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BioLogos’s New Comments Policy

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October 25, 2013 Tags: BioLogos
BioLogos’s New Comments Policy

Today's entry was written by Jim Stump. You can read more about what we believe here.

Update: In a move that will probably be compared by some to a flip-flopping politician, we’ve reversed (with some qualification) the change in policy explained below. See our rationale and updated comments policy here.

For a long time I resisted participating in the inevitable march of higher education in the 21st century toward online delivery systems. I like the classroom environment and in-person interaction where I can see the whites of my students’ eyes. But I was eventually compelled to teach a “hybrid” course in which there was some face-to-face classroom teaching, while most of it was online. To my surprise it was a good experience, and although I still prefer the real classroom to the virtual one, I learned there are some benefits to online education. One of the big ones has to do with student participation. Even in a classroom of only 15-20 students, it is easy for a few to monopolize the conversation. Personality types surface pretty quickly in such an environment and professors have to do their best not to let the alpha males and females dominate. Online it’s a different story: students who cowered in the back of the bricks and mortar classroom might come alive online and contribute insightfully when they can take their time and craft their comments for a virtual discussion.

Interestingly, as blogs have worked themselves into the fabric of our society, the same kinds of concerns have surfaced about readers and comments. Does everyone feel comfortable to comment in the wide-open “no holds barred” format that has become standard for blogs? And what do comments contribute to understanding the issues? Popular Science has recently shut down comments on their blog, in part because of a study that shows how comments to an article can actually affect how other readers interpret the article content.

We’ve been talking about how well our current open comments policy on the blog serves the purpose of facilitating discussion within the BioLogos community. So we did our own study, and it turns out that our comments section does very well at facilitating conversation among very few people. We have multiple tens of thousands of unique visitors to our site per month. During the month of September, 93.7% of the comments made on the blog came from .026% of our visitors. That leaves a lot of voices “cowering in the back of the classroom” (in a virtual sense, of course). So we’d like to try something different.

Beginning next week, comments on the blog will typically be closed (there may be some exceptions to that policy for certain posts). Instead, we’ll invite readers to submit their comments and questions to an email address (comments@biologos.org). Then, every so often we’ll ask the author of the blog post to respond to some of the best of these, and we’ll feature them in a “Letters to the Editor” format on the blog. We want to see if this encourages more people to join in the dialogue about origins. Perhaps we’ll revert to the open policy at some future time, but we thought we’d give this a try. For now our Facebook page will remain open for comments. And comments to this post are open for one last time.


Jim Stump is Senior Editor at BioLogos. As such he oversees the development of new content and curates existing content for the website and print materials. Jim has a PhD in philosophy from Boston University and was formerly a philosophy professor and academic administrator. He has authored Science and Christianity: An Introduction to the Issues (Wiley-Blackwell, forthcoming) and co-authored (with Chad Meister) Christian Thought: A Historical Introduction (Routledge, 2010). He has co-edited (with Alan Padgett) The Blackwell Companion to Science and Christianity (Wiley-Blackwell, 2012) and (with Kathryn Applegate) How I Changed My Mind About Evolution (InterVarsity, forthcoming).

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glsi - #83241

October 26th 2013

To James and the BioLogos team,

I wonder if you’d consider restoring all the old comment sections which have been hidden (or as someone above said suppressed) for at least a brief time so that we are able to go back as save some of the best ones?  It’s quite a resource that people have worked countless hours on and has added so much to the breadth and depth to this site.  It seems a shame to lose it. 

The only thing I’ve found unhelpful about the Comment section has been the occasional long-running, tit-for-tat arguments between a few commenters who seem to critique each other’s wordings and phrases almost down to the punctuation marks.  I don’t really find that a problem though because I just ignore them altogether and don’t waste my time reading it.  And “the back of the class” can do the same and simply skip what they choose.  On the other hand, many of the exchanges between Dr. Venema and lots of others willing to spend the time have been absolutely golden.

Hannah C - #83243

October 26th 2013

Even though I rarely comment myself, I am intrested in other people’s comments. Even if you don’t have a comment section, could you have some sort of discussion page?

beaglelady - #83260

October 28th 2013

There is a very interesting new web site out there called EvoltionStory.com

Their goal is to end the Christian holy war on science.  The founder is a science journalist.  

Merv - #83273

October 28th 2013

I hope their platform includes also trying to end the holy war of some of the crusading secularists against all religion!   Sounds interesting—I’ll check it out.

I wonder if we can continue using these ‘grandfathered-in’ posts for some discussion here or if these will get shut down too?

Merv - #83274

October 28th 2013

Ahh yes—the journalist at the site you link is Fred Heeren who has been a writer on this site in several recent essays (e.g. here).

Roger A. Sawtelle - #83287

October 29th 2013

Maybe we should offer some helpful suggestions to people interested in commenting in order to encourage them to get involved, instead of closing off comments.  

paul.bruggink1 - #83288

October 29th 2013

One way to do that would be to ask a couple of questions at the end of the blog.

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