[Indo-Eurasia] **The Farmer-Sproat-Witzel Model

George Thompson gthomgt at COMCAST.NET
Thu Feb 8 23:33:38 UTC 2007

Dear Michael, Lars Martin, and Reinhold,

I too am busy.  My publisher wants a manuscript in a few days.  So I 
will be brief.  It is de facto Steve's list.  He conceived of it.  He 
himself set it up on Yahoo.  And he runs it. Michael and Lars Martin 
simply legitimize it, occasionally helping out with the moderating 
duties, as I once did.  I think that it is legitimate to discuss the 
ethics of email-list moderation on an email list.

Reinhold, I think that you have misread the post that was sent to that 
list.  It was sent by a third party, giving notice of Mahadevan's 
article in the Hindu. Farmer took it over for his own purposes, as is 
his wont. 

Michael, you may wish to dismiss this as a personal matter, but, as a 
friend of Mahadevan, perhaps you should address the discussion of the 
treatment of Mahadevan here, instead of "leaving it apart."  Wasn't the 
treatment of him not a little abusive?  Mahadevan is an eminent 
Indologist.  This is an Indology list.  I think that it is legitimate to 
address the abuse of this Indologist on this list.

If the IER list, as you prefer to call it, is based on a publication 
model, why do you let so many uninformed Hindutva types on that list?  
Do you really consider discussions like the recent one on flying 
machines in Vedic worthy of publication?  Or is this just a kind of 
sport that you and Steve enjoy: skewering the crazies, like 
Kalyanaraman, et al?.  For someone who has many other, more pressing 
tasks to deal with, you do seem to spend a lot of time in this sort of 

Finally, list members, please note that I sent my initial post on this 
matter to three email lists that I felt would be appropriate places to 
discuss these matters.  My post was received by two of them.  The third 
list -- and its moderators -- have ignored it. 
This simply confirms my point that the so-called IER list is in fact 
*not* an open list, and that it would be foolish for someone like 
Mahadevan or Asko Parpola, or anyone else who disagrees with the Farmer 
Sproat Witzel thesis, or who disagrees about anything with one Steve 
Farmer, to enter into that obvious trap.

Dear Prof.  Mahadevan: this invitation is an obvious trap.  Please, 
don't step into it! 

Perhaps someone should pass the warning on to him, in the interest of 

Best wishes,

George Thompson

Michael Witzel wrote:

> Dear All,
> since Steve Farmer is not on this list (INDOLOGY), I answer briefly as 
> I am co-moderator of the Indo-Eurasian Research list @ Yahoo, along 
> with L.M. Fosse). Clearly, the IER list is not "Steve's list"!
> See: <http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Indo-Eurasian_research/>
> On Feb 8, 2007, at 9:22 AM, George Thompson wrote:
>> I know that my post will seem to many to be little more than a 
>> personal antagonism between me and Farmer, but it is more than that.
> But that is precisely what it is. I know the all of the  background, 
> which is not appropriate to be spread all over the net. We have enough 
> of that already (as I can testify to personally, for a decade... :^).
> In addition:
> The IER list is moderated for good reasons. INDOLOGY members will 
> remember that  Dominik had to reformat this list a few years ago when 
> the level of Hindutva sniping got too bad. We have learned from that.
> However, If there is *scholarly* disagreement, even heated exchanges, 
> fine. For example, one scholar of Indian grammar has publicly done so, 
> vociferously, several times, and has finally chosen to withdraw from 
> further  discussion, -- but he has not attacked the list as such on 
> other fora such as this.
> It also is important to note that our List uses a publication model, 
> unlike other lists.
> Further,  that we have  attempted to take on very central issues (some 
> discussed at great length, and over a year) such as our still ongoing 
> "stratification" discussion.
> In doing so, we have in fact broken new ground, and we have also 
> debunked many scholarly myths standard (Indus bricks, weights, etc 
> etc.)  ever since we started. This is possible as we have scholars 
> from some 30 fields who correct each other. No inbreeding.
> I leave apart the discussion about my friend Mahadevan's newspaper 
> article and Steve's invitation to him to discuss it in public. I think 
> Mahadevan is wrong in what he printed in the Hindu, and I have said so 
> on IER.
> Incidentally,  if some things were said about the F-S-W paper at 
> Madison in October 2005(?), this has not reached my ears yet. The 
> only  thing in writing  so far is a rather polemic paper by my friend  
> A. Parpola, his talk at Tokyo in June 2005, where I was present. There 
> was NO time for discussion! We did that a few weeks later, in his, M. 
> Kenoyer's, Steve's and my  presence, at Kyoto.  A good defense for the 
> "script" model did not emerge. Kenoyer conceded that the Indus signs 
> do not represent written language (like sentences)  but he still 
> called them a 'script' ...
> And that is all I will say about this topic. I have better things to 
> do... such as finalizing 2 book projects.
> Michael Witzel
>> Let me cite post #6030 of the IER list dated Monday, Feb. 5, 2007.  
>> In this post a notice is sent to the list of an article written by 
>> Mahadevan that expresses disagreement with the Farmer-Sproat-Witzel 
>> paper.  A paragraph from Mahadevan's article is quoted there.
>> Notice that the post is preceded by a moderator's note from Farmer 
>> that exceeds the length of the quoted passage, and notice too that it 
>> concludes with a long essay by Farmer, rebutting Mahadevan, an essay 
>> that is perhaps three times longer than the material quoted from the 
>> Mahadevan article.
>> In short, Mahadevan has been refuted even before he is invited to 
>> wade into this "debate."  Notice finally also that in the moderator's 
>> note, Farmer expresses doubt that Mahadevan will accept the challenge 
>> to debate on the Farmer list since Mahadevan is obviously wrong, and 
>> then a $10,000 "prize challenge" is offered -- once again! -- to 
>> anyone who can refute the Farmer-Sproat-Witzel thesis.
>> Needless to say, there are many good scholars on that list and there 
>> have been many informed discussions on it.
>> As one list member has written to me privately, this moderator 
>> handles the list more like "an impressario than a scholar."   Also, 
>> this list member reminds me of the South Asia conference in Madison 
>> in Oct. 2005, where many objections to the Farmer-Sproat-Witzel 
>> thesis were raised.  All of this is ignored on that list, however, as 
>> was my objection to the way that the Mahadevan invitation to debate 
>> was framed.  Why would anyone accept such an unfriendly invitation?
>> Dear list members, if you do not accept my characterization of this 
>> kind of list moderation, please offer me a better one.
>> Thank you for your response and your patience.
>> George Thompson
> Michael Witzel
> Department of Sanskrit and Indian Studies, Harvard University
> 1 Bow Street , 3rd floor, Cambridge MA 02138
> 1-617-495 3295           Fax: 496 8571
> direct line:       496 2990
> <http://www.fas.harvard.edu/~witzel/mwpage.htm>
> <http://groups.yahoo.com/group/compmyth>
> <http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Indo-Eurasian_research/>
> < http://users.primushost.com/~india/ejvs/>

More information about the INDOLOGY mailing list