[b-hebrew] On Debate, and the need to Apologize (was Re: Initial Consonant Clusters in Biblical Hebrew)

Yitzhak Sapir yitzhaksapir at gmail.com
Thu Jun 17 02:02:09 EDT 2010

I had considered not responding at all.  However, given the way that
Karl, James,
and Bryant voiced their opinions, I feel I have no choice but to respond.

 Mon, Jun 14, 2010 at 1:49 AM, Bryant J. Williams III wrote:
> Dear Yitzhak,
> [Yitzhak said],
> You and Karl and James have a habit of saying something is likely when really
> you have no evidence for it at all.  That's now how it works in scholarship!
> [Bryant]
> If the above is what you believe to be true, then so be it. BUT that should NOT
> have been said where every one on the list can read i; I could understand in a
> privately sent e-mail. I, for one, did not appreciate the tone and accusation
> behind the above statement. I truly believe that an apologie is in order, not
> only to the gentlemen above, but also to the list.

Hello Bryant,

I agree that an apology is in order.

James has made various statements over the recent days and weeks:

1) He said I regurgitate something I read in a book
2) He told me that "no one cares" about what I say
3) He told someone else about me that "We're speaking to a guy who ... insists
that everybody works with the same set of unfounded assumptions [as he does]."
4) He told Garth that he has "no pearls worth sharing."

Actually, for the last statement I was surprised that James was not removed
from the list by the moderators.  The idea that a non-moderator
effectively tells
someone not to post his ideas on the list and points him the door is ridiculous.

In any case my statement ("... James says something is 'likely' when really he
has no evidence for it at all ...")  is mild and actually bland
compared to, say,
statement (3) above.  It also does not speak about James' character, does not
use any negatively charged language such as "regurgitate" and does not color
the statement emotionally as in "no one cares."

I don't see anything wrong with it at all!  It was even made based on
a direct quote
by James.  (I don't mean to reopen the discussion -- it was discussed at length.
The specific statement in question, however, is his claim that "the data set is
probably too small."  In Karl's case it was his statement that "wbym" in the
Siloam inscription is a "likely plural." -- In both these cases the
word "likely"
or "probably" is used without any evidence to indicate that it is likely or
probable, and is really used as a mechanism to transform a doubtful statement
into a seemingly sound statement.  It is this use of the terms
to turn doubtful statements -- 'the evidence may be too small' into sound
statements -- 'the evidence is too small' without evidence to that end
that I found

So I do think an apology is long overdue.  In fact, several apologies
are long overdue!

First and foremost, James owes Garth and the list an apology for his statement
that Garth has "no pearls worth sharing."

James owes me an apology for his statements such as (1) above.

Karl owes me an apology for his repetitive ad hominems, such as most recently
that I am either incompetent or a nasty fellow.

And you owe me an apology for applying a ridiculous double standard to James,
Karl, and me, ignoring all the troublesome language that James and
Karl bring to
on-list discussion but insisting I make an apology for a truly mild
statement that is
not problematic at all.  Maybe the moderators don't think you've overstepped,
but I do.

I also want to point out that I've never told Karl or James or anyone
else on the list
that they've nothing worth sharing on the list or that they're nasty fellows or
incompetent.  The list has gotten to a place where people call others
posts "fluff"
or "garbage" and no one minds.  I am all in favor of limiting all this
language from
the list through active zero-tolerance moderation.  I do not think the above
statement would be taken out in such moderation but if it were, I'd
rephrase myself
and repost.  I think the list would end up being a much cleaner and
enjoyable place.

Yitzhak Sapir

P.S. A note to James: I don't agree with your statements that "anytime [you've]
offered a critique on [my] position it has been based on data."  In
fact, I feel that
many times your criticisms have not only lacked data, but have been based on an
incomplete reading of my position.  How else could you claim that I
date Ruth late
when I date it early?!?  You say you've enjoyed debating with me in
the past.  Well,
I don't come here looking for "debate."  I come here looking for
discussion.  The
difference is that in a discussion I truly try to understand the other
side's position
as best I can and see if I agree or learned something from it, and
where I disagree.
In a debate, the goal is to "win" using fast responses and often with
an incomplete
understanding of the other position or even the issue and data.
Statements such
as "you're regurgitating something you read in a book" or "no one
cares" may have
place in a debate, but not a discussion.  In fact, many of your posts,
statements and
arguments do seem as if they are speeches to be sounded at a debate club.  So
if you stop debating with me, perhaps we will start having meaningful
I will only be happier if that is the case.

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