Exploring Our Matrix 3.5

I want to let blog readers know that Patheos will be upgrading its website – including blogs – tomorrow, Saturday, May 17th.

I won’t be able to post new content between 8am and 8pm. I really hope they have everything working again in time for me to blog about the Doctor Who season finale, “The Name of the Doctor”!

But either way, you should still be able to comment. And so I thought I would post something that did not merely inform you about improvements to the Patheos web site, but also solicited your input about this particular blog’s content.

I know this blog focuses on a wide array of topics, from Biblical scholarship to science fiction to education to the Mandaeans to any number of other things, including sometimes music.

I regularly hear from people who enjoy the diversity, and from people who enjoy the Doctor Who posts but find the discussions of mythicism tedious – or the exact opposite! And so I want to take this opportunity to once again encourage you – particularly the readers who rarely or never comment – to chime in to indicate what you enjoy most and least.

As long as there are people reading who are interested in all the various things I blog about, I will surely continue blogging about them, even if not everyone finds them equally interesting. Presumably skipping over a post on a topic that doesn’t interest you is not an enormous hassle.

But it still helps me to hear from you from time to time about what you enjoy most and least. And so please do leave a comment and let me know! If I suddenly hear from lots of people that something I’ve neglected blogging about lately is what they like most, I will surely try to give it more attention more often, and soon!

  • skinman

    I tend to read your posts relating Science Fiction and skip most others. Not because of a lack of interest, but I simply don’t have the time to read everything.

    I will tell you that I hate that Patheos forces me to click through to read an entire post. It’s not so bad here because the number of posts you put up daily is manageable for me. But I stopped reading the Friendly Atheist because clicking through was a constant source of frustration.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      This feed should let you subscribe with the complete post in the RSS:

      http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/feed

      Let me know if it doesn’t work. I know there’s a feed that doesn’t truncate – I specifically asked for this, and still have it in my feed reader to make sure it shows up OK!

  • Danny Gardner

    Keep everything. I find your posts on YEC, mythicism, and science fiction to be my favorites, but I also appreciate those about music and the random bits of humor.

  • arcseconds

    Less on New Who, and more on Classic Who, please!

  • arcseconds

    OK, slightly more seriously, I don’t tend to read your science fiction posts, not because I’m not interested in science fiction, but because your posts are about shows I’m not too interested in for one reason or another.

    I’ve decided to give New Who a second chance, but I’m quite far behind, and I don’t like spoilers, so I’m not going to be reading your New Who stuff for some time!

    So that’s why I asked for more Classic Who :-)

    (that of course won’t mean I stop carping about New Who.)

    I don’t tend to read the ‘science fiction and religion’ posts either, partly because the ‘science fiction and ____’ formulation has a lot of cringe value for me.

    I like my academic topics straight up, thanks: no mixers, no chasers.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      OK, let me push back on this one a little bit. Why is academic study of religion in science fiction different than studying religion in the Bible, or in American culture today, from an academic perspective?

      • arcseconds

        When you said ‘what do you enjoy and what do you not enjoy’, I didn’t think we were going to be required to conduct a rational defense of our enjoyment or lack thereof!

        The posts I have read of yours don’t usually seem to be cultural studies of the presentation of religion in science fiction(*), but rather launching points for a discussion about a religious or philosophical topic.

        You could just not have the launching point and raise the religious or philosophical question on its own.

        That would be my personal preference. I could tell you more about why I don’t like the science fiction framing so much, but that wasn’t what you asked. Suffice to say I prefer the cartoons.

        Now, you clearly like these shows, and you like discussing, or at least starting the discussion in this way, and it’s your blog, so I certainly don’t think you should give my opinions about this very much weight!

        But you did ask :-)


        (*) now, as I said, I don’t tend to read these posts, so maybe you post cultural analyses of how religion is portrayed in science fiction all the time, and I’ve just continually missed them. As don’t recall reading any, I couldn’t say how much I like them or not.

        Maybe I should pay more attention…

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

          OK, so what you don’t enjoy on this blog is being asked to provide rational justification for your enjoyment or lack thereof… :-)

          But seriously, I’m glad I asked for more information, if only because it led to additional information. Someone enjoys the cartoons! :-)

          • arcseconds

            Well, I’m going to take that gladness for more information as an invitation to continue my carping!

            There are a few reasons why I don’t like science fiction framing for religious or philosophical issue (or even science issues, for that matter).

            Firstly, while presenting things in this way engages people who are into the show in question, it does tend to require familiarity with the show, and often even with the episode in question, to understand the framing, and therefore tends to alienate people who don’t have this familiarity.

            Take your recent post Soufflés and Souls, for example. There’s a considerable amount there that’s pretty cryptic if you haven’t seen the episode, and I imagine it would be quite baffling if you had no familiarity with the show at all. Who or what is the Great Intelligence? (I know, but only because I’ve seen the Troughton episodes).

            Secondly, framing the question in terms of a particular show runs the risk of having the details of the show overshadow or even constrain the discussion. The show will set up the issue in a particular way, which means the discussion will naturally accept that, perhaps to the detriment of other options. Moreover, not infrequently the show will offer its own solution to the issue.

            Thirdly, and I guess you could see this as the extreme case of the second point, an the discussion can quite easily become a discussion about the show rather than about the issue. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, depending on what you’re interested in. Although for me the kinds of show-discussions had around a particular philosophical, religious or scientific point are usually not the most interesting and often I find them kind of frustrating. I tend to prefer, for example, character analysis.

            The cartoons avoid all of these issues, as generally speaking you can see what they’re about immediately, they don’t and most people aren’t tempted to have extended discussions about the plot of a single frame cartoon.

            On a more personal note, at one point I had one too many conversations with passionate fans of a science fiction show trying to plaster over the evident plot holes, scientific illiteracy and other such flaws with enthusiastic but unconstrained post-factum justifications. And philosophical discussions structured around a particular episode of a particular show often remind me of that kind of discussion, if they aren’t exactly that kind of discussion.

            (I think what I find irksome about those discussions is not so much that people have them, but how seriously people take them. There’s usually little to be gained by taking a plot device more than, say, twice as seriously as the writer did when they came up with it. )

            • arcseconds

              oh, yeah, I was going to point out that we had a similar discussion to the one on Soufflés and Souls here, demonstrating one cartoon is worth a 45-minute Doctor Who episode!

              • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                It is certainly a fair point that I sometimes discuss episodes and movies without summarizing them enough so that those who have not seen them may not be able to follow the discussion. I would approach things differently if I were writing an article or book, so perhaps I should rethink that. It is just that blogging about these things tends to be something which I either do quickly or do not do at all. And I always assumed that people who had not watched the episode or movie probably wouldn’t be interested in the discussion!

  • arcseconds

    By the way, are you aware that your ‘Recent Comments’ hitlist seems to be stuck at about 5 days ago?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      Yes, it seems to have something to do with the upgrade. I’ve got people looking into it.

  • arcseconds

    Hmm, it seems like I’m being overly negative here.

    The thing is, I really like everything else!

    My favourite parts are actually the scholastic religion bits, including the Mandaeans and the biblical studies ones.

    I don’t usually comment much on these because I don’t know anything about them!

    The creationist ones are fun. Do you think you’re (we’re?) getting through to anyone, though?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      I hope we are – I certainly have heard from people, sometimes years after we interacted on the blog, who’ve changed their thinking about things since we discussed them.

      • arcseconds

        I would expect this would be the way things go in any cases where we have had some success.

        It’s highly unlikely anyone’s going to capitulate right there in the comment feed.

        The most we can hope for is to sow a few seeds, or perhaps nurture some seeds that are already there.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=592003242 Jerome Herr

    Hi, I really like your posts about mythicism and Bible scholarship in general. I can’t be bothered with that whole sci-fi stuff though. But that’s simply a matter of taste and interests, I guess ;)

  • http://coolingtwilight.com/ Dan Wilkinson

    Keep doing what you’re doing…stay the course! I love the mix of stuff you do!


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