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Friday, November 6, 2009

TWOTI: Neuroskeptic on the Nutt sack and NeuroLogica on dystonia (or lack thereof)

This Week on the Internet:

Neuroskeptic had an informative overview of the dismissal of Professor David Nutt from his post as the British government's chief advisor on illegal drugs. While the case itself is interesting based on Nutt's medical and scientific statements, and the subsequent reasons given for dismissal, I was most struck by Neuroskeptic's comments on academic criticism:
Nutt has said that he was surprised to learn that he had been sacked. I'm sure this surprise was genuine because Nutt is an academic, and in academia, Nutt's "criticisms" would hardly even be considered as such. Here by contrast is an extract from a peer review comment I got a couple of days ago regarding a scientific paper I wrote:
The manuscript falls short of its goals in several respects: The basic phenomenon ... is barely presented... The style and language of the review leave a lot to be desired... The citations and reference list are appalling.
I thought that was an astute point, and indicative of the frustration I commonly feel about politics. Debate usually requires pointing out that some ideas are wrong, and while it can be uncomfortable to be told that about one's own ideas, that alone is not grounds for outrage or dismissal.

Steve Novella, meanwhile over at NeuroLogica, has provided a series of posts on the case of Desiree Jennings. His discussion starts here, continues here, and was most recently added to here. While I enjoyed his ruminations as much as ever, I think his most recent addition does a very admirable job of striking back at the underhanded tactics of the anti-vaccination group Generation Rescue. He pretty adequately sums the whole thing up with the following paragraph:
Despicably, Generation Rescue (GR) and the anti-vaccine movement were quick to jump on this case and exploit it for their own propaganda. They immediately portrayed themselves as “experts” – apparently able to make and treat such neurological diagnoses. However, after push back from the dystonia community, GR took down their web page they had put up to support Jennings. But then after a few days they had apparently made the calculation that, despite the fact that this was likely not a case of genuine dystonia or vaccine injury, the propaganda value was too treat to ignore, and they could just attack the physicians who felt obliged to properly analyze this case.
The whole thing is worth a read, though, particularly if you have inklings of doubt in whether or not there is something to the claims of the anti-vaccination crowd.

Note: I apologize for the title, but I just couldn't help myself. His last name is Nutt, he is British, and he got fired. Anyway, I'm not the only one to use such phrasing.

3 comments:

cornucrapia said...

Everyone seems to have gone with the Nutt sack pun, several times in fact. It's pretty funny, I won't begrudge anyone for it. Now, of course, if we really were to have a sensible debate on drug policy, based on empirical studies and evidence all drugs would be legalized and regulated. But we don't so we won't, much to my disappointment and to the great benefit of those in law enforcement and the illegal drug trade

Neuroskeptic said...

Thanks for the link!

The one good thing about the "Nutt sack" joke, is that it has diverted the puns away from "Nutt-y Professor", "Professor Nutt-case", etc. Which would have been even more cringeworthy.

Mozglubov said...

Neuroskeptic,
No problem, I greatly enjoy your blog and think it is well worth the link!