Moderating the Various Viewpoints of Individual Expression on Biologos Forum

(Patrick ) #1

Biologos moderators do a great job keeping the conversations civil and polite. But where is the line between keeping things civil and polite and moderating the various viewpoints of individual expression on the Forum? I would like to know others opinions of this.

(Stephen Matheson) #2

I agree that the moderators do an excellent job here. It seems a big and complicated task, one that must at times seem impossible.

For me, moderating a private discussion board should never be called “censorship of free speech.” That phrase is, IMO, meant to refer to the exercise of government power (or its equivalent). The conversation here is not, and should not be, a straightforward free-wheeling First Amendment-fest. BL has particular goals, which it makes (IMO) explicit and clear. (See for example @Christy’s comment on the slavery thread, I can link if needed.)

My only concern about the editing and/or deletion of posts is that it would, in an ideal world, involve a conversation. Weeks ago, one of my posts was edited without explanation or even a note to tell me. I would have done that differently. And yet I can see the size of the task and the amount of noise, and I know that if I had written to the moderator to ask or even to object, I would have gotten a response.

In short: no, I don’t think it’s “censorship of free speech,” nor do I think it’s appropriate to criticize the mods on that score, but yes, it could sometimes be done better so as to show more respect.

(Jon) #3

I don’t see the need for free speech here. I see the need for responsible speech.

(Lynn Munter) #4

Put another way, Biologos is providing you (and all of us) with a platform. It is perfectly reasonable for them to define a purpose for this particular platform: it does not impinge on your ability to say whatever you want aloud to yourself in your own home, or at your city council meeting, or wherever. But it’s not a general-purpose forum, like reddit or Twitter. The purpose is discussion of evolution and creationism within an evangelical Christian perspective and without relying on pseudoscience. (I’m paraphrasing.)

There’s a lot of ground covered by this, so the limits might not be as obvious as responses to a news article, which when well-moderated should be related to the article, or a forum dedicated to a tv show, etc. But the mods’ jobs aren’t just keeping things civil and polite, it’s also keeping them on-topic.

Does that address your question?

(Stephen Matheson) #5

But can moderators make that happen? Some current threads here are almost completely dominated by un-responsible speech. There is a great need for responsible speech on many of these threads, and among evangelicals in general, but do you think that this can be enforced by moderation?


Nobody has the right to force a web site owner what to publish. The owner of the blog gets to make the rules.

(Phil) #7

As a fairly new moderator finding my way in all this, I appreciate your comments and welcome your input. More conversation is certainly in order, and is perhaps my biggest failing. At times dealing with flags that essentially say “I don’t like what he said” is problematic, and I tend not to be too wordy in explanation if I remove the flag, even if I agree.
We want to be a welcoming place for those with questions, especially those who are just lurking about, and it is an ongoing challenge.

(Brad Kramer) #8

A couple of thoughts:

  1. We’ve had almost 1000 posts on the Forum in the last 7 days alone. It is very hard to moderate this volume of conversation with four mods, three of whom are volunteers (and the Forum is only one part of my job at BioLogos, I don’t sit here all day). So sometimes we have to take action without having a long, drawn-out philosophical discussion with the person involved. Apologies if you’ve been on the receiving end of this.

  2. It is a lot of work to keep the Forum civil. Please keep that in mind. And most of that work happens behind the scenes.

  3. I don’t really appreciate the title of this thread, because if you have a problem with something the mods are doing, it takes two clicks to message us and ask. A public griping thread is not helpful, although this thread has not gone that direction (thankfully). If you have suggestions about how we can do our job better, we are always open to them.

  4. The moderators are in discussion about a number of changes and improvements to our rules and procedures. My hope is that we will become more consistent and thoughtful in our approach, and that the Forum can remain a great place to talk about faith and science.


Yep :point_up:

(Jon) #9


I agree.

(Mervin Bitikofer) #10

The kicker on this is that the ‘un-responsible speech’ will be (nearly without fail) the other person’s contributions. Maybe nearly everyone present (including the moderators) may agree who it is who is being unreasonable, but that is still a dangerous assessment to make. Majority rule doesn’t always mean correct rule though we flatter ourselves in thinking it should be so here. Keeping an eye to the history of these things should always keep us cautious, knowing that at one time heliocentric enthusiasts (those wackos!) would have been considered the unreasonable voices by the vast majority of geocentrists (had they had chat rooms in that day)!

I don’t envy the moderators their job here, and echo the gratitude for what they do. They are very liberal with how far they let us range!

(Brad Kramer) #11

Good point. And here’s a good example: We’re constantly being urged to more heavily police “anti-science” statements. However, the very nature of the origins discussion is that everybody has a different (and in some cases, diametrically opposite) definition of “anti-science.” Of course, the Forum unapologetically is run by Evolutionary Creationists, but it still tries to be welcoming to other viewpoints. There’s an extent to which welcoming divergent perspectives requires we tolerate messy conversations where people feel their toes are being stepped on.

(Phil) #12

My feeling too is that you have to allow those viewpoints in order to contrast them. If you just permit a monolithic conversation, it is sort of boring, and unattractive to new input. My frustration is highest at times with the repetition of the same talking points over and over. Editing those posts is very time consuming, especially when they are so unfocused that it is hard to find a point, so they often stand.

(Jay Johnson) #13

This is often more telling than the point the person was attempting to make…


How about this for a guideline? People who repeatedly post the same damned thing over and over shall be limited to 500 posts per day.

(George Brooks) #15

@Patrick, are you suggesting that, say, Catholics should be able to go into a debate forum between Orthodox Jews and Reform Jews, and tell them that they are both wrong?

Now, if a Catholic who opposed Abortion went into a forum sponsored by a 7th Day Adventist group that was Pro-Life … do you think it makes any sense for the Catholic to agree with the Adventists about being Pro-Life, but still insist on telling them that they are right for the Wrong Reasons?

Choosing your battles should be your job, Patrick … because you can’t just swing your broad sword all around and be happy when you hit Anyone…

(Jon) #16

I have no problem with you tolerating a wide range of viewpoints here. I don’t see the need to censor the expression of specific viewpoints. It’s the behavior that needs to be watched. When people are clearly paying absolutely no attention to what is being said by others, when they are repeatedly rehearsing exactly the same arguments in virtually identical words, when they persistently avoid questions (especially whilst demanding others answer theirs), when they consistently attempt to turn the conversation into a discussion of the people with whom they’re conversing instead of a discussion of the issue under consideration, when they repeatedly make claims whilst refusing to provide evidence for them, then they just need to be kicked off the forum. Do it enough times and people will get the point.


But doesn’t repetition make a claim truthier?

(Brad Kramer) #18

We’ve always said the Forum is a place for gracious, productive dialogue. I think we’re beginning to see that this standard needs to be enforced positively, not just negatively. In other words, instead of just removing the worst offenders, we need to hold the whole community more accountable. Contributing here is a privilege, not a right. If someone is not a productive contributor, we’ll address that. If someone is here to listen and contribute thoughtfully and graciously, awesome. If not, this isn’t the right place to hang out. And this is a standard I’d like all of us to aspire to, not just the “sinners” among us. (Yes, that was a Jesus reference.)

(Jon) #19

You got me, I totally forgot about truthiness.

Well said.

(Mervin Bitikofer) #20