Friday, September 27, 2013

The Internet Is the Wall of a Truck Stop Restroom

"The American Catholic" has a recent blog post by Donald R. McClarey in which he complains that Popular Science has stopped accepting comments on their web site.  "This is too funny.  Science began as a search for truth," writes McClarey, who apparently thinks that many advances in science depended on comments by the general public in response to magazine articles.  McClarey simply cannot accept that the public comments are ill-informed and frequently insulting.  It must be a political cover-up! 

I was aware of and acknowledged the irony when I wrote in response, but I thought it really should be pointed out that, at least in principle, Popular Science had it right.  

Look at the comments underneath a typical Youtube video -- say, a history documentary.  You'll find incendiary and bigoted remarks representing the crazy right, the crazy left, and the just plain crazy crazy.  Or look at the comments left on the web pages for major newspapers.  When Aaron Hernandez was arrested for murder, it was reported in a sober and straightforward way by sources like ESPN, Sports Illustrated, and Yahoo! Sports.  The comments below the stories, though, were full of gleeful anticipation of Hernandez being raped in prison.

We've all seen that kind of writing before -- the walls of a filthy restroom in either a bad part of town or on the interstate.  This is really not the place to go for a serious pursuit of any truth, whether scientific, philosophical, or theological.

I also pointed out that the Holy See does not make it possible for visitors to their web pages to leave comments on, for example, papal encyclicals -- yet the Holy See is very much pursuing truth.  Why does the Holy See cut itself off from such a vast source of "wisdom"?  Because there is too much cumulative experience there to make that mistake.

So how did "The American Catholic", great champion of free speech and the wisdom of blog comments, respond?  They deleted my comment.

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