Debate #1: Robert Mercer
December 31, 2001:
From what I have seen in your messages to me and in your commentary on your website, you basically have spent a lot of effort pissing and moaning about various things (how I don't want to debate this or that, etc, how stupid or irrational people are, by your standards) since before this thing started.
Plain English translation: "you're mean".
This coming from someone who's about to run away from the debate crying, and who isn't enough of a man to admit it when he's wrong.
You also appear to have essentially no control over your temper and very little civility (I don't know, maybe you are more civil in person than electronically, but your electronic personality leaves a lot to be desired).
Plain English translation: "you're mean".
What makes you think I treat everybody ELSE the same way I treat people like you? You claim to be an expert on human nature, but you obviously haven't figured me out at all, have you?
I'm the guy who, when pushed, pushes back HARD. You've been needling me behind my back for months. You've sown the wind, so why should you be surprised at reaping the whirlwind?
Your initial profane statement in regard to an issue over which I have no direct control [Editor's note: see the previous page to see what he's talking about. Notice how he tries to pretend that it wasn't his fault, even though he never did send my posts to CoolGuy and it was his responsibility to check the thread to make sure it was being done properly. What a prick; I did all the work of HTML-izing and even colour-coding his posts and putting them up on my site, while he lies about sending my posts to CoolGuy and then pretends it's unreasonable to expect him to take the time to simply view the thread on spacebattles.com?] is somewhat indicative of that. All you simply had to do was say: Hey, my side of the debate isn't showing up at SB, could you do something about that? Pretty simple, civil, and probably more likely than a lot of other approaches to achieve the intended result, without provoking complaints and commentary from the other side.
Plain English translation: "you're mean".
I had no intention of being civil towards you in that particular E-mail message. Our agreement not to flame covered only the debate itself, not any E-mail communications outside of that debate.
Don't you understand why I was rude to you? You broke your word! Does it occur to you that in some parts of the world, it's considered rude to break your word? Does it occur to you that if you break your word and someone angrily confronts you about it, an honourable man would apologize for failing to keep his word rather than pointing and saying "you should be more polite"? Have you no sense of personal honour at all?
As I see it, you have a particular bias as a result of a number of factors arising from your character, education/vocation and personal preferences. You are under the impression (or, at least, you give the impression) that science is the only rational system/methodology and that it should govern/cover everything... and you are exceptionally arrogant on top of that. Anything that isn't "scientific" or "rational" according to your definition of the terms is subject to ridicule and deprecation--since (from appearances) they disagree with you and your bias, they simply must be idiots. I am working from a limited set of evidence here, but that's what I am getting from you.
Plain English translation: "You're arrogant. You think science is better than every other mindset. You think everyone who disagrees with you is an idiot."
So what? For the purposes of generating realistic physical predictions, science absolutely, positively IS the best method. And like it or not, that's what people in those "versus" debates are trying to do. The question of whether a particular weapon would blast through a particular shield is one that demands a PHYSICAL PREDICTION, Robert! Whether it's a fictional universe or the real one, the ideal method is the same.
As for thinking that everybody else is an idiot, that's not true and you know it. I think YOU have made yourself look like an idiot by bluffing knowledge that you don't have, but that hardly applies to the general population. Don't go blaming me for your own mistakes; I'm just the one who pointed them out.
As for the way I tend to insult ideas that are unscientific and irrational, sue me. The world would have been a lot better place throughout history if more people had a logical and scientific mindset.
You have been looking for a personal confrontation since day one, judging from your general tone, selection of language, and the general tenor of your commentary.
Wow, you're a genius. You managed to figure out that I was looking for a confrontation when I issued my challenge and accused your little "we hate StarDestroyer.Net" clique of being pussies?
I was foolish enough to attempt to engage you in what I had hoped would be a civilized discussion regarding some issues, against my better judgment of your personality and objectives. As I remarked earlier, you aren't particularly impressing me with regard to your character--at least, the character you display in the electronic public domain. That's fine, because you are, of course, free to act however you see fit within the boundaries of the law. If you want to be an ass, then that's your choice. You are doing a rather fine job of it from where I am standing.
Plain English translation: "you're mean".
You think little of my character because I don't put on your airs, but that's not going to cause me to lose any sleep. And do you want to know why? Because I'd rather be an honest and straight-forward, albeit uncouth person than an oily legalese-spouting trickster like you.
I really don't know that I actually have much more to say to you at this point, as I can see that this is probably going to get ugly, and I have enough RL hassles to deal with to have to put up with something like this. What I will do is write up a comprehensive statement regarding my proposed methodology as I have the time. When it is complete, I will send it to you and I will have it posted at SB. You can use it as grist for your mill to further inflate your own opinion of yourself, should you so desire.
Plain English translation: "I'm bowing out of this debate. I'll write up an essay someday to prove you're wrong, but I'm sure you'll attack it in order to make yourself look good."
Slight correction: I didn't rip up your cheesy arguments in order to make myself look good; I did it to make them look BAD. That makes you look bad because you wrote them, but that's your problem, not mine. By the way, here's a hint: maybe it's so easy for me to rip apart your arguments because they're simply WRONG. Did you ever think about that, instead of whining about how I wasn't polite to you when I got angry about you breaking your word?
You might be a good and knowledgeable engineer, but your people skills certainly need work. Your understanding and knowledge of things outside of your narrow bias/interest also appears to need work. Expand your horizons a bit. I am lucky in that I have, over the years, had the opportunity to work and pursue education in a variety of fields, technical and non-technical. I spent several years working in chemistry and radiological control for nuclear propulsion/power generation, and a few years teaching that vocation and mechanical theory, thermodynamics and plant operation/maintenance, so I understand the technical/scientific aspects of things to a better degree than a lot of people.
Are you done padding your resume yet? Because you demonstrated quite clearly in your last post that you don't even understand the basic concepts of the scientific method. You're obviously one of those people who's prone to exaggerating your own level of knowledge, and everyone but the teeny-boppers will know what a padded resume looks like. Exposure to high technology does NOT even REMOTELY equate to genuine understanding of the scientific and/or engineering principles required to DESIGN those technologies. I've worked in a nuclear plant before, and there are people with a HUGE range of qualifications working in there, from the janitor right up to the nuclear physicist. You are obviously somewhere around the lower end of the scale.
I am not an engineer, but I have a better background in those areas than most any non-engineer/non-scientist.
Oh, please. Are you schizophrenic or something? You can't seem to decide whether to devalue science ("it doesn't apply!") or pretend that you're an expert in it.
Besides, most of what you write in these sci-fi debates would be marked "F" in any first-year science or engineering class. You've learned just enough to bluff your way through these kinds of discussions, and this time, somebody came along to call that bluff.
I also have an extensive humanities background, including a graduate degree in Rhetoric (which accounts for my current bias)--so I am able, to a degree, to look at things from a variety of perspectives. Maybe one day, you will get off your high horse enough to be able to do the same.
What makes you think I don't know the humanities? With all due respect to those who study the humanities, you have no idea how easy they are, compared to science and engineering. I once took a third year university history course as an elective just for kicks without any prior history classes whatsoever. I breezed through it, and walked away with one of the highest marks in the class. I helped my wife write essays for her third and fourth year English literature classes, and I even ghost-wrote essays for certain people (who shall remain unnamed in order to protect their grades). I usually got an A, which is not bad for a guy writing essays for other people in courses which he hasn't even attended, during his spare time while working towards an engineering degree.
Tell me, Robert: how many humanities students could walk into a third or fourth year engineering course, stand in for a regular student on a project with no preparation whatsoever, and get an A? How many humanities students could take, say, third-year advanced engineering heat/mass transfer physics with no prior engineering courses whatsoever, and survive, never mind getting one of the best marks? I'm not saying that the so-called "humanities" fields are necessarily useless, Robert. But they ARE easy.
You want to convince yourself that science and the humanities are just "different", but one is just as demanding as the other. I can see why that might be a comforting fantasy for you. But arts courses are EASY; you simply take any conclusion you want, and as long as you argue it in a well-structured, clear and consistent manner, you get a good mark. They grade you not for choosing the correct conclusion (in fact, one of the principles of the humanities is the belief that there is no such thing as a "correct conclusion"), but for finding a way to make that conclusion sound reasonable through selective quotes taken out of context and eloquent use of language. I know all about how it's done, Robert. And it's nothing to pound your chest about. There's a REASON that "rhetoric" is actually considered a perjorative term amongst the general population.
I bear you no ill-will. I neither like nor dislike you, because, to be frank, I have never actually met you.I do dislike the qualities and behaviors you tend to display electronically. If I have insulted you, so be it.... maybe you need to be insulted to modify your behavior somewhat.
Heh heh ... you think I'm actually going to change my behaviour because you insulted me in that carefully worded, cover-your-ass way of yours? It's amazing that you can claim superior knowledge of human nature and then say something like this.
Feel free to post this, as I will have it posted at SB. Also (and this might be tough for you), please send any reply or commentary you might have regarding this message back to me, as well as posting it on your site. Not that I will necessarily read it at this point, but I would like to have the option.
Robert, if you had any honour, you would stand up, take your lumps like a man, and formally admit that you lost fair and square, rather than running away and bitching about your opponent's personality.
Frankly, I think our society places far too much stock on superficial manners. Speaking for myself, I'd MUCH rather talk to a foul-mouthed tradesman than a slicked-up lawyer. And you're the epitome of the slicked-up lawyer. Everything you say sounds like a legal disclaimer.
OK folks, here's the deal: the subject of the debate was stupid. Yes, stupid. Let's talk plain English here. He picked a stupid subject, and I believe that his real intent was to try to make himself look smarter than me, hence improving his credibility and damaging mine. He as much as admitted this during the pre-debate negotiations, when he let slip that he thought the point of a debate was to show who was smarter, not which side is correct. That's why he decided to write in that impenetrable legalese style, even though I've been assured by others that he can write in plain English if he wants to: he thinks it makes him look smarter than regular people. But his plan went awry. Right off the bat, I defused his "I'm so smart because I use big words" tactic by simply pointing out what he was doing, and then I mocked it outright by providing plain-English translations of all his long-winded arguments. And then he really screwed up, by trying to make himself sound scientifically knowledgeable. But by spewing the most fantastic list of grievous lies about the scientific method that I've seen since ... oh, the last creationist I debated (among other mistakes), he merely made himself look bad.
Even now, after the debate, he's still trying to shore up his authority, with claims of scientific experience and knowledge (quite clever, actually; he admits he is less knowledgeable than an engineer, which is an indirect way of admitting that he's less knowledgeable than me, ie- I trounced him, but he makes a point of reminding all viewers that he's still more knowledgeable than other laypeople, in the hopes of maintaining his hegemony over his followers, who are all ... you guessed it ... laypeople).
I want anyone reading this debate to take one lesson home: it is the idea that matters, not the intelligence of the person holding it. If you try to support your ideas by making yourself look smart rather than making sure the idea works, you might end up shooting yourself in the foot, as Gothmog did.
Gothmog Returns to Whine Some More
(Waaaa! Waaaa! Waaaa!)
No, as I said, I will forward to you my position, which you can then analyze at your leisure and reply however you see fit. What I will not participate in is something that will ultimately turn into a flame-fest.
Slander. I was flaming you outside of the debate, but you have no reason whatsoever to claim that I was about to flame you inside the debate. Your real reason for dropping out was that I was ridiculing your hopelessly brain-damaged arguments in a civil manner, and you couldn't stand it. So when I flamed you outside of the debate, you used it as your excuse to haughtily stalk away.
You don't debate, you attempt to provoke your opponent to the point where he gets pissed off and whatever debate there might have been degenerates into a flame-fest, which you then post on your website and you proceed to slur your opponent.
More lies. I generated a rebuttal to every single one of your points, and you are incapable of addressing them. That's why you prefer to retreat, ignore what I said, fraudulently characterize all of it as empty insults, and revert to your preferred practice of speaking rather than debating.
[Editor's note: gee, you can't tell he's saying this stuff for the sake of saving face in front of his little friends, can you? He's obviously in political "damage control" mode. He and his little friends will start spin-doctoring this like crazy, I imagine. They'll focus on my behaviour outside the debate, and try to use it an attack on the validity of my points inside the debate, since they don't know what's wrong with the Ad Hominem fallacy (naturally, since it's been their favourite tactic for as long as anyone can remember). They'll probably also try the Strawman fallacy, distorting and exaggerating my position into "go with visuals and ignore text"]
You were slurring me before this ever started, on the basis of the fact that I disagreed with you and found some of your assumptions and conclusions questionable.
And you've been accusing me of dishonesty for months. Don't bullshit me; every time somebody sent me a link to something you were saying, it started with "Wong is deliberately misrepresenting the data again" or "As usual, Wong is pretending that legitimate alternative theories don't exist", etc.
You take this crap waaay too seriously.
I take being lied to quite seriously. You act as though this is unreasonable.
A disagreement with something you have said or done is not a personal attack, yet you seem to perceive them as such and respond to them as such.... and then whine about how you don't have time to reply or defend yourself in an equitable fashion (not that anyone you slur has equal opportunity to defend themselves from your behavior on your website).
Back to this little whine of yours? You're pathetic. I gave you a chance to have your say on equal terms. You blew it, made yourself look like an idiot, and now you've gone right back to your whine about "Mike doesn't give people a chance to respond! Boo hoo!"
I haven't claimed that I have, as you might note, I qualify what I say based upon what experience I do have in dealing with you and looking at your public work. Frankly, I'm not really all that interested in figuring you out, I have more entertaining and rewarding things to do with my time.
Yes, like hiding out with your little friends and rebuilding your false aura of superior knowledge.
Needling you? I have posted in some threads at SB that discussed various ideas that you have publicly posted on your website. No flames were involved and you were obviously well aware of what was being discussed... and said discussion did take place in a public forum, which you have easy access to. If somebody else flamed you or insulted you in those threads, take it up with them. During the the flames, gripes, etc. that exploded at SB after your recent post to your website I was one of the people rying to calm things down and taking a moderate tone, even though I was one of the people insulted.
Don't bullshit me, Robert. I'm sick of your weaselling. You can insult someone without necessarily flaming him. We were doing it to each other in that debate, and you were doing it to me behind my back for months. This "wounded innocent" act of yours is a joke.
No, for the third time, in case you didn't understand the first two, you're an ass. There isn't really any call for uncivil behavior. Life can be enough hassle at times without having to put up with crap like that. If you can't be civil, why should I put up with you? What do you really care what I think, anyway, since you undoubtably have me labelled as the typical ST junkie (based upon your comments) and are simply out to try and make me look like a fool for your adoring public.
No, you made yourself look like a fool. I only pointed it out. And don't give me this "holier than thou" shit. I'd rather be uncivil than a liar like you.
So why do you need to flame at all--and use profanity in the bargain?
Because I don't like being lied to! Why the fuck do you find this so hard to understand?
[Editor's note: a few months ago, I happened to walk by a woman who was parking in a handicapped parking spot. I stopped, turned around, looked her in the eye, and said "nice place to park, bitch". She got angry at me, and complained that I was swearing in front of her kid. I called her a bitch again, and told her that she was setting a fine example for him by parking there. She got back in her car, and moved to a different spot, still fuming. What was the purpose of this anecdote? Simple: it helps me explain my personality type: I'm the guy who will speak up and call an asshole an asshole, because I happen to believe that principle is more important than manners. This anecdote also helps explain Gothmog's personality type, because he reacted just like the woman I confronted in that parking lot. I can't abide people like that]
My word was not intentionally broken, and as I pointed out I am not the person doing the posting to SB. I informed you that I would contact the person handling that to make sure the material got posted. Again, a simple message saying that the material wasn't being posted and needed to be, as per our agreement, would have been sufficient. The profanity was neither necessary or appropriate, unless you knew that I was willfully acting in bad faith, which I was not.
Bullshit. You were not sending my posts to CoolGuy. You were acting in bad faith. Furthermore, even if you were not, it is your responsibility to make sure it's happening. When you agree to do something, you agree to do it. If you get someone else to do it, then you have to make sure he does it to specification! Get it?
If a supplier tells me that he can fabricate something for me by Tuesday and it doesn't get done, I get mad at him. If he says "well, I got a sub-contractor to do it, and he didn't do it, and I couldn't be bothered to check up on him", I'd still be mad at him (perhaps more so). Don't try to weasel out of this, or shift responsibility for your own behaviour onto CoolGuy.
Real men stand up and take responsibility for their mistakes ... and if they were foolish enough to commit them, their lies.
[Editor's note: if there's one thing that pisses me off more than a liar and a cheat, it's someone who's actually willing to let somebody else take the fall for his own mistakes. Gothmog is even worse than that; he's actively trying to pin the blame for his own cheating on CoolGuy.]
Instead, you go off half-cocked. It might benefit you to actaually think about how you communicate with others and how they might perceive that communication rather than assuming that they are trying to screw you over and then spilling bile all over them. It seems to be a regular habit of yours, from what I have seen.
Hasty generalization, but you spew logical fallacies constantly, so I guess that doesn't bother you.
If people disagreeing with you or discussing material that you have publicly posted bothers you so much, then I suggest that you find a new hobby that doesn't give you such cause to let your ego get in the way and make you act like an ass. Nobody held a gun to your head and made you do anything, so you bring it upon yourself. Your usual response only aggravates the situation, creating further problems and giving you further opportunities to show what an ass you can be. This implies (to me) that you enjoy doing that or get some kind of thrill out of it, because you keep doing the same old thing.
I enjoy cutting pompous windbags like you down to size, yes. Since when have I ever claimed otherwise? You seem to assume that everyone else shares your propensity for putting on airs.
[Quoted] "Plain English translation: "you're mean"."
No, an ass.
Every time I insult you outside of the debate, whether it's before, during, or after, regardless of the reason (even when it's your own dishonesty), you use it as yet another excuse to say that I'm unreasonable and that's why you're walking away. But when you insult me, it's OK because it's justified. Right?
[Editor's note: he actually called me "an ass" several other times in his message, but I felt it wasn't worth quoting all of them in my response, so I picked one of them at random and responded to it]
I am bowing out of this flame war. It never really got to the point of being a debate.. and I am sure you will attack whatever I say in order to make yourself look good.
More lies. At no point was that debate a flame war. You are trying to misrepresent it as such in the hopes of getting others to ignore its contents, because you made points and I crushed them.
If you say so. The Navy thought I knew enough about what I was doing to teach others... and I tend to value their judgment on the matter a bit more than yours.
Classic appeal to authority.
[Editor's note: I wonder if he realizes why that's wrong]
I understand the design and engineering principles fairly well for a non-engineer--particularly since the design problems and considerations were usually discussed in a fair amount of detail. Could I design such a system? No--nor have I calimed that ability. But I have actually worked with the systems under a wide range of conditions and was, at one time very familiar with them.
"Worked with". Classic example of padded-resume language.
I am not an expert, by any stretch of the imagination. Do I attempt to devalue science? Yes, to a degree--mainly because people tend to turn it into a religion and accept many aspects of it without critical reflection and attempt to extend it into areas where it isn't necessarily appropriate.
You treat it as a religion, ie- something reliant upon appeals to authority, but no one who actually understands it treats it that way.
Is science good at modeling the physical world? Yes, it is the best system of doing so that we have found to date. Is it good for much else besides that.. ethics, politics, culture, etc? In my opinion, no. Is it an approriate method to use in analyzing what is essentially a work of literature? No, not if its the only tool you use.
Actually, scientific methods can be applied to ethics, politics, culture, etc., but the observations are of poor quality so the quality of the conclusions is reduced accordingly. I made this point in my last post, but you obviously didn't even bother reading it, which is quite typical for you.
As for your contention that it is not an appropriate method for analyzing sci-fi, again you simply state your conclusion as a premise. You were never able to adequately support this claim of yours during our debate, so you simply revert to your original behaviour of stating it as a fact and expecting me to accept that without question.
Good for you, you appear to be a fairly intelligent man--I never thought you were particularly stupid. How much work have you done in graduate/post-graduate level rhetorical analysis? The ease or difficulty of courses is subjective. Some people have difficulty with humanities, while others have difficulty with the sciences. I did both and didn't have any particular problems with either. I got a graduate degree in Rhetoric without having an even remotely related undergraduate degree, with a 4.0 average. It was eaasy for me--other students with an appropriate background had difficulties with the program. Does it mean I am necessarily smarter or better than them? No.
With all due respect, Communications is a ridiculously easy course of study. Did I do post-grad in it? Of course not; I was busy getting my Engineering degree. But would it have presented even the most insignificant challenge for me? Frankly, no.
[Editor's note: he's hedging his language, but he's still trying to pretend that it actually means something to get a degree in communications. Sorry, but if he knows people who had difficulties with it, they're morons. Anyone who has trouble with a course like that is probably missing a pulse]
They are less reliant upon progressive knowledge and they deal with things that most people deal with in every day life, which tends to make them more accessable and easier to understand.
In other words, easy. Anybody with half a brain can walk in off the street and do well. Just as I said.
Yes, based upon a long degeneration of what constitutes rhetoric and how it is applied--especially in regard to political matters. But then again, most common people don't even really know what rhetoric actually is and they confuse the abuse of rhetoric with the thing, itself.
You're missing the point, which was that your field of study emphasizes the way you argue your point, with no regard for whether your point is correct (indeed, it denies the existence of a "correct" position).
You want to apply these methods to sci-fi because you are holding the inferior position (Federation ships are weak), and it is natural for the person in an inferior position to try to steer the debate into ambiguities. That way, he gets to wipe out clear-cut inferiorities (derived from objective and rational observations/methods) and replace them with a vague cloud of doubt about the whole thing, which is the environment where you're comfortable. In that environment anything goes, and the winner is the person who argues most eloquently. I know this game, Robert.
I haven't claimed superior knowledge of human nature, either... but you have a knack for putting words in other people's mouths, don't you? What I have done is pointed out my perception of you, based upon our interaction to date.
Ah, but when I retort that you're a pompous windbag, prone to exaggerating his own level of knowledge in order to appeal to his own authority during debates, that's not a "perception"; it's an insult. Right?
I haven't lost anything. We don't even work from the same basis of assumptions, so how can I have lost anything?
You made such a huge number of mistakes that you are incapable of defending yourself, hence your desire to "start over" by writing a fresh article rather than continuing our debate. You know perfectly well that you could not sustain that silly "TM is canon" argument of yours. You know perfectly well that your claim about the impossibility of objectivity was shredded when I explained precisely how one could perform an objective and logical analysis, step by step.
But your biggest mistake was in your attempt to show how the science of sci-fi is no good. The weaknesses you identified are all present, in varying degrees, in real science! That's why your argument was shattered; all of your proofs for the inapplicability of science would have disqualified science in real life as well, thus clearly showing that A) you don't understand the scientific method and B) your argument for the inapplicability of science is wrong.
These are all the points that you would like people to forget, hence your incessant harping: "You're rude! You're rude! That's the real reason why I'm quitting!" And then you'll get some of your little friends to run around echoing you.
Particularly since I have not, as yet, fully outlined my position. We clearly have an essentially different perception of how to approach things. But you have managed to achieve your goal, which was to piss me off enough to get fed up wih this entire exercise.. so feel free to claim whatever victory you think you have gained.
A real man would admit that he got his ass kicked. It's called sportsmanship, Robert. When you lose, you say "good game". If you think you can come back and win in the future, you say "I'll get you next time." But you don't run around whining "I don't like the way the other guy acts when he's off the field, so I don't want to play any more".
[Quoted] "Frankly, I think our society places far too much stock on superficial manners ..."
And I don't think our society places enough emphasis on manners, superficial or otherwise. Life might go a bit smoother if people were more civil. Being foul-mouthed doesn't mean being impolite or uncivil., it's how the language is used and how people act regardless of language that results in problems.
Yes, it's how people act, isn't it? And while I tell the truth, you lie. I say again: I'll take an honest profanity over a politely worded lie any day of the week.
Basically, at this point, I really don't need to hear from you again unless its in response to the material I will forward to you later.. and then, only directly in regard to that material.
And now you presume to dictate to me what I can and cannot say? Your pomposity shows no signs of going away.
Click here to see the debate post-mortem.
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