I am frequently seeing a overt but unacknowledged sectarian affiliation.
I think people will willingly acknowledge it, but don't make a habit of explicitly saying so all the time.
Is there any plan to address the question of bias in the answers?
There's currently no such plan (not because a plan would be bad, but there isn't one).
The normal way to create a plan might be to use this meta-site:
- To highlight a perceived problem, and ask for suggested solutions
- To propose a solution, and ask people to discuss it and/or vote on it
I wonder if we need to get people to state their sectarian affiliations in answers?
That might be wordy (if everyone has a 'standard disclaimer' in their every answer) and more to police.
If you are able to answer from the POV of more than one sect, then that's welcome; so to say that sects differ on some subject, your answer could say e.g.,
"From a Theravādin perspective, X, but from a Mahāyānist perspective, Y."
We could vote on having a site policy which says whether people are allowed/expected to edit other people's answer to add a sect: e.g. vote on whether you can edit other people's answers to add, "From a Theravādin perspective," to the beginning of any answer which you think deserves it.
When you say, "we need to", why is that? Is it to help a (perhaps vanishingly small) subset of readers: i.e. readers who know that there are sects, and who know the names of sects, and who care about which answer can be associated with which sect, but who aren't able to recognize for themselves which sect each answer could be categorized as?
On Reddit people have little tags beside their names which are typically used to indicate sectarian affiliation.
IMO we cannot change the web site's functionality. We can only change how we use the web site.
The normal place to put a sectarian affiliation would be in your user profile. You have more-or-less done so already. So have many other users. Other users who haven't are always welcome to (but not required to).
If you're knowledgeable, as you are, then you may recognize a sect/source of an answer. If you're a long-term user of the site you'll also recognize other users and remember some of their previous answers (so when they post a new answer you can try to pigeon-hole it by author, if you want to).
An answer about "Buddhism" from a purely sectarian point of view is actually misleading.
I'm sorry you feel that way. I find it reminiscent of the blind men and the elephant. If I can't see the whole of the Buddhist elephant all at once, I'm grateful to be introduced to different aspects of it.
Perhaps I'm wrong but rather than "actually misleading" I hope that it's "actually better than nothing".
I'd like to point this sequence of comments as an example:
- Could you mention that your answer is based in Theravada Buddhism? Thank you. – Lanka
- @Lanka all my answers are :) – Sankha Kulathantille
- @Sankha. I know:) Just the OP might not know and Andrei wrote in beginning of his post that it was from the Mahayana perspective. So to make it easier for new users we could write what perspective we are based in. Just my opinion. – Lanka
- @Lanka Theravada Buddhists don't really recognize other schools. Mostly historians do that. So it's just Buddhism for us. – Sankha Kulathantille
- And we do recognize other schools, it's all Buddhism for us :) – Andrei Volkov
FWIW one of the usual suggestions is to write another answer yourself. For example if you see a question with a 'sectarian' answer you could add a new answer which begins,
The answer from @X is an orthodox Theravādin perspective; but I would add that, from a Mahāyānist perspective, etc.
... some of the answers are purely Theravādin and given in a definitive tone, as though there could be no other answer. But this is seldom true.
I imagine that for some people, English is a second language. In any case I'm grateful that so many people write so well and I'm averse to criticizing their tone.
I actually see all answers as personal, fallible (which is one reason why the site supports voting), and a (incomplete) summary.