About Respectful Insolence

On a cold, gray, dreary Saturday in December 2004, I sat down and, almost on a whim, started the very first version of Respectful Insolence on Blogspot, a version I now call Respectful Insolence, Mark I. I had been active on the wild West world of discussion forums known as Usenet for several years before that, having gotten my start refuting online Holocaust denial and later discovering just how much quackery there is on the Internet. In the process I became a skeptic very much interested in promoting science, particularly in medicine, and combatting pseudoscience, misinformation, and conspiracy theories.

However, discussions on Usenet rarely reached a particularly wide audience, and I wanted to try what was then this relatively newfangled blogging thing to reach a wider audience. So I did, taking as my nom de blog a cantankerous computer named Orac, which was played by a clear Plexiglass box of blinking multicolored lights and voiced (mostly) by the late, great Peter Tuddenham in an obscure British SF TV series from the late 1970s/early 1980s known as Blakes 7. The name of this blog is therefore a play on one of Orac’s catchphrases, “A statement of fact cannot be insolent.” Of course, we all know that a statement of fact can be very insolent, depending on how it is delivered, but that was part of the irony. To my surprise, within six months I had achieved some notoriety as a skeptical medical blogger, although in those early days my subject matter tended to range much more widely, involving medicine, science, pseudoscience (particularly antivaccine pseudoscience), quackery, evolution, creationism, Holocaust denial, history, and sometimes politics.

A little more than a year later, I was asked to join a new blog collective known as ScienceBlogs, which I did in February 2006. This is what I now call Respectful Insolence, Mark II. There I remained for nearly 12 years, dishing out the same Respectful (and not-so-Respectful, as indicated) Insolence. Over time, my focus sharpened until most of my writing involved promoting science-based medicine. I was “outed” many times by cranks, quacks, and antivaxers, but kept my pseudonym, mainly out of an Orac-like cantankerousness, but most importantly because I liked it. Indeed, whenever I hear complaints by new commenters that I am “anonymous” or “hiding,” I laugh. Basically, my real identity is about the worst-kept secret in the skeptical blogosphere, and I view discovering it as a minimal intelligence test that many “critics” fail, something I find particularly amusing given that my real name is on this site and social media links easily lead to it.

It was a great run, but eventually all good things must come to an end. So it was that in October 2017 I was informed by the Powers-That-Be at ScienceBlogs that the site would be shutting down at the end of the month. It was an amazing run, but the impending closure of the blog necessitated a frantic effort to transfer nearly 12 years’ worth of posts to the current site, which I now like to refer to as Respectful Insolence, Mark III. Here, I continue my little hobby of critically examining claims made in medical science, analyzing scientific studies in the news (or that just interest me), refuting pseudoscientific claims made by quacks, cranks, and antivaxers and will hopefully continue for another 13 years.

Read, explore, and (I hope) learn something and enjoy.

October 2017

ADDENDUM: A Note about URLs, images, and comments from the old version of Respectful Insolence

URLs: Both Mark II and Mark III of this blog use the same link structure. I’ve tried to convert all the internal links to the new link structure, but if you come upon a broken link from the old ScienceBlogs site, here’s how to find the new version of the post: Simply replace “scienceblogs.com/insolence” in the old link with “respectfulinsolence.com” and you should have the correct link. In posts before around July 2012, when ScienceBlogs changed from Movable Type to WordPress, there are likely to be links ending in “.php.” These are old Movable Type links that were not properly updated in the transition. They are likely to remain broken forever, unfortunately. I’m trying to set up redirects as I become aware of these links or just to fix them in the original article. Hopefully, if you read any of those old posts, you will still be able to enjoy them without necessarily being able to follow the internal links. I’m sorry about that, but fixing all of them would simply be too monumental a task. If you’re really determined and want to follow one of those links, simply remove the “.php” extension and change every “_” to a “-” and in the vast majority of cases you’ll be taken to the correct link and article.

Images: Unfortunately, given the hurried nature of the transition to Mark III, forced upon me by not very much notice on the part of Scienceblogs, many images in posts older than October 2017 did not make the transition over to the new platform. I fix them as I find them, either deleting unimportant images that produce the dreaded blank box with a red “X” in the middle or going back to Archive.org to find important images and re-insert them, but there are over 5,500 posts on this blog and who knows how many images missing or with broken links to the image. Chances are that a lot of these images will never be fixed, particularly for posts more than a couple of years old. (No, I’m not going to be searching every post from 2006 looking for lost images; I just don’t have the time.) Sorry about that. Hopefully the text is enough in those cases.

Comments: Also unfortunately, given the hurried nature of the transition to Mark III, many comments didn’t get transferred over. Most are from posts dating back to 2009 or earlier, but there are some more recent posts missing significant numbers of comments. This occurred because of my inexperience transferring a WordPress blog over to a new platform and my initial choice of an underpowered shared hosting platform, the latter of which resulted in frequent timeouts during transfers of backups larger than a certain size. I still have the archives; so it’s possible that one day I’ll figure out how to get all the comments over, but given that the missing comments date back to at least 9 years ago, I have a hard time motivating myself to do all the work that it would take to restore those comments. Basically, about one-sixth of the total comments from February 2006 to October 2017 didn’t make it over to the new blog, the vast majority of them from the early 2006-2009 period.

Update, August 2018: The old ScienceBlogs website has been purchased by Science 2.0, a blog collective founded by Hank Campbell. That’s bad news and somewhat good news. The somewhat good news is that my archives of Respectful Insolence, Mark II are back, so that if you ever want to see comments from early posts that didn’t make it over, you can just search for the title of the post on the old site to find it. The bad news is that Hank Campbell is President of the American Council for Science and Health (ACSH) an industry-promoting astroturf group. It’s also not clear whether the new owners have the right to continue to host my content and the content of all the other ScienceBlog bloggers, because it is not clear from the language in our contracts that ScienceBlogs could legally sell the limited right to host our content to another entity. Also, the 301 redirects that the old management of ScienceBlogs had set up for its bloggers are gone, which means we’ve lost all the Google juice we had from them and that old links no longer redirect to the new site. These are things I’ll have to deal with going forward, but hopefully they won’t affect your enjoyment of this blog.

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