Respectful Insolence

Even after over three years at this, I still find it amazing that as many people read my verbal meanderings as in fact do. In fact, I still can’t believe that I’m one of the more popular medical bloggers out there. True, I’ll probably never approach the traffic and readership of the huge political blogs or of our very own P.Z. Myers (who has at least ten times my traffic), but I appear to have become a fixture in the medical and scientific blogosphere.

Even more amazingly (to me, at least), I appear to have developed a bit of influence. I know it’s hard to believe, but I was forced to accept it recently. For example, first I did a post criticizing Medscape for publishing a post about Gardasil that credulously quoted a germ theory denialist and spread antivaccination myths. Not long after, Medscape eliminated the article. True, Medscape replaced it with an article that was arguably as bad in some ways, but apparently a remonstration from li’l ol’ me embarrassed Medscape sufficiently to react. Then later, after I criticized the antivaccine clowns at Age of Autism for “outing” one of my readers who comments under a pseudonym (an “outing” that wasn’t a simple matter to accomplish), AoA actually wrote not one but two posts, one with the lamest justification for a vindictive “outing” of a pseudonymous blogger I’ve ever seen plus the usual predictable reposting of a rant “outing” me yet again. (AoA almost never reacts to criticism; to rate two responses, one a direct attack, tells me I hit a major nerve. Good.) Finally, earlier this week, I wrote a post blasting ABC News for giving voice to a woman who chose quackery over scientific medicine by giving her a blog on its news site. I considered such a move to be extremely irresponsible in that it could influence cancer patients to think that her quackery was working.

I was informed recently that the blog is no longer there.

Now, I don’t know if it was me primarily responsible for this (several commenters were highly critical, although most were totally supportive) or whether readers wrote to ABC News to complain, but what I do know is that the blog appeared one week ago; I wrote about it four days later, and less than two days after that the blog was gone. Coincidence? Possibly. Correlation does not necessarily equal causation. But I like to think I had something to do with it.

If that’s the case, between ABC News and Medscape, I’d better be careful. All that influence might go to my head, and it’s obvious that my ego wasn’t exactly undernourished to begin with. I might even start to think I’m PZ or something. Don’t worry, though. You’re unlikely ever to seem me sending my ravening mini-horde off to crash, pillage, and plunder Internet polls. (I’d definitely have to concentrate on smaller polls; if there’s one thing that would be really embarrassing it would be to send off a mini-horde and fail to affect the poll.) I also promise you’ll never, ever see me desecrating a consecrated Catholic host just to make a point about…well, I’m still not sure exactly what he was trying to accomplish; I just know it struck me as pointless and that it made a whole lot of people mad for no real gain that I could detect. Most importantly, I promise never to grow a beard. (I risk divorce if I ever do that.) I will, however, continue to spread the message of scientific medicine, skepticism, and critical thinking for the foreseeable future.

And if it has an effect where an effect is required, so much the better.

Comments

  1. #1 D. C. Sessions
    September 12, 2008

    All that influence might go to my head, and it’s obvious that my ego wasn’t exactly undernourished to begin with.

    ObQuirk!!

    Presumes anatomical feature not in evidence on a plastic box!

  2. #2 Elf M. Sternberg
    September 12, 2008

    Awww, you know we love you, Orac, cold-circuited heartless box that you are. And yes, we pay attention because, heck, you speak an important truth. And you write pretty damn well.

    And there’s something to be said for your not having to write about Holocaust denialism recently; it really has become background noise compared to the other issues which really are much more immanent threats.

  3. #3 Pharmacistmike
    September 12, 2008

    Keep up the good work. We need a few more people with influence on soap boxes to get things straightened out. I especially appreciate the cancer quackery being removed. We don’t need anymore false hope based on futile efforts to cure cancer. People end up dying that way.

  4. #4 Hesitant Iconoclast
    September 12, 2008

    First, cancer quackery. Next, the US Presidency!

  5. #5 D. C. Sessions
    September 12, 2008

    First, cancer quackery. Next, the US Presidency!

    That’s a big leap, isn’t it? I mean, on the quackery scale the Presidency is pretty much the top.

  6. #6 Runolfr
    September 12, 2008

    Don’t limit yourself Orac. Embrace the dark side, and your minions of terror will rule the world.

    On a side note, I suspect that the “cracker incident” had more to do with a spur of the moment claim (“Get me one of those and you’ll see *real* controversy!”) that spiraled out of control, and — having made the claim — he didn’t see any other way out of the corner he’d painted himself into. I noticed that the end result was somewhat less ostentatious than the initial outburst.

  7. #7 Karl Withakay
    September 12, 2008

    Please don’t get as big as PZ. What’s nice about this site and Science Based Medicine as well, is that a gainfully employed human being can actually take the time to read all the comments on one of you posts- whereas trying to read all the comments on one of PZ’s posts is often a full time job in and of itself. I think he hit 500/hour with his host desecration.

  8. #8 Matt
    September 12, 2008

    Could you take on Sharyl Attkisson while you’re at it? She recently did a blog post on the MMR study (Hornig) which was “These people did a study that shows Wakefield was wrong. Now, here’s Wakefield’s entire press release”.

  9. #9 BA
    September 12, 2008

    Score one for truth and reason.

  10. #10 bumblebrain
    September 12, 2008

    Remember to only use this power for good, not evil. Or if you must use it for evil, make it the ostentatious, super-villain variety.

    I’ve been reading this blog for a while and appreciate what you have been saying. I’ve even started reading more books about skepticism and pseudoscience.

    How do I know if I’ve become a minion of terror?

  11. #11 PalMD
    September 12, 2008

    Most importantly, I promise never to grow a beard. (I risk divorce if I ever do that.)

    I face the same threat…

  12. #12 D. C. Sessions
    September 12, 2008
    Most importantly, I promise never to grow a beard. (I risk divorce if I ever do that.)

    I face the same threat…

    That can work both ways. The last time a woman saw my chin was more than 30 years ago, when a girlfriend wanted to know what I looked like without the facewarmer. As soon as I came out of the bathroom, she told me “Put it back.”

    So I met, married, brought up three kids to adulthood, and divorced the next girlfriend without her ever seeing my chin. The world is a better place for it.

  13. #13 Art
    September 12, 2008

    First, keep up the good work.
    People need to be reminded that after all the BS, spin, smearing of any who disagree, gross propaganda and lies pulled out of posteriors that underneath it all there is reality. While we may not fully understand all the nuances of reality, and people do sometimes need to be reminded of the limits of our current knowledge, the fact that we don’t know everything is not a reason to just make stuff up. That, in the end, reality has teeth. That denial of reality cannot, must not, be confused with changing reality.

    Less important. PZ’s molesting of a cracker does indeed have a purpose and result. According to legend Buddhism has its origins in its founder worshiping in front of an idol. In the middle of prayer he notices a mouse on the idols head. It shocks him into realizing that the idol is an empty shell that represents either a nonexistent or powerless God figure. That thee was nothing there to worship. Either in that place or represented by the statue.

    PZ showing that the cracker is still just a cracker, even after being blessed, prayed over and consecrated, shows that it does not represent any supernatural being and brings into doubt the very existence of a, any, supernatural beings.

    Perhaps, just maybe, a Catholic or two might see this and understand that even though the church claims to be summoning the body of Christ in the form of a cracker that they are being lied to an manipulated. That the cracker has remained just a cracker no matter who prays over it or what words are said. It is still just a cracker.

  14. #14 Laura
    September 12, 2008

    You rock, Orac. Keep on keeping on….

  15. #15 IBY
    September 12, 2008

    Even if you don’t get PZ’s traffic, you rock at writing these stuffs. They are informative and contain great witty comments. You will surely rule the world, and if not, you will at least rule science based med blogs. ^_^

  16. #16 BNB
    September 12, 2008

    I am more informed than I was before I started reading your blog. Thank you.

  17. #17 ancientTechie
    September 12, 2008

    I often refer acquaintances to your posts and greatly appreciate your writing. I really miss YFDOW, though. Alas, all good things must pass.

  18. #18 Rowan
    September 12, 2008

    I appreciate that your writing is accessible for those of us who are not in the medical field. I enjoy learning from reading your posts. Thank you for that.

  19. #19 DLC
    September 12, 2008

    Well, I hope you are having some effect, even if all you do is educate people, and throw out the occasional slice of Respectful Insolence™ on the quacks, con-men, woomeisters and anti-vaxers. You do it well, and I usually enjoy reading your blog.
    [/pat-on-the-back]

  20. #20 Socrates
    September 13, 2008

    I’d also like to draw Orac’s attention to Thoughtful House’s press release on the recent MMR study, as it appears to have been written by Jenny McCarthy. To summarize: Athough the lab failed to carry-out the RT step when looking for measles RNA in Wakefield’s gut samples, their results are still entirely valid as several years later, they’ve now learnt to do this step.

  21. #21 Orac
    September 13, 2008

    Yeah, pretty hysterically funny.

  22. #22 N.B.
    September 13, 2008

    You’re the first scienceblogger I started regularly for a reason. Let no one tell you that blogging doesn’t make a difference!

  23. #24 ama
    September 13, 2008
  24. #25 Sastra
    September 13, 2008

    Orac, I join the chorus: you rock. And I don’t care if that embarrasses you. So there.

    I stand foursquare for reason, and object to what seems to me to be irrationality, whatever the source. If you are on my side in this, I must warn you that the army of the night has the advantage of overwhelming numbers, and, by its very nature, is immune to reason, so that it is entirely unlikely that you and I can win out. We will always remain a tiny and probably hopeless minority, but let us never tire of presenting our view, and of fighting the good fight for the right. (Isaac Asimov)

    Art wrote:

    PZ showing that the cracker is still just a cracker, even after being blessed, prayed over and consecrated, shows that it does not represent any supernatural being and brings into doubt the very existence of a, any, supernatural beings.

    Not to derail the thread, but that was just a byproduct, not the original purpose. This wasn’t “the atheist professor and the chalk.” In context, the cracker desecration was a protest of a protest, akin to burning an American flag as a graphic statement against aggressive public calls to jail, fire, kill, or otherwise punish some guy who had burned an American flag to protest something or other.

  25. #27 ama
    September 13, 2008

    The spam filter is a nuisance.

    Congrats!

    http://www.orac.me

    http://www.failbook.de/#post6 :-)
    .

  26. #28 alyric
    September 13, 2008

    You do sterling work in the trenches of combatting anti-science so keep up the good work! Besides that but equally important, you can actually write and that helps the reading enormously.

    I read you and Steve Novella on a regular basis. PZ Myers I think little of since his frankly tasteless anti-religious ploys. By all means argue the facts but descent into insult displays the quality of the mind.

  27. #29 Marilyn Mann
    September 13, 2008

    Orac,

    I also enjoy your blog. For one thing, I’m a breast cancer survivor, but also you are a good writer and it is enjoyable to read your posts. Keep up the good work.

    For those of you who are on Facebook, you can join the Respectful Insolence Blog Network (you have to install the Blog Networks application first, if you haven’t already). Don’t forget to give the blog a rating and to recommend it to your friends who are on Facebook. Each blog on Blog Networks has “tags” indicating the subject matter. Of the blogs with a “science” tag, Respectful Insolence is currently ranked number 25, based on number of “fans” (currently 37). Hey, we can do better than that!!

  28. #30 ama
    September 13, 2008

    This paranoid spam filter is a nuisance.

    I wanted to show you this:

    http://www.orac.me
    :-)

  29. #31 SC
    September 13, 2008

    and it’s obvious that my ego wasn’t exactly undernourished to begin with

    Which would make your calling truth machine “arrogant” (an “arrogant asshole,” IIRC) recently appear somewhat, well, hypocritical.

    desecrating a consecrated Catholic host just to make a point about…well, I’m still not sure exactly what he was trying to accomplish

    And your willful ignorance on that score continues to be distressing.

    That said, keep up the good work, Orac.

  30. #32 Kristjan Wager
    September 13, 2008

    It’s nice when blogs can make a (positive) difference, no matter how indirectly. And this blog certainly does that.

  31. #33 Abel Pharmboy
    September 13, 2008

    I do some background work on occasion for the ABC News Medical Unit – they employ some well-qualified science journalists as well as one Ph.D. neuroscientist; Dr. Timothy Johnson is also a well-known skeptic of supplements. I suspect that the blog got launched by someone not affiliated with the Medical Unit and then your post drew their attention to shut it down. I know for a fact that other MSM writers read Respectful Insolence.

    I saw from your next post that you didn’t mean for this post to be a lovefest but I feel that it is fair for you to recognize your growing reputation in the medical blogosphere as an influential, evidence-based voice. I would say that you were highly likely to have a role in this particular case (p < 0.05).

  32. #34 wolfwalker
    September 13, 2008

    Orac, you may not get the traffic that Myers’s grandstanding does, but ’tis damn sure you’re more interesting and fun to read. I hasven’t bothered with his blog in so many months I don’t even remember its name. I come here every day.

  33. #35 HCN
    September 13, 2008

    Abel Pharmboy said “I suspect that the blog got launched by someone not affiliated with the Medical Unit and then your post drew their attention to shut it down.”

    I also suspect that someone there read the comments that included cancer patients and survivors who told “Joyce” she was doing her children a disservice by listening to the naturopath quack (including one who noted that one had to be specific on the kind of cancer, giving the whole long name: Nodular Sclerosing Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Stage IVBE, refractory,IVB+S+E… the cached page is still available).

    One comment was just a simple “RIP”.

    Of course, some were prompted to post by this blog, like marcia:
    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2008/09/the_beginning_of_another_alternative_med.php#comment-1099902

  34. #36 Matthew, RN
    September 13, 2008

    I review manuscripts for cancer nursing journals, and they seem to send me an excessive number that are woo-filled. Thank you, Orac, for all your anti-quackery-ing. It helps me to read other (oncology/)medicine anti-pseudoscience on a regular basis.

  35. #37 BGT
    September 13, 2008

    Orac,

    Have a little fun, and let your ego inflate a little. You are an excellent author, and even thought the antivax folks whine and piss over your posts, you are thoughtful of the parents who don’t have much of a background or inclination to learn about EBM.

    And even though you don’t always agree with PZed, I don’t expect you to either. My three first hits on blogs everyday are you, Ed, PZ, and ERV. Sort of the four horsepeople of teh Rationality. All of you are great writers, and state your points well.

    Alright, enough of the boosting of the ego.

    Keep up the good work against woo!

  36. #38 BGT
    September 13, 2008

    Yikes, should have been first four hits. Damn cheap beer! >:-(

  37. #39 Ms. Clark
    September 14, 2008

    I hope your influence will continue to grow. I’m glad someone is taking the time to yell to the media, “Hey! Knock it of before someone gets hurt!”

  38. #40 Danimal
    September 15, 2008

    You should not be surprized people read your blog, you have a good writing style (though sometimes long winded). While I do read PZ, I enjoy your blog much more. I not even sure why PZ is so popular other then the athiest theme. Most posts are not about science.

  39. #41 geetha
    September 17, 2008

    i love u orac. of course i read pz’s blog and novella’s blog before i check urs. but urs is so endearing
    and damn good science
    keep up the good work