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Nov 11 2012

Inspecting the bridge

Zach Alexander has a very thoughtful review, or review-essay, on Chris Stedman’s book. He admires much of it, but also dissents strongly from part of the argument.

The most obvious problem is that even as Chris extolls the virtues of religious pluralism, he delivers an anti-pluralist message to his fellow atheists. Not content to merely do his own work, inviting like-minded people to join him, he expects the entire herd of cats to conform to his particular temperament and interests. Rather than increasing the breadth of the movement with his unique voice, he wishes to narrow it.

Second, even as he preaches respect, he casts aspersions on the so-called New Atheism, calling it “toxic, misdirected, and wasteful” (14). This is a curious way to call for more civility. And it betrays what, on closer inspection, seems to be a rather shallow appreciation for some of the dangers of religion – dangers that arguably justify much of the sharper New Atheist rhetoric.

In short, the central irony of the book is that the person who hopes to inspire atheists towards greater respect of religious diversity is disrespectful of the diversity in his own community.

This is what several of us (us meanies) have been saying all along: his outreach is all in one direction. James Croft defended that the other day by saying he thinks it’s because Stedman thinks of atheists as we and he’s making the conscientious effort to be hard on his own group, as opposed to cutting it slack because it is his own group.

 There is a world of difference between principled criticism of individuals who share an identity characteristic with you and the attempt to participate in the continued marginalization of that identity group. Atheists with a public personae criticize each other all the time over a multitude of issues, often disagreeing strongly on points of principle – and that is as it should be. Not all such criticism is traitorous and self-defeating: some of it stems from genuine ethical considerations which deserve to be heard.

I see Stedman offering such a critique. He believes, rightly or wrongly, that some of the ways some atheists pursue their criticism of religion is unethical, contributing to the dehumanization of individuals and perpetuating stereotypes of already-marginalized groups. Just as I, as a gay man, try to speak out against misogyny in the gay community, Stedman, an atheist, wants to speak out against Islamophobia in the atheist community (for instance). Suggesting other gay men refrain from sexist or racist language does not, I hope, make me an “Uncle Tom” (or an “Uncle Mary”). I hope it makes me a principled human being – even though it would restrict the freedom to act of members of a community of which I am a member.

Reminding your own side of their ethical responsibilities toward other human beings – even if applying your understanding of those responsibilities would limit their freedom of action – is not the action of a traitor but of a principled person making a stand for what they think is right both for the group of which they are a member and for others.

Yes but. It’s a matter of emphasis and proportion and repetition and venue and so on. Yes it’s great if gay men speak out against misogyny in the gay community, but if that’s all they ever say about that community, and they say it in big mainstream outlets where they know people who hate gay men will use it for their own purposes, it’s not so great after all.

Alexander thinks there is a key to understanding the mutual misunderstanding here.

…something dawned on me while reading the book last weekend. It’s a fundamental difference between Chris and the mainstream of the community that I don’t think anyone has fully grasped – perhaps not even Chris himself.

Before he gets to that he tells a couple of stories about dialogue despite disagreement, then comes back to the idea that people should do what suits them best, Chris what suits him and PZ what suits him.

But strangely, Chris is unwilling to be so generous. And I think I’ve figured out why.

The source of the alienness felt between Chris and much of the atheist community, myself included, is this: he values compassion and social justice to a remarkable, exemplary degree, yet places almost no value on the epistemological virtues near and dear to most in the atheist movement, such as rationality, skepticism, and the scientific method.

Ah that. Yes. I do think some of us have fully grasped it though. I’m pretty sure I’ve been talking about it all along. Many of us talked about it for instance in “Good old interfaith atheism” in April 2011.

Alexander goes on.

In passage after passage, he rightly preaches compassion and decries injustice, but is conspicuously silent on reason. He owns up to religious “atrocities” and “conflicts” – but not the absurdities that facilitate both (8). He desires a world in which “suffering and oppression” have been eliminated – but not ignorance or superstition (11). He faults some religious beliefs for being “dehumanizing” or “intolerant” – but not for being false (84, 154). He seeks to make society “more cooperative and less conflict-oriented” – but not more evidence-based (115). His mission is to “advance equality and justice” – but not rationality or free inquiry (158).

Exactly. It’s possible that I have a little more sympathy for that approach now, in the time of the Deep Rifts…but only a little. I still don’t like to see the “yes but is there any reason to think it’s true?” aspect left out altogether.

In sum, Chris does not merely have a different take on religion – much more deeply, he seems to only superficially share the epistemic values that are important to most people in the atheist and humanist [3] movements, and central for many of them. In this he is like a restaurant critic who is mostly indifferent to the quality of food. He may indeed have a column, and indeed go to restaurants, and indeed write reviews about their ambiance and service, which are indeed important. But few of his peers would fully resonate with his opinions. And if he began a quixotic campaign to moderate their negative reviews – because no chef should be belittled merely for their food – they could be forgiven for responding with bemusement, annoyance, and even scorn. Because really, what right does a culinary know-nothing have to lecture others on how to talk about food?

[3] You weren’t expecting that? The Humanist Manifesto III is very clearly about both rationality and compassion-oriented values, not just the latter.

That’s an amusing way of putting it. It is a serious point though, and it is the major point of contention between the Stedmanites and the Badnewatheists. (Whatever happened to badnewatheists, anyway? That used to be a Twitter and Facebook thing. Oh yes, I remember – it was replaced by FTBullies. That was replaced by Atheismplus. I wonder what # 4 will be.) Zachary Alexander’s essay might help to shed new light on that particular rift.

 

26 comments

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  1. 1
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    There is a world of difference between principled criticism of individuals who share an identity characteristic with you and the attempt to participate in the continued marginalization of that identity group. Atheists with a public personae criticize each other all the time over a multitude of issues, often disagreeing strongly on points of principle – and that is as it should be. Not all such criticism is traitorous and self-defeating: some of it stems from genuine ethical considerations which deserve to be heard.

    The problem with this, as I’ve said from the start, is that this is a fake “we.” It’s obnoxious to claim to criticize other people as yourself, to represent them, when those people are explicitly rejecting that common identification. Stedman is not a part of my atheist movement. According to his own story – and I use that word with full intention – he’s never been part of the organized atheist movement, let alone gnu atheism. As the tale goes, he went to one event and was turned off – took his smelling salts and his mint julep and scampered off to the theists.

    Minimally, a “we” on which strong criticism of self and others is based has to be founded in a substantial history of shared activism. Not only does he not have this, but his writing has for some time been directed not to his alleged fellow activists but to those who oppose us, telling them that their prejudices about us are well founded. The whole thing is completely outrageous. Stedman’s the Phyllis Schlafly of organized atheism.

    In this he is like a restaurant critic who is mostly indifferent to the quality of food.

    Worse – like a self-proclaimed vegetarian restaurant critic who goes to vegetarian restaurants and trashes their menus for not featuring steak tartare, demanding that the restaurant owners rethink how they’re alienating the meat-eating community…

    ***

    Not sure if you’re aware, but I’ve been trying to have a conversation with James Croft about this. I don’t think it’s been particularly fruitful. I’ll return to it as my computer is restored.

  2. 2
    Daniel Schealler

    Badnewatheistsftbulliesatheismplusfeminaziohlookapeanuthmmmpeanutnomnomnom

  3. 3
    Argle Bargle

    Alexander says Stedman “values compassion and social justice to a remarkable, exemplary degree.” Then why doesn’t he show compassion to fellow atheists? We’re a despised minority while the theists are the respected mainstream. All anti-religious comments we make are punching up. Much of the theists’ dislike of us is because we don’t give religion the respect they think it deserves.

    I believe I know what the major bone of contention between Stedman and the gnu atheists is. Stedman vilifies us because we’re disrespectful towards something we have no respect for and which we think deserves no respect. Stedman thinks religion should be respected. He lavishes great heaps of respect on it.

  4. 4
    julian

    I doubt it has anything to do with Stedman not valuing rationality the way other atheists supposedly do. I don’t doubt he recognizes it’s importance for the same reason the more compassionate, socially minded non-believers do.

    Stedman thinks religion should be respected. He lavishes great heaps of respect on it.

    That’s probably it. Stedman sees religion as good, so good those who are “honestly” religious are made better because of it.

  5. 5
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    yet still has the hubris to compare himself to Moses (131)

    Someone please quote this.

  6. 6
    Woo_Monster, Sniffer of Starfarts

    SC,

    …telling them that their prejudices about us are well founded.

    And that the prejudice is, in some instances, brought on by the rude badnewatheists themselves for being so damn rude.

  7. 7
    Zach Alexander

    Ophelia:

    >Ah that. Yes. I do think some of us have fully grasped it though. I’m pretty sure I’ve been talking about it all along. Many of us talked about it for instance in “Good old interfaith atheism” in April 2011.

    Yes, but. I’m not very up on the atheist blogosphere/mediasphere, but as far as I can tell – while some have honed in on specific examples of this disjunct, like you did in the blog post you linked to, I don’t think anyone has described it with the generality that I did. Putting it in the most general terms – Chris not caring much for epistemic values – unifies all of these more specific disagreements (e.g. about the word “faith,” about the value of criticism, about the merits of religion) in one concept.

    On the larger rift – as I say towards the end, Chris has a point that atheism is just non-theism, and shoehorning all of our other concerns into it is inaccurate. As maddening as the thought is, there’s nothing contradictory about being a pro-faith atheist, or a pro-homeopathy atheist for that matter, because, to spell it out, “I support faith, but I don’t believe in God personally” and “I believe in homeopathy, but not God” are both logically coherent statements. What makes them objectionable is not that they aren’t atheistic; it’s that they’re irrational, which is isn’t the same thing.

    So I am increasingly thinking that the approach of people who focus on other terms (labels like skeptic or freethinker, or avoiding labels and just talking about reason and intellectual honesty like Sam Harris does) is the right one.

  8. 8
    thephilosophicalprimate

    Stedman is a strange bird. It appears to me that he desperately *wants* to be a believer, but he somehow has just enough intellectual integrity that he can’t bring himself to embrace faith. But instead of taking pride in that intellectual integrity, he appears to be ashamed of it, and distances himself from it at every opportunity. That is, he must share some of the same basic epistemic values as most other atheists, insofar as he personally rejects faith as a viable approach for his own life. But he doesn’t really seem to be happy about it. He appears to wish he didn’t have the epistemic value commitments he does, and he actually admires — perhaps even envies — those who lack those epistemic value commitments and embrace faith. He isn’t just overly respectful of faith; he appears to be downright jealous of the faithful, wishing that he too could somehow suspend his judgment and just believe. But he can’t. So instead, he lashes out — often rather petulantly — at those who prioritize the epistemic values he shares but wishes he didn’t. Or so it seems to me.

    Armchair psychologizing aside, though, Stedman is simply mistaken in not seeing the connection between epistemic values and moral values. Not only are they connected, I’ve argued that the intersection of epistemic and moral values is at the heart of New Atheism. In that light, it’s not at all surprising that someone like Stedman, who is very insistent that moral and epistemic virtues are independent, would think we’re bad gnus.

  9. 9
    Bjarte Foshaug

    Has anybody else noticed how whenever accomodationists play the “More voices are needed” card, what follows usually ends up sounding suspiciously like “Less voices are needed, and you need to shut up”?

    As I have previously commented in a different context, appeals to “respect for the beliefs of others” are only ever heard when there are no good reasons to appeal to. (Just look for “respect for the beliefs of others” at a scientific conference). But given that two wrongs don’t make a right, a harmful belief can hardly become any more worthy of respect for being based on bad reasons.

    If a person believes that the bus leaves at 8.30, and you inform him that it leaves at 8.15, he is probably not going to get angry at you for “attacking his beliefs” or demand that you “respect” his belief that the bus leaves at 8.30. If he is interested in catching the bus, a more proper reaction would be to thank you for the information. And so it is with all rational beliefs: If your only goal is to find out what’s objectively true, there is no reason why giving up an unjustified belief should be seen as a loss. Demanding respect for one’s beliefs or accusing critics of trying to “take away” said beliefs (as if it was a theft) only makes sense in so far and to the extend that the goal is to keep believing whether the beliefs in question are right or wrong. This is practically the definition of wishful thinking.

    When did “respect” become synonymous with infantilziation anyway? As I see it, the only way to show respect for people – as opposed to their beliefs – is by treating them as rational, mature, responsible adults. This is definitely not what you are doing by only telling them what you think they want to hear, or won’t cause them any cognitive dissonance. Indeed, I would argue that the only way to treat others respectfully is to take their views seriously and appeal to their intelligence. This is exactly what you are doing by giving them your honestly held reasons for rejecting their beliefs.

    Although I have some issues with Sam Harris, I think he is absolutely right that what we need most are new rules of discourse that don’t grant religious beliefs any special privileges a priori. By playing the offense card at every opportunity, accomodationists keep reaffirming and giving legitimacy to the very rules of discourse that need to be changed (or the “spell” that needs to be broken in Dennett’s language).

    Finally, when apologists for religion – whether they are believers in God or believers in belief – criticize atheists for their bad form, the underlying assumption seems to be that the views of atheists would not be offensive to believers if they would only adopt a different tone. As Greta Christina has pointed out, if atheists don’t want to cause offense, there is really just one option available to them: don’t exist! Every step that humanity has ever taken in the right direction has been offensive to someone’s deeply held beliefs. I say so much the worse for deeply held beliefs.

  10. 10
    'dirigible

    “In passage after passage, he rightly preaches compassion and decries injustice, but is conspicuously silent on reason. ”

    Symptoms rather than cause.

  11. 11
    sawells

    If we start describing organised religion as “Toxic, misdirected and hateful”, would Stedman think that was fair?

  12. 12
    Timon for Tea

    What makes them objectionable is not that they aren’t atheistic; it’s that they’re irrational, which is isn’t the same thing.

    Actually, neither of the sentences you quote are irrational either (not necessarily anyway, it would be irrational to believe in homeopathy if you had seen the test data). What I think you mean is that you think they are wrong and therefore obectionable.

  13. 13
    Waffler, of the Waffler Institute
    What makes them objectionable is not that they aren’t atheistic; it’s that they’re irrational, which is isn’t the same thing.

    Actually, neither of the sentences you quote are irrational either (not necessarily anyway, it would be irrational to believe in homeopathy if you had seen the test data).

    We’ve all seen the test data. This isn’t Rationality for Dummmies.

  14. 14
    Ophelia Benson

    Zach – yes. I didn’t mean to dispute you on that point, just to amplify it a little.

    like a self-proclaimed vegetarian restaurant critic who goes to vegetarian restaurants and trashes their menus for not featuring steak tartare, demanding that the restaurant owners rethink how they’re alienating the meat-eating community…

    Hahahahaha – that’s brilliant.

  15. 15
    jflcroft

    I agree this was a valuable, thorough and thoughtful review. It’s this sort of criticism which I think could really benefit Chris and encourage him to think about aspects of his work which could bear more thought. I’m grateful to Zach for taking the time to both read the whole book and write a considered, balanced and specific critique. It’s certainly given me a lot to think about.

    SC:

    Yes, we have been trying to have a discussion. But it IS difficult to discuss with someone who claims to know your own views more than you do. There’s not much I can say to continue a conversation if, whenever I say “actually that is not what I believe: instead I believe THIS” you say “No you don’t”. I know my own mind, and until you accept that it’s not going to be a fruitful discussion.

  16. 16
    Ophelia Benson

    James, that’s nice, I guess, but your implication that it’s somehow naughty to talk about a published excerpt from the book is a crock. The excerpt was published. Lots of people will read the excerpt who don’t read the book. We’re allowed to talk about the excerpt. We’re not allowed to talk about the excerpt if we are pretending to talk about the book but we are allowed to talk about the excerpt.

  17. 17
    jflcroft

    There is no such implication in my comment. I merely appreciate Zach going the extra mile to provide a more thorough critique. Of course people are allowed to criticize the extract on its own terms.

  18. 18
    Ophelia Benson

    Come on, James – really? No such implication?

    I’m grateful to Zach for taking the time to both read the whole book

    Why even say that if there is no such implication? Zach wrote a review of the book – who expresses gratitude to a reviewer for reading the whole book, unless there is some implication about other, less scrupulous reviewers? A reviewer reading the whole book isn’t going any kind of extra mile.

  19. 19
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    Zach has the right of you, James. Your defense of Stedman—and its complementary uncharitable and unreasonable application of standards to his critics—is seriously compromised by your friendship with him. So much so that I don’t think you’re aware of it all the time. The implication that Ophelia pointed out is absolutely correct, and you’ve made it in several places, not just here most recently.

  20. 20
    Nic

    I think this is a very fair and measured post, but one point I would like to add. The overall tone here is that the atheist movement is all about simply stating the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and that’s that. If this were the case, then yes, all of the above points would hold. I think the problem Chris attempts to point out is what happens when we move beyond simply trying to be rational and social, emotional, and interpersonal context comes into play. In this case, yes, I think critiquing how well the social, emotional, and interpersonal aspects are being handled is quite valid. Changing the above restaurant analogy, what if the bus boys in the restaurant routinely put dirty wet rags on your plate and the waiters insulted you, yet other reviewers insisted you had a problem because it’s all about the food, darn it, the food, can you or can you not make a case for the food?! Sorry, got a little carried away there. Interesting post.

  21. 21
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    Yes, we have been trying to have a discussion. But it IS difficult to discuss with someone who claims to know your own views more than you do. There’s not much I can say to continue a conversation if, whenever I say “actually that is not what I believe: instead I believe THIS” you say “No you don’t”. I know my own mind, and until you accept that it’s not going to be a fruitful discussion.

    You’re quite disingenuous, James. In response to A+, you came forward with a question to A+ people (virtually all of them gnu atheists) about why they don’t label themselves humanists. Now you’re claiming that your view has always been that labels are unimportant. If labels were always unimportant, what was that all about?

    Upon receiving a series of considered responses, you accused people of ignorance and insisted that there aren’t significant differences between their position and priorities with regard to religion and “Humanism”‘s, which you thought you and HCH represented. You posted your position and asked for explanations of the differences, and when I provided them, quoting at length from your summary of your position, you declared that you had really been saying the same thing as I was all along and that HCH even engages in anti-faith work as part of its activities. (I’ve still seen no evidence for this, but it’s a strange and funny claim in any case.)

    If I’ve misunderstood your position based on my reading of your comments over the past couple of years, your original statement about your humanist vision, and your responses to my statement of my vision, then I’d say it should be understandable. I haven’t seen you regularly arguing that you view my/our approach as positive (in fact, you regularly appear in the wake of one of Stedman’s attacks to chide us for our anger and objection, while leaving his claims and misrepresentations unchallenged). Your statement of your position prior to my responses was quite different from mine. To say in response to my explanation of the differences that, well, your statement hadn’t been exhaustive and that the humanist tradition has included my position is not news and doesn’t erase the differences, which also appeared in your subsequent responses (as one indication, you continued to put faith in quotation marks).

    As I said, if we’re far more in agreement than I’d believed on the basis of what I’ve read from you, then I think that’s great. You recognize our anti-faith work as positive and worthwhile, and understand – even agree with – the arguments for why it’s a political, ethical, and psychological priority. You don’t think labels are important. You don’t think we should be vilified for this, painted as not acting from positive values, accused of fomenting prejudice against ourselves, or told that we need to reevaluate and change course.

    Is that correct? If so, then, as I said, the person you should be arguing with publicly is Stedman. Because if these are your views, you should strongly object to his public statements (and those he endorses from others) about us and our anti-faith work. So if you want people to believe these are your views, you’ll have to demonstrate that in action.

  22. 22
    jflcroft

    SC: with respect, it’s not me who’s being disingenuous. You have consistently shifted the grounds of your criticism and refuse to take what I say at my word. I have repeatedly told you what I was responding to and what I meant, and you continue to write long replies to points I have not made. You do so again in this comment:

    In response to A+, you came forward with a question to A+ people (virtually all of them gnu atheists) about why they don’t label themselves humanists. Now you’re claiming that your view has always been that labels are unimportant. If labels were always unimportant, what was that all about?

    There is a difference between wondering, as I did, why people don’t call themselves “Humanists” and arguing, as I did Not, that those people SHOULD label themselves Humanists. I stated quite clearly in the very post to which you are referring that people should call themselves whatever they want. I have quoted this part of that post back to you before, but here it is AGAIN:

    if other people want to organize under a different banner toward similar goals I’m happy to march beside them.

    I.e. call name your banner what you will, I’ll work together with you. Just don’t as some had been doing, misdescribe the banner under which I march while you do it. Your response is to pretend I didn’t say what I said. THAT is disingenuous, and shifty and, at this point, your having repeatedly been corrected, basically a misdirection on your part.

    Upon receiving a series of considered responses, you accused people of ignorance and insisted that there aren’t significant differences between their position and priorities with regard to religion and “Humanism”‘s, which you thought you and HCH represented.

    Again, flatly false. I did NOT argue that “there aren’t significant differences between their position and priorities…” I acknowledge clear differences in priorities, but question whether a difference in priorities equates to a difference in fundamental values. I have made this point to you before, and again you seem to have completely ignore it. This is not how one engages in responsible dialogue.

    I said that there were various “misconceptions” about Humanism, and put the responsibility for those misconceptions squarely at the door of Humanists themselves, saying “These discussions have often revealed how poorly Humanists have communicated their ideas to the broader forethought movement.” I gave several examples of these misconceptions, and in two cases at least the bloggers whom I quoted altered their posts to respond to my clarification. That rather proves my contention that there were misconceptions there that needed to be rectified.

    A lot of this disagreement seems to stem from three things: first a complete unwillingness on your part to consider my responses to you in a fair light. I have repeatedly directly contradicted your description of my positions and offered concrete evidence from my own prior writing that my view is not what you suppose – and in response you merely assert the same misconceptions. This is fundamentally dishonest.

    Second, because you actually show very little knowledge of my writing or work outside a very limited scope of posts and comments, and you seem to have formed your view on the basis of a very limited scope of data (as I’ve said before, this is simple selection bias at work). Your description of my position in the penultimate paragraph of this comment here is exactly correct – as I’ve been telling you all along .

    Third, because we have different interpretation of Stedman’s perspective. To me, what he does and says is generally compatible with the view you describe in the penultimate paragraph of your comment. I see his view and that view as non-contradictory. And, as such, I can with complete consistency defend him against a certain sort of criticism AND hold the views described here. In short, I see Stedman as criticizing a small subset of New Atheist activism for specific failings, not the general enterprise in which they are engaged. I do not think he prioritizes anti-faith activism very highly, but nor doo I think h lacks a commitment to its value: people can hold the same fundamental values yet prioritize them differently based on their own temperament and skillsets.

    Given your view of Stedman’s work, I can see why this might baffle you. But I don’t hold your view of his work – I hold the view I have defended at length elsewhere. And that view is quite consistent with the view that anti-faith activism is a necessary and praiseworthy component of the Humanist lifestance, and that those who engage in it should be celebrated. I may well be wrong about how I view Christ Stedman’s position, and it may be that his position and mine are less compatible than I currently suppose. But one thing I am NOT confused about are my own views.

    Finally, on your view of what the HCH does re: anti-faith activism, a simple question: on the basis of what data are you making your judgment? How many of our events have you attended? Are you on our email list? Have you spoken with our members? On what basis do you make your judgment?

  23. 23
    Zach Alexander

    Josh and Ophelia,
    Whoah, I don’t see any intentional barb in James’s comment about reading the whole book. Take it easy :)

    And Josh, I never said James’s objectivity was seriously compromised, only that it was mildly compromised, which in the grand scheme of things is neither concerning nor surprising. You’re perfectly entitled to accuse him of being grossly unobjective yourself, but please don’t put words in my mouth.

  24. 24
    Zach Alexander

    SC:

    Stedman is not a part of my atheist movement. According to his own story – and I use that word with full intention – he’s never been part of the organized atheist movement, let alone gnu atheism.

    I know what you’re saying, but these terms are just so problematic – if by “atheist movement” we mean something other than “movement for people who don’t believe in God”, then we have a problem. You’re using “atheist movement” to mean “movement for people who don’t believe in God, plus have a much broader skeptical/rational agenda”. It’s the wrong term. Not all atheists are antireligion or pro-rationality, and driving them away from the word “atheist” only serves to depress our numbers.

    I’m not saying we should stop criticizing religion – I’m saying we should do that more intelligibly by doing it under terms like “skepticism”, “evidence-based reasoning”, “rationality”, “humanism”, and the like.

    In those terms, Chris probably is not part of “our skeptical/rationalist movement”, but he is indeed part of the broader “atheist movement”.

  25. 25
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    I will reply. Had errands today. (And the cats have their demands.)

  26. 26
    Square Head Set Screw

    FKM is not a good material for cold temperature applications During his investigation of the launch footage it loses its elasticity an O-ring can easily seal high pressure as long as it does not fail mechanically if needed typically ranging from BS001 to BS932 viton seal

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