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Freethought? Maybe not.. PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Naomi Baker   

In 2008, I was encouraged to organize a skeptics group in Houston. Relying on the advice of friends from Denver, who had successfully started a similar group using the social website Meetup (www.meetup.com), I launched my site and have seen slow but steady growth. As discussed by Reed Esau on a Skepticiality podcast, it is often difficult to generate interest, keep the turnover rate low, and get assistance with organizing meetings. In Houston, matters are complicated in that the metropolitan area is 60 miles across in each direction and there is almost no public transporation except for limited bus service in the central area. People are reluctant to attend evening meetings when the location is far from the office and the drive home afterwards might be up to an hour long. However, the group is slowly growing and we've been able to attract some lively, engaged people.

I was therefore interested when I received, through the Meetup site, an email invitation to join a group that was forming closer to my area of Houston, labeled as a Freethinkers group. The organizer wanted to work on eliminating the ‘imposition of religious doctrine on Free-thinkers in the area," that the group was not against organized religion itself, and specifically mentioned the offering of Bible-as-literature classes in the local school district. Apropos of recent discussions in SWIFT on religion, I must state that, while I am agnostic, my passion in skepticism is directed toward the paranormal, alternative medicine issues, and illiteracy in science, so the particular focus of this group did not interest me, but I thought I might join in order to meet skeptical people in my neighborhood and possibly recruit new members for my own skeptics organization.

I don't wish to make this post about school curriculum, but need to give some background. As regards the issues with teaching comparative literature, Bible as cultural or historical, or other related questions, just last week I heard an excellent podcast from Reasonable Doubt episode 49, which highlighted that many of the available textbooks for these courses are not religion-neutral, and that new books, in the manner of Bart Ehrman or others, needed to be made available for schools to use. Additionally, recent legislation in Texas requires schools to offer electives in comparative religions, Bible, or other associated topics, i.e., Hebrew texts, and that the classes must not promote a particular religious viewpoint.  The schools may fulfill this requirement even by including it in a discussion in a general literature or history course. The Texas Freedom Network is a well-respected organization which closely tracks and reports on topics relating to religion in government and education, and testifies before the State in various roles. In a phone conversation yesterday, the Communications Director Dan Quinn told me that the TFN had reviewed the bill, and found that most schools already dealt with these topics, usually in the history or social science departments.  As he pointed out, knowing about the Bible from a cultural standpoint helps you understand references in Shakespeare, historical events, and its impact on Western culture and civilization.

I had called TFN because, in addition to having my interest piqued due to hearing the podcast and seeing the new Freethinkers meetup group, yesterday PZ Myers posted a sarcastic blog that was flat-out wrong, saying "This year, Texas will require its students to take a Bible course. In the supposedly secular public schools" and linked to an op-ed piece that was incorrect in its interpretation of the bill.  You can imagine the mockery that followed in the comments.  The TFN had not seen this post, but agreed to contact Dr. Myers.  I noticed this morning that Dr. Myers posted a correction written by the TFN, with an explanation of what the requirements actually are, which you can see here.

Because of my involvement in this, I RSVP'd the new Freethinkers meeting notice for this upcoming Saturday, and wrote a comment that I did not have a problem with schools offering electives on Bible-as-literature, but that work was needed to make sure the textbooks were selected from scholarly sources rather than some of the evangelical publishers who promote premillennial dispensationalism or literal interpretations. I referenced the Reasonable Doubt podcast and included a link.

Within a few hours, I received an automated email saying that I had been removed from the group.  When I logged into my Meetup.com account and went to this group's site, a large banner proclaims "You are prohibited by the Organizer from joining this Meetup Group." My comment had been deleted as well. Two polite emails to the organizer, asking for the reason for my removal, were sent yesterday and have not been acknowledged.

Ironically, the charter for this group says "There is quite a bit of freedom for your individual expression, examples, and the personal tribulations you have been exposed to or have observed." There is a lot of freedom, as long as you don't have any opinions that might be different than the organizer.  Freethinking, indeed.  I can still read the site, and see that several of my loyal friends have signed up and commented, but the organizer has not responded to anyone.

Organizers are certainly free to control their memberships, and I have no problem with that.  I have no problem with the guy being neither skeptical nor particularly literate, and wanting to form his own group dedicated to a topic he feels passionate about. It's a social networking site, not a public forum. I haven't ‘banned' anyone from my skeptics group, even the guy who shows up and claims he can read minds and control the directions of hurricane (although he can't tell me why Hurricane Ike wasn't pushed out to sea instead of drowning people and nearly wiping Galveston off the face of the Earth - alas, poor Hooters).  His Freethinker group isn't going to last. From running a group, I know that about half the people who RSVP will not show up, and his meetings typical generate only one or two responses, he being one of them. The site shows that eight people attended his only meeting, but the organizer can manipulate that by claiming unnamed ‘guests'. His writing is full of rambling mispelled words, similar to what you unfortunately see as typical on the Internet. My lesson from this rather fun episode has been that skeptics, ‘freethinkers', well-published scientists, atheists and agnostics, indeed all groups, can sometimes be just as dogmatic and quick to judge without thinking, as do those who hold uncritically fast to their particular beliefs or non-beliefs. Meanwhile, I'm going to get a tshirt that says "Banned from a Freethinkers Club for thinking freely" and wear it proudly.

Further reading: Several excellent, readable books on textural criticism and the history of how the Bible was written, by Bart Ehrman, and Susan Jacoby's Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism can be purchased from the JREF Amazon Library link on the homepage of randi.org

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Who?
written by epicure, August 24, 2009
Myers, Naomi, PZ Myers. Not 'Meyers'....
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written by ConTester, August 24, 2009
Well, by that measure, the committed believer can, whatever his or her particular favourite persuasion might be, always claim to be sceptical – of scepticism.
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written by monstrmac1, August 24, 2009
Did you ever consider the organizer might have some different reason for removing you from the group? I wish the site would steer away from swift entries dedicated to revenge, like Jeff's revenge on a particular Denny's franchise. When are we gonna get back to that educational thing??
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written by w_nightshade, August 24, 2009
monstrmac1, since the organiser cut off all communication and will not respond to Naomi's request for reasons, and this happened right after a dissenting opinion was posted by Naomi (and immediately removed by the organiser), it is fair to assume these events are all related.

Sometimes correlation DOES equal causation.
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written by MadScientist, August 24, 2009
"... in addition to having my interest peaked ... "

That's "piqued". **grinds teeth and whines about people not being able to use words properly**
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written by monstrmac1, August 25, 2009
monstrmac1, since the organiser cut off all communication and will not respond to Naomi's request for reasons, and this happened right after a dissenting opinion was posted by Naomi (and immediately removed by the organiser), it is fair to assume these events are all related.


Unless the organiser had planned already to remove her. Related or not this is a revenge post, who cares if she was snubbed by some online meetup group. These things aren't known to have reliable standards anyway. Get over it and don't post it on jref.
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Yes, off topic
written by TDjazz, August 25, 2009
"... in addition to having my interest peaked ... "

That's "piqued". **grinds teeth and whines about people not being able to use words properly**


The poor grammar and wrong words in some of the articles on this site are distracting. It would be good to have some writers' work proofread and copyedited before being posted on the site.
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written by ZimZam, August 25, 2009
"I wish the site would steer away from swift entries dedicated to revenge"

Couldn't agree more. A nobody claimed to be an advocate of "freethinking" on the Internet, but banned people with critical views from his group. What's the story here? "I don't wish to make this post about school curriculum" ... well, I think that would have been more interesting topic than getting banned on the Internet.
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written by bosshog, August 25, 2009
Gee Naomi, you should never question anything done by skeptics or freethinkers. We gotta stick together to change the world and bring in the new Jerusalem of rationality even if it means shutting up people with opposing ideas...
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written by Starthinker, August 25, 2009
I don't see this as a revenge piece, but a cautionary tale. "Beware" is what James Randi has been teaching all these years and this is just an example of that lesson being applied in everyday life. As for the other comments, no one is forcing anyone to come here, and if you feel you can do better then start writing.
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written by Amos M., August 25, 2009
Monstrmac: anyone who votes down your posts must have lost their impartiality? There's no chance that anyone could genuinely disagree with you for completely valid reasons?

Yes, there is. I do. This, and Jeff Wagg's piece, are not "revenge" pieces. Where is the revenge? Jeff sent a polite letter to Denny's, and politely inquired with the staff. Naomi is not naming names, is not posting links via which people can harass the group organizer, and is not calling him any names (Aside from mentioning his poor writing abilities). As starthinker states, it is a cautionary tale. Personal anecdotes can be a very good way to illustrate points, in this case that closemindedness is a risk we all face, regardless of what labels we choose for ourselves. This is, in fact, a point you seem to need to learn better, based on your most recent comment.

Honestly? Like ZimZam, I thought the curriculum stuff was the most interesting part of the post. Maybe it's partly because I'm from Texas. I do kind of miss the way SWIFT was back when Mr. Randi wrote all of it, though I am rather fond of daily updates versus one big weekly lump. This isn't the best article that has ever been posted here, but it is by no means without merit. Your assumption about its purpose being revenge is absurd, and worse, your most recent comment was both fallacious and rude. Do try and calm down.
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written by GeekGoddess, August 25, 2009
@monstrmac1

Perhaps it's your own words that get a low rating.

Your comment reminds me of an argument I was having with someone in the chat room about health care. We disagreed on some points, and she said something like "skepticism and critical thinking go out the door when it disagrees with your previously held belief." And then she left the room. In other words, if I didn't agree with HER version of the facts, I was not thinking skeptically or critically. Ad hominem.
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written by GeekGoddess, August 25, 2009
Regarding my typos - yikes. I've sent a request that they be corrected. I should not blindly accept the autocomplete suggestions when I mistype something. I know better. I also read PZ's blog so I'm aware that is name is often misspelled.

As to 'revenge'. Please note that I did not link to the freethinker's web site, mention his name, or give other information. Unlike PZ Myers, I did not tell readers to go 'have at them, gang' because someone disagreed with me.

At the same time my own name and comment were removed, the organizer of the freethinker's group added "Terrific group for activists but not for people who want to sit around and philosophize all day. ... ” The guy appears to be passionate about what he wants to accomplish. Bravo. The big skeptical organizations like Skeptic Society, Center for Inquiry, JREF, etc, cannot operate on a grassroots level. That is up to us. There is a need for local groups of like-minded people to meet, organize, and socialize, and the Meetup is one possible avenue I chose because of its success in other cities.

I'm concerned because we have an uphill battle to fight against pseudoscience, paranormal, and supernatural beliefs, but when local organizers blithely dismiss anyone who doesn't march lockstep, it weakens us as a whole. As some responders have picked up, the point of my article was that freethinkers can be just as dogmatic as a Jenny McCarthy or your local "AnswersinGenesis" fundie. Believe me, I'm over it being banned.

For those who want to know more about the textbook issues in Texas, I've put all the links in the article. That way, you can investigate the issue, if you are interested, and make your own conclusions rather than accepting my evaluation.

I miss Mr. Randi's weekly commentary, but I understand that things change. It was easier for me to throw comment rocks at other writers than to start a blog and submit articles to SWIFT and other sites, but didn't seem very productive.


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written by monstrmac1, August 25, 2009
anyone who votes down your posts must have lost their impartiality? There's no chance that anyone could genuinely disagree with you for completely valid reasons?


These two questions shouldn't be inseparable. I'm fine with someone disagreeing with me. Even if they have no logical reason for disagreeing thats ok too.

what I'm not ok with is people voting down posts because they disagree with them. Posts that are extrememly off topic or posts by crazy people about there supernatural powers should be the one's voted down. Criticism and dissenting opinions should never be voted down as long as they aren't personally insulting to anyone. I don't vote down peoples post because I don't agree with them and I hope that others will begin not to do this as well.
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written by dana.pelata@gmail.com, August 25, 2009
"Did you ever consider the organizer might have some different reason for removing you from the group?"

monstrmac1, I considered that and joined the group to get to the bottom of this. I contacted the organizer via email asking what happened and have gotten no response. I also posted a comment on the meetup site in an effort to get further information about what exactly he's supporting and haven't gotten a response to that either.

Today, I sent the organizer a link to this article and asked him if he would read and respond. He has an opportunity to correct us if it turns out he did indeed have another reason for banning Naomi.
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written by rc_moore@cvaas.org, August 25, 2009
Naomi --

As co-founder of a skeptics group, I have also found that many "skeptics" are skeptical of others reasoning, but not their own. And many skeptics are really cynics. Because of this, growing a skeptics group is a difficult proposition -- to be true to the principles of skepticism, you must treat all sacred cows equally, even it means someone is always going to be offended.

I also sympathize with the difficulties of getting skeptics together in large metropolitan areas defined by urban sprawl. My own group has dealt with this by encouraging members to organize small events in their localized areas, either a dinner, or book club, or (our most popular event) "Drinking Skeptically" http://www.drinkingskeptically.org/. Also recognize business meetings, and officers are a necessity, but separate out those meetings from the more entertaining events.

If possible join any network of other skeptic groups in your area, and cross-promote activities, using a newsletter to keep everyone informed of what is going on.

Getting local newspapers to acknowledge skepticism is difficult: a ghost story sells papers, while an natural explanation of a ghost does not. But for us, persistence and well reasoned logic has resulted in local papers now contacting our skeptics group for perspective when they publish stories involving the supernatural (except religion of course).

I am sure you know all of this, but take heart that others share in your vision for a more rational world, and are willing to put in the effort to bring it to a reality.
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written by GeekGoddess, August 25, 2009
@rc_moore@cvaas.org, thanks for the comments!

I am trying to find other groups - when you Google 'skeptics' and 'houston' you only get my group, or posts on the JREF forum where I or some of the other people who post there and live in Houston, have discussed meeting with each other. That's why I was excited to see another group in the area, and one that wasn't downtown.



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I agree with monstrmac1
written by JWideman, August 25, 2009
Voting down posts you merely disagree with is a petty attempt to silence dissent. Continue to do it and this comment section will be worthless!
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written by GeekGoddess, August 25, 2009
@jWideman - what about voting down posts that you agree with but find poorly argued, badly written, or distracting for the primary discussion? Voting down posts does not remove them or rerank them.
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Agreeded!
written by CasaRojo, August 25, 2009
"The poor grammar and wrong words in some of the articles on this site are distracting."

Grandmas of the JREF unite against distraction! What? Oh, nevermind...
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written by AlmightyBob, August 25, 2009
@JWideman:

You were voted down -2, so I gave you an up smilies/smiley.gif
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@GeekGoddess
written by JWideman, August 25, 2009
Actually, enough negative votes and the comment gets hidden.
Comments about censorship on an article about censorship are entirely on topic.
But go ahead, turn this into one of those places where members of a certain clique are the only ones with visible comments.
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written by GeekGoddess, August 25, 2009
@JWideman. I read all the comments. You can click on the 'Show' and it shows them, very simple.

And I agree with the comments about typos, word choices (often a result of using autocomplete and spell check incorrectly), and poorly worded ideas, being distracting.
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written by Steel Rat, August 25, 2009
These two questions shouldn't be inseparable. I'm fine with someone disagreeing with me. Even if they have no logical reason for disagreeing thats ok too.

what I'm not ok with is people voting down posts because they disagree with them.


Umm, you do realize you just contradicted yourself, don't you? Voting down is a means of showing disagreement. And since you first said "I'm fine with someone disagreeing with me", what are you complaining about?
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written by SCStripe, August 25, 2009
I've started a skeptic group in my community. I let other opinions on the comments section that I disagree with. However, when the nuts start commenting just to be commenting then a little judicial use of editing is needed and that may mean not publishing a comment. I sympathize with you on getting help to organize meetings etc. A lot of interest, very little wanting to get involved. That is a problem and I am not sure how to fix that.
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written by GeekGoddess, August 25, 2009
@SCStripe, Reed Esau talked about this issue on Skepticality podcast I linked early in the article. It's an ongoing issue.

I've not had to delete any comments, but if someone was abusive, I probably would. We have a polite gentleman that shows up to most meetings, who is thoroughly convinced that he can direct hurricanes, is 100% accurate on predictions (he predicted JFK's assassination in the 1950s, for example, and home computers in the 1960s). I don't block him from the group just because he has some strange opinions.
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Voting down
written by Sadhatter, August 25, 2009
People vote down posts for many reasons. I can't speak for everyone but my criteria are as follows.

If a post does not say something that adds to the conversation i will generally vote it down. Especially in the case where it is the same type of internet complaining i see on youtube etc.

If your only intent with the comment is to complain that your being treated unfairly, then really i don't want to read it. If someone is willing to put some effort and make a point and maybe even try and make it entertaining, awesome, but if someone is going to put " this sucks" in a few more words, i feel expressing my opinion by a legitimate option given on the website is fine.

The nut-jobs should be voted down, but again depending on the amount of effort they put in their posts , and the amount of effort they go to to play nice. I personally would have more of an issue of simply trying to shut someone up because they are saying something wacky.

But it all boils down to, this is the internet. Who cares, all a voted down post says is that a number of people didn't care for what someone wrote. And no matter what reason those people have, no one can argue that in fact they didn't like the post. No one is being banned, and the comment isn't even being deleted. Simply flagged that a number of people didn't care for it.

And unless one can prove those people did like the post, and simply voted it down out of pure spite, i fail to see the harm it's causing.
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The purpose of voting?
written by MrIncredible, August 25, 2009
I'm a little confused by the subtopic going on here. If we are not modding comments up and down based on liking/disliking or agreeing/disagreeing, then exactly what criteria should we be using? Those are the only reasons I vote. Seems pointless to have it otherwise.
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written by monstrmac1, August 25, 2009
If we are not modding comments up and down based on liking/disliking or agreeing/disagreeing, then exactly what criteria should we be using? Those are the only reasons I vote. Seems pointless to have it otherwise.
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Things should be voted on based on how appropriate they are. Comments that are personal insults, about previous blog entries, claiming supernatural abilities, general attacks against skeptics, all should be voted down. Other than that, don't vote or vote up.
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skeptical of skepticism?
written by cdion321, August 25, 2009
@ConTester: the moment you become skeptical of your own skepticism, you've created an infinite regress and your entire philosphy implodes.

not that that's necessarily a bad thing..
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written by Steel Rat, August 25, 2009
Things should be voted on based on how appropriate they are. Comments that are personal insults, about previous blog entries, claiming supernatural abilities, general attacks against skeptics, all should be voted down. Other than that, don't vote or vote up.


And where is that written? The types of things you say should be voted down should actually be deleted as being off topic/offensive. As far as I'm concerned, voting is based on agreement/disagreement, or something along those lines.
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@Steel Rat
written by monstrmac1, August 25, 2009
As far as I'm concerned you're wrong. Very wrong. By your standards one or two dissenting opinions would get so many negative votes that they would end up hidden. Even though its possible to read those hidden comments by clicking "show" they would be far less read than those which are readily visible.

This is the same type of thinking that keeps rational thinking and skepticism out of the public eye. People have to look for information that Dawkins and Randi provide because its not offered freely in media, at least not the information that dissents from popular opinion. Lets not hold back commenters in the same way public media holds back skepticism. There's no need for double standards.
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written by Steel Rat, August 25, 2009
Being hidden and getting negative votes are very different things. I don't agree with hiding things with negative votes. But that doesn't change the fact that voting is supposed to determine, in part, whether you agree or disagree with the comment.
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written by monstrmac1, August 25, 2009
I don't really having a problem with being voted down because of disagreement as long as I'm not hidden, unfortunately that's what happens here. So either the hidden policy needs to be changed or we need to change the standards by which we vote. Since users can't control the policy we should change our standards by voting on whats appropriate or simply not voting on things we don't agree with.

But I think we're probably in agreement Steel Rat that hiding dissenting opinions simply because they dissent is not the best option.
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@monstrmac1
written by Chunick, August 26, 2009
You might be pleased to know that I'm curious when I come across a 'hidden' gem of a post like yours in the comments section... out of curiosity I tend to click on them to see what all the fuss is about. So, it actually might have the opposite effect than what you think... only a properly detailed study could say for sure smilies/wink.gif

Btw, this is my first post in the comments section of Swift. I was compelled to do it because, speaking as a reader, I have to say that it reads like posters such as yourself, monstrmac1, tend to ascribe much more importance to your comments in Swift than maybe the readers of Swift do, in general. Of course, now that I've posted here I'm guilty of the same - as some might argue. smilies/wink.gif Funny how that works.

Anyways, I think the most constructive point made regarding all this 'voting' hullabaloo was that if you really do have something important to say then write an article.
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Monstermac
written by Sadhatter, August 26, 2009
To be honest the fact that a comment is rated lowly usually gets it some " car crash" views rather than a scan across the main points. If you feel your being silenced go start a topic about it in the forums.

The fact is that everyone has a right to their own opinion, but no one has a right to make people read that opinion. The voting system is simply showing how many people would have rather not read that opinion, for whatever reason.

In the same way you have the right to post anything you want, others have to right to give their opinion on your opinion. And in this particular incidence your opinion is still there, no one is stopping you from posting it in the forums, and to a greater extent no one is stopping you from making your own blog and posting your opinion at length or in summary there.

Voting in any way shape or form is a way for the majority opinion to be known and acted upon. And in this case that majority is mainly limited to people who are skeptics and fans of this website. If that opinion happens to be against you, that kind of sucks on a personal level, but at least you should be able to take pride in the fact that this is democracy in action.
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written by GeekGoddess, August 26, 2009
I tend to look at the hidden comments, except in certain contexts. For instance, whenever there is an article here that touches upon some aspect of religion, there will be dozens of comments from the same poster, leaving Bible verses, random attacks along the lines of 'atheists can't prove evolution, it's all made up' and so on. In those instances, I am grateful low-ranked comments are hidden so I don't subject myself to the trolling.
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written by Steel Rat, August 26, 2009
Well, we can change policy if we ask. I think the hidden comments thing is fairly recent. So I hereby request that comments with negative votes not be hidden. If something is truly off topic (like this whole sub-thread smilies/wink.gif ) then they should be deleted, not voted down and hidden.
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written by GeekGoddess, August 26, 2009
If comments are deleted, there will be cries of censorship. At least when they are hidden, people can read them if they so choose.
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Stop hiding comments
written by weirdloser, August 26, 2009
It's democratic censorship. There's an abuse button for trolls et al. It takes as few 6 negs to hide a comment.
Just because I disagree with something doesn't mean I think it should go away. Seems a strange choice for an organization which claims to value independent thought.
Alison Smith once commented that she chose not to answer any of my embarrassing questions. Now her comment is hidden. Too bad. It made me look good.
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It's fine the way it is.
written by CasaRojo, August 26, 2009
Nothing *ever* should be deleted IMHO.
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Petty Betty
written by weirdloser, August 26, 2009
so the particular focus of this group did not interest me, but I thought I might join in order to meet skeptical people in my neighborhood and possibly recruit new members for my own skeptics organization.


Are you sure he didn't ban you for poaching his members? For trying to change the focus of his group?
Maybe he was worried you'd use his network to carry out a private vendetta.

You indicated volunteers are hard to come by in your area.

it is often difficult to generate interest, keep the turnover rate low, and get assistance with organizing meetings. In Houston, matters are complicated in that the metropolitan area is 60 miles across in each direction and there is almost no public transporation except for limited bus service in the central area. People are reluctant to attend evening meetings when the location is far from the office and the drive home afterwards might be up to an hour long. However, the group is slowly growing and we've been able to attract some lively, engaged people.

I was therefore interested when I received, through the Meetup site, an email invitation to join a group that was forming closer to my area of Houston, labeled as a Freethinkers group. The organizer wanted to work on eliminating the ‘imposition of religious doctrine on Free-thinkers in the area," that the group was not against organized religion itself, and specifically mentioned the offering of Bible-as-literature classes in the local school district.

Wow with this much detail anyone reading this could google up the names and addresses in seconds, no doubt.

Ooops. Guess I overestimated your readers.
As to 'revenge'. Please note that I did not link to the freethinker's web site, mention his name, or give other information. Unlike PZ Myers, I did not tell readers to go 'have at them, gang' because someone disagreed with me.


But somehow they managed to anyway.
written by dana.pelata@gmail.com, August 25, 2009
"Did you ever consider the organizer might have some different reason for removing you from the group?"

monstrmac1, I considered that and joined the group to get to the bottom of this. I contacted the organizer via email asking what happened and have gotten no response. I also posted a comment on the meetup site in an effort to get further information about what exactly he's supporting and haven't gotten a response to that either.

Today, I sent the organizer a link to this article and asked him if he would read and respond. He has an opportunity to correct us if it turns out he did indeed have another reason for banning Naomi.



See you didn't have to tell them to "have at them". They just knew.
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written by GeekGoddess, August 26, 2009
Weirdloser: I'm not sure what you are trying to imply.
Are you sure he didn't ban you for poaching his members? For trying to change the focus of his group?
Maybe he was worried you'd use his network to carry out a private vendetta
No, of course I'm not sure. The question I wrote was exactly focused on what he was writing on his meeting notes. He sentme an email inviting me to join, then removed me from the group. His right. He did not respond to my two requests for clarification. I am all set to admit I'm wrong, or that he didn't want any commentary, or that he was limiting the group,anything. I think I've pretty well covered these things in the article and follow-up comments, so this is a redundant conversation. It's the same meetup web site, and for any group you look at, there is a list shown of "similar groups you might also enjoy" and the groups are nearly always linked in that group. People who tend to join multiple groups. If he was worried about any of those other things, he could have said. But, the entire point of my article was that 'freethinkers' can be dogmatic. But...vendetta?

Wow with this much detail anyone reading this could google up the names and addresses in seconds, no doubt.
If anyone cared enough to, yes.

Ooops. Guess I overestimated your readers.
The point of this snarky remark?

See you didn't have to tell them to "have at them". They just knew.

Right, I am all-powerful. 2700+ hits to this article and ONE PERSON, who happens to live in the area and has met me personally, asks a question of the organizer. Doesn't insult, doesn't attack, doesn't leave snarky comments about people who read the articles. Just asks how the membership is decided or limited. I should run for office or take up activism!
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written by Steel Rat, August 26, 2009
Nothing *ever* should be deleted IMHO.


It's common practice to delete extremely off-topic stuff, spam etc. Are you saying that the ravings of some people who failed the JREF challenge should be allowed in threads which aren't about their test? Or that talk of evolution in a thread about Homeopathy should be kept? Those things belong in the forums, not in a post not related to them.
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@Steel Rat,
written by CasaRojo, August 26, 2009
Move OT's, ravings ect. to an appropriate place and announce it somehow somewhere, post links. Allow the excessively voted down to be hidden but accessible as it is. Put spam in a spam folder. As long as there's room I'd keep keep *everything*. I save all my email with the exception of older spam. Just for reference purposes. I also save many posts from forums and referenced a thread from 8-20-2008 today for another forum. If there's HDD space why not organize and save everything? At two A$E paranormal forums, it seems that there are many arbitrary deletions and admin will not comment on them. I was in an in depth, very lengthy conversation with the "Shakti Helmet" website owner and sales person ( http://www.shaktitechnology.com/ ) and the whole thread disappeared. POOF gone. That happens often there for no good reason so perhaps I'm a bit touchy about deletions of any sort. I say put everything in the appropriate place and save it.
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written by Steel Rat, August 26, 2009
I don't know, Casarojo, just seems like you're going to the extreme. Keeping spam is counterproductive.
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written by GeekGoddess, August 27, 2009
With all this talk of moving comments, archiving posts, posting links to hidden comments...just who is supposed to do this? On a free site?
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@GeekGoddess
written by CasaRojo, August 27, 2009
Aren't there moderators? The hidden comments are marked as such and AFAIK there's not much spam etc. Like I said, I think it's fine the way it is but if it were my site I'd simply organize and save everything.
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@GeekGoddess
written by weirdloser, August 27, 2009
Right, I am all-powerful. 2700+ hits to this article and ONE PERSON, who happens to live in the area and has met me personally, asks a question of the organizer. Doesn't insult, doesn't attack, doesn't leave snarky comments about people who read the articles. Just asks how the membership is decided or limited. I should run for office or take up activism!


OK, so you only get one of your fans (as far as we know) to harass this poor schmuck on your behalf by using Swift to spread the word. You did do a poor job of inciting the readers here act. That's a reflection on the quality of your invective not its intent.

You know it was bad or you wouldn't have denied it earlier:
I did not tell readers to go 'have at them, gang' because someone disagreed with me.

But I think you did tell them that:
several of my loyal friends have signed up and commented, but the organizer has not responded to anyone.

Readers who might think of themselves as your loyal friends would be encouraged to do the same, surely?
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Terrible snark
written by weirdloser, August 27, 2009
I apologize for the snark wherein I proclaimed I had overestimated the readers. It was unclear. Like most snark it was meant sarcastically. The barb was aimed at you, my dear Goddess, not the readers.

Please note that I did not link to the freethinker's web site, mention his name, or give other information.

When I read that I thought you were selling your readers internet skills short. I made a bad joke where I pretended your readers were too dumb to find this guy. In fact I meant to say that you were being disingenuous to imply you hadn't clearlyidentified him to your readers.

Also that quote can hardly be called accurate. You didn't "give other information" except: Houston, Meetup, Freethinkers and a couple of direct quotes from the web site.
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@weirdloser
written by rc_moore@cvaas.org, August 27, 2009
I don't understand the trollish nature of your comments. Do you have something cogent to say on the topic itself: That many who identify themselves as enlightened thinkers are not open to skepticism about their own beliefs?

In my comments I buttressed Naomi's experience with my own. Whether she purposely intended an "outing" of someone with hypocritical attitudes towards free thinking is not really an issue. Skepticism often needs to be very specific in order to avoid rebuttals of non-specific assertions. The rules of Meetup.com are very clear -- if you form a public group, then your actions are open to the public, and open to criticism.

In effect, you are merely engaging in an ad hominem attack -- attacking Naomi's character in an attempt to in some way poison the well in regards to her assertion of hypocrisy among skeptics. Or maybe you don't really care about her original assertion at all and are merely being, as I have already suggested "trollish".
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@weirdloser
written by dana.pelata@gmail.com, August 27, 2009
OK, so you only get one of your fans (as far as we know) to harass this poor schmuck on your behalf by using Swift to spread the word.


I'd like to clear a few things up.

Naomi lives in the same city I do and I've met her in person on more than one occasion. I've found her to be polite, intelligent, well spoken and very rational. Therefore, I was very surprised to hear that she'd been banned from any group and took it upon myself to get more information. Calling me a "fan" is a bit of an exaggeration.

I do take offense at being accused of harassing the man. I'm simply contacting him to get further details about what happened. What's wrong with that?
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written by GeekGoddess, August 27, 2009
@weirdloser OK. My sincere apologies. I intended the post to be about dogmatic, uncritical stifling of opinion and debate being present in skepticism, as it is in supernatural or magic thinking. When a group declares itself 'freethinking' but strikes members who post comments on the open message board, because those comments might not be exactly in line with the group founder's views, I claim it's not exactly 'freethinking'. Several Christian message boards regularly removed anyone who they find is not a Christian or who hold dramatically different theological views from the forum's intent. THAT IS THEIR RIGHT AND I SUPPORT IT. However, removing members who politely want to discuss the issues, without comment, is something I expect from religious dogmatics.

I deplore how PZ wants his readers to skew polls or bomb comment boards on other blogs or websites. I mentioned that more than once. My three 'loyal friends', ie, members in the skeptics group, joined the group, and one sent an email asking for reasons. If I had wanted to 'incite readers into action' as you claim, I think I could have been very specific. I even debated about using my location, but included it so that the relevance to the school issue would be made clear, and in case anyone was interested in joining the public skeptic group here.

This may be difficult for you to grok: I don't care about that particular group or its organizer. Good luck to him. I want to warn against uncritical dismissal of views different from your own, about being dogmatic about one's skepticism, atheism, or rational beliefs.

OK, so you only get one of your fans (as far as we know) to harass this poor schmuck on your behalf by using Swift to spread the word. You did do a poor job of inciting the readers here act. That's a reflection on the quality of your invective not its intent. Apparently so. Or my stupidity. A good thing, since I'm not vindictive. I don't aspire to 'quality of my invective'. Since I am a poor choice to exhort the masses to action, I look forward to your next submittal. I'm sure it will be much better.

I don't make my case well enough for you. OK. I don't see the reason for you to continue to attack me personally.
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"I'm not vindictive"
written by weirdloser, August 27, 2009
Ha ha ha ha

I have no problem with the guy being neither skeptical nor particularly literate, and wanting to form his own group dedicated to a topic he feels passionate about. It's a social networking site, not a public forum. [...] His Freethinker group isn't going to last. From running a group, I know that about half the people who RSVP will not show up, and his meetings typical generate only one or two responses, he being one of them. The site shows that eight people attended his only meeting, but the organizer can manipulate that by claiming unnamed ‘guests'. His writing is full of rambling mispelled words, similar to what you unfortunately see as typical on the Internet.

She can dish it out but...

I think you've exposed JREF to a libel suit, BTW.

I'll cop to vindictiveness. It drives me crazy how fast the new guard is squandering Swift's credibility.
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written by GeekGoddess, August 27, 2009
Vindictive: "Having or showing a strong or unreasoning desire for revenge"

You are focusing on a side issue. Discus whether or not freethinkers/skeptics can be dogmatic.
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written by boredagain, August 27, 2009
While we are on the "off topic" of voting up and down comments. Sometimes I see those buttons but cannot see the comments. If I hit refresh the comments come back, but the vote buttons are gone. Is anyone else experiencing this? Is it a problem with Internet Explorer? Just saying, because there are a few people I would like to vote down smilies/grin.gif
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@boredagain
written by CasaRojo, August 27, 2009
No issues like that here.
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Weirdloser
written by boredagain, August 27, 2009
And which would you be old or new guard? I guess you are old based on your negative view of the "new guard"... I'd like to hear what you have done to further the skeptical movement besides being insulting little troll on a message board? I'm sure it would put the "new guard" to shame. smilies/wink.gif
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The dogs of war
written by Sadhatter, August 27, 2009
The trolls have released the dogs of war, instead of simply commenting that "god did it" or randi is a fraud. The new trend is simply to assert that swift sucks. And is taken over in some way, like James is sitting tied up in a chair with a gun to his head.

They got tossed the bone, but soon enough it will be relegated to the same status as " i guess someone didn't see loose change" and " carbon dating is false."

Yes swift is different now, yes the topics are more varied. But James is not required to spend every waking moment writing free articles for us. And i am sure free time, as well as a want to diversify the website are all factors that lead up to the format and slight content change.

I can understand stating personal opinion that a free website is no longer as entertaining to you as a person, but please, realize that james puts out many books written just by himself so if your looking for only his ( wonderful, imho ) opinion, you do have the ability to support a good cause and buy them. And complaining about something that is free holds about as much weight as praising something imaginary.
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side issue
written by weirdloser, August 27, 2009
The fact that you just used Swift to do a hit piece on a dude who slighted you is not a side issue, as much as you would like it to go away.

As to vindictive, you seem to have a pretty strong desire for revenge here. You set your friends against the guy (politely). You berated for 2700+ readers to enjoy (not so politely).

Let me address your preferred topic that freethinkers/skeptics can be dogmatic.
Indeed they can.
I'm going to get a tshirt that says "Banned from a Freethinkers Club for thinking freely" and wear it proudly.

Pretty dogmatic. So sure are you that you were ditched on these grounds that you'd have it printed and wear it proudly. That doesn't leave much room for other interpretations. (The guy thought you were hi-jacking his group, stealing his members. The guy could sense your low opinion of him.) Pretty close-minded to disregard other viable explanations.
Mind-reading his motives isn't good critical thinking. (It's arguably libel too.)
You couldn't have picked a theory more flattering to yourself. Too much of a freethinker for the freethinkers. Much better than being thrown out of a group for anything as venal as a personality conflict. You're pretty dogmatic about how awesome you are.
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written by GeekGoddess, August 27, 2009
@weirdloser The fact that you just used Swift to do a hit piece on a dude who slighted you is not a side issue, as much as you would like it to go away.

As to vindictive, you seem to have a pretty strong desire for revenge here. You set your friends against the guy (politely). You berated for 2700+ readers to enjoy (not so politely).


What did I want to do as revenge? A DOS attack? Post him name all over the world? Ask anyone here to go to meetings? You are setting up strawmen. Half the article is about the school book issues.

Berate?

Let me address your preferred topic that freethinkers/skeptics can be dogmatic.
Indeed they can.

I'm going to get a tshirt that says "Banned from a Freethinkers Club for thinking freely" and wear it proudly.


Pretty dogmatic. So sure are you that you were ditched on these grounds that you'd have it printed and wear it proudly. That doesn't leave much room for other interpretations.


Humor, much? Too subtle?

(The guy thought you were hi-jacking his group, stealing his members. The guy could sense your low opinion of him.) Pretty close-minded to disregard other viable explanations.
Mind-reading his motives isn't good critical thinking. (It's arguably libel too.)
You couldn't have picked a theory more flattering to yourself. Too much of a freethinker for the freethinkers. Much better than being thrown out of a group for anything as venal as a personality conflict. You're pretty dogmatic about how awesome you are.


I am, indeed, rather awesome.smilies/grin.gif

However, I am always willing to be disabused of that notion, which means its not a dogmatic belief. I've apologized, I explain that my only comment was regarding information on the topic, with links, and admitted that I'm NOT SURE OF HIS MOTIVES several times. Which is why I asked him. What else would satisfy you?

No, don't answer that. I am playing by your rules and assuming your response.


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written by Steel Rat, August 27, 2009
I'm going to get a tshirt that says "Banned from a Freethinkers Club for thinking freely" and wear it proudly.


Pretty dogmatic.


If that's dogmatic, then almost everything everyone posts here is dogmatic.
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strawmen
written by weirdloser, August 27, 2009
What did I want to do as revenge? A DOS attack? Post him name all over the world? Ask anyone here to go to meetings? You are setting up strawmen.

I didn't say any of that. I just listed what you did (set your polite friends on him and badmouthed him here). You didn't dispute my actual points. You just used a straw man argument to accuse me of using a straw man argument. Meta!

Since you like definitions:
In law libel (for written words), slander (for spoken words), and vilification–is the communication of a statement that makes a claim, expressly stated or implied to be factual, that may give an individual, business, product, group, government or nation a negative image. It is usually, but not always,[1] a requirement that this claim be false and that the publication is communicated to someone other than the person defamed (the claimant).



also you say
admitted that I'm NOT SURE OF HIS MOTIVES several times.


So maybe you should correct this. Lots of people don't read the comments.
Ironically, the charter for this group says "There is quite a bit of freedom for your individual expression, examples, and the personal tribulations you have been exposed to or have observed." There is a lot of freedom, as long as you don't have any opinions that might be different than the organizer. Freethinking, indeed.


You apologized to me. Thank you. I didn't need or deserve an apology. The guy and Randi are the ones who need apologies. I would be most satisfied if you would do so in a new post. Since you only wrote about this for half the article you could probably get away with half apologies.

Thanks for reading and answering.
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voting me down
written by weirdloser, August 27, 2009
Is it because I keep mentioning libel?
I should be more explicit in explaining my thinking.

1 "Libel is the communication of a statement[in written words] that makes a claim, expressly stated or implied to be factual, that may give an individual, business, product, group, government or nation a negative image." This is clearly what has been done to the gentleman in question. Disagree?
2 Naomi later admitted she had no factual basis for a describing his motives as she did. Libel suits are stronger if the defamation isn't factual. Sounds like a good case.

Does anyone dispute these points? Does anyone dispute that Naomi used a straw man argument to accuse me of using a straw man argument? I think you guys are too dogmatic to handle my freethinking.
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written by gr8white, August 27, 2009
His writing is full of rambling mispelled words


I'm surprised no one picked up on the above. (Or maybe Naomi intentionally misspelled "misspelled" for ironic effect?)
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written by TDjazz, August 28, 2009
I'm surprised no one picked up on the above.

Way ahead of you, gr8white. Writers of articles on this site commonly make comments about others' poor grammar, spelling, etc., but are guilty of the same thing. "[M]ispelled words" in Naomi's article is just one of many errors.
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written by GeekGoddess, August 28, 2009
@gr8white, nope, that's my error. Strangely, I checked out the four places I do most of my typing: within Internet forms such as the comment boxes here, Word on my laptop, my netbook (where I composed the piece while traveling), and my iPhone.

The Internet and Word both highlight 'mispell' but my netbook software and my iPhone spell check features do NOT highlight it. It is not a variant spelling. I'm not sure what is up with that, but I will go into my netbook's text editor and fix that so it does highlight that particular item.

As an aside, iPhone has an autocomplete feature. As you fat-finger your way through a message, text, email, or other compositions, a balloon pops up with suggested words. To accept the suggested word, you merely hit the space key and it drops it in place. If you do NOT want the suggestions, you must hit the backspace or the 'x' next to the word. So, if you are typing along normally, inserting a space after every word, and are not watching the box carefully (say, you don't have on your reading glasses to see the small font), you've inadvertently accepted the incorrect word. In a perhaps apocryphal story, a friend of mine said her coworker typed "Engr Mgr" as an abbreviation in an email, and accepted the spell check recommendations without looking at them carefully. The email went out, discussing the "Negro Mgr", which caused her a bit of embarrassment. Like mine.
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spelling vs. staw man
written by weirdloser, August 28, 2009
You seem embarrassed by your bad spelling, but indifferent to your poor reasoning. You said nothing about the straw man/straw man argument you made. Shouldn't the soundness of our reasoning be the focus on Swift?
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my comments are now being reviewed before publication
written by weirdloser, August 28, 2009
What did I say?
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@weirdloser
written by rc_moore@cvaas.org, August 28, 2009
I am feeding the troll, I know, but it is important that logical fallacies be identified, especially here.

weirdloser, you have not acknowledge that your entire discussion is based upon ad hominem attack, which I pointed out many comments ago.

And as far as a straw man argument, you are on very thin ground here:

Naomi originally claimed a straw man attack from you (you attacked her for a position she did not hold or promote). You claimed:

"OK, so you only get one of your fans (as far as we know) to harass this poor schmuck on your behalf by using Swift to spread the word."

Quite an assertion, based upon the available evidence. It has been disavowed by the relevant party. You should admit this and move on.

"When I read that I thought you were selling your readers internet skills short. I made a bad joke where I pretended your readers were too dumb to find this guy. In fact I meant to say that you were being disingenuous to imply you hadn't clearly identified him to your readers. "

Again, no evidence supplied. I searched and was unable to identify who Naomi is talking about with any certainty. So you are clearly erecting an argument based upon false premises. I would not normally call this a classic straw man, but it is close enough to justify Naomi's response.

"You didn't dispute my actual points. You just used a straw man argument to accuse me of using a straw man argument. Meta!"

Your points being that Naomi is trying to get revenge and engaging in libel? For merely reporting that freethinkers are sometimes hypocritical, and using a specific example? Since you have no better evidence than Naomi, and are attempting the very thing you are accusing Naomi of, I would suggest the pot is calling the kettle black.

"Does anyone dispute these points? Does anyone dispute that Naomi used a straw man argument to accuse me of using a straw man argument?"

You are appeal to the masses for justification has fallen flat, so your next step is an ad hominem attack on others of course. A conspiracy theory I suppose, we have all met elsewhere and decided to ignore you.

Posting you non-legal definitions of libel adds nothing to this discussion, even if you post them over a over (do you think law is based upon who owns the most dictionaries?) You don't even know much about the law: You implied Naomi had left Swift open to a libel suit: ISP's and Internet forums are legally excluded from such charges. And accusing someone of hypocrisy (all Naomi has done) is not libel. You persist from ignorance.

You seem somewhat familiar with logic, logical fallacies, and reasoning. It is disappointing you use them as tools in defending your own ego. It brings to mind a favorite quote by Ambrose Bierce (from the Devil's Dictionary):

Education: "That which discloses to the wise and disguises from the foolish their lack of understanding."

Your trollish behavior has ruined an interesting post on a subject vital to those who follow the credo of skepticism.

There. I hope you are now satiated.
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@rc_moore@cvaas.org
written by weirdloser, August 28, 2009
Thanks for responding.

I did not accuse her of any of that, did I? She's knocking down her own exaggerated characterization of my argument. That's a classic straw man.
I've been using the legal definition of libel, BTW. It's a civil tort.
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ah crap
written by weirdloser, August 28, 2009
Take two.
Thanks for responding.
What did I want to do as revenge? A DOS attack? Post him name all over the world? Ask anyone here to go to meetings? You are setting up strawmen.

I did not accuse her of any of that, did I? She's knocking down her own exaggerated characterization of my argument. That's a classic straw man.
I've been using the legal definition of libel, BTW. It's a civil tort.

Left the vital quote out before.
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my apologies
written by weirdloser, August 28, 2009
I'm sorry.
I've gone about this very badly. My tone was arch and combative. My snark was inscrutable. My rhetorical flourishes (the t-shirt was dogmatic) fell flat and were just confusing. My jerkiness (a stronger word is in order) is showing. And how.
My bad writing and attitude distracted from my points. It made this too much about me. My fault.
I'm sorry I didn't lay out my case clearly and dispassionately. I hurt my own argument.
In my next comment I will try to explain why this blog entry bothered me so much. I will try to do a better job of it.
It will be a rewrite of a previous comment that's being reviewed by an administrator.
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written by gr8white, August 28, 2009
[M]ispelled words" in Naomi's article is just one of many errors


I'm well aware there were other errors in the article and other posters pointed out some specifics. But I thought the irony of misspelling the word "misspelled" in the very sentence where she was calling out someone for misspelling deserved special mention.

Sorry if this went over your head, I thought it was too obvious to have to point it out. Kind of like wearing a T-shirt that says "I'm perfekt".
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written by GeekGoddess, August 28, 2009
@gr8white, you are exactly correct. I did have several typos and did not catch them all. I juxtaposition letters, even within my own name, when I type I did not copy-and-paste long posts from the original site for two reasons: first, it was never about that site or person, regardless of what some people wanted to believe, and second, I was not trying to highlight the typing issue, as several pointed out. I have no excuses for not checking my spell checker, admit it, and will be more careful next time.

As I have also said, elsewhere, I regret mentioning the city, because it can also be used against me to imply things which I never intended. Of course, I can't PROVE that I didn't intend them. How could I? I would be merely arguing with people who have resorted to 'I know you are, but what am I?" which is a pretty silly activity.

This is a minor post on a low-volume site. The blather in the comments about ascribing motives to me in the comment section is inane, and I was foolish to respond. I got a laugh out of being removed from a group within a few hours of posting a comment, that essentially agreed with the group. Is this important? Not at all. One of the biggest Young Earth Creationists on the Texas School Board lives near me, and votes to teach that Texas children should be told that Thurgood Marshall wasn't important enough to be in social studies classes. I shall resume working on those issues, writing about things I find interesting, but not responding to trolls. Or even polite people like you, who have pointed out my mistakes, for which I DO thank you.

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written by gr8white, August 29, 2009
GeekGoddess, I didn't mean to make the typo into a major issue or detract from the point you were making in the article (with which I generally agreed). I make my share of mistakes like anyone else, but if I made one like the one I pointed out I would expect someone to jump on it. Incidentally it seems "misspelled" is one of the most commonly misspelled words!
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