The Intersection

i-ff8a5d278f4e021285b9ea137f6ea514-tides_conditions_img.jpgAs I watch our traffic ebb and flow, I sometimes wonder whether these waves may reveal something deeper about human nature–acting as a microcosm of our broader society’s attention span. Of course, we know those engaged in the blogosphere are not representative of the general population, but it’s possible we may gain some insight by following the tides…

Yesterday we saw a huge traffic spike. So big in fact, it was the second most viewed 24-hour period in this blog’s history trumped only slightly by our coverage of the tragedy as it unfolded in Bangladesh last November when Cyclone Sidr devastated the region.

It’s interesting to consider we actually accrued comparable attention by suggesting a simple use of decorum as we garnered during Cyclone Sidr when at least 3,300 people lost their lives. Pretty amazing in that context, no?

Comments

  1. #1 David Wilford
    March 25, 2008

    Not to rain on your parade, but your spike has a lot more to do with Nisbet’s latest criticism of PZ Myers than it does with simple decorum.

    I wish people would pay more attention to how a few million dollars more would keep the lights on at JPL so the data from the Mars rovers can keep coming in:

    NASA Cut Means No Roving for Mars Rover

  2. #2 MartinM
    March 25, 2008

    I wonder how much of the recent traffic is coming indirectly from Digg and the like. Pharyngula seems busier than usual, even on posts unrelated to the Expelled business.

  3. #3 scote
    March 25, 2008

    It’s interesting to consider we actually accrued comparable attention by suggesting a simple use of decorum as we garnered during Cyclone Sidr when at least 3,300 people lost their lives. Pretty amazing in that context, no?

    It sure is! It show just how amazingly dumb the post must actually have been to garner more attention than a post about 3,300 people loosing their lives!

    And, no, it wasn’t a post suggesting a simple use of decorum, it was a post about giving more credence to form over substance. Nice attempt at spin control, though, er, I mean “framing.”

  4. #4 Coin
    March 25, 2008

    Yes. You get more attention by trolling than you do by generating legitimate content. Congratulations on figuring this out. Keep this revelation in mind and soon you’ll be PZ Myers.

  5. #5 Ian
    March 25, 2008

    That wasn’t a tide, it was a tsunami!

  6. #6 Scote
    March 25, 2008

    BTW, rather than see the jump in traffic as revealing “something deeper about human nature” of the visitors, you should take the time to consider that the jump in traffic might just say something about **you**.

    The traffic just might have something to do with you posting a series of very silly positions that seem contrary to your usually sound reasoning skills. Your attempt at spin control in this post does nothing to re-affirm your apparently dormant skills, but we can remain hopeful that you may recover sometime in the future.

  7. #7 Philip H.
    March 25, 2008

    Miss Sheril,
    Phew! I got whiplash yesterday reading that post as Red hurtled us down the Pennsylvania turnpick. 219 comments just because you called a blogger out on his language. So sad that the larger questions of decorum; response to Expelled, and the places of religion along science in the U.S. got lost in a whirling dervish of “he said – She Said – they said.” I think you and Chris did the right thing to stay out after a certain point. You would have ended up “wrong” to someone no matter what you said.

    And sadly, your call for decorum and professionalism – too often lacking in many arenas – was the first casualty. While the “F-bomb” may serve as a literary device to get attention, and is a strong way to make a point, it’s use in SO many places renders it . . . almost charicature in a forum like this. I know you, and I know you aren’t a general fan of such things. I also know that you and I seem to be on a loosing quest to take the best of what previous generations taught us and pass it forward.

    The good news is I don’t think you have ” jumped the shark” yet. I do think you may be sitting on the dock polishing your water skis though . . . .

  8. #8 Andy Warhols Ghost
    March 25, 2008

    Sorry Sheril, time to go, your 15 minutes is up.

  9. #9 pagli
    March 25, 2008

    “. . . than you do by generating legitimate content. Congratulations on figuring this out. Keep this revelation in mind and soon you’ll BE PZ Myers.”

    Yeah, who on Earth would want to be PZ Myers?

    If I were, I’d actually have regular SCIENCE on Pharyngula, rather than his occasional quota of scientific posts, interspersed yet smothered by mindless ramblings custom written to drive up traffic.

    Where’s PZ’s last journal submission, anyway?

    No difference to Dawkins’ relation to cutting edge Science, something he hasn’t done since the Thatcher administration.

  10. #10 Linda
    March 25, 2008

    Always good to read Phillip H. He is smart and informed and professional.
    PZ Meyers, Matt Nisbett– ENOUGH!!
    The whole thing is a BIG BORE now.
    Also, not to lose sight of your post Sheril, your point is well taken.

  11. #11 MH
    March 25, 2008

    Scote wrote: “It sure is! It show just how amazingly dumb the post must actually have been to garner more attention than a post about 3,300 people loosing their lives!”

    Precisely.

  12. #12 PZ Myers
    March 25, 2008

    You learned the obvious: that conflict sells. You used the credibility of this blog to criticize a blogger with more traffic than yours (and one having a massive traffic spike at the time, too), and because people take the Intersection seriously, you got a strong response. That is not a surprise.

    But you should also take note of that fact that a large part of the reaction is strongly against you, and it’s not as if you antagonized a mob of creationists (or perhaps more appropriately, Don Imus fans). The net result may be a loss of credibility for this blog, which would be very unfortunate news next time a cyclone comes around.

  13. #13 Linda
    March 25, 2008

    PZ Meyers:
    You obviously have your fan base, although I’m not too sure who you are, or that I would want to read you.
    But I must say that you come across with an over-inflated EGO.
    The Intersection has lost NO credibility, only gained more CLASS in issues and presentation. But, they seem to be a different breed…

  14. #14 Brad Hudson
    March 25, 2008

    Sadly, for me you have jumped the shark. I had hoped that the lesson of yesterday’s reaction would have been pretty obvious: time to drop the issue and move on. For me, an important indication of judgment is knowing when to put the shovel down and stop digging. Instead, today’s post is a rather klutzy attempt to spin yesterday’s post. (Actually, the second such attempt.) When I read your attempt to describe yesterday’s post as merely “suggesting a simple use of decorum”, my reaction was “how stupid does she think I am?”

    I think framing is important, but I’m not seeing anything that gives me any level of confidence that you folks have the judgment required to do a good job of it.

  15. #15 David Wilford
    March 25, 2008

    It’s at times like this I sadly wish we still had Fafblog! with us:

    after the end of the world

    “Albatross or not albatross?” says me.
    “Hmmm… albatross!” says Giblets.
    We reach in the ol cardboard box an pull out a rusty coke can. “Not albatross!” says me.
    “This is stupid!” says Giblets. “Albatross Or Not Albatross is the lamest game ever!”
    “Now to be fair it was a lot more excitin back before we ran outta albatrosses,” says me.
    “Nuts to the albatross! We’ve run out of everything!” says Giblets. “Where’s the water and the oil and those monkeys the Pentagon trained to ride unicycles and smoke cigars!”
    “Well we ran outta mosta that stuff back when the world ended,” says me. “We already traded our last monkey to the zombies for a can a Zom-B-Gone that’s doesn’t even keep away zombies.”
    “The world hasn’t ended!” says Giblets eatin our last piece a world. “It just happens to be going through a naturally-recurring cycle of world and not-world!”
    “I dunno Giblets,” says me. “The scientific consensus on the world seems to be that world-endification is caused by human activity like burnin fossil fuels an deforestation an that time we blew up the world.”
    “The world was a grave and gathering threat!” says Giblets. “There was no peaceful way to contain its mounting arsenal of earthquakes, hurricanes and foreigners.”
    “I always used to figure God would show up at the end a the world an beam me up to Raptureland in his magical funk-powered mothership,” says me. “But that was before he got eaten by Supergod.”
    “Serves him right!” says Giblets. “If God wanted to go to heaven he should’ve accepted Metajesus as his personal lord and savior.”
    “Even then he’d still have to get past the height requirement,” says me. “The sign on the big cardboard clown very clearly read ‘you must be this tall to ride the afterlife’.”
    “Everybody under six thousand feet has to go to Kiddie Heaven,” says Giblets.
    “Also known as Everybody Hell,” says me.
    “Well good riddance!” says Giblets. “What did the world ever do for Giblets? It was old and fat and smelled like smelling!”
    “We’ll make a new world outta bootstraps an elbow grease an the power of imagination!” says me.
    “On the first day Giblets will create man in his own image!” says Giblets. “On the second day man will ignore Giblets to revel in his own Gibletsiosity. On the third day Giblets will smite man for his insolence! On the fourth day Giblets will get all sad and eat a whole thing of cookie dough.”
    “And that’s just the beginning!” says me. “In the new universe nobody’s gettin hassled by The Man’s gravity anymore! If you wanna fall sideways for a while that’s your right as an American.”
    “In the new universe all our most time-consuming tasks will be performed by super-efficient helper robots – including the construction of our super-efficient helper robots!” says Giblets. “They will then build lower-class worker robots to do their work for them, who will outsource their labor to cheap, third-world sweatshop robots, who will fill their factories with legions of trained indentured gerbils, who will ultimately enslave a species of weevil.”
    “But when the weevil revolution comes we’ll be in the clear cause we’ll already be conquered by the robots,” says me.
    “In the new universe war will be replaced by a convenient, family-friendly game of Hungry Hungry Hippos,” says Giblets.
    “First thing you do is you feed both sides’ presidents to a coupla hippos,” says me. “The hippo who eats the most president wins three permanent military bases and an oil contract!”
    “Everybody wins in our bold new tomorrow!” says Giblets.
    “Until we blow it up again next week,” says me.
    “And the wheel of life rolls on,” says Giblets.

  16. #16 scote
    March 25, 2008

    But I must say that you come across with an over-inflated EGO.
    The Intersection has lost NO credibility, only gained more CLASS in issues and presentation. But, they seem to be a different breed…

    Posted by: Linda

    I don’t think that it actually helps a science blog to make such irrational claims, Linda. Your position is untenable and easily falsified. The Intersection has completely lost credibility with me and gained no class, therefore your position is disproved–disproved because you made a silly and insupportably over-broad assertion. With that kind of sloppy thinking it is small wonder The Intersection has lost no credibility with you. On the other hand, one can see from the comments in the relevant thread that The Intersection most certainly has lost credibility, not just with commenters but also with fellow ScienceBloggers, many of whom have gone on the record with their criticism on their own blogs.

    With friends like you, Linda…

  17. #17 Greg Laden
    March 25, 2008

    Me too, Me too! I had a traffic spike as well.

    Most of your hits probably came from Pharyngula with a smaller number from the handful of other sites that pointed to your two posts (that I suspect got most of the hits), the one by Chris and the one by Sheril.

    Had PZ and a few other blogs (myself included) decided to ignore you, you would have been better off. You would have made your points, people who regularly read your blog would have discussed it, and so on.

    Instead, thousands of angry militant PZ-o-philes were directed to your site and came over here and gave you a hard time.

    Now, compare alternatives A and B. A is the imaginary universe in which you were ignored by PZ and B is the actual universe. Anybody who looks at the B version of your blog will see a lot if anger against you, sarcastic remarks, people scolding you, not taking you seriously, whatever. If that is your first introduction to framing, that would not look good. If a reporter is thinking of interviewing you, they may see this first when they check you out on the web and figure, no, let’s skip this guy, nobody like him. (The would still interview Sheril because she’s ten times smarter and almost as cute as Chris).

    Now, this is meant to be an object lesson. I’ll let you fill in the blanks!!!!

    But, in any event, blogger to blogger … kudos on your hit count, it rocks.

    G

  18. #18 John B
    March 25, 2008

    Good grief, such high opinions of ourselves. Count me among the former readership of the Intersection.

  19. #19 Jon Winsor
    March 25, 2008

    I think even PZ admits he has an ego. I mean, that’s his stock in trade. That’s why he was comfortable enough to say what he did in the first place.

    As for all the comments, surprise!!! Myers commenters came over here and talked trash for him. Do we read those as ratifying “Fuck You” as a completely hunky-dory way for a tenured professor to share his thoughts with us? Apparently, judging from the complete absence of any apparent reflection in his comment above.

  20. #20 Coin
    March 25, 2008

    The traffic just might have something to do with you posting a series of very silly positions that seem contrary to your usually sound reasoning skills.

    Although, keep in mind, because of the traffic spike directed at these particular posts, there are going to be quite a lot of people whose first, last for a while, or only ever contact with this blog is going to be these flamewar posts. In other words, Sheril, how you conduct yourself right now is going to make more of a lasting impact for your reputation than your normal or serious posts– I don’t have any idea what Intersection’s normal traffic load is like but there are very possibly right now more people who are familiar with you for your last two posts than for, as Scote put it, your “usually sound reasoning skills”. Think about how you have handled the opportunity to reach all the people who have comprised this traffic spike. Think about what if anything your last two posts have realistically accomplished. Maybe something else to consider…

  21. #21 Carl
    March 25, 2008

    THANK YOU SHERIL AND CHRIS,

    As a professor navigating through real academia, off the blogs, we stand by and support you completely. WE ARE PROUD OF YOU!

    Stay strong! Science needs you. The voices of hope and reason.

  22. #22 scote
    March 25, 2008

    As a professor navigating through real academia, off the blogs, we stand by and support you completely.

    Hmm…must be the Royal “We.”

    Stay strong! Science needs you. The voices of hope and reason.

    Or, reflexive stubbornness in the face of criticism or, perhaps, total cognitive dissonance.

    Science only needs you if you are going to be rational and honest. This post and the addendum to the previous post to backpedal the previous post (“when I said ‘p,’ that meant ‘not p’, and shame on all of you for misinterpreting me”) are not examples of either.

  23. #23 poke
    March 25, 2008

    What I really resent is this idea that getting a traffic spike from Pharyngula is some sort of intrusion. The frequent assertions that PZ attracts “a certain kind of reader” is beyond offensive. One of the reasons Pharyngula has such a large readership in the first place is that PZ doesn’t exhibit this bizarre open hostility to new readers that seems to taint some science blogs.

    You just got a huge traffic spike and you decided to inform every new potential reader that they’re petty. Chris neatly dismissed all the recent criticism by haughtily asserting that PZ “sets the tone” for his readers. The supposedly polite criticisms of you, Chris and Nisbet usually start with some snarky remark that PZ “serves his purpose” or that his “tone” is effective in generating traffic and then you have the tenacity to wonder why you get irate comments from the very community you just dismissed.

    A large part of the Scienceblogs readership, of your readership, are the very same people you frequently dismiss as being the sort of rabble that’s only interested in the alleged boisterousness and controversy of PZ Myers. Many of the same people who followed Sidr closely are the ones criticizing you now. The diverse group of atheists, agnostics and, yes, even moderate Christians that make up the phantom PZ dittohead militant atheist attack dog squadron that was criticizing you have remarkably diverse interests. When we’re not busy clapping our fins together so PZ will throw us another morsel of controversy or say a naughty word we’re interested in all sorts of socially relevant things.

    In short: traffic is people too.

  24. #24 Marco
    March 25, 2008

    I didn’t know about The Intersection before yesterday. One nice thing about it is that it made me discover another blog: Not Rocket Science which I find very good.

    Otherwise, thanks but no thanks. Don’t care about that framing and decorum bullshit.

  25. #25 dm
    March 25, 2008

    The net result may be a loss of credibility for this blog, which would be very unfortunate news next time a cyclone comes around.

    Hey, that definitely sounds like a threat. PZ’s power is growing (or at least he thinks it is), and he’s pushing his weight around now. Truth, civility, honesty – it all means nothing. Might is right! But then again, we all knew that, didn’t we? Darwin, among many others, said it long ago. PZ’s intellectual mentor is Machiavelli, not Jefferson.

  26. #26 anon
    March 25, 2008

    “PZ’s intellectual mentor is Machiavelli, not Jefferson.”

    I couldn’t have put it better myself. dm is completely right. For those who need definition:

    “The pejorative term Machiavellian as it is used today (or anti-Machiavellism as it was used from the sixteenth century) is thus a misnomer, as it describes one who deceives and manipulates others for gain; whether the gain is personal or not is of no relevance, only that any actions taken are only important insofar as they affect the results. It fails to include some of the more moderating themes found in Machiavelli’s works and the name is now associated with the extreme viewpoint.”

    Sounds like PZ Myers to me.

  27. #27 Luna_the_cat
    March 25, 2008

    Scote, you are in danger of making me think that you have dropped your “r”.

    I understand what Sheril meant. Her position has appeared consistent. She is now commenting on the fact that a flamefest gets as much traffic as a real tragedy, and what that says about human character…and hey, I imagine I’m part of that, too. I’m rueful, but it’s a true and fair comment about what people are like.

    I support continuing calls for civility and intelligence. It would be nice to have a corner of the internet that genuinely is better than most.

  28. #29 H.H.
    March 25, 2008

    Hey, that definitely sounds like a threat.

    Really? Because it sounded to me like he felt that outcome would be a shame.

    PZ’s power is growing (or at least he thinks it is), and he’s pushing his weight around now. Truth, civility, honesty – it all means nothing. Might is right! But then again, we all knew that, didn’t we? Darwin, among many others, said it long ago. PZ’s intellectual mentor is Machiavelli, not Jefferson.

    People gravitate to PZ precisely because he has shown tremendous honesty and integrity. Where do you get off calling him a liar? What has he lied about? Your hyperbolic insults can only a result of your own inadequacies and jealousy. Stop projecting. And you are deluded enough to think that you have taken the high road? Truly pathetic.

  29. #30 truth
    March 25, 2008

    Your hyperbolic insults can only a result of your own inadequacies and jealousy. Stop projecting. And you are deluded enough to think that you have taken the high road? Truly pathetic.

    F**king moron.

  30. #31 Greg Laden
    March 25, 2008

    Luna, what are you doing over here on this blog? Go back to my blog where you belong.

    Bad kitty.

  31. #32 H.H.
    March 25, 2008

    truth, insults are fine if you can back them up. I see you can’t.

  32. #33 PZ Myers
    March 25, 2008

    The net result may be a loss of credibility for this blog, which would be very unfortunate news next time a cyclone comes around.

    Hey, that definitely sounds like a threat. PZ’s power is growing (or at least he thinks it is), and he’s pushing his weight around now. Truth, civility, honesty – it all means nothing. Might is right! But then again, we all knew that, didn’t we? Darwin, among many others, said it long ago. PZ’s intellectual mentor is Machiavelli, not Jefferson.

    Project much? No, that’s not a threat at all. I know that next time there is a major weather event, this blog is the first place I’ll turn to, and it’s also a place I’ll link to. I know what good stuff Sheril and Chris can do.

    But seriously, look at the comments this traffic spike brought in. There are a lot of people who are disappointed by the shallow attitude expressed in these few posts, and they aren’t going to be as likely to follow future links here…unless it’s to jump down someone’s throat.

  33. #34 scote
    March 25, 2008

    “PZ’s intellectual mentor is Machiavelli, not Jefferson.”

    I couldn’t have put it better myself. dm is completely right. For those who need definition:

    How sad for you. (Add my rhetorical device to the mal-adaptive behavior count for the thread.) Fortunately I can put it better. Here’s a quote from Jefferson, himself, that shows PZ is firmly in good company:

    Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions. Ideas must be distinct before reason can act upon them; and no man ever had a distinct idea of the trinity. It is the mere Abracadabra of the mountebanks calling themselves the priests of Jesus.
    Thomas Jefferson, letter to Francis Adrian Van der Kemp, July 30, 1816

  34. #35 Tom Foss
    March 25, 2008

    Linda:

    The Intersection has lost NO credibility, only gained more CLASS in issues and presentation. But, they seem to be a different breed…

    Speak for yourself. I wasn’t an avid reader of “The Intersection” before yesterday, but I never had much of a problem with the Framing side of the debate. Thanks to yesterday’s call for decorum immature puritanical outrage that ignored substance in favor of some unwritten, unspoken, utterly arbitrary rules of politisse, I have changed my position. Instead of viewing this blog as a potentially interesting source of discussion on how to communicate science, I’m forced to see that this side has nothing to offer above common sense except a myopic view that prizes short-term political gain and flowery language over other valid goals and solid argumentative substance. That the proprietors are now trying to spin this as a win for their side, continuing to grasp at the “no publicity is bad publicity” canard, shrieks of desperation. I had no opinion on The Intersection before, and I looked to Mooney with admiration and respect. I have a much stronger impression now, and it’s certainly not favorable.

    Bottom line: how much is a brief traffic spike worth when you have to make yourself look like an utter fool to get it?

  35. #36 Cal Harth
    March 25, 2008

    Sheril,
    Please stand your ground. You were not wrong to object to objective language in the blogosphere. Internet trolls are brave enough to say objectionable things on the web. I doubt that most would be brave enough to say such stuff face-to-face.
    I use that kind of objectionable language at times face-to-face when I consider it appropriate. Then I get ready to duck a punch.
    I am amazed at how you and Chris have been attacked in this whole episode. I’d call your detracters names but it is pointless.
    Cal

  36. #37 Jon Winsor
    March 25, 2008

    Since when is concern for how fellow human beings treat each other and conduct discourse “shallow”?

  37. #38 dm
    March 25, 2008

    But seriously, look at the comments this traffic spike brought in. There are a lot of people who are disappointed by the shallow attitude expressed in these few posts, and they aren’t going to be as likely to follow future links here

    Thanks PZ, you’ve made my point for me. Truth is defined by those who have the most friends to back them up. We’re back in high school again. It’s not Sheril’s criticism that was shallow, just your knee-jerk reaction and inability to muster a thoughtful reply (which btw, some other bloggers did manage).

  38. #39 Joe
    March 25, 2008

    This post strikes me as either incredibly naive or disturbingly disingenuous. Surely you know the reason for yesterday’s spike in visitors was because of a spat with PZ. He was getting a huge spike from the Expelled story and Matt and Chris’s criticism of him. If readers wanted to see why PZ was angry at the framing guys they had to come here, there was no other source to turn to.

    News about Sidr, on the other hand, was available from many other sources (a quick Lexis-Nexis search gives a 1000 hits for Sidr). The Intersection was a secondary source of information and neither Sheril or Chris are experts on any aspect of hurricane behavior or natural disasters.

    Your appeal to emotion rather than reason, and your blatant attempt to shame your readers has totally turned me off from reading this blog.

  39. #40 Norman Doering
    March 25, 2008

    PZ Myers wrote:

    But seriously, look at the comments this traffic spike brought in. There are a lot of people who are disappointed by the shallow attitude expressed in these few posts, and they aren’t going to be as likely to follow future links here…unless it’s to jump down someone’s throat.

    I agree with a lot of that, but what worries me is all that “jumping down someone’s throat” that happened leaves a bad impression on the occasional lurker, lurkers who might not know how bogus ID is.

    It’s not PZ’s fault, it’s mine and everyone else who just had to express something. The tone of some of the posts didn’t seem called for. And there were too many of them, obviously overwhelming any chance of a response.

    So, I’d say too everyone; try to practice a little restraint.

  40. #41 charlie
    March 25, 2008

    Hi everyone:
    The traffic spike was due to passion. People are very discontent with the state of the nation.

    (Sorry to anyone from other countries but this is our dirty laundry. We are in a very real mess that is the direct result of a large vocal minority of religious people that constitute a very manipulatable voting block. They have been the deciding factor in major elections for far too long and are responsible for the war and coming recession among many other things. There is no argument there. Where we disagree is what to do about it and I apologize for the unsightly spectacle which is debate.)

    Now is fuck an appropriate word when one really means it, sure it is. An apology should only be given if one means it or if one is forced to by a superior power. Honest disagreement about things that matter is the essence of democracy and politics is the art getting your way. You might disagree but that’s sour grapes. Tactics that work are “good”, those which do not are “bad” and winners write history. This is real life.

    I personally live in the Bible Belt and I think framing is about as effective as farting in a hurricane but don’t let me stop y’all. Now Matt really insulted PZ and everyone else who feels the same way and actually alienated people who agreed with him. BAD MOVE Matt, no question. Geraldine Ferraro is a truly twisted comparison. PZ hates blacks? Whatever man. Now Chris and Sheril I can’t even walk down the street without hearing someone saying fuck and they don’t care if children are around. It is part of our language and heritage whether you like it or not. It is just a fact. The real reason you folks are pissed is that PZ is pissed at Matt’s blog entry which he found to be really insulting, as would I. Reservoir Dogs comes to mind, yeesh.

  41. #42 Neko
    March 25, 2008

    Hello,

    I write this as an engineer interested in the diffusion of science and horrified at what the creationist loons are doing with the minds of so many people.

    I do not fully understand this framing issue. I do not pretend to know more about it than you, nor to suggest it is trivial or easy. However, it is clear to me that you had been looking at the “framing equation” only from the side of the audiences, forgetting the actual human beings working in science.

    I do not know how much power you have. I do not know how influential your voice is, or how much you can guide policy. I do know that you seem to have lost great amounts of credibility overnight – and I want to talk a bit about that.

    Many Internet phenomena trigger positive feedback loops. In this case, there was an interaction of two things: the Expelled incident and the subsequent abysmal suggestion by Nesbit. The people that were already incensed because of the former immediately backlashed because of the latter, prompting a response far stronger (and faster) than it would have otherwise been.

    However, I would urge you not to dismiss the response to your post as a simple by-product of the whole Expelled debacle. There is obviously more – and in my opinion, it is your intellectual responsibility to address it.

    I am outside this conflict, as a concerned citizen that wants science to be better understood, that wants irrationality and violence to be kept at bay, that wishes education to be about facts and not about dogma. Please, listen to what the scientists are saying. Hear them out, understand their requests, decode their message. They represent a huge intellectual capital that we should not dismiss them out of hand, just because they say things that you do not like or in a way you do not approve of. Listen to them, to what science is for them, to what THEY want the “framing” to be. Do not be dogmatic with your plans and ideas, do not ignore them. We have more than enough dogma and intolerance to go around as it is.

    Listen, please.

  42. #43 charlie
    March 25, 2008

    Neko:
    What is being discussed is very important and is quite like linear algebra to a farmer, not relevant where it matters. I’m sorry but people like you and myself only count when we do things. Our thoughts are like the wind, our deeds are our legacy. I am glad to converse with you as we stand in an unenviable position at the edge of the chasm of ignorance. Damn it, willful ignorance and appeasement should be opposed but just don’t be surprised when we are ignored and exploited. They accuse others of the faults they epitomize and criticize any opposition as immoral, such is life.

  43. #44 Inoculated Mind
    March 26, 2008

    So, I’d say too everyone; try to practice a little restraint.

    HEY, HOW DARE YOU TRY TO CENSOR ME!!!

    Hehe. I just thought everyone could use a little chuckle about now.

  44. #45 dk.au
    March 26, 2008

    I’m a postgrad research student that comes here for Chris’ commentary on Hurricanes and Politics.

    I’m very close to unsubscribing from this blog.

    Take the high ground and stick to informed comment.

  45. #46 Shirakawasuna
    March 26, 2008

    And yet again we get a substanceless post. Which is more respectful, really: A reply involving profanity and honest irritation which contains direct counterarguments to specific points, or a reply *not* involving profanity with veiled irritation, deflecting substantive criticism and argument?

  46. #47 agnostic
    March 26, 2008

    it’s not as if you antagonized a mob of creationists

    Sheril antagonized a mob of PZ disciples, whose bloating of comment sections is usually confined to that of their guru.

    What offended the PZ disciples so much was Sheril smashing the tablet on which is inscribed one of the guru’s commandments: “Thou shalt behave like adolescents,” which many in contemporary academia consider sacred.

    It’s hilarious when a man as old as PZ says “fuck that noise” like a high school sophomore trying to prove how badass he is. Didn’t his children ever give him the speech about “Daaaaad, stop trying to act cool — you’re embarrassing me!”?

    I understand if some of his disciples are still in their 20s and easing out of adolescent immaturity, but that attitude is woefully unflattering on the middle-aged.

    Sheril, if you “lose credibility” from those who tried to stone you, psssh, ain’t no thang but a chicken wing.

  47. #48 Luna_the_cat
    March 26, 2008

    Greg: I ask you, since when have cats EVER stayed where the silly humans think they belong?

  48. #49 Russell Blackford
    March 26, 2008

    Zeus almighty, there are some freaking idiots in this world. Of course this Poseideon-damned blog got heaps of fugging traffic over the last day or so, since it got traffic from a lot of people who were pissed off when they became aware that it contained a silly attack on another, much more popular blog. And?

    As for PZ Myers … well, he massively overreacts to Scott Adams, as I’ve pointed out in the past, but otherwise he’s fine. Whatever. Dilbert rules, dude.

    Speaking for myself, I’d never even heard of Sheril Whatever-her-name-is before she decided to dip her fracking oar into this particular water regarding Nisbet’s bizarre comment to PZ about how he (along with Richard Dawkins!) should shut up and “lay low”. Doubtless, the anonymity/obscurity/whatever was mutual. Maybe she’s otherwise a fantastic person with whom I should be great buddies. Even Homer nods, and all that.

    But she’s totally misread this Apollo-damned snorking issue, and I’m pretty confident that that’s what most of the people passing by and adding their wheels to the flippin’ traffic are thinking.

  49. #50 Donalbain
    March 26, 2008

    So, you get some new readers to your blog. I would think this was a good thing as it would give you a bigger audience to influence with your thoughts on framing and other things. But no. You decide to throw that chance away by whining about how shallow all your new readers are.
    You had quite possibly the best opportunity a blog will get and you took that chance in both hands and threw it into the bin. And this is from a blog whose authors count themselves as communicators?

    Why did you not take the chance to respond on the main page to the actual debate about whether Nisbett was out of order to tell PZ to be quiet, or whether PZ was overly rude in his reply. That could have led into a discussion of the role of spokespersons in science, and how we as scientists should best talk amongst ourselves and to other people. It could have actually helped establish a suitable “frame”. But, no. Instead you have told the new and occassional viewer that they are shallow horrible people who don’t care about dying people in a hurricane. Of course, as someone else pointed out above, a blog is not the only source for information about a hurricane and many of us were following the news elsewhere whereas the ScienceBlogs clusterfuck could really only be followed on ScienceBlogs.

    This was a sad example of amissed opportunity, and coming from this blog that is sadder than it would be from most other blogs.

    Le sigh!

  50. #51 Norman Doering
    March 26, 2008

    agnostic wrote:

    What offended the PZ disciples so much was Sheril smashing the tablet on which is inscribed one of the guru’s commandments: “Thou shalt behave like adolescents,” which many in contemporary academia consider sacred.

    PZ disciples? The real emotional energy behind that adolescent emotional response comes from years of all of us watching the rise of ID pseudo-science and feeling frustrated and ineffective trying to do anything about it.

    It’s not one of PZ’s commandments, it’s a shared emotion. If PZ lost it and decided “we should be quiet,” the “disciples” would go elsewhere.

    It’s hilarious when a man as old as PZ says “fuck that noise” like a high school sophomore trying to prove how badass he is. Didn’t his children ever give him the speech about “Daaaaad, stop trying to act cool — you’re embarrassing me!”?

    Actually, his daughter did post something on her blog about that awhile back if my memory serves me.

  51. #52 oriole
    March 26, 2008

    PZ is an honest man who says exactly what he thinks. To me, that makes him infinitely preferable to all the framers/politicians/liars. Sheril and Chris, your mutually contradictory “evolving” accounts and bursts of faux outrage may be the way things are done in the political sphere, which seems to be your model of discourse, but some of us like to just drop the masquerades and hang out with others who are equally upfront. Incidentally, that last sentence of the most recent post,

    “It’s interesting to consider we actually accrued comparable attention by suggesting a simple use of decorum as we garnered during Cyclone Sidr when at least 3,300 people lost their lives.”

    is one of the most sickening examples of this whole “framing” mentality which has fatally infected both political parties I’ve seen in a while. Are you suggesting that we adjust our commentary rate according to the number of deaths noted in the original post? If not, your remark was just pointless hot air.

    A lot of people who disagreed with you in their comments here, including me, gave arguments in suppport of their position, explaining that more was involved than your beloved decorum; you and Chris have simply ignored these arguments and relied on sophistical rhetoric in your responses, eg Chris’s riff about not conflating different things and having zero standards.

    My own preference is for websites where people say what they mean and mean what they say, make substantive arguments with or without profanity (I don’t give a shit either way) and don’t waste time trying to score points for political correctness.

  52. #53 Lee Harrison
    March 26, 2008

    It’s interesting to consider we actually accrued comparable attention by suggesting a simple use of decorum as we garnered during Cyclone Sidr when at least 3,300 people lost their lives. Pretty amazing in that context, no?

    First: what an extremely arrogant comment – is your commentary on storms so damn good that it can be considered the only viable source? If the answer is no (and I think that’s the right answer) then you’re comparing apples and oranges because, as has already been pointed out, this blog was the only site were people could come see for themselves what all the recent fuss was about.

    Second – Damn, that was vile. Trivialising, dismissing and demeaning every commenter you recently attracted here, implying that they care more about their right to say fuck than they do about thousands dying, and (most Ben Stein-like) trivialising the deaths of those thousands by using it to make cheap, badly thought out, pathetic rhetorical jabs rather than do the hard work of holding your own in an argument.

    Hooray for framing…

  53. #54 Luna_the_cat
    March 26, 2008

    oriole — some of us were genuinely upset that the dialog had deveolved to the point of basic, garden-variety profane flaming, rather than any substantive or intelligent rebuttal (which that particular post wasn’t). Your evidence, please, that Sheril’s outrage is “faux” and “all about political correctness”? That seems like a deliberate denigration of the person and the issue in order to avoid answering the simple charge: Myers could have made a better response.

  54. #55 Lee Harrison
    March 26, 2008

    You have the gall to get all huffy over a vernacular response to a calculated insult and then write this dreck?

    You owe apologies to a lot of people.

  55. #56 Luna_the_cat
    March 26, 2008

    Lee, get over yourself. It was a comment that a flamewar attracts as much attention as a real tragedy, which is a simple comment on human nature in general.

  56. #57 Donalbain
    March 26, 2008

    Luna, there is NO evidence that a flamewar gets as much attention as a real tragedy, since there were OTHER PLACES to go for information about the actual tragedy than ScienceBlogs. Personally, I tend to follow the news on the bbc website and on the radio. I am sure other people did so as well. And as for the level of comment, what IS there to comment on a huge human tragedy? My only comment on such an issue is “Oh fuck!” and that would upset the prissy people who dont like rude words.

    The comparison was fucking stupid in the first place and doesnt get any less stupid as people repeat it/

  57. #58 Lee Harrison
    March 26, 2008

    Luna – get over your rather silly need to present apologetics for someone else’s actions and let them speak for themselves.

    Oh, and also – no it wasn’t. It was a snark – and a cheap one.

    And really – ‘Get over yourself’ ? There are times when it’s appropriate to use the phrase – used it myself plenty – and that’s when the arrogance/self-love/whatever of the ‘yourself’ indicated is the cause of the problem that the ‘yourself’ is whining about. In this case, with roles reversed, I would have gone with “Get over it” or “Don’t have a cow” or even just “Calm down”. See? Relevant.

  58. #59 Lee Harrison
    March 26, 2008

    And just to clarify – my second comment in this thread:
    http://scienceblogs.com/intersection/2008/03/irony_in_numbers.php#comment-804636
    was actually to Sheril – not Luna. Luna’s appeared while I was typing it and the juxtaposition is just an unfortunate coincidence.

  59. #60 Greg Laden
    March 26, 2008
  60. #61 Luna_the_cat
    March 26, 2008

    Lee —

    Luna – get over your rather silly need to present apologetics for someone else’s actions and let them speak for themselves.

    By that argument, all the people leaping to defend Myers’s comment should be leaving him to speak for himself and staying out of it. Well, that’s obviously the case, now, isn’t it…..

    And, sorry, but I think your outrage over “deaths being trivialised” is overblown and unjustified by the actual situation here, and really, when I was reading your various comments I had this mental image of someone overinflating his chest and snorting fiercely down his nose as steam poured out his ears. Thus the “get over yourself”. You prefer “calm down”? Ok, maybe it’s more appropriate: calm down.

    Sheril is not trying to trivialise the tragedy. She is commenting on an obvious manifestation of obvious human behavior. It’s not about the deaths; it’s about the tendency of humans to get just as interested in a good old internet rumble. Seriously, you and a few other commenters here are misrepresenting both what has been said, and why. Take a step back and evaluate this post as if it had been made by someone you were not already angry at.

  61. #62 Lee Harrison
    March 26, 2008

    Luna – your mental images are your own affair, of course. It’s fun to enjoy an active fantasy life ;-)

    I am well aware that Sheril is not ‘trying’ to trivialise the tragedy. My point, the one you miss because you’re reading her post from the point of view of one who already agrees, is that in her rush to snark she managed to trivialise it anyway – along with simply flipping off every ticked off commenter that was here recently. You know the ones – many of them made some excellent points about Sheril’s lack of consistency, Nisbet’s lapse of reason, etc. All those good substantive comments that Sheril and Chris so roundly answered…

    Ah, that bit hasn’t happened yet, has it?

  62. #63 Lee Harrison
    March 26, 2008

    Luna – your mental images are your own affair, of course. It’s fun to enjoy an active fantasy life ;-)

    I am well aware that Sheril is not ‘trying’ to trivialise the tragedy. My point, the one you miss because you’re reading her post from the point of view of one who already agrees, is that in her rush to snark she managed to trivialise it anyway – along with simply flipping off every ticked off commenter that was here recently. You know the ones – many of them made some excellent points about Sheril’s lack of consistency, Nisbet’s lapse of reason, etc. All those good substantive comments that Sheril and Chris so roundly answered…

    Ah, that bit hasn’t happened yet, has it?

  63. #64 Lee Harrison
    March 26, 2008

    sorry about the double post – compu-snafu, honest…

  64. #65 Luna_the_cat
    March 26, 2008

    Nisbet’s mistake is a different issue. I genuinely have not seen inconsistency by Sheril — I understand what she was saying. I’ve seen a lot of mischaracterisation of what she was saying, too. Also, I did not and genuinely do not see how her observation about how much attention this issue has garnered has trivialised a tragedy at all, or even a snark. I really don’t. Please, think: when people point out that The Latest Celebrity Meltdown garners more publicity than a species going extinct, do you think that this observation trivialises the species extinction? I don’t see it that way, nor do a lot of people; rather, it is a rueful comment about what grabs people’s attention.

    I understand that people take that as an insult against the people who make up the traffic, but seriously — why? This is what humans are like. We aren’t all saints or perfectly rational, either. We respond to emotive topics, but fights between people we know are emotive topics more immediate than distant tragedy, to most.

  65. #66 Jon Winsor
    March 26, 2008

    Agnostic and dm get it right (Their comments and the USENET stuff I found have me thinking of a certain William Golding novel assigned in high school…)

    The real emotional energy behind that adolescent emotional response comes from years of all of us watching the rise of ID pseudo-science and feeling frustrated and ineffective trying to do anything about it.

    Again, this sounds to me like the identity politics of the early 90’s, where people brought police whistles to lectures to interrupt and shout “patriarchy.” Yeah, there’s a real problem with ID, and the story behind it rightly pisses people off. But just because injustices have been done doesn’t give people licenses to be jackasses in general.

    In fact, you should try to make it more clear who the adults are in the argument, so people get a clear signal of what’s truth and what’s distortion.

    If you constantly sound wounded, even when having an exchange with an ally, and if you constantly pass off sneers as intellectual argument (which I saw PZ do a few times before I stopped reading his blog), you’re not going to convince people that you’re the adults in the argument.

  66. #67 Norman Doering
    March 26, 2008

    Jon Winsor wrote:

    Again, this sounds to me like the identity politics of the early 90’s, where people brought police whistles to lectures to interrupt and shout “patriarchy.”

    You’re close, real close. However, all those comments were not trying to interrupt anybody — that was just how many people wanted to be heard and had a strong opinion.

    … just because injustices have been done doesn’t give people licenses to be jackasses in general.

    I never said it did. I even advised restraint, but nobody listened. The reality is that a lot of people are jackasses when they’ve got an emotional opinion and they feel like they’re not being listened too. Look at oriole’s post here, he complains about being ignored. He doesn’t quite get that we’ve overloaded the comments. There’s too much to read when the comments go over a hundred, and its not high quality stuff.

    In fact, you should try to make it more clear who the adults are in the argument, so people get a clear signal of what’s truth and what’s distortion.

    Being quiet and polite and respectful doesn’t make you right. Kevin Miller, the screen writer for “Expelled,” is rather polite and respectful but he’s either very dumb and uninformed or a liar.

    If you constantly sound wounded, even when having an exchange with an ally, and if you constantly pass off sneers as intellectual argument (which I saw PZ do a few times before I stopped reading his blog), you’re not going to convince people that you’re the adults in the argument.

    But I don’t think a lot of them do constantly sound wounded, nor do they pass off sneers as intellectual argument. Some do, but not all. That’s a very subjective impression on your part. It’s certainly not true of PZ, though there have been a few sneers, but he’s not passing them off as anything else.

    And you yourself will start sounding wounded and frustrated and sneering if you keep asking people to be adults and they don’t listen to you.

    You’ve got to be more clever than that, you’ve got to know how to redirect people’s energy in positive ways when they can’t be quiet.

  67. #68 Jon Winsor
    March 26, 2008

    It’s interesting, I came across this dialog a while ago between Cass Sunstein and Crooked Timber’s Henry Farrell (I’m linking to a post where Farrell has some insights on it).

    In general, I’m more sympathetic with the points Farrell makes, and that Sunstein is being too theoretical, not acknowledging how things are in the real world, i. e., the actual political situation in the US.

    But this little dialog we’ve been having suggests that what Sunstein says could apply to anyone.

  68. #69 Carol
    March 26, 2008

    I wrote this on another thread, but want to repost here:

    What frustrates me most, being an atheist, is that this entire ridiculous affair proves Sheril’s point overall.

    Certain more vocal writers create a very hostile environment. Rather than patiently pointing to science as evidence for why we believe what we do, we create a very unpleasant place making us easy to dismiss.

    Good for Ms. Kirshenbaum for being brave enough to stand up to the king-of-scienceblogs. I read Pharygula and agree with much of what PZ writes, but in this case, the sheer response to this post demonstrates why we must change our approach.

  69. #70 Norman Doering
    March 26, 2008

    Jon Winsor wrote:

    It’s interesting, I came across this dialog a while ago between Cass Sunstein and Crooked Timber’s Henry Farrell (I’m linking to a post where Farrell has some insights on it).

    Thanks for the link.

    So far it looks remarkably on target with our conversation — beyond that I probably won’t make another post today, got things to do.

    Maybe tomorrow.

  70. #71 John Conway
    March 26, 2008

    Oh dear, this really seems to be putting the nail in the framing coffin. I’ve always found Chris Mooney interesting on Point of Inquiry (Nisbet less so), but this kind of thing is turning me away from framing in a big way.

    This post just drips of cheap spin. I feel it is a emotional trick to manipulate the me. If this is the way you handle allies, why on earth should people listen to you about how to handle the opposing side? Maybe this is the best framing has to offer. Maybe it will always come off as cheap manipulative spin. Maybe we should give up on it.

    It occurs to me that perhaps scientists are one of the most trusted groups precisely because they haven’t engaged in this kind of framing.

  71. #72 Jon Winsor
    March 26, 2008

    It’s certainly not true of PZ, though there have been a few sneers, but he’s not passing them off as anything else.

    I’m not so sure. This is a good example of a sneer. I don’t see what it accomplishes. It’s just trash talk. I mean, here’s a page from one of Taylor’s books: http://tinyurl.com/33qe39 Is the right response to that a three paragraph sneer like PZ wrote?

    People can disagree with Taylor, but what does it say when someone purports to dismiss it with a three paragraph sneer? There are some books that other scholars discuss Taylor’s works. A good majority of them secular and atheist. Are all the people who are taking him seriously just talking about “lies and empty noise”?

    I think I get the point of populist rhetoric–you get people on board and enthusiastic. But at a certain point it’s like people bringing the police whistle to the campus lecture. It just gets mindless and dialog never happens.

  72. #73 Mecha
    March 26, 2008

    PZ makes a post about a philosphical/political observation about peoples’ actions here, and it’s well said, well spoken, well thought of, incredibly popular.

    In the same period, Sheril makes basically the same observation, _a bit closer to home_, and it’s evil horrible blog ruining guilt how dare she how dare she.

    The whys and clear doubt in humanity’s general ability to respond and analyze, even in an environment which is supposed to be AS GOOD AT IT as a pro-science pro-logic pro-reason environment speaks for itself, in even this simple contrast, let alone the posts themselves.

    -Mecha

  73. #74 Davis
    March 26, 2008

    The apologists for Sheril’s post leave me unimpressed (I’ve read through several different blogs on this, on you guys are pretty much the only people defending Matt, Sheril, and Chris; you’re like the SB version of Bush supporters, fans ’til the bitter end).

    Three days ago I was a fan of this blog, if a bit of a lurker. Today I have little or no respect remaining for it. I jumped into the comments not because I felt any need to defend PZ, but because I was seeing a blog I liked go down an inane path. Clearly I wasn’t about to change anyone’s minds with my opinion, but I felt it was at least worth trying to save my respect for a once-excellent blog.

  74. #75 Jon Winsor
    March 26, 2008

    you guys are pretty much the only people defending Matt, Sheril, and Chris

    Did you just read Scienceblogs and similar sources? For instance, here’s one outside of Scienceblogs.

  75. #76 Craig B
    March 26, 2008

    I haven’t jumped in until now, so I would like to make a few quick observations.

    1. I’m sure I’m not alone in being a regular reader of both PZ and Intersection; I suspect there is quite a bit of exaggeration in the idea that PZ cultists are invading. Such dismissive attitudes are part of a bigger problem here – a problem of not listening, just like creationists don’t listen.

    2. I’ve long been a critic of the “framing” issue as Mooney and Nisbet talk about it; I think it is naive as well as insulting to the many scientists and science writers who have for the past several years been doing exactly what Mooney says no one is doing: writing for the general public about science and science policy. The enemies are anti-intellectual conservatives and creationists, boards of education, general apathy about education among our fellow citizens. People like R. Dawkins, E. Scott, S. Carroll, and others have done a great deal to explain science brilliantly and eloquently, doing honor to the ghosts of S.J. Gould and C. Sagan.

    3. I think both of Chris’ books are outstanding – important, meaningful work. That said, I have been finding him harder and harder to take seriously online, possibly due to being stretched too thin to think through his work (maybe cut back on some gigs, Chris) but mostly because he cannot see the problems with Nisbet and framing. He has drunk too deeply of the kool-aid. I hope the anti-venom is available soon.

    4. I have liked Sheril’s posts until very recently. I really dislike what I can only see as stubborn closed-mindedness about the original post and its aftermath, in which there have been a number of eloquent and specific explanations of where she went wrong. I expected better of Sheril than such stubborness, but she seems to have had a sip or two of the kool-aid. I hope she turns out to be the thinker I thought she was.

    5. PZ, like me, works in a place where we are surrounded by fundamentalists. The damage they do and the goals they have are horrifying. They need to be met (as in any conflict) with a number of strategies, including in-your-face atheism. I imagine that, like me, PZ is respectful of all students (at least as a starting point) within the classroom, however angry and appalled he might be privately. Online, in his own blog, how dare anyone tell him how to behave. People who don’t understand the threat of the fundamentalists (and are not themselves fundamentalists) don’t generally deal with them every day and should learn something from the fear and outrage of people like PZ. People like Mooney and Nisbit need to focus on the real problem. They, not PZ or Dawkins, do damage to the “framing” of public discourse.

    I hope that if Chris and Sheril cannot learn from this, they will at least move on. I’ll have to see if they still have much to offer me if they cannot demonstrate the ability to learn and grow. It should tell all of us something about how hard it is to get through to Biblical fundamentalists if even people who are proponents of scientific methodology and public discourse cannot do any better than what I have seen lately from our blog hosts.

  76. #77 Davis
    March 26, 2008

    Did you just read Scienceblogs and similar sources? For instance, here’s one outside of Scienceblogs.

    So my count of defenders now requires two hands, rather than one. I still think it says something that Nisbet et al. have lost the support of people who defended them previously, at least on this one (I’ve even seen rabid PZ-bashers speak out against them in various comment threads). As far as I’ve been able to ascertain, PZ has gained, not lost support.

    Ultimately, this is hurting the credibility of Matt and his compatriots. Why should we listen to framing advice from supposed experts whose argument alienates many of their own supporters?

  77. #78 Jon Winsor
    March 26, 2008

    Right, but it’s not just quantity it’s demographic. There may be a lot of scientist-atheist bloggers and commenters, but how representative are they? Are those the only opinions to consider?

    As for alienating people, does it have to be a “with us or against us” kind of thing? I know there are cases where people should stick together: “We should all hang together or hang separately,” etc. But on the narrow issue that this controversy is about, does there really need to be such a strict party line? You mentioned George Bush above–are we after just loyalty here? Can people disagree on something and still be allies if there’s 90% agreement on everything else? You know, so what if people disagree on one thing, does it have to reach the level of a religious schism?

    Maybe thicker skin is needed.

    I should add that I have the luxury of living in the northeast. People are pretty low key about their religion here. So I don’t have the experience that Craig B describes above.

  78. #79 Davis
    March 27, 2008

    As for alienating people, does it have to be a “with us or against us” kind of thing?

    I generally agree with you on your points. In the past, The Intersection has certainly been on the right side in the larger culture war. But this battle makes me deeply concerned that the bloggers here are listening a bit too much to Nisbet, a man who may know about framing, but can’t seem to effectively frame his own arguments. I’d prefer Chris and Sheril not join his battalion in this war, since it’s demonstrating itself to be an ineffective one.

    There’s no reason they should listen to me, of course; but the more they follow the course they’re on, the less value this blog has for me. Hence my interest in the matter. I’ll probably resume my lurking here now, though with less frequency.

  79. #80 Norman Doering
    March 27, 2008

    Jon Winsor,

    Since you brought up a topic that’s a little off-topic for this Intersection thread I’ve decided to invite you to my blog to comment more on Charles Taylor and the word “Spirituality.”

    “It’s certainly not true of PZ, though there have been a few sneers, but he’s not passing them off as anything else.”

    I’m not so sure. This is a good example of a sneer. I don’t see what it accomplishes. It’s just trash talk.

    Okay, that’s a sneer (from over a year ago – March 15, 2007), but it’s one I agree with. PZ doesn’t take on Taylor’s writing directly, just the use of the word “Spirituality,” calling it lies and empty noise.

    I think PZ asks a valid question:

    … [Taylor] blathers on and on about “spiritual thinking” and a “spiritual domain” without ever telling us what the heck it is, although it does seem to be all tied up in believing in a religion, any religion. So, someone tell me, how am I supposed to hear this “spiritual dimension”? What is it supposed to mean?

    Can you answer his question? Is the word “Spiritual” not a “glittering generality.”

    Someone in the comments on PZ’s post noted that claiming spirituality appeared to be a way for religious people to put themselves above atheists and others of differing religions because of their “connection” to “something greater.” An unquestionable and unknowable connection. If you don’t understand it then, hey, that’s your loss, you’re spiritually blind, we’ll look down on you.

    Another person quoted Taylor:

    “It is probable that the unremitting struggle to desacralize the world in the name of an undivided devotion to God waged by Calvin and his followers helped to destroy the sense that the creation was a locus of meanings in relation to which man had to define himself.”

    And that kind of writing just has little relevance to me.

    On the other hand, I have a post on my blog where I say it’s a mistake to focus on the most freakish and stupid of our opponents and ignore the more reasonable and science friendly theists. Some of these people are effective political allies.

  80. #81 Norman Doering
    March 27, 2008

    Jon Winsor,

    I tried to post a reply to you with too many links and so I’m just going to link this post on my blog for a reply:
    http://normdoering.blogspot.com/2008/03/is-word-spirituality-just-lies-and.html

  81. #82 Jon Winsor
    March 27, 2008

    Ok, here’s my comment (cross-posted at your blog):

    Yeah, it is an old post. Not long after that post I gave up on reading PZ. Often, I liked PZ’s provocative stuff, even if I sometimes found it predictable. I included it in my comment because it was the best example that came to mind.

    Full disclosure: I consider myself an agnostic and I like Charles Taylor. I was a liberal arts major in school, and for a long time I’ve been interested in different epistemologies–even ones that are off the beaten path of Anglo-American philosophies. Interestingly, Taylor cut his teeth on Hegel, and not on, say, Hume or Russell…

    But anyway, what’s telling about Myers’ take on Taylor, is that Myers could have spent just a little time checking out Taylor, but obviously chose not to (with minimal research, you can easily find Taylor’s very careful and specific definition of “spirituality.”) Instead, he felt entitled to just spout off in an aggressive and derisive fashion.

    This kind of approach is not productive, it seems to me. It hurts Myers’ cause. Disagreement is fine, but obviously thoughtless, aggressive, and even offensive disagreement is not, especially for for the type of person Myers presents himself as (investigative, thorough, empirical, etc. etc.)

    Another reason why I chose this example is that it seems to me to be of-a-piece with his reaction to Nisbet. “Fuck you” does not belong in the kind of discourse they were supposed to be having. As I said on Chris’s blog, I tend to like the kind of populism you see on blogs, but Myers’ example of it just seems weird to me. You can’t conduct the kinds of conversations we’re trying to have with “fuck you”‘s. It’s like bringing a blow torch as your chosen tool at a sweater knitting party.

  82. #83 Jon Winsor
    March 27, 2008

    Again, just to be clear, everyone’s free to vigorously disagree with Taylor. But dismissing him with a three-paragraph sneer–is that the kind of discourse we want? How does that reflect on the cause of promoting science?

  83. #84 Norman Doering
    March 27, 2008

    Jon Winsor wrote:

    Again, just to be clear, everyone’s free to vigorously disagree with Taylor. But dismissing him with a three-paragraph sneer–is that the kind of discourse we want? How does that reflect on the cause of promoting science?

    I don’t know yet. Perhaps I shouldn’t sneer at books I haven’t read nor intend to. But can’t I just sneer at the way he seems to be using the word “spirituality”?

    I will say that there perhaps needs to be some distinction between the loony freak show parade on PZ’s blog of Mercy Ministries, Sally Kern and Ben Stein’s film “Expelled” versus Charles Taylor and Francis Collins.

    Is it bad politics to sneer at all of them? Perhaps if everyone were doing it, yes, but not everyone is. You’re not.

    It’s just part of the reality of this situation: we don’t all agree and no one can speak for everyone involved in science. Saying PZ and Dawkins are “the” spokespersons for science is something the “Expelled” movie tries to claim and that you’re buying into.

  84. #85 Jon Winsor
    March 27, 2008

    Perhaps I shouldn’t sneer at books I haven’t read nor intend to. But can’t I just sneer at the way he seems to be using the word “spirituality”?

    Fine. But then what’s to distinguish you from the way the Republican Noise Machine sneers at “liberals,” “Eco-Nazis,” overeducated elitist latte drinkers, etc.?

    I linked to a Krugman column above on Irving Kristol’s relationship to the Discovery Institute. Here’s an Irving Kristol quote from a 1995 Public Interest article:

    National Review… was brash, even vulgar in its antiliberal polemics. There was something collegiate – sophomoric, to be blunt – about its high-spiritedness… [sounds familiar to me…] We say, repeatedly, that ideas have consequences, which is true but what we have in mind are complex, thoughtful, and well-articulated ideas. What we so easily overlook is the fact that simple ideas, allied to passion and organization, also have consequences. National Review, it turns out, was part of a larger movement that created institutions which shaped and trained several thousand young conservatives, not so much to go forth and proclaim the gospel, as to go into the Republican party and gain control of it.

    Yes. Simple ideas. And we all know how that turned out.

    Can’t we be “high spirited” without being “vulgar” and “sophomoric”?

  85. #86 Norman Doering
    March 27, 2008

    Jon Winsor wrote:

    Yes. Simple ideas. And we all know how that turned out.

    Simple ideas are the key to framing. You can’t do a mass movement without them.

    Can’t we be “high spirited” without being “vulgar” and “sophomoric”?

    Can you get a leopard to change its spots?

    Why don’t you try? Go over to PZ’s blog and post that, see if they sneer and make vulgar comments.

    If you’re afraid PZ and those who crowd his blog will “…not so much to go forth and proclaim the gospel, as to go into the [Republican party / Science] and gain control of it” then I suggest what you have to do is deconstruct the idea that PZ and Dawkins are “major spokesmen for science.”

    In “Expelled” they get used that way, and Expelled talks about ID people getting fired. (Why didn’t they actually interview the people who could fire the ID proponents?) I don’t think PZ or Dawkins have the power to fire scientists (PZ can probably fire teaching assistants and Dawkins can fire what? His webdesign team?)

    Chris talked about Expelled getting publicity, but think of the publicity PZ and Dawkins get. Why would they say no to that?

  86. #87 oriole
    March 27, 2008

    luna_the_cat; I conclude that the outrage is fake for a number of reasons, including the fact that the story keeps changing; eg, first it was about the profanity, then it wasn’t; and also the pathetic bobbing and weaving and dodging in the non-responses to well-argued critical posts.

    In previous posts, I and others explained in detail why we felt that the genuine insults came from Nisbet, with his condescending manner, comparisons of PZ to Don Imus, Geraldine Ferrarro and Reverend Wright, snark about PZ’s small audience, telling PZ to shut up, etc,; the fact that PZ finally got fed up with this steady diet of provocation and said “fuck you very much” was then seized on by Nisbet and his friends, Chris and Sheril, who pretended that the provocations had not occurred and demanded that PZ apologize.

    It’s hard for me to believe that an intelligent person would buy into this. Chris’s responses consisted entirely of refusing to respond; airily saying that he refused to “conflate” different things, because that would imply having zero standards, and then threatening to take his bat and ball and go home by giving up blogging.

    The final straw, though, was that sanctimonious, affectatious comment by Sheril in the follow-up blog post, which was disgustingly obviously intended to tell her critics that they were monsters who were more interested in defending dirty language than in mourning the loss of innocent lives. I quote Lee Harrison, who explained the wrongness of this much better than I did:

    “Damn, that was vile. Trivialising, dismissing and demeaning every commenter you recently attracted here, implying that they care more about their right to say fuck than they do about thousands dying, and (most Ben Stein-like) trivialising the deaths of those thousands by using it to make cheap, badly thought out, pathetic rhetorical jabs rather than do the hard work of holding your own in an argument.”

    And that’s really the point. I’m prepared to be persuaded by argumentation; but Chris and Sheril didn’t offer any substantive responses; instead, they ignored the arguments and simply used dishonest rhetorical tactics.

    You can talk about flame wars all you want, but the reason a lot of the commenters here are so irritated is that we’re fed up with evasive posturing dishonesty. Our “evidence”? Our common sense and reasonsing faculties, applied to the relevant data in the form of blog posts and comments.

    Hence the word “faux”, which you apparently intend to tactically seize on much in the manner that “fuck” was tactically seized on by Chril and Sheril. I’m not impressed.

  87. #88 Jon Winsor
    March 27, 2008

    Simple ideas are the key to framing. You can’t do a mass movement without them.

    Yes, but the framing is supposed to come second. For instance, you can’t just write a press release and pretend that you’ve done the science (that’s what the right does, no?) You need to come to the task of framing having done your homework, being much better informed than the people you’re going to inform.

    You have to be sure that the inmates and the people who run the asylum don’t switch places. If you start to read only your own press, then you’re in big trouble (see the Iraq War).

    So to put crudely, I have problems with the way PZ runs the asylum, for the reasons I stated above.

    I think what Nisbet and Mooney believe is that it’s good to make the issue of science bigger than our political culture wars (I agree). If we can show our side as the adults (which they are, despite the behavior of some of the people on this blog) then more of the public will be won over. If you get wrapped up in the culture war, then you’ll look smaller, and the public will have a harder time distinguishing who is right.

    It’s hard for me to tell in this case, whether Nisbet and Mooney were right in what they told PZ. I don’t feel like I know enough about the whole story. Also, I haven’t been following how Nisbet has been relating to PZ. Maybe he’s been less than tactful, or just thick headed. But I did follow PZ’s blog for quite a while, and to me it was obvious he could be a cognitive miser and a jerk sometimes, even though I agreed with him just about all the time.

  88. #89 Jon Winsor
    March 27, 2008

    Also, my own personal outrage meter doesn’t register as high as his does for most of the things he writes about. I tend to save my outrage for other things (there’s no shortage these days).

  89. #90 Norman Doering
    March 27, 2008

    Jon Winsor wrote:

    Also, my own personal outrage meter doesn’t register as high as his does for most of the things he writes about. I tend to save my outrage for other things (there’s no shortage these days).

    I live in Indiana. Our License Plates have the words “In God We Trust” on them. We used to have our own Dovers when I was starting high school, like Hendren v. Campbell:
    http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/hendren/hendren_v_campbell.html

    They tried to use an actual pre-ID creation textbook.

    I know exactly how PZ feels.

  90. #91 windy
    March 29, 2008

    “It’s interesting to consider we actually accrued comparable attention by suggesting a simple use of decorum…”

    What kind of decorum were you suggesting, exactly, if you didn’t have a problem with the profanity? Perhaps some of the traffic was from people pondering this paradox.

  91. #92 Scote
    March 29, 2008

    “What kind of decorum were you suggesting, exactly, if you didn’t have a problem with the profanity? Perhaps some of the traffic was from people pondering this paradox.”

    Yes, inquiring minds want to know. SK can’t decide what her posts are about but she insists on holding all of her contradictory positions simultaneously.

    While people can argue whether profanity is in good taste, what SK has now done, with her silly subsequent comments and posts, is to stake out a totally indefensible, self-contradictory set of claims.

    SL is clearly incapable of admitting error even in this obvious case, as evidenced by the fact that she hasn’t. Scientists who can’t admit fault when confronted with incontrovertible evidence that their positions are inherently self-contradictory can’t be trusted.

  92. #93 Paul W.
    March 29, 2008

    This Controversy HELPS Ben Stein, People

    :-)

  93. #94 Paul W.
    March 29, 2008

    Ooops… wrong thread. Sorry!

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