From: Brian Holtz []
Sent: Saturday, February 08, 2003 5:41 PM
To: Kyle Gerkin
Subject: RE: On Rennie's and Gerkin's discussion

> >Perhaps you mean: for any historical event the only evidence for
> > which are non-independent historical accounts. [..]
> Yes, that's what I mean. [..]
> >The mind-changing I'm interested in is that done by exposing each side's
> >arguments to the best available counter-arguments. I'll put my record of
> >civility up against Rennie's (or Turkel's!) any day, but I'll leave it
> >others to change minds through conciliation or deference. :-)
> Hmmm. This smacks of a "they do it, so why shouldn't I?"
> attitude. Which I'm not sure is taking the moral high road.

On the contrary, my point is that Turkel and others do not engage in a civil juxtaposition of each side's best arguments, but that I nevertheless do.  I don't see how politely expressing disagreement fails to count as taking the moral high road.

> But it's not my place to admonish
> your style. I just haven't found that method to be very
> productive in terms of opening a dialogue.

I have little interest in open-ended dialogue with people who behave like Turkel, except to verify that their best arguments against my beliefs are unconvincing.  I have zero interest in making any special effort to convert such people or win their favor.

> >If he changed all his references to me to use my name, I'd be willing to
> >use his pseudonym in all my references to him. But in light of his
> >practices, I see no need to cater to his naming whims.
> Turn the other cheek, my friend. :-)

I already laugh at all his childish insults without ever returning them in kind -- not because of some effete maxim of purported morality, but because doing so would be just as self-defeating and uncivil as when my opponent does it.

> >I'm not sure I understand your scenario/evidence distinction [..]
> What I mean is that one of those four scenarios had to have occured.

No, it could also be the case e.g. that the universe was created by five minutes ago by an agency that concocted the account in question, and that the purported source of the account was not lying/truthful/delusional/mistaken but in fact never even existed.

> If the Grand Canyon was the only canyon in existence, we should be
> far less sure of what exactly caused it. Isn't this distinction relevant?

Of course. However, I'm sure you'd agree that one-time -- or even one-of-a-kind -- events are not necessarily outside the reach of empirical analysis.

> I was a bit put off by JP in our initial encounter, but since
> then have established friendly relations with him. I realize he has been
> more or less demonized on the Secular Web, but my findings have have been
> pleasantly to the contrary. To be sure, he doesn't help his case
> with some of the things he says and does, but that's his decision.

I don't see how his behavior being "his decision" makes a difference. I'm not sure what you mean by "demonized", but he has a clear record (quantified here in "State of the Debate") of being boorish, insulting, and intellectually dishonest inasmuch as he regularly fails to answer, correctly represent, or link to his opponent's arugments.  I notice, however, that

So it's not impossible that Turkel is dimly aware of how much his behavior hurts his case.

> I do my best to judge a person based on our individual dealings.

Hitler's dog liked Hitler too -- right up until Hitler tested the poison on his dog on the day he committed suicide. :-)