Science in Christian Perspectives



The  Nature  Debates

  Editorial Staff*

The Web offers a wide variety of opportunities to discuss science/faith questions. For practical reasons most discussions are unmoderated. The result is often less than ideal. The loss of focus, dominance by a few vocal participants, contributions by those with dubious qualifications, a flood of material, repetition of points by latecomers to the discussion, fiery rhetoric, and uncertain termination points; the reader is left to sort out the wheat from the chaff.

Moderated discussions offer many advantages. An effective moderator can keep the debate focused and insure quality of discussion, independence, breath of view, broad intellectual appeal, brevity, and closure. One recently inaugurated series, Nature debates, sponsored by the British journal, Nature, illustrates this strategy. Beginning 19 November and running through 24 December 1998, Moderator Andrew Smith (Natural History Museum, London) led a discussion on the question, "Is the fossil record adequate?" Smith's two-page introduction laid out the pros and cons on the question and provided basic references. Three differing points of view of similar length followed. Succeeding weeks saw exchanges by an international set of experts and representative e-mail contributions from the audience. Smith concluded the discussion by drawing together the main ideas that had emerged during the six weeks. Publication on the Nature web site: http:// allowed both timely discussion and a permanent record.

Moderated discussion on the ASA web site offers many opportunities for an organization committed to freely discussing questions on which there is disagreement. The editor would be open to proposals for exchanges on the ASA site.