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On arguments and policy

"Steve Hullfish" <steve@delhallvideo.com> asked questions about
conclusions drawn from examination of Sue's bones, and ELurio@aol.com

> You should concentrate more on the fact that the person who dug the
> damn thing out of the ground was thrown in jail, and how some groups
> want to be greedy and keep all the fossils for themselves.

Demonstrating quite admirably that he is a valuable new participant
Mr. Hullfish responded in part:

} From the rules regarding this listerve, I understand that the sale
} and exchange of fossils is a very touchy subject.

I'd like everyone to follow his example and not bite on the flame bait
that Mr. Lurio submitted (or any similar bait offered up in the
future).  The purpose of this list is to discuss science, not politics
and not sociology.  If you want to talk about issues relevant to the
sale of fossils you'll have to follow some strict guidelines: 1) you
must relate your statements to issues concerning scientific questions.
2) you must not provide specific information which might aid in
connecting a seller to a buyer of a fossil.  3) you must restrict your
statements to matters of behavior and policy -- motives are
essentially irrelevant, and just as I cautioned last week about
positing non-rational motivations for beliefs, postulating motives in
this context is almost never helpful.  If you'd like to engage in a
constructive dialogue on issues related to private ownership/sale of
fossils I'm all for it.  If you start by asserting that people --
irrespective of whether or not you name particular individuals -- are
greedy, narrow-minded, socialist or whatever, I will *not* look on
your contribution kindly, and you may expect the revocation of your
privilege to submit messages if you continue.

While I'm here, let me also try to take a stab at another bogey-man
that appears on the list from time to time.  People bandy about the
idea that an answer should be considered correct because, for example,
"every child knows it".  Such statements are nothing more than
rhetorical debating tactics which upon examination make absolutely no
rational sense, and hence should never be used in a scientific
discussion.  If you disagree with my assertion then I ask you... when
you want to know the answer to any particular research question, does
it *ever* cross your mind that the best way to get your answer is to
go to an elementary school and ask the children?  (I will of course
exempt from this any questions that are actually about what children
think...)  IMHO the world would be a better place if nobody used such
rhetorical devices, at least with regards questions concerning
science.  We can bring about such a world by making sure that the
tricks don't work.  That is, if somebody starts a sentence with a
phrase like "every child can see..." then you're probably better off
ignoring the rest of the sentence.  On this list your best off never
submitting such a phrase.

In any case, for those of you who would like to follow Mr. Hullfish's
example and look over the rules of the list -- or if you'd like to
find out anything regarding the mechanics of your subscription --
please see the administrative web page:


Thanks for your cooperation,

Mickey Rowe     (rowe@psych.ucsb.edu)