Over the weekend, I received the following short message from a Hotmail account:

Dr. Brembs,
Thank you for your work and insight. Students from my doctorate of psychology epistemological course have recently discussed your article entitled ‘Towards a scientific concept of free will as a biological trait‘.
Acknowledging my vastly inferior scientific skills and reputation compared to yourself, I must respectfully disagree, however, with your current world view – you could call it scientific or philosophical for all intents and purposes. I have nothing but respectful curiosity for your divergent opinion as a prominent scientist in an unequivocally lopsided debate favouring the quantitative materialistic and biological approach. Major ontological questions are still far from being answered.
What is your objective argument against an article such as the following one? I hope that, if you indeed have the time to read it and offer a reply, could set aside any potential bias against the other of the article should you already hold one:
Sincerely,
-name redacted-
-university redacted-
Ph.D. candidate
This email is full of signs that the student may not have been all that interested in any information or discourse, but instead trying to make some sort of ‘gotcha’ statement.
Acknowledging my vastly inferior scientific skills and reputation compared to yourself, I must respectfully disagree, however, with your current world view – you could call it scientific or philosophical for all intents and purposes.
Curiously, the author first states that their scientific training is lacking and then they disagree with a scientific position. One wonders if the author often disagrees with people who they admit are more competent.
In cases where I feel incompetent, I usually try to read and learn and ask for advice before I decide I’m competent enough to disagree. So either you are incompetent and ask for advice, or you are competent and disagree. You can’t have it both ways.Moreover, the use of the word ‘current’ with ‘world view’ assumes that I were to frequently change my world view, an assumption which I find highly unusual – does anybody frequently change their world view? If so, is the author’s current world view still the same as the one they held when they wrote the message?And, perhaps most importantly, I’d definitely refrain from so transparently and clumsily trying to flatter the person I’m trying to coax into a reaction – that would just make me look completely mental (pardon the pun).Already this sentence seems to indicate that the author has some catching up to do on more than just their scientific training…
I have nothing but respectful curiosity for your divergent opinion
What now? Opinion or world view? Or are these the same for the author? And is it curiosity or disagreement? Note: If you expect to be taken seriously, at least do not contradict yourself within the first few sentences of a message.
as a prominent scientist in an unequivocally lopsided debate favouring the quantitative materialistic and biological approach. Major ontological questions are still far from being answered.
Again, a clumsy attempt at flattering me, not good. I’m also torn as to what the author is trying to say here. For one, I’m not aware of any debate as to the material nature of our world (by ‘material’ I mean physical as opposed to, say, ghosts). So far, I have never met nor read nor heard of any colleague claiming they had observed ghosts interfere with their experiments. If there actually were a debate, I’m not surprised it is so unequivocally lopsided in favor of materialism – there is no evidence for ghosts. At least, I’m glad the author also finds that here are major questions to be answered – if not, as a scientist, I’d be out of a job! What would I do then?
What is your objective argument against an article such as the following one?
It appears, the author is expecting me to use subjective arguments in response to their message. So first they clumsily attempt to flatter me by saying how superior I am and now they try to insult me by expecting me to not be able to articulate an ‘objective’ argument? Way to go confirming my suspicions that there is more amiss with this author than just their scientific training. And I’m only allowed one such argument, not several?
As I see it, there are perhaps three simple rules one could take away from this:
  1. If you really want to have information, please state what you want to know or what you don’t understand, don’t beat about the bush.
  2. Don’t contradict yourself, neither by using different words for the same thing, nor by first flattering and then insulting me.
  3. If you happen to violate rules 1, 2 or both, at least use your institutional address or you might be taken for some random cook trying to troll.
Posted on  at 16:40