Blogging Medicine Pseudoscience Quackery Skepticism/critical thinking

Crank argumentation

Arguing with cranks can be an extremely frustrating experience, which is why I don’t do it very often anymore except on my terms on this blog. Yes, I did cut my skeptical teeth, so to speak, for several years doing just that in the totally unmoderated and wild free-for-all known as Usenet before I dipped my toe into the blogosphere on a whim one cold December afternoon, but these days blogging has gotten me far more satisfaction, visibility, and influence than I could ever have dreamed possible. Consequently, I rarely visit my old stomping grounds anymore.

If you want to see the difference between how I handle dissent on my own blog and how cranks handle dissent on their forums, though, check out Andrew Mathis’ post on Holocaust Controversies about trying to debate on the Holocaust denier forum Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust (CODOH), entitled The Typical CODOH Debate, Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Idiots of the Führerbunker, a playlet by the Rev. Dr. Andrew E. Mathis, Ph.D., ULC, J.E.W.. (“J.E.W.”? Nice touch.) It’s a spot-on short demonstration of how a typical Holocaust denier “discussion forum” works.

Come to think of it, subtract the anti-Semitism and that’s just how alternative medicine advocates “win” such debates on CureZone, which has also been reported to censor and ban skeptics who have the temerity to persist in pointing out woo when they see it. You’ll note that here dissent is tolerated, even to the point of perhaps being tolerated too much, and only one commenter has ever been banned in the nearly three year history of this blog.

Andrew’s also written another good article that focuses on how Holocaust deniers abuse semantics in their attempts at denial. It’s eerie how much denier tactics can be generalized. I found myself thinking while reading this article about just how much these rhetorical devices resemble those of 9/11 Truthers, quacks, and “intelligent design” creationists.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

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