Open Thread

This post by Benjamin Nelson lead to a long discussion, which is continuing elsewhere.  Maybe there's more to say here (and maybe there isn't).   Nothing inflammatory please. I'm just thinking constructive conversation might be a possibility. Somehow the beginning of January seems like the time for it.


s. wallerstein said...

I'd love to ask for a truce or a ceasefire, at least on a personal level, and I'm certainly willing to abide by it.

Since we were "invited" to comment in Butterflies and Wheels, I thought of posting there, under cover a a white flag, but then I sensed that it would be a useless gesture and probably, be seen as a sign of weakness.

Ophelia Benson said...

No, it wouldn't be useless. I would be delighted if you would stop. I would be happy to stop if you would. I haven't been picking fights with you; I've been responding to your comments at TP and here and on Jeremy's site. If you would knock it off, I would obviously have no need to reply. There would be nothing to reply to. By all means let's have a cease fire.

Ben actually has interesting things to say about this, but that got lost.

s. wallerstein said...

Fine, Ophelia.

I will make no more veiled or not so more veiled references to you.

That's a good way to start the New Year.

Ophelia Benson said...

All right.

That's an agreement then.

Ophelia Benson said...

How about you, Jean? Same deal?

I'll correct what I said about banning, if you like - well in fact I already have. I thought it was true though - I did try to comment here when you said something about me last July, and I couldn't. I naturally assumed I was banned.

The reference to WTM was positive, yes, but it necessarily invoked me, and you know I can't comment there. You also know the host loathes me. It's impossible to have that kind of conversation on that blog without implicitly involving me.

So how about a cease fire?

s. wallerstein said...


Not only will I swear to get off your case, but I will get off the case of the GNU atheists or New Atheists too.

I got involved in this sectarian war for reasons that it's not worthwhile recalling.

I simply don't give a f..k about religion. It's never mattered to me. It's stupid, but no more stupid than so many other things that I have no energy to combat.

There's some interesting stuff online about Phillipa Foot and her concept of Natural Goodness. Everyone should read up on that.

Anyway, Ophelia, have a great life.

Jean Kazez said...

Ophelia, I'm very happy we can stop the cross blog talking. I couldn't quite figure out how to make some kind of direct conversation occur, and I think I was actually trying to send some kind of smoke signal by talking about your book.

Yes, I think there was a misunderstanding in July, based on back and forth over "that whole business," but I never banned you. I actually agree that I should not criticize you at a place like TP where you can't reply.

Amos--Once you get ensnared in things in a personal way, it can be hard to know why you're raising an issue...yet again. Is it some unsettled gripe you have, or is there some issue you really want to talk about? It gets very hard to see when your motives are pure!

s. wallerstein said...


All gripes are settled.

No hard feelings.

I've never met anyone with "pure" motives, but that is a theme for another day.

Ophelia Benson said...

Jean - ah. I think I almost sort of got that - about the smoke signal. Sort of got it and then dropped it.

Excellent. The fire is ceased then.

Faust said...

Hurray! Happy New Year Everyone!

Jean Kazez said...

Ophelia, Amos is welcome to get into this "cease fire" talk, but I can't, because I don't feel that I've been sniping. When I talk about atheism, I really am talking about atheism--not about you personally, or anyone else. This blog started when my first book came out, which is about about the good life and religion (among other things). So I come by the topic honestly. I've been making the same kinds of points about new atheism since the inception of the blog, back in 2007. Yes,the "TJ friction" personalized things for a while, but I think I've kept that out of the picture for quite some time.

So--none of this cease fire talk, for me. But direct engagement...now that I like! Anytime you want to comment, feel free. I do occasionally close comments when I feel bombarded, but I just have to do that for my own sanity. It's never going to be a question of permanently ending conversation and debate.

Ophelia Benson said...


I remember how this blog started, more or less. I remember trying to give it a boost by pointing it out to readers at my place and urging them to vote in a quiz you were running. Something to do with a school play was it?

I do think you've been doing some sniping here, but the fact that I thought comments were closed probably amplified that.

Then again, I suppose another reason is that you very often post about subjects I've just been posting about, or people I read and talk to and link to a lot. I have had a feeling you've been monitoring me. Under the circs, that did feel not a million miles from sniping, especially given the comments that often resulted. Do you see what I mean at all?

I took up amos's "cease fire" because it means just stopping, which is easy to agree to.

Jean Kazez said...

Ah yes, the talent show poll. That was fun.

The thing is, we read the same people. So when I write about them (Jerry Coyne, for example) it doesn't at all mean I've been reading you. I read WEIT a lot, and keep up with atheist goings-on in lots of other ways. I think anybody who reads this blog regularly can see that.

That said, I do still intermittently read B&W. Do I monitor/snipe, or do I read/respond? I try very hard to just read/respond. Sometimes I am satirical about what I read. I'd like to avoid being the world's most boring blogger, so that's got to be OK. It would be better to link, but I'm not happy with the way I've been talked about at B&W, so I don't.

My intention is to be substantive and not personal and keep other people that way too. So...that's about all I can say about that.

It's a shame the TJ fracas has had so much fallout. I never dreamed for a moment the whole thing would become so complicated and divisive.

s. wallerstein said...

If I may make one observation...

The conflicts generally occur when the subject of Mr. Mooney comes up.

I've never seen commentaries about Dawkins or Hitchens or even PZ Myers produce animosity in our circles nor for that matter remarks about Karen Armstrong, Mark Vernon or that guy who won the Templeton Prize.

However, Mooney, for complex reasons about which I will not venture an analysis, seems to set brother against brother, mother against son, dog against pet-lover.

Thus, prudence would dictate discretion regarding the subject of Mr. Mooney, if you both are going to keep blogging about atheist issues.

I myself will not comment about atheist issues or religious themes in the future.

Jean Kazez said...

I think the rule is that you write about whatever is important to you, and keep tension with friends as minimal as you can, but when push comes to shove, you do have to be principled and write what you must. Gratuitous provocations--no, skip it. But writing things because you believe them, or you think they're important--you have to do it.

Maybe there will be a way to resolve the tension about Mooney over time, but I disagree that the way to do it is to be quiet and defer to other people's sensibilities. Here's a better way--find a few things you agree on. Maybe Ophelia and I can both laugh about Mooney writing in Playboy. I bet we can. (chuckle)

While we are being brutally honest--

Amos, I think you involve yourself in discussions for the purpose of being sociable a lot of the time, or that's how it seems. So you are not too invested in the subjects, like I think Ophelia and I both are. So it is easy for you to say--drop this subject, drop that subject. I also think you oscillate too much between trying to please and trying to provoke, and you sometimes do this at the same time. You support me to provoke Ophelia. Then when you see she's been provoked, you go back to trying to please her. All of this is not at all helpful to me. This blog is really just an outlet for writing and philosophy, and I would like to minimize drama.

s. wallerstein said...

Generally, they accuse me of being
"anti-social" or "asocial".

I guess I have a right to please whomever I want. I haven't signed an enlistment contract with
either side.

However, in the future, as I've already said, I'll refrain from commenting on these issues.

Jean Kazez said...

I don't know who else accuses you of what...

As to your rights--when the provoke/please thing goes on at my blog, and draws a reaction to my blog (however disproportionate...and that part's not your fault), then it does become my business.

Ophelia Benson said...


Fair enough. You did do a post on the piece I wrote for the New Humanist, for instance...but as you indicate, it wasn't particularly harsh. Maybe I simply read things into it because of the existing tensions. It felt a bit like goading, but maybe that just wasn't what you meant.

It was Jerry Coyne I had in mind, actually. We both read him, but isn't there a connection? Didn't you start reading him because I linked to his posts often? I suppose that's a silly question, really...It's just that you disagree with him often, and given all the background stuff, it again felt a bit...pointed.

Well never mind. I'm just explaining why I thought that, basically.

I know, about the TJ thing. I think the huge fallout was because of TJ's fake blog and what he said about me on it. That meant I was touchy on the subject, to put it mildly. I was very bad-tempered that day.

I'm not up to speed on Mooney in Playboy yet, but I'll be happy to chuckle about it anyway!

Ophelia Benson said...

Ooh ah - I just noticed something, Jean.

I think the rule is that you write about whatever is important to you, and keep tension with friends as minimal as you can, but when push comes to shove, you do have to be principled and write what you must. Gratuitous provocations--no, skip it. But writing things because you believe them, or you think they're important--you have to do it.

Maybe there will be a way to resolve the tension about Mooney over time, but I disagree that the way to do it is to be quiet and defer to other people's sensibilities.

Exactly! "writing things because you believe them, or you think they're important--you have to do it" - exactly. That's why I didn't get CM's reaction to Coyne's review of Miller and Giberson, and why I disagree with his overall stance.

Quite amusing.

Jean Kazez said...

The thing is, if it weren't for the tension, I would have just outright talked about the New Humanist article (referring to you by name) because I'm interested in this atheist teenager issue (for obvious--possibly--reasons).

Yes, I started reading Jerry Coyne probably because of the Mooney brouhaha in 2009, but then I became an addict. I like all his topics, and still read constantly. Got to love the kittehs. I don't know about all those leather boots, though.

Yeah, TJ never hurt me personally, and I had only been following his doings a bit, prior to the flare-up. So that was an element on your mind a lot, but (I must confess) not on mine. My desire to protect his anonymity had to do with a a worry that he could be a danger to himself. It just seemed like he had some very weird issues, what with all that fabrication of multiple identities.

Yes, that dawned on me--the connection to Coyne's review. I agree with Coyne that NOMA is nonsense, etc. etc. But here's my analogy for the day. Suppose you're Greg Mortensen (of 3 cups of tea fame) trying to build girls' schools in Afghanistan. If you fail, the girls have to stay home and remain illiterate, and it's despicable and unfair. Aren't you going to write and talk VERY VERY carefully, figuring out the culture, respecting whatever needs to be respected, etc?

So being strategic and culturally sensitive does sometimes make sense, if enough is at stake. But then that's the question--is Coyne in that kind of situation, where it really does make sense to be careful like that?

You could say yes or no, without being totally daft.

Gotta run for a while...

Ophelia Benson said...

Yup to all of that. The reasons for atheist teenager interest are indeed obvious. (I mentioned on B&W the other day that you're way more on the front line than I am.) Ah - I agree that Coyne's blog is addictive! He's a hell of a science communicator.

Right. I too was worried about TJ's state of mind during the William phase...but then more stuff came out. I forget the chronology and details, but anyway, I know what you mean. I suppose I was assuming you knew what he'd been saying about me, but that was a dumb assumption.

Yes about being careful if the situation is dire enough etc.

Also must run. I'm glad we had this little chat. :- )