. Nothing of the sort. Just pointing out that maybe there could be a space for the intellectually-curious-and-basically-scientifically-literate-but-not-beyond-our-current-field-of-expertise crowd 🙂

    I agree completely. Collected and collated under a kind of FAQ, or The Usual Answers. Grouped by a few more topics, or sub-topics, than we have at present for the news articles, and perhaps graded in some way – beginner, intermediate, advanced? So that new topics can be placed in context, and first-time posters can easily find similar existing discussions.



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  • 56
    OHooligan says:

    In reply to #28 by LaurieB:

    The testosterone was thick enough to cut with a knife. Can’t even count the number of times I was called the C-word back then.

    Ah, the Good Old Days. Before my time, at any rate. It must have been very upsetting to be called a Christian (when you clearly aren’t).



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  • 57
    OHooligan says:

    In reply to #41 by Katy Cordeth:

    What does puzzle me is whenever someone includes a link to their own personal blog, it’s removed.

    I expect the mods are understandably wary of being only 2 links away from a whole bunch of stuff they’d rather not have associated with this site. Hints on how to google for your blog might pass inspection, as there isn’t a direct link that a web crawler can follow. (“as I’ve written elsewhere in an easily searched monograph about 12 distinctive features of tobacco ash”) – to cite an example borrowed from Sherlock Holmes



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  • 58
    OHooligan says:

    In reply to #48 by halucigenia:

    if these discussions could go to the top of the list with each new post that would be something. A popular discussion could then be seen to be more prominent and last longer on the first page.

    I’m relieved to see I wasn’t the only one to overlook the “sort by latest commented” option on the discussions page. I too was going to ask for that, but then I noticed it was already there, so I edited my post (just in time). I don’t know how to make that option more obvious, perhaps at the top level show both the newest, and the latest commented top 5 or so articles.



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  • 59
    LaurieB says:

    In reply to #56 by OHooligan:

    It must have been very upsetting to be called a Christian (when you clearly aren’t).

    GGGRRRRR!!! The very though of being called that C-word is making my blood boil!!!!!



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  • In reply to #57 by OHooligan:

    In reply to #41 by Katy Cordeth:

    What does puzzle me is whenever someone includes a link to their own personal blog, it’s removed.

    … I’ve written elsewhere …

    Not even that phrase is allowed.



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  • 61
    mmurray says:

    In reply to #60 by Quine:

    In reply to #57 by OHooligan:

    In reply to #41 by Katy Cordeth:

    What does puzzle me is whenever someone includes a link to their own personal blog, it’s removed.

    … I’ve written elsewhere …

    Not even that phrase is allowed.

    Neither apparently are links to someone else’s blog. It would be nice to understand what the problem is but discussion of moderator’s decisions are not allowed either!

    I think the fundamental issue is that the reasons we post comments on this website are not the same as the reasons the people running this website have a comments section. I’m not actually sure what the latter are.

    Two things are worth remembering I think.

    (1) Running a free for all, take no prisoners, be rude to everybody, discuss anything, PZ style website carries risks for the RDF’s charitable status.

    (2) It’s a private website so concepts like “free speech” are tricky to apply.

    Michael



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  • 62
    OHooligan says:

    In reply to #60 by Quine:

    In reply to #57 by OHooligan:

    In reply to #41 by Katy Cordeth:

    What does puzzle me is whenever someone includes a link to their own personal blog, it’s removed.

    … I’ve written elsewhere …

    Not even that phrase is allowed.

    Wow. I didn’t know.



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  • 63
    OHooligan says:

    In reply to #61 by mmurray:

    discussion of moderator’s decisions are not allowed either

    It’s a good job this is a meta-discussion then.



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  • 64
    mmurray says:

    In reply to #63 by OHooligan:

    In reply to #61 by mmurray:

    discussion of moderator’s decisions are not allowed either

    It’s a good job this is a meta-discussion then.

    Just try not to provoke the meta-moderator.

    Michael



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  • 65
    Katy Cordeth says:

    In reply to #61 by mmurray:

    Neither apparently are links to someone else’s blog. It would be nice to understand what the problem is but discussion of moderator’s decisions are not allowed either!

    According to Red Dog in comment #51, it is permissible to link to another user’s blog. I know that you two are veterans of the site, so it’s safe to say this is a gray area. To clear it up once and for all, and in the spirit of experimentation:

    Quine’s Queue;

    Canadian Mind Products

    Neither of these has a connection to me, and I don’t think their inclusion could be considered off-topic, so if this comment is edited or removed we should have a definitive answer.



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  • 66
    Red Dog says:

    In reply to #54 by OHooligan:

    In reply to #22 by Red Dog:

    You start off talking about rapid prototyping and software engineering and you end up talking about anthropology and theories of cognition.

    And then the boss comes round and chases you all back to work….

    That’s why it’s good to be the boss. Although ironically when I was the boss (of course we all report to someone but in one job I had a lot of autonomy, I ran a small lab so we had a space all our own — this wasn’t Xeorx PARC or anything just most of one floor in an office building) I was actually a lot more reluctant to have those kinds of discussions. I didn’t want any Christians or Republicans to feel that I might have a bias against them.



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  • 67
    Malaidas says:

    In reply to #49 by Stephen of Wimbledon:

    Even if were true that there is no stigma to being an atheist in some isolated oasis of rational discourse (!), as I said earlier, that gives me no comfort. If this Site is reaching out to people in parts of the World that are worse off – which, the evidence suggests, it is – then I have the motivation to help this Site be better at doing that.

    This was kind of my point, I do however feel it is general a little easier over here than in the US, where it seems, at least from the perception delivered by the media, that to admit to being an atheist is worse than being say a paedophile. I did also state that this was outside of the religious communities, which represent a very small % of the British population, in fact many areas of Europe ar equally or perhaps even more secular, I can only truly speak for what I see on my own little Island however. Unfortunately the religious minority do still have a loud voice. That in itself drives me to believe like you do, that any site or opportunity like this which can generate a voice for rationalism is a very good thing.

    The Golden Rule may be taught by religions – they may hijack it in a regular basis for their own corrupted use – but it is not a religious rule.

    Agreed, although technically it does come up in the bible, amongst all the other trash morality it preaches. I will agree 100% though that this isn’t the kind of morality that organised religion as a whole preaches.

    Education is important, but it is not the whole picture. A site like this can only hope to influence education through policy-makers and their electorates (like a single issue party) and we have a lot of policy issues. It’s about priorities.

    by education we don’t necessarily mean that taught in schools, we obviously never stop getting educated from our experiences. However I agree that the main focus of any conscientious effort in this respect would be to try and remove ID, creationism etc. from the curricula of schools world wide.

    My point however would be that I would like to see the figures supporting the effect this or other sites have on this. My personal view is that people visiting can only come from two categories. 1: those who have basically made up their mind that their religion is wrong 2: Those who are absolute believers who only come to try and win us over but aren’t going to change their minds. Middle of the Roaders who we would like to reach are probably not going to come to the site in the first place.



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