Thanks, Herb for an excellent concept for the list. I think some of Michael Balter's caveats are well-taken, but let us not stray too far from the emphasis  on science and technology one way or the other. 



On Jan 4, 2009, at 1:59 AM, Michael Balter wrote:

This all sounds reasonable, except for this one sentence:

"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."

This is way too restrictive, and would eliminate many of the useful posts on this list, which provide information and background on what scientists are doing, the social and political context for science, science policy, and the like, often from mainstream sources. It would also be impossible for us to agree on which posts fit these criteria and which don't. List members should be free to post material that they in good faith believe is relevant or of interest, even if it only indirectly relates to the central mission of the list. The more we know about what is going on in the scientific and technological worlds, the better equipped we are to make a difference should we have the opportunity to do so.

I would also add that the list should continue to be a place where vigorous debate can take place, but that personal attacks (rather than political disagreements) should be barred. As the target of the great majority of PERSONAL attacks on this list over the past few years, due primarily to the political positions I take (from George Salzman, Jonathan Campbell, Louis Proyect, Louis Godena, "Michael Butter," et al., who have branded me everything from a "liberal" to a paid tool of the ruling class to a "racist hypocrite" and "Zionist") I would be very happy if they would stop, and I have pledged to our moderator that I will no longer respond in kind as long as they are dealt with. There has been a tendency for our moderator to be silent when a personal attack is made and to only step in when it is responded to in kind, which raises the issue of evenhandedness.


On Sun, Jan 4, 2009 at 5:52 AM, herb fox <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
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.


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.


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.


   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


   --    ******************************************
   Michael Balter
   Contributing Correspondent, Science
   Adjunct Professor of Journalism,
   Boston University

   Email:           [log in to unmask]
   <mailto:[log in to unmask]>

   Website: <>

   Balter's Blog:


Michael Balter
Contributing Correspondent, Science
Adjunct Professor of Journalism,
Boston University

Email:           [log in to unmask] <mailto:[log in to unmask]>

Website: <>
Balter's Blog: <>

Michael Balter
Contributing Correspondent, Science
Adjunct Professor of Journalism,
Boston University

Email:           [log in to unmask]

Balter's Blog: