What’s past is prologue

Today marks the five year anniversary of the blog. I was not part of the initial stable of writers, my first entry published Jan 31. As I remember it shortly thereafter they browbeat me into writing twice a month. I had a lot of hesitancy participating as I was uncertain I could keep up with the twice monthly writing requirements. I am a slow writer and a slower typer, but it has been one of the most intellectually rewarding experiences of my life.

I have become a better writer, but more importantly a vastly better thinker, as a result of interactions with SBM. I have also been convinced I have some sort of language processing disorder as I still can’t see how those pesky typo’s disappear during my countless rewriting only to reappear in the final draft. Either WordPress inserts them automatically or it is magic most foul.

Five years on, and a new year, are as good an arbitrary time as any to reflect on both the past and future of SBM. As I age the more I am of the opinion that I have the carte blanche of the elderly to say whatever I want. It’s all about wearing the purple.

I want to thank Steve and David for asking me to participate in SBM in all its forms. I also appreciate their support by what they don’t do: they let us write about anything we want any way we want. It makes it fun to write each post and has helped me develop as a writer.  Steve in particular to pulling me out of obscurity and  into, well, a bit less obscurity, with not only the blog, but with the interviews on SGU.   I want to thank Orac, that logorrheic computer, as a continual example how to be complete, precise and always an enjoyable read.

I read every word of every post and I have learned a ton from my fellow bloggers. Kimball Atwood’s entries have been particularly influential in my understanding issues around prior plausibility and medical statistics. His entries should be required reading for all health care providers. Kimball, come home, we need you.

I also read almost every comment, and I have learned much from our readers. We have a very thoughtful group of commenters. I often wish I had the time to rewrite my entries and incorporate the ideas from our readers. A few readers have made me laugh. And a couple have driven me to scream in fury at the computer screen at such an incredible inability to think clearly. I have learned more in the practice of medicine by my mistakes than my successes and there is much to be learned from those who think different.

For the more frequent commenters I have a mental picture of who you are that I am sure has nothing to do with reality. Unless some women do have neck beards.

This blog represents an amazing resource for information covering the breadth and depth of SCAM, all the more incredible as it is the result of what we do in our spare time, after work and family.

I have though a lot about what makes a good blog entry. It is more than a clear recitation of facts. There also needs to be an interesting writing style and a sense of the personality of the writer. Blogs are more personal than textbooks or journal articles. I find that the few blogs I read consistently have a sense of the person behind the blog. Blogging, at least my conception of blogging, is more intimate. If I want facts I can go the PubMed or Wikipedia.

I been puzzled by the lack of coverage of SCAMs relative to their importance. For morbidity, mortality and worthless expense I can think of only one subject with more adverse consequences than SCAM, yet SCAMs are a minor part of the skeptical meetings and magazines. There are endless SCAM conferences, but I have never heard of an SBM oriented conference.

Looking at the iTunes podcasts there a multiple skeptical podcasts but they rarely address SCAMs. There are over 400 podcasts that pop up on itunes with a pro-SCAM focus. There is one SBM/SCAM podcast. Mine.

Dr. Oz spreads credulous nonsense unopposed by reality based medicine. As the Bravewell report depressingly documents, Flexner must now be spinning like a hard drive.

In the medical world, the skeptical world, and in pop culture, SBM is outnumbered and undermanned. And underwomaned.

Anyone can become an expert in Bigfoot or UFO’s. It requires no special training. It is extraordinarily difficult to be in a position to analyze SCAM. First you have to become expert in medicine. It takes a long time to become a doctor, nurse or other health care provider. Then you have to learn the ins and outs of thinking skeptically and then apply it to medicine. And then you have to give a rats ass and find enough of what little free time you have to devote to the topic. And then you have to do it consistently over a long period of time before you might gain a bit of traction.

It makes me realize what a precious resource this blog and its writers and readers are. The few who care and have the passion and training to analyze the world of SCAM and science based medicine.

Where will the blog go in the next 5 years? No idea. More of the same I suppose. And I hope more.

A last thanks to everyone, writers and readers both.  It has been a blast and I expect it will continue to be.

(And by that destiny) to perform an act
Whereof what’s past is prologue; what to come,
In yours and my discharge.

The Tempest Act 2, scene 1, 245–254


Posted in: Announcements, Science and Medicine

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20 thoughts on “What’s past is prologue

  1. DrCastle says:

    As a recovering Homeopath and card carrying member of the American Holistic Medical Association, I absolutely agree that this blog is a precious resource. It is shockingly easy for well trained, intelligent people to go astray with all the best intentions…. I know whereof I speak. Thank you all for your time and dedication to this important mission.

  2. DrCastle says:

    As a recovering Homeopath and former card carrying member of the American Holistic Medical Association, I absolutely agree that this blog is a precious resource. It is shockingly easy for well trained, intelligent people to go astray with all the best intentions…. I know whereof I speak. Thank you all for your time and dedication to this important mission.

  3. DevoutCatalyst says:

    You kick ass, Mark. Your colleagues kick ass, too. May all our apple pies be bovine free. Further!

  4. windriven says:

    Thank you for your thoughtful analyses, your humor, your ironic bent and your erudition beyond the confines of medicine and SCAMs. I especially enjoy the Shakespearean quotes that salt your entries. Best wishes for the year to come.

  5. brownwetdog says:

    I very much appreciate your blogs – Happy New Year. Carol

  6. Javadude says:

    Mark, having listened to your podcast, your personality definitely shines through in your blog: you write exactly like you speak. It’s always very entertaining.

    Regarding “Anyone can become an expert in Bigfoot or UFO’s. It requires no special training.” Anyone who is successful in pseudoscience has at least a good intuitive understanding of salesmanship and marketing. They short circuit all that hard learning and thinking you describe by working on an emotional level. A guy like Dr. Oz confidently delivers his message using hope and fear wrapped in a slick and charismatic package. On this level, formal degrees and valid information don’t matter much. Everybody in the skeptic community can learn from the dark side!

    Finally, are you coining the phrase “credulous nonsense”? Because that’s the perfect way to describe what’s happening there!

    Happy New Year!

  7. daedalus2u says:

    I think you really want to teach critical thinking skills and skepticism before you teach anything else. That is what should be taught in kindergarten.

    The problem with that is that children are at the bottom of the social power hierarchy, and so must conform to what those at the top dictate. Once they get to the top with a lack of critical thinking skills, it is the collective lack of critical thinking skills that allows them to stay there.

    It is like George Bernard Shaw’s unreasonable man. A reasonable man conforms himself to the world. The unreasonable man expects the world to conform itself to him. All progress depends on the unreasonable man.

  8. Janet says:

    Neck beards? I confess to a pluck or two around the upper lip now and then, but NECK BEARDS!??? ON WOMEN??? Ewwww! What is that about?

    I knitted a beard hat for one of my grandsons, but it covers the face under the nose and the chin (as well as the head, of course). I thought maybe this is some term I am too old to be aware of so I went to Urban Dictionary where in addition to the obvious hair on the neck definition, I found this:

    “Talkative, self-important nerdy men (usually age 30 and up) who, through an inability to properly decode social cues, mistake others’ strained tolerance of their blather for evidence of their own charm.
    Stop being such a neckbeard.”

    I don’t get it. I will have to text the grandchildren.

    Anyway, I always look forward to your entries because in spite of the sheer fun of reading them, they offer unusual but (dare I say) rather profound insights into surrounding issues of life in general. I’m also a fan of the “s” you put on CAM, because supplements are, I bet, the most widespread useless intervention of all.

    Let me take this opportunity to thank each contributor to the blog for helping to clarify, educate, and entertain me on such a consistent basis. I never thought much about (and probably made fun of the idea) of a virtual community, but seeing as how I seem to be a wooperson magnet (it must be the neckbeard), this blog (and a few others, but mostly this one) has quite literally been my salvation from complete social isolation. Luckily my family are sane and science-based or I’d probably be a recluse by now.

    Happy 2013! Anyone want to bet that some kind of conspiracy will develop around the 13 part of this year? Maybe the world will end on 3/13/13?

  9. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ‘em.

    Thanks to you and the other contributors for producing such endlessly fascinating and engaging content.

    (FWIW, It’s not a neckbeard exactly. I’m wearing a turtleneck. I do want one of the beardhats, though. That way I could blend into the crowd at my favorite coffee roaster’s shop. Participant observation and all that.)

  10. Jacob V says:

    You’re a good man Charlie Brown.

  11. nybgrus says:

    I thoroughly enjoy reading all of your posts, Dr. Crislip. One day I hope to be able to write in an equally funny, quirky, and entertaining way.

  12. Quill says:

    Happy Anniversary to everyone at SBM and kindly add my thanks to those praising the regular bloggers. I’ve learned a lot by reading here, helped acquaintances to avoid sCAMs, and often been most entertained by not only the posts but also the comments.

    Also add my thanks for Shakespeare quotes. We would have better scientists if more understood language and metaphor not just as an occasional, grudging practitioner but rather as a lover of poetry and prose.

  13. DugganSC says:

    I’ll admit that I don’t really distinguish too much between the contributors, generally reading an article in entirety before glancing back at the author, but I’ve enjoyed reading your writing. ^_^ I am amused at the thought of the mental image that people get of me based on my writing. Kind of reminds me of that mental exercise where you look at peoples’ shoes and try to guess what the rest of them looks like before glancing up.

    I look forward to seeing more.

  14. Robb says:

    I’ve been reading SBM for about 5 months now and sometimes diving into the comments section too. I don’t always agree with all the posts/comments but I really enjoy and appreciate the blog. I think being exposed to people who think differently is immensely valuable and feel that just reading SBM has sharpened my critical thinking skills and caused me to reflect and re-evaluate things on more than one occasion.

  15. Kultakutri says:

    Neck beard? Nope. I’m trying to grow a goatee but those five hairs won’t cut it. I however do get a generous dose of acne from time to time and that does spread down to my neck.

    More of the same sounds like an exciting idea. Thanks for that in advance.

  16. kathy says:

    Thanks for many good articles, Mark, and the poetry too … and not only Shakespearean poetry. “I have the carte blanche of the elderly to say whatever I want. It’s all about wearing the purple.”

    “When I am old I shall wear purple …

    I shall sit down on the pavement when I am tired
    and gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
    and run my stick along the public railings
    and make up for the sobriety of my youth.
    I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
    and pick the flowers in other people’s gardens
    And learn to spit.”

    Well, I’ll give spitting a miss, but the rest sound like fun. I’ve already started with sitting down on the pavement, next comes picking flowers in other people’s gardens. Just getting into practice for when I am old …

  17. BillyJoe says:

    …when you’re Too Old to Rock and Roll but Too Young to Die

  18. mousethatroared says:

    My bread grows to my toes.
    I never wear no clothes.
    I wrap my hair,
    around my bare,
    and down the road I goes.

    Walt Whitman ;)

  19. BillyJoe says:

    It’s ‘beard’ Michelle. You had me going there for a moment. Poetry always confuses me but I was onto this one. :D

  20. mousethatroared says:

    ha! yes beard. running around naked except for bread would be weird.

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