Image credit: J. P. Greene’s Blog
I am just dealing here with housekeeping issues that are coming up in this debate. Hopefully this will involve less distraction than if we deal with them in the exchange itself.
Some of these issues are arising from my moderation of comments so I want to clarify a few guidelines. Paul has also raised some other issues.
Moderation of comments
The fluoridation issue seems to bring out the worst manners in many internet commenters. Both Paul and I want to limit the bad effects abusive and harassing comments have on discussion.
The moderating software does automatically stop comments with excessive links – and I certainly will not approve comments which link just for the sake of it, or do so thoughtlessly. However, if you wish to refer to a publication or post please give a link. I can easily approve comments with justifiable links.
Citations are another example where links are useful. It is important that when people give a citation or reference they should at least give details which enable readers to check them out. Comments which simply give authors’ names without details will likely not be approved.
I find information in comments that is backed up by proper citations or references is very useful so want to encourage the practice.
Finally, copy and paste is a big problem with commenters on the fluoridation issue. Large pieces of text from Fluoride Alert or other web pages, or from on-line books or PDFs seem to commonly be presented as comments. I find such copy and past offensive – it indicates the commenter has refused to do the work necessary to explain in their own words, maybe hasn’t even read and understood the original. Yet they expect readers to spend time on it!
Such lengthy copypasta will not be approved. (Don’t let that stop you using reasonable and genuine quoting of referenced sources though).
By the way, only 2 comments have been held up in moderation or spam for being abusive and just a few more for not providing citations or reference details. So we don’t yet have a big problem. Still, it is early days.
Scope of debate
Paul has asked me to limit my part of the exchange “to addressing my [Paul’s] arguments without going into the opinions and arguments of others, especially the more extreme views.” I find that strange and am certainly not going to limit myself this way.
We each have our own information to convey and arguments to make. That is normal in an exchange like this and Paul has certainly not limited himself only to my opinions and arguments. How could he – after all he wrote the first article in the exchange. He has certainly critically commented on what he sees as distortions or mistakes made by supporters of fluoridation (such as his comments on Queensland Health). That doesn’t worry me and I don’t think he should be concerned when I make similar criticisms – or take them personally.
I agree it is wrong to attribute the views of others, especially extreme views, to one’s discussion partner and certainly have no intention of doing so. Nor do I think I have done that yet. I have been careful to specify when any of my criticisms apply to Paul, for example in my comment on his use of appeal to authority in his first article.
Paul has objected to the use of the term “anti-fluoridationist” and wants me not to use it. He finds it offensive – “It makes opposition to fluoridation sound like some mental disease! “
Hmm. The word never struck me that way, but I guess out of respect for his feelings I should look for alternatives – at least when referring to Paul. I realise the everyone has their foibles, and I prefer to label myself as “pro-science” and not “pro-fluoridation” – but then that seems to upset people who aoppose fluoridation! You just can’t win.
What do people think. Have terms like anti- and pro-fluoridation become offensive to them? If so what do you suggest? Perhaps we have sensitivities around fluoride similar to those around climate change and it’s denial.
Anyone wanting to follow the debate and/or check back over previous articles in the debate can find the list of articles at Fluoride Debate.