Navel Gazing

I’m sure by now, some of you are wondering why there hasn’t been another Hard Conversations post. To be honest, I’ve been struggling about how to handle these posts.

If you’re not interested in a rather navel-gazy post, you can skip this one. The summary: Hard Conversations has been delayed because I’m tired of denialists using this as a forum to look respectable. To even the playing field, I’m changing my commenting policy.  

It’s become abundantly clear that by forcing my commentors to be civil, I’ve handicapped the pro-science contingent. Instead of providing a purely educational forum, every post becomes a haven for uninformed, willfully ignorant individuals to post gibberish.

During my OBGYN rotation especially I just don’t have the time to personally correct or censor every denialist who comes along and spouts tripe. The tipping point clearly came on HC:Vaccines and Autism, Part 4, when some idiot posted a patent to a fake AIDs cure. 

I’m hoping to enable those who haven’t made up their minds to learn about the subject. Unfortunately, but forcing my commentors to be civil, I worry that I’ve allowed for the appearance that being pro-infectious disease is a viable position. The reality is that this position gets mocked elsewhere because, once you are informed, it’s a laughable position.

I’ve tried to post straightforward, informative posts on this subject. I’ve committed to using the peer reviewed evidence as my guide. There is always at least one large review article on board. Despite this, the initial denialist response is always to make the issue seem more complicated. They post 1000 journal articles that are tangentially related, unrelated, or just terrible science to muddy the waters. They poison the well. They pharma shill. They Galileo.

Elsewhere, they would be immediately mocked. In doing so, the mockers are pointing out that the positions of the denialists are patently ridiculous. Yet I know that the mockery turns off some of the very people we want to reach.

The problem, I’ve realised, is that the majority of the denialists are intellectually dishonest. A few are true believers. A few are just insane. But most of them, are willfully ignorant. They choose to ignore the evidence. Worse, they choose to make it harder for others to understand the evidence.

I remain committed to having a civil, and informative discussion about these issues. However I am no longer willing to let the ridiculous pose as sensible, or even plausible. A free and open discussion can work, if it’s legitimately free. However this has never been a free and open discussion, right out the gates I’ve handicapped my biggest allies in this discussion: my brilliant readers.

Effective immediately I’m handicapping the ridiculous to  make things even. I’ll leave comments that I believe have been made in good faith. If you’re a mother, a father, a patient, and you post an honest question, or misunderstanding, your post won’t be affected.

If you’re an advocate, and your comment isn’t made to be a good faith constructive addition to the discussion, you’re comment will be immediately removed. If your comment is blatantly off topic, it’s gone. If your comment is a Gish Gallup, or stream of gibberish, it’s gone. If you present an assertion without a citation, I’m not even going to try to respond to you anymore, you’re just gone. Before my next HC post goes up, my disclaimers section will be updated appropriately.

Freedom is a wonderful thing. I’d love to have a free and civil discourse here. Freedom comes with responsibility, and here, that responsibility is to do your homework if you’re advocating. To emphasize this, check out my little subtitle thingy under “Beyond the Short Coat”, it now reads my new favorite Thomas Jefferson quote:

If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be

PS: Thanks to those of you who actually read through this far. I’ve started Gyn-oncology, so my time is still scarce. Posting frequency will go up to pre-OBGYN levels starting June 17th. Thanks to all of you for bearing with me, and continuing to read!

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6 Comments on “Navel Gazing”

  1. Noodle Says:

    While I’ve always respected bloggers who attempt to ensure that commenting on their blog is as open as possible, I also tend to have little sympathy for them when they bemoan the fact that they have to cull comments because some people simply can’t control themselves. This is not a public forum. You can do whatever you want to commenter’s posts and I will have no problem with it. If I feel the measures too draconian, I may go somewhere else, but I don’t begrudge a blogger control over their own blog. This blog is your soapbox, it’s not incumbent upon you to play so nice that others drown out what you’re trying to say. Your message is important. It will be nice to remove some of the noise so that it can be heard.

  2. catgirl Says:

    I’m sure that many bloggers started out with intentions as good as yours, and then learned a hard lesson the same way you did. It’s a shame that it has to be this way, but it’s your blog and you certainly have the right to remove threads that contain lies, are off-topic, or are repeats of arguments that have already been rebutted numerous times. If someone proves that they are unwilling to listen, it’s not a good use of time to keep trying. I guess no blog is immune from trolling.

  3. MXH Says:

    I think you’ve done a nice job dealing with the dishonest/misleading/irrelevant posts, so far (you’re way more civilized than I would be with them). But, I agree with the others, it takes away from your goal of educating those that have serious questions about the topic at hand.

  4. Katherine Says:

    I totally agree with what you’re doing Whitecoat, I certainly wouldn’t put up with logical fallacies or unsupported claims on my blog… if I had a blog.


  5. You guys should take a day or two to edit any medical article on Wikipedia. In my opinion, the woo-meisters run roughshod over anything resembling real science. The acupuncture article is one of my favorite. There’s a mathematician editor who watches over it with a stern hand, keeping out the scientific evidence that Acupuncture doesn’t work.

    This blog’s anti-science crowd pale compared the Wikipedia crazies.


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