Broadening the conversation

I’ve commented here on the decreasing number of those contributing to discussions at BioLogos – majoring, of course, on the unwillingness of most of their own people to get involved.

Well, now it seems the problem is to be solved by closing comments on most of their articles, following the controversial lead of Popular Science. People are to reply by e-mail, and the “best” will be put in a “Letters to the editor” section.

BioLogos makes reference to the “no holds barred” nature of blog comboxes, which might inhibit people from commenting. Those who know BioLogos will be able to judge for themselves what a bearpit of venom it is compared, say, to Why Evolution is True or Sandwalk. Or even, come to that, Uncommon Descent, which manages to keep a lively and often civilised conversation going between people of hugely disparate positions. The original posters even get involved themselves!

But here, I see from my site statistics that I had 660 visits here yesterday, but no comments. Do you think that’s a clear sign I should close down comments?

Jon Garvey

About Jon Garvey

Training in medicine (which was my career), social psychology and theology. Interests in most things, but especially the science-faith interface. The rest of my time, though, is spent writing, playing and recording music.
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13 Responses to Broadening the conversation

  1. Keep going, Jon!
    If Biologos persist with this new policy I suspect that your site may become more busy. I wonder if they have anything other than anecdotal evidence (if that) to support the suggestion that most blog visitors are too timid to comment. I suspect not.
    Nor can I think that there is much concern about antisocial behaviour – after all, they always have recourse to warning and banning, as do you yourself.
    By the way, it’s a snake pit of venom ๐Ÿ˜‰

  2. Sy Garte sy says:

    Hey Jon.

    I think Peter is right. Get ready to be the new host for good discussions on science and Christianity. I am truly saddened by this decision, and it makes me wonder about the new leadership at Biologos. What are they thinking?

    • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

      Sy, I guess it’s just a contigency thing. Where would the freedom be if everything made sense?

      I’ll put t’kettle on for some tea.

  3. Jon, notwithstanding my first comment, if you are minded* to appeal to a wide audience of interested believers, it might be worth considering whether your blogs could be viewed as elitist and, if so, how this might be avoided, without dumbing down.
    * I do not assume that you are so minded.

    • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

      Ah Peter, there’s a question!

      Of course, on a personal blog, posts can’t be elitist unless one’s writing over one’s own head (not impossible, believe me!).

      However, our complaint over on BioLogos is that those most influential haven’t thought through their positions enough. Biologists aren’t theologically informed, philosophical insights are getting ignored etc. Somebody suggests an in-depth Bible study, or quotes a philosopher to correct things – “Hey, we haven’t time or patience to do that! It’s elitist.” And that attitude pervades the issue that has been intractable in the churches over decades now for that very reason (I’d say a century – but the history shows its a lot worse now).

      Hypothetical example: everybody, say, throws around a quote from St Augustine as a “traditional” authority to support “free creation”. It seems to be in every book and blog post. You chase it up, find it’s been mindlessly recycled from a 3rd hand source, and you spend an hour looking it up in the original on the web. You find it’s been misquoted or wrenched out of context, but reading on you find Augustine has some really cool stuff germane to the argument to offer.

      “Look at this I found in St Augustine!” you cry – and suddenly you’re an elitist. “What does anyone care about old Latin dudes? This is the twenty-first century. Just deliver the sound byte please.”

      The trouble is, some stuff is hard – I struggle with the detail of population genetics papers, but that’s the kind of stuff that makes the detailed case for Neodarwinian mechanisms – a major point at issuse. I imagine many molecular biologists find history a struggle, and pastors may wrestle with Aristotle. Being new to most of these myself, I try to translate it into speech-bubbles, but what can you do?

      Anyway, the rumoured mass migration seems hypothetical – there have been a few extra hits from BioLogos over the weekend, but no new registrations and, as you can see, not a lot of comments.

      But there are plans afoot for at least some changes here too – watch this space over the next week or so.

  4. Merv Bitikofer Merv says:

    Hi, Jon — I hope to take advantage of your hospitality here as well. Not that I will abandon Biologos; even though I disagree with their policy change, the site is too important to let fall by the wayside. Keith B. Miller shared with me that (either ICR or AIG or maybe both –I can’t remember) enjoy the largest share of internet traffic around the topic of creationism with Biologos coming in second. Anti-evolution camps are extremely well organized on the web and so a popular site that entertains other Scriptural options on this topic is not to be dismissed lightly even if it does (frustratingly to you) entertain party lines of its own. But we’ll see how this plays out. I suspect that they may have other reasons (apart from the ‘press-release’ version shared with us) for shutting down comments.

    Anyway, I’m glad you have the kettle on. Let loose with all the primary source material you wish to unleash. Most of us are starved for it, and make too many excuses about why we aren’t delving into such valuable offerings ourselves.

    -Merv

  5. Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

    Hi Merv

    Welcome to the show. I’m planning some changes of my own in the light of recent events, which I hope will make “The Hump” more than just my own place for rumination.

    In the meantime, the new series on Adam will, I hope, promote some helpful discussion.

  6. Merv Bitikofer Merv says:

    Now Biologos has reversed its comments policy, but as far as I’m concerned two hang-outs are better than one. I still plan on being something of a regular at both spots as time allows.

  7. Bilbo says:

    When BioLogos brought in new leadership and asked for suggestions on what direction to go in, I suggested that BioLogos should become a forum for different Christian view points, from Young Earth Creationists, Old Earth Creationists, Intelligent Design proponents, and Evolutionary Creationists. We need a place where disagreements can be discussed by Christians who realize that their unity in Christ is more important.

    Alas, BioLogos hasn’t gone this route. So I see them as just one more tribe of Christians who think that their version of the truth is what is really important. Somehow it’s made me less interested in what they have to say. I rarely visit the site anymore and haven’t posted a comment there in quite some time.

    • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

      Bilbo

      Can’t speak for the others (we are a team now!), but it’s my feeling that the truth encompasses elements from all the present positions – all of those being heavily culture bound, that culture being western and, particularly, American.

      By that I mean that OECs who believe in progressive creation are pretty damn close to those who believe in directed evolution. Both those are going to believe that, at some level, God’s design (in the basic sense of intent) is involved… and when push comes to shove, whether or not one believes that can be established scientifically ought to be a discussion point, not a deal-breaker. The more serious YECs reach that position because they see key theological issue like Scripture reliability, doctrine of sin, etc are at stake.

      In the end those TEs who throw in the towel regarding any realistic biblical inspiration or divine involvement are never going to see eye to eye with YECs who can’t deal with anything other than plain-folks’ literalism – but in the middle there’s a lot more common ground than the culture warriors acknowledge.

  8. Bilbo says:

    I agree. It’s the inability of any of the parties to acknowledge their large common ground that bothers me.

  9. Sy Garte Sy Garte says:

    I also agree with Bilbo’s general approach, and Jon’s answer. There must exist a true correct path that is consistent with the best science (which we don’t have yet) and the correct theological interpretation of Scripture (which we don’t have yet). I think that keeping an open mind is key. I know I keep learning and changing my own dogma, and that’s probably a good thing.

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