Welcome to Skeptico.
The Comments sections on this blog are for people to explore the issues raised in the posts – to agree or disagree. If you want to leave a comment, all I really ask is that you be genuinely interested in an exchange of ideas. Or to put it more simply – don’t be a jerk. It’s not that hard really, and you have to be a fairly consistent major jerk to get booted. (Four years and 10,000 comments and only seven bannings – not counting spammers. I think that’s a pretty low number.)
Having said that, a very small minority do seem determined not to get what I’m asking for here. With that in mind, please note the following list of things that may get your posts deleted and possibly get you banned from commenting.
Posting Names and Sock Puppets
Please use a name in the “Name” box. It doesn’t have to be your real name but please use the same name each time you post a comment. Anyone I find using sock puppets – posting different comments under different names – will be instantly banned.
I realize that sometimes only a well placed F word will express how you really feel – just don’t go overboard please. Where I consider profanities to be gratuitous or really excessive, or where the noise to signal ratio is too high, I may delete posts.
Please stick to the topic of the original post. Comments that are wildly off-topic may be deleted.
Copy and Paste
Please do not copy and paste massive amounts of text, and especially don’t do this implying it is your own work. Copy a few paragraphs if you want with a link to the full article.
Signal to Noise Ratio
I understand that sometimes you wish to post insults about another commenter – just make sure please that the majority of what you post is reasoned argument, reasonable questions to another commenter, citations, answers to questions etc. If people read paragraph after paragraph of just personal insults they will likely be driven away.
That’s it, really. Please note, I will be extremely flexible and easy going in applying these rules. I don’t want to put people off commenting and I especially don’t want dissenters or non-skeptics to feel they can’t post exactly how they feel. But only post comments please if you are actually interested in reasoned debate, or in imparting some valid information about the subject in hand. As I wrote above – don’t be a jerk. If you honestly follow that rule there will be no problem.
A couple of other points. To reduce spam, I currently ask you to to validate with an email address. Your email address will not be published.
The spam filter sometimes holds long comments, or those with multiple hyperlinks. Unfortunately I have no control over TypePad's spam filter, but I can manually release any comments that have been held. If your comment does not appear after you have posted it, the best bet is for you to to email me and just tell me your comment is held. I will release it the next time I check my email. Again, apologies for this, I will continue to ask TypePad to dial down their spam filter, but it's really out of my hands.
If you want to format your comments (for example to include hyperlinks, or to indent text you’re quoting), please read how to format comments which should explain everything you need to know.
While the above might be considered “rules”, there follows a summary of fallacious arguments we have all heard before - arguments that you might like to avoid using. Please read the following summary of fallacious arguments – read the more detailed explanations at the links – and unless you can explain why these are not fallacies, expect to be ridiculed if you use any of these arguments. Up to you of course – I’m not saying you can’t use any of these arguments, just that we’ve heard and debunked them many times already.
In no particular order, you should try avoiding the following:
The really lame fallback of the non-skeptic. An open mind is open to all ideas, but it must be open to the possibility that the idea could be true or false. It is not closed-minded to reject claims that make no sense, but if you can’t accept the possibility that an idea might be false, then you are the closed minded one.
An example of this would be to claim that alternative medicine can’t be tested by science. Science has proved to be the most reliable method we know for evaluating claims and figuring out how the universe works. If the you claim there is a better method, it is up to you to describe that better method and explain why it is better.
This would include, for example, pointing out that that for hundreds of years nobody could prove the presence of atoms, electricity or radio waves, or that people used to think the Earth was flat. Of course, these things are true and science doesn’t know everything, but the corollary is not that any idea you like the sound of, that cannot be proven false, is worthy of consideration. Something is only worthy of consideration if there is a reason to suppose it is true. So please provide one.
This argument will be to point out previous errors in science, as if that justified your claim. Of course science is sometimes wrong, but science has proven the most reliable method we know for evaluating claims and figuring out how the universe works. This argument is just a smoke screen to disguise the fact that the you have no evidence for your claim.
Not a mere insult, as most people think. It means attacking the motives or qualifications of the person making the claim, rather than the evidence they present for their claim. Examples would be to call someone a “Pharma Shill” to indicate they were perhaps being paid by the pharmaceutical companies to write what they are writing. The motives of the person making the argument are irrelevant; only the data are important. You need to show exactly what is wrong with the actual data.
This is when you use the same word in different meanings in an argument, implying that the word means the same each time. For example, someone asserts that I have “faith” in science, and then implies this is the same as religious faith. Obviously they are different.
Please don’t bother telling us that if only we understood quantum mechanics we’d know that your brand of woo is real. First, several people who comment here regularly understand QM fairly well and will quickly expose your ignorance. Second, and more importantly, you will need to explain exactly how QM proves your point. And citing What The Bleep Do We Know as a reference will not cut it.
Appeals to personal experience
There is a reason that randomized double-blind studies are used to determine the efficacy of therapies – personal experience is unreliable. Please don’t tell us that your woo therapy worked because you felt better just after you were treated, unless you can explain why the improvement you experienced could not possibly be due to one of the following:
- Temporary mood improvements due to the personal nature of the treatment
- Psychological investment of the patient in the success of the therapy
- Incorrect diagnosis to start with
- The cyclical nature of the illness (gets worse/gets better/gets worse/gets better…)
- Other medicines the patient is taking
- The illness just goes away by itself.
- Release of endorphins (mainly with acupuncture)
Also, please see this list or this list of additional fallacious arguments to avoid. Trust me, we have heard and debunked all these arguments more times than we like to remember. So unless you can explain why these arguments are not fallacious, you might want to avoid using them and embarrassing yourself. Again, this is entirely up to you.