Chris Stedman exchange

I have been on panels with Chris Stedman.  I have confronted Stedman during Q&As at conferences (to applause from the crowd).  We disagree on pretty much everything, but in my limited personal interactions with the man I have found him to be rather pleasant.  I have always said of Stedman that he was a really nice guy, but that we disagreed on pretty much everything.  I have done this to the consternation of many of my friends.  That is why I was so surprised by an exchange that took place recently.

The other day PZ wrote a pretty solid post about Stedman’s forthcoming book and a friend of mine on facebook, who is a fan of Stedman’s, made a post expressing her support of Stedman.  I left the following comment.

Chris is a nice guy, but I’ve read enough of his work and heard enough of his talks to know that I would sooner eat glass than buy or read his book.

Short, sweet, and to-the-point.  Chris fired back.

JT — This isn’t the first time I’ve heard you use the “Chris is a nice guy, but” caveat to dismiss my work, but I have to ask: how would you even know? Unlike your colleagues at the SSA, you and I have never even had a real face-to-face conversation, and you don’t exactly seem interested in doing so (unless, of course, it’s some big epic public throw-down — or what’d you call it, a blog-a-log? — that would generate blog hits).

Anyway… I think it’s really unfortunate that you seem so quick to dismiss things that you imagine you might not like — I mean, I’ve read enough of your work and heard enough of your talks to *guess* that I might not enjoy a book if you wrote one (and it’s a pretty well-informed guess), but I’d of course read it anyway, and try to do so with an open mind. I’m willing to be wrong about my assumptions, or at least not be *entirely* right. Critical thinking, skepticism, and maintaining an awareness of one’s own reflexivity need to be applied to more than just religion…

Have a great day, and please don’t eat any glass.

Yes, because I’m totally dismissing his conclusions just because I may not like them.  I’m that shallow.  Sheesh.

Anyway, I retorted.

Chris,

This is part of what frustrates me about you. Let me take a series of excerpts from your comment.

“…to dismiss my work…”

“…but I have to ask: how would you even know?”

“…I think it’s really unfortunate that you seem so quick to dismiss things that you imagine you might not like…”

And so on and so forth. Yet, in my comment, I explained why I dismiss your present work – it’s because I’ve *not* dismissed your past work:

“…I’ve read enough of his work and heard enough of his talks…”

I have read your work, and I have listened to you speak. I think you’re wrong and a bad thinker. You try to take the high road here:

“I mean, I’ve read enough of your work and heard enough of your talks to *guess* that I might not enjoy a book if you wrote one (and it’s a pretty well-informed guess), but I’d of course read it anyway, and try to do so with an open mind.”

But I don’t buy it for a moment. It is not open-minded to give somebody infinite chances – it is a waste of time after a certain point. I am open-minded, I am skeptical (despite your insinuations toward the end of your comment that I’m not), but I also don’t have the time to continue reading the work of people I don’t consider to be good thinkers (that’s you, in this case) forever and ever.

Also, derision does not cease to be derision just because it’s couched in nice language. First, you’re wrong for insinuating that I’m using the “nice guy, but” approach as the means to dismiss your present work. I dismiss your present work because your past work has been poorly defended in both print and person – where I have confronted you. Don’t get me wrong, deride me if you see fit – I think derision can be healthy and I’m more than willing to defend myself. But don’t try to preen as though you’re taking the high road and think nobody will notice the hypocrisy.

“you don’t exactly seem interested in doing so”

Say what? I have tried multiple times to get you into a conversation using the exact same standards I use for all other conversations (http://www.atheismresource.com/2010/my-requirements-for-talking-god). It is you who has said you would participate and then fluttered off (and I still have records of Chris Stedman saying this I can screen cap if anybody doubts this ::EDIT:: I looked up our old emails to screen cap and it turns out I do not have them anymore as this was a year ago after the last CFI Leadership and email from that time has since found its way to the graveyard. Stedman agreed to participate, vanished, I reminded him, he agreed again citing he was busy, and promptly evaporated again.).

“…unless, of course, it’s some big epic public throw-down — or what’d you call it, a blog-a-log? — that would generate blog hits”

You’re insinuating I was only interested in discoursing with you publicly for attention rather than my stated reason: because in public there is accountability for saying stupid shit and I want that pressure in place? How insulting. Calling me a liar nicely doesn’t make it any less of an affront – in fact, it makes it more of one since now you’re treating me like an idiot on top of calling me liar.

Also, what’s with saying I’ve never tried to talk with you and then throwing out the excerpted line above? You agreed to have a blog-a-log and then disappeared. Your ‘principles’ have only just now become an issue (once more, I can provide screen caps to establish this) and this fact has not eluded me.

And lastly, thank you. Before I thought you were just a nice guy with whom I disagreed. However, in just two short paragraphs you have convinced me, through force of evidence, that you are not the nice guy I thought you were, but that you are instead passive-aggressive, disingenuous, derisive, and condescending. Frankly, it’s the first compelling argument I’ve ever heard you make.

JT

I looked up our old emails to screen cap and it turns out I do not have them anymore as this was a year ago after the last CFI Leadership Conference and email from that time has since found its way to the graveyard.  Short story? Stedman agreed to participate, vanished, I reminded him, he agreed again citing he was busy, and promptly evaporated again.

I went in and added one last line:

Let me also comment on this:

“I think it’s really unfortunate that you seem so quick to dismiss things that you imagine you might not like”

Let me be perfectly clear:

1. Suggesting I disagree because I dislike the conclusion is based on nothing, especially when I’ve argued with you in public (to applause from the crowd, if you’ll recall our last encounter). I disagree because your reasoning is sub par. Period.

2. To say that I disagree because I’m wrapped up in my own conclusions is insulting. You lose all privileges to get mad at me for insulting anybody ever again.

JT

Some of Chris’s defenders came to the rescue.  One displayed her X-men-like ability to read minds.

@JT, tl;dr

Reading between the lines here, I’m curious if the real issue behind all this time spent typing responses picking apart Chris’s tiny comment is that you might be a bit jealous that someone is stealing your internet atheist spotlight? Maybe you should go post about it on your Xanga?

She’s referring to my old blog before I got this one.  Xanga is generally a social blog, not really one for academic or rigorous thinking, which was the whole point of her jab.  I guess it means my content was lacking, so don’t bother reading any of it. If you did, you might see a few posts where I announce that Stedman and I were going to have a blog-a-log…because he had agreed to do it.

Perhaps I should try the appeal to ulterior motives approach more often.

“XXXXX,

Reading between the lines here, I’m curious if the real issue behind your displeasure with me isn’t really the reasons you’ve given (which I won’t be responding to), but that instead you might be jealous/bitter/insecure/any other deriding adjective you can think of? (insert insult for the capper)”

How do you argue with something like that?  It sounds like a terrible argument when I say it…

Anyway, Stedman has said he’ll send me a rebuttal.  Maybe he will, maybe he won’t.  I’ve told him if he does that I am going to repost it publicly and tear into it.

MORNING HAPPINESS: How the cake turned out.
What made performing special for me - bringing the unreal to life.
For real though, happy Mother's Day, mom.
CAKE MAKING #1: Separating the egg whites.
About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.


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