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SCIENCE-FOR-THE-PEOPLE  January 2009

SCIENCE-FOR-THE-PEOPLE January 2009

Subject:

Re: "Why Self-Discipline Is Overrated"by Alfie Kohn (moderating ad-hominem attacks)

From:

herb fox <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Science for the People Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sat, 3 Jan 2009 23:52:43 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (164 lines)

Below is my conception of what a civil, broad, friendly 
Science-for-the-People list should be.

1.   The list should be a free association of like-minded persons with a 
common interest in what is broadly expressed by the slogan "Science for 
the People."  This requires a certain amount of self moderation, respect 
for others, tolerance for differing political perspectives, and an 
awareness that an excessively contentious atmosphere makes the list 
unattractive to those whom we would like to reach.

2.   It is reasonable and necessary that there be provocative list 
postings.  The Science-for-the-People perspective, especially the 
assertion that science is not intrinsically neutral, is provocative.  
Although  provocative ideas in and about science are appropriate, 
deliberate attempts to provoke a response from someone, or some few, 
that one has an animus toward (for whatever reason.) is nether 
appropriate nor ethical and will eventually destroy the usefulness of 
the list.

3.   Continuing to post off-content material because others do or making 
personal attacks because one has been personally attacked are evidence 
of a lack of self-discipline.  Everyone should assume responsibility for 
his or her own posting behavior irrespective of the behavior of others.  
That also enables the moderator to recognize and isolate destructive 
behavior.

4.   Let the list serve be exclusively a forum for exposing the misuse 
of science and for revealing examples of the use of science on behalf of 
people.  Those on the list who have more completely developed and 
inclusive political visions and critiques should feel free to relate the 
critique of the misuse of science to their larger critiques; but a 
critique of capitalism that makes no reference to science does not 
belong on this list.  Neither do critiques of various contemporary 
socialist experiments belong on this list unless they appear in 
reference to scientific activities in those countries. 

5.   The list should also offer opportunity for the non-scientist, or 
scientist, to raise questions and receive measured civil responses.  A 
list consisting of a sequence of highly contentious remarks infused with 
personal insults does not invite such questions.

The origin of the conceptions stated above is the original conception of 
Science for the People.  It was radical in its critique and in its 
actions; but it welcomed all who shared its critique of the contemporary 
practice of science from liberals to communists and anarchists.

herb



Michael Balter wrote:
> By the way, I would assume according to Herb's logic that it is okay 
> to post something "provocative" on this list as long as one does not 
> announce in advance that it is being posted because it is provocative. 
> That is easily done. And once done, then list members have to decide 
> whether posts that some of them consider "provocative" should be 
> banned. Fortunately, that has not been the practice so far.
>
> MB
>
> On Sat, Jan 3, 2009 at 9:53 AM, Michael Balter 
> <[log in to unmask] <mailto:[log in to unmask]>> wrote:
>
>     I think it would be fine to limit posts to science-related issues,
>     as long as that rule were not applied hypocritically. In general
>     on this list, so-called "off topic" posts are only objected to
>     when someone disagrees with their content (thus we see little or
>     no objection to many of Mitchel's off-topic posts about his radio
>     program, etc.) There is also the matter of defining what is off
>     topic and what is not, which not everyone here will agree on.
>
>     I also think that posting something to deliberately provoke list
>     members into thinking differently or considering a different way
>     of looking at things should be just fine. To some people, anything
>     they disagree with is considered a provocation, and that can't
>     possibly be the criterion on a serious list of scholars.
>
>     MB
>
>
>     n Sat, Jan 3, 2009 at 7:36 AM, herb fox <[log in to unmask]
>     <mailto:[log in to unmask]>> wrote:
>
>         Interesting Carrol.  Here i am on vacation far from my
>         library, but still willing to break this down a bit w/out
>         reference. The concerns here are two: the validity of an
>         argument and the civility of the discourse.  What, i believe
>         is inappropriate, given that we are supposed to be rational
>         scientists is to dismiss arguments not by systematically
>         countering the proposition but by (1) not addressing it at all
>         by attacking the arguer, (2) discrediting the arguer by
>         reference to the arguer's stand on other issues or even
>         similar issues, or (3) defaming the arguer.  I'll leave it to
>         you to construct the appropriate syllogisms.  Fallacy #2 is
>         quite common on this list, oftentimes from persons with whose
>         stand i agree.  All 3 however are fallacious in that they do
>         not attempt to refute the argument.  #3 is unambiguously
>         uncivil. #1 is often uncivil.  It is not fallacious to call
>         into question the validity of data from a proven questionable
>         source of data; but that cannot be the basis for resolving a
>         question unless the critic has contrary supportable data.  If
>         i recall correctly countering an argument by calling into
>         question the truthfulness or reliability of the arguer is
>         called "poisoning the well."
>
>         It is unreasonable to ask any moderator to subject every
>         submission to the rigors of proper logic.  It is, however,
>         reasonable to hold submitters to a standard of civility.  That
>         includes restraining those whose submission is entirely a
>         personal attack or who deliberately announce their role to be
>         a provocateur.  That a post of a few weeks ago referred to the
>         manner in which Venezuelan police handled a pair of Human
>         Rights investigators is inappropriate for this list to begin
>         with, not being relevant to Science and its relationship to
>         People, is not that unusual.  But that it was openly described
>         by its submitter as an attempt to provoke a response from
>         those with whom the submitter disagreed is deeply offensive
>         and destructive of the integrity of the list.  It would be
>         wonderful if this list became a forum for addressing the
>         wholesale misuse of science and technology today where we
>         could send persons who are concerned with the issue, and where
>         a reasonably sensitive and non aggressive person would feel
>         comfortable.
>
>         herb
>
>
>
>
>
>     -- 
>     ******************************************
>     Michael Balter
>     Contributing Correspondent, Science
>     Adjunct Professor of Journalism,
>     Boston University
>
>     Email:           [log in to unmask]
>     <mailto:[log in to unmask]>
>
>     Website:       michaelbalter.com <http://michaelbalter.com>
>
>     Balter's Blog: michael-balter.blogspot.com
>     <http://michael-balter.blogspot.com>
>     ******************************************
>
>
>
>
> -- 
> ******************************************
> Michael Balter
> Contributing Correspondent, Science
> Adjunct Professor of Journalism,
> Boston University
>
> Email:           [log in to unmask] 
> <mailto:[log in to unmask]>
>
> Website:       michaelbalter.com <http://michaelbalter.com>
> Balter's Blog: michael-balter.blogspot.com 
> <http://michael-balter.blogspot.com>
> ******************************************

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