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From: Charles Reichley To: All Msg #127, Oct-06-93 12:05PM 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: <19931006.130912.577@almaden.ibm.com> Reply-To: CREICHLEY@vnet.IBM.COM Newsgroups: sci.skeptic,talk.origins In <28urgm$rpf@msuinfo.cl.msu.edu> hatcher@msupa.pa.msu.edu writes: (At some point in this article, we will see Robert mention a problem with reading comprehension. It appears to me that Robert may have misunderstood much of the content of Mims' posting; It however is possible that there is a history here which is used to interpret what Mims has written. Since I have no bias or history, I took Mims' letter at fact value, and applied what I thought were reasonable interpretations to his statements. Following is my thoughts about Robert's interpretation): > > In article <28tr10$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. I agree that this does not prove Mims' point, but to go from "Mims' recollection may be wrong" to "Willful Lying" shows a predisposition against Mims. Since Mims has already shown that he is willing to tell the truth about his creation beliefs, even though it cost him a job, it seems that we can give him the benefit of the doubt in terms of truthfully relaying what he BELIEVES to be the chronology. As I said, I'm not using this to argue that Mims' account is the correct one, just that it is premature to accuse him of deliberately lying about this. > > > "There's no question that on their own merits the columns > > are fabulous! If you don't do them for us you ought to do > > them for somebody because they're great...Give me three of > > them and I'll run them and give Jearl [Walker] a > > vacation...I'll buy them from you...Forrest, I trust you > > implicitly. You're a man of honor and integrity...In its own > > right what you've written is first rate. That's just not an > > issue. It's the public relations nightmare that is keeping > > me awake." > > > > (Published in part in HARPER'S, March 1991.) > > That it was "published" means nothing ... only that Mims repeated > this (HIS) story of the conversation to someone and they printed it. > It says nothing about the truthfulness of what was asserted. I didn't see Mims as including the Harper's reference to re-inforce or to lend a 'second voice' to his contention, but rather to give us a place to look for the quote he is giving us. I'd have to dig up the Harper's interview to see what all is there, but I appreciated Mims including the reference. Robert seems to be looking for evil motives. > 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...." > > > >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. 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. 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. > ask for some kind of proof (other than Mim's word) that the > lawyer agreed to anything...strange though that once burned > by a verbal agreement Mim's jumps into another one. Perhaps > a more rational explaination (or at least probable from my > point of view) is that Mim's has a hard time clearly understanding > what has _actually_ been agreed upon during a conversation, > and misunderstands/misinterprets others as agreeing with his > viewpoint wholeheartedly. I know I've fallen into that all > too common trap. It would be nice to have written proof of everything, but not having written proof doesn't prove it isn't true. I don't mind you not believing it, but it is a leap to go from your disbelief to attributing to Mims some basic flaw of understanding. > > >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. The following paragraphs contain Mims rebuttal of the INTERNET POST which claimed SA could have 'fired' him for incompetence. His rebuttal takes several tacks: 1) SA never questioned his qualifications 2) The SA employees involved had high praise for him personally 3) The SA staff were impressed by his scientific gadgets 4) Other companies have used his gadgets 5) His gadgets have provided real value to the scientific community 6) He has won awards for his scientific prowess in building a gadget, and SA even saw fit to publicize the award. There may have been other points. None of these points appears to be presented to argue about his 'firing'. They are all specifically aimed at proving that he is NOT INCOMPETENT. 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. > > >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". > > >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. > > >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, and were WILLING to hire him until they found out his religious views. Robert is trying to make Mims look stupid by claiming that Mims is making a stupid argument, when Mims isn't making that argument. Mims is showing that Piel had no problems with his work, to refute the INTERNET claim that he is incompetent. 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. Of course, that would be stupid, and if Mims had actually SAID "SA is obligated to hire me, because they said good things about me", then I would agree with Robert. But, MIMS DID NOT SAY THAT. > > >When I said I had applied when C.L. Strong died, he said if he had > >known, "I would have snapped you up!" Members of the editorial > >staff congratulated me for getting the assignment. > > Again/still no *obligation* to hire Mims...maybe they would > have snapped him up. Only to regret it later when a big stink > arose as he used his SA credentials to give credence to some > creationist literature. That's speculation, but not inconceivable. Again, nothing in Mims sentence which implies that he is arguing that SA is obligated to hire him; just another example of SA saying that Mims is not incompetent. > > >Piel and the > >other editors played with the various instruments I brought > >along, including a solar ultraviolet radiometer, a radio- > >controlled camera for kites and balloons, various surface-mount > >circuits, etc. > > What revelance this has to ANYTHING is beyond me...looks like filler. Well, I could kind of agree with you here, although it appears to be suggesting that the SA staff found his scientific gadgetry worth playing with, and so adds to his argument that SA did not think of him as incompetent. > > Even after he asked if I believed in Darwinian > >evolution, he took me to lunch with the editorial staff and gave > >me a book which he signed, "Best regards to a Great Amateur > >Scientist. Jonathan Piel." > > So he was nice to Mims after he confessed. Big deal. Would > it have been better if Piel has summarilily(sp?) tossed him > out on his butt? And that inscription certainly isn't a job > contract. Simply an admission that Mims has done some reasonable > (or even "great") amateur science. Yes, and Mims didn't say it was an obligation to hire him. I repeat this because otherwise some people will go around thinking that Mims just posted a huge note trying to prove that SA is obligated to hiring him, when he is merely trying to rebut attacks made against him by internet posters. (I would accept that he has two other motives: 1) To argue that it was actually his abortion position that got him fired, a point which he only makes once so it doesn't seem a major issue to him, and 2) to show that SA made a mistake in not hiring him, by showing that he has done a lot of good things that SA and its readership missed out on because of SA's stance against him). > > >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. > > As far as I can assertain he hadn't HIRED Mims yet...therefore This may be true, and I confess to being somewhat confused as to the term 'hired' and 'fired' in this regard. Certainly Mims has not claimed he had a contract for a regular column. He has claimed that he had a verbal agreement for SA to purchase 3 columns, and he has claimed that they terminated that agreement. Maybe that is what he means when he says he was 'fired'. Since Mims never claims that they actually hired him for a column, he can't mean he was fired from that position. > he certainly couldn't have fired him. Had a contract been signed > by the time he left this visit? Refusing to hire someone is NOT > equivalent to "firing" them. So this unnamed female editor had > such influence that she could unilaterally force Piel not to > hire Mims? Somehow I doubt it. Maybe she added to Piel's doubts > whether Mims was right for the job -and- whether he could work > alongside the current (productive) workforce. Why do you so quickly dismiss the power of the 'unnamed women editor'. Women can be in positions of power, and despite your personal opinion, there are men who take women seriously and could be expected to act on the advise of a woman editor. Nor did Mims claim to know why Piel ultimately made the decision, just that Piel didn't make the decision until after the information about Mims' position on abortion was made known to the female editor. It could be that Piel was uncomfortable with the creation issue, or that Piel talked to others after the meeting with Mims. Mims is just saying that there was a period of time between the time he told Piel about his creation beliefs, and the time Piel terminated the 'agreement' to buy the three articles, and that during the period of time he talked to a female editor about his abortion position, and she talked to Piel. Mims obviously believes that this had something major to do with the decision, but he doesn't claim that it was the sole reason for it. > > >7. At least one message questioned my ability to do science. My > [snip...] > > Depend what you mean by "do science"...could Mim's continue to > dabble in areas removed from his religous bias and make sense? > Probably. But that isn't the question at hand, it's about > scientific integrety and potential negative publicity towards SA. WIthout knowing exactly what Mims has claimed, I can't say how much his beliefs go against accepted scientific knowledge. Nor am I going to get into the evolution/creation debate. Mims at this point is only trying to argue that he does good science, and that what he does is accepted as good science. I'm not sure why one would reject a good science paper just because the person who wrote it has beliefs you can't agree with, but Mims is not arguing that point (in this note). > > [descriptions of devices built deleted as irrelevant to this > issue, unless Mims can produce a signed contract specifying that > SA would pay for them _and_ publish about them] They are only irrelevant to the bogus straw-man argument you have put up as Mims' argument, namely that he is trying to argue that SA was required to publish his articles. Since Mims' real argument is that he is not incompetent, these descriptions were entirely relevant because they showed how, 'despite' his fatal flaw of having a religious belief in creation, he was able to provide things of scientific value to the community. And in the process, showing that SA and its readership missed out on an opportunity to learn about these things, and to benefit from the knowledge of them, because of SA's position. He isn't arguing that they were required to pay for them and publish about them -- but he makes a good argument that SA and its readership lost out because they didn't publish. > > >8. There have been several messages about the Rolex Award I > >received in May which was advertised in the June issue of > >SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN. The award was for an international network > >(Sun Photometer Atmospheric Network) that will use an advanced > >version of the TOPS instrument developed for but rejected by > >SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN. The upper half of the instrument can be seen > >in the photo in the ad and the entire instrument is shown in a 2- > >page ad that was published in various international magazines. > > Again...this is COMPLETELY irrelevant. So some commercial company > gave Mims a "award"...then let Rolex hire him. Just because > Rolex published some ad in SA concerning Mims doesn't mean that > SA is somehow obligated to hire him. This looks sadder and sadder > the further I read, as it indicate Mims is simply grasping at > straws and is completely clueless about the concept of employment > contracts. This does get sadder and sadder, as Mims makes a plausible rebuttal of the claim that he is incompetent, and you blindly go about showing how poorly his points address this strawman argument of yours that Mims is trying to show SA had an obligation to hire him. Since Mims is not trying to show SA had an obligation to hire him, I am not at all surprised that none of his points proved that such an obligation existed. I however am quite surprised and perplexed at how badly you missed what Mims was trying to prove. > > >9. I had absolutely no hidden agenda with respect to writing "The > >Amateur Scientist," and I had no intention of ever attempting to > >embarrass the magazine. > > So you say. But let me say that I for one am not convinced that > it wouldn't have happened anyways. Maybe that's my paranoia > speaking after having interacted with so many "creationists" > on USENET. In any case, it still doesn't *obligate* SA to > hire Mims. Hell, I'll promise never to attempt to embarrass > the magazine if they hire me...oh, so now I'm employed. Wow! Someone on Internet claimed that Mims' true purpose for trying to get hired by SA was so that he could use that employment to lend credence to other writings he would publish elsewhere that would deal with creation. Mims is merely stating that he had no such intentions. You don't have to believe him, and he CERTAINLY can't prove that, any more than you can prove that if you were in my office right now, you wouldn't shoot me with a gun. IF they had hired him, then we would know by now if Mims is telling the truth, but since he was never hired, we will never know. In any case, Mims isn't saying that SA was obligated to hire him just because he wouldn't embarrass them on purpose. He is only rebutting a claim made about him on the internet. > > >In a letter to me, Jonathan Piel > >specifically stated he had no concern about my motives. (I will > >be glad to post this letter verbatim.) > > Okay, so Piel possibly thought Mims wouldn't WILLFULLY embarrass > the magazine. That doesn't mean that it wouldn't happen. A > third party could easily do it without Mims's cooperation > (or even knowledge) and it would still be a problem for the > magazine. This is merely Mims' offer of supporting evidence against the claim that the real reason SA didn't hire him was because Piel believed Mims would use his position to lend credence to creation writings. Mims is not refuting the (different) argument that OTHER people might use Mims' employment in that way, just that Mims wasn't going to personally do it, and that Piel didn't believe that Mims would do it. It is a refutation of a point made by an internet poster, NOT an argument that SA should have hired him. > > >My beliefs about abortion > >and Darwinian evolution were strictly personal. > > NO. On abortion I'd agree with you. But evolution is a > scientific theory and if Mims rejects that based on religious > bias then one must also question what _other_ well supported > scientific theories he's willing to similarly reject. To > reject a scientific theory for reasons OTHER than scientific > evidence is _a_priori_ evidence of being UNscientific and > thus *not* suitable for a writing position on a scientificly > oriented magazine. I'd ask Mims to turn the question around > and consider "Would an athiest (strictly personal beliefs) > be a good candidate for writing religious articles for a > church newsletter?". That isn't to say that science is a > religion, but an admission that personal beliefs INFLUENCES > what one writes and thus make acceptable criteria for *not* > hiring someone for a writing position. This is at least a refutation about something Mims actually said. We can argue about whether a person can have personal beliefs that go against the current scientific wisdom and still be an acceptable scientist in other areas unaffected by those beliefs. Without getting into the Evolution/Creation debate, I don't think I can discuss this point. However, (and it isn't a perfect analogy), much great science has been done by scientists who had no idea about evolution -- I could argue that Mims, without accepting evolution, should be able to contribute as much to the scientific community as Galileo, or Newton, or any other scientist who did their work before evolution was 'discovered'. I however would agree with your analogy in a specific point -- I would never hire Mims to write any scientific article dealing with the origin of the species. I don't think his disbelief in evolutionary origins make him unsuitable to write about how to build an ozone detector, any more than I feel obligated to know the personal beliefs of my chemistry professor, or the meteorologist who is telling me how to interpret the weather map. > > >Prior to > >SCIENTIIC AMERICAN, none of the editors at the more than 70 > >publications for which I have written ever asked me about my > >personal beliefs. > > So these other publications weren't as thorough, but then again > they probably weren't as prestegious(sp?) and thus didn't have > quite the reputation to uphold. Again, what others did or > didn't do places no *obligation* on SA to hire Mims. Not what he is trying to prove. > > >10. In May I spoke with John Hanley, the new president of > >SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN. Hanley was quite friendly and agreed to > >review my request to again write for SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN. > > So Hanley should have immediately slammed down the phone? > What's the gripe here...he gave Mims a second chance. Possibly > prior to having all the facts on what previously transpired. > > >He said > >no one else at the magazine would see the proposal and gave me > >his private fax number. Several weeks later he rejected my > >proposal, citing a letter from the magazine's lawyer's of 1990 > >which, in effect, supported Piel's denial that he had previously > >agreed to buy and publish my columns. > > Ie. at that point he became aware that possibly Mims was > a pathological liar? Or is Mims somehow implying that by > giving Mims his private fax number Hanley had defacto agreed > to hire Mims? Mims appears to be arguing that the problem at SA is not global to the staff, but rather is confined to Piel. I don't see the point, or why it matters, but on the other hand he ISN'T arguing that having the FAX number obligates them to hire him. I just thought he was trying to show that whenever he talks to SA, they seem amiable to him until Piel is brought into the picture. > > > Hanley told me I should > >submit future proposals to Piel, but Piel does not respond to > >them. > > His perogative. If those columns are all so great then why > doesn't Mims simply get some other publisher to print them? > And if SA loses sales to some other magazine then Piel can > take the blame. Since this occured back in 1990, I would think that Mims has moved on. He is only writing this because for some reason the internet discussion cropped up again recently. Here he seems to be telling us that he has continued to write articles, and submits them to SA in case they have changed thier mind. He seems to be arguing that they are stubborn, but since he has filed patents and some of his gadgets are being used, I assume that other publications HAVE been publishing some of his work. On the other hand, I also get the impression that Mims really wishes SA would hire him. > > >He has also declined to correct four specific errors in > >SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN about which I have informed him, even though > >I have assured him it is unnecessary to cite my name. > > I'm sure they get such requests all the time...and I'm sure that > they let all but the most egregeous slide. But somehow because > Mims points them out SA is obligated to print something? What > I see here is a personality type that *I* would be distressed > to see working with me. Maybe it wasn't the science after all > that Piel rejected, but the fact that Mims would have been > too disruptive. Well, I think this seems a bit like whining to me also. Mims appears to be arguing that Piel has a personal vendetta against him, and that it makes Piel be unrational to the point of not correcting mistakes in articles just because it is Mims that points them out. This line of argument did not persuade me. > > >Why do I > >want to write for SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN in view of all that's > >happened? "The Amateur Scientist" shaped my career. C. L. Stong > >once told me I would some day write the column. And I want very > >much to see "The Amateur Scientist" provide the same kind of > >constructive, hands-on science that Stong and, to some extent, > >Jearl Walker did. > > Nice sentiments. But still no *obligation* that SA hire *Mims* > to write for them. I still see an editorial decision not to > hire someone and a bunch of whining by the rejected applicant. But I did appreciate getting some understanding as to why Mims continues to write and send articles in for publication. He feels a personal attachment to SA, and wishes that he could contribute. I thought it was sincere. > > >This message corrects the principle errors on the disk I > >received. I'll be happy to answer questions relayed to me and to > >post verbatim copies of correspondence to and from SCIENTIFIC > >AMERICAN if anyone is interested. I have informed Jonathan Piel > >and John Hanley at SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN about your discussions and > >offered to post their response verbatim, but they have not > >responded. > > This last sentance gives the impression that Mims feels that > it is their obligation to respond to him every time he contacts > them. By this time I'd be having my secretary toss anything > with his name on it into the circular file, unopened. Actually, I took it as a statement that he TRIED to give them a chance to respond to whatever he was saying, but they didn't respond. Not that they were obligated to respond, just that Mims wasn't being unfair to them. Kind of like when you listen to a news show and they tell you that someone they just said bad things about was given a chance to give a response but didn't. It doesn't lend credence to the bad things, just lets you know that they TRIED to get another point of view. You really have to be looking to pick a fight to attack this. > > Besides, if I were SA I'd _certainly_ not submit any response > *via* Mims. And I'm sure their lawyers would go white upon > the suggestion that they make an informal response here on > the net. So am I surprised by the lack of a rebuttal? No. > Though it would be nice to hear from the other side rather > than simply speculate and listen to Mims's (obviously biased) > viewpoint thrashing over this stale old argument. We can > talk more when Mims produces a signed employment contract. Well, Mims specifically started out trying to refute some claims made about him and this situation on the internet. His statements mostly dealt with the internet claims, and when he finished, he restated that he thought he had answered the internet claims. If SA cared, I'm sure they would 'answer' directly rather than through Mims. But I don't know why SA would care about Mims trying to rebut claims made by internet writers. > > >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 > > Robert W. Hatcher | 256D Physics-Astronomy | hatcher@msupa > (Bitnet) > Software Tzar, Hunchback | Michigan State University | msuhep::hatcher > (HEPnet) > (517) 353-3008,-5180 | East Lansing, MI 48824 | > hatcher@msupa.pa.msu.edu > Charles W. Reichley, IBM FSC, Manassas, Va. Reminder : This post has nothing to do with IBM or its subsidiaries

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