The Comments “They” Don’t Want You to Read

Science 2.0 is all about open debate involving both scientists and non-scientists. Science 2.0 is a good thing. What does Science 2.0 need to make it go? It needs two things.

1. Anyone is free to provide express their opinion on a topic.
2. The community is free to provide commentary on that opinion.

These sound simple, but in practice they require courage and a thick skin.

If we lack #1, we do not have debate, we have a preacher addressing a congregation. If we lack #2, we simply have a series of soap boxes with no critical evaluation of the expressed opinions. Scientific Blogging, within reason, guarantees #1. The comment moderation policy, however, does not guarantee #2.

Scientific Blogging authors have the right to moderate their own comments.

Comments can also be moderated by the author of the post because
tolerance for vitriol, insults and hysteria are personal taste.
Moderators – Power Hungry Autocrats or Defenders of Science?

Unfortunately, that reasonable sounding policy is subject to abuse. Some authors choose to abuse that right by deleting non-supportive comments. Authors like, Marshall Barnes1, who, after vomiting forth a hilarious rant against my intelligence, parenting, etc., has begun deleting topical, yet critical commentary of his article “Hawking, the Borg, the Necromongers, Rome, the Nazis,
Fringe, FreeJack, Independence Day and the Fallacy of the Drake Equation

Based on the existing responses to criticism, it is clear that Special Civilian Investigator Barnes has a great deal of “tolerance for vitriol, insults and hysteria.”

For the sake of the record, I have preserved my offensive comments below:

Reply to Comment 41715:
Marshall, nothing like several pages of ranting to make a guy feel irrelevant and like a waste of your time. At this point, I’m not concerned with your article. I am worried about you. Bragging about making someone cry (and implying that making a man cry makes this more impressive) does not say “intimidating logician”, it says “misogynistic bully”. But, what I see is someone full of anger and hurt. Someone who needs a hug. What do you say, dude; let’s hug it out.

While not topical to the article, this comment was topical to the comment thread.

And in general response to the article:

Let’s try this again.

First, you are missing the point of Hawking’s statement. His comment is not really about aliens, it is about us. Fortunately, you are in quite extensive company in that regard.

Second, the Drake equation has nothing to do with spacefaring aliens. Demonstrating that it says nothing about the probability of spacefaring aliens is circular, not a key point.

Maybe it is time to rethink how comments are moderated?

1: Marshall promotes various time travel/space warping technologies of his own invention including claims to have made the Santa Maria replica in Columbus, OH invisible, develop a warp drive, a light wall, etc. None of which have been independently verified by credentialed scientists. He is also a strong proponent of the Philadelphia Experiment conspiracy theory.

Author: Josh Witten

One thought on “The Comments “They” Don’t Want You to Read”

  1. You make a good point about #1 and #2 going together. If Scientific Blogging were just Blogger for science blogs, and not a community, it wouldn’t matter how individual authors moderated their comments.

    However, it is a community, with a unified web site, and un-rebutted crap on the site brings down the reputation of everyone. It probably is time to rethink the comments, especially in light of the fact that scientifically trained moderators who can spot and delete crap are generally pressed for time as they 1) try to write their own blogs and 2) keep up with their day jobs doing science.

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