Help Us Figure This One Out

We were really excited to see the comment thread develop on the post for the I.D./Dover/Kansas show, and we’re wondering why this thread in particular took off. So to Potter and Gizmo Logix and manning120 and sharktacos and timkar and everyone else who took part in the great back-and-forth (or anyone who’s just interested) — what do you think made this work? Our own internal theory is that it’s just one of those controversial topics and that there aren’t too many other other places to talk about it. Is this why you kept writing? Or is there another reason? Did you just have more spare time than usual while you were digesting your turkey? How do you think we could make every show thread this active? We’d love to hear your thoughts.


10 thoughts on “Help Us Figure This One Out

  1. Katherine asks why this thread is so active. Here’s my 20 minutes (of writing, not reading-time!) worth:

    Perhaps what makes the topic so volatile is this: science measures the universe, but doesn’t (yet?) have any theory to the perennial question ‘why?’

    Sadly, I suspect this is an apples and oranges problem, because our language – the tool of our cognition – favors metaphors of construction over those of growth. So, those of us thinking back toward the ‘creation’ believe they’re looking for an event, and a deliberate one at that, and our language/cognition habits automatically place this event in the past. Yet what science is likely measuring isn’t a past event – ‘the big bang’ and its ‘residue’– but an ONGOING creation. Meanwhile our language-molded minds don’t want to shake off the harness of our cultural biases to see this.

    Well, I can tell you that it’s hard, but not impossible. And of course it’s much easier to latch onto religious explanations hatched centuries ago when the universe couldn’t be so accurately measured. These religious explanations were forged by the same language patterns we use today, and therefore make internal sense even when all the measurable evidence provided by science shows these explanations to be fatuous.

    So, we debate between fatuous explanations bolstered by centuries of official sanction, and new explanations that require at least some scientific thinking to comprehend. This is because our common thought processes are slanted toward ‘constructionist’ metaphors (to coin a notion) instead of ‘self-generationist’ metaphors (to coin another – and see how inelegant and unnatural that sounds in our language!) to explain the universe.

    Finally, because we’re BORN into being, and because we instinctively comprehend things based on our own life’s lessons, we assume the universe must have a parent – it makes no common sense that it’s SELF-generating. Nor do we feel comfortable with the notion that it’s alive.

    But these aren’t failures of science to explain so much as they are products of our conceptual shortcomings.

  2. speaking as someone who wanted to add his 2 cents, but didn’t have the time–I think one thing that helped was participants willing to take the time to include quotes from the previous posters so as to make their post easier to comprehend. I think autoquoting and nested responses would be a definite boon to the board.

  3. benchcoat: how exactly does autoquoting work and how is it quicker/easier than a copy & paste? Brendan just told me that nested comments are being “costed out” and considered as we speak (er, write) for the new iteration of our blog — a good idea, and lots of other people seem to think so, too.

  4. Katherine: unfortunately, I’m a biologist and can’t help on the technical end of how autoquoting works ( and my memory may be playing tricks on me)–but as an occasional poster on blogs, I find it much easier than cutting and pasting. many blogs (I think Scoop blogs, but others, too), have a “reply” option beneath each post. when clicked, some of them automatically include the previous post in your response window (sometimes with a > on each line of the previous post)–allowing you to cut out what you don’t need and keep what you do of the quoted text. others open a page with just the previous post and the reply box underneath, making cutting and pasting from the previous post very easy.

    the problem with cutting and pasting on the current version of this blog is that the post you want to reply to and quote from may be a long ways up the page–it can make it difficult to get contribute to an ongoing conversation. cutting and pasting the whole post into the window works, but is a bit awkward in comparison to other blogs.

  5. benchcoat: Ah yes – I think I know what you mean. I just forwarded your explanation to Brendan. We’ll check out Scoop to be sure we understand it. Thanks!

  6. True…. Katherine good question. I felt like a magnet was drawing me to the battleground. . I feel threatened. This need not be I say. I am shocked that many don’t know what science is or does. So the issue: how does science coexist with religion, goes very deep metaphysically, existentially. We could do a very interesting program on the why of this conflict through history.

    I did not major in science, my life’s interest is art, the arts. But still I feel that I was thankfully given a good understanding of what science is and respect for it in my education. So I think something is really wrong in our education if so many, including those representing us in our government, even our president, either do not understand what science is, do not have sense to not challenge it with religion or are cynically and immorally using this politically. Do people not understand what separation of church and state means or why this is vital to our well-being as a nation?

    But there are other topics that would do this as well I suppose. If we have posters who are respectful of each other and put forth their ideas thoughtfully and wholeheartedly and who consider the opposing views, and we do, it’s not hard. In other words, the attraction is discussion itself. The rewards: clarifying views for yourself, stretching the mind, consciousness raising.

    But I would have gotten into this one with or without the turkey digesting.

    This thread finally got me over to the thread about “Morality- God-given or Evolved? ” as a refugee. I had been avoiding that; I knew I would fall in.There are some good minds floating around to butt up against. Always a priviledge.

  7. The sad part here is that if you hadn’t pointed out that there was more discussion on the topic, I wouldn’t have seen it; when the show ended I stopped refreshing the page and I didn’t see the ongoing conversation.

  8. I agree that the controversial topic and limited opportunities to talk about it other than Open Source help make the thread work. The recent Thanksgiving vacation period gave more opportunity for contributions, at least from those of us with “regular� work schedules. Additionally, the set-up program you provided was good. Thoughtful and reasonably civilized contributors helped. The posts remaining up for a long time tended to make new ones more thoughtful by allowing time for people to ponder existing and new posts.

    When Google started linking searches for “manning120� to Open Source threads, including the intelligent design thread, that certainly made things more interesting for me. I feel like I won the lottery.

    As to how to make every show thread as active as the intelligent design thread, the foregoing comments suggest a few things. If you could arrange for Internet searches to lead to the threads, that would increase participation. It would help if the radio show was accompanied by a written transcript. The suggestions for autoquoting and nesting sound interesting. I suppose they fit into the category of user friendliness, which is always a good thing. It would help if people’s quotations from previous posts were distinguished from new material more clearly. Perhaps a way could be found for contributors to submit their writing for a technical check for errors in spelling, grammar, etc., before the finished product goes up. My word processor does a lot of this, but not enough, as I’m sadly reminded when re-reading my comments.

  9. It sounds from the description above that nesting threads is what Google does with their email service ( when they group emails of a common subject together in what they call conversations. Gmail is available for new registrants but, I guess, only by invitation. If anyone wants to get such an invitation, I have many of them to give away. What it really amounts to is: I send Google the email address of someone I believe might be interested in Gmail and they email an explanation of the service and a registration form (with a sentence which you are supposed to think came from me saying I thought you might like to try Gmail, which is, of course, from Google.) I don’t know how you can get your email addresses to me via these blogs without making them public to everyone else or unless I do likewise with mine. If Open Source wants to see if they like Google’s nesting, I can send the invitation to Brendan and, if he signs on to Gmail, he can send his own invitations or forward the addresses of interested parties to me to forward to Google.


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