I know it’s been a while since I’ve written a substantial post about the king of the anti-science shitheads, David H. Dorkski. Today, however, I’m taking a different approach and instead of attacking his insipid, drudging and puerile blog posts, I think I will address his beliefs and the falsehoods behind them. In fact, you can easily take what I am about to discuss and apply it to all of those who follow Doucheski’s vapid talking points.
Orac, and those who worship him, espouses himself as a skeptic. I think that to understand what this means, we must first look at the definition of the word and why he would believe himself to be a skeptic.
What does this mean, though? What is a skeptic?
First off, let us look at the meaning of the word as defined by several English language dictionaries. We will further compound this definition by examining their philosophical outlooks. Then, we will compare that with Orac’s interpretation and see if they match up.
According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of Skepticism is as follows:
1: an attitude of doubt or a disposition to incredulity either in general or toward a particular object
2a: the doctrine that true knowledge or knowledge in a particular area is uncertain
b: the method of suspended judgment, systematic doubt, or criticism characteristic of skeptics
Let’s start with point one. Does Orac exhibit an attitude of doubt or a disposition to incredulity either in general or toward a particular object? For the most part, I will say yes. But, this only goes so far. Before I explain why, let me continue with our analysis.
Looking at points 2a and 2b, does he follow the doctrine that true knowledge or knowledge in a particular area is uncertain? Does he follow the method of suspended judgment, systematic doubt, or criticism characteristic of skeptics? Consider the following statements that I’m sure that you’ve all seen Orac say on numerous occasions:
“The Science has spoken. Vaccines do not cause autism.”
Ding ding ding!!!! We have a winner, folks!
Now, re-read points 2a and 2b. Is he following the doctrine that true knowledge or knowledge in a particular area is uncertain (he claims with absolute certainty that vaccines cannot cause autism using flawed studies)? Does he follow the method of suspended judgment, etc. (the science has spoken…there is no more need to look further)?
Before I go any further, let me go back to point 1 again. Does Orac exhibit an attitude of doubt, etc.? As long as it does not defend his personal bias, yes he does. Anything that opposes his personal views, whether it be alternative cancer treatments, mercury dental amalgams, or the vaccine/autism link, then he is extremely doubtful and critical of it. But, when it defends his personal bias, then he does not turn a critical eye to it. Does that fall under the definition of skepticism? No, it does not.
Really, this is a human failing. I do not fault him at all whatsoever for having this selective skepticism because we all have a tendency to defend things that correspond with our own biases. AoA does this, I do this, and most people I’ve seen online do this. But where I take exception is when I see him mock and ridicule someone for being biased. As I have clearly demonstrated, he is just as biased. And I take great glee in pointing out such hypocrisy. This type of double standard is pathetic and should not, in any way, be taken seriously. But, Orac’s feeble-minded and drooling lickspittles soak it up as if it is a gift from the Gods. Disgusting and laughable.
Anyway, let’s move on. Let’s have a look at the Skeptic philosophy and the skeptic movement in general, and then we’ll see if this applies to David.
The closest approximation to Dorkski’s paradigm would be Scientific Skepticism. These types of skeptics are off-shoots of the philosophical skeptics from ancient Greece who believed that they should critically examine whether the knowledge and perceptions that they have are actually true, and whether or not one can ever be said to have absolutely true knowledge. Scientific skeptics are very similar, but they use the scientific method and critical thinking as a basis for testing the truth of their knowledge.
I’ve already addressed David’s lack of critical thinking skills, so let’s bypass that and verify whether or not he meets the definition of a scientific skeptic.
Let us begin by clarifying what we know about scientific skepticism.
Scientific skeptics attempt to evaluate claims based on verifiability and falsifiability and discourage accepting claims on anecdotal evidence. Ok, good so far. I can certainly acknowledge that David follows this rationale.
Skeptics often focus their criticism on claims they consider to be implausible, dubious or clearly contradictory to generally accepted science. Ok, again, I can say that David does this. However, things start going into the grey area here. For instance, he doesn’t question or criticize any claims or studies that defend his paradigm when those claims and studies are clearly contradictory.
Scientific skeptics do not assert that unusual claims should be automatically rejected out of hand, but rather they argue that claims should be critically examined and that extraordinary claims would require extraordinary evidence in their favor before they could be accepted as having validity. And, here we see the flaw in his mindset. Scientific skeptics do not make definitive claims without reviewing as much evidence as possible. David rejects the possibility that autism and vaccines could be linked in some cases, but he hasn’t seen or reviewed all of the evidence. He hasn’t looked at the medical records of the children of the parents making these claims. Hell, he has never once in his life even seen an autistic child, most likely. How can he make such definitive claims without reviewing all of the evidence? By going on the incomplete studies that have been funded by parties with vested interests? The same studies that call for more inquiry? But, Doucheski says that more study is unnecessary. The science has spoken!
That doesn’t sound like scientific skepticism, does it? It’s more like a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith. That’s not science; that’s religion.
Let’s move off on a tangent for a moment. Trust me; this is related to my point. I feel it is necessary to share with you an email I received from the good “doctor” a few months back when AoA posted his personal information. What does this have to do with my observation on his pseudoskepticism? I’ll get to that in a moment. Enjoy the email.
As much as you despise me, never let it be said that I don't notice and voice appreciation when someone sticks to their principles on my behalf, as you did in the recent slimefest in the comments of Jake's idiotic post. (There's so much wrong there that it would easily take an Orac-length post to deal with it all.) You are absolutely correct. It is cowardly and despicable to take a blog disagreement, no matter how heated, into trying to make trouble for someone at their school or place of work. You may recall that I said as much standing up for Jake against David Brown.
The irony is that I stood up for Jake in the comments of my own blog, even though he despises me and I'm not too thrilled with him, either. Then Jake repays the favor by being complicit in trying to do exactly the same sort of thing that I defended him against. Never let it be said that a good deed goes unpunished. Here's hoping your good deed is an exception to that rule.
P.S. As much as you don't believe it, we are not enemies.
Now, dear readers, I’ll leave it to you to formulate an opinion as to the sincerity of his email. Personally, I didn’t feel it was very sincere. David saw that I was “taking his side” and wanted to cultivate a potential ally in these online autism wars.
However, what I see here is someone who is supremely arrogant and full of himself. He is ultimately proud of his knowledge and gladly and gleefully throws his credentials and assuredness in the face of anyone he talks to. He’s a doctor, damnit, so you had better listen to him because he knows more than all of us combined.
But, this isn’t science (ah, now he gets to the point!). Science is defined by an intense curiosity about the world around us. One of my favorite authors and scientists (and someone who David and I share considerable admiration for) Carl Sagan, to me, epitomizes what a scientist should be. He was knowledgeable. He was intensely curious about the world around him. And he was awed and humbled by what he did not know. Arrogance was not part of who he was because arrogance is the antithesis of science. He followed the philosophy of “the only thing I know for certain is that I don’t know everything.”
That, my friends, is what a scientist should be. Does this apply to David H. Gorski and his mob of mindless minions? I’ll let you be the judge of that.