I've changed my mind about supporting the two-post-per-day limit, although I
still support keeping them to a reasonable length and to the point. I've
found the discussions highly interesting, and even the ad hominem attacks
are quite amusing and revealing about the poster. I agree with Michael B.
that "antiscience" as it's been discussed is an attitude that should be
attacked, and some attacks would inevitably seem to be ad hominem, at least
by those holding the antiscience opinions. And all of us have quick access
to the delete key, and most can figure out how to screen out specific
posters if they get too obnoxious or boringly repititious.
Most of us seem to be inclined to respond to individual posts, rather than
read the whole thread before responding. When a flurry of exchanges is in
process, and many outrageous assertions being made, it would be frustrating
to be limited to only two responses. In fact, at times when I've been too
busy to read the list, a flurry has prompted me to look to see what's going
on. Furthermore, one frequently is inclined to congratulate a poster for
having made a good point.
Regarding announcements of local events: They are usually not local for me,
but I still find it interesting to hear about other posters' activities.
----Original Message Follows----
From: Michael Balter <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To: Science for the People Discussion List
<[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: The 9/11 conspiracy virus
Date: Mon, 19 Feb 2007 11:14:20 +0100
Larry, since this is my second and last post of the day, I will use it to
respond briefly to yours.
I am not asking to reserve my right to make personal attacks on people, but
to engage in sharp political responses to folks such as Cohen and Campbell.
This may be interpreted by some as personal attacks, but I don't think they
are. For example, I would like to be able to argue not just the detailed
points about 9/11 conspiracies and HIV and HPV denial, which we have seen
plenty of recently on this list, but about the broader issues that concern
me most: The damage that this kind of flaky nonsense does to the left, its
credibility, and its ability to be persuasive to others. This might even
extend to doing something you probably would not appreciate, which would be
to criticize WBAI and other Pacifica stations that spend a lot of air time
on this kind of nonsense (especially 9/11) and thus limit their audiences to
a fairly small number of true believers in many cases (the audience for
these stations has not grown, and I think the wrong side won in the Pacifica
wars. That is not going to be popular with some people here, such as
yourself, and it may be taken as a personal attack, but it's not.)
So while requests to keep the number of posts down seem reasonable to me,
attempts to censor, inhibit, restrict, or otherwise limit political
expression seem unhealthy and unwise. I never said that Mitchel Cohen or
Jonathan Campbell were ugly or stupid or had bad breath, because I have
never met them. Those would be personal attacks. But do I think their HIV
denialism is a sign of clueless, knee-jerk, stereotypical, infantile leftism
on their part? Yes I do. That is a political statement, or a political
attack if you like. Perfectly legitimate.
On 2/19/07, Larry Romsted <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>I doubt that the two sides in this potential debate will convince each
>other—at least immediately. The people you want to reach are those of us
>who are just reading (the email equivalent of listening quietly because we
>may do not know much).
>So, if you want to reach me, for example, appeals to authority will not
>help because I will probably not know who they are. Likewise, personal
>attacks will not help because I will not get the reasons for the personal
>attack. In that sense a personal attack is like raising your voice in an
>argument to try to convince the other person when they are not convinced by
>your more measured presentation.
>However, I will understand discussion about a critique of the basic
>assumptions behind the referenced paper, especially if I have time to read
>it. A critique of basic assumptions gets at the politics. Politics may be
>in part about polemics, but I will not be convince by polemics that are
>without substance. It is, again, like raising your voice.
>I also know that sometimes words I write that I think are descriptive
>others feel are personal attacks. Tough to express feelings in a written
>messages to a diverse audience.
>Do not know if I am typical of the readers of this list, but that is my
>I have participated in fierce email exchanges and I know how useless they
>are because the rest of the list appears to be using their delete keys.
>they do not participate, one is never quite sure.)
>On 2/19/07 12:36 AM, "Michael Balter" <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>"that all comments regarding this particular discussion (the so-called
>"anti-science left") be restricted to valid critiques of the articles
>(scientific analysis) rather than broad-based attacks on the authors or
>For the reasons I outlined in my post yesterday, I think that this
>particular restriction would basically take the politics out of political
>discussions of science. In the example of 9/11 conspiracy theories, it
>require posters to disprove the theory point by point and could disallow
>comment on the politics and psychology behind these theories; same with HIV
>denialism. Politics is about polemics and analysis, and sometimes broader
>interpretations--some would call them attacks--are necessary.
>On 2/19/07, *Jonathan Campbell* <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> I didn't pay enough attention to that aspect of Jose's proposal; I
>interpreted it as the people who comment would be doing so with the intent
>of critique of the article rather than the person who wrote it. That is,
>comments like "xxx is a known quack" would be disallowed as part of the
>discussion because it does not relate to the article at hand. But now that
>look at the wording more carefully I agree with you, and I would propose,
>substitution, that all comments regarding this particular discussion (the
>so-called "anti-science left") be restricted to valid critiques of the
>articles (scientific analysis) rather than broad-based attacks on the
>authors or their supporters.
>----- Original Message -----
>*From:* George Salzman
><mailto:[log in to unmask]><[log in to unmask]>
>*To:* [log in to unmask]
>*Sent:* Sunday, February 18, 2007 9:01 PM
>*Subject:* Re: The 9/11 conspiracy virus
> I realize you proposed some rules in an attempt to resolve
>disagreements. *A priori* not a bad idea, *if the rules are not rigid*.
>One of the things you wrote is: " I say that we agree up front that the
>people who choose to participate speak for the whole list. Anyone who
>disagrees, say so up front. No second guessers."
> To me that's unacceptable. Only I can speak for myself. And whether
>or not others on the listserv answer you is irrelevant, because no mature
>person can willingly surrender the right to speak for him/herself.
Contributing Correspondent, Science
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