Appalling Revelations about "Tom Johnson"

By Chris Mooney | July 7, 2010 12:47 pm

It has just been revealed that “Tom Johnson,” whose story I elevated from the comments of this blog into a distinct post, and who I praised for coming forward, was also “bilbo,” “milton c,” and various other commenters here. And now he’s going by “William.”

Needless to say, I no longer consider his story credible.

Until these revelations, I had no idea of any of this. Not only had I never checked my commenters’ IP addresses or for sock puppets before (although now I see that I should have).

But moreover, when it came to “Tom Johnson,” I emailed him after his first comment, to check on his identity. The response claimed to be a specific person–a specific Ph.D. candidate at a specific university–and provided a university website and considerable detail about this person’s scientific career, publishing record, outreach endeavors, and so on.

Now, “William” says, “When Chris contacted me, I made up a story about being a grad. student as an explanation about where the story came from because I didn’t want the Tom character to get exposed as false.” No. It wasn’t just a story about being a graduate student. A specific name was given, a specific career, a specific website, a specific university, and so on.

I am looking into all this, and will get to the bottom of it.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Announcements

Comments (314)

  1. Though I don’t feel that you were defending your actions, you should be clear about one thing…

    You could have easily checked this out by sending a message to the actual Tom Johnson’s university e-mail address. It’s true that you were deceived, but you appear to have let yourself be deceived rather easily.

    On the sockpuppets, there were many threads which should have been very suspect. I’m not sure what prevented you from ever checking for sockpuppets.

  2. In particular, you should remember that you didn’t check carefully in the face of sustained criticism, explaining it away as touched nerves.

    Now, no doubt, nerves will be touched.

    I don’t think that you were being cynical, but we all occasionally need to self-correct for partisan errors, and in this case, you’ve been given a serious reminder.

  3. And where’s the apology to the group of people you were unfairly painting with your brush dipped in the easily checked paint bucket of dishonesty?

    Humm?

    The color isn’t quite what you though it was when you bought it at the store, is it?

  4. truthspeaker

    To build on what Zach said:

    You could have easily checked this out by sending a message to the actual Tom Johnson’s university e-mail address

    Not only could you have done that, that’s Journalism 101. It’s what verifying a source means, and this episode shows why it’s so important.

  5. Cain

    So, the journalistic skills that brought us “Unscientific America” know brings us “Tom Johnson” …Shocking

  6. The bigger question here is why his story would even be considered credible. Where was the skepticism aimed at the story itself? Has anyone else ever observed similar behavior at scientific conferences? I know I haven’t. I haven’t even observed that kind of behavior at the atheist conferences I’ve attended. While that is simply anecdotal, it certainly appears to me that you had a story that you wanted to be true and you ran with it. Sure, you were deceived (btw, why not post that email from “Tom?”), but there seems to have been a lack of rigor on your part, and a reliance on anecdotes of your own.

  7. Echoing a comment from Paul on the Buddha thread:

    Please verify William’s claims about the different socks he used here.

  8. Scote

    “So I should not have trusted “Tom Johnson,” but I was also deceived. I am looking into all this, and will get to the bottom of it.”

    The issue isn’t that “Tom Johnson” lied to you about his identity, the issue is that “Tom’s” story wasn’t credible to begin with. He said what you wanted to hear. His story confirmed your biases. So you went with it and endorsed him, and held his story up as proof that you were right and all those disrespectful “New Atheists” were wrong, You chose to believe “Tom’s” threadbare story over the denials and skepticism of more credible sources. You were duped, almost entirely by your own biases rather than by “Tom Johnson.,”

    I hope you’ll use this as a lesson in hubris and of how cognitive biases can short circuit objective reason and that you will take steps in the future to analyze your own knee-jerk dismissals of well founded criticism of your claims and arguments. Perhaps you should read t the book “Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts” and write a post about how it fits in with your attempts to blame your own failures on “Tom Johnson” rather than your own self-absorbed credulity.

  9. Matt

    I can recall a number of people at the time saying they did not believe the story. I was one of them.

    We did not believe it because it did not ring true. You then told us you had verified who Johnson was. You now admit that you did not.

    You need to apologise for misleading people. And you need to apologise to those people who told you the story was not true and who you dismissed. I might add that a number of commentators joined you in that dismissal. Pity you failed to notice many of those were the same person as Johnson.

    Sloppy journalism.

  10. Matt

    Oh, and I can just add that misleading people about having checked your sources does not show good skills at communicating.

    If you cannot even check a source why should anyone listen to you about how to communicate science ?

  11. E.V.

    BTW, Chris – I thought you were great in the Twilight movies.

  12. gillt

    I would like to know whether Chris emailed Tom Johnson (aka William) to confirm anything before or after he wrote the Exhibit A post.

    I only ask because Tom made it seem that at the time, Chris only asked for his identity after he already posted his story.

  13. Sorbet

    That would explain the obnoxious and combative tone “Tom” and “bilbo” both adopted. I too think you bought into the Johnson story too easily, but more importantly, made a big mistake in elevating it into a distinct blog post apparently showcasing the appalling tactics of the Big Bad New Atheists. Ah, the extended perils of extrapolating from one data point.

  14. DarronS

    This episode further erodes Chris’s credibility as a journalist. He has exhibited a pattern of trashing those who disagree with him, refusing to engage in debate with those who disagree with him, and accepting without verification anything that supports his preconceived ideas. I knew Yale’s journalism program was poor, but this is inexcusable for someone who calls himself a science journalist.

    Check your facts Chris, especially when they so conveniently support your ideas.

  15. Jon

    Scote: His story confirmed your biases.

    And New Atheist bloggers would never run anything spurious that confirms their biases, right?

    Nonetheless, I always thought elevating that comment was risky. You never know who’s playing around in the comments section …

  16. truthspeaker

    Chris, here’s a tip for future reference. If some guy calls you, says his name is “Curveball”, and claims to have evidence that Saddam Hussein worked with Al Qaeda … he might be lying.

  17. There are university email address and university telephone numbers. You didn’t check either. You fail Journalism 101, apparently abiding by the dictum: Always check your sources, UNLESS they tell you something you want to hear.

  18. RBH

    I’ll repeat the remark I made on ‘The Buddha':

    WTF is this “Oooooo it’s hard to detect sock puppets” bull? Writing as a former administrator of (the late lamented) Internet Infidels Discussion Board, it ain’t all that hard, kids. It requires paying some attention to comment threads and a modicum of organization to detect a couple of sorts of diagnostic patterns, but it’s not rocket science.

  19. Absurdist

    Replaced the broken gullibility meter yet, Chris?

  20. Matti K.

    How does it feel when scientists teach you how to do journalism, Mr. Mooney. :-)

  21. Gus Snarp

    Mostly a repeat of something I said on Pharyngula: The great evil in a story like this not being checked out in advance is that the damage is done, all the retractions in the world won’t change the impact this may have had in the minds of the impressionable. There are plenty of examples of such stories ruining people’s reputations, destroying political careers, and convincing people to believe in pseudoscience. Andrew Wakefield provides a perfect example, as does “Climategate”. All the retractions after the fact are meaningless. You have to check things out properly in advance or the damage you do cannot be undone.

  22. I’m curious. What do you mean, “you’ll get to the bottom of it”? The story has all been laid out for you, complete with a confession.

    If you mean you’re going to employ your tremendous journalistic skills to investigate further…well…well. Having seen those in action, I’m thinking…ah, screw it. Anything appropriate I could say would be censored with much strident pearl clutching.

  23. Scote

    “14. Jon Says:
    July 7th, 2010 at 1:19 pm

    Scote: His story confirmed your biases.

    And New Atheist bloggers would never run anything spurious that confirms their biases, right?”

    Well there is a statement with a whole lot of nothing in it. You haven’t rebutted a single thing I said, only tried to say, “Well, you do it too!”, which (a) you haven’t proven and (b) wouldn’t make Mooney right.

    Everybody is subject to cognitive biases. That is why we have created defenses against such biases, including the scientific method and proper journalistic fact checking, such as confirming identity of the “scientist” by sending an email via the mailto on the website. Fact checking 101. If somebody claims to be from a company (or a website) use the publicly listed contact info (or contact info for that company or site via known, trusted 3d party) to make the confirmation, not the cell phone number or gmail address the person gives you which could belong to anyone. Mooney has himself to blame for his own credulity.

  24. gillt

    Jon: “Nonetheless, I always thought elevating that comment was risky.”

    Nice try, you jumped on the New Atheist Noise Machine bandwagon with the rest of the suckers, never once questioning Tom’s testimony or Mooney’s decision to run with it.

  25. Stephen Wells

    For future reference, Mr. Mooney, repeating untrue stories does not make you a communications expert.

  26. gillt

    I find it hilarious that William, after admitting he made it up, said “That’s probably why no one took the story seriously anyway when I said it months ago.”

    Except of course for the two people who run this website.

  27. Tulse

    “The issue isn’t that “Tom Johnson” lied to you about his identity, the issue is that “Tom’s” story wasn’t credible to begin with. He said what you wanted to hear. His story confirmed your biases.”

    Now, now, Scote, we just call that “framing”…

  28. Woody Tanaka

    “No. It wasn’t just a story about being a graduate student. A specific name was given, a specific career, a specific website, a specific university, and so on.”

    How are all these “specific” things inconsistent with it being “a story”?

  29. Gunga Lagunga

    Tom Johnson WAS real, Mooney. In your own mind. He’s a part of you now, however. Your own private, shoulder-mounted homonculus. Feel free to call on him whenever you need him.

    Tom Johnson gets the next Templeton award, I say.

  30. gillt

    William, perhaps again unable to divulge the entire truth, said it was just a story about being a grad student. Mooney apparently corrected him. Both seem to be trying to spread the blame so I’m not sure who to believe at this point.

  31. Jon

    Everybody is subject to cognitive biases.

    No kidding, really? But yes, as a journalist, Chris should have called the guy up.

  32. Scote

    “. Jon Says:
    July 7th, 2010 at 1:52 pm

    Everybody is subject to cognitive biases.

    No kidding, really? But yes, as a journalist, Chris should have called the guy up.”

    Hmm…in other words, your original complaining post to me had no actual point or rebuttal and was merely so much hand waving and pearl clutching.

  33. TB

    Chris independently shared the evidence with me that he has regarding “Tom.” I can corroborate what he’s said so far and I will say that, yes, there is more to this.

  34. Scote

    Please forgive my unfamiliarity with you and your claims. Who are you and why would Chris share such information with you, TB? And why should we accept such claims from a ‘nym?

  35. Jon

    in other words, your original complaining post to me had no actual point or rebuttal and was merely so much hand waving and pearl clutching.

    Um, no. My point was that it wouldn’t be surprising if people fanatic about their cause to the point of illiberalism would ignore things that didn’t confirm their biases.

    Now back to your regularly scheduled p**sing contest where someone named PZ Myers and his acolytes act like flaming jack**ses and then wonder why anyone would have problems with their crusade to make the world safe for scientific atheism.

  36. Scote

    “36. Jon Says:
    July 7th, 2010 at 2:09 pm Um, no. My point was that it wouldn’t be surprising if people fanatic about their cause to the point of illiberalism would ignore things that didn’t confirm their biases.”

    How strange. This thread is about Chris Mooney and his credulous acceptance and endorsement of a tall tale because it met his preconceptions. Your tu quoque fallacy does nothing to change that.

  37. designsoda

    Now back to your regularly scheduled p**sing contest where someone named PZ Myers and his acolytes act like flaming jack**ses and then wonder why anyone would have problems with their crusade to make the world safe for scientific atheism.

    Fact checking = pissing contest. Got it.

  38. Jon

    I’m sure there’s enough of you that you’ll make the thread about whatever you want.

  39. Scote

    “38. Jon Says:
    July 7th, 2010 at 2:16 pm

    I’m sure there’s enough of you that you’ll make the thread about whatever you want.”

    You mean by making it about what actually happened and the consequences of irresponsible credulity? Yes, that really really is an off topic stretch that could only be engineered by an army of anti-Chris sockpuppets. Never mind that the instances of known sockpuppetry actually all go the other way here in what the modding often helps turn into a moat of reflexively anti-atheist, pro-Chris trolls.

  40. Jolo5309

    Please forgive my unfamiliarity with you and your claims. Who are you and why would Chris share such information with you, TB? And why should we accept such claims from a ‘nym?

    His real name is Tom Bohnson…

  41. gillt

    TB: “Chris independently shared the evidence with me that he has regarding “Tom.” I can corroborate what he’s said so far and I will say that, yes, there is more to this.”

    So what exactly did Mooney say that you can corroborate? William said he only gave Mooney a line about him being a grad student. Is William lying again?

  42. Jon

    I’m not anti-atheist, I’m anti-illiberal. I’m anti-narrowly-educated-but-confident. I’m anti-self-absorbed-jerk.

  43. Ambidexter

    Jon sez:

    Now back to your regularly scheduled p**sing contest where someone named PZ Myers and his acolytes act like flaming jack**ses and then wonder why anyone would have problems with their crusade to make the world safe for scientific atheism.

    That whoosing sound was the point flying over your head.

    Chris and his acolytes have been whining about how mean, nasty, mean, crude, mean, unpleasant, mean, rude and mean the “New Atheists” are and how everything would be rainbows and unicorn farts if only the “New Atheists” would STFU. “Tom Johnson” comes along with a story about how mean, nasty, mean, crude, mean, unpleasant, mean, rude and mean the “New Atheists” are and Chris swallows the story like it was gourmet ice cream. Then it turns out that the story Chris was so proud was produced by the time-honored method called “making stuff up.” This method is also known as “lying.”

    In real life, something that both you and Chris seem to have only the barest acquaintance with, “New Atheists” turn out not to be so mean, nasty, mean, crude, mean, unpleasant, mean, rude and mean as you and Chris pretend they are. Your and Chris’ apologies, while not expected, will be accepted.

  44. Jon

    But yes. Chris shouldn’t have elevated the comment.

  45. Scote

    “42. Jon Says:
    July 7th, 2010 at 2:33 pm

    I’m anti-self-absorbed-jerk.”

    That can’t be true. If it were, you wouldn’t be defending Mooney all the time. ;-)

  46. TB

    @42 Gilt, I honestly don’t feel I can comment on that yet.

  47. Gus Snarp

    @TB – Are you joking? Lying for attention? Serious? I can’t tell, and I don’t care. It seems that if you can’t comment on it, you shouldn’t have commented on it.

  48. Chris Mooney

    Thanks, TB, and others who are waiting to know all the facts.

  49. GM

    43. Jon Says:
    July 7th, 2010 at 2:33 pm
    I’m not anti-atheist, I’m anti-illiberal. I’m anti-narrowly-educated-but-confident. I’m anti-self-absorbed-jerk.

    So basically you’re an intellectual coward

  50. gillt

    Jon: “But yes. Chris shouldn’t have elevated the comment.”

    Really, is that what you said at the time it was elevated or did you use that comment to bolster your own anti new-atheist opinions?

  51. Gus Snarp

    @Chris Mooney – I’m waiting to know all the facts, but I’m more curious to know, if there are more facts to know, why they’re being withheld. It seems to me that in a question of credibility, withholding information is exactly the wrong approach. Also, thanking an anonymous commenter who has claimed, without evidence, to be privy to special information from you that he can’t share, seems like very poor form when confronted with issues regarding sock puppetry. It may be that this individual is privy to special information, but at this point accepting anything said by an anonymous commenter at face value would be foolish.

  52. Jon

    Yes the commenter lied. And Chris published that. But does that change the fact that you guys act like jerks, and think that this helps science and atheism? Which is oh so diplomatic a combination of causes to crusade on together these days, let me tell you. And act like jerks in the process! Nice.

    Why are all you people so freaking tone deaf?

  53. Scote

    “49. Chris Mooney Says:
    July 7th, 2010 at 2:48 pm

    Thanks, TB, and others who are waiting to know all the facts.”

    To bad *you* didn’t do that before publicly endorsing “Tom Johnson’s” falsehoods as confirmation of your tenuous claims of how mean, nasty and counterproductive to science the New Atheists are…

    BTW, are you confirming TB’s claim that you have privately shared information with TB about your earlier “confirmation” of “Tom Johnson’s” identity as a scientist? And, if so, why did you not include those details in the OP?

  54. Jon

    So basically you’re an intellectual coward

    WTF? If you can explain to me how you reach that.

  55. gillt

    @Chris Mooney: I’ve waited months and months for you to acknowledge Tom Johnson’s story as patently ludicrous, especially when he backed off his original claims as to what actually happened. You were silent the entire time.

  56. Tulse

    Just to be clear, various posters had suggested that the story smelled funny, and that Chris’ credulousness might bite him in the ass. For instance, over nine months ago at the original posting I commented:

    “M&K claimed Tom’s story as data — I don’t think it at all unreasonable to point out that some anonymous person’s claim of an experience is not exactly data. This isn’t about Tom, it’s about basic journalism. And yeah, given that Mooney is a journalist, I might expect at the very least that he would do some basic source-checking before relying on the story so much, if for no other reason than to prevent being embarrassingly hoaxed by some nefarious New Atheist ne’er-do-well.”

    Now, sadly, that seems somewhat prescient.

  57. “Thanks, TB, and others who are waiting to know all the facts.”

    You’re welcome! — wait, which facts are we waiting for?

    Well, I suppose it could turn out that William is a meta-sock-puppet. One to rule them all.

  58. Jon,

    Forgive me, but your defense is well you guys are jerks.

    “Yes the commenter lied. And Chris published that. But does that change the fact that you guys act like jerks, and think that this helps science and atheism? ”

    Don’t pontificate about communicating science and atheism right now. Bad call.

    You’re giving a lies in service of the truth speech and I don’t like it.

  59. Scote

    @Chris Mooney

    Why don’t you just publish the email correspondence with “Tom Johnson” with only the name of the real scientist redacted? Lying to you about his name and his identity breaks any contract “Tom Johnson” has as a source to keep his correspondence secret.

  60. José

    But does that change the fact that you guys act like jerks

    Yes. New atheists are such jerks. So much so that their detractors need to fabricate and promote obviously fake stories to show this.

  61. gillt

    @59 Sound advice.

  62. David

    Chris Mooney:

    Props for being up front and not just sweeping stuff under the carpet.

    Don’t feel too bad about being duped. There are probably many more here that post multiple times under different identities to create their own “consensus”. That is just the price we pay for the anonymity which allows us to say things freely. The comments that people leave are worth exactly the price that it cost to post. It is not expert testimony.

    Keep up the good work.

  63. The Swede

    I’m anti-self-absorbed-jerk.

    So you’re anti yourself? At least judging by the astonishing amount of self absorbed jerkery you’re showing in this thread.

  64. Tulse

    “Don’t feel too bad about being duped.”

    But do feel bad about using a fraudulent incident to try to score political points without doing basic journalistic fact-checking on it.

  65. Scote

    Chris Mooney:

    Props for being up front and not just sweeping stuff under the carpet.

    Don’t feel too bad about being duped. There are probably many more here that post multiple times under different identities to create their own “consensus”. That is just the price we pay for the anonymity which allows us to say things freely. The comments that people leave are worth exactly the price that it cost to post. It is not expert testimony. “

    You are contradicting yourself. If comments are “worth exactly the price that it cost to post. It is not expert testimony.” then Mooney shouldn’t have based an entire thread on one. So you don’t have any basis to offer Mooney soothing comfort for the falsehoods he credulously endorsed and cited as evidence for his claims that atheist scientists are mean, nasty and counter productive to science. This isn’t about issues with anonymous posts, or about being “duped.” This is about Mooney credulously accepting things that confirm his preconceptions and arbitrarily rejecting things that don’t. That isn’t sound science nor is it objective journalism. And as a science journalist that means Mooney fails twice over.

  66. Ambidexter

    Jon is whining about how mean, nasty, mean, crude, mean, unpleasant, mean, rude and mean the “New Atheists” are and how this doesn’t “promote” science. So tell us, Jon, how does telling lies about “New Atheists” promote science?

  67. Scote

    Oops. I only meant to quote post 62. Sorry.

  68. Testing for autofilters….

    Wait
    how
    yet

    if
    so

    oranges
    peanuts
    hobgoblins
    electric
    lights
    incense
    apples

    bananas
    algae
    nerf
    no
    education
    direction
    ?

    Now, read the first letter of each line.

  69. Brownian

    I’m one of Jon’s sockpuppets.

    Just you wait until Chris gets to the bottom of me. It’s gonna be big!

  70. Passerby

    I find it remarkable that Mr. Mooney feels no need to apologize to all those New Atheists who he painted with broad brush strokes in those posts. I guess only the religious deserve apologies when they are offended.

  71. Jennifer B. Phillips

    I see it @68, Zach. whatever else “getting to the bottom of it” might entail, I suspect the silence on the collective “oranges-peanuts-hobgoblins-electric-lights-incense-apples” matter will be deafening.

  72. Ichthyic

    Wait, is Mooney actually Buck Williams the GIRAT from Left Behind?

    yes…

    Mooney IS:

    the GIRAT!

    all hail!

  73. Sputnik

    Jon: “I’m anti-self-absorbed-jerk.”

    Although I rarely comment here, I do skim through many posts, and to me you often come across as a repetitive self absorbed jerk. The fact that you can’t see it in yourself and in some of the others that share your view point (like the many self-absorbed sock-puppet jerks who I don’t recall you criticizing) is very telling.

  74. Chris Mooney

    I have now figured out what is going on here and will post more shortly.

  75. Don’t feel too bad about being duped. There are probably many more here that post multiple times under different identities to create their own “consensus”. That is just the price we pay for the anonymity which allows us to say things freely.

    Ah. The “everybody does it” excuse pops up.

    No, they don’t. And the few that do are relatively easy to catch.

    I guarantee you that if I tried to post under multiple pseudonyms, M&K would not only catch it, they’d be trumpeting it as an example of untrustworthy behavior.

  76. GM

    Post in moderation, let’s try again removing the potentially offensive lines:

    55. Jon Says:
    July 7th, 2010 at 2:56 pm
    So basically you’re an intellectual coward
    WTF? If you can explain to me how you reach that.

    Very easily. It doesn’t follow directly from the comment, if one is to take it literally, but it does follow from the comment plus the history of the conversation

    I have long ago reached the conclusion that the main reason for the backlash against the “New Atheists” from the more “liberal” part of the (supposedly) good guys, is that they are simply afraid of confrontation. Not just afraid but terrified by the though that someone would openly stand up against the mythology of our society and that they may somehow get involved in the whole mess.

    The reason I have reached this conclusion is precisely because all the talk about the incivility of New Atheists, directed even at people like Dawkins who is really the epitome of cool British manners. It would be nice if it was all about strategy, but I am afraid it is not.

    There is a very strong cultural bias in our culture against speaking openly on issues, especially when speaking out means questioning commonly held assumptions. It gets instilled in the minds of people from an early age. And apparently it is very hard to overcome.

  77. truthspeaker

    Jon, you realize the entirety of your evidence for use being “jerks” is a fake story from sockpuppet Tom Johnson?

  78. Katharine

    There’s some evidence that Bilbo Johnson has done this before, apologized, and then gone back to his trollery.

  79. Oh, PZ, didn’t you read the post? They never bothered to look for sockpuppets.

    They’re sharp on matters of oranges-peanuts-hobgoblins-electric-lights-incense-apples, though.

  80. Tulse

    “I have now figured out what is going on here”

    Man, sometimes the jokes just write themselves…

  81. Brownian

    I have now figured out what is going on here and will post more shortly.

    Next on The Intersection: Bruce Willis’ character was dead the whole time!

  82. Ichthyic

    How does it feel when scientists teach you how to do journalism, Mr. Mooney.

    ROFLMAO

    perfect.

  83. Ichthyic

    I just have to post this, seeing as how this blog has become a…

    Disco Inferno!

    for poor old Chris.

  84. Ichthyic

    I have now figured out what is going on here and will post more shortly.

    see?

    all hail the GIRAT!

  85. Jon

    Ah. The “everybody does it” excuse pops up.

    I don’t do it. I used to use my full name, and changed to just my first name for the sake of anonymity, but never used two at once.

    (No way to know that without looking at IPs of course.)

    By the way, I’ve seen someone post here as “Paul” before. I’m speculating, but it sounded an awful lot like PZ Myers.

  86. Don’t speculate carelessly, Jon. “Paul” isn’t a rare name. Compare the writing carefully, and if you find similarities, see which ones are memetic. This is also probably not the time to be bringing it up.

  87. designsoda

    By the way, I’ve seen someone post here as “Paul” before. I’m speculating, but it sounded an awful lot like PZ Myers.

    I’m speculating, but *INSERT BASELESS ACCUSATION HERE*

  88. Brownian

    By the way, I’ve seen someone post here as “Paul” before. I’m speculating, but it sounded an awful lot like PZ Myers.

    I’m Jon’s right. I’m suspicious…

  89. Katharine

    Also, maybe on this thread we can make up new fun acrostics –

    Octopuses Play Happily Even Later In Afternoons

  90. Feynmaniac

    Jon,

    I’m anti-illiberal. I’m anti-narrowly-educated-but-confident. I’m anti-self-absorbed-jerk.

    Reminds of an old quote: “”When fascism comes to America, it will call itself anti-fascism.” – Huey Long (attributed).

    Yes the commenter lied. And Chris published that. But….

    This tells you everything you need to know.
    _ _ _ _

    Chris Mooney,

    I have now figured out what is going on here and will post more shortly.

    Why didn’t you figure everything out then post? I recall you make this error before….

  91. David

    Scote:

    Please explain how I am contradicting myself. I am diametrically opposed to Chris and Sheril’s viewpoints on just about everything. Big deal. The world doesn’t revolve around me and my opinions (although obviously, it should). I do however appreciate the efforts they have gone to for providing this forum to discuss things that I find interesting. This is a blog containing Chris and Sheril’s opinions about whatever strikes them as worth discussion. If they want to post a thread about the merits of butterfly euthanasia, they are free to. The only ones they have to answer to is the editors of Discover Magazine for hosting the blog under their pages. It is not a “balanced representation of science journalism.” It is a blog. They post what they find interesting, people come and read, and sometimes they leave comment containing their own personal opinions. Neither our hosts nor commenters are offering expert opinions based on their scientific nor journalistic credentials. You have a different viewpoint and want to get out another message? Get your own blog and readers. You can set one up for free and even make money off of it through advertising. Isn’t it great to have that freedom? You want to silence opposition? There are lots of other places for that. Thankfully we have the ability to have open discussions here.

  92. Brownian,

    Please don’t do that. Jon’s being careless in his responses, but let’s not give legitimacy to any defensive gripes that would distract from the issues.

  93. Paul

    @Jon

    Paul is not an uncommon name. I’ve posted here in the past, as has another person using the name Paul W. Neither of us are PZ Myers, although if by “sounding an awful lot like PZ Myers” you mean “willing to point out the BS and obfuscations made by certain accomodationists” we might meet the description.

  94. Rev. BigDumbChimp

    By the way, I’ve seen someone post here as “Paul” before. I’m speculating, but it sounded an awful lot like PZ Myers.

    Yawn.

  95. David,

    No, we don’t. If you’re curious, you could check my blog for one example.

  96. Ichthyic

    I’m speculating, but *INSERT BASELESS ACCUSATION HERE*

    frankly, I’ve thought that should be the actual title of The Intersection for some time.

  97. David

    Zach Voch:

    I missed the fine print. Where does it say that they have to leave up every comment that gets posted? I’ve been censored too. It probably was a good decision too. Sometimes we can get carried away with the discussion. Big deal.

  98. Brownian

    Please don’t do that. Jon’s being careless in his responses, but let’s not give legitimacy to any defensive gripes that would distract from the issues.

    If Jesus, Mohammed, Shiva, and the Flying Spaghetti Monster themselves were to materialise in Los Angeles and recreate the video for “Where the Streets Have No Name”, it would be less momentous than legitimacy appearing on The Intersection, but I’ll respect your wish to stick to the issue.

  99. Jon

    I’d be curious if this IP address, this one and this one was out of the University of Minnesota. Then it wouldn’t be speculation.

    Not a huge deal though, I know it wasn’t done with the same intent as bilbo/Milton C, but it would kind of interesting in light of what Myers is saying in 74.

  100. Ichthyic

    man oh man, you are a twit, aren’t ya Jon.

  101. Jon

    When in Rome, do like the natives do…

  102. Thanks, Brownian.

    And Jon, you didn’t follow my example, did you? What did I say that was inappropriate?

  103. Sorry, that should have been “david”, not Jon at 100

  104. Jon

    You guys are out for a brawl, and I give it back. I don’t know why, it’s kind of a time suck…

  105. Feynmaniac

    By the way, I’ve seen someone post here as “Paul” before. I’m speculating, but it sounded an awful lot like PZ Myers.

    Yes, PZ is so cleverly evil he uses his first name to sock-puppet. No one would ever suspect this, except the genius that is Jon.

    Wait…’Jon’ sounds an awful lot like ‘Tom’, which is the first name of Tom DeLay. I’m just speculating here, but is Jon really a scokpuppet of former congressman and Majority leader Tom DeLay?

  106. Ambidexter

    Jon, you certainly are trying hard to push tu quoque. You are aware it’s a logical fallacy, aren’t yo?

  107. Paul

    @Jon, currently 97

    I can confirm that those IPs will be out of California, as they were posted lovingly by me.

  108. Paul

    Oh, and I’m rather flattered that you could consider my admittedly flat prose to PZ Myers, but I have no such way with words.

  109. I’d be curious if this IP address, this one and this one was out of the University of Minnesota. Then it wouldn’t be speculation.

    I don’t understand your complaint Jon. You’re saying that a man named Paul Zachary Myers might sometimes refer to himself as Paul and other times refer to him as PZ Myers?

    What’s the problem here?

  110. designsoda

    Then it wouldn’t be speculation.

    That’s correct, when you have evidence it ceases to be speculation. That’s how evidence works. As it stands you’re just blowing hot air and deflecting.

    Not a huge deal though

    Dishonesty and sockpuppetry are actually kind of a huge deal if you haven’t noticed from the topic at hand.

  111. Ichthyic

    When in Rome…

    *plonk*

  112. Ambidexter

    Jon sez: “You guys are out for a brawl”

    Isn’t that the sole raison d’être of us rude, crude, and socially unacceptable “New Atheists”? Certainly according to you accommodationists it is.

  113. Absurdist

    -By the way, I’ve seen someone post here as “Paul” before. I’m speculating, but it sounded an awful lot like PZ Myers.

    It’s more likely to be Paul the Apostle, who has been reborn to teach the Big Bad New Atheists the folly of their ways by commenting on the blog of his chosen duo.

  114. Jon

    Jon, you certainly are trying hard to push tu quoque

    I don’t know what you think my argument is. I’m not arguing Chris should have published the comment. My argument is that New Atheists are illiberal twits, even if Chris *did* publish a fake blog comment saying that New Atheists are illiberal twits.

    Anyway, again, this is a time suck. I think this is enough for me.

  115. Lettuce

    “My argument is that New Atheists are illiberal twits, even if Chris *did* publish a fake blog comment saying that New Atheists are illiberal twits.

    “Anyway, again, this is a time suck. I think this is enough for me.”

    Jon @115

    I’m still waiting for you to establish the PZ Meyers IS an illiberal twit. And I’m waiting… Waiting…

    You should know if it’s a time suck.

    Chris:

    When are you going to unban she who not be named? And apologize.

  116. Just to warn you, Chris. I have dedicated myself to forcing the issue of oranges-peanuts-hobgoblins-electric-lights-incense-apples.

    In any case, until it’s resolved, you might see a lot of acronyms and vague references. If I have any say in the matter, those acronyms will include “hobgoblins.”

    I just don’t get to say it enough in daily conversation.

  117. GM

    OK, once again, since it got pushed 40 comments back by the delay:

    55. Jon Says:
    July 7th, 2010 at 2:56 pm
    So basically you’re an intellectual coward
    WTF? If you can explain to me how you reach that.

    Very easily. It doesn’t follow directly from the comment, if one is to take it literally, but it does follow from the comment plus the history of the conversation

    I have long ago reached the conclusion that the main reason for the backlash against the “New Atheists” from the more “liberal” part of the (supposedly) good guys, is that they are simply afraid of confrontation. Not just afraid but terrified by the though that someone would openly stand up against the mythology of our society and that they may somehow get involved in the whole mess.

    The reason I have reached this conclusion is precisely because all the talk about the incivility of New Atheists, directed even at people like Dawkins who is really the epitome of cool British manners. It would be nice if it was all about strategy, but I am afraid it is not.

    There is a very strong cultural bias in our culture against speaking openly on issues, especially when speaking out means questioning commonly held assumptions. It gets instilled in the minds of people from an early age. And apparently it is very hard to overcome.

  118. Katharine

    Only Platitudes Help Ease Lethally Irritating Afflictions?

  119. Jolo5309

    for Zach Voch:

    Orc
    Pixie
    Hobgoblin
    Elf
    Leprechaun
    Imp
    Aarakocra

    These are all bipedal creatures from AD&D…

    It is odd that she was banned, did she use bad language? I wonder if Tom Johnson is banned now? I came here late and discovered she was banned here on Pharyngula. Is it some sort of misogyny or is it because she is not Jerry Coyne or PZ Myers?

  120. Over prairies, herons elevate loftily into air.

  121. Matti K.

    Who is the daughter of Polonius, sister of Laertes, and potential wife of Prince Hamlet?

  122. Katharine

    Oh Please Hinder Every Last Immature Arsehole

  123. Jennifer B. Phillips

    A humble suggestion for the blog hosts:

    Once proven hasty, engender less inane accommodationism.

  124. Paul

    Jolo5309:

    She repeatedly posted a list of issues that needed clarification that were brought up in the authors’ most recent book. She was persistent in seeking answers, since the author refused to support certain statements or clarify what was meant by others. Eventually, she lost posting privileges. I want this post to appear so I am being careful in my wording, I’m sure you’ll forgive the vaguery.

  125. Often, people hold empty lies, inhibiting action.

  126. Jolo5309

    Thanks Paul, so she asked questions concerning the accuracy of his book?

    I understand the problem then…

    (Not really, but I will pretend)

  127. truthspeaker

    GM Says:
    July 7th, 2010 at 4:04 pm

    I have long ago reached the conclusion that the main reason for the backlash against the “New Atheists” from the more “liberal” part of the (supposedly) good guys, is that they are simply afraid of confrontation. Not just afraid but terrified by the though that someone would openly stand up against the mythology of our society and that they may somehow get involved in the whole mess.

    I agree with this. I think for many of them it comes down to not wanting their grandmother to cry. See, when they stopped going to church, their grandmother cried. They can’t bear the thought of grandma’s feelings being hurt.

    But we’re not outside your grandma’s house with a megaphone saying “God doesn’t exist”. We’re on the internet, voicing our opinion. If your grandma decides to read Pharyngula or RichardDawkins.net, she might see some people saying God doesn’t exist, and she might even start to cry. But that’s her problem. And really, how likely is it?

  128. Owed propitiation, her every letter initiated a brutish evasion, neglecting silently open notice.

  129. Paul

    I understand the problem then…

    (Not really, but I will pretend)

    Well, if you want to know the actual reason for cessation of posting privileges, nobody can tell you that but our esteemed hosts. They’ve never given a reason, or even admitted to the deed itself. I only provided the most obvious reason. Perhaps he found out their family are ancient enemies or something. I dunno. But that was the most obvious action leading up to the event, so I thought I would share (since you asked).

  130. Paul

    @Zach

    Now you’re just showing off. :-)

  131. Katharine

    “I agree with this. I think for many of them it comes down to not wanting their grandmother to cry. See, when they stopped going to church, their grandmother cried. They can’t bear the thought of grandma’s feelings being hurt.

    But we’re not outside your grandma’s house with a megaphone saying “God doesn’t exist”. We’re on the internet, voicing our opinion. If your grandma decides to read Pharyngula or RichardDawkins.net, she might see some people saying God doesn’t exist, and she might even start to cry. But that’s her problem. And really, how likely is it?”

    Their grandmas can suck it anyway!

  132. truthspeaker

    Paul Says:
    July 7th, 2010 at 5:19 pm
    Jolo5309:

    She repeatedly posted a list of issues that needed clarification that were brought up in the authors’ most recent book. She was persistent in seeking answers, since the author refused to support certain statements or clarify what was meant by others.

    Aha! Incivility! Illiberalism! Asking questions and seeking clarification! That’s downright abrasive!

  133. Do you Mooney Haters realize what you are doing here? You are no longer allowed to even USE the phrase “ad hominem” again. None of you would have done the kind of background checking that you are now demanding that Chris needed to so. None of you.

    There are hardly any people out there on the Internet who have more clearly documented a basic disagreement with Chris on much of his approach more than I have. (see: http://tinyurl.com/23qy4m2 ) But what most of you are doing is demonstrating that because he is Chris Mooney his actions are unforgivable and appalling.

    Please try to refocus your obsessive wrath on the real villain here. And no, I do not mean me! I mean What’s His Name. William!

    This is really not helping at all.

  134. Jolo5309

    @Zach
    re 128
    That one was your best yet.

    @Paul
    No worries, I am sure someday someone will answer that question.

  135. truthspeaker

    It will be interesting to see whether Chris acknowledges that many posters warned him that Tom’s story didn’t seem credible, or if he acts like it was a complete surprise that nobody saw coming. Sort of like Bush and Blair – “Wow! Too bad nobody warned us this intelligence about Iraq wasn’t credible!”

    Sorry for the repeated Iraq war analogies, the parallels are just too perfect. Except one was a war where thousands of people died, and the other is a blog kerfluffle.

  136. Katharine

    Old Parrot Heads Eat Leaf-Including Appetizers?

  137. Ichthyic

    Do you Mooney Haters realize what you are doing here? You are no longer allowed to even USE the phrase “ad hominem” again.

    like you, Greg, are no longer allowed to use the word “sarcasm’.

  138. Ooops, I forgot to make my point . There is a credibility issue here, but it is not what you think. And, possibly, a dosing issue. Consider changing the dose a little. It might help.

  139. Ichthyic

    shorter (and usual) Greg:

    “Pay attention to ME, damnit!”

  140. Ichthyic

    Ooops, I forgot to make my point .

    LOL

    yeah, you so often do.

  141. Ichthyic

    Consider changing the dose a little.

    umm, was that addressed to the dozens of people who posted here, or a note for yourself, there, Greg?

  142. truthspeaker

    Greg Laden Says:
    July 7th, 2010 at 5:30 pm
    Do you Mooney Haters realize what you are doing here? You are no longer allowed to even USE the phrase “ad hominem” again. None of you would have done the kind of background checking that you are now demanding that Chris needed to so. None of you.

    A) Speak for yourself. Nobody ever anonymously sent me material for my blog, but I’d like to think that if someone had, I wouldn’t publish it without any kind of verification.

    B) Mooney claims to be, and makes a living as, a journalist. A journalist, for pete’s sake. Accepting someone’s claims at face value and repeating them as if you have verified their veracity is antithetical to journalism. Well, it used to be.

    C) Mooney was warned that Tom’s stories didn’t seem credible.

    D) Tom’s stories make up the entirety of the evidence for Mooney’s “new atheists are meanies who are hurting science outreach” thesis. Bad enough to advance a thesis on only one source, but that source has now been exposed as fraudulent.

  143. Feynmaniac

    One Proves Hypotheses, Else Lies Inform Audience

  144. Greg,

    I really can’t second your comment. I’m waiting until Mooney clarifies and presents the material and explains what he did to “verify” his source. However, I thought of several things off the top of my head that should have been impossible for William to fake.

    I’m going back and reading the original Tom Johnson threads again. Do the same, and see if your comment needs qualifications.

    Never use “ad hominem” again… seriously?

  145. I’ve not read the original Tom Johnson posts, and no, I won’t read them now. My concern here is the usual: A blogger makes what in retrospect is an error on a high volume site and the usual suspects show up to explain how it is done. Most of those usual suspects have never encountered these difficulties but are very eager to produce, post hoc, rules that the bloggers need to follow.

    Yes, my comment is about me. It is about me not wanting to agree to the precedent that a bunch of people who have gone off their meds can form a valid jury of my peers.

    Statements like “Mooney was warned that Tom’s stories didn’t seem credible.” are very ominous. Warned by some authority, some entity that gets to later exact a price for having its warning ignored?

    I see this all as useful cover for William the Pretender. I’m not interested in seeing William The Pretender get any cover.

    I have been clear. You have been warned.

  146. Katharine

    Greg, I don’t think anyone’s interested in giving William the Moron cover, but we also don’t want to let Mooney off the hook.

  147. Katharine

    Greg, I don’t think anyone’s interested in giving William the Mentally Ill-Adjusted Immature Nincompoop cover, but we also don’t want to let Mooney off the hook.

  148. Right, the question is whether or not the error was partisan.

    And no, warnings don’t have to come from authorities. And the only price his audience can exact is ridicule and he can suffer a loss of credibility. That’s about it. Still, as far as blogs go, and journalism, credibility is a big issue.

    And if you’re not interested in the history behind the matter, don’t make broad statements like “None of you would have done the kind of background checking that you are now demanding that Chris needed to so. None of you. ”

    Yes, William is the main villain here. The question is the same one I asked well before the Tom Johnson thing broke…. What do we do that allows specious and dishonest claims to make an impact? We let our judgment falter. We act in partisan ways. We don’t think critically.

    If you read an earlier comment of mine, I noted that Chris wasn’t cynical, and that’s not the issue.

    Of course, I do not run a high traffic site, but if I am to reproduce a political and damaging anecdote I found on the internet, I should be very skeptical. This was different from “well, I missed one in the middle of those thousands of comments!”

  149. Ichthyic

    I’ve not read the original Tom Johnson posts

    but you’ll be happy to blather nonsense anyway, to attract attention to yourself. Yeah, we get it.

    Statements like “Mooney was warned that Tom’s stories didn’t seem credible.” are very ominous.

    You’ve become lazy and a dullard, Greg. This information is NOT hard to find, and matches up nicely with the “person who shall not be named”.

    http://www.butterfliesandwheels.org/2009/dont-believe-everything-youre-told/

    I see this all as useful cover for William the Pretender.

    you mean the guy who admitted all of his aliases and removed his blog?

    You are so off base here, it’s scary.

    Was the “change the dose” thing really a hint you’re having problems with pain killers or something?

    are you reaching out?

    what?

  150. Sorry, Greg. I have a high volume site. M&K do not.

    I can check for sock puppets, and do. Look in my dungeon, you’ll find several individuals who have been banned for playing that game. I have done precisely the kind of fact-checking Mooney should have done, and do it routinely.

    This was not a trivial error. It was a handful of names stirring up a sh*tstorm, and further, one of them writing a comment that prompted Mooney to elevate it on high and point to it as a perfect example of his point. These were eminently catchable, with only a minimal modicum of diligence. We’re not talking about a couple of minor exchanges deep in the backwaters of a blog, these were loud, noisy comments that fueled a lot of traffic here, and that were recognized by the bloghost as being a big deal.

    And now we’ve got a kook accusing me of having done sock puppetry here, because someone else has the same first name as I do (and no doubt because he is frantically trying to shift blame). This, of course, is allowed to stand here…when it would take Mooney 30 seconds to check and point out the obvious, that no, I have not been posting under multiple pseudonyms. In fact, he could scan for my IP address in the database and see every single comment I’ve ever made, all under this one name.

    It’s easy. Mooney doesn’t care.

  151. Ichthyic

    It’s easy. Mooney doesn’t care.

    neither does Greg, really.

  152. Katharine

    This may be one of the most multifaceted pieces of Internet Sh*tstorm I’ve ever seen.

  153. Katharine

    “I’ve not read the original Tom Johnson posts, and no, I won’t read them now.”

    You do realize this hurts people’s ability to trust your judgment on this, correct?

    Because if you haven’t read the original posts, you don’t really have a good idea of what’s going on.

  154. Wowbagger

    I don’t think I’ve ever tasted anything as delicious as this particular serving of irony.

  155. Ichthyic

    I’m stuffed on shadenfreude myself. Can’t take any more irony, even as pudding.

  156. truthspeaker

    Greg Laden Says:
    July 7th, 2010 at 5:54 pm
    I’ve not read the original Tom Johnson posts, and no, I won’t read them now. My concern here is the usual: A blogger makes what in retrospect is an error on a high volume site and the usual suspects show up to explain how it is done. Most of those usual suspects have never encountered these difficulties but are very eager to produce, post hoc, rules that the bloggers need to follow.

    Post hoc? The rules on verifying sources are basic journalism. I learned them writing for my high school newspaper.

  157. Jennifer B. Phillips

    Halo Pie, Greg! You are so far off base I wonder if you’re even posting in the right thread. In what way is any of this an ad hominem attack? Mooney is being called out because he’s demonstrated profound, systemic and repeated lapses in judgement, objectivity, and plain honesty. “Tom Johnson” is just a symptom of this problem–and not the only, or even the most recent, one.

  158. I can check for sock puppets, and do. Look in my dungeon, you’ll find several individuals who have been banned for playing that game. I have done precisely the kind of fact-checking Mooney should have done, and do it routinely.

    Maybe Chris doesn’t want to micro-manage his comment section as much as you do.

  159. designsoda

    Maybe Chris doesn’t want to micro-manage his comment section as much as you do.

    Hard work: it’s hard.

  160. Jennifer B. Phillips

    Maybe Chris doesn’t want to micro-manage his comment section as much as you do.

    LOL. Oh, wait, you are being ironic, aren’t you? Tell you what. Cruise on up to Zach Voch’s last comment (currently 148). Click on his name, which will take you to his blog. Read the July 7th entry. Then let’s talk.

  161. Wowbagger

    Jinchi wrote:Maybe Chris doesn’t want to micro-manage his comment section as much as you do.

    Then why does the site have a more stringent comment moderation filter than PZ’s? Why are many more people banned from here than from Pharyngula, include a prominent blogger whose name I can’t even mention because it would probably mean being filtered out.

    Geez, try thinking – for once.

  162. Guy

    I don’t think anyone’s interested in giving William the Mentally Ill-Adjusted Immature Nincompoop cover, but we also don’t want to let Mooney off the hook.

    I imagine, strategically, this presents a perfect opportunity to attack Chris for his dissent from the New Atheist doctrine; A continuous mockery of all things religion and superstition to make the world safe from “fundies” and “kooks.”

    You might step back for a moment and consider M&K’s point of view in all this. It’s not like they knew or had some idea of what was going on until it was revealed by William. What this sock-puppet was thinking,I don’t pretend to know. It’s detrimental just to make up things and continue with the lie until you get caught because, in the long run, it undermines your credibility. Besides, it’s not like you need to sock-puppet to point out the obvious fallacies of NA doctrine.

  163. Feynmaniac

    Maybe Chris doesn’t want to micro-manage his comment section as much as you do.

    Are you joking? The moderation that goes on on this site is far more larger than anything at Pharyngula. Hell, one Chris’ complaints have been the comments filled with …*gasp*… swear words that occur at Pharyngula.

    Man, Mooney, with defenders like these you don’t need enemies.

  164. designsoda

    I imagine, strategically, this presents a perfect opportunity to attack Chris for his dissent from the New Atheist doctrine; A continuous mockery of all things religion and superstition to make the world safe from “fundies” and “kooks.”

    and from bad journalists.

  165. Ichthyic

    speaking of moderation, apparently there is something Chris’s blog software has targeted in my latest response.

    trying again…

    Maybe Chris doesn’t want to micro-manage his comment section as much as you do.

    If I was going to rely on extremely controversial testimony from someone to use as evidence in a journalistic article I intended to publish, I myself would think to verify the source information FIRST, beforehand.

    micro-management?

    hardly. A simple phone call to check out the guys story would have sufficed.

  166. Aquaria

    Projection, much, 115?

    You”re a rude, presumptuous and dishonest fool, flailing about for any straw to grasp at to justify y0our obsequious worship of the Colgate Twins. Give it up. Liberal!= doormat or liar. Who are you to judge liberality or lack thereof. Go ask some feminists or minorities about the virtues of being “nice.”

    Progress comes to those willing to fight for it, you ahistorical nitwit.

  167. Ichthyic

    I imagine, strategically, this presents a perfect opportunity to attack Chris for his dissent from the New Atheist doctrine;

    *looks for any such attacks in this very thread*

    hmm, and yet strangely, all the attacks here are on Chris’ poor journalism skills.

    what thread are you reading?

  168. Wowbagger

    Guy wrote:

    You might step back for a moment and consider M&K’s point of view in all this. It’s not like they knew or had some idea of what was going on until it was revealed by William.

    Except that many, many people said it didn’t ring of truth – but instead of checking into it they chose to believe ‘Tom Johnson’, because it suited their anti-atheist agenda and gave them fuel for a fire upon which to burn atheist strawmen.

    Besides, it’s not like you need to sock-puppet to point out the obvious fallacies of NA doctrine.

    What, that it’s fundamentally dishonest and its chief proponents require fake stories, moral panics and blogs stuffed with sock-puppets to support their position? Oh, no wait – that’s your side.

    Keep on dishing out the delicious irony, Guy – we’re not all full yet.

  169. Ichthyic

    You might step back for a moment and consider M&K’s point of view in all this.

    many of us already did, ages ago. You must have missed it.

    here’s one:

    http://www.butterfliesandwheels.org/2009/dont-believe-everything-youre-told/

  170. Ichthyic

    Besides, it’s not like you need to sock-puppet to point out the obvious fallacies of NA doctrine.

    Chris has failed to do so. here’s your chance!

  171. Ichthyic

    …btw, first, please define what the “New Atheist” doctrine is, exactly, then show us how it is filled with obvious fallacies that aren’t strawmen of your own making.

    do that, and people might even start taking you seriously. Frankly, if you could, you’d be the very first, and really would be better suited to run this blog than Chris!

  172. I, for one, welcome our new prescient Halo Pie overlord.

  173. Guy @161 wrote:

    You might step back for a moment and consider M&K’s point of view in all this. It’s not like they knew or had some idea of what was going on until it was revealed by William.

    The point of all this is that Mooney should have known, over nine months ago, as both a journalist and blogger. This current thread never would have been necessary, if Mooney had been doing either of his jobs.

    Mooney rejected his responsibilities. The idea that he can be trusted to have figured everything out now about this story is ludicrous, when it was his own carelessness with facts that caused most of the story in the first place.

  174. Are you joking? The moderation that goes on on this site is far more larger than anything at Pharyngula.

    We’re 165 comments into a comment flame war and the majority are from people who are slamming Chris Mooney for not barring offensive speech while simultaneously complaining that his filter is too stringent.

    Chris’s mistake was publishing an unverified comment as a frontline post and that’s a major screw up. It matters whether a person is disguising himself as “Tom Johnson, PhD candidate, University of Alabama, Geosciences Department” and if he’s fabricating events to make others look bad.

    But it doesn’t really matter if bilbo is MiltonC is Brandon is Polly-O on the comment section of a blog.

  175. Aquaria

    More straw grasping from the Moonies–it’s endemic to the site, apparently.

    Liars, all, just like their “hero”. Remember me, CM? Remember how you used my words to LIE about PZ, but didn’t even have the courage to respond to the content of what I said because you were too busy fainting over a few adult words?

    I am laughing at you now, at the full fruit of your choice to thrive on the seeds of dishonesty and cowardice, fed with whimpers and watered with sanctimony. You so wanted to be right about your pet delusion of being nice at all costs, that you grasped at any straw you could, much like Tom Johnson, or whoever he really is.

    This travesty is precisely a result of you religious certainty of having the one true answer. You deserve every bit of contempt and ridicule you get.

    Your credibility is lower than the Enquirer. It serves you right.

  176. Katharine

    If I have too much more irony I’m going to get fat. I estimate it’s approximately 3500 calories per Mooney/Laden/William/accomodational sycophant post.

  177. Jinchi,

    Actually, most of the complaints are about somebody who can not post here, placed in clever acronyms. My comments relating to her have been disappeared whenever her name was mentioned (or my complaints about it were linked to).

  178. Jennifer B. Phillips

    We’re 165 comments into a comment flame war and the majority are from people who are slamming Chris Mooney for not barring offensive speech

    I’m sorry, I must have skimmed past those comments. Could you please point me to the comments slamming CM for not barring offensive speech? Thank you in advance.
    jbp

  179. Wowbagger

    Jinchi wrote:

    But it doesn’t really matter if bilbo is MiltonC is Brandon is Polly-O on the comment section of a blog.

    What? Are you serious?

  180. truthspeaker

    Guy Says:
    July 7th, 2010 at 6:55 pm

    You might step back for a moment and consider M&K’s point of view in all this. It’s not like they knew or had some idea of what was going on until it was revealed by William.

    Well, see, that’s the problem. They repeated William’s claims without verifying them. They also ignored the comments from various people pointing out problems with William’s story. In short, they allowed themselves to be duped.

  181. What? Are you serious?

    Of course, I’m serious. Just as much as I don’t care whether your real name is Wowbagger.

  182. Ichthyic

    We’re 165 comments into a comment flame war and the majority are from people who are slamming Chris Mooney for not barring offensive speech while simultaneously complaining that his filter is too stringent.

    whaa?

    Chris’s mistake was publishing an unverified comment as a frontline post and that’s a major screw up.

    It’s more than that: It’s Chris/Sheril utilizing obviously phony information as EVIDENCE in support of their entire accomodationist theme!

    sweet plastic jeebus man, can’t you see how significant this is?

    If I were Chris, I would seriously consider scrapping this blog, my thesis, and tossing my Templeton prize in the trash, and starting all over again after a long vacation.

  183. Katharine

    Nah, Ichthyic, he could just get a position at Fox.

  184. truthspeaker

    If you think the moderation here isn’t heavy-handed, try typing a comment with a certain female name beginning with “O”.

  185. I wouldn’t go that far, Ichthyic.

  186. truthspeaker

    It’s more than that: It’s Chris/Sheril utilizing obviously phony information as EVIDENCE in support of their entire accomodationist theme!

    The only evidence.

  187. Wowbagger

    Jinchi wrote:

    Of course, I’m serious. Just as much as I don’t care whether your real name is Wowbagger.

    Wow. Just, wow. So, you don’t think sock-puppeting should be discouraged because there’s nothing wrong with it? Would you say that PZ (and others who enforce it) is wrong to ban those who use sock-puppets?

  188. Ichthyic

    he could just get a position at Fox.

    LOL.

    he could share a series with Glen Beck, and call it “My Story”.

    seriously, if it were me, I would be burying my head in shame, and doing my best (after much profuse apologies) to black-hole this whole blog.

    I don’t see how I would be able to recover my credibility as a journalist after such a blatant oversight.

    Hell, wasn’t Dan Rather fired for much less?

  189. Would you say that PZ (and others who enforce it) is wrong to ban those who use sock-puppets?

    No, PZ can use whatever standards he likes in his own house. That doesn’t mean everyone else has to follow the same set of rules though.

  190. Jinchi,

    And if the rules lead to worthless or misleading threads, then maybe they are worth criticizing.

  191. Jolo5309

    Now that I know that bilbo and TJ and others are the same person, reading those threads (which I never reas until today) made me LOL.

  192. Sean McCorkle

    @149 PZ Myers

    I can check for sock puppets, and do. Look in my dungeon, you’ll find several individuals who have been banned for playing that game.

    I don’t know a thing about the Discover blog software so I wonder if its even an option for the blogger to check here? I ask because from the commenter’s end, the software seems pretty bare-bones compared to that at ScienceBlogs, in that there’s no preview option and it doesn’t seem to sanitize the input at all (unclosed tags such as and etc run off into the next comments.

    Seems like a “sock-puppet-auto-detect” should be something somebody should have written already anyway…

  193. Sean,

    In his post, Mooney claims to have never checked. It’s not a question of difficulty.

  194. While we wait for an apology, there’s time to snack on some Halo Pie.

  195. Sean McCorkle

    Arrg and I did it again darn it. Apologies to all for the unclosed tags in previous comment.

  196. Wowbagger

    Jinchi wrote:

    That doesn’t mean everyone else has to follow the same set of rules though.

    No, I suppose it doesn’t – well, unless you’re interesting in fostering good faith arguments and indicating that you and the posters on your site demonstrate intellectual honesty.

    Why would anyone want that?

  197. Sean McCorkle

    hey I take that back – they seem to have fixed the runaway unclosed tags.
    Zach: I’m wondering if its even possible with the software – that is, is the IP data etc made available to the blog author?

  198. Ichthyic

    Jinchi…

    stop. you’re only digging yourself deeper.

  199. Ichthyic

    Sean, just in case you were actually caring about the real topic here, it doesn’t even matter if Tom/bilbo WAS a sockpuppet.

    what matters is that Chris never bothered to actually verify ANYTHING in their story at all, before using it as evidence in support of a thesis.

  200. Sean,

    It should be. Judging by his post (“should have”), it was an option.

  201. No, I suppose it doesn’t – well, unless you’re interesting in fostering good faith arguments and indicating that you and the posters on your site demonstrate intellectual honesty.

    You must be aware that different sites have different standards. Some allow a free-for-all, some require registration, others bar profanity and some just ban anyone who annoys them. Any set of rules is going to result in a different set of conversations. Pick the sites that suit your preference.

  202. Jinchi,

    So Mooney is just a guy who runs a blog with rules we don’t like, so we shouldn’t come if we don’t like the rules?

    Is this seriously what you’re maintaining?

  203. stop. you’re only digging yourself deeper.

    it doesn’t even matter if Tom/bilbo WAS a sockpuppet

    Isn’t that what I just finished saying? How am I digging myself deeper?

  204. Katharine

    “Sean, just in case you were actually caring about the real topic here, it doesn’t even matter if Tom/bilbo WAS a sockpuppet.”

    I was under the impression that was part of the original problem we were complaining about.

  205. Ichthyic

    How am I digging myself deeper?

    just like this:

    That doesn’t mean everyone else has to follow the same set of rules though.

    so either your message is word salad, or your thesis is.

    choose, or just quit while you’re behind.

  206. PZ: …writing a comment that prompted Mooney to elevate it on high and point to it as a perfect example of his point…

    THAT is a valid point, and it is THE valid point. Ultimately, the argument that “new atheists” such as followers of either Pharyngula or of my blog are prone to saying certain things or acting in certain ways was faked by “william” twice, once here and once on his own blog.

    Aside from that, it’s sad that Christ got duped, and may be he got extra duped. As I’ve said, I’ve not paid attention to that.

    However, demanding that there is a certain standard of comment management is absurd. We’ve seen that in a few instances, not just as part of this argument, and I don’t accept it.

    Unless, of course, those making the most noise about journalistic integrity and management of comments are willing to be my slaves and do that work for me.

  207. Ichthyic

    I was under the impression that was part of the original problem we were complaining about.

    it is, but hardly the most significant part of it. It’s that Chris considered this guys story credible, at face value, without even bothering to do any fact checking beyond a quick email.

    He had to wait, literally over a YEAR, before he finally realized the guy had no credibility, and even then NOT because of the content of his posts, but because he was an obvious sockpuppet.

    it’s fail all the way down.

    gees, if you’re gonna comment people, do try paying attention.

  208. Sean McCorkle

    Zach: I see your point.
    Ichthyic: Sometimes it seems like the topic is in the eye of the beholder in blog comments. But anyway, sorry about de-railing the proceedings. Carry on.

  209. Ichthyic

    However, demanding that there is a certain standard of comment management is absurd.

    good thing that isn’t the point then, right Greg?

    it’s sad that Christ got duped

    ok, at least that was funny.

  210. Wowbagger

    Jinchi,

    And if someone points to one of the posts that is wall-to-wall sock-puppets and cites it as an example of how many people are speaking out against atheism? You don’t think it’s tantamount to falsifying data?

    Sock-puppeting is fundamentally dishonest. I don’t know about you, I, personally, dislike liars and being lied to. Are you okay with being lied to?

  211. Ichthyic

    *whew* I’m full.

    I’ll wait for Chris to bring out the next course.

  212. David

    Wowbagger:

    “Sock-puppeting is fundamentally dishonest. I don’t know about you, I, personally, dislike liars and being lied to. Are you okay with being lied to?”

    Yes, it is true. When they post under one name they are witty and incisive and with another name they instantly become a troll. As long as people are posting anonymously, it doesn’t really make squat difference what name it is under. I rarely even look at what name is being used other than to direct what post I am responding to. It doesn’t really matter. The post has to stand on it’s own merits. What a concept. If you can’t keep up and post or respond intelligently with trolls around, maybe you should try another internet with big fuzzy bumpers and training wheels.

  213. Scote

    Well, I just want to add that I hope the unmentionable uosuǝq ɐıןǝɥdo will be reinstated to post here. She is one of Mooney’s most effective critics and there is simply no credible excuse why she is prohibited from posting but the usual moat of anti-science trolls are given a free rein. If Chris has to exclude his most incisive and effective critics from the discussion that bodes poorly for the validity of his claims.

  214. Wowbagger

    As long as people are posting anonymously, it doesn’t really make squat difference what name it is under. I rarely even look at what name is being used other than to direct what post I am responding to.

    Anonymity ≠ sock-puppetry. Trolling ≠ sock-puppetry.

    I don’t need to lie or sock-puppet to either make or defend my points; if you do then that says a great deal about you – and the weakness of your position.

    If you can’t keep up and post or respond intelligently with trolls around, maybe you should try another internet with big fuzzy bumpers and training wheels.

    Ah, a new flavour of delicious irony, considering you’re posting this on one of the most heavily moderated blogs around.

    And you – obviously – aren’t familiar with my name. If you’re such an internet tough guy, come on over to Pharyngula, pick a post and you can show me and my friends over there how it’s done.

  215. David

    Scote: I bow to you. That was well done. I don’t even know who she is nor care but that is exceptional.

  216. Physicalist

    I had to try it for myself, but sure enough. The mere mention of Opphelia Benson’s name is enough to get your comment moderated (and presumably trashed).

    Are Mooney and Kirshenbaum really so afraid of philosophers that her name can’t even be mentioned?

  217. rrt

    Proud defense of sock puppetry?

    Really?

  218. Feynmaniac

    Jinchi,

    We’re 165 comments into a comment flame war and the majority are from people who are slamming Chris Mooney for not barring offensive speech

    Who’s doing that? From what I’ve read they’re mad that he accpeted a story that fit his bias and did far too little to check it. Especially since this “Tom Johnson” would have had the same IP address as other commenters.

    But it doesn’t really matter if bilbo is MiltonC is Brandon is Polly-O on the comment section of a blog.

    My guess is that if it was a “New Atheist” caught doing this then it would matter.

  219. William Furr

    Just so no one’s confused, I’m a completely different “William” from this guy, also a grad student, but probably at a different school, in a different field, in a different city. I have also never witnessed militant atheists openly mock people at conservations events. I only do it on Facebook to my friends’ friends. I only shared my city on the “Who are you?” thread, but you can find me with Google and get the rest of the details, since I use my full and real name.

  220. Ichthyic

    conservations events

    I’m a scientist, a skeptic, and an atheist, and the phrase “conservation event” (added to that it being in all caps) immediately triggered my BS detector, among many others whose detectors also triggered.

    that Mooney’s didn’t should be of concern to himself.

  221. Tulse

    You don’t think it’s tantamount to falsifying data?

    “Data”? Now you’re gettin’ all scientimical! Who needs data when they’re a communimicashuns expert! Hush, bad New Atheist Noise Machine! Hush!

  222. David

    Wowbagger:

    I am looking at the 200+ posts on a thread that I would have closed comment on long ago. I only come here for entertainment. In a lot of ways, I am a troll (but an honest one.)

    Trying to bait me and insinuate that it is me doing something nefarious and having a weak position is a poor tactic and an elementary debate faux pas. Try a long running debate on USENET in the alt hierarchy without any rules. Ahh, the good old days.

    Try something more interesting or troll people that haven’t been around on the internet since before they opened it up to public access. (Conversation ended from my perspective.)

  223. Wowbagger

    We’re learning a lot about the accomodationist principles here today – hypocrisy, dishonesty and rampant sock-puppetry are all okay because ‘new’ atheists are mean (especially when they’re fictional) and the internet is a tough place so you should expect people to lie and misrepresent themselves.

  224. Don’t generalize too much, Wowbagger.

    Don’t judge proponents of a position by a small collection of nutjob commenters. That would be like judging New Atheists by a small collection of…

    Yeah, the better point makes itself.

  225. Rev. BigDumbChimp

    Jinchi I’ll mark you down for not caring about dishonesty.

  226. David

    Zach Voch:

    Speaking of nutjob commenters, how lame is it to run a thread on several other blogs to complain about someone elses blog. Looks like someone really needs to get a grip. It’s not that important. If you don’t like how someone runs their blog, you don’t have the automatic right to have them change it. You come into their house, you play by their rules. The right to freedom of speech doesn’t guarantee an audience. This is starting to look like a school playground argument. Nyaah. There. See? That ended it.

  227. David,

    Last we spoke was… what, 120 comments ago? How did that leave off?

    I don’t have the right to force Mooney to do anything. I don’t have a right to comment here. I maintain no pretensions of that. He can boot off all of his critics and spend the rest of his days swearing at Zach Voch on this blog, and I wouldn’t feel the need to hack the site and change things around, even if I could.

    However, I do have a right to criticize things of which I feel to be deserving it. I don’t pretend to be guaranteed a particular forum, but related blogs which have their own related threads would be an appropriate venue.

    Also, for you, it seems to have been worth following me around the internet. Is that a huge serious deal?

    Don’t be silly.

  228. David

    Zach Voch:

    It left off with you telling me to go look at your blog post of something that you didn’t like on this one. I wasn’t that impressed with the energy expended to click on it.

    No, I wasn’t following you around the internet (other than the disappointed of clicking on your link showing that a post had been deleted — the horror!). I have mostly been reading more benign sites and haven’t seen a flamefest in a while. But it has been kind of fun.

    But on a more serious note, I am genuinely curious. I find the vitriol shown here fairly surprising. The topics here are generally presented from a perspective I don’t agree with and I do come to troll a bit. (But not in a slugfest sort of way. My time is too short to really get into it. I have other interests. ) Maybe I haven’t seen what has set it off. How did it come to spark a 220+ post flamefest? I don’t find the threads here any different from most mainstream media. They actually don’t censor that much and most of the posters really make the case against themselves pretty easily. Why so then are people so huffy about it? I am genuinely confused about it.

  229. Remain confused, troll. I’m done amusing you.

  230. llewelly

    There was a long time when I was pained because I could not afford The Republican War On Science or Storm World (I checked them out from the library, as I do almost all the books I read), and when I couldn’t make it to one of Chris Mooney’s talks and have copies that were mine, and signed. If I had such copies today – what would I do with them? Burn them? Or keep them around to abuse when I thought of Chris Mooney? Sad. A man who did good reporting for some time, and then decided dishonesty in the pursuit of politeness was laudable.

  231. llewelly,

    Don’t toss Mooney out completely over a single item.

    Just treat his work like you should any other… critically.

    And really, don’t burn books!

  232. Rev. BigDumbChimp

    I can’t wait to have a slice of this with my morning coffee

  233. David

    Zach Voch:

    Ok, I get it. You’re just here to do drive by attacks and name calling and not actually have any real content to add to a conversation. You really need to get out more and enjoy life. Have you ever considered taking up a hobby? Intellectual stimulation seems to be a dead end.

    Au revoir mon ami. Have a good life and may you find fulfillment.

  234. Rieux

    Scote @ (currently) #212:

    [One Proves Hypotheses, Else Lies Inform Audience*] is one of Mooney’s most effective critics and there is simply no credible excuse why she is prohibited from posting but the usual moat of anti-science trolls are given a free rein.

    In light of recent events, I question the plural on “trolls.”

    It remains less than self-evident that there are any Mooney supporters on this (or any other Intersection) comment thread who are not actually our friend “William.”

    I probably wouldn’t bet a bunch of cash that “Jon” (@ 86 et al.), “Jinchi” (@ 157 et al.) and now “David” (@ 225 et al.) are new members of the lineup from ol’ Bill’s sock drawer, but it’s not as if anyone is bothering to check.

    Credibility, thy name is Mooney.

    * H/t Feynmaniac @ 143.

  235. David

    Rieux:

    No, sorry, I am a real troll. The only time I was moderated was for baiting bilbo.

  236. I don’t need to lie or sock-puppet to either make or defend my points; if you do then that says a great deal about you – and the weakness of your position.

    This is really ridiculous. Your standards would have banned Ben Franklin from commenting. Even today, people commenting anonymously or under pseudonyms at major media outlets are compared to dishonest, raving, lunatics. You say it’s dishonest to comment under multiple pseudonyms, but perfectly acceptable under one, because you say so.

    Banning bilbo for writing under multiple names is as absurd as convicting Al Capone for tax evasion. It may get the job done. But it misses the real offense.

  237. Scote

    @Rieux

    There’s still Kw@k and McCarthy… :-p

  238. Scote

    “Banning bilbo for writing under multiple names is as absurd as convicting Al Capone for tax evasion. It may get the job done. But it misses the real offense.”

    Really? Franklin was known for having phony arguments with himself in the press to give the false impression of a large consensus and to artificially gin up controversy? Sock puppetry is generally about the use of multiple ‘nyms in the same thread to **actively deceive** the other participants. It is not about the use of multiple ‘nyms, with a different individual ‘nym on different sites, so I don’t see how this would apply to Franklin..

  239. Really? Franklin was known for having phony arguments with himself in the press to give the false impression of a large consensus and to artificially gin up controversy?

    Yes he was.

  240. designsoda

    You say it’s dishonest to comment under multiple pseudonyms, but perfectly acceptable under one, because you say so.

    It’s actually quite simple. A pseudonym is used for anonymity. Sock puppets create the illusion of multitudes and consensus where there are none. Sock puppets are inherently dishonest for that reason.

    Anonymity can be honest or dishonest.
    Sock puppets can ONLY be dishonest.

    But you knew this. You are not fooling anyone.

  241. David

    Scote:

    Check out the Federalist Papers. Cato, Publius and all those guys. It really wasn’t a knee jerk example. Jinchi chose a pretty good example. Please keep up.

  242. Aerik

    But you said you authenticated his identity. You contacted him and everything, right?

    Apparently not. He jacked you off in all the right ways.

  243. designsoda

    Jinchi, you do realize that just because Ben Franklin used sock puppets that doesn’t make it right… right?

  244. David

    designsoda:

    But please explain how it is really any different than a concerted attack coordinated on separate blogs. Other than the fingers on the keyboard, it might as well be a sock puppet. It is all one organized swarm. It might as well be one person typing all of them.

  245. frog

    Jinchi:

    Thomas Jefferson was a rapist. I’m not sure what that says about rapists, Thomas Jefferson or his ideas.

  246. Scote

    “Check out the Federalist Papers. Cato, Publius and all those guys. It really wasn’t a knee jerk example. Jinchi chose a pretty good example. Please keep up.”

    I’ll check it out. But you realize that even if that is so it only adds up to a tu quoque fallacy, right?

  247. designsoda

    It might as well be one person typing all of them.

    But it’s not. It’s REALLY several people. You’d like to think those people are automatons or bees from a swarm. But they are not. The REALITY that there are several people pointing out this screw up is powerful. If it weren’t, sock puppets would not be created to mimic that power.

    Artificially mimicking that power with sock puppets is not the same because, get this, it’s NOT REALLY several people. It’s actually one person… lying. It’s dishonest and pathetic.

  248. David

    Scote:

    But at least you will learn an important part of the adoption of the Constitution. They did a pretty good job of bringing up opposing points to garner support for the Constitution. Also, a lot of them are used to follow the though processes of the framers and influence the Supreme Court in its decisions. Pretty important stuff actually.

  249. Jinchi, you do realize that just because Ben Franklin used sock puppets that doesn’t make it right… right?

    Are we seriously going to start arguing whether the world would have been a better place if someone had just shut Ben Franklin up?

    Franklin used multiple names so that he could argue from different perspectives. I’m sure his brother would have been happier if someone had exposed the little whelp from the start. Is that the argument you’re trying to make?

  250. Feynmaniac

    I’m gonna go bang some French whores, because apparently if Ben Franklin did it, it makes it okay.

  251. Feynmaniac

    Also, I’ll note the comment policy here at The Intersection says:

    Our policy is, in general, much the same as that of Carl Zimmerblockquote>

    which states:

    I also dislike sock puppets. I don’t care what name you use, but once you enter a discussion, it’s unfair to other commenters to put on a mask.

  252. Katharine

    Jinchi, you do realize that just because Ben Franklin used sock puppets that doesn’t make it right… right?

    Are we seriously going to start arguing whether the world would have been a better place if someone had just shut Ben Franklin up?

    Franklin used multiple names so that he could argue from different perspectives. I’m sure his brother would have been happier if someone had exposed the little whelp from the start. Is that the argument you’re trying to make?”

    That’s n0t why this William freakshow was using sock puppets. Most sock puppeteers don’t use sock puppets to argue from different perspectives.

    If Ben Franklin was using sock puppets to do what this dude was doing, I’d ban Ben Franklin.

  253. Wowbagger

    Franklin used multiple names so that he could argue from different perspectives.

    Which is still dishonest, however you want to pretend it isn’t – but, more importantly, it isn’t what William and his sock-drawer army did; he did it give the appearance of a consensus amongst posters when no such thing existed.

  254. Feynmaniac

    HTML fail @ 251. Let me try again.

    Also, I’ll note the comment policy here at The Intersection says:

    Our policy is, in general, much the same as that of Carl Zimmer.

    which states:

    I also dislike sock puppets. I don’t care what name you use, but once you enter a discussion, it’s unfair to other commenters to put on a mask.

  255. Rieux

    David @ 235:

    No, sorry, I am a real troll. The only time I was moderated was for baiting bilbo.

    Meh. The Will sockpuppets in mysterious ways.

    Scote @ 237: See above, I guess. Though more “heh” than “meh.”

  256. Rieux

    The “Ben Franklin” argument is notably idiotic. Even “William” himself, in his (albeit dubious) apologies, recognizes the brutal lack of integrity his sockpuppetry displayed. The entire point of his tactic was to fabricate a crowd of yes-men and -women in order to outnumber, shout down, and drown out his enemies. He tried to make one pipsqueak look like a groundswell.

    That’s disgustingly dishonest bovine excrement, as the young man himself has subsequently conceded, and regardless of how willfully blind a couple of extremely silly people now prefer to be about the matter.

    “William”’s dishonesty has nothing to do with Benjamin freaking Franklin–and (per Katharine and Feynmaniac), even if it had, so what? Franklin would have been wrong to pull a “William”-style fake-groundswell stunt, too. How pathetic can a diversionary Argument from Authority get?

  257. Which is still dishonest, however you want to pretend it isn’t

    Look, if you were commenting under your real name, you’d have a point. But this attitude that it’s okay to be anonymous, as long as you aren’t too anonymous is just foolish.

  258. Jennifer B. Phillips

    Jinchi, do you really not get that it’s not about ‘anonymity’ per se?

  259. articulett

    How or why would anyone even know what various peoples’ religious beliefs are at a scientific conference? I just assume most people are rationalists like me unless they do something blatant that reveals otherwise. And I don’t think I’d comment on it, rather, I think I’d walk in the opposite direction. I don’t want to know about peoples’ magical beliefs any more than I want to know about their fetishes. These are inappropriate topics at the science conferences I attend.

    Why feed into a malicious prejudice? The faithful need to see atheists as the bad guys so that they can imagine faith is something good or useful. But why would a fellow nonbeliever further the bigotry? It’s not atheism that is responsible for “unscientific America”; it’s this inane idea that faith (belief without evidence) is worthy of respect or can lead to actual objective truths.

  260. Jennifer B. Phillips

    by the way, Jinchi, I’m still awaiting your examples of people in this thread ‘slamming Mooney for not barring offensive speech’.

  261. John

    Jinchi @ 256

    It isn’t necessary to use your real name to acquire a reputation and trustworthiness. To take an example from this thread, Wowbagger has a very long history of posting under one psuedonym. Because of this, he has credibility, without having to actually give out his legal name. It is anonymous without being dishonest.

    Posting as more than one person makes you a liar. That is what sock-puppetry is. It’s not an increased layer of anonymity, it’s outright dishonesty. There is a clear difference.

  262. Jinchi, do you really not get that it’s not about ‘anonymity’ per se?

    Here’s what I said @173

    Chris’s mistake was publishing an unverified comment as a frontline post and that’s a major screw up. It matters whether a person is disguising himself as “Tom Johnson, PhD candidate, University of Alabama, Geosciences Department” and if he’s fabricating events to make others look bad.

    But it doesn’t really matter if bilbo is MiltonC is Brandon is Polly-O on the comment section of a blog.

    People have spent a good chunk of the last 80 threads telling me I’m wrong on the last point. Wowbagger has made the point quite explicitly, while Feynmaniac and frog have decided to throw Ben Franklin on the dustbin of history. So we’ve kind of moved past bilbo at this point.

    If you’re going to argue that every blog should have a set of standards that would ban Richard Saunders, Silence Dogood and Timothy Turnstone then I think you’ve got a very limited view of what legitimate dialog is all about.

  263. gillt

    Sock-puppetry is only about anonymity if you have multiple personality disorder. For everyone else it’s about creating a false consensus or encouraging a breakdown in communication.

  264. David

    I just spent a few minutes of my life I will never get back looking over 310 posts on the other blog where the attack on this one is being coordinated. What a strange world we live in. Some people are in serious need of some psychological balance in their life.

    Hopefully some will find some type of counselling to help them deal with their issues.

    Good night folks.

  265. Wowbagger

    Jinchi wrote:

    If you’re going to argue that every blog should have a set of standards that would ban Richard Saunders, Silence Dogood and Timothy Turnstone then I think you’ve got a very limited view of what legitimate dialog is all about.

    Did any of those three pretend to be other people for, not providing a range of different opinions as per Franklin, but for the sole purpose of making onlookers believe a greater proportion of public opinion lay with their side of a debate?

    As Feynmaniac already noted, this very blog has a no-sock-puppets policy. If it’s as harmless and ‘legitimate’ as you say it is, why would Chris and Sheril be against it?

  266. Scote

    “261. David Says:
    July 8th, 2010 at 12:48 am

    I just spent a few minutes of my life I will never get back looking over 310 posts on the other blog where the attack on this one is being coordinated. “

    Riiiiight, because being critical of money credulously endorsing falsehoods, claiming to have vetted them, *and* lashing out at any and everybody who criticized the fallacious claims could only be the result of skeptics receiving marching orders from PZ… ;-p It isn’t like Mooney credulously endorsed falsehoods, claimed to have vetted them, *and* lashed out at any and everybody who criticized the fallacious claims.

    Oh, wait…
    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/intersection/2009/10/22/exhibit/
    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/intersection/2009/10/26/my-thanks-to-tom-johnson/
    …he did…and then claimed victimhood for being too trusting and for being duped…

    What a strange world we live in. Some people are in serious need of some psychological balance in their life. “

    ,
    Ah, the ad hominem. Don’t have an actual reasoned argument to defend Chris Mooney’s counterfactual posts? No problem! Just make a personal attack to try to cover your deficiencies! It works for Kw@k and even Greg Laden. And never fear, Mooney won’t ban you for making personal attacks to defend his errors. He apparently saves the ban hammer for effective critics with well reasoned questions for him about his posts and books…such as She Who Must Not Be Named :-p

  267. Kagato

    Is it really that hard to follow?

    One guy makes wild, unsubstantiated accusations. He’s probably just got a grudge to bear, so I’ll ignore him for now.

    1) Woah, now there’s a whole bunch guys making similar claims! Sure, they’re still wild and unsubstantiated, but with this many people talking about it, maybe there’s something to it…

    2) And this guy says it perfectly — let’s make it a story. And he checks out — he gave me a web link at this uni site with his name on it! I can totally trust this guy.

    Chris Mooney’s first mistake: as a blog owner, if he’d identified sockpuppets, he would have seen that the noisy discussion was in fact still just one guy ranting.

    His second mistake: as a journalist, if he wants to make a story of someone, he shouldn’t have just taken his source’s proffered identity as a given. One email or phone call to confirm would have been sufficient.

    As it turned out, Tom Johnson was yet again the same guy, only now he was making specific factual claims that were untrue. (He lied.) And Mooney included the claims in his own blog post.

    Now, as a journalist, Chris Mooney has a serious credibility problem.

    If he’d done better fact-checking, he might have reconsidered posting Tom’s comment. But if he’d been aware of the sockpuppetry, he shouldn’t have considered posting it in the first place.

  268. Feynmaniac

    Jinchi,

    while Feynmaniac and frog have decided to throw Ben Franklin on the dustbin of history

    Wait, because I refuse to accept your “Ben Franklin did it, so it’s okay” argument (and I use that word loosely) I’m throwing him in “the dustbin of history”. You’re the most dishonest person I’ve ever argued with on the internet, and that is really saying something.

    Can we check Jinchi’s IP? I wouldn’t be surprised if someone defending sockpuppetry is engaging in it.

  269. David

    Scote:

    I just call them as I see them. Looking at that other blog, it is a real treat to be accused of ad hominem attacks. I haven’t seen that much festering vitrol in years.

    Why do you bother responding to me? I already admitted to being a troll.

  270. Wowbagger

    David wrote:

    Looking at that other blog, it is a real treat to be accused of ad hominem attacks.

    Why didn’t you call them on it there? C’mon, you’re the expert in internet debating, remember – surely you’d be able to show them up with what you’ve implied is your vast experience from the old ‘rules-free’ Usenet days.

    Or do you just like running off at the mouth?

  271. Scote

    “266. David Says:
    July 8th, 2010 at 1:26 am
    Why do you bother responding to me? I already admitted to being a troll.

    Hmm…I missed your mea Troll. I’m sure it was a proud moment for you. I guess I’m an occasional optimist and had hoped that you might respond rationally. But, alas, Intersection is proving to be a venue where such hopes and expectations are continually left wanting. Perhaps someday you’ll graduate to real argumentation instead of the juvenile fallacies and ad hominems that are the wont of mere Trolldom.

  272. David

    No, they are perfectly in the right to post whatever drivel that they want on their own blog. I learned a long time ago that you can’t win an argument with someone who doesn’t listen. I have better things to do that get in a shouting match with people that wouldn’t change their mind.

    And yes, I do like running off at the mouth. I am a troll, remember?

  273. Wowbagger

    David wrote:

    I am a troll, remember?

    There are different kinds of troll; I just needed confirmation that you’re the cowardly blowhard variety who talks the talk but can’t walk the walk.

    Here at The Intersection, though, those qualities aren’t frowned upon; in fact, they make you a valued member of the community – you’ll be welcomed with open arms by those few remaining people who weren’t one of YNH William’s many sock-puppets.

  274. David

    Scote:

    Nah tolls don’t have to be fallacious or use ad hominems. Good of you to have practices spelling them though. A troll is someone who pokes and jabs at people not smart enough to avoid their taunts.

    Here, let me help you. This is from Wikipedia:

    “In Internet slang, a troll is someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum, chat room, or blog, with the primary intent of provoking other users into a desired emotional response”

    But no, it was not a proud moment. Some people make it too easy. Takes all the fun out of it.

  275. David

    Wowbagger:

    I’m sorry but that is such a droll cliche. Please try again with something original. Something with some flair. Play like you are comfortable with language.

  276. David

    Actually I do know what the difference between ad hominem and vitriol. But you have to let me have *some* artistic license. I am having to hold up this whole end of the conversation.

    It is not easy to keep so many lines in the water all at once.

  277. Did any of those three pretend to be other people for, not providing a range of different opinions as per Franklin, but for the sole purpose of making onlookers believe a greater proportion of public opinion lay with their side of a debate?

    Google is your friend, Wowbagger.

  278. David

    Jinchi:

    They are all yours. I need to get some sleep. Enjoy.

  279. Wowbagger

    David wrote:

    It is not easy to keep so many lines in the water all at once.

    Ah, the same tired old excuse – ‘Oh, I’m deliberately failing to engage, not because I can’t but because I want to annoy people – hahahahaha! – and you fell for it!’

    Uh-huh. Nice try. Still, a lot of talk and no walk. I’m always impressed by people who let their mouths write cheques their butts can’t cash.

    Play like you are comfortable with language.

    Yawn. Try again.

    Jinchi wrote:

    Google is your friend, Wowbagger.

    Honesty and good faith arguments are my friends. That makes one of us.

    They are all yours. I need to get some sleep. Enjoy.

    You said once already, then came back. You going to make a liar of yourself again?

  280. Wowbagger

    Jinchi, you still haven’t answered this question: If sock-puppetry is as harmless and ‘legitimate’ as you say it is, why would Chris and Sheril be against it and warn posters not to engage in it?

  281. Rieux

    It’s worth noting that “Will,” himself, has apologized profusely for his sockpuppetry. One wonders why he would have done such a thing if sockpuppetry were harmless and legitimate.

  282. Matti K.

    Well, what do you think? Wll Mr. Mooney become even more famous? Will this case be included in textbooks of journalism as an outstanding example of naive mistekes by established journalists? It has the internet-dimension, so at least is has a modern aspect as an example.

  283. Matti K.

    Could this episode be called “Mini-Expelled”? Isn’t both Mooney’s and Stein’s thesis that religiuous scientists are ridiculed and discriminated by their atheistic peers?

  284. Stephen Wells

    When, oh when, will it be “shortly”? Chris promised to get to the bottom of it and post more shortly! We wait with bated breath.

    You wouldn’t think that “I believed a ridiculous story on flimsy evidence because it suited my preconceptions. I claimed to have verified a person’s identity when in fact I hadn’t. I was wrong and I’m sorry and I won’t do that again” would take that long to type.

  285. Matt

    Now Now Stephen. You know it takes time to work out how best to frame such things.

  286. Stephen Wells

    Yes; clearly the right approach would be “I had faith in Tom Johnson’s story. Even if the story itself, and Tom Johnson, turned out to be utterly fictional, in this imperfect world, nonetheless they stand as metaphors for a deeper truth, and my faith in that deeper truth is a pure and wonderful thing. It’s rude and counter-productive to dwell on the trivial, literal incorrectness of the factual claims when you should be acknowledging the deep personal meaning that my faith has for me. Stop being mean and telling me I was wrong.”

    Did I get the tone right?

  287. Escuerd

    Jinchi,

    So someone argues that a certain kind of behavior is dishonest, and your reply is “Ben Franklin did it too.”

    Who cares? That doesn’t have anything to do with whether it is dishonest behavior. It’s a lame argument from authority. Just because someone intelligent and generally respectable has done something doesn’t make it reasonable.

    And no, sockpuppetry isn’t the same as having a pseudonym. Changing your pseudonym for a bunch of unrelated posts could be seen as just a stronger form of anonymity. This would not be inherently dishonest (though it might be annoying for other reasons). But that’s not what sockpuppeteers are doing. They participate in a given conversation with different IDs with the intent to deceive others into thinking they are distinct people (often to create a false perception of consensus). There’s a distinction between anonymity and dishonesty.

  288. Adriana

    I didn’t follow this story from the beginning but I am astounded that the claims of the fake graduate student were taken not only seriously, but as evidence that atheism has a negative effect on science and science communication! I have never witnessed any similar behavior at any scientific conference I’ve attended in my 30 years as a scientist. Even if it had been true, it would have constituted purely anecdotal evidence of childish, unprofessional behavior, not of any trend.

    I think Chris Mooney owes an apology to the scientific community not for being duped (it could happen to anyone) but for having believed in the story to begin with, which to me it indicates a prejudice (conscious or unconscious) towards the scientific community and towards atheists in general.

  289. Ender

    Kudos to Greg Laden for seeing through all the fury and noise being generated to get to the key point – Will was a deceptive trolling lying liar.

    Mooney didn’t check his sources, and was blindsided by this when he could have found out before with more rigorous investigation of the identity of a commenter on a blog. Some people are very angry about this.

    Fact is, bloggers generally don’t invest a huge amount of time verifying the identity of commenters – a brief link to apparently credible sources would be more than enough for most people. Would it have saved Mooney from making an embarrasing mistake here? Sure. Does that mean we can get up on our high horse demanding apologies and excoriating Mooney for not doing this extra research before daring to take a commenter at his word? Of course not.

  290. jaranath

    As has been repeated here endlessly, Ender, there was good reason to suspect Will’s sockpuppets at the time. There was reason to be more rigorous in this specific case. Commenters even explicitly voiced concern over potential sockpuppetry and lying, several months ago. Chris’ limited identity verification of Johnson is surprising for a journalist.

    So no, I (and many others) don’t thunk this was a simple mistake. I think Chris was blinded by his biases and interests, and probably would have spotted the problem if Will was an aggressively vocal critic/”New Atheist.”

    None of which is a crime. But I really wish Chris would recognize what went wrong here on his end. He may yet…we’re still waiting to hear his report.

  291. Percyprune

    Feynmaniac and frog have decided to throw Ben Franklin on the dustbin of history.

    Speaking as an Englishman, I’d cheerfully throw him in the dustbin of history.

    I hold no brief for that traitor and ne’er do well, Ben Franklin. Frankly, he should have been sent to the Tower for sedition and then transported somewhere unpleasant.

    And in case that seems like soft treatment, we’d then throw the book at him for sockpuppeting…

  292. Tom Ames

    Ender actually misses the key point, which is NOT that Will “was a deceptive trolling lying liar”. The key point is not that The Intersection allowed this sockpuppet to post a comment. The key points are that:

    1. the comment in question was elevated to the level of a post
    2. its authenticity was vouched for and
    3. it was held up as evidence of a wider trend of atheist academic misbehavior.

    Comments on blogs are given little credibility. Posts on high-profile blogs are lent the credibility of the blog’s author. Chris Mooney’s mistake (and I do believe it was just that) was to not go far enough down the path of verification before he gave Will’s comment his stamp of approval.

    HOWEVER, there have been hints here that there may be more than meets the eye. I’m taking those at face value, and considering that we may have been played a number of ways by “William” (it’s conceivable for example that William’s “confession” on TBINS was itself false).

    While I don’t appreciate the spreading of stereotypes that he’s engaged in recently, I think Chris Mooney’s credibility is still a LOT higher than that of the Sockpuppet Formerly Known as William–of whom we know little except that he is a serial liar.

  293. David Margolies

    Re Ender 286: ” bloggers generally don’t invest a huge amount of time verifying the identity of commenters”: right, when they are just commenters, but if you promote a comment to a post, you then take responsibility. Now, if the comment is an argument, it can stand on its own regardless of the identity of the commenter (some bloggers — Andrew Sullivan, Brad deLong — often promote comments they disagree with because they find the arguments good), but when the comment tells a story, promoting it makes you responsible for its truth. Even if Tom Johnson had turned out to be an actual graduate student, his story was unspecific enough to warrant skepticism: did others view the incident reported the same way? How could one tell?

  294. Chris, The demands for apologies are absurd. “Tom Johnson” was a convincing trickster. I know religion bashers who bash in public places, so it didn’t seem impossible that he had seen some in operation at a conference. You were duped and he should apologize to you…not to mention abjectly apologizing for identity theft (to the person whose identity he stole). But you apologize? Nonsense. These folks would have you apologize for having 10 fingers and 10 toes.

  295. Bean

    @286 Ender:

    I couldn’t agree more. This isn’t a book or a newspaper article or a column; it’s just a blog. Chris & Sheril have much better things to do than play private detective on blog commenters.

    (Full disclosure: I’m actually ChrisD, a regular commenter here, posting as “Bean” just for fun. If you don’t know who Ender and Bean are, you aren’t reading the right books.)

  296. KG

    “Tom Johnson” was a convincing trickster. – tom margolies

    Bilge. Several people called attention to the implausibility of the story.

  297. Hitch

    I would disagree that this is just a blog. It’s part of the Discover site, a commercial enterprise and I wager that money is exchanged for running the blog.

    This is not just some random blog that someone fired up on wordpress or blogger. Mishaps of the blog will reflect poorly on the quality of Discover and so there is some level of professionalism expected.

    And yes blogging on a commercial entity that is about information dissemination is very much like journalism in terms of at least some editorial responsibilities.

    It is a real concern when people or communities are made appear worse than they are and if a false image has been painted, a correction is indeed in order. Mind you many print publications won’t do this either.

    Take the latest bruhah over Huffington Post running a anti-historical Darwin->Hitler story by Klinghoffer, a Discovery Institute senior fellow. No sign of Huffington Post doing anything to the barrage of offended commenters who set the historic record straight. Rather they actually edited an article that was written in response to take out the direct criticism of HuffPo.

    But these things don’t go away. Salon has a visibly critical article because of it and ultimately it is about reputation.

    Mistakes happen to all of us. I have no problem with that. Heck I thought that YNH was legit initially.

    The deeper story here is that one should not base judgments on hearsay. Even if everything was legit, that story that was elevated required more than the originator’s confirmation. After all it’s about improving scientific discourse and one thing that we do not do in science is just print hearsay. Our task in science is to safeguard against fallacies and biases. We have good methods to do so. If anything there is a lesson to be learned about the bandwagon fallacy in this case.

    If one elevates a story, perhaps it’s best to elevate one that is against ones own perspective, because the chance of introducing false confirmations is much lower in this case. And if one elevates confirming stories, it has to be sure they are sound and the context clear, and the relation to other factors fair.

    But we have this a lot. One or two examples of something are elevated into reasons why a whole group of people are wrong, bad, aggressive or something else.

    Perhaps it’s time to keep perspective, keep it real, and keep to standards of arguing that safeguard against biases rather than have the potential of amplifying them.

  298. Ichthyic

    it’s just a blog.

    the person who writes it has influence. Blogs have become at least an important a source for information for many as traditional newsprint.

    frankly, I don’t think you would find Chris or Sheril agreeing with you that this is a “just a blog”.

  299. Bean

    I don’t think you would find Chris or Sheril agreeing with you that this is a “just a blog”.

    I don’t know what they would or would not agree to. My point is that blogs simply are not held to the journalistic standards of the traditional media, or even of posting of online news/information by the traditional media.

    It seems rather unfair to complain when nonexistent standards are “violated.”

  300. ChrisD

    (Sorry, the browser remembered “Bean” and I forgot to change it back.)

  301. Matti K.

    “My point is that blogs simply are not held to the journalistic standards of the traditional media, or even of posting of online news/information by the traditional media.”

    It seems rather unfair to complain when nonexistent standards are “violated.”

    Nobody is suing anyone. However, everyone can make their own assessment of the situation, can’t they? What is your personal assessment of the credibility of “Intersection” after this hulabaloo?

  302. Well, Chris, I told you at the time that the story was implausible and that you were being gullible. Do you now accept that you are biased on these issues and that it pervasively affects your judgment? I don’t want to be too nasty about it; I just ask you to think it over.

  303. ChrisD

    @Matti K.

    However, everyone can make their own assessment of the situation, can’t they?

    Yes. Isn’t that what I did? Did I say that others cannot?

    What is your personal assessment of the credibility of “Intersection” after this hulabaloo?

    Essentially unchanged. I expect Chris & Sheril to check the facts in their own pieces, as I always did. This particular post was not one of their usual items. It was not something that they investigated and wrote on their own; it was, in essence, a repost of a comment. And it was clearly anecdotal. I took it as such.

  304. Ruseell, Why not ask Chris if he’s stopped beating his wife, while you’re at it?

    Story is implausible–really? I have colleagues who ridicule religion while teaching religious students. We certainly see plenty of ridicule online. Why couldn’t there be ridicule at a conference? Just because it didn’t happen doesn’t mean it couldn’t have happened.

    Gullibility–Not really. How often does someone approach you as an ally, yet turn out to be duping you? The fact that Chris did not think this could be happening does not mean he’s gullible. He can now regret he believed ‘Tom Johnson,” but it doesn’t follow he has to blame himself for having believed him at the time.

    Bias– Accusations of bias are cheap. Are we really to think all the long-term Mooney haters are unbiased readers of what’s going on here? Pshaw.

  305. lol, Jean – if that’s really Jean Kazez, who is usually smarter than this. No wonder I lose patience with you accommodationists.

    The wild implausibility of “Johnson”‘s story was plain to anyone with experience of these things and an ability to stand back from the situation: I wasn’t the only one who spotted it at the time and told him. But Chris just didn’t want to know. The story was just too convenient. Reassuring him that he did nothing wrong is not doing him a favour; he needs to face up to this.

  306. Russell, Sorry, I just have to laugh. It’s now really clear who’s biased about this whole episode. After you’ve read Chris’s last post and mine as well, tell me about how you’re the smart one who figured it all out.

  307. Greg has a partial point here, but I have to take exception to this:

    Statements like “Mooney was warned that Tom’s stories didn’t seem credible.” are very ominous. Warned by some authority, some entity that gets to later exact a price for having its warning ignored?

    Um, okay, way to go twisting words. The point is, there were multiple posts on other blogs calling BS on the Tom Johnson story immediately after it appeared. If you don’t see how that puts extra egg on Chris’ face, I don’t know what to tell you.

  308. TheBlackCat

    I don’t know what they would or would not agree to. My point is that blogs simply are not held to the journalistic standards of the traditional media, or even of posting of online news/information by the traditional media.

    It seems rather unfair to complain when nonexistent standards are “violated.”

    This is fairly hypocritical, considering the amount of bashing of other blogs (even comments at those blogs) that goes on here. The people at this blog sure seem to have their own arbitrary standards that they have no problem applying to other blogs, but heaven forbid anyone criticize the standards here. That would be unfair, since this is just a blog.

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About Chris Mooney

Chris is a science and political journalist and commentator and the author of three books, including the New York Times bestselling The Republican War on Science--dubbed "a landmark in contemporary political reporting" by Salon.com and a "well-researched, closely argued and amply referenced indictment of the right wing's assault on science and scientists" by Scientific American--Storm World, and Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future, co-authored by Sheril Kirshenbaum. They also write "The Intersection" blog together for Discover blogs. For a longer bio and contact information, see here.

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