Strongly held opinions

A selection of founder Robert Leverett's more philosophical posts and trip reports.

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dbhguru
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Strongly held opinions

Post by dbhguru » Sat Jun 05, 2010 2:39 pm

ENTS,

The recent exchanges on the topic of "Science, Evolution, and Creationism" have prompted me to think about controversial topics and how we discuss them on the BBS. It's not new ground, but a subject that does need to periodically be revisited. As the original conceptualizer of ENTS and one of its cofounders, I do not argue for a privileged position for myself. I don't expect to sound off with impunity. ENTS is not my personal pulpit. I am quite amenable to being reined in when others of you deem it necessary. Furthermore, I recognize that topics relating to religion, politics, the environment, forest practices, war, etc. are by their nature hot potatoes and discussions around them can quickly spin out of control.

On the old list, we got into a contentious discussing about the far right wing's mis-portrayal of the science of climate change. The topic heated up. However, nothing is settled by those of us who back the science slam-dunking the deniers. We can stay civil - certainly to one another. But how can that be done when the rhetoric heats up and one feels that one's personal, deeply held convictions are being attacked? Good question. That's the soft under-belly of lively discussions. Civility needs constant reinforcement from all corners. My great Alaska friend Don Bertolette has long walked that talk and on many occasions held his tongue, when every impulse was to give back in equal or greater measure of that which he perceived was being sent his way. Don is a good role model. I'm prone to slips. But I'm not the only official spokesperson for ENTS.

Let me categorically state that Will Blozan, Lee Frelich, Ed Frank, and Don Bragg, as well as myself respect each and every Ent. We want people to speak freely - just avoid personal attacks on members. When I allow my frustrations to get the better of me and lash out at groups who exploit fear and anger in the media, I'm not aiming at individual Ents. I'm aiming at those public figures I judge to be intentionally exploiting public emotions and the propensity of many to accept propaganda. Still, I seriously doubt that anything I say on this BBS will make an ounce of difference, so what's the point in me voicing my frustrations to the choir? Well, I'm human. I'm passionate about environmental issues and on occasion stray from my own promise of moderate discourse. So, feel free to yank me back. My skin is thick enough.

Now back to the subject of Science, Evolution, and Creationism. I have a few trailing thoughts of a more general nature. First, I've never met the man or woman who I believe has the ultimate answers as to the origin of life, the method by which the Universe was created, or where we go after we die. But, I've met a lot of very bright people who have darn good-sounding ideas, and worthy of consideration. I've read widely on the origins of christianity as well as other great religions. I've read extensively in parapsychology and was involved in experiments in college. I've also read every book about Edgar Cayce, sage of Virginia Beech, that has been written. I've read all of Jane Robert's Seth Material books. I've also read and tried to understand Dr. William A. Tiller's "Science and Human Transformation." The list could go on in terms of what I've read, but I'm nowhere near through. The search will continue until I pass on to whatever happens next. So. Where has all this research left me with respect to my views on science versus religion?

I like many others, can stand back and observe the progress of science in uncloaking the mysteries of the Universe - well, some mysteries. But I, like a distinguished friend from Harvard, believe there are levels of understanding beyond what humans can ever achieve in the flesh, regardless of advances in technology. My friend has reached that conclusion as a pre-imminent physicist devoted to unraveling every physical mystery presented to him. He has the self-assuredness of a brilliant researcher and the humility of one who not only knows his limits, but the limits of science and the scientific method.

What is irritating me these days is the rise of fundamentalism with its attendant thrust into places it doesn't belong. I firmly believe in intelligent design, but on a scale so far beyond what I can comprehend that I know I will never be able to comprehend universal mysteries. Nonetheless, I continue the search, satisfied to reach an ever better understanding - that being the goal. Along the way, I believe that each new high perch should promote in me tolerance for those who haven't spent the time I have in the big search. And it does, until some bloke tries to poke a primitive religious dogma down my throat or institutionalize it in ways that compromise the separation of church and state. When pursued as a personal journey, religion is noble, defendable, and one of the highest expressions of humanity. When religion is expressed in mass movements aimed at achieving conformity, lots of things can go wrong. Like I previously said, this is 2010, not 1610, 810 .....

Bob
Robert T. Leverett
Co-founder, Native Native Tree Society
Co-founder and President
Friends of Mohawk Trail State Forest
Co-founder, National Cadre

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Don
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Re: Strongly held opinions

Post by Don » Sat Jun 05, 2010 4:10 pm

Bob-
What's this about me and my soft underbelly!?!?! :>}
-Don
Don Bertolette - President/Moderator, WNTS BBS
Restoration Forester (Retired)
Science Center
Grand Canyon National Park

BJCP Apprentice Beer Judge

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dbhguru
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Re: Strongly held opinions

Post by dbhguru » Sat Jun 05, 2010 4:19 pm

Don,

Well, I'm sure not pointing any figures on soft under-bellies. I can remember when my mid-section was firm. Then around 45, something begin to happen. Mayb a swallowed one too many watermelon seeds. Whatever the process was, it gained momentum. Fortunately, I now have the process arrested. We'll see if it stays in remission in Durango. They have sherbet too, you know. Remember our pact?

Bob
Robert T. Leverett
Co-founder, Native Native Tree Society
Co-founder and President
Friends of Mohawk Trail State Forest
Co-founder, National Cadre

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Don
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Re: Strongly held opinions

Post by Don » Sat Jun 05, 2010 4:21 pm

Yep, we ate finally ate them out of tropical sherbet, after years of challenges~!
Don Bertolette - President/Moderator, WNTS BBS
Restoration Forester (Retired)
Science Center
Grand Canyon National Park

BJCP Apprentice Beer Judge

View my Alaska Big Tree List Webpage at:
http://www.akbigtreelist.org

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Steve Galehouse
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Re: Strongly held opinions

Post by Steve Galehouse » Sat Jun 05, 2010 10:39 pm

Bob, Don-

My basic tenet is to treat others as I(you) would like to be treated; with respect, courtesy, and kindness. Views that differ from mine don't have to be challenged--I simply choose to not accept them. All perspectives deserve consideration, but most importantly hold your personal opinions to the test, and stand by them.
every plant is native somewhere

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Don
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Re: Strongly held opinions

Post by Don » Sat Jun 05, 2010 11:57 pm

Steve-
So often the case, we are but reflections of what others see in us...as violence usually begets violence, respect given is usually respect received. Good standards to live by, even if they have the ring of 'commandments'...:>}
Don Bertolette - President/Moderator, WNTS BBS
Restoration Forester (Retired)
Science Center
Grand Canyon National Park

BJCP Apprentice Beer Judge

View my Alaska Big Tree List Webpage at:
http://www.akbigtreelist.org

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dbhguru
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Re: Strongly held opinions

Post by dbhguru » Sun Jun 06, 2010 8:59 am

Steve, Don,

Wise council to be sure. But even with the best intentions, conflicts occur. That is why we have set up the BBS as partially mediated list. The question, I suppose, is how each person chooses to proceed in the face of direct challenges to positions he/she holds on controversial subjects. The two of you seem to have found your stride and can retain your cool somewhat better than I. Myself, Ed, and a few others on the list are slightly more volatile, though we do succeed in bringing our emotions under control. I do, especially when I see I'm batting my head against a brick wall.

Politics and religion are subjects that we all recognize are time bombs and start out to avoid. They often go to we are, our core identities. In the future, we should probably avoid these topics on the BBS, but I expect they will always find a way of creeping in because they are stimulating and of vital national importance. Conflict can begin innocently enough by someone putting out a post that quotes sources that include inflammatory remarks - or cites URLs that include inflammatory material. URLs are a convenient device which can be employed by people not wanting to making statements directly. But however it comes about, once the challenge is made, short of changing human nature, it is hard to control the sparks that fly thereafter.

So far, we've compiled a pretty good batting average. I think we've all been members of other lists where invective is the rule rather than the exception. We hold ourselves to a pretty high standard, and I think we can pat ourselves on the back for that. You and Steve are virtually unflappable. In your case, Don, I can only recall one exception. We both can remember how topics primarily relating to forestry got out of hand at points in the past on all three of the BBS predecessor email lists. I must say that you did well and practiced what you preached as well as anyone I've seen - and still stay engaged. However, each of us has a breaking point. Remember the fellow who masqueraded as a forester? I think that was the closest I've seen to flames coming from your direction, and I surely didn't blame you. He was challenging the legitimacy of the forestry profession by professing to be a forester with absolutely no accepted credentials. It got nasty when the cyberspace cop from Texas pursued the guy right onto our list. Neither had any business being on our list. But the pretender was guilty of fraud and that was your line in the sand.

Alas, by contrast to your one line, Don, I seem to have about half a dozen. Not sure about Steve - maybe only one, also. However, as I have stated in the past, ENTS is, at its core, a science-based organization. People who are uncomfortable with science are going to be uncomfortable at times reading the posts of those of us who come down on the side of science on issues where science on the one side and religion and/or politics on the other appear to clash. When Ed made the initial post on Science, Evolution, and Creationism, he was just presenting information on an interesting topic, trying to stimulate discussion on a wider variety of topics than measuring and photographing trees. Little did he know that he'd stumbled onto the original Pandora's box. The topic is worth further discussion only if it can be done so without anyone drifting to an extreme - including me.

Bob
Robert T. Leverett
Co-founder, Native Native Tree Society
Co-founder and President
Friends of Mohawk Trail State Forest
Co-founder, National Cadre

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James Parton
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Re: Strongly held opinions

Post by James Parton » Sun Jun 06, 2010 1:51 pm

Bob,

If it is the one I remember, the one with the masquerading forester was the most heated on ENTS I have seen. I was little involed in it since I am a nonprofessional. But yes, it was heated and I could see why. I thought Ed was gonna throw in the towel. I am glad he did not.

I try to avoid politics and religion. They are always controversial but still, they can be the most interesting of topics breached by ENTS. The goal should simply be to keep it civil and be repectful. It is ok to respectfully disagree.

James.
James E Parton
Ovate Course Graduate - Druid Student
Bardic Mentor
New Order of Druids

http://www.druidcircle.org/nod/index.ph ... Itemid=145

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dbhguru
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Re: Strongly held opinions

Post by dbhguru » Mon Jun 07, 2010 8:59 am

James,

Yes, your memory is correct. Those were the dark days of ENTS. The controversy presented us with a dilemma. If we continued to invite everyone in and promote unrestricted freedom of speech, we opened the door to having our list hijacked by folks pushing very limited agendas not in sync with our stated interests. Keeping the list open, but with moderators standing ready to clamp down, excluding extraneous material and personal attacks turns out to be the only workable format.

Since forests and cherished trees are under constant threat from timbering activities and development, situations arise where some of us find ourselves venting. Hard not to. But venting is always a slippery slope.

Bob
Robert T. Leverett
Co-founder, Native Native Tree Society
Co-founder and President
Friends of Mohawk Trail State Forest
Co-founder, National Cadre

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James Parton
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Re: Strongly held opinions

Post by James Parton » Mon Jun 07, 2010 9:27 am

Bob,

Did the guy drop out of ENTS under pressure or was he kicked out? Yeah, I remember his name but chose not to use it.

James
James E Parton
Ovate Course Graduate - Druid Student
Bardic Mentor
New Order of Druids

http://www.druidcircle.org/nod/index.ph ... Itemid=145

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