Proposal to exclude pseudoscientists from posting in Science subforums

Discussion in 'SF Open Government' started by James R, Jan 21, 2015.


What do you think of the proposal in the opening post of this thread?

Poll closed Jan 31, 2015.
  1. It is a good idea and should be implemented.

    32 vote(s)
  2. It is a bad idea and should NOT go ahead.

    2 vote(s)
  3. No opinion / Abstain from voting / Just show me the results of the poll.

    2 vote(s)
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  1. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    Members of sciforums are asked to comment and vote on the following proposal.


    We often get complaints that the Fringe/Pseudoscience areas bleed over into the Science areas of the forums. That is, some members post nonsense, pseudoscience or other fringe ideas in the Science categories. Up to now, we have tried to deal with this by moving inappropriate threads from the Science sections to the Fringe sections (or in extreme cases to the Cesspool). However, this leaves the problem of pseudoscientific posts being posted in threads that are legitimately in the Science sections. Often, members complain that scientific discussions are disrupted and derailed by other members who have a poor or non-existent understanding of what is being discussed, or who simply want to talk about their own pseudoscientific ideas instead.


    We propose system in which members may report other members who post pseudoscience or non-science in the Science subforums. The moderators would investigate such reports to see if they are justified. If they are found to be correct, then the member posting the pseudoscience or nonsense would receive a warning to post in more appropriate subforums.

    If a member received, say, 5 such warnings (for 5 posts or threads), then under this proposal that member would then be forbidden from posting to the Science sections of sciforums for a period of time (e.g. 1 month). If, on being reinstated with full posting privileges, the member continued to post inappropriately, the Science subforum ban would be reinstated for a longer period of time.


    If this proposal is implemented, the aim would be to keep the Science sections for discussions and questions about actual science. This would leave untouched the Fringe and other sections of sciforums. Any members who were excluded from the Science subforums could still view those forums but they would not be able to post in them. Their posting privileges would remain intact for all other subforums. The aim is not to permanently exclude anybody from posting in the science sections. With 5 warnings prior to any exclusion, members would have the opportunity to educate themselves as to what kind of content is acceptable in the Science sections. Moreover, members who were excluded from those forums would have a 1 month opportunity to further observe them to see what is and isn't appropriate there, then to rejoin as members with full privileges.


    This proposal does not aim to stifle discussion of "Alternative theories" or any of the other content that can be found in the Fringe subforums. Nor do we aim to set up a system where moderators arbitrate what is correct science and what is incorrect. We do, however, want to keep material that has no respect for the methods and findings of science out of the Science sections.


    I would appreciate any comments or alternative suggestions regarding this proposal. I ask you to vote on the general concept here. If members vote to go ahead with this plan, then we will sort out the details, taking into account the various suggestions in this thread.

    The poll will be open for 10 days. You may change your vote until the poll closes.
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  3. Aqueous Id flat Earth skeptic Valued Senior Member

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  5. cosmictraveler Be kind to yourself always. Valued Senior Member

    I thought this was being done already, guess I don't hang out much in that forum.
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  7. spidergoat pubic diorama Valued Senior Member

    No, too many rules. If someone is spouting pseudoscience, is it that hard to simply ignore them?
  8. Kittamaru Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Adieu, Sciforums. Valued Senior Member

    Problem - people coming to this site looking for science, and instead finding the science sub-forums full of pseudoscientific woo-woo, aren't likely to stick around.
  9. theorist-constant12345 Banned Banned

    That sounds a system of equality, I totally agree that fringe sections and main sections should be of two types of nature, main being of fact based knowledge and present information and understanding, and fringe sections more of a speculation nature looking to advance on present knowledge or even change present knowledge.

    ''If this proposal is implemented, the aim would be to keep the Science sections for discussions and questions about actual science. This would leave untouched the Fringe and other sections of sciforums. ''

    The problem I see though is the above statement and questions about actual science, because in defining a question about actual science, wording can be used to make a speculation that is a question, so how will you be able to distinguish this?

    Example - Why is gravity not presumed to be the electromagnetism of atoms?

    In this example I am defining a speculation and also asking a question of present knowledge.

    I see the one statement as a question to science, this however would get me one one of the five warnings although it is a question to science?
  10. Randwolf Ignorance killed the cat Valued Senior Member

    This sounds like an excellent system - I'm all for it.

    Case in point:
    theorist-constant12345 - You have nothing to worry about, you will probably be banned from the science subfora inside 24 hours. Toodles...
    Dr_Toad likes this.
  11. cluelusshusbund + Public Dilemma + Valued Senior Member

    Good idea... make it so.!!!
  12. krash661 [MK6] transitioning scifi to reality Valued Senior Member

    i typed this on another topic.

    " a lot of the problems in this topic can be solved just by limiting the postings of the accused in certain boards only.
    also, they can be banned from boards like regular site banning, ban them for days or such. if they continue, make it permanent.
    it's work on other sites. it keeps the traffic/activity and keeps actual science clean and correct.
    just a thought. "

    in my irrelevant opinion, i don't think the
    On the Fringe,Alternative Theories,Parapsychology,UFOs, Ghosts and Monsters,Conspiracies,Pseudoscience
    should be removed. believe it or not, i love a couple of those boards and for me they have interesting stuff. at the same instance, science needs such things.
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2015
  13. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    Spidergoat has a good point (he often does).

    My own observation is that threads aren't disrupted so much by heresy, as by the board's righteous 'defenders of the catechism' who rush in to insult and flame perceived heretics. Then everyone gets defensive and threads turn into emotion-driven back-and-forth ego-contests where everyone is trying to have the last word.

    I expect that if if this process is triggered by participant complaints, it's going to be a small group of combative individuals making most of the complaints.

    Having said that, I voted in favor of it.
  14. krash661 [MK6] transitioning scifi to reality Valued Senior Member

    is this not an intended insult ?
  15. billvon Valued Senior Member

    That would be no problem; the question could be answered in one of the topical science forum. If, however, if was followed by a "well, I don't understand the math, but I am sure that gravity is just electromagnetism, it's just logic and common sense" it could get moved to a pseudoscience area - and the poster would receive a warning.
    James R likes this.
  16. Seattle Valued Senior Member

    I think it's a good idea. I don't think there is a problem (for me anyway) when someone asks a question that turns out to show a lack of knowledge regarding science if once they have their answer they accept it.

    If they continue to post "questions" of this sort then they are actually violating the new proposed policy in my opinion.

    Those questions, for the most part, belong in the "Fringe" section and, for the most part, they know it I think.
  17. Seattle Valued Senior Member

    I also think it would be good to have some way to deal with people like Pachomius in the Religion forum (although he may be a one-trick pony and never return).

    I guess someone like him can just be dealt with using the "report" button and citing trolling which is ultimately what is going on when one starts a thread with a proposal, the thread goes on for 700 posts and he is still only stating the same thing as in his original post.

    The Pachomius troll just goes from site to site to post the same religious message to evangelize (I guess). There is no intent for actual discussion. They should be treated as any other troll.

    The give-away is usually a long lecturing post as their first post.
  18. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Valued Senior Member

    I'm quite certain I could invent an objection if I tried, but compared to other contentious issues around here these circumstances are fairly clear.

    Potential alternatives are, admittedly, unsatisfactory; the least unsatisfactory would be to simply do nothing and let things continue as they do. Other possibilities remain unproposed because the impact on the larger Sciforums community would be severe.

    And this is straightforward; this is something well within our capabilities that doesn't require some of the more complicated disputes this community has witnessed the staff fighting about. Compared to those other issues, this is pretty easy to figure out.

    The symbolism of the New Year is strong; even though none of us are announcing any sort of resolutions to one another, there is one of those natural coincidences taking place where the staff is airing certain concerns and grievances, and often in the context of, "Remind me again, how did we let it get this far out of hand?" And, yes, it's true there are reasons, and some of them sounded perfectly sensible at the time.

    There are plenty of challenges facing this community; this one can be managed fairly easily, and in truth I find the proposal generous to the offenders. (We Americans are more accustomed to "three strikes" than five.)

    But, you know, this isn't some off-the-cuff proposal; it's as functional and appropriate as any I've seen in fifteen years at this site―compared to some of the issues the staff has fought bitterly about, this one has hallmarks of thought and consideration about it. Its greatest potential pitfalls, staff zealotry or bureaucratic infighting, are issues that cannot be specifically predicted, and can only be addressed should they arise.

    Generally speaking, but for a crackpot's vested interest, it seems difficult to justify a vote against.

    Or so says me.
    Dr_Toad likes this.
  19. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Perhaps I have a very low tolerance level for woo-woo, but in addition to warning the miscreant to take his bullshit elsewhere, the crap he already posted needs to be cleaned up. In most cases that means deleting the offending post.
    Why? People who want to discuss bullshit have 99% of the internet as their playground. This tiny little corner is ours!
    Most of us Moderators have a reasonable education in science, even if we ultimately didn't get a degree in it. We should all be familiar with the Scientific Method, and the ability to spot an egregious violation of it.
  20. Bells Staff Member

    I voted in favour of it. As I noted in the backroom, this is a good idea.

    Yes, it will make a bit more work for us, but at least now we have a few more options open to us when confronted with a mountain of reports.

    A few things to note however.. And these are things that do concern me with this proposal....

    This is particularly aimed at individuals who report dozens of posts for no real reason than they either disagree with the assessment of the other poster, or because they view small portions of friendly banter between two individuals as not belonging in a science forum, if such individuals see this as an opportunity to spam more reports, you will probably be considered a drain on the the moderator's time.

    Nor should individuals see this as an opportunity to report posts they disagree with or are in an argument with and one side believes if they report the posts of the other, that individual will be barred from the discussion.

    This is solely to deal with pseudoscience in the science forums. Nothing more. If someone sees what is clearly pseudoscience, then yes, report it and it will be reviewed by the staff.

    One other thing and I think this is something that everyone should keep in mind. If it is clear that someone is simply asking a question or wishes to understand a certain scientific concept, it does not mean that they should be withheld from the science section because of their lack of knowledge. This is particularly the case with new members who may have specific questions or queries. If they are posting absolute 'woo', then yes, it does not belong there. But if the questions are valid, then I do believe they do belong there, even if the questions are basic or the knowledge they seek is what can be considered "basic". That does not mean that people can keep posting the same question over and over again, even though it has been answered, because they do not believe the answer because they are really trolling for "woo woo" reasons.
    Dr_Toad likes this.
  21. paddoboy Valued Senior Member

    A couple of points.....
    I see two sides to this argument....[1] Those that push the position that everyone should have the right to say what they think.
    I would also add to that, that everyone is responsible for what they think also.
    The other point is some often express the undeniable "quality" of being able to think for one's self.
    I would add from observation on this forum, that some in fanatically applying that, then stupidly and totally ignore that which has gone before them...or to quote a Newton comment, "I see as far as I do, because I stand on the shoulders of giants"
    What I'm saying is that some take those two points to the nth degree, and when that nth degree starts conflicting with what we call common sense and logic, then I deem that some action needs to be taken.

    I see the fringe section as sort of graded from [1] alternative, [2] pseudoscience and then finally [3] cesspool. Parapsychology, UFOs and conspiracies, I see as fitting straight away in the alternative section, or grade [1]
    All in all, I agree with what James has proposed, but would like to see the following added.
    [1] Any alternative hypothesis is put in the Alternative hypothesis section [note the change of name from alternative theory to hypothesis] for discussion. Conspiracies or claims of ghosts etc are put for similar discussions in their appropriate section.

    [2]Evidence, observational and/or experimental evidence should be listed for discussions, along with any logical theoretical application in regards to that alternative.
    Likewise proof or theoretical applications that can show the alternative hypothesis to be false is also discussed and must be answered by the original proposer. In fact all questions must be answered by the proposer!

    [3]Discussions re whatever evidence is available and any logical theoretical application and all questions answered, are discussed for one month.

    [4]After that month if James [as a recognised physicists or any other recognised physicists/cosmologist/astronomer] sees the hypothesis as invalid, it is moved to pseudoscience for a month.

    [5] The same discussions will take place. If our professional people still cannot see anything of substance in the hypothesis, it is then moved to the cesspool and locked.

    Realistically speaking we have a number of crazies at this time, who in many instances, have posted their crazy notions in science, then quickly claiming "innocence" when reminded of their faux pas.
    This seems to be their new operating method.
    Some of these new methods of operation are put in a form of a question.
    But in reality, it isn't long before the true agenda of what they have put, is there for all to see.
    If this happens, a penalty should be enforced for dishonesty.

    Anyway for what its worth, them their there are what I am proposing.
    dumbest man on earth likes this.
  22. OnlyMe Valued Senior Member

    I voted in favor, but I would be concerned if it turned out to completely limit speculation and restrict all discussion to mainstream views.

    I follow discussions here and sometimes at Physics Forums. I don't post at Physics Forms any more, mostly because of the aggressive moderation. Something that seems appropriate for a cite intended for students, but perhaps too aggressive for participation by the general lay public.

    I believe limiting discussion to text book mainstream science would be a mistake.
  23. Kittamaru Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Adieu, Sciforums. Valued Senior Member

    Certainly not - alternative views and speculation are most certainly welcome... the problem is when it becomes a "I BELIEVE X SO ITS TRUE" no matter what the data/scientific process says. That's when it's just woo woo

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