Avicenna Has Been Removed From Freethought Blogs

It is with great sadness that I announce that Avicenna Last of the A Million Gods blog has been removed from Freethought Blogs as a result of a long track record of plagiarism that we just became aware of. That sadness is brought on primarily by the fact that I consider Avi a friend and hold him in very high esteem (yes, even after this ethical lapse). Let me explain why.

Here’s what I know about Avi. More than anyone else on this network, and more than almost anyone else I know, he really gives of himself to those who need it most. This is a guy who has spent the last few years living in rural India, working in a clinic treating the desperately poor people of the area while making very little money. He has been away from his family and his fiance and living in conditions that he did not need to live in to do put his talent and training as a doctor to help people. During that time, he has also been sent around the world to trouble spots where the need is more immediate and acute, treating refugees after violent attacks and natural disasters. During that time, he has contracted malaria and several other nasty ailments as a result of his work. He’s a good man. A very good man. And I consider him a personal friend, which I strongly hope will not end with this action.

But facts are facts. The first I heard of this was about 15 hours ago. I pay no attention whatsoever to the slymepit as I prefer to avoid cesspools full of raging assholes. My initial response, given my affinity for Avi and the source of the accusations, was to dismiss it as much ado about nothing. I believed, with very little thought or effort to confirm, the initial speculation that someone had either gotten his password or that it was the result of some sort of technical glitch.

Then I got an email from Hemant Mehta, someone I also hold in high esteem and consider a friend, and he told me that he’d been looking into the evidence and found a powerful case for plagiarism, whether a result of intention or lack of concern for attribution. I emailed Avi and said, in essence, that you have to address this publicly and you have to tell the truth, whatever that is. I’m glad to see that he has now done so. Hemant also published the evidence he had found and he’s right, the case is pretty unassailable. All of this happened while I slept. When I woke up this morning, I looked at both Hemant and Avi’s posts about it and immediately decided to take the matter to the executive committee and recommend his expulsion from the network. The committee agreed.

A huge part of blogging is commenting and quoting material from others. Rarely do I write an essay from scratch, I’m usually quoting and responding to something written by others. Accurate quoting and attribution are important in that regard. Yes, sometimes you’re going to paraphrase and often you’re going to present the same information and there are only so many ways to say something. Paraphrasing is not the same thing as plagiarism. But in this case, there are dozens of examples of entire sentences and paragraphs being lifted verbatim. There’s really little to dispute.

Facts are facts, yes, but ethics are also ethics. I have strongly condemned such behavior on the part of Mark Driscoll, Chuck Missler and others and I have refused to accept the excuse that they were merely careless about attribution. And if it is wrong for others, it’s wrong here too. And with all the criticism I aim at those in the atheist community who behave tribally, applying different standards to those we consider our enemies than we do to our friends, I would be a highly unethical hypocrite if I did anything other than what we’ve done.

As I said, I am very sad about this. Despite all of this, I will continue to believe that Avicenna is a good and decent man who does more than his fair share to help other people. And I will continue to read what he has to say. But he cannot say it here any longer. Ethical consistency demands that much.

About Ed Brayton

After spending several years touring the country as a stand up comedian, Ed Brayton tired of explaining his jokes to small groups of dazed illiterates and turned to writing as the most common outlet for the voices in his head. He has appeared on the Rachel Maddow Show and the Thom Hartmann Show, and is almost certain that he is the only person ever to make fun of Chuck Norris on C-SPAN.

  • Pen

    I am really sad also. I was aware of Avi’s systematic non- referencing and bugged him a couple of times, but there was this whole feel to his blog which was a kind of interesting mind dump by a guy who’s working really hard doing other things. I didn’t notice pkagiarism but perhaps I should have bugged harder.

    Maybe you could have some simple inhouse training for ftb bloggers? Many interesting writers come from fields where people aren’t fully trained in this kind of thing – or no academic field at all. I’ll miss Avi’s blog.

  • Onamission5

    Well, damn.

  • http://drx.typepad.com Dr X

    Such refreshing candor and I agree, we can hold a person in high esteem and they can, as human beings, engage in moral lapses that diminish neither our affection for them nor our respect for the good they do. The simple fact is that everyone has ethical lapses, at least in small ways if not in greater ways. And to be human is to be a hypocrite, at times. It can be very difficult to see that in oneself, but the failures of others become more forgivable when we step back and try to look honestly at our own failures. I know I constantly battle with keeping that perspective, becoming too harsh in my judgments, a little too black and white about character, even though I’m constantly dealing with the complexities of character in my work. My biggest challenge is when I encounter attacks based on black and white thinking. I tend to respond in kind. No doubt Avicenna will be judged in these black and white terms by some, but it’s good to see that he has an ethical friend who can do the right thing in response to his lapse, while continuing to hold him in affection and esteem. I hope he appreciates that, and I hope he remains your friend.

  • mkoormtbaalt

    That is unfortunate. You’re right, of course about your own ethics requiring this outcome. I wonder though, is there some chance that Avi will be given a second chance? If he writes elsewhere and proves over some stretch of time that he has corrected his behavior, would you allow him to return to FTB (assuming he wanted to, of course)?

  • http://www.alexgabriel.co.uk Alex Gabriel

    Maybe you could have some simple inhouse training for ftb bloggers?

    Or hopefully just select members who know how to blog…

  • dingojack

    Is this a secular variant of ‘love the sinner; hate the sin’?

    Dingo

  • blondeintokyo

    Alex, that was a low blow and completely unnecessary. I really get sick and tired of this kind of thing; first come people who are all too happy to create wounds, and those who follow and salt them. Screw you guys.

  • http://drx.typepad.com Dr X

    Is this a secular variant of ‘love the sinner; hate the sin’?

    I’d say that’s a fair characterization, except that the phrase “love the sinner; hate the sin” has often employed defensively, as a denial of fundamental contempt and a denial of attitudes that might be considered un-Christian. I don’t think Ed is doing that at all in this case. His genuine affection and regard for Avi is quite evident. I think it would be a small step forward for certain segments of the love the sinner crowd to express the degree of affection and respect for gay people that Ed shows his friend in this post. But like I suggested, I think the aphorism is often deployed as a denial of underlying contempt as opposed to representing a more subtle appreciation for the complexity of character that Ed’s post conveys.

  • dingojack

    True O king. But care is needed to avoid the appearance of ‘loving the sinner’ over ‘hating the sin’.

    Dingo

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  • dingojack

    That is, avoid the temptation to angle toward ‘Yes, he/she did X; but I agree with his/her position, therefore the moral transgression is acceptable’ (not that I think Ed is saying this, just one should be careful not to stray into this territory).

    A cautionary warning.

    Dingo

  • http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula PZ Myers

    Avi was very good at some aspects of blogging: prolific, and writing in-depth articles. What he wasn’t so good at was attributing the work of others.

  • http://drx.typepad.com Dr X

    That is, avoid the temptation to angle toward ‘Yes, he/she did X; but I agree with his/her position, therefore the moral transgression is acceptable’ (not that I think Ed is saying this, just one should be careful not to stray into this territory).

    A cautionary warning.

    Agree. That temptation is there. Perhaps, something akin to the Fundamental Attribution Error could come into play. When others do wrong, it’s because of bad character. When I do wrong, well, you must consider the situation. Perhaps that can be loosely extended to say that when my friends do wrong you must consider the situation or the context of the whole person that I know, though Ed doesn’t seem to grant any wiggleroom as far as relevant consequences. The writer plagiarized; he will no longer write for this group. That’s enough integrity for me.

  • leni

    That… sucks :/

    I know he was a sloppy writer, but I liked his off the cuff ways. I found it endearing. Really, really disappointing.

    Or hopefully just select members who know how to blog…

    That was uncalled for.

  • http://cycleninja.blogspot.com cycleninja

    The bad part about having standards is that you have to apply them to friends. I’m sorry about your decision, Ed, but I respect it. I hope it’s a growth-by-hard-lessons moment for him.

  • sugarfrosted

    Avicenna was the first blogger I ever subscribed to. I’m sad to see him go and would like to just say it was a case of honest misattribution, but given how it was worked into his writing, that is clearly not the case. Even as a reader I’m positive what he said about his personal life is true; lying is easy but keeping consistency of details is nigh impossible in the long term.

    I wish him luck in his future endeavors.

  • anastasia

    In some early systems of justice, execution or permanent banishment were the only forms of punishment.

    Perhaps there might be an intermediary form of punishment in some offenses, such as a one-year suspension. Especially in light of the totality of Avicenna’s contributions and situation.

    Even the Catholic Church allows the excommunicated to return to the fold after a sufficient time and true repentance.

  • http://www.patrickmackie.co.uk Patrick

    Avicenna’s A Million Gods was one of the go-to blogs on this site for me. I’m very sad that he’s been plagiarising to the extent that he has and has therefore been removed from Freethought Blogs. I hope he picks himself up, raises his writing game and continues to contribute to the discussion – he has much to add to it.

    The decision to remove him from the site is correct, and hard for all concerned. I hope the human relationships survive and we resist the temptation to kick a good man once he’s down.

  • Alverant

    #1 Pen

    Maybe you could have some simple inhouse training for ftb bloggers?

    Better yet make the standards of ftb bloggers public that way all of us can learn from them. Such standards shouldn’t just be for ftb but for everyone. This is something that can improve the general quality of all blogs everywhere.

  • sugarfrosted

    @16 I’m pretty sure it’s not necessarily permanent banishment. It’s more along the lines of indefinite.

  • Pen

    @18 – that’s a good idea, Alverant. FTB is big enough to have an inhouse writerly conventions policy. It’s one of those little things like having an anti-harassment policy at conventions which almost certainly saves trouble down the road.

    PS- poor FTB. I’m conscious of the fact that this suggestion means work and nobody is really getting paid very much. I will try to appreciate you with a donation as soon as I can.

  • tuibguy

    The best of luck to him going forward. I am sure that this is a painful lesson for him, but the question is how he will go from here. I learned a great deal from him and I will miss him.

  • Nick Gotts

    Sad to lose his unique viewpoint, but the right decision.

  • david

    Making an ethical decision is easy when there’s no personal price. Doing the right thing only gets you a cookie when your personal incentives are pointing in the other direction. You made th right decision, Ed.

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  • magistramarla

    This reminds me of something that happened here in San Antonio in 2002.

    The chief meteorologist at one of the city’s major TV stations was fired for plagiarism.

    He had worked there for 20 years. He was given the job of maintaining the weather blog on the station’s website, and as I remember it, he put some information there without attributing it to The National Weather Service. The brand new owners of the station quickly canned him and put a brash new out-of-towner in his place.

    The new chief meteorologist was on a list of the 25 most prominent climate-change-denying meteorologists in the country. I was always a bit suspicious that the new owners canned the local guy because 1) they didn’t want to pay his reportedly high salary and 2) he probably refused to pander to the climate denialists.

    We moved away in 2009, then moved back in 2013. I was delighted to find that another TV station had given the man a second chance in 2011. Last spring, he was named chief meteorologist for that station. I much prefer the open, honest and obviously scientifically accurate meteorologist to the smug, arrogant one who makes snide remarks about climate change on-air.

    I wasn’t a reader of Avicenna’s blog, but after reading what some of you have said about him, including Ed and PZ, I hope that a similar second chance is offered to him someday.

  • Kalia

    I’m with mkoormtbaalt on this one, and hope that Avi can come back if he mends his ways. Like many others, I really enjoyed his blog. I understand and appreciate the reasoning behind FTB’s decision, though.

  • magistramarla

    OK, I just read a bit on Avicenna’s blog for the first time ever. In particular, I read his recent blog about the treatment of the LGBT community in the wake of the recent suicide of a trans young person.

    The writing was eloquent. I appreciated that he began by writing about Alan Turing, since I recently saw the film The Imitation Game.

    After just reading a few samples of the posts at that blog, I’m sorry that I haven’t been reading there before and I want to second what kalia just said. I hope to see Avicenna return to FTB someday.

  • dogeared, spotted and foxed

    I think that you are making a huge mistake. Avicenna offered a unique voice and viewpoint to FTB. He offered compassionate insight into Asian culture and a world view that is sorely lacking in the west. His work is the intelligent antithesis to the hippy-dippy appropriation of eastern culture for “spiritual” tourism.

    Yes, he made a huge mistake and you are right to call him out. Yes, he should be put on probation. Yes, what he did was wrong. But we all make mistakes and the best of us grow from them. If you can not reinstate his blog, I ask that you please link to whatever new blog he creates, that you use whatever resources you have to help him maintain anonymity, and that you continue to link/mention/promote him whenever applicable.

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  • http://onhandcomments.blogspot.com/ left0ver1under

    I’m reading all of this and thinking, “Where’s the sarcasm, where’s the punchline to show this was all just trolling the trolls?”

    I certainly hope this doesn’t affect him professionally.

  • https://www.facebook.com/steers.mann Steers Mann

    Ed:

    And with all the criticism I aim at those in the atheist community who behave tribally, applying different standards to those we consider our enemies than we do to our friends, I would be a highly unethical hypocrite if I did anything other than what we’ve done.

    I essentially agree with you there about having to let Avi go, although I think it somewhat unfortunate in a way as it certainly seemed that he brought some important perspectives to the table, at least surrounding Islam.

    And I kind of agree with you about the issue of “those in the atheist community who behave tribally” as it tends to derail or vitiate our best efforts. Although, somewhat in passing, one might call your characterization of the SlymePit as a “cesspool full of raging assholes” as precisely that – I wonder, perchance, have you actually ever taken an honest look there yourself rather than simply relying on those who are biased or who have an axe to grind?

    In any case, I think you’re still bending over backwards – to “positively supine lengths” – in your judgement of Avicenna, although I’m encouraged that the scales seem to falling from the eyes of FTBloggers Lousy Canuck and Ophelia Benson, the first of whom had these relatively cogent observations (1):

    … but the fact that [Avicenna] played fast and loose with attribution, and then in my estimation lied so casually in his apology and his excuses for what he’s done, I’m afraid my trust has been violated thoroughly. Without direct evidence, I’m inclined to believe he’s been more or less self-aggrandizingly fabulist.

    Although Jason rather cluelessly insists – without evidence, natch – that Richard Sanderson is a SlymePitter, and that Hemant had “drudged up” all of the evidence against Avicenna all by his lonesome – among other crimes against the “Truth”. But I’m wondering whether you actually read, or at all closely, Hemant Mehta’s post (2), particularly the tail-end of it, where he questions Avicenna’s excuses (being charitable) for the plagiarism – which put “the dog ate my homework” to shame for insufficient chutzpah.

    However, I think the larger issue is that FreeThoughtBlogs – Pharyngula in particular – is, I think, beginning (?) to look like the Westboro Baptist Church of the “atheist movement” (however one wants to define that). The blame for (some of) which might reasonably be laid at your doorstep. Apropos of which, I wonder if you’ve read any of Michael Nugent’s posts – for example, this one (3) – asking that PZ apologize for accusing him of providing a “haven for harassers, misogynists, and rapists” on his blog. (Though I wonder whether you don’t think that qualifies as “tribalism” in action). Or Nugent’s recent one which includes an open letter (4) to you asking that you address those “false allegations” – which I hope you’ll give due consideration to as it, like Avicenna’s “transgression”, is hardly reflecting well on FreeThoughtBlogs.

    —–

    1) “_http://freethoughtblogs.com/lousycanuck/2015/01/03/on-avicenna-plagiarism-and-thanking-those-who-regularly-cry-wolf-while-flailing-us-raw/”;

    2) “_http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2015/01/03/another-atheist-caught-in-case-of-serial-plagiarism/”;

    3) “_http://www.michaelnugent.com/2014/10/13/pz-myers-has-failed-five-times-to-justify-his-smear-that-i-am-defending-and-providing-a-haven-for-rapists-on-my-blog/”;

    4) “_http://www.michaelnugent.com/2015/01/03/pz-myers-new-defamatory-smear-support-rapists/comment-page-1/”;

  • http://strangesally.wordpress.com/ SallyStrange

    Hahaha! Thanks for the comic relief, “Steers Mann.” Your concern about FTB is oh so touching. *snort*

  • http://inmyunbelief.wordpress.com TCC

    However, I think the larger issue is that FreeThoughtBlogs – Pharyngula in particular – is, I think, beginning (?) to look like the Westboro Baptist Church of the “atheist movement” (however one wants to define that).

    It’s cute that you think this.

  • https://www.facebook.com/steers.mann Steers Mann

    Sally Strange (#30):

    De nada – always willing to do whatever I can to advance the cause – though we might have a quibble or two on the precise scope of that. Like whether it is really tenable for Ophelia Benson to insist (1) that “connecting the word ‘feminism’ with the word ‘virulent’ is misogyny”. Or that “mathematicians spent 100 years thinking that there was no way to model hyperbolic equations in the real world because none of them did crochet” (2). (Though thanks for the link, even if was an indirect one.)

    However, you might reflect on Ed’s comment about behaving “tribally”, and consider that internecine warfare is hardly conducive to much advancement by, or credibility for, the “atheist movement” – whatever it might encompass. And that turning blogs into “Internet Silos” (3) – as many FTB sites, although not all, might reasonably be characterized as – only compounds the problems.

    —-

    1) “_https://twitter.com/SteersMann/status/493150440964378625”;

    2) “_http://jadehawks.wordpress.com/2013/04/13/a-collection-of-reading-comprehension-fails/#comment-3276”;

    3) “_http://edge.org/response-detail/23777”;

  • https://www.facebook.com/steers.mann Steers Mann

    TCC (#32):

    It’s cute that you think this.

    Gawd, but I love a good comment that I can get my teeth into. Unfortunately that one of yours falls rather short of that standard.

    But I wonder whether you’ve read any of Nugent’s posts, some of which I’ve linked to above, that provides more than a little justification for that argument of mine. Probably not as then I’d have to consider that your reading comprehension or your ethical standards suck ….

  • http://www.themindisaterriblething.com shripathikamath

    Nicely done, Ed.

  • Holms

    #29 Steers Mann

    “However, I think the larger issue is that FreeThoughtBlogs – Pharyngula in particular – is, I think, beginning (?) to look like the Westboro Baptist Church of the “atheist movement” (however one wants to define that).”

    Oh, that’s a neat trick. Next time I’m making a preposterous insinuation, I must remember to say ‘however one wants to define that’ so as to pretend that I was not actually making an insinuation at all, and that anything untoward was merely an uncharitable interpretation. Steers Mann, you remind me of a certain Steersman in your similarly disguised dishonesty; the resemblance really is uncanny.

  • colnago80

    I have to admit to not being a regular visitor to Avicenna’s blog but for those who are calling for a return after a suitable time for repentance, I would have to be point out that such a return would require an extensive oversight of his blog to insure that he has learned the error of his ways. The question is, who would provide that level of oversight? I don’t think that either Brayton or Myers has the time for such an activity nor do the other bloggers here. AFAIK, there is not a full time paid individual who looks after this site so it appears to me that there is no alternative to making the heave ho of Avicenna permanent. Allowing him back without extensive oversight would put the network here at the mercy of the Slymepitters and other critics, which I can assure the readers are manifest. Just look at some of the comments over at Mehta’s blog on the post he put up commenting on this affair.

  • abb3w

    Interesting to me, from a networks-of-trust perspective. The historically noisy channel gets ignored (and in PZ’s case, it seems the j’accuse initially rejected by reflex) until the claim gets certified by a more reputable source.

  • http://cheapsignals.blogspot.com Gretchen

    I pay no attention whatsoever to the slymepit as I prefer to avoid cesspools full of raging assholes.

    Who have, of course, taken to Twitter to prove the wisdom and truth of this statement. There really should be a Slymepit version of Lewis’ Law.

    Once upon a time, I used to write content for a web site about jobs, living arrangements, and ways to entertain yourself in the Dallas/Ft. Worth metroplex. When eventually the web site shut down and we were all laid off, it came to light that I’d been the only writer on our (admittedly very small) staff who wasn’t plagiarizing. I didn’t understand it then, and I don’t understand it now. But I think this was the correct decision and wish Avicenna the best.

  • http://inmyunbelief.wordpress.com TCC

    Gawd, but I love a good comment that I can get my teeth into. Unfortunately that one of yours falls rather short of that standard.

    That would require you to have standards first. Well, or at least only single standards.

    P.S. Nugent’s claims are bullshit.

  • Brony, Social Justice Cenobite

    General note: I highly recommend that Avicenna’s blog be stored for future reference. There will be times when we need to reference it. I would not be surprised if we saw people make specific demands that would need his blog in fact.

    @ Steers Mann 29

    It’s amazing how far back many of us have to have to go to get to fundamental disagreements with you and many others from your slice of internet culture. I can’t even get to your points because of how deeply the disagreement lies.

    Although, somewhat in passing, one might call your characterization of the SlymePit as a “cesspool full of raging assholes” as precisely that – I wonder, perchance, have you actually ever taken an honest look there yourself rather than simply relying on those who are biased or who have an axe to grind?

    Once can characterize a community by characteristics based on the experiences of people from that community. Tough shit. All it requires is being willing to treat all individuals as individuals in parallel to applying community characterizations. For example the treatment that you get based on the past experience of others here.

    Treating individuals as individuals and pointing out that a definable cultural group has problems should be no problem. One of the biggest problems we SJWs have is people who do the latter and avoid the former.

    In any case, I think you’re still bending over backwards – to “positively supine lengths” –in your judgement of Avicenna, although I’m encouraged that the scales seem to falling from the eyes of FTBloggers Lousy Canuck and Ophelia Benson

    Fill in that bolded portion with Ed’s actual words. I bet that if you do so we will see some interesting things in the things that you see as “bending over backwards”.

    Although Jason rather cluelessly insists – without evidence, natch – that Richard Sanderson is a SlymePitter…

    Did Jason explain why he did that when asked? Even by email? If not once again you seem to like shoveling your work at other people. Sure Ed and PZ do have some responsibility as FTB figureheads. But you should be able to try to work things out with someone before you go running to someone else. If you did please present what Jason said.

    …that Hemant had “drudged up” all of the evidence against Avicenna all by his lonesome…

    “drudged up”?

    First, screw tone trolling. The emotional characterization is not a part of an argument. It’s often a conclusion. If Jason made a mistake in addressing Hemant’s ability to present the evidence that would matter. This is drama as presented.

    Second, your addition of the “…all by his lonesome….” is dishonest. Your presentations is a lie as it stands. The full quoted section in Jason’s piece connected with the “drudged up” in no way implies that Hemant did this on his own. You are an example of a forming mythology.

    I’m wondering whether you actually read, or at all closely, Hemant Mehta’s post (2), particularly the tail-end of it, where he questions Avicenna’s excuses (being charitable) for the plagiarism – which put “the dog ate my homework” to shame for insufficient chutzpah.

    Why would you wonder if Ed read that? What is missing from his piece? Why should anyone help you in the larger effort to isolate and harass people related to FTB? You might be willing to ignore the repeated baseless accusations (One fucker just recently going on about Avicenna wondering about milk for an acid burn for example) but I’m certainly not going to. That is how harassment works after all. Repeated unwelcome behavior that can individually have excuses made for it, but collectively do damage.

    However, I think the larger issue is that FreeThoughtBlogs – Pharyngula in particular – is, I think, beginning (?) to look like the Westboro Baptist Church of the “atheist movement” (however one wants to define that). The blame for (some of) which might reasonably be laid at your doorstep.

    That’s not how this works. If you want to present something in quotes you have to be able to give us the original version or explain what you mean if there is no original version. Don’t be a coward. Tell us specifically why Pharyngula is like that church? Such an accusation is especially interesting after your mythology about Jason’s reference to Hemant’s collection of evidence.

    Apropos of which, I wonder if you’ve read any of Michael Nugent’s posts – for example, this one (3) – asking that PZ apologize for accusing him of providing a “haven for harassers, misogynists, and rapists” on his blog. (Though I wonder whether you don’t think that qualifies as “tribalism” in action). Or Nugent’s recent one which includes an open letter (4) to you asking that you address those “false allegations” – which I hope you’ll give due consideration to as it, like Avicenna’s “transgression”, is hardly reflecting well on FreeThoughtBlogs.

    Maybe Nugent’s writing on PZ will become relevant when he gets around to actually saying why the things that PZ says are problems. Just because it’s offensive to him means nothing to me. People confuse insulting characterizations with insults all the time while strategically ignoring the underlying argument that led to the characterization.

    I will care about PZ describing Nugent’s place as “haven for rapists”, when someone explains why the reasoning that the social structure of Nugent’s blog makes life easier for rapists is wrong. Society does make rape easier.

  • benwalsh

    “I would be a highly unethical hypocrite if I did anything other than what we’ve done.”

    I think your behavior towards Mick Nugent shows you to be a highly unethical hypocrite.

  • http://cheapsignals.blogspot.com Gretchen

    What did Ed do to Michael Nugent?

  • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

    Although, somewhat in passing, one might call your characterization of the SlymePit as a “cesspool full of raging assholes” as precisely that – I wonder, perchance, have you actually ever taken an honest look there yourself rather than simply relying on those who are biased or who have an axe to grind?

    The most charitable reply I can offer here is “You’re kidding, right?” Seriously, Steersman, do you really think you’re fooling anyone? By this time, multiple credible sources have all independently verified that, yes, the Slymepit is indeed a cesspool full of raging assholes, and nothing more. That question is about as settled as heliocentrism, and there’s no need for any further verification. Go back to bed.

  • leni

    I don’t know about Ed’s reasons, but I don’t go to the pit for examples of rational discourse for the same reason I don’t go to church to seek out examples of rational discourse. Oh I’m sure they exist, I just don’t see the point of looking through shit for diamonds.

  • zenlike

    O good, johhngreg is here. Shut up johngreg.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/dispatches Ed Brayton

    Nope, this is not a forum for slymepit assholes. You have a place where you can engage in a 4chan-wannabe circle jerk to your heart’s content. It isn’t going to happen here. Go the fuck away.

  • Mobius

    I mentioned this story to someone that turned out to be a fan of Thunderf00t. He told me Ed doesn’t have the moral courage to kick PZ and Skepchik off of FtB for saying all men are scum. Huh? And…Skepchik???

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/dispatches Ed Brayton

    Neither PZ nor anyone at Skepchick has ever said that all men are scum, of course. All these myths, like the guy who claimed that Rebecca Watson created Atheism+. Rage fueled by bullshit.

  • https://www.facebook.com/steers.mann Steers Mann

    Holms (#35):

    Steers Mann: However, I think the larger issue is that FreeThoughtBlogs – Pharyngula in particular – is, I think, beginning (?) to look like the Westboro Baptist Church of the “atheist movement” (however one wants to define that).”

    Holms: Oh, that’s a neat trick. Next time I’m making a preposterous insinuation, I must remember to say ‘however one wants to define that’ so as to pretend that I was not actually making an insinuation at all, and that anything untoward was merely an uncharitable interpretation.

    Maybe it was a little vague but the quoted term there – i.e., “atheist movement” – was an allusion to PZ Myers’ frequent (1) use of the term, and a suggestion that his attempts at redefining it are rather “problematic” – something that I figured most dutiful pharyngulanas would catch. Not to say that there isn’t some merit in the exercise or the discussion, only that a dogmatic insistence on the non-existence of any and all “gods”, and/or a denial that there’s any value in the concept, at least as an abstraction – both of which seem to be what Myers’ idea of “the movement” depends on rather crucially – tends to be pretty much an article of faith (2):

    Wikipedia: Atheism is, in a broad sense, the rejection of belief in the existence of deities. In a narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities.

    And the result of which, the latter manifestation in particular, is frequently the same type of bigotry, self-righteousness, and narrow-mindedness exhibited by the WBC folks. Q.E.D.

    Steers Mann, you remind me of a certain Steersman in your similarly disguised dishonesty; the resemblance really is uncanny.

    Uncanny, you say? Fancy that. Guess I should realize it’s pointless trying to put one over on you – and the rest of the “Rhetorical Assassin Squad”; guess the fact that I’ve been using the same avatar [a painting by Theo van Rysselberghe titled “Steersman” (3)] and pretty much the same name on various social media for the last two years (and more) just wasn’t subtle enough ….

    —–

    1) “_https://www.google.ca/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=site:http:%2F%2Ffreethoughtblogs.com%2Fpharyngula+%22atheist+movement%22”;

    2) “_http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atheism”;

    3) “_http://www.mystudios.com/artgallery/T/Theo-van-Rysselberghe/Steersman.html”;

  • Pingback: Integrity at Freethought Blogs | Dale Husband's Intellectual Rants()

  • Mobius

    @44 Ed

    Yeah, I know. I have followed PZ for years and have read nearly every blog post. I never saw anything that said all men are scum. (He did have some harsh words for the MRA, but that is something different.) And I have read a lot of Skepchik and never saw any such thing there either.

    But this guy claims it is oh so true. He followed the links and checked out the claim and says PZ did indeed say such.

    Oy vey.

    And I really loved it that he thought Skepchik is part of FtB. Just one more point showing his “data” is a bit out of touch with reality.

  • Kilian Hekhuis

    “This is a guy who has spent the last few years living in rural India, working in a clinic treating the desperately poor people of the area while making very little money. He has been away from his family and his fiance and living in conditions that he did not need to live in to do put his talent and training as a doctor to help people. During that time, he has also been sent around the world to trouble spots where the need is more immediate and acute, treating refugees after violent attacks and natural disasters. During that time, he has contracted malaria and several other nasty ailments as a result of his work. He’s a good man. A very good man.” – Are you sure about all of this? Have you met him in person, seen him doing those things? Someone so liberal with citations could very well be a serial liar.

  • dingojack

    Kilian Hekhuis – You’re correct of course. How do we know that Avicenna is telling the truth about anything at all? Is there a real person behind this ‘Avicenna’ person anyway? I mean, have you ever seen him typing his alleged blog? And have he and Ed ever been seen in the same room together at the same time?!?

    How do you know I’m real even? I could be part of your subconscious — that’s trolling you!

    All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy! All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy!

    All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy! All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy!

    All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy! All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy! …

    😉 Dingo

  • eric

    Maybe you could have some simple inhouse training for ftb bloggers?

    Frankly, I think ‘how to write ethically’ should probably be a required unit in high school English AND AGAIN a required course in liberal arts colleges. Pretty much everyone needs it, not just ftb bloggers. Because it happens a lot, and is one of those sins that is very easy for otherwise good people to unintentionally slip into doing. After all, unlike a lot of unethical conduct that actually takes some effort to decide to do, this ethical failure can simply be an outgrowth of carelessness, laziness, or being pressed for time – things we pretty much all experience during our lives. It can even arise out of a noble desire to give people the best report/essay that you can. Moreover it doesn’t just happen in journalistic-style writing, either; copying and nonattribution can be a problem in the social and physical sciences too.

    So, I agree with the decision. But I see Avicenna’s conduct as indicative of a bigger problem, not just an individual ethical fail.

  • StevoR

    Fuck.

  • StevoR

    Fuck. fuck fuck.

    Avicenna was awesome.

    I will miss him. Great blog, great fucking shame.

    I am not disagreeing with you and your decision here Ed Brayton but .. Fuck!

    This is a fucking shit thing to read and have happen.

  • John Horstman

    Well, that’s unfortunate. I quite liked Avi’s blog – I sometimes agreed and sometimes disagreed with his perspective, which I like in a blog.

  • pocketnerd

    Thus Spake ZaraJohn Horstman:

    Well, that’s unfortunate. I quite liked Avi’s blog – I sometimes agreed and sometimes disagreed with his perspective, which I like in a blog.

    Liking a blog where you occasionally disagree with the content? Didn’t you know that we’re a bloated hive of conformist groupthink here at FreeThoughtBulliesBlogs?

  • Mobius

    @50 StevoR

    I agree. Avicenna made some great points. Sadly, he crossed a line and something had to be done. What he did doesn’t take away from his position, but it does require Ed to take a stand on journalistic ethics. Plagiarism, even if it is just a matter of forgetting to give credit to others, is serious. And the number of times this happened means that a mere slap on the wrist isn’t enough.

    Sad. Sad. Sad.

    I too will miss Avi’s posts, but do not blame Ed in the least for the action he has taken.

    I hope Avicenna moves on from this, gets his act cleaned up, and finds somewhere else to express his opinions. Sadly, the trolls will likely follow wherever he goes.

  • lou Jost

    I think Avicenna’s plagiarism is a sign of a much bigger problem. His blog is full of incredible claims that sound very suspicious. When confronted about some of these claims (such as the claim that he was involved in the autopsy of the two Indian rape victims), he has walked them back in the same suspiciously byzantine manner that he used in his response to the charges of plagiarism. He shows every sign of being a serial liar. It is astonishing and disappointing to me that these claims have not been looked into before, just because they came from the Slymepit. It doesn’t matter where they came from, people here should have taken them seriously. I hope Ed or another FtB blogger will make a serious effort to clear the air on this. Investigate his role in the Philippines typhoon relief effort, the autopsy, even the little but improbable claims like the claim that his father visited the World Trade Center as a tourist the morning of Sept 11 but left before the attacks (the tourist platform didn’t open until 9:30, after the attacks). The Slymepit, which I have never visited before this incident, has documented some of these contradictions. In light of the dishonest not-apology of Avicenna on the one charge that was easy to prove, these other more serious accusations gain a lot of credibility. It should be FtB, not some FtB-haters from outside, that investigate this openly and carefully.

  • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

    I think Avicenna’s plagiarism is a sign of a much bigger problem. His blog is full of incredible claims that sound very suspicious. When confronted about some of these claims (such as the claim that he was involved in the autopsy of the two Indian rape victims), he has walked them back in the same suspiciously byzantine manner that he used in his response to the charges of plagiarism.

    Citation and examples required.

    It is astonishing and disappointing to me that these claims have not been looked into before, just because they came from the Slymepit.

    If actual usable evidence had come from the Slymepit, perhaps those assholes would have been taken more seriously. It’s not FTB’s fault the Slymepit is full of hatemongering liars and we end up treating them accordingly until their allegations are independently verified.

    It should be FtB, not some FtB-haters from outside, that investigate this openly and carefully.

    I don’t recall Hemant Mehta ever being called an FTB-hater. Apparently he’s the one doing that open and careful investigation you demanded, not the Slymers.

  • lou Jost

    Raging Bee, no, Hemant acknowledged the Slymepit as his source. But even if he had done the whole investigation himself, you’re missing the point of my last comment. It should be FtB who does a thorough investigation.

    “Citation and examples required.” I just gave two examples, his claim to have been involved in the autopsy of the Indian girls, and his claim that his father visited the WTC as a tourist just before it was hit. His blog is full of these kinds of claims.

    You’re circling the wagons rather than looking at this objectively. I don’t claim to know for sure that Avicenna’s claims are false. Just like I don’t know for sure that his computer and his bad internet connections are the causes of many of his plagiarisms, as he claims. But to a reasonably skeptical person, the evidence is against him. Go look at the stuff about Avicenna on the Slymepit. Lots of it looks incriminating and seems well-documented. I’d love to hear it is not true. But somebody here has to investigate and not just simply say, as PZ and Ed have, that all the charges against Avicenna except the plagiarism charge are lies. It simply doesn’t look that way to me as an outside observer of this mess. I’d like to see independent documentation of Avicenna’s wild claims.

  • leni

    When confronted about some of these claims (such as the claim that he was involved in the autopsy of the two Indian rape victims)…

    I don’t recall seeing him make that claim, but knowing what I do now I don’t feel compelled to believe it. Or even give him the benefit of the doubt that I would have before.

    That said…

    It is astonishing and disappointing to me that these claims have not been looked into before, just because they came from the Slymepit.

    Do you investigate every claim made on creationist or anti-vaxxer forums in the hopes that one of every several hundred might be accurate?

    If so, well, I’m glad you have the time and patience to care about what they say. Please enjoy yourself, but also please stop being astonished when other people are less likely to jump at every accusation of impropriety. That is what they do. That is what they exist to do.

    There is a reason pit accusations about bloggers they disagree with get dismissed out of hand and there is nothing astonishing about it: the signal to noise ratio there is approximately equal to 1.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/dispatches Ed Brayton

    I have absolutely no intention of now going back to figure out if he might have lied about other things. If I had nothing better to do with my time than that, I’d have a mighty boring life. He’s no longer here at FTB and I see nothing productive in such a pointless search.

  • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

    “Citation and examples required.” I just gave two examples…

    You gave alleged examples, but no citation to back any of it up.

    Go look at the stuff about Avicenna on the Slymepit. Lots of it looks incriminating and seems well-documented.

    The Slymepit alone is not a credible source. They’ve been consistently spouting hateful bullshit that’s been discredited ever since that forum was created. That’s not “circling the wagons,” that’s a statement of well-known fact. Also, the Slymepit was clearly not Mehta’s only source — I’m sure he didn’t just take their word for it. So until someone does the same thing with your latest allegations, they’re nothing but groundless bullshit.

  • abb3w

    @58ish, Ed Brayton

    He’s no longer here at FTB and I see nothing productive in such a pointless search.

    Depends on your measure of “productive”. I can certainly see that there might be a high emotional cost if the speculations of lou Jost were to prove spot on; it might well undermine the reasons why you ever counted him as a friend. On the other hand, the search might also turn up whether there also were earlier indicators, which might allow hindsight to inform foresight of when there is greater need for scrutiny, thus enabling earlier recognition of the next such.

    Contrariwise, I’m not sure that it’s the best use of Ed’s own time to do such a search; his own friendship will make the labor painful, and the task would add a time demand to compete with his more directly productive work. This seems something better passed off to someone that Ed trusts who has with no strong connections to Avi, who can sort through the claims and document their merit or lack.

  • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

    I just had a look at Mehta’s examples of Avi’s plagiarism. There were a lot of cases where whole paragraphs were lifted word-for-word without attribution, and that’s pretty much inexcusable. But there were also several instances where Avi merely lifted specific statements of fact and pasted them into his own sentences. The latter is a little more forgivable, since all Avi was doing there was repeating a snippet of fact as he had read it, to avoid wasting time re-wording a statement of fact, and thus possibly misstating it. It would have been better, of course, to simply paste a whole fact-laden paragraph, with attribution, and then base one’s own comments on that; but the occasional repetition of fact-statements is a little more forgivable than wholesale copying of whole chunks of an article. A news article can be copyrighted; specific facts cannot.

  • lou Jost

    Ed, that’s a very disappointing brush-off. #60, abb3w, thanks for seeing the larger issue here.

    Raging Bee, what would you like to see regarding the claim that Avicenna’s father visited the WTC as a tourist just before it got hit? The Slymepit has the excerpt from his blog where he makes the claim, and also has an excerpt from the official WTC report explaining that the tourist platform wouldn’t be open until 9:30. Seems odd, though there are possible convoluted non-lying explanations. There are lots of such improbable claims documented by Avicenna’s own words at the Slymepit. See also

    http://theyetisroar.wordpress.com/2014/12/24/the-fantastic-tales-of-avicenna-last-part-1/

    and see part 2 of the same series. Some of the charges there are dismissable. Some are not. When this is read in conjunction with Avicenna’s terribly dishonest apology for plagiarism, they gain credibility.

    Ed, and the other “skeptics” who claim there is too much noise and too little signal in the Slymepit charges: Any reasonably skeptical person reading Avicenna’s blog over time should have noticed some red flags, even if there were no such thing as a Slymepit.

  • dingojack

    Lou – quote the specific claim.

    Dingo

  • lou Jost

    Dingojack, look at the link I gave in my last comment.

    The linked Part 1 contains an analysis of Avicenna’s claims about his experiences of the first Gulf War and their inconsistencies. Avi’s claims here do seem suspicious.

    It also charges that Avicenna copy/pastes internet content to construct false hate emails he claims to receive. I agree with some others that this particular charge is worthless, as real hate-mailers often cut and paste from other sources.

    The post in my link also makes charges about Avicenna’s fund-raising for a planned charity trip. At the very least, Avicenna seems to have been deliberately non-transparent here.

    The charge that strikes me as strongest is contained in the Dec 24th comment by lancelotgobbo, with full documentation. This is the incredible claim (actually made by PZ rather than Avicenna) that Avicenna was involved in the autopsy of the two hung Indian rape victims. Avi appears to have told PZ that he (Avi) “was one of the doctors called in to do the autopsies afterwards.” That’s a quote from PZ’s Comment 17 of Pharyngula’s post on the case. This claim is suspicious for many reasons. Read the post. Taken together with all his other improbable claims, this looks to me like strong evidence that Avi is willing to exaggerate or invent his involvement in important events. A comment I saw on the Slymepit but have not verified is that Avi later walked this claim back, saying that the autopsies were part of his re-exams that he did on paper (admitted he didn’t go to UP or view the bodies). This too is implausible, since it was a fresh case and the full details were not yet known.

    Part 2 is here, with additional improbable claims by Avicenna:

    http://theyetisroar.wordpress.com/2014/12/31/the-fantastic-tales-of-avicenna-last-part-2/

    Avi’s claim that his father visited the WTC as a tourist but left before the attack is extremely implausible on its face. The attacks were early in the morning, before the tourist platform opened. Sure, it could have happened. It sounds fishy though, and fits the pattern of Avi claiming to have direct personal connection with lots of major events. You can see the claim here (comment 8193, page 127 of the cached version of the blog))

    http://slymepit.com/phpbb/viewtopic.php?f=31&t=429&start=8190

    Sure, these are not proofs, and I don’t know for sure that Avi is lying in any of these cases. But these are claims that could be checked. What surprises me is the unwillingness of some FtBers to even look at this stuff.

    In my opinion, this shows that FtB is human, and suffers from the same tribalism and closed-mindedness as the groups it often criticizes. As a long-time reader of FtB, I am disappointed.

  • dingojack

    No. It’s quite simple. Quote Avicenna’s actual claim. I don’t know if I can make it any simpler for you.

    Dingo

  • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

    A comment I saw on the Slymepit but have not verified is that Avi later walked this claim back…

    You pass on a comment from one of the least believable parts of the entire Internet, and consider it credible, without bothering to verify it? That alone indicates you’re not worth listening to.

    What surprises me is the unwillingness of some FtBers to even look at this stuff.

    You say this AFTER Avicenna was kicked off of FTB with no hope of returning? When has the Slymepit ever held any of its contributors to such a level of accountability? Last I checked, they BRAGGED about never “censoring” anyone, ever. Your selective “disappointment” is pure hypocritical bullshit.

    As a long-time reader of FtB, I am disappointed.

    If you really were a “long-time reader” here, you’d know not to pretend we’re just as “tribalistic” or “closed-minded” as the Slymepit.

  • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

    Raging Bee, what would you like to see regarding the claim that Avicenna’s father visited the WTC as a tourist just before it got hit?

    As dingojack said, a direct quote and cite of the actual claim.

  • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

    It also charges that Avicenna copy/pastes internet content to construct false hate emails he claims to receive. I agree with some others that this particular charge is worthless, as real hate-mailers often cut and paste from other sources.

    So why do you insist on repeating a charge you believe is worthless? All you’re doing is giving us more reasons to ignore the Slymepit.

    Sure, these are not proofs, and I don’t know for sure that Avi is lying in any of these cases. But these are claims that could be checked. What surprises me is the unwillingness of some FtBers to even look at this stuff.

    You know that none of the charges are proven, yet you expect others to take them seriously and do your fact-checking for you? Just because we can? And you act surprised when we don’t take your unfounded accusations seriously whenever you demand it? Grow the fuck up.

  • abear

    If you want to prove Avicenna lied about stuff, or at the least made sketchy inconsistent statements you can’t quote his blog directly as it has been memoryholed, unless you have freezepaged it or trust that Avicenna’s critics have accurately done so.

    Since all of his critics are evil Slymepitters and they are all liars (simple statement of fact, apparently no need to provide evidence) then it would be impossible to prove Avi told whoppers on his blog.

  • Steersman

    Raging Bee (#67):

    Lou Jost: Raging Bee, what would you like to see regarding the claim that Avicenna’s father visited the WTC as a tourist just before it got hit?

    Raging Bee: As dingojack said, a direct quote and cite of the actual claim.

    Kind of difficult – doncha think? – in light of the fact that Ed has deleted all of Avi’s posts – maybe somewhat too conveniently. And that neither you nor DingoJack apparently have either the balls or the intellectual integrity to actually check the Pit doesn’t help either.

    However, since you seem incapable of exhibiting even the least amount of skepticism or willingness to engage in “due diligence”, maybe the following quotes (with links) will disabuse you of some of your hyperskepticism and tendency to motivated reasoning (AKA bigotry).

    This is apparently from one of Avi’s posts (1), apparently dated September 12, 2001:

    Can you imagine throwing yourself to your death? On 11/9/2001, my father was on the World Trade Centre as a tourist. He had left well before the plane’s struck and was in fact in the air so he didn’t realize what had happened but for a few minutes after the planes hit we were worried if it was his plane.

    And this is from the NIST-WTC Investigation Reports (2):

    The New York Stock Exchange does not open … until 9:30 a.m., therefore many people from trading firms had not come into work yet. Tuesday, September 11, 2001, was the first day of school in several primary school districts, and many parents accompany their children to school on this day. Visitor hours had not started yet, as the viewing platform in the WTC 2 did not open to the public until 9:30 a.m. Perhaps the biggest factor of all was the early hour — many simply had not arrived at work by 8:46 a.m. In addition, dozens of investment firms in the WTC had closed their offices or cut employment sharply. Some offices were leased but empty or under renovation (Cauchon 2001).

    Now one might, charitably, think that Avi was confused on the dates – maybe his father was there on November 9, although that would then have to have happened in a previous year. But any rational, unbiased person, when confronted with such evidence, would have to have at least raised an eyebrow at some serious inconsistencies between those two accounts.

    —-

    1) “_http://slymepit.com/phpbb/viewtopic.php?p=246765#p246765”;

    2) “_http://archive.org/stream/NIST_WTC_Investigation_Reports-101422/NIST_WTC_Investigation_Reports-101422_djvu.txt”;

  • lou Jost

    Dingojack, Avi’s exact words are at the links I gave you. Some of them are screen saves.

    Raging Bee, you are proving my point for me. It shouldn’t matter that the charges come from a group you don’t like (even a group that lies a lot), and it doesn’t matter what side I am on. The charges are pretty clear and some of them are convincing. But rather than be skeptical of Avi, it is interesting that you automatically are skeptical of my being a long-time FtB reader (as if that mattered). You’d rather impugn my credibility than discuss the charges against Avi.

    I wrote that one of the charges at the article I linked to was not valid. In response you, Raging Bee, said “So why do you insist on repeating a charge you believe is worthless? All you’re doing is giving us more reasons to ignore the Slymepit.” Again, you think this is all about the Slymepit. I was giving you my overview of the linked article. I don’t think the article is 100% right, it just makes some good points. I’m not trying to change your opinion about the Slymepit (I don’t like a lot of what I saw there either), I am trying to get you to think about the charges that seem valid. You and dingojack won’t do that. Nor will Ed, apparently. Maybe somebody here will? Hope so.

    And yes, I think this is a sad demonstration of tribalism trumping skepticism. (That doesn’t mean I’m comparing FtB’s tribalism to the tribalism of the Slymepit, which is Raging Bee’s immediate inference.)

  • lou Jost

    And Dingo, I did give several examples of implausible claims, which you ignored. For one, according to PZ, Avi claimed to be “one of the doctors called in to do the autopsies afterwards” on the hung Indian girls. Does that seem at all likely to you, considering his student status and his geographical distance from the site?

  • abear
  • leni

    Sure, these are not proofs, and I don’t know for sure that Avi is lying in any of these cases. But these are claims that could be checked. What surprises me is the unwillingness of some FtBers to even look at this stuff.

    Could being the operative word. If this is something you feel like doing, by all means, check away. I’m not going to simply because I also don’t see the point. I have nothing to gain from it except further disappointment. Life is short and I have enough problems of my own.

    Beyond that, there is something kind of grotesque about it. I’ve known a liar or two in my time and I never felt the urge to root through their past and expose their every lie. Once you know there’s a problem, you can offer the chance for amends if you feel it’s warranted. If so, you the throw them a rope and either they take it or they don’t. (In my experience they usually don’t. Or they do, but then use it to hang themselves in your house while you are sleeping.) Avi didn’t take the generous quantity of rope he was thrown. If he had, maybe there would have been some value in forcing him to fess up and clean house. That didn’t happen. Why beat the dead horse? I know what I need to know already.

    Again, why this response should surprise you is “astonishing”.

  • lou Jost

    leni, I think learning what went wrong would be helpful to the blog managers and might generate some useful self-reflection in our community. It seems I am (mostly) alone in that sentiment.

  • dingojack

    Lou – no you gave a bunch of people’s paraphrases, direct quotes please (specifically of the 911 claim…)

    Dingo

  • dingojack

    lou – see how easy it is, abear did your work for you.

    “Can you imagine throwing yourself to your death? On 11/9/2001, my father was on the World Trade Centre as a tourist. He had left well before the plane’s struck and was in fact in the air so he didn’t realise what had happened but for a few minutes after the planes hit we were worried if it was his plane.”

    Hmmm… not even remotely the same as you claimed Avicenna claimed.

    Colour me shocked! (Not).

    @@ Dingo

  • divaexmachina

    @dingojack,

    I’m really confused. How does that quote invalidate what Lou said?

    The point is that the WTC wasn’t open for tourism at the time the planes hit (they opened at 9:30 am, the planes hit 8:46 and 9:03), so Avi’s father couldn’t have been ‘on the World Trade Centre as a tourist’ (his words) that day.

    The most generous reading of Avi’s post I can come up with would make it that his father went there in the morning before it opened, realised he couldn’t get in, and then went to the airport . But what tourist schedules site seeing for when the site is closed? Or on a day they are due to take an early flight out? It doesn’t make any sense. The much more probable explanation is that he was partially or wholly making it up.

  • colnago80

    I don’t recall seeing Lou Jost commenting here much previously but he is a fairly frequent commenter over at Jerry Coyne’s blog. Based on his comments there, I have found him to be a thoughtful commenter, even though he and I differ profoundly about Israel. I think his points are well taken as, apparently, Avicenna has a tendency , at the least, to exaggerate his experiences. Not having been a regular visitor to his site, I was not aware of some of the stories he has written about that do not appear credible (obviously, the supposed visit to the World Trade Center by his father shortly before the planes crashed into them is clearly suspicious).

  • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

    It shouldn’t matter that the charges come from a group you don’t like (even a group that lies a lot)…

    So you think that every time a well-known liar says something, we should all just forget he’s a well-known liar? That’s some huge sense of entitlement you got there.

    The much more probable explanation is that he was partially or wholly making it up.

    Another plausible explanation is that this is just another instance of really spotty command of the English language on Avi’s part, possibly combined with emotion. Avi was, for better or for worse, well known for both in his writings; and that made it rather frustrating (for me at least) to see him trying to say something that seemed relevant and important, and often making a hash of it.

  • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

    leni, I think learning what went wrong would be helpful to the blog managers and might generate some useful self-reflection in our community.

    Well, the people who run this place have already shown enough self-reflection to at least hold people accountable for what they say. Avi is not the only person to be booted out of here for his words. What more “self-reflection” are you looking for, exactly?

  • pocketnerd

    Thus Spake ZaraRaging Bee, #80:

    Well, the people who run this place have already shown enough self-reflection to at least hold people accountable for what they say. Avi is not the only person to be booted out of here for his words. What more “self-reflection” are you looking for, exactly?

    I don’t get it either. Avicenna plagiarized, Avicenna was removed. But the slymepitters are still whinging about FTB “circling the wagons”. What more do they want? Should Avicenna be burned in effigy? Should every other blogger on the site take fifty lashes in the town square as penance? Should PZ and Ed just say “Golly, the slymepit was right, feminism really IS poisoning atheism, we’re closing FreeThoughtBlogs effective immediately”?

  • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

    Should PZ and Ed just say “Golly, the slymepit was right, feminism really IS poisoning atheism, we’re closing FreeThoughtBlogs effective immediately”?

    I’m guessing the ‘pitters would consider that a good start.

    Seriously, though, I think the ‘pitters want us to stop speaking up in public, in any way, about anything, ever, on the grounds that we might be shown to be wrong about something again. They spout 999 lies and want a cookie for saying one thing that turns out to be true; but we can tell 999 truths and still have to make a public show of repentance and soul-searching for one lie (even after the liar got the boot).

  • lou Jost

    Colnago, thanks for vouching for me. Divaexmachina, thanks for noticing that my description of Avi’s WTC claim was correct.

    Dingojack, here is my description of Avi’s WTC claim (Comment #64). I said Avi claimed that “his father visited the WTC as a tourist but left before the attack”. Here’s the exact quote you give: “my father was on the World Trade Centre as a tourist. He had left well before the plane’s struck.” How is that “not even remotely the same as you claimed Avicenna claimed”?

    Raging Bee, even the lowliest newspaper respects its readers enough to print retractions of factually incorrect stories they’ve printed. You ask “What more “self-reflection” are you looking for, exactly?” Well, as I said earlier, I’m surprised that we skeptics could be so uncritical of one of our own. And now, it really does look to me that some people are circling the wagons. That’s an important lesson for us to reflect on.

  • lou Jost

    #81 and 82, this isn’t about the Slymepit. That’s the problem. You are letting your feelings for the Slymepit get in the way of your objectivity. And there is a lesson in that.

  • dingojack

    My apologies, I read it as ‘in’.

    When you’re evasive about answering a simple request for a direct quote (and your argument hangs on a single letter in a single preposition) I’d say your null hypothesis isn’t the strongest…

    Dingo

  • lou Jost

    Dingojack, how does my argument depend on a single letter of a single preposition? And I was not evasive; I gave you many links with lots of examples and screen saves.

  • leni

    leni, I think learning what went wrong would be helpful to the blog managers and might generate some useful self-reflection in our community. It seems I am (mostly) alone in that sentiment.

    I’m sure you’re not alone in that sentiment. I’m less sure that you will have much support in the idea that poring over every Avi post is the best way to go about “self-reflecting”, especially given how much of it would likely come down to nothing more that “can’t prove it, but it’s suspicious”. Which, as I mentioned earlier, doesn’t actually tell us anything we don’t already know. At this point it looks more like putting salt on someone else’s wound than self-enlightenment.

    However if you feel it would be beneficial, then my suggestion is then perhaps you should do it on your own. Though you should do so without being surprised that some people won’t find this particular method agreeable.

    That’s the problem. You are letting your feelings for the Slymepit get in the way of your objectivity.

    That’s a nice soundbite, but objectivity of what, exactly? I’m not sure about dingo, but Bee has been pretty critical of Avi’s actions. Further, Avi’s actions do not preclude continued disdain for the pit. Nor does this fiasco redeem them. They still suck. Film at 11!

  • dingojack

    lou – “how does my argument depend on a single letter of a single preposition?”

    So you’re pretty much an Automatic writer then, got it.

    “And I was not evasive; I gave you many links with lots of examples and screen saves.”

    No, what you gave me was a whole bunch of crap about what he wrote, not the specific direct quote, as requested, to back up your extraordinary claim. I would have thought it wouldn’t have been difficult to understand, but clearly I overestimated you.

    Leni – my attitude to this whole affair is to trust in the judgement of the FtB team. They’re hardly going to damage their own brand by deliberately allowing sloppy journalism, are they? As for Avicenna himself (assuming he/she/it isn’t lying about his/her/it’s existence that is @@) — meh. Not really much of a reader of that blog so I’ve no firm opinion one way or the other.

    Dingo

  • lou Jost

    Dingo, again you illustrate my point, avoiding any substantive discussion of the claims and instead concentrating on insulting me.

    leni, the only people who are in a position to really investigate the major claims (eg PZ’s claim that Avi was called in on the autopsy of the two hung Indian girls) are Ed and PZ, who have access to more info than is available to me. The autopsy claim would be easy for them to check, especially if it is true that Avi walked that claim back later.

    Dingo said “my attitude to this whole affair is to trust in the judgement of the FtB team. They’re hardly going to damage their own brand by deliberately allowing sloppy journalism, are they? ” That’s precisely why they should make an effort to come clean and tell us whether the stuff Avi claimed to have done in these posts is real. It is in their interest to clear the air. Ed’s comment above, that he has no intention of checking Avi’s past claims and that this is not important to him, suggest that they aren’t as concerned as they should be about sloppy journalism.

  • dingojack

    lou – you think that’s insulting a) hoo-boy you sure have a sheltered little existence don’t you? and b) “what are you gonna do Frank, sue me for definition of character”?

    Dingo

  • lou Jost

    And there you go again, Dingo. You will not ever actually look objectively at the claims, will you?

  • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

    Raging Bee, even the lowliest newspaper respects its readers enough to print retractions of factually incorrect stories they’ve printed.

    So what? Avi wasn’t dumped for factual incorrectness, he was dumped for plagiarizing.

    You ask “What more “self-reflection” are you looking for, exactly?” Well, as I said earlier, I’m surprised that we skeptics could be so uncritical of one of our own.

    So you don’t actually have in mind anything in particular FTB should be doing, but you’re just sure we should have done more. Of something. And you’re surprised we’re so “uncritical,” after we’ve removed someone altogether over his content and explicitly criticized the living shit out of his actions. (Not to mention after it’s been explained how FTB doesn’t have a full-time fact-checking board who can go to places like India and verify everything said by every FTBer.)

    #81 and 82, this isn’t about the Slymepit. That’s the problem. You are letting your feelings for the Slymepit get in the way of your objectivity. And there is a lesson in that.

    Questioning my “objectivity” doesn’t mean shit unless you can point out where I’ve actually said something wrong. And your pompous blathering about a “lesson” doesn’t mean shit when you can’t even specify what we’ve failed to learn or do.

  • lou Jost

    Raging Bee, you said “So what? Avi wasn’t dumped for factual incorrectness, he was dumped for plagiarizing.” That’s kind of the point. There hasn’t been any official criticism here of his factual correctness. If we had applied a bit of healthy skepticism to his claims, we might have caught things earlier. Factual incorrectness is a big deal if a platform has some journalistic integrity.

  • Michael Heath

    lou Jost writes:

    Raging Bee, even the lowliest newspaper respects its readers enough to print retractions of factually incorrect stories they’ve printed.

    Raging Bee writes:

    So what? Avi wasn’t dumped for factual incorrectness, he was dumped for plagiarizing.

    lou’s correct; if FreeThoughtBlogs is going to earn credibility, then its bloggers need to be honest. If its bloggers also lie, the point you avoid here Raging Bee, then there’s a problem beyond mere plagiarizing.

    We know all journalistic enterprises are going to misstate facts. What largely determines their credibility is the volume of these lies and how the entity responds when lies are exposed. In particular, how well does the entity systemically eradicate the root cause defect and adapt to minimize future defects.

  • abb3w

    @62ish, lou Jost

    Ed, and the other “skeptics” who claim there is too much noise and too little signal in the Slymepit charges

    Note, that would include me. While I think Ed over-dismisses the degree hindsight is useful to inform foresight (which would make for a cool theme for a noveau-classical Greek play), my impression of the Slymepit is that in general, it has an unusually low signal-to-noise ratio.

    @88ish, dingojack

    They’re hardly going to damage their own brand by deliberately allowing sloppy journalism, are they?

    Not by deliberate malfeasance, anyway; but their inattentively allowing such seems a not completely implausible fear.

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