As a surgeon, I find Ben Carson particularly troubling. By pretty most reports, he was a skilled neurosurgeon who practiced for three decades, rising to the chief of neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins. Yet, when he ventures out of the field of neurosurgery—even out of his own medical specialty—he routinely lays down some of the dumbest howlers I’ve ever heard. For example, he denies evolution, but, even worse, he’s been a shill for a dubious supplement company, Mannatech. Worse still, when called out for his relationship with Mannatech in the last Republican debate, Carson lied through his teeth about it. The pseudoscientific views he relates have been so bad that he led me to resurrect some old schtick that I had abandoned years ago about physicians denying evolution leading me to put a paper bag over my head in shame for my profession. I’m also reminded of it not just by media stories about Carson’s latest verbal gaffe but because I work within easy walking distance of the Ben Carson High School of Medicine and Science, a STEM-related high school designed to encourage high school students to pursue careers in the sciences.

Most recently, video of a commencement speech he gave in 1998 was unearthed, and in it Carson contradicted the consensus among historians that the Egyptian pyramids were built as tombs for pharaohs and stated that he believed that they were, in fact, built by Joseph to store grain. (On the plus side, at least he said he didn’t believe that aliens had anything to do with their construction.) His reasoning was—shall we say?—not convincing.

As a physician and a surgeon, I never cease to be amazed at how brilliant physicians, who are so knowledgeable and skilled at medicine, can be so irredeemably ignorant about topics not related to medicine, and even, as was the case with Ben Carson’s dubious cancer cure testimonial for Mannatech, medical topics not related to their specific specialty. Indeed, Andy Borowitz nailed it well when portrayed Carson as “shattering the stereotype about brain surgeons being smart.”

Or did he?

I was prodded to revisit this topic in a more general fashion first by Ben Carson’s latest bomb of uncritical thinking (which shows that he’s been the way he is for a long time, as the speech was from 1998), but also because Steve Novella brought it up as well. (It also helps that my last two posts have gotten crazy traffic for some reason, and I need, as Mr. Creosote was offered, a little wafer to cleanse the palate.) As much as I respect Steve, who, as usual, makes some most excellent points, as he asked (and tried to answer) the question, “How can one person be undeniably brilliant in one sphere of their intellectual life, and shockingly ignorant and anti-intellectual in other spheres?” regular followers of this blog know that there’s always more that I can add when the mood takes me.

Before I begin, let me just say that I’m aware that, because of Carson’s reputation as a brilliant neurosurgeon, certain activists on the left have been trying to discredit that reputation by dredging up malpractice cases that Carson has been involved in over the years. I’ve described these articles on Facebook as a cheap shot and intellectually dishonest, because they are. They examine Carson’s record and compare it to physicians in general. Yet, according to a recent New England Journal of Medicine study, the most sued specialty is neurosurgery, with 19% of neurosurgeons per year being involved with at least one malpractice suit and roughly 99% of neurosurgeons being sued at least once before they retire. Comparing Carson’s record to the record of the average doctor is a purposely deceptive comparison of apples and oranges. Carson’s record should be compared to the records of neurosurgeons practicing in urban areas and doing high risk surgery of the sort that Carson did. Also the article only tells one side of the story, the plaintiffs’, taking advantage of the fact that the hospital and Carson can’t comment because of patient privacy concerns.

End of diversion.

Let’s get back to the question of how someone as brilliant as Carson, who went to Yale University and attended medical school at the University of Michigan Medical School, followed by a neurosurgery residency at Johns Hopkins, can be so dense about so many things.

Steve is correct that Carson’s brilliance as a neurosurgeon is not a contradiction, that we all share cognitive blindspots like his. All of us believe things without evidence, things that we find hard to let go of, even in the face of disconfirming evidence. This is undeniably true. I wouldn’t, however, agree that Carson is a “perfect representation of humanity,” for the simple reason that I think he represents an outlier, someone way on the end of the bell-shaped curve if you will. Most people don’t hold dogmatically to so many bad ideas, or at least assert so many demonstrably incorrect ideas. Those who do tend to fall prey to crankery, like antivaccine activists, creationists, quacks, anti-GMO activists, and anthropogenic global climate change denialists. Carson clearly falls into this category, but why?

There appear to be two reasons, which Carson seems to exhibit in abundance. First, of course, is the Dunning-Kruger effect. This is a phenomenon in which humans with low expertise in a subject tend to overestimate their expertise in the subject and exhibit undue confidence in that expertise, which tends to be in marked contrast to real experts, who tend to underestimate their expertise on the subject and acknowledge a lot more uncertainty because, well, they know the limits of their knowledge. Physicians tend to be very prone to the Dunning-Kruger effect, for many reasons. Think about it. Medical school is very difficult to get into; so most doctors were excellent students all their lives before they became doctors. Once they get into medical school, they are not infrequently told how they are the “best of the best” and how they represent the future of medicine. I share one trait in common with Dr. Carson, and that’s that I, too, graduated from the University of Michigan Medical School, and I still remember being told that on day one. I’d say that in some ways it’s getting even worse. There was no such thing as a “white coat ceremony” at my medical school when I started, but these days most medical schools have a ceremony where the new class of students don their white coats as a symbol of the profession they are about to enter. I’ve never liked white coat ceremonies. Add to that residency, which, even after the 80 hour work week restrictions, is still like boot camp, designed to emphasize that we are tough enough to be physicians, and the sense that we are somehow “better” than the rest of society is reinforced.

Another issue is the privilege of physicians. Medical students might be at the bottom rung of the totem pole in the hospital, but they are told that they will soon be top dogs. And so they become top dogs. It’s true that medical practice has become more collaborative over my time practicing surgery. Doctors are no longer the unquestioned kings (and queens) of the roost. However, they still hold enormous power and privilege in the hospital. That’s not even counting the privilege that we as physicians are granted to probe the deepest secrets of our patients, administer medicine, and even, as surgeons do, forcibly rearrange people’s anatomy for therapeutic intent. We get to see the innermost recesses of our patients’ bodies. It’s an incredible privilege that society has granted us. That privilege is reinforced by our being consulted not just for our expertise but by the assumption held by many that because we are experts in medicine we must be experts in a lot of other things too.

It’s not surprising, then, that physicians might come to overestimate their ability to master another discipline, at least well enough to pontificate confidently on it. Of course we can! We’re doctors! We made it through the ringer that is medical school, residency, and board certification. Just give me enough time and enough Google and we can learn anything! Is it any wonder that physicians are particularly prone to the Dunning-Kruger effect? Not to me, at least not any more. The same seems to be true of many other high-achieving people. There’s a reason that most leaders in the antivaccine movement tend to be affluent, highly educated people. J.B. Handley, for instance, is a successful businessman who has basically said that he doesn’t need to listen to us pointy-headed scientists and physicians; he’s learned what he needs to learn about vaccines causing autism himself.

It’s also correct that holding conspiracy beliefs and believing in pseudoscience do not mean that a person is stupid. Most people who hold such beliefs are not. In fact, thanks to the phenomenon of motivated reasoning, in which attacks on people’s beliefs result in their clinging to them more tightly and where facts and evidence are used not to find the truth but to protect pre-existing views, it is often very intelligent people who are the most vocal proponents of pseudoscience. Their intelligence gives them a more potent skill set to protect their pre-existing beliefs against refutation than possessed by people of average or lower intelligence. Indeed, many of the people most invested in “integrating” alternative medicine (i.e., quackery) into medicine are incredibly intelligent physicians.

Every human being on the planet has the potential to believe the same nonsense that Ben Carson believes, and, make no mistake, his mass of pseudoscientific and conspiracy theory beliefs is enormous. In addition to his belief in Mannatech quackery, Carson believes that Barack Obama is part of a Communist conspiracy to bring down America, that gay rights is a Communist plot, and, of course, that the theory of evolution comes from Satan. Skepticism begins with recognizing this and having the humility to recognize that we all believe things without evidence. That’s part of being human. Fortunately, once we recognize this, we can begin to test our beliefs against evidence and science and determine which ones are supported and which ones aren’t. Most importantly, this testing must involve seeking out disconfirming evidence; otherwise we risk devolving into motivated reasoning, cherry picking evidence that supports our beliefs and discounting evidence that does not. We must be willing to change our minds when the evidence does not support our beliefs. It’s a continuous, lifelong process.

Indeed, what disturbs me the most about Ben Carson is not that he holds these beliefs, although that certainly does disturb me. It’s that he doesn’t show any evidence of being willing to examine his own beliefs critically. He dismisses expert opinions and, when questioned, doubles down on previous inane statements. The only time he seems to change his mind is to pander, as he did when he reversed his support for school vaccine mandates at the first Republican debate. None of these are characteristics I want in my next President, regardless of politics. I’ve often quoted Dirty Harry that “a man’s got to know his limitations.” Think of skepticism as a tool to help us know our limitations with respect to knowledge and science.

Comments

  1. #1 Peter Pan's Shadow
    Never Never Land
    November 9, 2015

    Is Ben Carson intelligent? He’s good at memorizing facts and cutting. That’s what people who graduate medical school are good at. (At this point I’m starting to wonder if he actually did graduate med school) But is the ability to memorize lumps of info actually intelligence? It requires no reasoning or logic. Personally, I’ve got some serious doubts about Dr Carson. At the very least he’s willfully ignorant. Personally, I think he’s a habitual liar who isn’t used to getting called on his BS.

  2. #2 dedicated lurker
    November 9, 2015

    People who were educated have known the Earth is round, and its approximate size, since the third century BC. People who weren’t didn’t usually spend time thinking about it. I don’t think there’s ever been at time where 97% of humans total thought it was flat.

  3. #3 dedicated lurker
    November 9, 2015

    The idea of seperating craniopagus conjoined twins has existed for a long time, and the theory is simple enough, but the potential for blood loss has been so great that it was only first attempted in 1951. Even now most times it’s been done one twin has died or suffered brain damage. (This does include at least one of Carson’s cases, but it’s such a difficult operation that I have respect for anyone who can complete it.)

  4. #4 See Noevo
    November 9, 2015

    ann #175 writes
    “For Obama, it was actually much worse. His campaign eventually had to put up a “fight the smears” website to deal with it all. And (as I recall) not all of it originated on the right. Some of it came from the Clinton campaign.”

    Do you (or anyone out there) recall any of the smears coming from the Main Stream Media or liberal websites?

    I don’t.

  5. #5 ann
    November 9, 2015

    I’m curious as to your source.

    I am too.

    I’m aware of research suggesting that men are likelier to be perceived as outside-the-box thinkers than women.

    But that’s due to inside-the-box thinking on gender by both men and women. I’ve never heard that either is categorically less box-bound than the other.

  6. #6 Larry
    November 9, 2015

    Re: JustaTech # 189
    Sorry, I could have spent more time preparing. Sorry that you had difficulty. Will try to use more spacing next time.

    Re:JP #191.
    Also, Sorry. Spelling and grammar was never my strong suit. For what its worth, my point on ‘brighter than average’ was only that I have capacity to understand. If you think that my intelligence is ‘below average,’ so be it. I am comfortable. I concede that you are ‘brighter than I am’. Your English is perfect. Congratulations.

    You didn’t convince me of much, however. And, your comment speaks volumes about your general attitude toward others. You appear more interested in making someone else feel small, than in engaging, attempting to understand, or helping. You are all about making yourself look ‘smart,’ because god forbid they see the real you. Your smart – OK. I care more about caring and compassionate. Unfortunately, that is exactly the impression I get from many on the left. You all talk about ‘compassion’, but you act differently. Underneath you act condescending, arrogant, and hypocritical. You reinforce the image I hoped might change.

    Re: Ann # 190.
    Thanks for your response. I agree that it is fair to address Carson on his bio in general. I also agree that he has made a number of questionable statements, and that the proposals on his website lack substance. Those are legit issues to raise. Of course we shouldn’t ‘Just take his word for it’. I would never say that we should. Again, he isn’t my favorite candidate, but honestly, I could make the same statement about almost any candidate. Finding flaws is easy. I agree that that ‘a plan to getting on passed and skills to make it real’ would be nice. But, you and I both know this is an unrealistic standard. The democratic candidates don’t appear any stronger with respect to any of the issues, but we probably just disagree on that. And even with respect to your true statements in #3 (with exception of the ‘full scholarship’), there are similarly dumb things, or flat lies coming out of more or less all the front runners. By this comparison, IMHO, Carson looks the least of evils.

    I disagree with the assertion of CNN and Politico (also the WSJ piece) are even about his biography, however. To me these seem like pure ‘Hit’ pieces. For example, Carson didn’t ever state that he ever applied to West Point, only that he got an offer, and even their own materials they call this ‘scholarship’. He was off on his recording the date, but it sounds very probable that that an offer was actually made. To say that Carson ‘fabricated’ this is at best sloppy journalism, and at worst completely dishonest. Similarly, regarding the CNN piece, I have no idea what he did or didn’t do at age 15, but would never be persuaded because somebody went and talked to a few folks in his hometown that ‘knew’ him, but didn’t know what happened in some rage of anger. There is simply _nothing_ here other than slander. And to me it doesn’t matter that he was/wasn’t ‘prepared’ for slander (I suspect he was expecting something), or that he could answered (IMHO he did answer). Slander is just wrong.

  7. #7 gaist
    November 9, 2015

    Do you (or anyone out there) recall any of the smears coming from the Main Stream Media or liberal websites?

    I don’t.

    Does Fox count?

  8. #8 See Noevo
    November 9, 2015

    Ann #184:

    “At this point, it’s maybe hard to remember that the whole Benghazi thing actually started because the Christian right made a video …”

    That’s odd. That’s not what Sec. of State Hillary Clinton thought:
    1) Email from Hillary to Chelsea 45 minutes after Hillary had issued a statement blaming YouTube-inflamed mobs: “Two of our officers were killed in Benghazi by an Al Queda-like group.”

    2) Hillary to Libyan President Mohamed Magariaf the night of the Benghazi attack: “We have asked for the Libyan government to provide additional security to the compound immediately as there is a gun battle ongoing, which I understand Ansar as Sharia [sic] is claiming responsibility for.”

    3) Hillary phone call the next day, 9/12, with the Egyptian Prime Minister Hesham Kandil: “We KNOW that the attack in Libya had NOTHING TO DO WITH THE FILM. It was a PLANNED ATTACK—NOT A PROTEST.”

  9. #9 JP
    November 9, 2015

    You didn’t convince me of much, however.

    I wasn’t trying to convince you of anything; where do you get this idea that anybody here is? I can’t help it if I find the notion that “life begins at inception” to be interpretable in some pretty entertaining ways. I generally aim to entertain. Just ask my students.

    And, your comment speaks volumes about your general attitude toward others. You appear more interested in making someone else feel small, than in engaging, attempting to understand, or helping. You are all about making yourself look ‘smart,’ because god forbid they see the real you. … I care more about caring and compassionate.

    Your seeming belief that a single comment can tell you much of anything about somebody’s general level of compassion or comfort with letting other people see the “real them” speaks volumes about your general attitude toward people.

    Your smart – OK.

    Yes. I am.

  10. #10 JP
    November 9, 2015

    Unfortunately, that is exactly the impression I get from many on the left. You all talk about ‘compassion’, but you act differently. Underneath you act condescending, arrogant, and hypocritical. You reinforce the image I hoped might change.

    Who is this “you all” that you think you’re talking to? Do you think that everybody who posts here is a liberal or a leftist or whatever? I can assure you that this is not the case. The OP wasn’t even about Carson’s politics, for Pete’s sake. Besides all that, for all you know, I could be a Republican or a Libertarian or not even a resident of the US.

  11. #11 herr doktor bimler
    November 9, 2015

    life begins at inception
    It was a good film, but let’s not go overboard.

  12. #12 See Noevo
    November 9, 2015

    To ann #184 (continued):

    “… a video that was so virulently offensive to Muslims that it triggered anti-American protests, flag-desecration, and other assorted acts of mayhem (including a suicide-bombing in Afghanistan that killed nine people) in Egypt, India, Pakistan, Tunisia, Sudan, Yemen, Lebanon, and elsewhere, thus making the world a less safe place for Americans, generally.”

    Anti-American protests, mayhem, and suicide-bombing across the Middle East and Africa?
    Didn’t such things happen regularly, and usually daily, *before* the subject video hit the internet.
    And haven’t anti-American protests, mayhem, and suicide-bombing across the Middle East and Africa happened regularly, and usually daily, *since* the time the subject video hit the internet three years ago?

    If all this is video-driven, then I guess videos similar to the subject video must be getting released about daily for the last couple decades.
    …………………
    “That’s what they really have a problem with. So they’re pretending that there’s no conceivable reason why, when speaking in public in front of the whole wide world, the Secretary of State might choose not to immediately name armed violent suspects who were still at large before anyone was really certain where they were, who they were, what they were up to, how dangerous it was, and to whom.”

    No. What they (and me) have a problem with is that there’s a VERY conceivable reason why:
    It would put the lie to the Obama re-election bid platform (i.e. ‘GM’s alive and Bin Laden’s dead! Terrorism is on the run!’)
    ………………….
    “So unless they’re too stupid to grasp that what she says in private to her daughter and the prime minister of Egypt doesn’t have the same potential to put American lives at risk as what she says in her televised remarks…”

    No. Hillary put American lives at risk with or without “video” remarks. She wasn’t protecting American lives, she was protecting a prevaricating progressive presidential re-election campaign.

  13. #13 Gray Falcon
    November 9, 2015

    See, you know where the Bible says: “Do not give false witness.”? Does it also say “unless your political rivals do so as well.”? Is there some exception to one of God’s highest commands that I am aware of?

  14. #14 Narad
    November 9, 2015

    He was off on his recording the date, but it sounds very probable that that an offer was actually made.

    For certain values of “offer” and “actually.” If rephrased as “it sounds plausible that somebody at some point suggested that he apply to West Point,” I don’t think you’re going to find much of anybody to argue with.

  15. #15 herr doktor bimler
    November 9, 2015

    The idea of seperating craniopagus conjoined twins has existed for a long time, and the theory is simple enough, but the potential for blood loss has been so great that it was only first attempted in 1951

    I was under the impression that one aspect of Carson’s multiple contributions was his confidence that techniques in body cooling and hypothermic arrest had advanced enough that the surgery had real prospects of arrest. Is that a fair comment?
    I have also gained the impression that a key requirement for a successful neurosurgeon is the confidence and willingness to take chances with someone else’s brain.

  16. #16 herr doktor bimler
    November 9, 2015

    Is Ben Carson intelligent?
    Of course. He would never have accomplished anything without constantly learning, constantly keeping up with a scientific / technical literature.

  17. #17 ann
    November 9, 2015

    Ahem.

    The three stories on that list that aren’t deranged conspiracy theories — Ayers/Dohrn, Rezko and Wright — all received months of coverage; he was questioned about them repeatedly during debates, press conferences, etc.; and all three were broken by mainstream media outlets.

    The birther and actually-a-muslim stories also received mainstream coverage in 2008,

    And speaking of inside-the-box thinking.

    If the mainstream media really was part of a secular progressive plot, the last thing it would effing want to do is discredit Ben Carson.

    In order to get enough delegates to win the nomination, he would have to beat Cruz and Trump in at least some states where race is an issue and also Bush and Rubio in at least some states where most Republican voters are moderate and non-evangelical.

    Pretty much the only way a Carson candidacy could happen would be a brokered convention.

    But (1) secular progressives would be delighted by that; and (2) either way, it would still be in their best interest for him to stay in, drawing as much money, support and attention away from others and causing as much division and strife in the party as possible.

    The stories in the WSJ and Politico were almost certainly planted there by oppo researchers for one of the other Republican candidates. And the CNN story probably was.

    Why?

    (a) Because the other Republican candidates are the only people who’d benefit by getting him out of the way now.

    (b) The West Point story probably wasn’t all that labor-or-work intensive, but flacking for the right is Politico’s bread-and-butter. That’s where they get all their good stories. It’s what they do.

    (c) It’s not like the WSJ has a Detroit bureau, or can afford to send shoe-leather reporters to Michigan looking for people who survived high-school race riots with Ben Carson and were willing to talk about it on a whim. That kind of work is time-consuming and expensive. They are also a conservative publication.

    (d) CNN would be very unlikely to make that kind of investment in a story with no natural TV-friendly values, especially far enough in advance and without knowing what kind of answers they’d get. They also virtually never do that kind of reporting and probably don’t know how.

    (e) Jeb can fix it! (This is how the Bush family campaigns. Has been for decades.)

    (f) Conspiracy theories work much better and reach more people on the internet anyway. So quit whining.

    and finally:

    (g) Just because you don’t remember it doesn’t mean it never happens.

    John Kerry lost an election because of attacks on the things he said and did forty years earlier, all of which received extensive mainstream media coverage.

    Al Gore got branded as the guy who boasted about inventing the internet, when that was not actually any more accurate than branding Ben Carson as a guy who boasted about getting into West Point would be.

    Hillary Clinton had a scholarly article she wrote about children’s rights under the law in 1973 minutely examined by media outlets all across the country, and she wasn’t even running. She was just married to someone who was.

    Every one of those is more closely equivalent to what Carson’s enduring than some demented rumor about how Frank Marshall Davis is Obama’s true father, or how sis grandmother was a socialist/bank vice president and his grandfather a socialist/WWII vet/furniture salesman.

    It’s routine. Get over it.

  18. #18 dedicated lurker
    November 9, 2015

    “I was under the impression that one aspect of Carson’s multiple contributions was his confidence that techniques in body cooling and hypothermic arrest had advanced enough that the surgery had real prospects of arrest. Is that a fair comment?”

    To a degree, yeah. He was also willing to do some riskier surgeries in his career, which in many cases turned out well.

  19. #19 Larry
    November 9, 2015

    Re Gaist # 197
    Source was an anecdotal reference I have overheard generally by a couple of teachers I have known – I wasn’t trying to be specific, but for instance there is something out there to support this: https://research.collegeboard.org/sites/default/files/publications/2012/7/researchreport-1992-2-sex-differences-problem-solving-strategies-sat-math.pdf

  20. #20 See Noevo
    November 9, 2015

    To Larry:

    Just a heads up on something gaist told you in #197:

    “I don’t think I have ‘switched the bozo bit’ on See Noevo… If you’re interested further, search Respectful Insolence for antiabortion and see the comments for yourself. I personally think he’s not interested in exchange of ideas.”

    I think you’ll see that I’m quite interested in exchange of ideas. See for example the exchanging on this 2,100+ comment thread:
    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2015/07/27/when-the-antiabortion-movement-meets-the-antivaccine-movement/

  21. #21 Narad
    November 9, 2015

    I think you’ll see that I’m quite interested in exchange of ideas. See for example the exchanging on this 2,100+ comment thread

    I think that’s the second attempt I’ve seen by S.N. at this specifc and wretched form of attention-whoring.

  22. #22 ann
    November 9, 2015

    Again, he isn’t my favorite candidate, but honestly, I could make the same statement about almost any candidate.

    And you would be speaking for me if you did.

    Finding flaws is easy.

    But finding nine people who knew Ben Carson in elementary school and junior high who are willing to talk about him to the media is hard. Most people dislike and distrust the media.

    It’s also time-consuming and expensive.

    A good way to avoid having people focus on your flaws is to make a habit out of thinking about whether you’re confident that the things you say in print and circulate widely are true before you say them..

    I agree that that ‘a plan to getting on passed and skills to make it real’ would be nice. But, you and I both know this is an unrealistic standard.

    WRT a balanced budget amendment, that’s definitely true.

    That being the case, however, that Carson favors one ceases to be a reason to vote for him.

    If he had a plan that would reduce or eliminate the national debt, it would be a different story. But he doesn’t. He has a plan that would increase it by $1.1 trillion.

    Furthermore, it’s not actually clear that he knows what the national debt is or how it works.

    Besides which, people who have (for example) governed states demonstrably have the skills and know-how to make and realize plans in the political arena. So it’s not totally unrealistic in all regards.

    The democratic candidates don’t appear any stronger with respect to any of the issues, but we probably just disagree on that.

    I vote for the candidate that’s less likely to pack the Supreme Court with people who will saddle the country with decisions like Citizens United.

    Because I’m never going to be crazy about anyone who’s actually electable. But it’s not just my country alone. So I’m okay with that.

    And even with respect to your true statements in #3 (with exception of the ‘full scholarship’), there are similarly dumb things, or flat lies coming out of more or less all the front runners. By this comparison, IMHO, Carson looks the least of evils.

    Honestly, I don’t see how. They’re all against abortion and in favor of small government. Per your estimation, they all say dumb or untrue things. The only criterion that leaves is that you support him because you think the press is being unfair.

    And that makes no sense. Plus if you wait a little while, it’ll be Rubio’s turn any minute now. (Jeb. Don’t count him out.)

  23. #23 See Noevo
    November 9, 2015

    JP #210 reprimanding Larry:
    “Who is this “you all” that you think you’re talking to? Do you think that everybody who posts here is a liberal or a leftist or whatever? I can assure you that this is not the case.”

    Well, I think it’s *virtually* the case.
    Like “97%”, colloquially speaking.

  24. #24 See Noevo
    November 9, 2015

    To ann who never addresses anyone #217:

    “If the mainstream media really was part of a secular progressive plot…”

    Well, “plot” is a pretty powerful word, kind of like “conspiracy”, and would imply a formally communicated and orchestrated plan across all the mainstream media outlets.
    I’m not saying that.

    But do you believe the mainstream media does NOT lean secular progressive?

    And do you believe the mainstream media does NOT try to protect secular progressives?

    “The three stories on that list that aren’t deranged conspiracy theories — Ayers/Dohrn, Rezko and Wright — all received months of coverage; he was questioned about them repeatedly during debates, press conferences, etc.; and all three were broken by mainstream media outlets.”

    Two points on that:

    1) There can be a very big difference between a) breaking a story and “coverage” of it, and b) objective, in-depth, unbiased reporting (i.e. *truthful* coverage).

    2) Which mainstream media outlets broke which stories?

  25. #25 Narad
    November 9, 2015

    Okey-dokey.

    1) Very intelligent people (interestingly males more than females) tend to ‘think outside the box.’

    I’m curious as to your source.

    Source was an anecdotal reference I have overheard generally by a couple of teachers I have known – I wasn’t trying to be specific, but for instance there is something out there to support this: htp[]s://research.collegeboard.org/sites/default/files/publications/2012/7/researchreport-1992-2-sex-differences-problem-solving-strategies-sat-math.pdf

    So, basically 14.5 pages (N = 58) that are 23 years old about people who scored above 650 on a specific mathematical-skills testing instrument, and this is what you use to defend your sweeping generalization?

    “High-scoring females, as a group, seem to be somewhat
    more conservative in their strategies, sticking to methods
    they were taught in school. This may be caused by a lack of
    confidence or interest, or because of the way they learned
    and think about mathematics.”

  26. #26 JP
    November 9, 2015

    To ann who never addresses anyone MEEEEEEEEEEEE

    FTFY

  27. #27 ann
    November 9, 2015

    I forgot:

    To me these seem like pure ‘Hit’ pieces.

    If the press makes a diligent effort to consider and report both sides of a disputed story fairly and it’s newsworthy by a generally accepted standard — ie, legitimately in the public interest in some way — it’s not a hit piece.

    By those parameters, the West Point story as it appeared in Politico was a hit piece, imo.

    However, the West Point story as it appeared in most of the outlets that picked it up once it broke was, in most cases, simply a story that was unfavorable to Ben Carson primarily because his response was angry, disorganized, and heavy on the fingerpointing and complaint.

    If he had just said, “Believe me, to a kid living in poverty in Detroit, there’s not a lot of difference between a full scholarship and free tuition. West Point calls it that in its promotional materials. And I made it perfectly clear that I only applied to Yale. I’m not going to dignify it with further comment,” it would not have outlived the 24-hour news cycle.

    The other stories are a little harder to address, but they’re not impossible. What made them seem like ‘hit pieces” was his failure to respond in a way that gave him the last word and closed the door on the subject. Or at least appeared to do so.

    But that’s not the media’s fault. They gave him the opportunity. He decided to get outraged and storm off. That’s on him.

    There is simply _nothing_ here other than slander. And to me it doesn’t matter that he was/wasn’t ‘prepared’ for slander (I suspect he was expecting something), or that he could answered (IMHO he did answer). Slander is just wrong.

    It would actually be libel, not slander. But it can’t be either one unless (at a minimum) they knew that what they were saying was false and defamatory and/or they recklessly disregarded the possibility that it was.

    And that was not the case. He said stuff. They accurately reported that he said it and raised questions about its veracity. He didn’t answer them well or — in most instances — at all.

    Again, that’s not the media’s fault. He should have been prepared for it.

  28. #28 Narad
    November 9, 2015

    ^ I’m going to go ahead and try to fix the the triple-blockquote on this one.

    —–
    Okey-dokey.

    1) Very intelligent people (interestingly males more than females) tend to ‘think outside the box.’

    I’m curious as to your source.

    Source was an anecdotal reference I have overheard generally by a couple of teachers I have known – I wasn’t trying to be specific, but for instance there is something out there to support this: htp[]s://research.collegeboard.org/sites/default/files/publications/2012/7/researchreport-1992-2-sex-differences-problem-solving-strategies-sat-math.pdf

    So, basically 14.5 pages (N = 58) that are 23 years old about people who scored above 650 on a specific mathematical-skills testing instrument, and this is what you use to defend your sweeping generalization?

    “High-scoring females, as a group, seem to be somewhat more conservative in their strategies, sticking to methods they were taught in school. This may be caused by a lack of confidence or interest, or because of the way they learned and think about mathematics.”

  29. #29 Narad
    November 9, 2015

    To ann who never addresses anyone MEEEEEEEEEEEE

    FTFY

    The “do not call list” certainly seems to need more frequent updating.

  30. […] a post on Science Blogs, a physician with the pseudonym Orac gave two reasons for the dichotomy between Carson being a brilliant surgeon and suffering from anti-science views. People with low […]

  31. #31 Larry
    November 10, 2015

    Re Narad #228
    Again, this was intended to be a completely unsupported statement. I’m in no way trying to defend a ‘sweeping generalization’ by making a comment in a blog. Thus, my comment ‘I overheard…’, and ‘this is anecdotal’

    Take it for what its worth. For absolute clarity – some folks (non-specifically, and without any actual experimentation) have independently noticed this and made offhand comments to me as in ‘humm isn’t it interesting that …’. Without much effort I was able to google and find that there is at least some evidence that the observations are not completely without merit. I didn’t do exhaustive research on this topic, and I don’t know if there is other evidence to support it or not. I suspect that there may be other weak studies, but that there is probably no RCT trial that would satisfy your desire to show this is a ‘proven fact’ with extensive footnotes. On the other hand, there isn’t evidence for parachutes, and all sorts of other things. The fact that there isn’t a large RCT or met-analysis for something does not indicate that something is false – it indicates unknown. And, in the absence of established high quality studies, weak data is generally better than no data.

    It’s an ‘interesting’ potentially explaining observation. That is ALL. Weak data, but better than no data.

    But, if the OP or you are speculating on what makes Ben Carson or anyone else tick, I doubt that we’ll ever get much beyond completely unsupported ‘sweeping generalizations’ anyway.

  32. #32 ann
    November 10, 2015

    To ann who never addresses anyone #217:

    I’ll make an exception.

    “If the mainstream media really was part of a secular progressive plot…”

    Well, “plot” is a pretty powerful word, kind of like “conspiracy”, and would imply a formally communicated and orchestrated plan across all the mainstream media outlets.
    I’m not saying that.

    That’s a fair point.

    But do you believe the mainstream media does NOT lean secular progressive?

    Well. The press is a secular institution. For a reason. And this is it:

    If they want to stay in business, any news outlet that has a big enough audience/readership to be called “mainstream” can’t lean a lot further to the left or right than most Americans who get their news from whatever part of the media marketplace that outlet is in. And they also can’t offend their advertisers.

    In practice, that means (a) secular/ecumenical; (b) most of the demo is always unhappy with something but rarely so disgusted that they quit reading/watching; and (c) except for very, very infrequently, neither of is going to see our political views being embraced by the mainstream print and broadcast media.

    The main way that they’re liberal is that to reach a lot of people they have to be inclusive wrt diversity of belief and lifestyle. But that’s not really motivated by politics. It’s just show business.

    The exceptions on the right (eg, Fox News, the WSJ, the New York Post) tend to be more uncompromisingly on the right because Rupert Murdoch is willing to plow money into them even when it’s unpopular.

    MSNBC has to keep it within limits that advertisers and viewers will accept. And the news pages of the New York Times are not all that liberal. They just hew definitively left for opinion/editorial and the “[whatever] of the Times” sections.

    (^^I mean “by the standards of most people.” I realize that you don’t see it that way. And I’m not arguing with that. I’m just using the terms “left,” “right,” “liberal,” and “conservative” as they’re conventionally understood by most people on both sides.)

    And do you believe the mainstream media does NOT try to protect secular progressives?

    I believe that all institutions try to protect themselves. And institutional self-interest isn’t usually as straightforward as that. George W. Bush just about crushed the mainstream media and then ran back and forth over its flattened corpse for his entire first term. And the NYT was at the head of the pack saying, “Please, sir, may I have another?”

    Because that was the mood of the country. C’est la vie.

    But (to be fair), they’re almost always generally respectful of authority once someone’s in office.

    “The three stories on that list that aren’t deranged conspiracy theories — Ayers/Dohrn, Rezko and Wright — all received months of coverage; he was questioned about them repeatedly during debates, press conferences, etc.; and all three were broken by mainstream media outlets.”

    Two points on that:

    1) There can be a very big difference between a) breaking a story and “coverage” of it, and b) objective, in-depth, unbiased reporting (i.e. *truthful* coverage).

    SN, I know you hate Obama. But “objective” and “unbiased” means you can’t say he’s in the thrall of radical left-wing terrorists unless there’s objective unbiased proof that he is.

    It also means you have to acknowledge that they haven’t committed any acts of radical left-wing terrorism since he was eleven years old, and that all charges against them were dropped, and so forth and so on.

    Because whether you like it or not, all those things are objectively true. Same for whether you personally think they’re pertinent truths or not. And there’s no amount of in-depth that can change that. The only way to change it is to persuade the majority of the American people that you’re right to see it the way you do and they’re wrong.

    Or overwhelming force. That would also work.

    In any event. That aside, I agree. There can be a big difference.

    To the best of my recollection, Rezko/Obama got in-depth coverage in the major dailies but not on TV, because it’s kind of a weedy story.

    But Wright and Ayers both got deep wide coverage everywhere. That’s why he had to throw Wright overboard. Just saying “I condemn this, I strongly disagree with that” and changing the subject didn’t do it.

    2) Which mainstream media outlets broke which stories?

    Ayers/Dohrn — ABC News; Rezko — the Chicago Sun-Times; Wright — ABC News.

    Rezko actually went national because Hillary brought it up during a debate.

    __________

    I noticed after posting that every single person I listed on the smear list at the end of #216 — ie, Kerry, Gore, Hillary in ’92, and Carson — was running against a member of the Bush family.

    Man, is it gonna be ugly if we end up with Bush v. /Clinton 2.0 (1.6.)

  33. #33 ann
    November 10, 2015

    Stupid html tags. I meant:

    But do you believe the mainstream media does NOT lean secular progressive?

    Well. The press is a secular institution. For a reason. And this is it:

    If they want to stay in business, any news outlet that has a big enough audience/readership to be called “mainstream” can’t lean a lot further to the left or right than most Americans who get their news from whatever part of the media marketplace that outlet is in. And they also can’t offend their advertisers.

    In practice, that means (a) secular/ecumenical; (b) most of the demo is always unhappy with something but rarely so disgusted that they quit reading/watching; and (c) except for very, very infrequently, neither of is going to see our political views being embraced by the mainstream print and broadcast media.

    The main way that they’re liberal is that to reach a lot of people they have to be inclusive wrt diversity of belief and lifestyle. But that’s not really motivated by politics. It’s just show business.

    The exceptions on the right (eg, Fox News, the WSJ, the New York Post) tend to be more uncompromisingly on the right because Rupert Murdoch is willing to plow money into them even when it’s unpopular.

    MSNBC has to keep it within limits that advertisers and viewers will accept. And the news pages of the New York Times are not all that liberal. They just hew definitively left for opinion/editorial and the “[whatever] of the Times” sections.

    (^^I mean “by the standards of most people.” I realize that you don’t see it that way. And I’m not arguing with that. I’m just using the terms “left,” “right,” “liberal,” and “conservative” as they’re conventionally understood by most people on both sides.)

    And do you believe the mainstream media does NOT try to protect secular progressives?

    I believe that all institutions try to protect themselves. And institutional self-interest isn’t usually as straightforward as that. George W. Bush just about crushed the mainstream media and then ran back and forth over its flattened corpse for his entire first term. And the NYT was at the head of the pack saying, “Please, sir, may I have another?”

    Because that was the mood of the country. C’est la vie.

    But (to be fair), they’re almost always generally respectful of authority once someone’s in office.

    “The three stories on that list that aren’t deranged conspiracy theories — Ayers/Dohrn, Rezko and Wright — all received months of coverage; he was questioned about them repeatedly during debates, press conferences, etc.; and all three were broken by mainstream media outlets.”

    Two points on that:

    1) There can be a very big difference between a) breaking a story and “coverage” of it, and b) objective, in-depth, unbiased reporting (i.e. *truthful* coverage).

    SN, I know you hate Obama. But “objective” and “unbiased” means you can’t say he’s in the thrall of radical left-wing terrorists unless there’s objective unbiased proof that he is.

    It also means you have to acknowledge that they haven’t committed any acts of radical left-wing terrorism since he was eleven years old, and that all charges against them were dropped, and so forth and so on.

    Because whether you like it or not, all those things are objectively true. Same for whether you personally think they’re pertinent truths or not. And there’s no amount of in-depth that can change that. The only way to change it is to persuade the majority of the American people that you’re right to see it the way you do and they’re wrong.

    Or overwhelming force. That would also work.

    In any event. That aside, I agree. There can be a big difference.

    To the best of my recollection, Rezko/Obama got in-depth coverage in the major dailies but not on TV, because it’s kind of a weedy story.

    But Wright and Ayers both got deep wide coverage everywhere. That’s why he had to throw Wright overboard. Just saying “I condemn this, I strongly disagree with that” and changing the subject didn’t do it.

    2) Which mainstream media outlets broke which stories?

    Ayers/Dohrn — ABC News; Rezko — the Chicago Sun-Times; Wright — ABC News.

    Rezko actually went national because Hillary brought it up during a debate.

    __________

    I noticed after posting that every single person I listed on the smear list at the end of #216 — ie, Kerry, Gore, Hillary in ’92, and Carson — was running against a member of the Bush family.

    Man, is it gonna be ugly if we end up with Bush v. /Clinton 2.0 (1.6.)

  34. #34 Narad
    November 10, 2015

    Again, this was intended to be a completely unsupported statement.

    Which, one may recall, was set forth as follows:

    Very intelligent people (interestingly males more than females) tend to ‘think outside the box.’ They tend to look for alternative solutions to problems, rather than using traditional methods. This is a twist on Dunning-Kruger. They are more likely to challenge assumptions – even assumptions of the ‘experts’ or just because they are a ‘scientist.’ For example, nobody told Carson how to separate the twins. He had to trust himself to literally ‘make this up’ from internal understanding that he trusted.

    It took you a while to backpedal to what you “intended”:

    Source was an anecdotal reference I have overheard generally by a couple of teachers I have known – I wasn’t trying to be specific, but for instance there is something out there to support this….

  35. #35 See Noevo
    November 10, 2015

    To ann who still doesn’t address anyone #231:

    “The exceptions on the right (eg, Fox News, the WSJ, the New York Post) tend to be more uncompromisingly on the right because Rupert Murdoch is willing to plow money into them even when it’s unpopular.”

    So, I guess Fox News and the WSJ are unpopular, losing business ventures kept afloat only by madman Murdoch.

    “MSNBC has to keep it within limits that advertisers and viewers will accept.”

    Now THAT is one that seems to be kept afloat regardless of its dismal ratings.

    “And the news pages of the New York Times are not all that liberal.”

    Not all that liberal? Yea. Just kind of liberal.
    Why should they be liberal AT ALL? How about NEUTRAL? You know, objective/unbiased/truthful/just-the-facts-ma’am?

    “George W. Bush just about crushed the mainstream media and then ran back and forth over its flattened corpse for his entire first term. And the NYT was at the head of the pack saying, “Please, sir, may I have another?””

    I mustn’t have heard that right. Could you repeat?

    “George W. Bush just about crushed the mainstream media and then ran back and forth over its flattened corpse for his entire first term. And the NYT was at the head of the pack saying, “Please, sir, may I have another?””

    I guess I DID hear that right.
    ???????????????????????????

    “SN, I know you hate Obama. But “objective” and “unbiased” means you can’t say he’s in the thrall of radical left-wing terrorists unless there’s objective unbiased proof that he is.”

    Correct, you wouldn’t report in the *straight news* pages that he’s *in the thrall of* radical left-wing terrorists.
    However, you MIGHT report his upbringing by, and frequent association with, radical left-wing, er, “socialist” types like his mother, grandparents, his father (FROM whom he got his dreams), his father figure Frank Marshall Davis, John Drew, Charles Ogletree, Jeremiah Wright, Bill Ayers, Bernadine Dohrn. Or with felon Tony Rezko.
    You MIGHT report how his upbringing, and frequent associations, are consistent with his “transformative” statements like “spread the wealth around” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OoqI5PSRcXM

  36. #36 gaist
    November 10, 2015

    Take it for what its worth. For absolute clarity – some folks (non-specifically, and without any actual experimentation) have independently noticed this and made offhand comments to me as in ‘humm isn’t it interesting that …’. Without much effort I was able to google and find that there is at least some evidence that the observations are not completely without merit.

    Which I for one didn’t challenge, at all. I pointed out there is at least some evidence to the contrary, and beyond…. So any postulating about what might result from such a discrepancy in thinking processes, is opinioning.

    Your original didn’t read it as such, but I appreciate the clarifications, while adding that one shouldn’t extrapolate from math problems to challenges a practicing doctor might face. Couldn’t locate the study but I remember reading a couple of newspaper articles about one that said basically the opposite of your anecdote, that in demanding professions women were better at out-of-the-box improvising and challenging past experiences, whereas men were faster in their decision making and relied more on past experience and individual skill. But, until I bother trying to locate it (read the articles 6-10 years ago, possibly from Sweden) this is purely anecdotal also.

    there is probably no RCT trial that would satisfy your desire to show this is a ‘proven fact’ with extensive footnotes. On the other hand, there isn’t evidence for parachutes,

    There is, in fact, evidence for parachutes (me for one, having survived not one but two exits from a flying airplane) but not RCTs. While randomized controlled trials are the gold standard for many types of studies, they are not the only sort of evidence, and often enough, not the only sort of absolutely convincing evidence, as in the case of parachutes.

    /pedantry

    The fact that there isn’t a large RCT or met-analysis for something does not indicate that something is false – it indicates unknown.

    False. There are other, often more appropriate study designs, providing equally rigorous and convincing evidence. I shouldn’t have to explain this to someone who is “a physician with an EE background (I tend to understand science and medicine pretty well and, I’m brighter than ‘average’)”.

    And, in the absence of established high quality studies, weak data is generally better than no data.

    (See Noevo in #220) I’m quite interested in exchange of ideas. See for example the exchanging on this 2,100+ comment thread:

    Which is the same thread I (and I believe others here) would offer as evidence that See Noevo isn’t.

  37. #37 gaist
    November 10, 2015

    Why should they be liberal AT ALL? How about NEUTRAL? You know, objective/unbiased/truthful/just-the-facts-ma’am?

    Says the man who uses Breitbart as a news source.

  38. #38 gaist
    November 10, 2015

    Also, the “And, in the absence of established high quality studies, weak data is generally better than no data.” shouldn’t be there, as it’s a discarded part of a quote from Larry’s post.

  39. #39 Helianthus
    November 10, 2015

    Why should they be liberal AT ALL?

    The media industry seek to attract and retain customers. Some will cater to a specific base, but those who seek a larger audience will try to appeal to common emotions.
    Plus, there is something known as “don’t shot the ambulance”. Most news anchors/editorial boards don’t want to appear as insensitive assh0les.

    So they will run their story trying to factor as much sensationalism and human factor as possible. So they will talk about unfairness, poverty, loss of a social situation (jobs, fame…), people helping one another (or not), the brutality of society in general, little dogs and cats ran over by cars…
    For some, these are all “liberal” topics or point-of-views.

    In reality, mainstream media are not so much liberal as they are a mix of distorted romanticism and black-and-white humanism. And as ann pointed above, media who want to address a large base have to be as much all-encompassing as possible. Which means talking about all forms of religions, sexual orientations and so on in a non-negative way (except in cases of extremism/belief-guided crimes).
    Which again, for some people, is a “liberal” point-of-view.

    These people ask for neutrality but nothing short of a judgemental report.will be neutral enough. Because they regard any accepting/sympathetic point-of-view as already a biased point-of-view.
    They are not completely wrong. True neutrality doesn’t exist. As Frank Herbert said, there is no way to transmit information without judging it. Just by reporting it, you give it value.

  40. #40 capnkrunch
    November 10, 2015

    gaist@236

    Which is the same thread I (and I believe others here) would offer as evidence that See Noevo isn’t.

    How deluded do you need to be to think otherwise? The constant stream of “I’m not talking to you” and then “see? No one can challenge what I’m saying” is rather contrary to exchange of ideas.

    This is also the same thread where See Noevo emitted this gem:

    How about the possibility that homosexuality is evil?

    Yup, See Noevo is hateful, bigotted, and absolutely entrenched in his far right beliefs. I say far right because it’s not about religion for him, religion is just a tool to justify his beliefs when they happen to coincide. Also in that thread was See Noevo claiming to know better than the pope.

    Sometimes writing someone off as a “bozo” is a useful shortcut. You can sift through the sh!tstream looking for good ideas but the return on inveatment is so low your time is probably better spent elsewhere.

  41. #41 ann
    November 10, 2015

    So, I guess Fox News and the WSJ are unpopular, losing business ventures kept afloat only by madman Murdoch.

    No, they’re both profitable. Fox has also been innovative and influential. And the WSJ has actually done better since the Newscorp acquisition, although that’s not because of politics, it’s because they dragged themselves into the 21rst century and built the brand online.

    That’s not what I meant. The key words were “even when it’s unpopular.”

    That’s always been the case for the New York Post. It’s not profitable. But they just keep doing what they’re doing anyway. Same for Fox News. For the first eight years or so, it was not a success. Now it is. But whether their numbers are declining or increasing, they just keep doing what they’re doing.

    That’s unusual in the United States; less so in the UK. But the whole picture is different there, because they have state-sponsored media. So everybody who’s not that is frankly partisan.

    In short: That wasn’t an insult.

    What I was trying to say is that the media outlets you regard as “liberal” aren’t the way they are because they have a political agenda. They’re that way because they have to cleave more or less to the political middle of their audience/readership, which shifts over time.

    Murdoch, on the other hand, sticks with Murdoch’s politics no matter what. So does Mort Zuckerman with Mort Zuckerman’s politics. But US News and the Daily News aren’t much of a media empire. And neither they nor he is very left-wing. There isn’t really an equivalent to Murdoch on the left.

    Why should they be liberal AT ALL? How about NEUTRAL? You know, objective/unbiased/truthful/just-the-facts-ma’am?

    As most people understand those words, they are.

    However, you MIGHT report his upbringing by, and frequent association with, radical left-wing, er, “socialist” types like his mother, grandparents, his father (FROM whom he got his dreams), his father figure Frank Marshall Davis, John Drew, Charles Ogletree, Jeremiah Wright, Bill Ayers, Bernadine Dohrn. Or with felon Tony Rezko.

    As I noted earlier, the three of those that aren’t deranged conspiracy theories did get reported. In an objective, unbiased and factual manner, as those words are understood by just about everybody who uses them.

    What you want is something else. An objective, unbiased report on Tony Rezko’s association with Obama would have to note that he hosted a multi-million-dollar fundraiser for George W. Bush, which is — by an objective, unbiased standard — more than he did for Obama. For example.

    Why? Because it says something that’s objectively important about Tony Rezko. That’s why. Just saying “Obama! Felons! Corruption! Burn him!” as if he were the only one would be biased.

  42. #42 Murmur
    UK-ia
    November 10, 2015

    Ummmm, Ann, we do not have state sponsored media here…

  43. #43 JP
    November 10, 2015

    Ummmm, Ann, we do not have state sponsored media here…

    Huh? What about the BBC?

  44. #44 JP
    November 10, 2015

    Sorry for Wiki, but:

    The BBC is established under a Royal Charter[9] and operates under its Agreement with the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.[10] Its work is funded principally by an annual television licence fee[11] which is charged to all British households, companies, and organisations using any type of equipment to receive or record live television broadcasts.[12] The fee is set by the British Government, agreed by Parliament,[13] and used to fund the BBC’s extensive radio, TV, and online services covering the nations and regions of the UK. From 1 April 2014 it also funds the BBC World Service, launched in 1932, which provides comprehensive TV, radio, and online services in Arabic, and Persian, and broadcasts in 28 languages.

  45. #45 KayMarie
    November 10, 2015

    These people ask for neutrality but nothing short of a judgemental report.will be neutral enough. Because they regard any accepting/sympathetic point-of-view as already a biased point-of-view.
    They are not completely wrong. True neutrality doesn’t exist. As Frank Herbert said, there is no way to transmit information without judging it. Just by reporting it, you give it value.

    I have heard of a few places have judged if they are getting reasonably close to neutral when each side lodges nearly equally passionate complaints about how biased the report is for the other side.

    The if you get equal but opposite letters to the editor you are doing your job appropriately thing.

  46. #46 dedicated lurker
    November 10, 2015

    If Obama’s responsible for his parents’ beliefs, then Dennis Wilson is a mass murderer.

  47. #47 Krebiozen
    November 10, 2015

    The BBC is supposed to be neutral, and generally achieves this IMO. It isn’t state mouthpiece in that sense. We have other TV companies, of course, but I can’t think of any TV station that I think of as having a particular political bent as Fox does in the US – even Sky tries to offer political bias. Newspapers are different, with clear political affiliations.

    Incidentally, I wonder what overlap there is between the various understandings people here have of what “liberal” means.

  48. #48 See Noevo
    November 10, 2015

    To ann #241:

    “What I was trying to say is that the media outlets you regard as “liberal” aren’t the way they are because they have a political agenda. They’re that way because they have to cleave more or less to the political middle of their audience/readership, which shifts over time.”

    You present a one-way street:
    The liberal audience/readership drives the media outlets to become liberal.

    I suspect more of a two-way street to some extent; a ‘vicious cycle’ to some extent:
    An *already* liberal media influences an initially less-liberal audience/readership to become *more* liberal; the media-caused increasing liberality of the audience/readership inspires the media outlets to greater heights, and disclosures, of liberality. Whether a vicious cycle or “positive” feedback loop, the media becomes *more* liberal, or at least becomes more likely to admit the liberality that was always there.

    P.S.
    I wonder if any surveys have been done of MSM newsroom political donations. I have a feeling that, as with academia, the overwhelming majority of the newsroom folks’ money goes to Democrats.

  49. #49 Krebiozen
    November 10, 2015

    Sheesh – “even Sky tries to avoid political bias” – I can’t even blame autocorrect, just my brain.

  50. #50 Dangerous Bacon
    November 10, 2015

    “The BBC is supposed to be neutral, and generally achieves this IMO.”

    There is no such thing as a news media outlet that is “neutral” or “objective”, whether state-run or not. As long as human beings are involved, the idea is a joke.

    Recently I was reading “The Fiery Cross”, a history of the Ku Klux Klan and an excellent book. A reviewer blurb on the back calls it “an objective history”. Of course it isn’t (it contains scathing condemnations of the KKK and its leaders) nor could an accurate history of the organization ever be “objective”.

    The most we can ask of any news organization is balance within reason, which does not include giving equal time or sometimes any platform at all to destructive loons.

  51. #51 Gray Falcon
    November 10, 2015

    Part of the problem is that many accusations of bias are about someone reporting facts that are inconvenient for one’s side. For example, our local newspaper got a scathing letter for daring to report the number of casualties from the second Iraq war.

  52. #52 See Noevo
    November 10, 2015

    ann wrote
    “The main way that [mainstream media is] liberal is that to reach a lot of people they have to be inclusive wrt diversity of belief and lifestyle. But that’s not really motivated by politics. It’s just show business.”

    It’s just show business. Definitely some truth in that.
    And those in “show business” are almost invariably liberal.

    Speaking of the treatment of truth in media coverage, here are some interesting bits from show business, from the movie “Absence of Malice”:

    Sarah Wylie: I need to know how to describe your relationship with Gallagher. Mac said to quote you directly. You can say whatever you want.

    Megan Carter: Just… say we were involved.

    Sarah Wylie: That’s true, isn’t it?

    Megan Carter: No. But it’s accurate.
    …………….
    Here’s another scene:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2SGe-IywHXg

  53. #53 JP
    November 10, 2015

    The BBC is supposed to be neutral, and generally achieves this IMO. It isn’t state mouthpiece in that sense.

    I (and I think ann) hadn’t meant to imply that it was a “state mouthpiece,” only that it is “state sponsored” in the sense that it is publicly funded. In fact, I think ann was saying that that makes it more likely to be more-or-less neutral than privately funded media.

    The US has a similar thing, if much smaller and worse funded, in PBS and NPR. These are in fact believed to be strongly “liberally biased” by many – I’m curious, do right-wingers in the UK feel the same way about the Beeb?

    I’m a great fan of the BBC World Service, incidentally. It plays on the local public radio station at night.

  54. #54 See Noevo
    November 10, 2015

    To Krebiozen #247:

    “Incidentally, I wonder what overlap there is between the various understandings people here have of what “liberal” means.”

    On the flip side, Jay Nordlinger wrote a piece yesterday titled “What Is Conservatism?”
    I posted the following comment to it:

    [At a top level, I’d say “conservatism” is a belief in *conserving* the things and principles that are good – more specifically, the things and principles which have been shown to work well in upholding the inherent dignity of human beings and in bettering the human condition.

    At a more detailed level, Jay provides a pretty good summary:
    “I believe that to be a conservative is to be for limited government. Personal freedom. The rule of law. The Constitution, and adherence to it. Federalism. Equality under the law. Equality of opportunity. Relatively light taxation. Relatively light regulation. Free enterprise. Property rights. Free trade. Civil society. The right to work. A strong defense. National security. National sovereignty. Human rights. A sound, non-flaky educational curriculum. School choice. A sensible stewardship over the land, as opposed to extreme environmentalism. Pluralism. Colorblindness. Toleration. E pluribus unum. Patriotism. Our Judeo-Christian heritage. Western civilization.

    I want to throw in, too, the right to life. (I have said, over the years, “Show me where a man stands on abortion and Israel, and you have shown me all I need to know.”)”]

  55. #55 dean
    November 10, 2015

    It is amazing sn how few of those “items of conservatism” you have shown yourself to possess (as we reflect on the racism, bigotry, misogyny, hatred of other religions, and your lack of education).

    It is also amusing how you try to paint President Obama as a communist terrorist when it was the previous president’s policies that destroyed the economy in the early 2000s with his foolish tax cuts and refusal to pay for 2 wars (and inability to execute either of them in any meaningful way).

    Your ignorance and personal lack of being tied to reality are both boundless.

  56. #56 JustaTech
    November 10, 2015

    “Reality has a well-known liberal bias.” – Stephen Colbert, The Colbert Report

  57. #57 Ming On Mongo
    NorCal
    November 10, 2015

    Sure, neurosurgeons can believe dumb stuff, just like anyone else. But I have one question… how many neurosurgeons continually recall their lives in ‘parables’, ans have giant paintings of THEMSELVES hanging in their hallway… one of which features them standing next to Christ, in matching beards, clothes and even matching complexions (just in case you didn’t get the ‘inference’)?!

  58. #58 See Noevo
    November 10, 2015

    Continuing with the concepts of media and liberalism…

    here’s an interesting 6-minute bit on media coverage, recorded at one of the wackiest and least-free spaces in America – the typical college campus.

    The woman heard in the beginning and then seen at the end shouting
    “Hey, who wants to help me get this reporter out of here. I need some muscle over here!”
    is Melissa Click. Melissa’s a Mizzuo professor who teaches about things like Lady Gaga and “Fifty Shades of Grey.”

    http://www.al.com/news/index.ssf/2015/11/who_is_melissa_click_mizzou_me.html

    I could probably title this “Where liberalism is headed”.

  59. #59 MI Dawn
    November 10, 2015

    I’ve had enough of SN for this round. He’s gone back into the Do Not See bin.

  60. #60 Narad
    November 10, 2015

    Melissa’s a Mizzuo professor

    Since you’re merely link-spamming, it shouldn’t be too hard to at least make an attempt at spelling.

  61. #61 shay
    November 10, 2015

    And the WSJ has actually done better since the Newscorp acquisition, although that’s not because of politics, it’s because they dragged themselves into the 21rst century and built the brand online.

    The WSJ just did a rather scathing examination of some of Ben Carson’s stories.

  62. #63 Narad
    November 10, 2015

    ^ BTW, Cynthia Parker is also a resident of Columbia, MO. And I have a friend who’s trapped in that hole as a result of a custody agreement with her philandering ex-husband.

  63. #64 ann
    November 10, 2015

    The BBC is supposed to be neutral, and generally achieves this IMO. It isn’t state mouthpiece in that sense.

    “State-sponsored” was intended as a value-neutral term.

    My point was that countries (such as Great Britain and France) that have …I don’t know what to call it besides “state-sponsored” news media typically also have newspapers that are frankly, comfortably partisan. Because the “neutral, objective” slot is already filled.

    The concept of compulsory objective newspaper reporting for all newspapers because that’s what newspaper reporting is, objective, is an American thing.

    Murdoch comes from a different tradition. That’s all I was saying. I didn’t mean one was better or worse than the other. It was just an observation.

  64. #65 ann
    November 10, 2015

    I declare this derail over.

    (Meaning: I’m sorry I made an exception.)

  65. #66 gaist
    November 10, 2015

    (You’re in luck See, two days in a row… I like being paid overtime to wait by the computer.)

    “Had your fill yet?” The spectator asks his companion. “We might still catch a movie, or something…”
    “Absolutely incredible.” the companion says.
    “You want to stay? Really?”
    “No. No!” the companion looks shocked. “nooo I don’t.”
    “Thank God” the spectator whispers, standing up.

    “You look familiar…” See Noevo says, squinting over the stage lights.
    Realizing See is addressing him, the spectator turns to look at him with a pained expression. “We’ve met.” he hesitantly admits.
    When See Noevo continues squinting at him, the spectator adds “I suffered through your last show, at least until you stormed off, after which you came pestering me at the bus stop…”

    (silence)

    “Doesn’t ring a bell.” See says, finally.
    “I missed my bus trying to help you find Darwin four afterwards…”
    “What do you mean?” See hisses vehemently, “Darwin’s not missing!” See pats the plushie monkey tucked under his belt. “He’s right here!”
    “Umm…” says the spectator. “Ooookay…”
    “So you must have been mistaken.” See reasons.
    “I certainly hope so…” the spectator says. “I gave you back your judgmental See-puppet…”
    “You!” See suddenly shrieks, pointing the spectator with an accusatory finger. “You! You… stalker! You’re obsessed with me!”
    “What? No, I tried to avoid you, rememb-”
    “A-ha! Too cowardly to have a real exchange of ideas!”
    “You’re the one who started listing people you’d ignore from now on because they had arguments you couldn’t refute.”
    “And for good reason!” See snaps back, “pretending they didn’t recognize my greatness, petty whining cowards, getting stuck in minor irrelevant details, like the main stream media with good doctor Carson, weak angry writing hit pieces, trying to ruin America…”
    “I don’t think they’re hit pieces” says someone from the audience. “I think his possible lies ought to be investigated, like everyone else’s.”
    “Never!” See shouts. “Liberal mainstream media is out to smear him! Ruin him! They’re nothing but lies designed to turn us into liberal communists!”

    (silence)

    “Mainstream media like Fox?” someone says.
    “I doubt the Wall Street Journal has a communist agenda…” someone else adds, sending See Noevo into another fit of rage.
    “Fox and Wall Street Journal are liberal mouthpieces for Obama and his criminal thugs! Hating honest Christian values like the ones I personify! They must hate me most of all, that’s why I can’t remember a single news I didn’t disagree with.”
    “That doesn’t even make sense…”
    “I’m a threat to secular progressive movement, like Ben Carson, em dee, that’s why they fear and hate me…”
    “Don’t be ridicu-”
    “I know what media is like! I’ve seen a movie about it, they’re all liberals, hating the Constitution and human rights and toleration! Equal rights for all! Everything conservatives stand for! ” See Noevo nods at his own words, appreciatively. “Ruining our youth with Lady Gaga and Fifty shades of liberalism.”
    “Conservatives like you?” asks the spectator.
    “Indeed!” See nods, thumbs hooked into belt loops.
    “So equal rights and liberties for everybody?”
    “Certainly.”
    “Gays too?”
    “Don’t be an idiot, everybody knows faggots are evil!”

    (silence)

    “I rest my case.” the spectator says, sitting back down.
    “I thought you wanted to leave?” the companion whispers.
    “What’s the quote… All it takes for evil to triumph…” the spectator whispers. “It’s a shitty job but someone’s gotta-”
    The companion points at several lights being held up here and there in the audience, bluish rectangles casting a faint glow on several faces.
    “Cameras…” the companion grins. “At least he’s making a fool of himself in public. A cautionary tale.”
    On stage, See Noevo is fuming, more so as he realizes the spectator he was just castigating isn’t paying attention to him. In what he thinks is a a solemn, accusatory tone, he says “I bet you’re some sort of deviant baby-killing Palestine-loving anti-semitic queer, aren’t you… I can tell these things, it’s a gift I have…”

  66. #67 ann
    November 10, 2015

    I (and I think ann) hadn’t meant to imply that it was a “state mouthpiece,” only that it is “state sponsored” in the sense that it is publicly funded. In fact, I think ann was saying that that makes it more likely to be more-or-less neutral than privately funded media.

    Yes. Exactly. Well said.

    (Missed it before.)

  67. #68 See Noevo
    November 10, 2015

    Let’s watch Ben Carson & company in the debate tonight on Fox Business Channel!

    I think the focus will be on economic issues.

    The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact may be one of the subjects. And today, President Obama seemed to be encouraging you and me to read the TPP:
    “Along with the text of the agreement, we’ve posted detailed materials to help explain it. It’s an unprecedented degree of transparency — and it’s the right thing to do… And I expect that, after the American people and Congress have an opportunity for months of careful review and consultation, Congress will approve it, and I’ll have the chance to sign it into law.”

    So, I may be away from here for the next couple months, reading the thing.
    I wonder if any of the debaters tonight have read it? It’s pretty big, according to the pic in this Tweet:
    https://twitter.com/senatorsessions

  68. #69 ann
    November 10, 2015

    He just hit it out of the park on his first question.

    Could not have been better.

  69. #70 TBruce
    November 10, 2015

    So, I may be away from here for the next couple months, reading the thing.

    Hey, don’t hurry. You want to make sure you read it thoroughly. Take a year or two. We’re okay with that.

  70. #71 Krebiozen
    November 11, 2015

    JP,

    I (and I think ann) hadn’t meant to imply that it was a “state mouthpiece,” only that it is “state sponsored” in the sense that it is publicly funded. In fact, I think ann was saying that that makes it more likely to be more-or-less neutral than privately funded media.

    I wasn’t really disagreeing with you or ann, I’m just never quite sure how people see the UK and a “state-sponsored media” has a faint Orwellian ring to it 🙂 Since the BBC is at the mercy of government to some extent, I imagine there must be some motivation not to bite the hand…, but it isn’t as obvious, to me anyway, as something like Fox News’ biases. I don’t think you would find the BBC biased towards AGW denial for example.

    The US has a similar thing, if much smaller and worse funded, in PBS and NPR.

    Thank FSM for NPR and PBS; the paucity of an liberal/independent US (and global) media is troubling. I haven’t spent much time in the US, but find the TV fascinating when I’m there. A foreign culture that speaks a language I am more or less fluent in – what’s not to like for an amateur anthropologist like myself? That said, much mainstream USian culture is hardly foreign to Brits (or anyone else but North Koreans, I guess).

    These are in fact believed to be strongly “liberally biased” by many – I’m curious, do right-wingers in the UK feel the same way about the Beeb?

    Probably, though I don’t know too many right-wingers. I hear more complaints that the BBC is too right-wing and pro-government, with perhaps some justification. The BBC is generally uncontroversial, which inevitably p!sses some people off.

    I’m a great fan of the BBC World Service, incidentally. It plays on the local public radio station at night.

    And I’m very happy to pay for part of it with my license fee 🙂 (though I think overseas sales of Doctor Who funds most of it). I think it’s still true that the BBC radio (but not TV) archive is open to anyone (works using a Canadian VPN anyway) – beware, it’s a serious time sink but there’s some really good stuff there.

    Years ago, I found myself stranded in the Sahara for a few days with some nomads (a long story I have related here before), one of them told me he listened to the BBC World Service, which I assume broadcasts in Arabic (I doubt it does Berber). The only English words he knew were “hello, how are you? very pleased to meet you” (or words to that effect), but his accent was impeccable, which was amusing, coming from a guy who looked like he had stepped out of the Arabian Nights.

  71. #72 See Noevo
    November 11, 2015

    My rough ratings of last night’s performances:
    Cruz: A
    Fiorina: A
    Carson: B+
    Rubio: B+
    Trump: B
    Paul: B
    Bush: C
    Kasich: C-

  72. #73 SocraticGadfly
    November 13, 2015

    I don’t think Dunning-Kruger (which I remember by thinking of convicted pseudoskeptic Brian Dunning and Freddy Kruger) is the only explanatory factor. I think that there’s a related issue.

    It’s the fallacy of false appeal to authority, but looking at that fallacy through the other end of the telescope, the false authority thinking he’s an authority outside his field, rather than the actual appeal.

  73. […] Strivers from Those People The Keystone Pipeline and the Defeat of Faceless Corporate Power Ben Carson: A case study on why intelligent people are often not skeptics They don’t like it when the tables are turned Why is GOP mega-donor Paul Singer backing Marco […]

  74. #75 J E McCombs
    northern California
    November 15, 2015

    Thank you for contributing to the body of works which examine current political issues without insult, name-calling, or bombast. And even your comment train doesn’t descend into the mud; remarkable.

    One tiny tip from a person old enough to remember my mother’s hand-cranked washing machine: you went through the wringer, not ringer, of internship. (4th paragraph from the end). A more vivid image that way, isn’t it?!

  75. #76 herr doktor bimler
    November 15, 2015

    you went through the wringer, not ringer, of internship. A more vivid image that way, isn’t it?!

    I would rather not revive mental images of de-gloving injuries

  76. #77 TBruce
    November 15, 2015

    herr doktor:

    Remember that one of the most frequent causes of degloving injuries is a finger ring being forcibly removed by getting caught on a fence or in heavy machinery. “Ringer” might not be so incorrect after all.

  77. #78 Chris
    November 15, 2015

    Hmmm, when my then five year old sister got her hand caught in a washer wringer, my mother reversed it to get her out, and then sought out a medical clinic in a Spanish speaking city where we had lived in for less than a month (Caracas, 1968).

    With help she found one, and it turned out my sister had no broken bones but lots of bruising. We attributed it to her tiny hands, and not forcing it out of the wringer. Then it was on to the next problem of that little girl thinking she would walk through glass sliding doors, again saved by being tiny and someone nearby to drag her away.

  78. #79 Denice Walte
    November 15, 2015

    Descriptions of de-gloving by vivid imagery-conjurer Stephen King, gave me a case of the horrors for weeks.

    At any rate speaking of horrors, I had the dubious pleasure of listening to Mike Adams’s 12 minute diatribe
    ( @Natural News) in which he narrates why his town would be immune to events such as those which have just transpired in Paris.
    It so typifies his methods- opportunistically using tragedy to further his own despicable aims.

    Right, guns are the solution. Ignorant fool.

  79. #80 JP
    November 15, 2015

    Then it was on to the next problem of that little girl thinking she would walk through glass sliding doors, again saved by being tiny and someone nearby to drag her away.

    There is a story (which MAY involve baby Jamie) behind why the sliding glass front doors at my maternal grandmother’s house have some little pictures of pears and birds affixed to them.

  80. #81 TBruce
    November 15, 2015

    I ran through a floor-to-ceiling glass window when I was eight. I went right through it and fell flat on my face. The top half of the window then came down like a guillotine blade. Fortunately I was out of the way. The weirdest thing was I ended up with only a few superficial cuts on my hands.
    I have no idea why I am still alive.

  81. #82 JP
    November 15, 2015

    Oy – that’s lucky. I was small enough, clumsy enough, and slow enough that I just repeatedly (not sure how many times) kept trying to walk through the glass doors and smooshing my face into it. My grandma was a pretty fastidious housekeeper, I guess. Those Norwegians.

  82. #83 Chris
    November 15, 2015

    JP: “… have some little pictures of pears and birds affixed to them.”

    These doors had decorative stencils already affixed. It did not matter to that little girl who seemed to like to do things at lightening speeds. As it turns out she did run track later in life, when she had also gained a bit of safety sense.

  83. #84 Narad
    November 15, 2015

    I was small enough, clumsy enough, and slow enough that I just repeatedly (not sure how many times) kept trying to walk through the glass doors and smooshing my face into it.

    Sheesh, all I did was get up in the middle of the night and consume MSG straight from the canister of Accent.

    I suppose I once had to crawl into a log while being pelted with rocks, and there were all the 120 V electrical shocks,* but still.

    * Also, papas, please teach your kids what the clutch is for before having them test out second-hand riding mowers.

  84. #85 JP
    November 16, 2015

    Sheesh, all I did was get up in the middle of the night and consume MSG straight from the canister of Accent.

    I was known to shake the “steak seasoning” salt stuff out into my hand and eat it. And also munch on dry spaghetti. Actually, one of the favorite snacks of my brother and I was crushed-up dry ramen with the season packet sprinkled on it. (We were often more-or-less unsupervised, especially in the summer.)

    In fact, as a toddler, I apparently had quite a taste for dry cat food. I am tempted to say that I was like a little stoned person, just wandering around and enjoying any sort of sensual experiences I came upon, but it may well just be that I inherited my father’s enthusiastic enjoyment of pretty much anything edible.*

    Speaking of lawn mowers, there is a story about how I was none-too-bright operating one one time, and could have lost some fingers if I wasn’t lucky. (I don’t remember it altogether, but something about a grass block in the blades, and not turning it off beforehand or something.) “Awful smart about some thing and awful dumb about others,” as they used to say.

    *I have heard stores about “food” that he prepared at logging camps.

  85. #86 JP
    November 16, 2015

    ^ some things.

  86. #87 JP
    November 16, 2015

    Just to be clear, I wasn’t reaching to where the blades were or anything; there was a rubber grass-trap type thing that I was emptying.

  87. #88 Julian Frost
    Gauteng East Rand
    November 16, 2015

    I have a story, or more correctly two.
    Years ago, my parents’ house was being remodeled. I hadn’t moved out. I was jogging though to my room, it was dark and I didn’t realise the sliding doors were closed.
    BUMP! Ooof! Clatter.
    I ran head first into the glass panel (which thankfully was armoured glass), and fell backwards, knocking over something. My parents hurried through to check. I was sore, but otherwise fine.
    A few years later, my father walked into the exact same door. It also didn’t break, but he got a lovely black eye. It was his birthday a few days later, so my mother bought him a birthday card that had a picture of the Blue Hole, a marine sinkhole.
    The door in question now has stickers on it to prevent a recurrence.

  88. #89 Obstreperous Applesauce
    November 18, 2015
  89. #90 AdamG
    November 18, 2015

    Oh Ben. Now his own advisers are admitting he has a hard time grasping foreign policy. And then there’s this:
    http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/ben-carson-refugee-map-fail

  90. #91 sadmar
    November 18, 2015

    Ah, the politics of news. This is stuff I know, as it was a core topic of my PhD studies, and a case study therein was my original plan for a dissertation topic. (I changed it, but still had a couple chapters that dealt with news.)

    DB: ‘Balance’ is always a crock, as is the notion of ‘objectivity’ that governs it. Obedience to these principles has done more to obscure truth in news than any overt partisan bias. In practice, both principles are fundamentally conservative, in that they inevitably function in favor of the reigning powers-that-be. The most we can ask of journalism is ‘fairness’ in its subjectivity.

    The whole ‘liberal media’ thing is also a crock, based on nonsensical definitions and the worst sort of cherry picking of evidence. The definitional issue is a crude false dichotomy: if a news source does not fit the pundit’s definition of ‘conservative’, it is considered to be ‘liberal’. The cherry-picking is a focus on the reporters of the high-circulation ‘prestige’ publications and networks. If you look at ALL of the ‘MSM’ – including the regional newspapers and local broadcast stations (especially radio, which is filled with syndicated far-right talk shows)– and ALL of the decision-makers, including editors and publishers, factoring for relative power – to the extent news has any ideological tilt, it lands on the right-hand side of the political divide.

    But the larger flaw in this thinking, in critiques of news mounted from both left and right, is the assumption that news has some hidden partisan content, that it’s fundamentally ideological in nature. Over all, news is more anti-ideological, subverting any political agendas in favor of empty spectacle and sensationalism. It destroys sense more than it creates sense one way or the other.

    ann: The good thing about state-sponsored media is that it’s LESS likely to be ‘neutral’ than advertising-supported news. That is, to the extent publicly funded media IS ‘neutral’ this is typically achieved by including different perspectives over the range of programming as a whole. There is much less demand that each individual program, journalist or story must be ‘neutral’ in the sense of framing within ‘objectivity’.

    ‘Objectivity’ in news is a late 19th-century innovation, that only became a norm in the early 20th century. It’s origins were all about sustainable profit – ‘objective’ coverage pisses off the fewest advertisers, generating higher ad revenue for a mass-circulation publication directed at an audience with some diversity of viewpoints. (See Michael Schudson, Discovering The News.)

    What has happened over the last 3-4 decades is a decline of all forms of mass-circulation media as cable TV and the internet have enabled advertisers to target fragmented segments of the buying public with messages that fit whatever political or a-political bubble they may inhabit. There’s no longer as compelling a need for a content environment congruent with ‘appealing to everybody’.

    In general, the wider the audience-base, the more ‘inoffensive’ the content. Murdoch’s NewsCorp has massive holdings, and plays the game well at every level. While he’s best known for his Tory tabloids and Fox News, the majority of his profit still comes from international news services that largely avoid controversy, and suck at the teats of whoever is in power in the markets at hand, regardless of what Rupert may think of their ideology…

  91. […] looks Ben Carson and why intelligent people aren’t always skeptics. Somewhat related, from 2013, Tea Partiers know […]

  92. […] Orac looks Ben Carson and why intelligent people aren’t always skeptics. Somewhat related, from 2013, Tea Partiers know […]

  93. #94 Matthew
    November 20, 2015

    Orac,

    I found your article pretty entertaining. As a relatively well educated person, I have often found myself guarding against the Drummer-Kruger effect, though I didn’t know it had a name before reading this article. In fact, occasionally I try to find new ideas to add to my knowledge base which is why I stumbled upon your blog. I disagree with pretense of this statement, ” Indeed, many of the people most invested in ‘integrating’ alternative medicine (i.e., quackery) into medicine are incredibly intelligent physicians.” I’m not trained in alternative medicine, but I don’t think you can dismiss it all as quackery.

    Three points:
    A. Many starting points for medicines (and other uses) have been based on natural sources, so on a viewpoint that X has A, and A is biologically active, these things can have therapeutic value.
    B. Non-small molecules (DNA, RNA strands) can have interesting activities that are difficult to isolate and subsequently quantifiy. Just because you cant find an active small molecule doesn’t mean there isn’t activity in some component that is difficult to find.
    C. Synergistic effects are important, but very difficult to quantify. Ask honeybees. However, they aren’t native to the US, and we all know, “If you aren’t from here, you can get out!” Ask honeybees in Europe.

  94. #95 JGC
    November 20, 2015

    Many starting points for medicines (and other uses) have been based on natural sources, so on a viewpoint that X has A, and A is biologically active, these things can have therapeutic value.

    Which is of course why there’s an entire field of evidence based medical research dedicated to identifying the active ingredient A natural source X might produce–it’s called pharmacognosy, and there’s nothing alternative about it. It allows us to produce drug products that are free of contaminants and contain a known dosage of the active ingredient that’s beneficial. There’s a reason, after all, we’ve moved to taking aspirin tablets for headaches and no longer rely on willow bark tree.

    Just because you cant find an active small molecule doesn’t mean there isn’t activity in some component that is difficult to find.

    The problem isn’t that it’s difficult to detect and isolate an active components from natural product remedies, but that with rare exception ( e.g. willow bark tea again) those remedies themselves do exhibit the activity claimed.

  95. #96 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    November 20, 2015

    Just because you cant find an active small molecule doesn’t mean there isn’t activity in some component that is difficult to find.

    First, of course, you have to demonstrate that the effects exist before you would bother trying to determine which component produces the effect.

    Synergistic effects are important, but very difficult to quantify.

    While there certainly can be synergistic effects, there’s a need to actually prove that such effects exist before claiming them.

  96. #97 Antaeus Feldspar
    November 20, 2015

    I disagree with pretense of this statement, ” Indeed, many of the people most invested in ‘integrating’ alternative medicine (i.e., quackery) into medicine are incredibly intelligent physicians.” I’m not trained in alternative medicine, but I don’t think you can dismiss it all as quackery.

    … I think you meant “premise”, possibly? Rather than “pretense”?

    I think Orac is engaging in a bit of hyperbole through simplification with the phrase “alternative medicine (i.e., quackery)”. The literal meaning of “i.e.” would translate this statement to “all alternative medicine is quackery”. Even if we employ the principle of charity and allow quackery to simply mean “medicine without actual value”, and not require the implication of anyone’s conscious fraud, we still can’t state definitively that there is no value anywhere in alternative medicine.

    Here’s the thing, though: we also cannot state that there is value anywhere in alternative medicine. Some people think that because there have been some cases where a substance or practice recommended by “ancient wisdom” turned out to have value (not always the value that was claimed for it, or anything near) that means that there must be other such cases just waiting to be discovered. This logical-seeming premise is wrong. If you reach into a jar and draw a large number of white pebbles and one black pebble, is there any guarantee that there are more black pebbles in the jar, waiting to be withdrawn on future turns? No, there isn’t. For all we know, we’ve already drawn the last.

    Considering that no one has a crystal ball capable of giving us absolutely accurate answers from the future, I think Orac’s assessment must be taken as a hyperbolic expression of a true fact: very little real actual medicine has come out of “alternative medicine”, and the amounts only get smaller the more dubious alternative practices you allow under the “alternative medicine” banner.

  97. #98 Chris
    November 20, 2015

    Matthew: “I’m not trained in alternative medicine, but I don’t think you can dismiss it all as quackery.”

    List the ones that are not quackery. Not in generalities like “natural sources”, “non-small molecules” and “synergistic effects”, but actual names of the particular “alternative” medicine.

    Would it be turmeric, vitamin C, colloidal silver, homeopathy, acupuncture, or what? Though before you post with those details, be sure to see if they were discussed here earlier by using the handy dandy search box on the upper right of this page. Thank you in advance.

  98. […] but hopefully we can keep the overall conversation more or less detached from current events. Ben Carson: A case study on why intelligent people are often not skeptics by David Gorski at Respectful […]

  99. […] I’ve said it before (many times). I’ll say it again: Most physicians are not scientists, and highly intelligent people (like Ben Carson) are frustratingly all too often not skeptics. […]

  100. […] virtues lead intelligent people to say and do dumb things in the political realm? A recent post on ScienceBlogs sought to explain the disparity between Dr. Ben Carson’s brilliance as a neurosurgeon and his […]

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