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

michael witzel witzel at FAS.HARVARD.EDU
Fri Feb 9 00:35:58 UTC 2007

Last word:

The invitation to Mahadevan is NOT a trap.
I will personally see to it that his comments will appear on the IER  



On Feb 8, 2007, at 6:33 PM, George Thompson wrote:

> 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 sport.
> 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 Indology.
> 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/>

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