Friday, May 02, 2008

Lessons in quote-mining #1

Lesson #1: Don't quote-mine the person you're trying to convince

You may remember Dana Ullman, noted homeopath who doesn't know the difference between this page and this page, and who thinks magic water can cure cancer. Well, he's now taken the stupid to another level.

Right at the moment, an arbitration case is going on at Wikipedia looking specifically at his behavior (arbitration is Wikipedia's equivalent of the Supreme Court), and also surrounding issues related to Homeopathy. To put it metaphorically, Dana's in a hole. Now, everyone knows that the first thing you're supposed to do when you find yourself in a hole is to stop digging. However, Dana's a homeopath, and he believes that like cures like. So he keeps digging himself deeper. (He did consider briefly diluting the digging process, but he reminded himself that dilution was only to remove side-effects. It's the succussion (shaking) that does all the work, so he mixes in beating himself in the head with his shovel.)

To break from the metaphor, what a smart person would do when they find themself in this position would be to refrain from any possibly argumentative behavior and compose themself as well as possible. Not Dana. He keeps up arguing all over the place, causing just the same problem. You know, in case the other evidence against him gets stale. I could dig into a lot of it, but I'll stick the one most idiotic example. In this, Dana quote-mines the very person he's arguing with, and then argues that his quote-mined version is correct and this person is wrong about what he means.

The idiocy in question takes place at the talk page for Potassium dichromate. You can read through the linked section yourself to get the full picture, but allow me to sum events up. On this page, one editor, Scientizzle, made the following comment:

I am not as against the inclusion of homeopathy information as others here...Assuming the case for this being a remedy of note is solid, I support a simple inclusion that directs the reader to List of homeopathic preparations, which is an appropriate place to deal with the topic. (Even at List of homeopathic preparations, I can't see the published state of the research--i.e., Frass et al, & nothing else--meriting more than a minimalist "it's use has been investigated to treat COPD symptoms.[ref]" statement). — Scientizzle 22:48, 21 April 2008 (UTC)


Later on, Dana tries to use this to justify including a mention on the current article:

Scientizzle, no, not at all. Did you see your words: "I am not as against the inclusion of homeopathy information as others here...Assuming the case for this being a remedy of note is solid, I support a simple inclusion that directs the reader to List of homeopathic preparations, which is an appropriate place to deal with the topic.... I can't see the published state of the research--i.e., Frass et al, & nothing else--meriting more than a minimalist "it's use has been investigated to treat COPD symptoms. " [30] It is interesting how you chose to not give the entire quote from your posting at that same time. You clearly say that you're NOT against inclusion...this strongly suggests that the conversation is open. I hope that you will stop stonewalling. You did recommend providing reference to this study in at least a minimalistic way. Therefore, I continue to assert that the archiving of the active conversation is part of a bullying behavior conducted without consensus, in a WP:TE manner with the audacity to inaccurately blame me for TE. DanaUllmanTalk 05:38, 27 April 2008 (UTC)


Note the ellipsis in Dana's quote. Now go back to what Scientizzle actually said (section that was cut out now bolded):

I am not as against the inclusion of homeopathy information as others here...Assuming the case for this being a remedy of note is solid, I support a simple inclusion that directs the reader to List of homeopathic preparations, which is an appropriate place to deal with the topic. (Even at List of homeopathic preparations, I can't see the published state of the research--i.e., Frass et al, & nothing else--meriting more than a minimalist "it's use has been investigated to treat COPD symptoms.[ref]" statement).


Note how the section that Dana cut out completely changes the meaning (which is exactly what you want to do when quote-mining). The problem, however, was that he was quote-mining the very person he was arguing with. Of course Scientizzle knew that wasn't what he meant, and he could easily point out this quote-mine. How the hell did Dana expect this to convince him of anything?

Let me spell this out: Quote-mining is a dishonest tactic that makes you look bad when it's discovered. When you quote-mine the person you're arguing with, you're not only guaranteeing you'll be found out, but you're also ensuring that you'll not only look dishonest, but stupid too. That, in a nutshell, is Dana Ullman.

3 comments:

JanieBelle said...

Between this post and the last one, I'm quite sure that some people are just plain stupid.

Thanks for the laughs, Infophile.

Akusai said...

This is a prime example of why I am yet unwilling to wade into the vast seas of Wikipedian stupidity.

Anonymous said...

How do you distinguish between the inane claims of a homeopath and the inane claims of a chiropractor?