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From: Charles Reichley To: All Msg #81, Oct-07-93 01:00PM Subject: Re: Forrest Mims: Setting the record straight on SciAm (Part 1 Organization: IBM Federal Systems Company - Manassas, VA USA Subject: Re: Forrest Mims: Setting the record straight on SciAm (Part 1 of 1) From: creichley@vnet.IBM.COM (Charles Reichley) Message-ID: <19931007.142239.259@almaden.ibm.com> Reply-To: CREICHLEY@vnet.IBM.COM Newsgroups: sci.skeptic,talk.origins Before I get into the body of the referenced post, I want to say several things: 1) I think Robert and I have some areas of agreement, for example, I think we both agree that SA has no obligation to purchase any articles from Mims. 2) It was not my intent to argue any substantive points about the Mims/SA dispute, since it happened long ago and I was not a party to it. My purpose was to defend Mims' one specific posting from being misinterpreted. I think Robert has agreed within the referenced post that his purpose was to indicate that Mims did not make a good argument for SA being obligated to hire him; I agree with that, and I think that Robert agrees that at least part of Mims' post could reasonably have been focused on internet issues rather than the 'firing'. I believe that Mims was writing a single letter to address all the different posts which had been made (I guess in the past spring) here about the incident. He does deal with events from his point of view, but I still maintain that his purpose in writing this post was NOT to argue that SA was required to hire him, but was instead trying to tell his side of the story in response to the internet postings. I am not trying to say that he did or did not do a good job of doing so, just that his post wasn't intended to argue that SA was required to hire him. In <28vuqk$j2q@msuinfo.cl.msu.edu> hatcher@msupa.pa.msu.edu writes: > > In article <19931006.130912.577@almaden.ibm.com>, creichley@vnet.IBM.COM > (Charles Reichley) writes: > >In <28urgm$rpf@msuinfo.cl.msu.edu> hatcher@msupa.pa.msu.edu writes: > [snip] > >> In article <28tr10$sca@organpipe.uug.arizona.edu>, > >> sfm@manduca.neurobio.arizona.edu (Stephen Matheson) writes: > >> > >> >4. Jonathan Piel offered to buy and publish three of my columns > >> >during a telephone call he placed to me on October 4, 1989: > >> **************** > >> > >> Was this call recorded? Or is this simply Mim's recollection > >> of how it went. Frankly I -can-NOT- consider him a disinterested > >> party and simply accept his word of what was said based solely > >> only his "word". Especially based on a telephone call. Verbal > >> transactions are notoriously subject to misinterpretation, and > >> misrememberance. And when one feels wronged sometime that can > >> extend to willfull lying about what was said. > > >Unless I am given evidence, I will assume that Mims is accurately and > >honestly telling us what he BELIEVES happened. > > Oh, dear me. You've misunderstood. In no way did I mean to imply > that Mims doesn't BELIEVE what he says, simply I'm skeptical > that it is a fully factual representation of what transpired. > Thus my skepticism about his "disinterest" in presenting an even > unbiased viewpoint. By raising the spector of 'willfully lying', you suggested that he might be deliberately decietful. I appreciate that you didn't mean to do so, but that is like me saying "Robert could even be a racist", but then when you complain, saying "I didn't say you WERE a racist". That is why I made the point about him believing what he is writing. It is not considered to be 'willful lying' if you think you are telling the truth. [I am going to delete the rest of the response in this section, because I think I understand what Robert is saying, and accept his reasoning] [I'm deleting the Harper's Quote discussion, because I don't have anything to add, or any great disagreement with Robert's response Robert asked if I could fill in the blanks, and I can't -- Steve suggested elsewhere that there was a tape, but I have no knowledge of a tape, so Steve/Robert can continue that discussion] > > >> Especially when followed by: > > > >> > >> >5. In a letter to me dated October 27, 1989, Piel denied he > >> >offered to buy and publish the three columns: > >> > >> Note carefully the date -- 23 days after the phone call. > >> MUCH earlier than the re-telling to some HARPER'S journalist > >> (a full 1.25 years later or so ... depending on time lag). > >> > >> > "First, let me set the record straight. Neither I nor anyone > >> > else on behalf of SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN agreed to 'buy and > >> > publish' any of the installments that you prepared for 'The > >> > Amateur Scientist'...we undertook no obligation to publish > >> > those articles...." I'm adding something new here. Robert has stated later in this article (and I might have deleted it when I get there) that he thinks SA had paid for the original 3 articles, had published 1, and merely didn't publish the other 2. This could be true, but if it is true, then why in 1989 did Piel write a letter saying that they weren't going to purchase the 3 articles? And if there was no agreement to buy the 3 articles, why did they eventually pay for the 3 articles? > >> > > >> >This letter's denial of Piel's own words made it obvious that it > >> >was pointless to continue discussions with Piel. Therefore, I > >> >wrote Claus Firchow, then president of SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN. > >> >Firchow's lawyer called a few days later to ask what it would > >> >take to make me happy. I told him all I wanted was for SCIENTIFIC > >> >AMERICAN to abide by its agreement to publish and pay for my > >> >three columns. He quickly agreed. The lawyer specifically told me > >> >I would be free to submit proposals in the future. I have sent > >> >many such proposals, all of which have been rejected or ignored. > >> > >> I don't see anything there that says the lawyer agreed to > >> have SA publish all of your future proposals. Again, I'll > > >I don't see any evidence of that either, but I don't see Mims SAYING > >that. Mims did not imply or indicate that the lawyer promised to > >publish future articles. I assume, but can't prove, that the point Mims > >was trying to make was that at the time this happened, SA hadn't ruled > >out the possibility of publishing his articles in the future. > > Okay, so SA hadn't ruled it out. But now we've got Mim's saying in > (4) that they definitely *would* publish based on a telephone > call, and Piel's lawyer stating in writing that they had made no > such agreement. Why shouldn't we give SA the "benefit of the doubt" > and assume (as is quite reasonable) that NO agreement had been made? I can agree with this sentiment, ie: I can't state that Mims is correct in what he believes happened. But it does get somewhat confusing as to what we are discussing. It looks to me like there were two issues: 1) 3 articles already submitted by Mims, which HE believed he had an agreement that SA would buy and pay for, and Piel in this letter indicated that no agreement existed -- but possibly SA eventually paid for these 3 articles, published 1 of them, but didn't publish the other 2; 2) Mims believes he was offered the job as Amateur Scientist columnist, but has not asserted that there was a formal agreement. This would cover future articles, but not the first 3 articles. I've not seen Mims ever assert that SA had an obligation to pay for or buy any of these other articles. > > >He then > >tells us that in fact they HAVEN'T published any additional works -- but > >he didn't say that this was a violation of an agreement or anything. > >Once again, Mims seems to just be giving us a running chronology of what > >happened, and Robert seems to be misinterpreting it so as to make it > >look like Mims is saying things he didn't say, and is stupid for saying > >those things he didn't say. > > No, in the last go round it was asserted by Mims supporter that > SA had indeed promised to publish each and every one of the > three articles written. And if that wasn't what Mims was asserting > in whatever communications prompted this reply, then I find the > wording most puzzling... My paragraph was dealing NOT with the 1st 3 articles, but with 'future' articles as specified by the lawyer. Mims definitely thinks he had an agreement with SA for the 3 articles, but never claims an agreement for other articles. > >> > ...we undertook no obligation to publish those articles...." > If this is supposed to be a running "chronology" then there are > holes all about waiting for an 18-wheeler to drive through. > SOMETHING occured between Mims's purported grand praise and his > receipt of this letter. And if the view weren't so one sided > then we would be privy to went on; as it is it looks very biased. > So biased that my skeptism alarm went off. I agree his post was biased, it was after all his side of the story. I rarely meet people who defend themselves by telling both sides of a story; and mostly when they do, they get the other side wrong. > > >The only claim Mims made in the referenced paragraph was that the lawyer > >agreed to publish the three articles already submitted, which Mims has > >claimed he had a verbal agreement for purchase. > > But the lawyer DENIES that SA made such an agreement. Thus it comes > down to who do we believe in this dispute over a (supposed) verbal > agreement. And as the saying goes: A verbal contract isn't worth > the paper it's written on. We may NEVER "know" what was agreed. > In fact, I put forth the suggestion that it was all (at this stage) > a legitimate misunderstanding: both parties thought they had > agreed to something different. I didn't see anything in Mims' original post which ever suggested that a lawyer had denied offering to purchase the 1st three articles, but I don't have the original any more and it is too chopped up in this post to know if it is there or not. Definitely Piel denied ever offering to buy them. And verbal contracts aren't always non-binding, it depends on the situation -- I just include this for completeness, not for its applicability in this argument. > [The next couple of paragraphs dealt with the concept that Mims might have misunderstood the verbal discussions. I've said what I had to on that subject, and don't dispute that he could have misunderstood, so I am deleting the section] > > >> >6. At least one Internet message suggested that SCIENTIFIC > >> >AMERICAN would have been justified in firing me because of > >> >scientific incompetence. > >> > >> Saying they are "justified" isn't the same as saying that > >> they actually, in fact, did do it for this reason. I'm > >> beginning to see a reading comprehension problem here which > >> would support my senario of misinterpretation of others > >> on the part of Mim's. > > >There does seem to be a reading comprehension problem here, but it isn't > >Mims'. > >Mims is starting a section where he wants to defend himself against the > >claim that he is a bad scientist -- a claim that was made on the > >internet, and which Mims correctly attributes to an internet post, NOT > >TO SA. Mims does not appear to be arguing that SA 'fired' him for this, > >I don't know where you got that idea. > > Okay... I'll accept that interpretation of what he wrote. Maybe > in my devils' advocate mode I was a little hasty. This is the basis for my claim at the front that Robert and I have some areas of agreement. [I'm deleting my summary of what I thought Mims was doing in this section, along with Robert's rebuttal, since I have nothing to add that I can't address later in the specific sections. I pick it up at the end of my summary section, and hope that I haven't deleted anything of Robert's that helps his arguments against points I make later] > > >There may have been other points. None of these points appears to be > >presented to argue about his 'firing'. > > Then they shouldn't have all been intermixed between topics > CONCERNING his non-hiring. That just confuses the readers. > Two posts would have been appropriate: one arguing against > about his non-hire, and one about his incompetence. But that > wasn't the way they were presented and thus (with me) left a > different impression on what Mims was attempting to show. I can agree with you that parts of Mims' post could be interpreted as a defence against his 'firing', although I think all the post was just answers to internet posters. I even agree that separating the post into 2 parts would have been helpful. I don't think though that Mims meant anything by putting the whole thing in one post -- after all, he doesn't read the internet, he was given the discussion from the internet and From: Charles Reichley To: All Msg #82, Oct-07-93 01:01PM Subject: 02/Re: Forrest Mims: Setting the record straight on SciAm (Part 1 wrote a note to Steve with all his responses. He doesn't know how they were presented here -- Steve could have split them up if Steve had chosen to do so. > > >They are all specifically aimed > >at proving that he is NOT INCOMPETENT. > > Incompetent at what? Building gadgets and whirlygigs? There was never > any question. Doing or writing about science? Then there IS a big > issue to discuss -- I *have* to question anyone who outright rejects > a huge chunk of science (and it has a domino effect ... in rejecting > evolution he must reject parts of physics, biology,...) I would argue that if what I have read is true, Mims has done REAL SCIENCE in the area of atmospheric chemistry. But since I only know what I read on the net, I can't point to any published works of his. I don't believe that all Mims does is build gadgets, but I do realise that my previous post may have overemphasized the gadgets since I am NOT directly aware of what Mims actually does. > > >I did not see Mims mention once > >in this section that his arguments prove that SA had an obligation to > >buy his articles, although they DO make an indirect argument that SA, > >and its readers, missed out on a lot of good articles about things that > >definitely were of interest to the scientific community. > > Fine. Publish elsewhere and show up those snotnosed assholes over > at SA. Instead it sounds like whining. Just because someone > writes a "good" article doesn't mean SA must publish it. They > chose not to...time to move on. I think he only is answering posts made this spring -- I don't know why there were posts this spring on this subject, since the incident occured in 1989. It may be that somebody picked up an article and commented on it, but I don't think Mims had anything to do with this topic starting up on this newsfeed this spring. > > >> >Yet prior to the barrage of publicity > >> >that arose after they fired me, SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN never > >> >questioned my qualifications. > >> > >> No one here asserted that they in fact did. What was suggested > >> was that it _could_ have been used. But actually I think in > >> a way some at SA DID "question [your] qualifications" -- > >> not all of them, just your scientific judgement. I guess it > >> depends on whether one includes scientific integrety in > >> the class of "qualifications". If some guy with a PhD in physics > >> came up and told me that the speed of light was infinite, > >> I'd question his "qualifications". > > >He only claimed that they hadn't questioned his qualifications before > >the 'firing'. He in fact implies that AFTER he pointed out he believed > >in creation and that he was opposed to abortion, they DID publicly > >"question his qualifications". > > Well (ignoring the abortion issue, since I feel it shouldn't have > been raised) it seems pretty straighforward. > > t0: looks like a good "qualified" applicant: can write; has > apparent grasp of scientific concepts. > t1: Wait, wait, new information! He arbitrarily rejects a major > scientific concept for UNscientific reasons. > t2: Hmmmm. Maybe we should think about this and consider his > qualifications more carefully. > > I see no "conspiracy". I couldn't care less about his views on > abortion, but his views on evolution IMMEDIATELY calls into question > his scientific judgement. I fail to see what the deep issue that > Mims, Stephen, or you see here. They learned something new, it made > them change their minds, or at least further question his > "qualifications". Or is there some certification that one can > aquire that prevents further skeptism at a later date? I can't speak for SA. However, it appears that Mims is arguing that SA never had any question about his qualifications to do the writing he was being hired to do, and that they only had two reasons for not hiring him (I may be reading too much into his post): 1) SA (maybe driven by Piel) was afraid of their reputation if creationists used Mims association with SA to support creationism; 2) One of the editors didn't like his position on Abortion. Robert argues that item '1' is sufficient for not hiring him, and I will at least agree that SA has a right not to hire someone for that reason. But Robert also argues that SA might not have hired him because they questioned his ability to provide good science in his writings, even if he is a good writer. Now, this may or may not be true, but if I read things correctly NOBODY from SA has ever said that they had a problem with Mims ability to be scientifically accurate in the columns he was going to write. And I think that is Mims point here -- he is answering the argument that Robert makes that SA didn't hire Mims because he isn't a good scientist. Let me repeat: I am not arguing with Robert about whether Mims creationism makes him a bad scientist. I am only saying that it doesn't appear that SA has used that argument as justification for not buying and publishing his articles. Since I know that people on the internet argued that SA probably didn't hire him because he was a bad scientist, I think he is justified in trying to argue that SA didn't believe he was a bad scientist. I am also not going to argue with Robert about whether Mims does a good job of arguing that SA thinks he is a good scientist. From what I have read, I can't begin to determine if SA just liked his writing ability, or his ability to make a good gadget, or if SA really thought that apart from his creationist beliefs (which I've never seen anybody suggest Mims argues for in a scientific way), they were happy with his ability. > > >> >Instead, the editors sent letters > >> >and made statements praising my work. > >> > >> So those *particular* pieces had no/few errors. And maybe Mim's > >> is a good writer. That still doesn't address the issue of > >> whether he rejects a substantial body of work, contrary to > >> evidence, based on religious bias. > >No, nor was he trying to. He's showing that they didn't think he > >was unqualified prior to finding out his religious beliefs. > > You say "religious beliefs" and I assert it was UNscientific beliefs. > The first would be irrelevant to the job, but the second IS > important. And I don't think that SA (later) rejected the writing > he submited as "bad" because they found out his religious beliefs. > Only that they didn't want their name associated with a believer > in a wacko ANTIscientific cult story. The judgement wasn't against > the articles (which I understand are still considered "excellent" > even by SA) but about Mims's own judgement. All the articles > prove is that he's a good writer and I don't think anyone questions > that. What they do question is how his nutso beliefs with subtly > influence his writing and/or how the association of SA with such > an individual would embarrass the magazine. I will give you your interpretation, I didn't use 'religious beliefs' as an attempt to elevate his argument. I don't know if Mims rejection of evolution is based on his religious beliefs, or on what he thinks are scientific merits. You last sentence uses the pronoun 'they' which I think is SA, and I disagree that they questioned how his 'nutso beliefs' would influence his writing. I have seen no indication that SA thought that Mims would submit for publication ANY article which wouldn't be acceptable. The second part I agree with, at least they were worried about what others might write, and I do think I remember seeing that they were concerned with what other publications he would write for. > > >> >When I visited SCIENTIFIC > >> >AMERICAN at Piel's request, he said several times in the presence > >> >of some of his staff, "We should have hired you 10 years ago!" > >> > >> Hyperbole...I see no *obligation* to hire Mims. And certainly > >> if at this time he had no knowledge of Mims's anti-scientific > >> attitude. This just indicates that Mims is a pretty good writer. > > >He is NOT arguing that this makes them obligated to hire him. He is > >only showing that they respected him as a scientist, > > I certainly don't see THAT in that line. No where is there anything > about them "respecting him as a scientist". And I suspect that Agreed, I might might have read too much into the sentence. Your interpretation may be the correct one, we can't really know. > it's more likely that they admired him as a writer and gadgeteer. > YOU wrote in the "scientist" part...I'm writing it out because > the evidence is that at this point they (SA) had been exposed only > to his writing and his gadgets, and NOT to his scientific thinking. > Once they were made aware of how he "did science" then serious > doubts arose. > > >and were WILLING to > >hire him until they found out his religious views. > > UNscientific views about SCIENTIFIC theories. I don't think that > the whole of religous views were reviewed...did they have long drawn > out discussions about theology? I think not. The topic was a > scientific theory...which he rejects UNscientifically. > > > Robert is trying to > >make Mims look stupid by claiming that Mims is making a stupid argument, > >when Mims isn't making that argument. > > What argument isn't he making? Be more specific. Either he's saying > that SA should have hired him or he isn't. If he's claiming that they > should have then that's what I'm rebutting...if he's not then I fail > to see the point of this thread. I think that Robert understands my assertion that Mims is NOT arguing about whether SA was required to hire him or not, but is rather answering critics who posted on the internet. Mims I'm sure believes that SA SHOULD hire him, but if you go to the quote I was answering, Robert said Mims didn't show SA had an obligation to hire him, which is different than arguing that SA SHOULD hire him. Personally, I think SA should have hired him -- from what I see, the creation publications got a LOT more mileage out of the flap then they EVER would have using a Mims/SA connection. > > >Mims is showing that Piel had no > >problems with his work, > > No problems with his WRITING... But writing and gadget building isn't > all there is to `Amateur SCIENTIST'. It's about being a "scientist" > and by rejecting evolution for non-scientific reasons Mims proves > that he's not qualified to write such a column. I won't argue with you about whether he is qualified to write the column, although I think he is -- but I will say that Mims is merely showing that SA didn't think he was unqualified to write the column, or at least that SA did not advance that argument as the reason for not hiring him to write the column. > > >to refute the INTERNET claim that he is > >incompetent. > > And I argue that he remains SCIENTIFICALLY incompetent, until > he proposes a *scientific* alternative to evolution, or provides > some scientific rational for his rejection. As I previously > posted I would claim any PhD. physist that claimed that the > theory of special relativity is "wrong" to be "incompetent" > until they put forth some sort of scientific proof. Mims has > failed that, but rather simply reject lots of supporting evidence. I won't argue with YOUR assertion, but that isn't apparently what SA was arguing. I think that there are some people even at SA who would disagree with your evaluation of Mims' scientific abilities, even if they don't respect his dismissal of some scientific theories. > > >Robert, rather than addressing that refutation, mistakenly > >tells us that Mims is trying to argue that SA had an obligation to hire > >him just because they said good things about him. > > Okay, since I've proven that Piel DID have problems with his work > (though maybe not his writing or his gadget builting ability) and > have given good cause to consider him SCIENTIFICALLY incompetent > then there is nothing left to discuss, since you're admitting here > that SA wasn't obligated to hire him. This is one area I'll disagree with. I don't think you have proven ANYTHING about Piel. You have offered reasons why YOU would have problems with his work, and that is fine. You have NO proof that Piel EVER had problems with his work, or ever CLAIMED to have problems with his work. I also disagree that Mims is scientifically incompetent, but that is MY opinion and I won't argue it with you. [At this point, I think Robert and I have hashed out the scientist/gadgeteer thing, so I'm deleting the rest of this section] [And now, I'm going to take the next section and delete most of it, just to prove a point of honor -- but I don't blame Robert for not seeing From: Charles Reichley To: All Msg #83, Oct-07-93 01:02PM Subject: 03/Re: Forrest Mims: Setting the record straight on SciAm (Part 1 this, because the section was pretty quoted out -- I just want to prove that I didn't delete the original statement from Mims. BTW, I also took a couple of Robert's quotes out of here and moved them below -- I don't think I put them out of context, they are the quotes from Robert which show that he thinks SA bought the 3 articles] > > >> >Although Piel was clearly concerned > >> >about my failure to accept Darwinian evolution, he did not fire > >> >me until AFTER a female editor asked me about abortion and then > >> >met with Piel and asked him to call me. > [some quoting deleted] > > I never said men don't take women serious...boy, talk about reading > into things... what I said was that I doubted that Piel acted > solely on her say-so. It would seem reasonable that he had his > own doubts. You've removed the orginal context so I can't point > how why I saw this as implied in Mims' message. As I said, I didn't remove the original context. But in truth there was so much quoting and discussion between the original context and this point that I don't blame Robert for thinking I had removed it. I try hard not to delete relevant portions of quoting. I also agree that I may have overreacted to things Robert said, and retract any statement that implied that Robert was 'sexist'. > [Here are several quotes from Robert from the previous section, which I include only to show that Robert thinks Mims was paid for the 3 articles. I tried to keep all of Roberts relevant quotes on this:] > > I believe that they didn't "terminate that agreement". I think the > fact is that he was indeed PAID for all three columns, it's just that > after all this broke, they decided NOT to publish the last two. This > is what he's bitching about and that's what I think the lawyer's letter > is refering to: [and after more deleted quoting] > > As I understand it SA contracted for 3 article, he wrote them, they > paid for them and published one. He completed his obligation, they > completed theirs, then the contract ended (on it's own). Thus > there was no "firing" in *any* sense of the word. To use that term > I construe as willfull attempt to obfusticate. [And after more deleted quoting] > A writing comprehension error on Mims's part...I believe that the > 'agreement' concerning the 3 articles was fully satisfied by both > parties. That Mims obscures this point to the level that his defenders > get confused sets off an alarm in my head. I left this in just to reinforce what I said way up above, that Robert is saying that SA did pay for the 3 articles -- and to ask again why SA paid for the 3 articles after Piel wrote a letter indicating that they were under no obligation to do so. I agree that I did not know that SA paid for the 3 articles. There was a lot more stuff, but I think I've made my point and I don't see any value in a point-by-point rehash of the rest of the referenced post. I'm not saying that Robert didn't have some good points in there, just that I don't have the time to address them. Therefore: [REMAINING QUOTES DELETED] > > >> >Forrest M. Mims, III > >> > >> >_________________________________________________________ > >> >--------------------------------------------------------- > >> >End of article posted for Forrest Mims by: > >> >Steve Matheson Program in Neuroscience University of Arizona > >> >sfm@neurobio.arizona.edu > >> > >> -robert > > >Charles W. Reichley, IBM FSC, Manassas, Va. > >Reminder : This post has nothing to do with IBM or its subsidiaries > > -robert > Charles W. Reichley, IBM FSC, Manassas, Va. Reminder : This post has nothing to do with IBM or its subsidiaries

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