About Respectful Insolence

On a cold, gray, dreary Saturday in December 2004, I sat down and, almost on a whim, started the very first version of Respectful Insolence on Blogspot, a version I now call Respectful Insolence, Mark I. I had been active on the wild West world of discussion forums known as Usenet for several years before that, having gotten my start refuting online Holocaust denial and later discovering just how much quackery there is on the Internet. In the process I became a skeptic very much interested in promoting science, particularly in medicine, and combatting pseudoscience, misinformation, and conspiracy theories.

However, discussions on Usenet rarely reached a particularly wide audience, and I wanted to try what was then this relatively newfangled blogging thing to reach a wider audience. So I did, taking as my nom de blog a cantankerous computer named Orac, which was played by a clear Plexiglass box of blinking multicolored lights and voiced (mostly) by the late, great Peter Tuddenham in an obscure British SF TV series from the late 1970s/early 1980s known as Blakes 7. The name of this blog is therefore a play on one of Orac’s catchphrases, “A statement of fact cannot be insolent.” Of course, we all know that a statement of fact can be very insolent, depending on how it is delivered, but that was part of the irony. To my surprise, within six months I had achieved some notoriety as a skeptical medical blogger, although in those early days my subject matter tended to range much more widely, involving medicine, science, pseudoscience (particularly antivaccine pseudoscience), quackery, evolution, creationism, Holocaust denial, history, and sometimes politics.

A little more than a year later, I was asked to join a new blog collective known as ScienceBlogs, which I did in February 2006. This is what I now call Respectful Insolence, Mark II. There I remained for nearly 12 years, dishing out the same Respectful (and not-so-Respectful, as indicated) Insolence. Over time, my focus sharpened until most of my writing involved promoting science-based medicine. I was “outed” many times by cranks, quacks, and antivaxers, but kept my pseudonym, mainly out of an Orac-like cantankerousness, but most importantly because I liked it. Indeed, whenever I hear complaints by new commenters that I am “anonymous” or “hiding,” I laugh. Basically, my real identity is about the worst-kept secret in the skeptical blogosphere, and I view discovering it as a minimal intelligence test that many “critics” fail, something I find particularly amusing given that my real name is on this site and social media links easily lead to it.

It was a great run, but eventually all good things must come to an end. So it was that in October 2017 I was informed by the Powers-That-Be at ScienceBlogs that the site would be shutting down at the end of the month. It was an amazing run, but the impending closure of the blog necessitated a frantic effort to transfer nearly 12 years’ worth of posts to the current site, which I now like to refer to as Respectful Insolence, Mark III. Here, I continue my little hobby of critically examining claims made in medical science, analyzing scientific studies in the news (or that just interest me), refuting pseudoscientific claims made by quacks, cranks, and antivaxers and will hopefully continue for another 13 years.

Read, explore, and (I hope) learn something and enjoy.

October 2017

ADDENDUM: A Note about URLs and images.

URLs: Both Mark II and Mark III of this blog use the same link structure. I’ve tried to convert all the internal links to the new link structure, but if you come upon a broken link from the old ScienceBlogs site, here’s how to find the new version of the post: Simply replace “scienceblogs.com/insolence” in the old link with “respectfulinsolence.com” and you should have the correct link. In posts before around July 2012, when ScienceBlogs changed from Movable Type to WordPress, there are likely to be links ending in “.php.” These are old Movable Type links that were not properly updated in the transition. They are likely to remain broken forever, unfortunately. I’m sorry about that, but fixing all of them would simply be too monumental a task. Hopefully, if you read any of those old posts, you will still be able to enjoy them without necessarily being able to follow the internal links.

Images: Unfortunately, given the hurried nature of the transition to Mark III, forced upon me by not very much notice on the part of Scienceblogs, many images in posts older than October 2017 did not make the transition over to the new platform. I fix them as I find them, either deleting unimportant images that produce the blank box with a red “X” in the middle or going back to Archive.org to find important images and re-insert them, but there are over 5,500 posts on this blog and who knows how many images missing or with broken links to the image. Chances are that a lot of these images will never be fixed, particularly for posts more than a couple of years old. (No, I’m not going to be searching every post from 2006 looking for lost images; I just don’t have the time.) Sorry about that. Hopefully the text is enough in those cases.