I don’t like petty blog feuds, and I am not launching one, here. But for the second time, “faculty level” stem cell scientist Paul Knoepfler has made false accusations against me, and the Internet being what it is, I have to respond to keep the record straight.
Here’s the background: The other day, Knoepfler reacted to one of my blog posts, in which I mentioned that I thought George Bush’s funding restrictions played an indirect role in the development of ethical alternatives to ESCR. Knoepfler took exception to that, which is cool, reasonable people can differ about my thesis. But instead of just disagreeing about Bush’s role, he accused me (and others) of believing that people who support ESCR are “on a roller coaster ride to hell.” I pointed out that I know of no mainstream opponent of ESCR that ever said pro types are going to hell—naming names—and noted that in my entire book on stem cell research I never used one religious argument. Finally, to illustrate my point I quoted two of the most notable scientists in the field who recognize the important ethical issues at stake in the field. (Here’s the link to my post, “Projection Alert: Stem Scientist Casts Moral Aspersion.”)
In short, I didn’t personally attack Knoepfler. I rebutted him. And now he has responded, but didn’t discuss anything I actually wrote. Rather, he accused me of launching a campaign of personal attacks against him. From Lessons From Getting Personally Attacked by Opponents of Stem Cell Research:
In response, Mr. Smith launched a massive barrage of personal attacks against me directly including a litany of negative adjectives and phrases to describe me and my piece: touchy, pathetic, ludicrous, nonsense, get a grip, ignorant. Luckily I have a thick skin at least in part from all the grant critiques I have read over the last 5 years.
And precisely how did I do that? Did I issue an order to my hordes of obedient orcs: “Go attack Paul Knoepfler!”? (Say, how did he find that out? My account must have been hacked!) Actually, I think he wishes he were that important.
But anyone who attends here regularly knows I try to prevent arguments in the comments section from descending into personal attacks—except when I am the attackee. Sharp elbows, yes. Vigorous debate, yes. Robust exercise of First Amendment rights, absolutely. Ad hominem? No, although sometimes a few slip through the filter.
So, I looked at the comments posted here on my post about Knoepfler. As of this writing, there are 13—hardly a “massive barrage”—and among them, I saw no personal attacks. Perhaps some people personally attacked him on his blog, but I don’t monitor his site so wouldn’t know. If they did, it was certainly not on orders from me, and moreover, I would never ask anyone to personally attack people with whom I disagree. Not only is that not my style, but I believe making personal attacks is an insipid method of advocacy.
So, I plead not guilty. But that doesn’t mean I don’t think Knoepfler is either being a whiney-doodle, or wants his colleagues to think he is some kind of martyr to the cause.
Oh, and you orcs: Cease your personal attacks. He’s onto us. His skin is too thick to hurt him anyway.
Now, back to things that really matter.