So, I'm in the process of transferring some of my blog posts from my other blog to here because they're of sufficient merit--in my estimation anyway--to warrant reproduction here. Also, they happen to tease out some of my personality and thoughts on matters people skimming my newly minted presence here might find useful in the way of understanding my disposition on certain matters. Here is a post I wrote about a month ago on an interview between Abbie Smith (ERV from www.scienceblogs.com/erv notoriety) wherein she undertook the task of slapping around some woo-peddling dentist.
There's a particularly great part in the interview wherein she stops addressing him as Dr.; rather, she began to call him Mr. Let's just say that this sent him over the moon and is well worth the listening to. At the time, she wasn't even a graduate student yet; nevertheless, she had this odious little turd pinned against a rhetorical wall.
From the comment section to that particular post, here is a section in which Abbie--she blogs under the pseudonym ERV (endogenous retrovirus)--responded to my mental meanderings:
The original I wrote is found at: http://integralmath.blogspot.com/2011/07/adventures-in-dentistry-re...
Here is the text of that article - do go check out the interview to which it links. It's highly comedic, a little sad, but mostly full of win.
OK, this is a complete one-off here. Let me preface this by making it quite plain: I am not a biologist.
I am also not a veterinarian, but I know bullshit when I smell it.
So, I'm years late to this party, but let's not let time get in the way of some good comedy. ERV was on a talk program to debate a gentleman named Dr. Leonard Horowitz, who is, as the honorific indicates, a doctor. Abbie is not a doctor.
She's a graduate student. She wasn't a grad student yet, which just raises the awesome sauciness of the pwnage. For those who don't know how the system works, there's a hierarchy in academia with respect to achievement and prestige. Graduate students are pretty much slave labor undertaken for a very pathetic stipend, reduction in tuition, some combination of those and what not. Depending on the field, they might well even have lecturing dutiesx
Plus research and their own studies. In other words, graduate students are severely overworked and profoundly underpaid. Many graduate students are probably capable of being handed a PhD long before they get it; it's a complex process with lots of hoops, scheduling with a committee to propose and defend a thesis - sometimes taking three months lead time to get everyone's schedule on the committee to miter up. It's work. And waiting.
Graduate students aren't normally very sassy with PhDs because after school, they're going to want to work in someone's lab, or maybe publish a paper. Something. Do well, be respectful, get your PhD, then turn into an arrogant prick. Or whatever.
Abbie's precocious. About halfway through this debate thing, finding out the good doctor hasn't read a single research paper in years, and is referring people back to books (read not scientific literature) from the late 1990s. This is taking place in 2007. A lot of progress happens in 10 years. A lot of progress happens in a year - you've really got to be constantly reading the literature or you fall behind. Quickly. And science is many things - forgiving isn't among them.
So, she finally says, "Mister Horowitz". And all hell breaks loose. Dude's asshole puckers up like someone chucked some fucking alum powder up there or something. Then from the pressure created by the weight of his fragile ego crashing to the ground, his asshole blows right out. Dr. Horowitz proceeds to point out that he has three doctorates and that Abbie is out of line and needs to learn her place. Like. Now.
Another gentleman on the call chimes in to ask what these doctorates are in. He rattles of a list of non-doctorate degrees - a master's in public health or something. An undergrad in like some biological science studies something another. And a doctorate in dentistry.
Abbie was put in her place. And quite rightly. She is, after all, only a student. So, she does the ladylike, mature, grownup, professional graduate student thing and offers an olive branch: "I'll call you dentist Horowitz." If you thought the first asshole event was spectacular, here we get a quantum superposition of his asshole. It's suddenly on both ends of the line, and I couldn't hear anything for a while because I was dying laughing.
There's another bit of the hierarchy I neglected to mention. Not all doctorate degrees are equal. It's actually a bit of an elitism thing, but we have it and since I'm on the right side, I don't mind sticking to it. You have academic degrees and you have professional degrees. A dentist is in the latter category. A biologist is in the former. So, a PhD candidate in a hard science is roughly on par with a professional degree, if not slightly further along. The big difference is that those who already have their professional doctorate make more money than an academic graduate student. And they're called doctor. (sometimes).
Anyway, the whole thing amused me.
The celebration came when conspiracy theory nut dentist advises the audience to follow the money. Not one to miss a beat, Abbie says: I make $20,000.00 a year; how much do you make? He sells colloidal silver, to which I won't link since I have an aversion to promoting pseudoshit that's deadly if mishandled. He sells a nose spray that cures SARS, garlic for your anthrax, some kind of magical water and weird tone thing that does something with harmonics and poof you're all gooder. I don't know either.
In less than 6 seconds, he went from "follow the money" to "how much I make isn't as much as all the conspirators are making". Then shortly after that, he makes it known that the money gain is irrelevant when applied to him because it's just meant to discredit him.
Yes, in the same way that he's using it to discredit "big pharma", I suppose he has a point. Abbie was just showing him that if he's crying conspiracy and implying she's part of it, then she the most credible one around since she lives under the poverty line and Horowitz presumably doesn't. He didn't like it one bit.
Also, it's a massive HIV conspiracy whereby Abbie points out, Say, how'd we manage to get the Chinese to cooperate with our conspiracy back in the 60s and 70s? We weren't exactly on good speaking terms.
Listen to it for the lulz.
The key point here is that if one's actually competent to discuss a given field, the title they hold isn't relevant. Messing up someone's title is a faux pas, but it's not the end of the world. If someone gets that pissed you aren't calling them "doctor", then that's a fairly good sign someone's full of shit.