Talk:Sam Harris

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Looks like this page has been vandalized. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talkcontribs) 17:17, 21 September 2006 (UTC)

I've reverted the vandalism. —LrdChaos (talk) 17:26, 21 September 2006 (UTC)

Sourcing and formatting[edit]

I've made a first pass at proper sourcing and formatting of this article. The biggest problems was that all the sources were placed in HTML comments. Explicitly listing the sources of quotes, so that editors can verify them, is a critical requirement of Wikiquote, for the same reason it is for Wikipedia.

A lesser problem was with formatting not following community practice but rather a style decision by a single editor. There are many non-standard formats in use at Wikiquote, and our formatting guidelines are always open to community revision after discussion. But I made a few changes specifically to bring some of the formatting closer to the community practices. For instance, I removed italics from around the featured quotes because we don't use italics to emphasize a quote. The bolding already in use is the usual manner to do this. I also put quote marks around the caption quotes to make it clear they are quotes, but I don't know that we have any guidelines on this situation.

Back on the source issue, I call this a "first pass" because the results leave something to be desired. Since the creator and major contributor to this article, Laurence Boyce, went through considerable effort to organize the quotes by topic, freely mixing the sources, I felt the ref/references tagging system would be a less intrusive way to provide detailed source information on the quotes. Unfortunately, given the (current) 61 quotes from The End of Faith, the resulting string of backlinks in the "References" section is rather absurd and not very useful. (There is a potential copyright problem with this excessive quoting that I won't get into at the moment.) I am open to ideas on alternative source citation methods, but they should include at least one instance of the full publication information for each source.

There is an additional problem in that the edition of The End of Faith is not specified, which makes the page numbering ambiguous. I would ask editors of this article to pick an edition and verify the page numbers for each of the 61 quotes. (I've seen references to three editions so far: the original 2004 hardcover (ISBN 0393035158), a 2004 book club edition (ISBN 0739453793), and a 2005 paperback reprinting (ISBN 0393327655.)

Thank you all for your assistance in this. ~ Jeff Q (talk) 01:37, 16 October 2006 (UTC)

I've just added a quote from Letter to a Christian Nation, whose reference shows how to format full citations. The key elements are the ISBN, which uniquely identifies the publication, and the page count, which allows readers using different editions to interpolate the location of a quote from the page count of their (different) edition. The other information is good for proper citations, but these two pieces are essential. ~ Jeff Q (talk) 01:48, 16 October 2006 (UTC)

Topical organization[edit]

I also have a problem with the topical organization of this article. It's clear that Laurence Boyce did an excellent job collecting these quotes and sorting them into topics, but this organization suffers from two major problems in a work like Wikiquote.

First, the article served as an excellent snapshot to the quotes collected by a single editor at that time. But with his publication of Letter, Harris has show he's not done creating useful quotes. As more books and other publications come out, some with varying emphases, and more readers decide to quote him, the neat collection of 3-6 quotes per topic or sub-topic will become unruly, will have to be expanded, and will probably require reorganization. That's a challenge, but not an insurmountable one, and it's probably worth this effort to keep the quotes collected into topical groups.

The greater problem is that a single editor can make judgment calls on where a quote belongs in this structure, but a committee will have problems doing so, and all Wikimedia articles should be written with the idea that many editors will work on them eventually. We've seen an increasing problem in theme articles with people adding quotes that are only tangentially related to the topic. It can be a surprisingly subjective decision as to whether a quote belongs in a topic, and we've had some serious edit wars over this problem. For example, why is this quote under "Spirituality"?

Mysticism, to be viable, requires explicit instructions, which need suffer no more ambiguity or artifice in their exposition than we find in a manual for operating a lawn mower.

Some deeply "spirtual" people would have objections to "spirituality" being equated with "mysticism". Should we therefore create a new sub-topic covering "Mysticism", even though we have only a single quote for it?

I had a hard time deciding under which existing topic to list the following quote:

Christian missionaries have been known to preach the sinfulness of condom use in villages where no other information about condoms is available. This kind of piety is genocidal.

Since I originally just came to this article to add a few quotes, I cheated by creating a new "Uncategorized" heading and throwing it there. The problem is that topical headings present something of a barrier to addition of quotes, as the editor must subjectively choose a topic in which to insert it, or create a new one that may not fit well into the current structure.

I don't have a quick solution to this issue (or else I would have implemented it and asked forgiveness afterward). But we should think about this challenge as we work on the article. ~ Jeff Q (talk) 02:18, 16 October 2006 (UTC)

Thanks for your input Jeff, and for your kind words. I'm going to haphazardly answer your points down here in one go. Firstly on a minor point, I believe that the page numbering of The End of Faith is the same across all editions as far as the main body of the text is concerned, though the addition of an afterword in the US paperback edition obviously pushes out the end sections. I used the UK hardback originally.
As far as the formatting is concerned, I absolutely do not like the main body of the article cluttered with the sources. Surely they can all be pushed down into the footnotes? Is it vital to retain the page numbering for the book quotes? Also do we have to have a "sourced" section which is just the whole article? I would be happy to work on this.
On the organisation, I would argue that the benefits of structure far outweigh the problems it causes, but I accept the points you raise. I read Letter to a Christian Nation twice and picked out a few quotes, but then decided not to add them. On account of the letter format, I feel that his latest book wasn't as great a mine for quotes. However, there's a nice link to a mixture of quotes and stats here which might be worth linking to at the end.
By the way, in preparing this article I collected a large number of quotes which didn't make it into the final effort, so I would be more than willing to work with other editors in making up new sections or in reorganising sections. Unfortunately, many of the quotes I have collected do come from The End of Faith. At the end of the day, if a favourite quote can't be fitted in anywhere then it's not the end of the world. Should we create a new section for mysticism? Not yet I would say.
Thanks again for your help. Please let me know if you would like me to research quotes. As you may guess, I am very familiar with both the books and the online material which I keep in a file. But I would like to deal with the formatting issue before too long.
Laurence Boyce 15:01, 16 October 2006 (UTC)
I have now removed the inline references. This means that the page numbers have been lost. I would be more than willing to work on putting them back in, either as source comments or in the footnotes if that were possible. Laurence Boyce 17:40, 24 October 2006 (UTC)
Sorry for the year's delay in responding. I've written a comprehensive response about how to incorporate page numbers and still use the repetition-avoiding footnote system in "Brief, specific source lines with detailed footnotes" below. ~ Jeff Q (talk) 07:55, 17 December 2007 (UTC)

Point of reference[edit]

In anticipation of this article being totally destroyed as this one was over here, I'm just going to lay down a marker in the hope that future visitors might still be able to enjoy reading a decent version of the Sam Harris quotations.

Laurence Boyce 16:12, 27 April 2007 (UTC)

Brief, specific source lines with detailed footnotes[edit]

Specific source information, including page numbers, is extremely important, as this makes it reasonably possible for our readers and editors (who are essential our editorial board) to verify quotes whenever they wish. (There is no such thing on Wikiquote as a confirmed "verification", so material must be reasonably verifiable at all times.) For the foreseeable future, Wikiquote's standard source formatting uses a sub-bulleted source line, not Wikipedia's footnoting system, to make each source explicit and tied immediately to each quote. On the other hand, it is certainly wasteful to repeat detailed source information on each line when the only thing that changes is the page number.

I've seen (and used) two related methods have been used to reduce the repetition while retaining the immediate and specific source line. Both use the footnoting system. First, when just a few quotes come from a single work, one can provide a brief description with the page number, then add a footnote for the detailed description. (I'm showing only the source lines and footnotes for clarity and brevity here.)

  • The End of Faith (2004), page 651
1 Harris, Sam (2004). The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason. W.W. Norton & Company. pp. 336 pages. ISBN 0739453793. 

For ease of sorting and verification, the source line needs the author (implicitly Harris for this article), title, publication year, and page number. The full citation goes into the footnote.

With this method, subsequent quotes could arguably be as simple as this:

  • End of Faith, page 1231

This isn't completely safe, as there is no guarantee that someone won't add a quote with the simplified format but pull the quote from a different edition with different pagination. But it's an arguable compromise, and is subject to verification (and fixing) at any time, just like any fully sourced quote.

Notice the novel use of the "pages" parameter of the {{Cite book}} template ("336 pages" instead of "page X"). Wikipedia's use always demands the page of the citation. However, since Wikiquote needs to have individual pages cited just below the quotes, but can benefit from having the common details collected in a single footnote at the bottom, I've "misused" the pages parameter to cite the total page count. In this way, anyone wishing to verify a quote but having a different edition can note the length of their copy and interpolate the approximate page number of the quote they're looking for. Remember that the entire reason for this source information is to make it easy for people to verify quotes.

The second method is for citations of quotes that are already collected by publication. In a section titled "The End of Faith (2004)", one need only cite the page number:

  • Page 651
1 Harris, Sam (2004). The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason, 336 pages, W.W. Norton & Company. ISBN 0739453793.

In summary, I would recommend, in those circumstances where the editors are not happy with the excessive repetition of full source information for each quote, that they use this combination of source line and footnotes to move much of the distracting details to the bottom while retaining the essential verification information next to each quote. ~ Jeff Q (talk) 08:01, 17 December 2007 (UTC)

Thanks Jeff. I don't have much time at the moment, so I'm going to leave you guys to it. Laurence Boyce 06:15, 10 January 2008 (UTC)
Rats, I don't have The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason, only Letters to a Christian Nation. It was on my XMas list but I got Dawkins' The Blind Watchmaker instead. I'll keep looking in on this page and if, by the time I do get around to picking up End of Faith before the page numbers get in there I'll make an effort to add them as I read the book -- Greyed 18:42, 10 January 2008 (UTC)

I'm so so so very very sorry guys!!!!!!!

I added this quote today ... (on wednesday 15 july 2009)

"The problem with faith, is that it really is a conversation stopper. Faith is a declaration of immunity to the powers of conversation. It is a reason, why you do not have to give reasons, for what you believe. (SALT talk 2005)"

And i accidently erased all foot-notes down below this page as i was trying to add the source of the quote ..... So help me 'God', that i'll stay away from this page.  I don't even dare to try to fix it. I'll probably make it worse!

Sorry!!! Erik

The Netherlands.