Seasons greetings (and an announcement)

Happy Holidays from your cranky but benevolent supercomputer blogger. He rests for now but will up the Insolence in the new year.

Given that the holiday known as Christmas, which is as much a secular holiday these days as a religious holiday, has snuck up on us before Orac could do one more post and is now less than two days away, Orac has decided that it is time to continue recharging his Tarial cells at least until December 26, when he plans on doing his usual Monday thing on a Tuesday and posting something that might seem familiar to anyone familiar with his other persona.

After that, Orac will likely post at least one bit of new Insolence next week (possibly more, if the mood takes him and there is something he just can’t wait to address). More likely, however, the week between Christmas and New Year will be slow as well, as Orac, having now been repaired and rejuvenated, wants to try to repair and rejuvenate this blog, which has been around for 19 years now, during the new year as the blog enters its 20th year of existence. (Also, a certain surgeon drew the short straw and is working next week, complete with operations and clinic, largely because he was on medical leave most of December before now.)

In any event, Orac, being a (usually) benevolent, albeit sarcastic, dictator on this blog, does wish all his fans, minions, detractors, and trolls a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, sort of. Let’s just say that Orac is not a fan, but in fairness he is warning Earthlings about the dangers of the holiday:

Beware! The Federation banned Christmas a century ago! “Keep Christmas in your own way, but do it quietly, for your own good!”

Also, Orac is coming for some new(-ish) misinformation that’s been popping up during the time when he was distracted by the repair work that he underwent earlier this month. Expect it, either next week or, at the very latest, very early in the New Year. In the meantime, consider this a semi-open thread.

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]

32 replies on “Seasons greetings (and an announcement)”

Seasons greetings to you and your family as well and a happy New Year. Wishing the desinformation spreaders take a big step back and take time to really study the things they think they know everything about, while they are completely ignorant. I hope they will finally know what they don’t know and stop spreading nonsense.

I doubt they ever will, but well, one can hope.

All pioneering ideas are initially perceived as misinformation and eventually break through disinformation. BTW, Orac the computer is simply an overachiever from the island of misfit toys. Santa knows and David Gorski was a good, and brilliant, little boy when he received it.

The notion that ALL pioneering ideas are initially perceived as misinformation seems a gross exaggeration. Many brilliant ideas in science are recognised immediately as a major advance and are welcomed as such.

Black holes, germ theory, wire-less communication (i.e. Nicholas Tesla) and the list goes on and on…

Here’s my point Leonard, misinformation and disinformation are an essential part of creativity. “WHY NOT” in the absence of information is the foundation of discovery.

Pioneering ideas are initially buried in misinformation and disinformation. For example, allergies have been considered a chronic disease. Medical science is now discovering beneficial aspects of the allergy cascade to inhibit cancer and cytokine storms.

Finally, there is gross misunderstanding when misinformation and disinformation is overly ridiculed and abandoned. Happy holidays!

Error is not misinfomation, even less disinformation.
As for black holes, they are direct result of the fact light has speed that is not infinite (Lagrange proved that in 18th century)
Tesla’s wireless communication ideas are still considered rubbish (though not disinformation. there were no intention to mislead).
Germ theory as considered wrong by believers of miasma.

I am not sure need a lesson in philosophy or progression of science. My point was simple: not all pioneering ideas are dismissed as misinformation. There maybe and often is a cross section of competing opinion about a particular ‘advance’ but as Orac pointed out some advances are recruited immediately, if not by everybody in the field.. Science thrives on competing ideas and opinion: trial and error.

You do not seem to differentiate between mis- and dis- information. One is a mistake the other is purposely designed to mislead the recipient. this latter cannot be overly ridiculed – it needs that and more.

Leonard Sugarman writes,

“One is a mistake the other is purposely designed to mislead the recipient.”

MJD says,

That’s why MJD used the allergy cascade (i.e., chronic disease) example to show mis- and dis- information can be used as an opportunity for discovery.

Here’s my point Leonard, misinformation and disinformation are an essential part of creativity.

In a way, if by creativity you mean spreading things that aren’t true.

Misinformation is a lack of knowledge or a lack of understanding. Disinformation is outright dishonesty, spread with an intent to mislead.

You seem to deal in both.

Correct. For example, I seem to recall that Einstein’s theory of relativity was recognized by most physicists as a breakthrough right from the beginning. Ditto a lot of breakthroughs in classical physics. Even Marshall and Warren’s discovery that Helicobacter pylori causes peptic ulcer disease was not greeted with anywhere near the hostility as the common quack narrative would lead you to believe.

I seem to remember that discovery being treated more with a “Wow, it was under our noses all along”.

A lot of the big advances don’t make waves, because there is no controversy about them. You don’t get groups of people refusing to accept the new ideas. When PCR was discovered, it was a case of “let’s do this”.

I like to point out to the Galileo gambit practitioners that is almost always non-scientists who dispute these controversial scientific ideas that finally get accepted. If scientists overwhelmingly think your idea is wrong over a period of time, it is because your idea is wrong.

All pioneering ideas are initially perceived as misinformation …

Not at all. Perhaps some, but all — no. But I’m not at all surprised that you don’t know the difference between universal and existential quantifiers — your ignorance knows no bounds.

“largely because he was on medical leave most of December before now”

So was the repair to your hardware/software under warranty, or did that pass long ago? Since you are a cranky computer.

I am a wee bit older than you, and have had some issues. But like you, I do exercise and have lost weight, and my blood pressure is much lower. We just need to keep moving.

Merry Christmas, and have a good 2024.

Chris: Contact me offline, and, since you’re such a longtimer on this blog, I’ll tell you what it was all about; that is, if you’re interested.

Since it’s Christmas Eve, I’m reposting this parody of “A visit from St. Nicholas”. You must imagine that Santa has had a very long night, with too much brandy and rich food, and is tired, stressed out and fed up.
‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the House,
Everyone felt shitty, even the mouse.
Mum at the brothel, Dad smoking Grass,
and me settled down with a nice piece of arse,
when all through the window there came such a clatter,
I sprang from my lay to see what was the matter.
Then out on the lawn I saw a huge prick.
I knew right away it must be St. Nick.
He came down our chimney like a bat out of Hell.
I knew in an instant the fucker had fell.
He stuffed all our stockings with whiskey and beer,
and a pink plastic dildo for my brother the queer.
He rose up the chimney with a thunderous fart.
The son of a bitch blew our fireplace apart!
He cursed and he swore as he went on his way,
“Piss on you all! It’s been a hell of a day!”

In other news….

Frequent RI commenter and SubStack creator, Igor Chudov, has been contacted by NewsGuard: they have questions about him personally and his posts. As you may already know, this service rates the accuracy of news sources and websites.

It’s interesting how many of the people I survey mention services like this, CCDH and Wikipedia. They don’t seem to like them very much.

I have a quick system to differentiate actual information from mis-information/ dis-information. If it disagrees with most everything you’ve read or know, it might be a problem. Being a contrarian/ denialist gets attention in an easy way: you just oppose general information or knowledge and set yourself as an arbiter of truth, over-arching reality quite simply and elegantly.

As I’ve illustrated here, strongly revelatory signs can be beliefs that contradict complex, longstanding scientific results ( vaccines cause autism, vaccines kill) but there are more subtle cues that fill us in well before any grand pronouncements are made:
if you listen or read closely, you might find mis-pronunciations, misused idioms, malapropisms, neologisms, mis-quotes, odd grammar and sentence structure.
Or getting simple, well known facts entirely wrong. I hear this all of the time on Natural News exemplifies this extremely well.

I must note that Igor does quite well for an EFL/ ESL writer – no glaring language faux pas BUT he overplays the first offence.
When I hear/ read the first type of error, I immediately cancel any respect for the author’s positions overall but the second should be much more foreboding because it means that they can’t even get language/ basic knowledge straight.

I used to love Wikipedia and spent many hours reading it about various things, until approximately 2020. Unfortunately, as you mention discussing authors, Wikipedia went downhill in many respects.

Regarding my own writings: I try hard to edit them to be grammatically correct and for readability. To that end, I have a paid subscription to Grammarly, which I cannot recommend enough, especially for people for whom English is not a native language.

I also edit, re-edit and re-read my posts many times prior to posting. The final look involves me reading them aloud, which catches many mistakes that cannot be caught by reading alone. (such as repetitive words) I also recheck every calculation.

As for neologisms and malapropisms, I try very hard to avoid them because they make text sound like it was written by a schizophrenic. I do realize that Substack is a great way to monetize mental illness, but my own desire is to make things sound well thought out.

Newsguard is a political tool used to dominate discourse, it has nothing to do with truth, impartiality, etc. I would not want to confer it any legitimacy.

Unfortunately, as you mention discussing authors, Wikipedia went downhill in many respects.


That’s because Wikipedia has built up over the last couple of decades contingent of volunteer editors who fight a never-ending battle to keep cranks like Igor at bay and prevent tampering with articles, which means that most Wikipedia articles on scientific and medical topics, as well as quacks, antivaxxers, and cranks are, from a scientific perspective, surprisingly accurate and free from pseudoscience. They also correctly label conspiracy theories as conspiracy theories.

No wonder Igor doesn’t like Wikipedia anymore.

Newsguard is a political tool used to dominate discourse, it has nothing to do with truth, impartiality, etc. I would not want to confer it any legitimacy.

Shorter Igor: I don’t like facts or anything that points out that I’m lying.

Oh, how I recall the Wikipedia wars!
Several alties got their knickers in a twist when W revealed realistic information about their background, education, history and positions.
Some sue the outlet for huge amounts of money. To no avail.
Talk archives for each subject display how much their supporters try to obfuscate or erase exposed facts. Luckily, there are Guerilla Sceptics.
While I’ve been a supporter, I never edited anything.

Alt med, anti-vax and contrarian writers absolutely need to attack or denigrate standard sources, mainstream media, governmental agencies, experts and universities because their own material is based solely on their own opinions, biased views, partisanship and poor data and its worthless interpretation.
If their followers went to Wikipedia or fact checkers, they would dismiss them immediately. One alt med guru has written over 70 diatribes against Wikipedia.
I would ask them: If we should not accept mainstream news, experts and universities, why should we accept your sorry fiction?

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