I’ll now reply to various points in the thread Diane’s Question for Mark in the JREF forum, beyond the points already discussed my posts Reply to debate invitation from Ron/pomeroo on JREF and My decision about Ron Wieck’s show and the subsequent comment threads.
If someone from JREF could post a link to this post over there, I would very much appreciate it.
In this post in the JREF forum, Mark Roberts responded to my mention of Jon Gold’s stated willingness to debate with him. He quoted a bunch of back-and-forth squabbling amongst himself, Jon Gold, and Jim Fetzer, supposedly proving that Jon Gold is too much of a “coward” to debate with Mark Roberts. Actually, it looked to me as if Jon Gold’s objections were more to Ron Wieck as a host than to the very idea of debating with Mark Roberts at all.
In a related vein, pomeroo wrote, regarding his upcoming show in WTC 7:
I can’t produce any champion of Truth to explain to Mark and Arthur Scheuerman where they’re going wrong. Isn’t this an astonishing development?
Actually, I recall seeing at least one, and I think two or three, people who did volunteer in this JREF thread, but who were dismisssed as insufficiently prominent. If Mark and Ron were to eliminate the stated requirement that the guest be “influential,” I’m sure they could easily find plenty of people willing to debate them on their show. But the more “influential” folks have bigger fish to fry.
Incidentally, I’m not sure why Ron chose to invite me, while dismissing those who volunteered in JREF. I’m not terribly “influential” either. Perhaps I was invited because, although not so “influential” myself, I do have regular contacts with some “influential” people?
Rhetorical question to Mark Roberts: Why won’t you debate with any of the people who offered to debate with you in this JREF thread? You’re not afraid to, are you?
As I said, that’s a rhetorical question. My actual point is not to accuse Mark of being a coward, but rather to suggest to Mark that, if he would prefer that other people not reduce all his reasons for refusing to debate with particular people to “fear,” then perhaps he should show the same courtesy to other people.
Anyhow, a request to all who post comments here on this blog: Let’s not see any more macho chest-pounding accusations of “cowardice” here in comments on this blog, okay?
Back to Jon Gold. A JREF regular named ref (a.k.a. ref1 here) wrote:
Let’s see if Jon Gold accepts the challenge. My guess: He’ll back out, blaming the biased host/show or you being only a tour guide.
Mark being “only a tour guide” is irrelevant to the kinds of topics that Jon is willing to debate with him. He did indeed refuse because of Ron as the host. However, rather than say he “backed out,” I would just say that his Jon’s Truth Action post was incomplete. It didn’t specify all the conditions under which he would or would not be willing to debate with Mark, but just said he would be willing to debate with Mark about certain topics. (There are probably some conditions under which Mark would be unwilling to debate, too, I would imagine.)
Has Jon ever been offered the opportunity for a public debate with Mark in some other venue, with topic limitations to be negotiated in advance?
In my post My decision about Ron Wieck’s show, I wrote the following:
Someone with the user name “nicepants” wrote:
Be sure to read the responses you’ve gotten from truthers explaining why they’ve decided not to show. I love the excuse they use that Mark isn’t qualified. If that was the case, it would be a slam dunk.
Actually, there’s a legitimate issue here. Because Mark apparently does not have a strong technical background (I once saw him say somewhere, “I’m just a tour guide”), he is likely to rely heavily on arguments from authority when discussing the central physical issues regarding building collapses. Hence any in-depth discussion about the central physical issues would almost inevitably have to veer off into a distracting debate about the significance of things like conflicts of interest, the politics of academia, and the methodological differences between structural engineering and nearly every other kind of engineering. These are important topics in themselves, but, if someone is just going to cling desperately to arguments from authority, as I’ve seen Mark do in quite a few posts in the JREF forum, this makes a real discussion about the central physical issues impossible. I’d much rather debate the central physical issues with someone who has had at least a year or two of physics in college and who has a strong recollection of basic mechanics, including the math involved.
If I ever do a televised debate with Mark Roberts, I would prefer that it be a debate focussed primarily on issues that any intelligent layperson can research and discuss without having to cling desperately to arguments from authority, such as the air defense failures and the behavior of high officials on 9/11. But I am, at the present time, far from adequately prepared for a televised debate on those issues – even less so than I am, at this moment, prepared for a televised debate about WTC 7.
It wasn’t an “ad hominem” because the very topic of the discussion was the circumstances under which I’d be willing to engage in a public debate. These circumstances naturally include the qualifications of the person I would be debating with, as well as my own qualifications. Furthermore, I should clarify that I consider Mark “unqualified” only on the purely physical issues. But the purely physical issues are only one piece of a much larger puzzle. On all other issues, I consider him to be far more “qualified” than myself at this point, which is the main reason I backed down.
Anyhow, my judgment of Mark’s “qualifications” is based on my own observation of an admittedly limited sample of his JREF posts, as discussed in my post above, so it’s possible I’m mistaken. If I am, feel free to point it out. In any case, I am sorry if I offended Mark.
Based on the comment from totovader plus another comment by “calcas,” I got the feeling that Mark Roberts had felt offended by my post, although I had not yet read the relevant JREF thread. So, I emailed Mark to call his attention to my clarification.
Further clarification: My original point was in response to the following remark by nicepants: “I love the excuse they use that Mark isn’t qualified. If that was the case, it would be a slam dunk.” My point was to explain how it wouldn’t necessarily be a “slam dunk” to argue with a person who is less qualified than oneself on some particular topic. If the less-qualified person happens to be championing a more mainstream view, then the less-qualified person has the option of relying heavily on arguments from authority and popularity, which makes the original topic difficult to discuss in any meaningful way at all. And indeed that’s precisely what I’ve seen Mark do in quite a few posts in the JREF forum, and it’s one of the things he has a reputation for amongst people in the 9/11 Truth movement. So, if I were to debate with Mark about the physical aspects of the WTC 7 collapse, I would need not only to study up on WTC 7, but also to gather a bunch of info to cast doubt on the validity of the expected arguments from authority (info which I know is out there, it would just be time-consuming to gather it all together). It also means that the debate would end up being less focussed on the central issues.
Anyhow, in my original post, it would have been more polite of me to say that Mark “relies heavily on” rather than “clings desperately to” arguments from authority. I hereby apologize for the unnecessarily inflammatory wording. I should have caught that before posting it. I’m sorry I didn’t.
Anyhow, in this post in JREF, Gravy (Mark Roberts) wrote:
She doesn’t feel prepared. Okay, that’s fine. But if she were prepared, she’d want to debate someone more capable than me. Interesting logic.
That’s an oversimplifcation of what I wrote. I stated the above regarding only the specific topic of the physical aspects of building collapses, and I explained my reasons why. But I also left open the door to a possible future debate with him on other aspects of 9/11 besides the question of what was and was not done to the WTC buildings.
Totovader similarly misunderstood my point:
I never understood that sort of ad hominem attack. If Mark really is that incompetent, incapable, or otherwise an easy adversary – then why not destroy him in a debate?
I didn’t say that Mark was generally “incompetent, incapable, or otherwise an easy adversary.” My concern about Mark was much more specific than that.
I’ll echo what others have said; that Diane certainly seems like a sincere and intelligent individual.
However, regarding the notion that Mark isn’t well-versed enough to discuss the actual collapses, and instead relies on the Appeal To Authority fallacy, I can say, without equivocation, that this is simply untrue.
To any regular in the Conspiracy sub-forum it’s obvious that he has a strong understanding of the collapse of the Twin Towers.
And has debated the specifics countless times.
If anyone can point me to examples of specific posts in which Mark shows his understanding of the physical issues, I would be interested to see them. Nearly all the of the posts of his that I’ve seen, on the physical issues, have been hurried dismissals of other people’s posts on the grounds of an appeal to authority or popularity, either directly stated or implied.
Indeed, arguments from authority and popularity seem to be, by far, the most frequent kinds of arguments I’ve seen amongst JREFers generally, in the admittedly limited sample of JREF threads I’ve looked at, although there are exceptions. I’ve even seen complaints about this state of affairs by one person in the JREF camp, namely Frank Greening.
(P.S.: 2/9/2008: It turns out that Mark is indeed able to argue at least some physical issues directly. See the section # Mark’s mechanical arguments, and some other thoughts in my post Review of Hardfire debates between Mark Roberts and Loose Change crew.)
Someone named Viper Daimao wrote here in the JREF thread about me:
Sounds like she actually watched the episodes and realized she doesn’t have enough insulation from reality to think she would have “won” or looked good.
No, I actually have not yet gotten around to watching the episodes yet, except for the first 10 minutes or so, which had nothing to do with WTC 7. And I didn’t suddenly become aware of my unpreparedness upon seeing the first 10 minutes of the DVD. This was an issue from the beginning, as explained in my two earlier posts.
ETA: Actually reading her post, he seems she honestly admits to not knowing very much about the collapse and issues. Perhaps she would be interested in some written debates or just discussions totally separate from the show. Has anyone actually tried to show her that she’s wrong?
To say that I “don’t know very much about the collapse and issues” is an exaggeration. I just don’t consider myself to be enough of an expert to appear in a televised debate. But, as noted in my previous post here on this blog, I do know enough to be what at least two folks on your side consider to be the toughest written debater they’ve ever encountered (assuming they’re being honest with me and not just buttering me up). I’ve had numerous written debates here with highly qualified people, including a structural engineer.
Various other people in JREF, too, mistook my admission of insufficient preparation for a televised debate to be an admission of near-total ignorance. I have studied various 9/11-related topics quite a bit, including the other side’s arguments on various issues. I’m just not an expert yet. I don’t want to go on TV until I’m truly an expert.
She does indeed appear to be reasonably intelligent and civil. It seems unlikely that if that is the case, she can continue to keep the company she does for much longer.
The debunkers are not uniformly civil, or intelligent, or witty, or accurate – but they are all of these things far more than the conspiracists.
First off, regarding that word “conspiracist,” please see my blog post Chip Berlet and “Conspiracism”.
Second, I don’t perceive the “debunkers” as more civil. I think there’s an inevitable human tendency to perceive the other side of any dispute as nastier than one’s own side. I also see a lot of people on both sides jumping to conclusions about each other, resulting in a lot of otherwise unnecessary nastiness.
(Seen as Diane reads these posts, maybe she could join the forum and participate in the discussions directly? It’d sure be nice to have a civil truther around to spark reasonable debate.)
First, I don’t read JREF most of the time, just now and then, mostly just specific threads that have been called to my attention. When I have occasion to look up the other side’s arguments on a particular issue, I prefer to go to the sites with the best signal to noise ratio, such as Mike Williams’s 9/11 Myths site.
Second, registration in the JREF forum would require me to give my legal name and other identifying personal info. I’ve been told that the site administrators are very strict about wanting legal names. Now, they may be perfectly trustworthy people for all I know, but I don’t know them, and I choose to guard my privacy.
Anyone who wants to debate with me is welcome to come over to my blog.
Anyhow, I would appreciate it very much if someone from JREF could post a link to this post over there.
(P.S.: Edited to change “sites with a good signal-to-noise ratio” to “the sites with the best signal to noise ratio.”)