What do some people hate honesty so much?

Every so often I’ll come across something on the Internet about me that I hadn’t seen before. This is fortunately less common than it once was, but it still happens from time to time. Back in May it was a video:

I knew about that video long before it happened, but I never knew that it had been published until I was searching something else. (My part happens around 4:25.) Just the same, I didn’t know about this post by PZ Myers until just today. It was a response to the above video (which you should watch if you want the rest of this post to make sense):

[The case study in the video] is Michael Hawkins, a skeptic. C0nc0rdance is aghast; he notes that:

In two years, PZ went from praising Michael Hawkins for his courage in standing up to homeopathy…to banning him permanently for “being a douchecanoe”.

Yes. Two years. Almost from the beginning of his interactions here, Hawkins was a carping jerk, yet somehow he managed to continue dissenting here regularly for all of those years before he finally convinced me he was too stupid and oblivious to allow him to continue. This is of course an excellent example of my notorious hair-trigger banning of all disagreement.

I can’t search for my comments on Pharyngula, so I can’t link anything, but Myers is lying. My comments on his blog, whether on scienceblogs.com or his new, group-think site, have always been pretty sparse. Too many people post there for any fruitful debate to really happen; it’s like talking to no one in particular at a Metallica concert. No one is likely to hear you, and if they do, you better not say anything bad about the band, no matter how much you think St. Anger sucked. Furthermore, most of my comments on his scienceblogs site were generally pretty positive.

Not shown, though, are his whining emails to me. Yes, I praised his work fighting a quack in Maine; why wouldn’t I? What you don’t see is that after I put four posts on my blog on the Maloney issue, Hawkins would write to me complaining that I wasn’t doing enough, that I must not like him, that I was allowing my personal distaste for the guy interfere with the importance of his cause (there was no personal distaste until he started demanding my attention!) And from that point on, he came onto Pharyngula with a chip on his shoulder and was persistently obnoxious.

Again, Myers is lying. I would write to him when something new popped up about said quack, but that was a matter of keeping him generally updated. I didn’t complain about anything. After a short time, my emails (which were never that frequent anyway) tapered and I stopped bothering with any communication. Fast forward a bit and Myers gets a cease and desist letter from the quack and his wife/lawyer demanding Myers give up his First Amendment rights. Several months later, I got the same thing. I sent Myers an email about that as a matter, once again, of keeping him updated. At this point I was probably expressing some dissent at Pharyngula, but nothing major. And again, no complaining. Fast forward even further and now a lawsuit is being threatened against me. But by this time I had been dissenting a fair bit more in the sparse comments I did leave. Myers ignored my need for help, but once again, I did not complain. I eventually got help from Ken White and moved on with life. It was only in a comment or two, at most, that I said anything about Myers not helping me. Indeed, it would appear that Myers’ claim about all those complaints I made all boil down to one post – one post which was amongst a series on a particular thread which soon got me banned by Myers.

Let’s quickly review the above paragraph: Myers clearly says that I complained that he wasn’t doing enough and that I thought he should give me all the attention I want. As a result, this contributed to a lengthy interaction which, despite Myers’ incredible patience, resulted in my banning from his echo-chamber. However, the only time I complained at all was over 250 posts into some random thread where I made a post addressing 9 different people. I wasn’t even talking to Myers at the time.

But I’m not the dishonest one here, so I feel obligated to point out that, yes, I do think Myers ignored my request for help in a lawsuit because he dislikes the views I’ve expressed on his brand of feminism. I fully believe that he would have responded to and helped someone he considers to be ‘on his side’. (After all, he was quick to ‘help’ someone accusing Michael Shermer of rape. That person had unfounded claims that may get Myers sued. I had actual facts and legal materials to offer up.)

For example, here is Hawkins’ very first comment (aside from some test comments) on Pharyngula after I made the move to Freethoughtblogs.

I hate to feed the troll (PZ), but the fact is Watson and (more so) those who spread her video and story are the ones who made this all a big deal. Anyone who says otherwise is either a moron or liar. Take your pick.

By the way, you don’t get to damn Christians for projecting, PZ, when you did the exact same thing in this very post when you went out of your way to use “shrill”.

That was in September 2011. He wasn’t banned until four months later, after he’d piled up an impressive record of belligerance and antagonism. And note the source of his ire: that Rebecca Watson had said, “Guys, don’t do that” in a youtube video. You want to really piss off the regulars here? Take that attitude. It’s one of the most annoying things anyone can say here, and yet, notice, it didn’t get him banned.

For once Myers isn’t lying. He’s wrong because he isn’t very good at parsing language, but at least he isn’t lying. My “source of ire” wasn’t what Watson had said. I was annoyed that Myers and co had recently taken to claiming that they had always been aloof to and above “elevatorgate”. Why, they weren’t the ones who created a mountain out of a mole hill. It was all those damn women-haters! They just won’t shut up about it! Yeah, right. As I’ve said before, almost no one would know what “elevatorgate” was today if Myers hadn’t picked up on the story and later continued to push it.

He became notorious here as a tone troll: the substance of a complaint didn’t matter, what was horrible was being so irritating as to make a complaint in the first place (we note the irony that he was actually hoist by that petard eventually). He had a reputation as someone who demanded irrelevancies, like the time he told me to go “craft a few hundred words” and publish them in my local paper, rather than writing blog entries (there’s a theme here, too, of people ordering me to run my blog or my life in the particular way they prefer).

Again, that’s a lie. Aside from the fact that I’m very, very, very far from being a tone troll (I mean, really? me? c’mon), there was one thread in which I talked about using more effective rhetoric. That is, I said that if a person’s strategy is to get a person to listen and be engaged, then insults aren’t likely to work. However, if the strategy is to shame a person (and for many of the caricature feminists out there, it is), then using harsh language and insults may be the way to go. That isn’t me being a tone troll. That’s me describing rudimentary rhetoric.

As for me ‘telling’ Myers to go craft a few hundred words, he is intentionally taking that out of context. That is, he wants it to sound like I was saying, “Why don’t you go fuck off?” Then to add to the quote-mine, he says that I was telling him to do that instead of writing blog entries. Again, we have another magnificent lie. What actually happened is that another poster came into a thread bitching about how awful those threads were. A bunch of people piled on that poster and nothing interesting happened. I then noted that that user did have a point about the lack of productivity in those threads. So, I thought and wrote, why not use a better medium for an important message? That is, I thought an OP-ED (not a mere letter to the editor) by Myers in his local paper would be a good way to get people discussing this or that issue. But who knew that “Have you thought about using your status as a professor to contact a newspaper about an OP-ED” was equal to saying, “STOP WRITING YOUR BLOG POSTS AND DO WHAT I DEMAND!”

The final straw was his privileged, oblivious pomposity. Hawkins, the fellow who got terribly irate that a driving range made him buy their golf balls, then waxed indignant that poor people might use food stamps to buy lobster in Maine. It was classic privileged meddling. Subsidize my golfing hobby, but no, no, no, don’t let those poor people enjoy a good meal!

Again, we have a lie. The issue I had with a driving range was that I was treated poorly by a business. I went to hit a few of my own golf balls near closing time at an empty range. The owners, outraged that I would dare not immediately pay them $1.50 for a small bucket, berated my girlfriend and me. At no point was my problem that they had a rule about buying a bucket. (Most ranges in the area have no such rule, nor did this range have that rule written anywhere; an owner of another range told me he always gets customers from the one where I had an issue.) Had they said, “Oh, sorry, we don’t allow people to use their own golf balls. You need to buy a bucket”, I would have bought the fucking bucket. But that isn’t the real issue for me here; I’m well over that incident. What bothers me is the incessant dishonesty from Pharyngula, now continued by Myers. This issue was brought up randomly in a thread in which I was disagreeing about something else. People focused on it for the sake of personally attacking me. It is easily the absolute best real life example of an ad hominen I’ve ever seen.

As to poor people buying lobster, Myers has about as much understanding of economics as he does of philosophy: he’s a dolt. I dislike the idea of expensive foods being available via food stamps because 1) they fail to contribute to lifting people out of poverty, 2) they are not nutritionally necessary nor without more than adequate alternative choices, and 3) they cost the taxpayer more, thus hurting the economy (and thus poor people). (Lobster happened to be the example I used.) So did Myers respond to each of my points, considering and perhaps rebutting each one? Of course not. He simply characterized me as hating poor people since my position wasn’t sufficiently liberal.

At that point he was toast. Again, it’s not that he disagreed with me — there are plenty of people bickering on that thread, and some making the same claim that these youtubers do, that I’ve violated FREE SPEECH by kicking him out — but because a persistently sanctimonious asshole wore out his welcome at last.

Of course I was banned because I disagreed with Myers. He even admits as much when he talks so dismissively about me, in his view, not wanting poor people to have a good meal. Why, how dare I hold such an opinion! It’s just so privileged. There was simply no way such a viewpoint could be tolerated at Pharyngula.

As to a ‘violation of free speech’, there seems to be mass confusion about this. People think that simply because something isn’t an illegal violation of free speech as described in the First Amendment, it also isn’t censorship. I don’t know what YouTube comments are being referenced, nor am I saying that Myers is expressing this type of confusion, but no one seems to have any idea that censorship can happen in both an illegal and legal context. In this case, yes, Myers legally censored me. That’s the entire point of the video – and it’s a point that is 100% correct. Furthermore, it’s important to note when censorship is justified and when it isn’t. Simply because it is allowed does not mean that it is defensible.

And that’s C0nc0rdance’s Big Lie: that I don’t tolerate any disagreement, that I’m quick to pull the trigger, that no dissenters can get a word in edgewise here. If you actually look at the record honestly, you cannot come to that conclusion…but it’s now the party line for people like NoelPlum99 (168 dissenting comments here) and C0nc0rdance (12 dissenting comments).

C0nc0rdance closes with the horrifying statistic that there are 105 entries in the dungeon file. Oh, no! A big number! Let’s terrify the children with it!

Perspective: that’s the number of permanently (there were a few others who were released) banned individuals accumulated over ten years of blogging. I get between 15,000 and 20,000 comments per month, and have banned less than one person per month.

You want to argue that my commenting policy is just too brutal? The facts say you’re wrong.

It’s so cute that Myers is calling someone else a liar. It’s even more cute when he tries to use facts, as if he has any clarity on any matter in which he’s so clearly biased. Yes, the number of total bans are small. So? Think, Myers. If your argument is that your policy isn’t bad because you only implement it on occasion, then you have a shitty argument. When that exact same logic is applied to something more extreme, like murder, any reasonable person can see that it fails. (I suspect that analogy doesn’t work for Myers, what with his poor record in philosophical thought.) The real fact is, you ban people for disagreeing with you. You can’t handle the speech of others, so you get rid of it when it begins to offend you. Aw, your poor wittle feelings. Deal with it, man. Deal with the fact that other people are going to dissent and do so in a way in which you will lose the argument. Don’t pretend like allowing a handful of people to say a negative thing here or there proves that you have nothing but patience. Rather than constructing these elaborate tales of your tolerance for other views, drop the ego and own your censorship tendencies. Just be honest and own what you do.

Free speech is always the answer

I was reading a post at Why Evolution Is True that led me to Pharyngula. At the top of the blog right now is this post:

New Commenting Rules

What are they?

The ongoing meltdown in Thunderdome and the departure of Chris tell me we’ve got something that needs to be fixed. I don’t quite know how to fix everything, so let’s crowdsource it — you people leave comments here telling me what rules you think might work to get the knifey-bitey-smashy atmosphere to lighten up a little. Just a little.

I have no idea what Thunderdome is and I don’t know this Chris fella. However, I do know the answer to PZ’s issue: More free speech. Of course, FtB (and feminism as a general rule) is highly censorious, so this will never happen, but it’s the only reasonable solution. Let people duke it out until they get tired of it. It’s fair, it’s free, and it’s desired amongst those who value variety in ideas.

Censorship

I’m a big believer in fighting speech with more speech. That’s why it’s so easy for me to explain to people why I don’t like people like PZ Myers and the thought-police at Freethoughtblogs:

There is a facebook page called The Patriot Nation, and it’s exactly what you’d expect: people raging against an America that isn’t white. And it is on facebook, so hell no, it’s never going to get taken down, even when it lies.

and

I just got a comment on twitter about this post:

@Miserere22: @pzmyers hopefully she gets raped. no offense.

Hopefully their account gets reported by people all over the world. No offense.

and

This is the lounge. You can discuss anything you want, but you will do it kindly.

Status: Heavily Moderated

I found all this within the first 4 pages of his blog.

Links here, here, and here.

So, did Neanderthals interbreed with humans?

I’ve mentioned from time to time that Neanderthals interbred with humans. The evidence shows that we have upwards of 4% of their DNA, depending on where our relatively recent ancestors lived. That is, people of European and Asian descent have a far higher chance of sharing DNA with our Neanderthals cousins than someone more recently from Africa. This is good evidence that we were not entirely separate species, but rather close branches on the evolutionary tree. However, new evidence suggests that our cousins weren’t at the right place at the right time for this to all make sense:

Previous dating of bone fossils found at Neanderthal sites in the region put the youngest at about 35,000 years.

But researchers from Australia and Europe re-examined the bones using an improved method to filter out contamination and concluded that the remains are about 50,000 years old.

If true, the study, casts doubt on the idea that modern humans and Neanderthals co-existed — and possibly even interbred — for millennia, because humans aren’t believed to have settled in the region until 42,000 years ago.

As always, absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence. It’s still quite possible that Neanderthals hung around for another one or two thousand decades. Alternatively, humans may have arrived on the scene earlier than once thought. The problem is that we don’t have the fossil record to back any of that up.

The way I think the way this alters our view is not that it shows that Neanderthals and humans didn’t interbreed. Obviously for the above given reasons, that isn’t tenable. Instead, I think we have to revise a whole host of specifics; this is a quantitative problem, not a qualitative one.

Blogging protip:

Respond to many of the comments you get and don’t run away when someone challenges you. I know this is the Internet and it’s easy to just not answer something, but would you do it in person? Would you say something, listen to a rebuttal, stare blankly at the other person, then walk away silently? Unless you are a tool, you would not. Don’t do it on your blog.

Final Jesse Bering update

A blogger and psychologist improperly linked back to my blog a little while ago. The way he used my link indicated he disagreed with me when, in fact, he did not. I asked him to fix this several times. He ignored me. Eventually I changed the post to which he linked so that it would reflect the facts. (In addition to the problem I just described, my post didn’t even support the contention he was making anyway, so I made sure to note as much.) Now a moderator of some sort by the name of Ed has written this:

Ed: Link now goes to Myers’ blog.

(PZ Myers’ was the subject of Bering’s link, so he should have linked to Pharyngula in the first place.)

Jesse Bering apparently doesn’t care to correct his mistakes, but I guess the people working for Discover Magazine do. Good on them.

The Internet just became a slightly better place

I don’t know if she is blogging elsewhere (I didn’t find anything), but it appears that Roxeanne de Luca has ceased her blogging. While I hope it isn’t for any reasons of personal tragedy or whathaveyou, I am glad she is no longer clogging up the Internet with crazy falsehoods and anti-science rhetoric.