On insults-4: The responsibilities of a blog author

In my private discussions with other bloggers about the issue of whether one should ban offensive commenters, the point was made that even if I could live with such comments, other readers may find them so offensive that they leave and never return because they think that by allowing them, the host is condoning such views. The suggestion was also made that men seem to be more comfortable with creating and being in a heated atmosphere and that if the blog host is not careful, the blog may become an exclusively male preserve. This is a serious argument that merits serious consideration. What is the blog host’s responsibility to provide a congenial environment to all who choose to visit? [Read more...]

On insults-2: Heated language on the internet

Once in a while, a furious debate flares up about the proper tone that people should use in exchanges with one another on the internet. This occurs within the skeptic community as well, the most prominent division being between the groups now referred to as accommodationists and the new atheists. The most common charge laid against the latter is that they sometimes use intemperate language in criticizing both religion and the accommodationist position. [Read more...]

The deplorable practice of quote-mining

Scholarly articles tend to follow pretty much a four-step formula.

  1. The author identifies the problem being investigated, explains why it is of interest, and why it is important to find a solution.
  2. The previous solutions to the problem are discussed and reasons are given (in the form of evidence and arguments) as to why those earlier attempts are unsatisfactory.
  3. The author proposes a new solution to the problem and gives reasons (again in the form of evidence and arguments) why the new solution should be accepted.
  4. Other auxiliary problems will usually also be identified and addressed in the course of making the larger case.

In order to make the case that their research is important, [Read more...]

The evolution of language

In a comment to a previous post Jared A suggested that I would benefit, especially in my posts on religion and atheism, from using words more precisely in order to make my points clearer. In particular, he said that the word ‘myths’ usually refer to sacred narratives, while ‘scriptures’ refer to sacred writings. The beliefs in the scriptures, if codified, are referred to as ‘doctrine’ and [Read more...]

Belated anniversary commemoration

What with one thing and another, I forgot to mark the sixth anniversary of this blog, which began on January 26, 2005. I never imagined that it would continue for this long. I estimate that I have written close to two million words. For most of the time, the blog consisted of an op-ed length essay every weekday but last year I started adding some short posts as well.

I am now undertaking a new book project that will take up some time so I may have to cut back on the essays a bit. These take more time because they consist of reasoned arguments that have to be thought through and worded more carefully. But at the same time, those essays are the ones I like the most because I also learn from researching and writing them, so they will not disappear.

Thanks to all the people out there who read and comment.