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One difficult question concerning this site is how to deal with fringe positions which are wildly out of keeping with the evidence. Many such positions are firmly held by users and possible users of our site. For example,

  • Aramaic primacy
  • Mythicism (the idea there was no historical Jesus)
  • Young Earth Creationism
  • Mormon anthropology
  • The phantom time hypothesis

On the one hand, I think that in the interests of collaboration between people who disagree, we should be respectful of other people's beliefs even when they are fringe. On the other hand, I do not think that the "show your work" requirements mean that people must justify the mainstream non-fringe point of view every time they want to ask a question. We shouldn't have to write "What did the original Greek say (assuming Greek primacy)" in every question, and we shouldn't have to write "Assuming that the first few chapters of Genesis are not literally true" in order to ask a question under that assumption.

The initial response to this question suggests that the default viewpoint of most active users on this site is YEC, and that questioners holding mainstream scientific viewpoints are viewed with suspicion. I do not think it's possible to have a site that is welcoming to non-evangelicals and reacts with this level of hostility (multiple downvotes and a highly upvoted critical comment from moderator) to questions that assume mainstream scientific knowledge.

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    YEC is not a fringe position, nor is it widely out of keeping with the evidence. It is more accurate to say it is more or less a uniquely Judeo-Christian perspective (though certainly not the only Judeo-Christian perspective.) +1 nonetheless – Jas 3.1 Dec 11 '13 at 23:09
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    For the record, I initially DV'd that question because it restricted answers to take only one perspective, not because of the stance it took. I'd be all for answers proposing YEC, claiming Genesis is a fairy tale, claiming its symbolic, etc. I'd like to see questions welcome all of these perspectives. – Dan Dec 11 '13 at 23:27
  • @Dan: Do you also downvote questions that are restricted to say assuming that Jesus existed? For example this one. (For the record I think that question is a good question, I don't think people should have to phrase questions in ways that bend over backwards to accommodate fringe positions.) – Noah Dec 12 '13 at 2:55
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    @Noah I read that as simply stating what the text says. It seems apparent. "Jesus spoke Aramaic in his final moments [according to this text]. Was this his usual language? If so, why are the rest of his words quoted in Greek?" I think a good answer to this question could challenge the authority of the text on this basis and argue that it records historical falsehoods. They would have to cite good sources like anyone else and it would be harder than merely 'explaining the text' on its own terms, but it could be done and be a good answer. – Dan Dec 12 '13 at 3:11
  • And @Noah I've written about this before. More than once. – Dan Dec 12 '13 at 3:14
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    @Jas3.1. YEC most certainly is a fringe position. No one of any competency actually accepts it. – TRiG Dec 12 '13 at 20:00
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    @TRiG That is a really offensive comment. I appreciate your strong convictions, but that is simply untrue and really out of place here. I am very competent both in science and in hermeneutics and I accept it. There are thousands of others who are experts in their respective fields of science and/or hermeneutics who also accept it. It's probably the majority Christian position, even amongst Christian scholars. – Jas 3.1 Dec 12 '13 at 23:04
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    @TRiG That statement only makes sense in the context of 'competency' having been redefined as 'conformance' whereby anybody not agreeing with a certain set of axioms going into the hunt is defined as 'incompetent'. In any event throwing around ad hominem style accusations like that does nothing constructive and we kindly ask that you help us maintain a respectful tone here no matter how much we disagree. – Caleb Dec 13 '13 at 11:46
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1) Foster a team-oriented atmosphere

Our goal is not to drive away everyone who is "wrong." If we tried to do that on this site we would end up with no one left! It is generally better to offer constructive criticism in a gentle and friendly way than to leave a scathing criticism which might earn you some votes but will certainly leave the OP with a bad taste in their mouth.

2) Different expectations for different users

If the OP is a brand-new user, go easy on them. Encourage them where you can. Offer guidance as needed. Link them to the [about] page. Maybe even edit the question for them and leave an explanatory note. Let them know you're their "friend"... don't let them leave with the impression that you despise their presence here.

If the person posting is an experienced user who should know better, you may have a little more room to speak plainly, but be careful anyway. It is disturbing how many high-rep users have felt "burnt out" by the atmosphere here. It seems like a regular topic in meta and chat -- and it's not just User X or Y... I am continually surprised by the folks that are dropping off (even if they do often return at some point.)

3) Consider carefully the difference between questions and answers

I know there are differing opinions on this one, so I don't want to try to shove the group in my direction, but think through the question of whether questions and answers need to be equally "neutral." It may be, for instance, that as necessarily biased creatures we will be unable to avoid some level of bias in our answers, but perhaps we can work together to craft questions that are palatable to all perspectives.

4) Don't drive away on-topic questions

If the question is "from a Lutheran perspective", it would likely be a better fit on Christianity.SE. If it is "from a traditional Jewish perspective", Mi Yodeya may be the place. But if it is "from an aramaic primacy perspective" where else could a person post such a question? This is not a theology question, it's a text-criticism question. And if that's not on topic, what is? At least the OP is being up-front about what they're looking for.

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  • I was with you until #4 (the part where it contradicts the last sentence in part #3). I'll have to think about that (by scanning for questions that meet the criteria). – Dan Dec 12 '13 at 0:24
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    @Dan To clarify, in Point 3 I meant that a question "from a Christian perspective" may be off-topic, while an answer "from a Christian perspective" may not be. In Point 4 I am saying a question "from a Christian perspective" may be off-topic while a question "from an aramaic primacy perspective" may not be. – Jas 3.1 Dec 12 '13 at 1:05
  • thanks for the clarification. +1 – Dan Dec 12 '13 at 1:53

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