Let’s talk about some rules I’m now initiating in this space, which will become more relevant as the blog, so I hope, grows.
According to the Talmud, God allowed the first Temple in Jerusalem to be destroyed by the Babylonians because the Jews at the time engaged in sexual immortality, idol worship, and murder. That temple lays in ruins for one Biblical lifetime — 70 years. The second Temple was destroyed by the Romans and has lain in ruins for 1,939 years, seemingly a reflection of the greater depravity of the Jews who lived in the first century CE. What did their depravity consist of?
Again according to the Talmud, it was a baseless, narrow, interpersonal hatred that pervaded society — a sin equal in gravity to the three cardinal sins that beset Jewish culture centuries earlier. That’s not my statement, it’s the Talmud’s. Powerful, isn’t it? Maybe that hatred was more widespread than the sins characteristic of the first Temple era, hence the longer duration of the current “Roman” exile.
I mention this because the Internet in general and blogs in particular often seem inundated with nastiness. The reason for this is that the Internet is largely unedited whereas as traditional journalistic media have layers of editorial supervision. This is just one reason it’s arguable that we were better off before the Internet was invented.
Which is all by way of introducing some general rules for commenters and for myself.
I’ve noticed in the comments box writers who are thoughtful, civilized and highly critical of what I write — especially when the subject turns to Darwinian evolutionary theory. That’s as it should be. I warmly welcome them. Others commenters descend to viciousness and personal attacks, whether against me or other people. That’s not acceptable and so I am alerting you now that that kind of stuff will be deleted — assuming I catch it.
Yes, it depresses me to have such sentiments permanently recorded in connection with my name. More than that, a fellow blogger here at Beliefnet whom I tremendously respect, Rod Dreher, reminds me of the effect on readers and other commenters created by the atmosphere generated by nasty comments. It makes everyone uncomfortable and generally impedes healthy discussion of ideas.
Discussion of ideas, not of personalities, is what I’m trying to encourage here. Strong, indeed all-out attacks on ideas, including my own, are terrific. The more the better. But I won’t tolerate personal nastiness. And I will hold anonymous commenters to a higher standard than those who use a real name. I hold in particular contempt writers who attack other people while hiding behind a shield of that kind of anonymity which the Internet, among its other lamentable cultural influences, has made us all take for granted.
That’s not to say that communication should never be private. Of course it can and should. If you ever want to communicate with me privately, about anything, you can do so at the email address given on the Discovery Institute website.
Finally, I ask you to hold me to my own standards. An attack on ideas held by a person is not an attack on that person himself. Criticizing a book or an article is not a criticism of the person who wrote it. But if I slip into a genuinely ad hominem mode, and I hope I never do, please let me know.