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Why do we react differently on political threads than we do on scientific ones?

by klimatos
Tags: manners, politics, science
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klimatos
#1
Sep13-11, 08:36 PM
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I have noticed that political threads get locked or terminated far more frequently than is the case with more scientific ones. Sometimes this is because posters wander far off the OP topic, but more often it appears that incivility simply reaches unacceptable levels.

I assume that most of us posting here are either scientists or have scientific leanings. Why can’t we keep the same level of objectivity and dispassionate dialog in our political postings as we do in our scientific ones. Is there some sort of biological “switch” in our brains that is in one position when we discuss science and another position when we discuss politics?

Getting emotional rarely ever convinces your opponent of the merit of your views. A calm, objective, dispassionate presentation is far more effective. I give you higher education as a case in point. Have you ever experienced a Physics professor ranting at his/her class? (Yes, I suppose that somewhere this has happened. But it is extremely rare.)

Good manners are the lubrication of any society. Let us all try to use good manners and reduce useless friction.
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Evo
#2
Sep13-11, 08:44 PM
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Nice post.

Unfortunately politics are mostly personal beliefs, like religious beliefs, people tend to have very intense feelings regarding their beliefs and an attack on their beliefs is taken as a personal attack.

I'm all for going to a system I see used at other forums that deal with heated topics. All posts are put into moderation and hidden from view until approved.

It's rather hard to have a flame war if your post doesn't show up for 24 hours and the response in another 24 hours. You still get to say your piece, it's just at a much slower pace.
Pengwuino
#3
Sep13-11, 09:04 PM
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Personally, it seems that the scientific threads are more about exchanging information that people know intimately about. However, politics seems more about defending your own subjective beliefs even though your average person on here doesn't have nearly the depth of knowledge in political issues as they do in their scientific beliefs.

Then again, I've noticed certain people on the forum have never posted a single post out of GD/P&WR.... smells like Troll.

Ivan Seeking
#4
Sep13-11, 09:18 PM
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Why do we react differently on political threads than we do on scientific ones?

Politics cannot typically be quantified, or absolute answers determined, and what might seem perfectly reasonable to one person might seem terribly unreasonable to another. But beyond beliefs and perceptions, and unlike scientific discussions which do not typically affect one personally, the outcomes of political events can have profound, immediate, and dramatic effects on our futures.. The laws of physics are what they are, but political events help to shape our lives. So politics isn't just about beliefs, it is about self preservation.

For example, I don't just disagree with people like Bachmann. I find the notion of someone like her as President, or even worse, Palin, terrifying! There would be real consequences, just as there were real consequences when Bush won over Gore. No doubt, but for some hanging chads, history would look quite different.
Evo
#5
Sep13-11, 09:23 PM
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Quote Quote by Pengwuino View Post
Then again, I've noticed certain people on the forum have never posted a single post out of GD/P&WR.... smells like Troll.
That's another thing we are considering, in order to be allowed to post in P&WA, members will first need to have a minimum of 500 posts outside of the lounge. This will ensure that P&WA is a perk for dedicated members.
Hlafordlaes
#6
Sep13-11, 09:23 PM
P: 28
Excellent point, klimatos. IMO, once you have learned and adopted a scientific approach to one domain, and experienced how positive that can be, it seems obvious that reason, evidence and fact (when available) should guide other areas, too. As Evo points out, many topics are areas for personal belief and feelings. Yet one should think these would be the ones we'd all concentrate on most, well aware of the ill effects of cognitive bias.

Perhaps it's too lonely and alienating. Sir Francis Bacon's excellent thoughts on the "idols of the mind" (see his wiki entry) seem to have had the effect of making him, in the eyes of others, excessively circumspect, and his bio reads as one of a lonely and morose individual. I have argued against or about many aspects of patriotism, nationalism, religious belief systems, and cultural mores and values, only to find that rather than join me in dispelling unfortunate myths, a great many friends, colleagues and of course internet posters simply blow up at the very idea of questioning cherished, yet unexamined, positions. In the case of the internet, this is normally on boards dedicated to science, engineering, or debunking fraudulent claims. I've learned the hard way that there is no profession that provides any sort of immunity to prejudice (not to imply that I've unearthed and dealt with all of my own, though I work on it.)

And taking things a step further by shining a honest light on one's self-image can be disastrous when others misunderstand that as a sign of weakness, rather than strength. The greatest myths of all are the ones we tell ourselves, about ourselves.
Evo
#7
Sep13-11, 09:32 PM
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Another problem with online posting is that it is much too easy to misunderstand the intent behind what is said. Without facial expressions, tone of voice, body language, etc... Things are misunderstood, and at the fast rate people post, things can get really off track, or get nasty very quick. Then emotions run high, tempers flare, people take sides in the *fight* that should never have become a fight.

This is a good discussion, thanks klimatos for starting it and excellent input from all.

By the time I wake up tomorrow, I'm sure it will have devolved into arguments over who is more right about how to post.

<sigh>
Hlafordlaes
#8
Sep13-11, 09:36 PM
P: 28
Quote Quote by Ivan Seeking View Post
Politics cannot typically be quantified, or absolute answers determined, and what might seem perfectly reasonable to one person might seem terribly unreasonable to another. But beyond beliefs and perceptions, and unlike scientific discussions which do not typically affect one personally, the outcomes of political events can have profound, immediate, and dramatic effects on our futures.. The laws of physics are what they are, but political events help to shape our lives. So politics isn't just about beliefs, it is about self preservation....
I agree, yet feel there is a bit more to be said about the various issues that arise in political discourse. Many in fact are susceptible to science, such as global warming, etc. And though economics is a profession with wildly differing stances, there are historical facts that are rarely brought to bear in political discussion. Tracking US deficits over the last 30 years, and as a result of which parties in power and policies undertaken, is a case in point. I confess I am quite shocked that many of the healthy measures taken following the Great Depression in terms of banking regulations are so easily and blithely dismissed in the ideologically-driven sound-biting that passes for discourse currently. That said, I am drifting ever more closely to George Carlin's take on politics in his late work.

Oh, and Evo, please don't implement that policy of 500 posts in the science sections you mentioned. Lesser lights such as myself would be quite left out in the cold!
micromass
#9
Sep13-11, 09:38 PM
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Quote Quote by Evo View Post
That's another thing we are considering, in order to be allowed to post in P&WA, members will first need to have a minimum of 500 posts outside of the lounge. This will ensure that P&WA is a perk for dedicated members.
May I suggest this:

- people with 500 posts get to post immediately here
- people without 500 posts first need their post approved by a mentor
Evo
#10
Sep13-11, 09:41 PM
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Quote Quote by Hlafordlaes View Post
Oh, and Evo, please don't implement that policy of 500 posts in the science sections you mentioned. Lesser lights such as myself would be quite left out in the cold!
You can always make a large cash contribution to the "Evo needs money" foundation.

Joking, Greg would frown on it.

How about low post count members have to have a political discussion with Russ or I for 3 hours and if you can keep your cool, you are given probationary access?
Evo
#11
Sep13-11, 09:42 PM
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Quote Quote by micromass View Post
May I suggest this:

- people with 500 posts get to post immediately here
- people without 500 posts first need their post approved by a mentor
Oooh, now that's an idea, I like that!
micromass
#12
Sep13-11, 09:42 PM
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Quote Quote by Evo View Post
How about low post count members have to have a political discussion with Russ or I for 3 hours and if you can keep your cool, you are given probationary access?
Yah, that would be nobody
Evo
#13
Sep13-11, 09:43 PM
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Quote Quote by micromass View Post
Yah, that would be nobody
Shhhh, let them have hope.
Hlafordlaes
#14
Sep13-11, 09:46 PM
P: 28
Some boards require a paid subscription to post in the open discussion areas, but that's not good for students nor old folk on tight budgets. Maybe some sort of rating system that would send unruly posters who are getting out of hand into forced moderation before publication? "Punish" only those who prove irksome?
Evo
#15
Sep13-11, 09:58 PM
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Quote Quote by Hlafordlaes View Post
Some boards require a paid subscription to post in the open discussion areas, but that's not good for students nor old folk on tight budgets. Maybe some sort of rating system that would send unruly posters who are getting out of hand into forced moderation before publication? "Punish" only those who prove irksome?
The thing is that everyone is bound to be irksome to someone at some point. If it's an attitude issue, we usually have at least 2 mentors look at the posts, the problem is that *hot* threads can add another 2 pages in the time it takes to get a 2nd opinion, by that time, practically every member posting in the thread has been irksome. Some times, we will lock pending moderation, or put the whole thread in moderation, which deletes it from view. it takes a lot of the mentor's time to go back through pages of posts, trying to figure out if the member was goaded, or they went off the handle on their own, do we perform thread surgery, give infractions, warnings, etc... then there are the inevitable replies "he started it!", "how dare you censor me!", "you've taken away my first ammendment rights!", the complaints, the finger pointing, the accusations.

P&WA can become a black hole for mentors. We're only human.

What members can do to help is to report any post that is causing trouble, and especially if it is a guideline violation. I would much rather read a few reports then find a thread has derailed and try to figure out what happened on my own. Reported posts are confidential.
Newai
#16
Sep13-11, 10:03 PM
P: 107
I had suggested once that forums build an option to kick out a member from a specific thread so others may continue the discussion. It's strange that one or two immature people can cause everyone to get locked out of the thread.
Evo
#17
Sep13-11, 10:13 PM
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Quote Quote by Newai View Post
I had suggested once that forums build an option to kick out a member from a specific thread so others may continue the discussion. It's strange that one or two immature people can cause everyone to get locked out of the thread.
In those cases the value of the thread is evaluated. Is there really anything more of value to be added or has the thread been repeating the same points? It's surpising how many threads that run into trouble haven't had anything new added in some time. In long threads, people often enter and just repeat something already discussed and resolved 3 pages earlier.

There are many times a single trouble maker or crank will be removed while the thread remains open.
ThomasT
#18
Sep13-11, 10:38 PM
P: 1,414
Quote Quote by klimatos View Post
I have noticed that political threads get locked or terminated far more frequently than is the case with more scientific ones. Sometimes this is because posters wander far off the OP topic, but more often it appears that incivility simply reaches unacceptable levels.

I assume that most of us posting here are either scientists or have scientific leanings. Why can’t we keep the same level of objectivity and dispassionate dialog in our political postings as we do in our scientific ones. Is there some sort of biological “switch” in our brains that is in one position when we discuss science and another position when we discuss politics?

Getting emotional rarely ever convinces your opponent of the merit of your views. A calm, objective, dispassionate presentation is far more effective. I give you higher education as a case in point. Have you ever experienced a Physics professor ranting at his/her class? (Yes, I suppose that somewhere this has happened. But it is extremely rare.)

Good manners are the lubrication of any society. Let us all try to use good manners and reduce useless friction.
I take it that your OP is in response to the turn that the discourse in a recent thread (on whether the US should veto a Palestinian statehood resolution in the UN) took. I didn't see exactly why the thread was deleted or removed for moderation, as it was gone when I returned here tonight. Let me guess, were the Israeli and the Palestinian digressing to name calling and such? Too bad. But it's an understandably highly charged subject. On a positive (personal) note, each time I return to consider things in the ME I learn something.

Anyway, of course I agree with the theme of your OP.


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