The Reply

…to my opening statement is up at the dialog site. That makes relevant links so far:

I’ll have things to say about the response at some point, of course. I won’t post anything new there until they’ve also responded to my response to their opening statement. Right now, I put this here so those who to talk about it have a space.

Talk away. I spent the little energy I have today on a two-hour interfaith panel at a local community college and talking to the students afterward. Now I need a nap.

Getting at the Differences

The dialog has reached the point at which it becomes a dialog. The opening statements and a thread for discussion are up. The relevant links so far:

My response to Jack Smith’s opening statement is also printed below. I’ve deleted his comment numbering so there is no confusion on which numbers a commenter is responding to here. If you wish to comment at the dialog site, please follow the guidelines. Making the moderators do more work just isn’t cool. Thanks. [Read more…]

Working Together on Core Issues

The opening statements of the dialog are up. Theirs is here. Mine is here as well as included below. Commenting on the posts there is significantly limited and heavily moderated, disallowing crosstalk between commenters. There is a third thread here for those who want to talk back and forth, but even those comments are moderated. Guidelines for conversation on that site are here.

How can we work together on core issues on which we broadly agree, including promoting reason, critical thinking, science, skepticism, atheism and secularism in the real world?

Four stick figures holding a piece of a puzzle.The key to working together under these circumstances is to understand that there are myriad solutions to each of these problems. None of them are complete in themselves, but together, they provide a strong force for change. Additionally, pursuing multiple strategies at once allows us to take advantage of the diverse talents and motivations of those who find value in promoting all or any of these ideals.

To use science as the least contentious (currently) of these topics, we already recognize that there are different roles to be played. We recognize the bench scientist and the field scientist. We recognize the physicist and the sociologist. We recognize the philosopher of science and the critic of methods. We recognize the lab manager and the lab technician. We recognize the grade-school science teacher and the PhD student. We recognize the peer reviewer and the science journalist. [Read more…]

Engaging in Dialog

Mick Nugent has announced today the start of his proposed dialog. This dialog will be hosted on its own site, with special rules both for the dialog itself and for commenting. More news will be coming about the commenting as the team of moderators works out their process. Comments on the dialog will be moderated.

As I proposed much of the structure for this dialog, it shouldn’t be too surprising that I’m taking part in it. A brief note on why: I am not advocating for everyone to hold hands and sing, “Kumbaya”. I don’t expect to heal any rifts, for a rather large number of reasons. I don’t expect to suddenly become the spokesperson for anyone but me, and I’ve tried to set this up to make agreement and disagreement very transparent for those who are willing to leave a quick comment. I don’t expect, in fact, to do anything terribly differently than I’ve done here on my blog. [Read more…]

A Platform for Reasonable Dialog (Updated)

A couple of weeks ago, I was praising Mick Nugent for pushing Justin Vacula to get detailed on what Vacula considers to be unacceptable treatment even for people he disagrees with.  Sadly, Vacula stopped responding the day I complimented Nugent on getting specific, except for plugging his new podcast:

@ - Thanks for accepting invitation to appear on #BraveHero Radio. Here are open dates: April 6, April 13, April 20, April 27
@justinvacula
Justin Vacula

and telling Nugent to keep doing what he’s doing even though Vacula has stopped participating:

Ophelia Benson really hates critical commentary which she can't control. Don't give in to pressure @ - allow open discusion.
@justinvacula
Justin Vacula

Why does Vacula want to see this continue even though he doesn’t find it worth participating in? Well, I’m just guessing here, but that guess is that, like pretty much any discussion that has happened at a third-party blog in at least the last nine months, the folks from the slime pit have viewed this as an opportunity to go after the reputations of “the baboons”; i.e., a shifting group of people who are arguing for practices to make organized skepticism and secularism more generally inviting to women.

Nugent doesn’t see what he’s doing quite that way. [Read more…]

Not About the Words

Mick Nugent is in the middle of an excellent job of allowing Justin Vacula to demonstrate that Vacula has no interest in dialog or coming to any kind of agreement with the people he has been harassing. Nugent has written two posts containing questions that Vacula has side-stepped entirely and a third post pointing out that side-stepping is no basis for dialog.

The comments on Nugent’s second post, however, repeat an ongoing meme that it’s time we just took apart. Read the comments at your own risk, but among them is the whole “it’s just words” thing again, along with a solid dose of “They do [did] it too!” Then along comes vjack at Atheist Revolution with a charming little post on “Nuh-uh. Your feelings; your fault.

That makes it time, once again, to take a step back and remind ourselves what this whole fight is about. [Read more…]

Keeping the Fires Burning

The Onion posted a piece on Friday titled, “New Study Finds ‘The Onion’ Has Never Been More Popular, More Beloved, Or More Respected”. It started in usual Onion fashion:

Following one of the finest and most widely praised weeks in the history of The Onion, a new study published today found that the trusted news outlet has never been more popular, more admired, or more respected among Americans, with record numbers of readers saying the last five or six days in particular constitute a veritable high watermark for the company.

See, now that’s funny, in the laugh out loud sense.

It’s also funny in the “Hmm” sense.

[Read more…]

When You Can’t Walk Away

Dan Fincke and I were chatting on Facebook last night about the civility pledge that he posted on his blog and that a few others have signed onto. Specifically, I was talking about the shortcomings of a particular paragraph:

When I am having a personality conflict that is making progress in understanding seem impossible, I will drop communications with that person–with or without explanation as seems most potentially constructive. I will not escalate unproductive arguments that are becoming interpersonally acrimonious. I will not participate in ongoing interpersonal feuds between other people but only participate in discussions that stay focused on what is true, what the best principles are, and how such principles may be most fairly and efficiently implemented in the world. I will correct injustices, bad principles, and bad ideas in ways that are maximally productive for changing minds and real world policies while also minimally likely to create or escalate distracting counter-productive interpersonal feuds.

I noted that walking away is not always an option, particularly in cases where one is being persistently harassed, often in public spaces one doesn’t control. As you might guess, I used myself as an example.

Then another friend of Dan’s interjected what I thought was a very good question: [Read more…]

Terms (Update)

By now you may have seen Ophelia’s posts on the attempt by Lee Moore to arrange talks between the “sides” of the deep rift. You may have seen Justin Vacula’s post on that as well. Or his original post.

I’ve been contact by Lee Moore as well. The idea, as he puts it at the moment, is to sit down for some public discussions of differences. Unlike Ophelia, I have said I would do it if my terms are met.

What are my terms? Any participant from that “side” renounces the slime pit.

As I explained to Lee, anyone who thinks they can settle anything is going to have to leave the slime pit behind, because the entire point of the slime pit is to contain vitriol against Rebecca Watson, FtB, and anyone who acts as though any of us have a point. You either change that (which is an impossible task) or the people you ask to lead a charge toward reconciliation walk away from it and say they’re not running back when they’re done.

What do they get from me in return? Moderated discussion on mutually agreed-upon topics with a mutually agreed-upon moderator. I know at least one professional moderator who has already helped an atheist and skeptic organization a great deal with regard to similar matters. I think anything less would be pointless now.

I have no problem discussing my views for a public audience. It’s…well, it’s rather the point of this blog. That doesn’t change with a camera and microphone on. I just expect something in return for my time and for all the crap that’s been thrown my way. If people are willing to further marginalize those who fling the most crap, that’s more than incentive enough to talk to them.

So those are my terms.

Update: Justin has made a response on Twitter that’s worth addressing.

Zvan wants me to renounce. leave Slymepit prior to having discussion. I wonder if she is willing to renounce, leave Freethought Blogs #Terms
@justinvacula
Justin Vacula

Justin, I’m not asking you to renounce Skeptic Ink. That’s your network of independent blogs. This is mine. All your statement does is highlight that our “side” has nothing equivalent to the pit.

Not Part of the Debate Club

Charlie Jane Anders has a great post up at io9 about arguing on the internet.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been someone you wouldn’t want to invite to your party unless you want to subject people to a heated discussion of Star Trek: The Next Generation or the novels of Iain M. Banks. One of my earliest memories is of arguing on the schoolyard over who was cooler, Batman or the Doctor from Doctor Who. (I pointed out that the Doctor has two hearts, to which the other kid replied: “So does Batman!”)

So this gig, getting to be a loudmouth here at io9, has been a dream come true.

A big part of the fun of pop culture, and especially geek culture, is the debates. The internet lets us have those debates that we used to have at conventions and comic-book stores in a much wider forum. And in the process it’s deepened our relationship with the stories and ideas we love. From day one at io9, we wanted to be a part of not just covering geeky topics as news, but also helping to start intense conversations by sharing our opinions.

As you may have figured out, I like to argue. This particular kind of argument is a delight, and one that’s not exclusive to geeks. Falling into this category too are those late-night philosophical or political debates that a lot of us had in college, or those endless debates about the Oxford comma. (I’m pro-comma, for the record, because it is occasionally useful, and I like some consistency in my punctuation.)

One of the best parts of the article, however, is Charlie Jane’s recognition that not all arguments are created equal. [Read more…]