Wednesday, September 25, 2013

It's Been A Long Time Coming

Popular Science to Shut Down Comments

And about time, too. I think that in the online, print, and television media that there's been too much credence given to laypeople who have varying (and sometimes whackadoodle) opinions and ideas to give their counterpoint as though they were on equal footing with experts in the field in the name of fair play.

Here's my solution, and I know it's a wild one, so hold on, folks.

If you are going to have someone on to counter the 'experts', take the time and vet them. Are they an expert in the same or related field? Do they have a counterpoint? Great, get 'em on! If you can't find one, say so. Don't invite John Smith or Billy Ray Bob or Preston van Snootworthy III just because they have a different opinion.

No more celebrities on the news sites spouting their harmful beliefs that vaccines cause autism when it has been debunked and discredited over and over again. If you want to have a round table discussion with the AMA, the AAP, the NHS, and the WHO over concerns parents have regarding the course and frequency of vaccines for infants, toddlers, and children, go for it. But to turn everything into a Grand Governmental Conspiracy, when these things are reviewed and revised and re-examined on a regular basis because it's bad governmental policy to harm children, not to mention that this is what doctors and researchers spend the vast majority of their lives being educated on... It's stupid. And it's stupid because it comes from a place of fear and ignorance rather than rationality and education.

Don't get me wrong. I'm a Big Ol' Fan of being a skeptic. I like to think of myself as one on my good days. But part of being skeptical (as opposed to being a pain in the ass cynic) is to question, research with good information, examine the evidence, and make decisions based on logic rather than emotion. And way too many of the comments and counters to experts in their field are based on pathos rather than logos. Appeals to emotion are powerful, that's why they exist, and they make us feel things. Anger, happiness, fear, empowerment... The list goes on. But they rarely coexist with the argument from an educated, evidence based standpoint. If you want to have an emotional argument with your significant other, you might win. And it feels good to vent your spleen every so often. But to create a well reasoned argument takes more time, energy, self-education, and if you're presenting it on the national or international stage, that's the way it should be.

Anything less feels like gossip and fear-mongering.

Be better than the 37%. When presented with something that sounds outrageous, go do your research. Find out if that talking head believes in the outrageous and is the chapter president of the Algerians for Unicorn Reforms. And don't be that person that skims the first three paragraphs of an article and responds.

My comments are open, because everything I post here is opinion of one form or another. The minute I post any self-created scientific research, I'll still leave the comments open, but I will wield the banhammer on anyone that counters without having their ducks in a row.