Respectful Insolence

Sadly, the death crud continues apace, although at a low enough level that I feel I can eke out a brief post, mainly because it relates to what I’ve been saying all along about a group blog that I tend to dislike. Both Shifting Baselines and DrugMonkey have pointed out that Huffington Post blogger David Sloan Wilson has asked if it should have a science section. As part of the article, he offers the “only” argument why not:

The only argument against creating a “Science” section, as far as I can see, is that it would be B-O-R-I-N-G. Sure we should know about science, and we should also eat our vegetables and exercise daily, but that’s not what causes people to visit websites. I think that this argument fails for two reasons. First, it only works for media outlets driven purely by entertainment, such as People magazine. Media outlets that strive for the intellectual high ground have an obligation to report substance. Second, who says that science must be boring? Done right, science journalism can be riveting, especially when it is used to understand and improve the human condition, as it increasingly is in my own field of evolutionary biology.

A far better reason that the Huffington Post should not start up a science section is because of its history of already having a pseudoscience section. One wonders why Wilson didn’t mention this.

Let’s go back into time nearly three years ago, when the Huffington Post first came into being. A mere two weeks after its inception, I noticed that antivaccinationist pseudoscience was running rampant on its blogs. In a brief period of time, there were two articles by that mercury militia enabler and master of deceptive rhetoric David Kirby, an article by Janet Grilo, and crunchy Santa Monica pediatrician to the stars Dr. Jay Gordon (who’s also been associated with HIV/AIDS denialism). And let’s not forget all the articles by antivaccinationist Deirdre Imus and conspiracy theorist Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. over the last three years.

Let’s also not forget the biggest reason of all that the HuffPo has zero credibility as a source of science: The regular forum that it gives to that master of all things woo, Deepak Chopra. Whether he’s saying stupid things about genes, inane things about evolution, pushing the dubious “PEAR” studies, and major woo about dualism and universal consciousness, no one turns the woo up to 11 like Chopra. Indeed, so intense is the woo that Chopra routinely dishes out on the Huffington Post that I even coined a term for it: Choprawoo.

Sloan concludes:

I also think that if many scientists can be persuaded to blog for the Huffington Post, then something new and magnificent might emerge–a forum for scientists to engage in the actual scientific process, in full view of the general public. When the scientific process works as it is supposed to, it is more accountable than almost any other social process. If there is one thing lacking in popular culture today, it is accountability. The idea of putting the scientific process on display on the virtual pages of the Huffington Post makes me positively giddy with excitement.

The wag in me can’t help but counter that we already have the beginnings of such a place. It’s called ScienceBlogs. I also can’t help but point out to Dr. Wilson that the Huffington Post should clean out all the woo, antivaccinationist pseudoscience, and New Age idiocy from its pages before even contemplating a science section. Dr. Wilson should first petition Arianna Huffington to clean out the dreck, such as David Kirby, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Deirdre Imus, and Deepak Chopra. Otherwise, any “science section” in the Huffington Post is likely either to be a joke or to be in such marked contrast to the proclivities of the rest of the blog that it would be hard to take seriously.

Comments

  1. #1 Blake Stacey
    March 25, 2008

    Well said.

    I wouldn’t mind seeing more sites like ScienceBlogs, maybe focused on particular subjects or distinguished in some other way. HuffPo is not the right place for them, however, and it won’t be so until it’s had a major house-cleaning.

  2. #2 fontinalis
    March 25, 2008

    Seriously, if the Huffington Post wants to take any steps toward scientific literacy, the first thing they have to do is get rid of that con man, Deepak Chopra. That alone would be a contribution to public enlightenment that no manner of blogs, produced by even the best science writers, could achieve.

    The best path to recovery is to first eliminate the disease.

  3. #3 melior
    March 25, 2008

    Science, boring?!

    As the sex counselor once gently admonished, “Perhaps you’re not doing it right.”

  4. #4 Frederick Ross
    March 25, 2008

    I’m amused by the idea that writing blog articles is the scientific process. I always thought it was sitting at my bench staring at my data in bewilderment, then trying another experiment based on the crazy idea I just came up with about what might have gone awry.

  5. #5 Coin
    March 25, 2008

    I wouldn’t mind seeing more sites like ScienceBlogs, maybe focused on particular subjects or distinguished in some other way.

    Something I continually notice is that scienceblogs seems to be kind of the internet’s central hub for the biology blogosphere, whereas the “physics blogosphere” is (while possibly about equal to scienceblogs in size) more decentralized. I think the physics blogosphere works better as a series of decentralized sites like this than it would as a centralized site like scienceblogs, but sometimes I wonder if there’s some way there could be a more clearly defined “entrance” or aggregator type site for the scattered collection of physics blogs. I read scienceblogs for a good long time before I ever became really aware of the physics blog constellation, and even now when someone asks me what physics blogs are good I don’t really know what to say beyond basically “go to Not Even Wrong and read through the blogroll”.

  6. #6 Dr. Val
    March 25, 2008

    Actually, I’d love to see a new aggregate of quality science blogs form at Revolution Health. The difference with our platform is that we are for a lay audience (the very audience most vulnerable to woo-meisters). So anyone out there who’d like to translate medical/science info for patients, please drop me a line. Our oncology blogger, Dr. Lenz, has actually saved a life with his evidence-based information. I’d love to see more of this!

  7. #7 Marilyn
    March 25, 2008

    Have you noticed that Mehmet Oz writes a column for Reader’s Digest? The following thing he wrote on ezetimibe and ENHANCE would be very confusing to the average person:

    “OzBuzz

    The Real Deal on Cholesterol Drugs

    Earlier this year, we learned that the cholesterol-lowering drug Vytorin wasn’t as powerful as we once thought. Turns out, the drug, a combination of Zetia and the statin Zocor, lower LDL (bad) cholesterol more than Zocor alone but doesn’t reduce plaque in the arteries. Does this mean you should skip Zetia and Vytorin? Not necessarily.

    The Good

    Zetia doesn’t seem to prevent plaque from rupturing (statins do) but can help people at high risk if statins, diet and exercise don’t lower LDL below 100.

    The Not So Good

    Zetia may decrease HDL (good) cholesterol, so it’s often not the best choice for people over 60, as there’s no great benefit for them in lowering LDL if they don’t raise HDL.

    Other Options

    Drugs alone aren’t the answer. When you cut back on simple carbs and saturated fat, your LDL has fewer of the toxic by-products that can lead to a heart attack.

    Bottom Line

    This was just one study, so talk to your doctor about what’s right for you before you stop taking these or any drugs.

    – Mehmet C. Oz, M.D.”

    The bit about people over 60 not benefiting from LDL-lowering unless their HDL goes up has no basis that I know of.

    Ezetimibe usually raises HDL slightly.

    The part about ezetimibe not preventing plaque from rupturing goes beyond our current state of knowledge.

    Weird.

    Marilyn

  8. #8 Maia Szalavitz
    March 25, 2008

    I’m a blogger for both Scientific American’s 60 Second Science– and HuffingtonPost; also published in New Scientist, the Washington Post, New York Times, Reason, Cerebrum, Seed and many other major publications.

    I really like and have linked your blog in the past– but I think you are dead wrong here. You fight pseudoscience with good science, not by avoiding writing for the number 1 blog on the net so that only woo gets in.

  9. #9 daedalus2u
    March 25, 2008

    Wow, the hypocrisy it burns!

    “If there is one thing lacking in popular culture today, it is accountability.”

    Very simple way to increase the “accountability” of the HuffingtonPost. Not censor comments that expose the lies and pseudoscience of the quacks and frauds. Will that ever happen?

    I think we know the answer to that question.

  10. #10 Richard Eis
    March 25, 2008

    If they did it on Thursdays you would always have material for your Friday woo section. Just think of the time you would save.

  11. #11 Richard Eis
    March 25, 2008

    If they did it on Thursdays you would always have material for your Friday woo section. Just think of the time you would save.

  12. #12 Joseph
    March 25, 2008

    I’d be all for a Science Fiction section. David Kirby’s blog would fit right in.

  13. #13 Sastra
    March 25, 2008

    I second Maia, above. I’m really surprised at your reaction. I would have expected “well, about time for the HuffPo.” The most direct way to attack pseudoscience is to go to forums where they are popular and counter them with good science, better information. I run into far too many people who really can’t tell genuine physics apart from the stuff Chopra spews. They think he is mainstream, and are quite surprised when I tell them he’s not.

    Scienceblogs is great — but, aside from the few who come on to debate, when it comes to pseudoscience, it’s mostly preaching to the choir. The people who really need to be reached frequent less science-specific areas.

    Let there be a science section in the Huffington Post which actually argues directly with the nonsense they may also post. Audiences love a fight. Why give woo an open field? The people with the disadvantage here are not going to be the folks writing the science section (assuming they don’t ask Chopra to head it, of course…)

  14. #14 royniles
    March 25, 2008

    What Scienceblogs lack is traffic from those who most need exposure to a new point of view. A section in Huff Post might make those people less wary of exposure to some dangerous ideas. Dr. Wilson gets quite a bit of traffic on his blog already, given that he posts something new more like monthly than daily.
    The question is of course, can they get more bloggers of his quality He seems to think so, and there’s a presumption there that he’ll have something to do with assuring that quality.
    The biggest plus could be that Arianna Huffington will raise her personal standards for objectivity and accuracy in the process.

  15. #15 anonimouse
    March 25, 2008

    Considering the wildly psuedoscientific bent that the Huff has taken in the past, does anyone really believe that credible scientific journalism will gain a foothold there?

    Let me answer that question simply – it won’t. It will be censored. It will be watered-down. And the wacky fearmongers will flood the comments with more tripe that you can shake a stick at.

    What’s next? Orac setting up a blog at CureZone? Please.

  16. #16 Joseph
    March 25, 2008

    Allow me to digress a bit here, but what ScienceBlogs needs before anything else is not to crash so often.

  17. #17 Orac
    March 25, 2008

    I really like and have linked your blog in the past– but I think you are dead wrong here. You fight pseudoscience with good science, not by avoiding writing for the number 1 blog on the net so that only woo gets in.

    You’re missing the point, which was that I have zero confidence that the Huffington Post can produce good science writing on a consistent basis for a science section. Based on its history, my prediction is that any science section it came up with would become in short order a pseudoscience section. I base my assessment on the HuffPo’s long history of giving a voice to vaccine pseudoscience and New Age woo under the guise of science. I base my assessment further on the HuffPo’s long history of censoring comments that try to take antivaccinationists or pseudoscientists to task for their misinformation and lies.

    No, a science section is putting the cart before the horse. HuffPo needs to prove that it can purge itself of such misinformation first. To me, it has zero credibility when it comes to science, and good science writing there is the exception, rather than the rule.

  18. #18 Badger3k
    March 25, 2008

    Orac fot Huffington Post blogger! Do the Friday section, please.

  19. #19 yoyo
    March 26, 2008

    Speaking of woo , i would love to see orac tackle this one. not only is the army destroying lives in a worthless war they The military is scrambling for new ways to treat the traumatic brain injuries and post-trauma stress of troops returning home from war. And every kind of therapy — no matter how far outside the accepted medical form — is being considered. The Army just unveiled a $4 million program to investigate everything from “spiritual ministry, transcendental meditation, [and] yoga” to “bioenergies such as Qi gong, Reiki, [and] distant healing” to mend the psyches of wounded troops. from Boing Boing

    http://blog.wired.com/defense/

    Seems like 10′s of thousands injured is not horrific enough, now the poor bastards are going to get woo pushed down their throats.

  20. #20 Blake Stacey
    March 26, 2008

    Coin:

    I think the physics blogosphere works better as a series of decentralized sites like this than it would as a centralized site like scienceblogs, but sometimes I wonder if there’s some way there could be a more clearly defined “entrance” or aggregator type site for the scattered collection of physics blogs.

    Something like Jacques Distler’s Planet Musings, with whatever added bells and whistles and gongs we could think up?

  21. #21 Coin
    March 26, 2008

    Blake:

    Actually… yes, just about exactly. Actually that’s pretty great as it is. I will have to start reading it.

    (On a distantly related note, awhile back I made a site specifically designed to make it easy to create custom rss aggregators for public consumption, but the usability and motivation are dubious and nobody uses it except my friends from the video game forum.)

  22. #22 Shirakawasuna
    March 26, 2008

    Orac, stop trying to censor criticism with your demands to remove Chopra! Darwinist Nazi! Academic freedom!

    I make no apologies for saying stupid and inane things.

  23. #23 Paul
    March 26, 2008

    Sorry Orac, I’m with Maia on this. I know that the Huffington Post has a pretty poor record on scientific issues but it is the premier left-of-centre online newspaper. It’s an audience that scientists need to win over if we are to have a hope of implementing more sensible science policies, and of countering the various anti-scientific movements of left and right out there.

    Standing back and refusing to get involved until the Huffington post meets some standard on scientific issues is not a terribly good idea, at best it will mean that the Huff Post drops the science section idea altogether and carries on as now, at worst it will go ahead and the result will be a science section dominated by woo and misrepresentation.

    I believe that a large proportion of Huffington Post readers, probably the majority, are open to persuasion by well written scientific arguments. It would be a shame if the scientific community was scared off by the woo-loving minority.

    Science advocates should take this opportunity to engage with the editors of the Huffington post, submit articles, let them know that they’re available to comment on issues or write about them. Some editors there may even want to change direction but need something to take to their colleagues and superiors to persuade them to go along with it.

    ScienceBlogs is great but I suspect that most of its readers are either already on side or opponents of reason looking to see what the other side are up to. If you want to win over the mainstream you need to move outside the comfort zone.

    At least you could give it a try!

  24. #24 Paul
    March 26, 2008

    Sorry about the double post, my browser was playing up!

  25. #25 Phoenix Woman
    March 26, 2008

    I agree with Maia, too: You can’t just keep preaching to the converted. You gotta go out and take the fight to the woomeisters in the biggest online forum there. Holing up in the safe walled garden of ScienceBlogs won’t win over any hearts and minds.

  26. #26 yogi-one
    March 26, 2008

    HuffPo was interesting a few years ago, but as it became more and more of an online “people mag” type site, I lost interest. When when they went to their present look, I dropped out completely. When it was blogger based, you could at least go a blog post you thought had substance and sometimes see intelligent responses.

    But now the site is not a blog. It’s an advertiser- and celebrity-driven magazine. Any good blog posts are obscured and have very little discussion, while the headline news articles get thousands of comments by every idiot who has learned the online equivalent of farting, so its not even worth reading.

    A better idea would be to have HuffPo create a section for the ScienceBlogs, a small piece of real estate with say, a small video feed of something featured that day on the science blogs, and when readers click on it, it takes you to ScienceBlogs.

    That would bring out the HuffPo readers who actually are interested in the stuff on ScienceBlogs, and it would bring the woos who visited into your ballpark, instead of your scientists playing on Arianna’s homefield.

    HuffPo would probably not even agree to that, but if a test run (if you could even get that far) generated readership for HuffPo, they might consider it.

    But your basic problem here is that HuffPo is not a news site, it’s an entertainment site.

    I think you might have more success looking to partner with some other big online magazine/news sites, like Time or New York Times, or the CNN site. CNN in particular might be a good place to shop around the idea of a science blogging section.

  27. #27 yogi-one
    March 26, 2008

    HuffPo was interesting a few years ago, but as it became more and more of an online “people mag” type site, I lost interest. When when they went to their present look, I dropped out completely. When it was blogger based, you could at least go a blog post you thought had substance and sometimes see intelligent responses.

    But now the site is not a blog. It’s an advertiser- and celebrity-driven magazine. Any good blog posts are obscured and have very little discussion, while the headline news articles get thousands of comments by every idiot who has learned the online equivalent of farting, so its not even worth reading.

    A better idea would be to have HuffPo create a section for the ScienceBlogs, a small piece of real estate with say, a small video feed of something featured that day on the science blogs, and when readers click on it, it takes you to ScienceBlogs.

    That would bring out the HuffPo readers who actually are interested in the stuff on ScienceBlogs, and it would bring the woos who visited into your ballpark, instead of your scientists playing on Arianna’s homefield.

    HuffPo would probably not even agree to that, but if a test run (if you could even get that far) generated readership for HuffPo, they might consider it.

    But your basic problem here is that HuffPo is not a news site, it’s an entertainment site.

    I think you might have more success looking to partner with some other big online magazine/news sites, like Time or New York Times, or the CNN site. CNN in particular might be a good place to shop around the idea of a science blogging section.

  28. #28 jayh
    March 26, 2008

    you’ve got a a point and Maia also has a point.

    One idea would be for a a running updated link page with selected links to Scienceblog (and other) posts of significance. Update it daily (perhaps something like aldaily.com does with culture and current events)

    Now we just need a volunteer editor

  29. #29 royniles
    March 26, 2008

    The assumption that you needn’t try to teach something to those who have otherwise been too dumb to pick it up may be based on another assumption that education must be sought before it is offered.

  30. #30 Coin
    March 26, 2008

    So aside from Maia’s point about tactics, there is a practical issue here: It is Orac’s belief that if the Huffington Post actually wanted to help public understanding of science, they would first stop granting platform and legitimacy to antiscience. Okay, this is a quite valid point. Thing is, this is really unlikely to happen. Look at their science section proposal there: do you see anything in there indicating they are trying to help public understanding of science? No, they just think they have a gap in the content on their website and they want to fill it. This is not a call to change the direction of the site. This is a call to add stuff to the site.

    It seems to me Huffington Post would be way more receptive to the idea of adding science content which balances or rebuts their alt-med stuff than they would be to remove existing content; since there are several issues on which they already simultaneously publish views which are 180 degrees off from each other, this just seems like more their style. If there were a chance on HuffPo taking action against Kirby/Chopra or at least forcing them to face a factchecker, that would be one thing. But I don’t think that’s being offered as an option here. In fact, although I don’t follow them closely, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of the Huffington Post dropping a writer ever. I think there are two possibilities: Either the people who read the Huffington Post get some actual rationalist content to counteract the alt-med stuff; or nothing happens at all. Wouldn’t the first outcome be better, if it could be swung?

    I also note (if Seed would be okay with this) it might well be possible to just plain set something up where selections from scienceblogs writers appear from time to time on the Huffington Post. An awful lot, maybe most, of the content on the Huffington Post is simultaneously crossposted on other blogs.

    In particular, I honestly wonder if these comments about starting a science section could be used to induce the Huffington Post to run some of the posts by Orac or the Hoofnagles about the actual state of what science tells us about vaccines, mercury, and autism. And, of course, if I’m wrong that this is a possibiilty– if the Huffington Post started running articles on some scientific subjects but refused when offered to run those science articles that contradict their friend David Kirby– then wouldn’t that expose quite neatly and publicly that, as Orac has believed all along, the site simply has an antivaccine/anti-medicine bias and agenda?

  31. #31 Hank Roberts
    March 26, 2008

    > Huffington Post has a pretty poor record on scientific
    > issues but it is the premier left-of-centre online newspaper

    Ack! How can you believe both these things at the same time?
    Unless you also believe people left of center are witless nits

    I tried reading HP a while back off and on. Calling it a
    ‘People Mag’ type site seems about right. Boring, if you like facts. Useless, if you expect cites to sources.

    It’s an ad vehicle.

  32. #32 Phil
    March 26, 2008

    As a committed lefty, I am amused at the right wing’s doctrinaire medieval rejection of science when it goes against their fundie Christian viewpoints. I am less amusedm in fact appalled when lefties drag out the anti-business-pharma-science canard. In fact it makes me scream and kick my laptop. When the left denies science, they provide ammunition to the right as to what a bunch of loonies liberals are. And I am hard pressed to argue against them. I personally know several 9/11 conspiracy theorists among my lefty friends who just can’t process the science of the whole thing. I wouldn’t hold me breath waiting for the Huffpost to get real. But you never know. It took a generation for the righties to convince Americans to vote against their own interests.

  33. #33 Ryan Somma
    March 26, 2008

    Phil Plait blogs on Huffington. I’ve found his science opinions more informed than ScienceBlogs, which has been known to chase the occasional unicorn from time to time. Every site has some quackery. You produce better science through dialog, not by telling people who can and can’t talk science.

    Drop the Ivory Tower bit. It turns people off.

  34. #34 anonimouse
    March 26, 2008

    I hate to rattle the same cage – but c’mon people, this is the freaking Huffington Post. The same website that has given lunatics like Jay Gordon, David Kirby and RFK Jr. a bully pulpit (while squashing any dissent to their viewpoints) isn’t going to have a legitimate “science section”. It won’t happen.

    They want to push their pseudoscientific fear-mongering agenda, nothing more, and credible scientists posting on that blog in rebuttal – quite frankly – gives that useless website more legitimacy than it deserves.

  35. #35 Turkeyfish
    March 27, 2008

    I enjoy Huffington Post not so much as entertainment but rather as one of a number of scources that will tap into alternate perspectives to corporate mainstream media and for the potential of simply discovering something new because one has added yet another place where one might look for insight into human affairs that may impact on the conduct of science and more broadly on reasoning within a democratic society. I guess I could say the same for Science or Nature magazines in a sense, although to be fair it is a lot easier to provide contrary opinions at Huffington Post than any science journal, albeit perhaps with good reason.

    As for Science coverage, if one does a little searching of virtually all News websites, Reuters, Fox, CNN, NBC, BBC, etc., one will usually find a Science/Technology section (oddly not at Pravda; sometimes separated). However, in most cases the stories that are actually covered are more technology or human interest and less science and the science stories themselves tend to be focused more as show and tell rather than efforts to explain scientific concepts that relate either to the significance of the finding or to its broader consequences to future directions in science. Palenontological discovery are often over sampled. In large part are well covered as discoveries, but typically less so in terms of implications. Nonetheless, this coverage is good as it forces the public to think about the existence of fossils and the age of biological diversity. In this regard it would be nice to see such stories pepered with links to further discussions around such topics so that the public can be brought into the discourse that is science. Here is the real value of providing links between blogs as it provides the uniniated and busy non-scientist the opportunity to expand their scientific horizons and intellectual curiosity. Can we really expect reporters/bloggers to do this for us? In any event, scientific study of such coverage would be iluminating indeed and I regret that my own science doesn’t permit me to devote more time to puruse this.

    I would agree with the proposal that science blog highlights that might be considered of relevance to HuffPro or other blogsites be made available as links, from which they should be encouraged to choose. Who knows, perhaps if we can convince enough left wing and right wing blog sites to entertain the practice, much of the difference might actually be sorted out as part of a rational scientific dialog that takes place in frontal lobes rather than appeals for arguments of all kinds to be resolved by neurochemistry in the lower brain stem.

  36. #36 Maia Szalavitz
    March 27, 2008

    Ok, this is going to sound annoyingly arrogant but the truth is that my work is regularly featured on the front page of HuffPo and the living pages and I would argue that it is good science journalism when I’m covering science.

    The editors there will feature posts that are well-written and engaging and get a lot of traffic– if that happens to be woo, it will be woo, if it happens to be science, it will be science.

    The way to reduce the amount of woo is to increase the amount of science, not just throw up your hands and say people are unreachable.

    Oh, and yeah, paying writers. Always a good thing.

  37. #37 Coin
    March 27, 2008

    They want to push their pseudoscientific fear-mongering agenda, nothing more, and credible scientists posting on that blog in rebuttal – quite frankly – gives that useless website more legitimacy than it deserves.

    Maybe so, but again, this really seems to imply a degree of organization on the part of the Huffington Post that I simply have not seen them pulling off on other subjects.

    Here’s the thing: The alt-med/antivax stuff is simply not what the Huffington Post is about. It’s a vanishingly small percentage of what goes on on that site. Most people who are aware of the Huffington Post aren’t aware of it for their coverage on medical issues– if they’re aware the Huffington Post covers medical issues at all. I, for one, have been intermittently reading Huffington Post articles roughly since the thing started, and although I was familiar to a decent degree with autism/antivax crankery before I first started reading Respectful Insolence, I had absolutely no idea Kirby/RFK were posting there at all until I started reading Orac’s complaints on the subject a year or two ago. Although I have no doubt the Huffington Post has over time given well enough exposure to the antivaxers to cause real damage, this exposure is minor enough to be easy to overlook relative to the sheer size of the site. So I think most Huffington Post readers would fall into the same category I did before I started reading Orac– familiar with the HuffPo for its political commentary, wholly unaware of their crankery-enabling side hobby.

    Because the Huffington Post is most known for its political content, it seems to me kind of silly to suggest that a couple of posts by science people could grant the Huffington Post “legitimacy”– or that a boycott by science people could deny it. To the extent anyone considers Huffington Post to have legitimacy, it is because they carry political content that some persons trust or approve of. To the extent anyone might be tempted to suddenly start granting extra legitimacy to the HuffPo if we start seeing posts by people with PHDs there, this temptation will most likely be neatly dispelled by the fact that the HuffPo is also running posts by Alec Baldwin (most recent post title: “The Global Impact of the Subprime Crisis”). Again, I see the choice here as basically consisting of: Should the cranks get the use of this information channel to themselves? Or is it possible to at least offset the crankery with something more serious?

  38. #38 Coin
    March 27, 2008

    (And just to be clear, just because I’ve posted a few times in this thread and I’m afraid I’ve been more dismissive of Orac’s point than he deserves: I think the extent to which the Huffington Post has given pseudoscience a platform is a clearly negative thing and damaging to the Huffington Post’s credibility. If the Huffington Post could be convinced to phase out Kirby or stop promoting pseudoscience as part of the process of adding legitimate science writing to their repertoire, I think that would be great. I’m just not taking this particular possibiilty very seriously as a practically likely outcome because– no offense to Ms. Szalavitz intended– my impression of the HuffPo has always been that they would print a grocery list if it had the name of someone who’s been in the news attached.)

  39. #39 Scote
    March 29, 2008

    There is no way the HufPo could have a real science section given their extremely heavy handed comment modding. My posts questioning psuedo scientific claims made by HufPo regulars often don’t make it past the world view of the modders. The forums are not open to criticism, and thus sort of antithetical to science.

  40. #40 Leslie
    April 5, 2008

    I agree with the person above who says that the HuffPo has definitely gone downhill in the last couple of years. I have been alerted to a lot of interesting scientific stories from their news section, but not so much recently as they have gotten more and more fluff-oriented. I won’t even go into the “woo” peddlers and the comment moderation. I’m a bit uneasy about the idea of a science section because they would presumably decide what qualified as “science” and would pack it with woo if there wasn’t enough real stuff that they considered interesting enough. Since they have bloggers from all kinds of different viewpoints, I would think it would be better if they could get a couple of scientists to post occasional articles and maybe a link to scienceblogs.com, but of course anyone upholding a viewpoint their community didn’t like would be inundated with rude comments. Those, of course, are generally not weeded out by the moderators. It’s rather ironic that they started moderating in the first place, I believe, because they were being beaten up by the right wing after there was an attack in Afghanistan while Cheney was there and some people posted saying essentially, “Too bad they missed.” However, some pretty nasty things still get through while, as Scote says, completely unobjectionable things that the moderators just don’t like are censored. Someone recently suggested that Hillary Clinton get the same treatment that Mussolini got, though of course, if the moderators are typical Americans, they didn’t understand that the person was basically saying she should be strung up.

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