A favoured tactic of people who are finding the evidence against them a little overwhelming and difficult to refute is to resort to an ad hom (from the Latin ad hominem – to the man) attack i.e. attack the critic not the arguments s/he is making. It has certainly been popular among some who post comments here (and indeed on other sceptic blogs).
This can take many forms – one favoured by the alt-med brigade is to accuse their critics of being shills for Big Pharma. For example ‘renrah’ here says “Methinks jaycueaitch is one of the trolls that big Pharma and the FDA pay to dispute anything they can’t control or profit from”. A more recent critic says “Why do you care anyway Jay, you appear to have a chip on your shoulder or big paycheck you are working for. “
Apart from breaking the grammatical rule about not ending sentences with prepositions, these two share a notion that people must be being paid to express opinions. One can only speculate as to why they make this (totally invalid) assumption. I am not alone in being on the receiving end of this one; here roger Coghill of ‘phone masts cause teen-suicides’ fame makes a similar accusation of one of his critics:
“Why I want to identify you Pob, old sport, is to demonstrate to the readers of this thread that your continued anonymity is because your attacks on me are not related to science but simply for commercial interest.. If you have any integrity at all you will tell us your name and affiliations, and give me an even playing field.. Of course you are such a spongiform creature that your paymasters would not let you do such an honest thing, and you haven’t the guts yourself..”
Elsewhere, the likes of Powerwatch make similar accusations – while selling aluminium wallpaper and ‘electrosmog’ detectors to people who have bought into the ‘wifi and mobiles make you ill’ myth.
It also betrays a rather paranoid mindset which envisages telecom firms, pharmaceutical giants and government agencies banding together to silence their critics by buying up bloggers and suppressing data that supports alt-med as homeopath Sue Young does here to explain the lack of positive results for using homeopathy to treat AIDS. She also accused me and other critics of having “vested interests” (I have not), being “part of the Ben Goldacre crowd” (implying that Dr. Goldacre was beind my complaint about her – he was not) and being a “bunch of white males (even the women)”. Part of the attraction of positing such conspiracies could be the feeling of superiority for having seen through the conspiracy. This feeling soon becomes contempt for those who disagree as scenar enthusiast Philip Porter demonstrates by saying “yes you have the opinion of most sheeple who trust modern corrupt science and medicine.” The basic tenet of modern science is that ideas must be tested by evidence. I see nothing corrupt in this. ‘Sheeple’, incidently, is a term coined by the 9/11 Truth brigade to descibe those who would not accept their notions that George Bush and/or Mossad organised the 9/11 terror attacks on the US.
Another whose high opinion of his own perceived cleverness leading to contempt for those who disagree with him is self-styled ‘Health Ranger’ Mike Adams of NaturalNews. In this rant which generally misrepresents the sceptical viewpoint, he claims that it is pointless arguing with sceptics because we are all mindless zombies.
Another way of trying to do down critics is to accuse them of being unqualified and/or ignorant. Elizabeth Flynn says that I am unqualified when I took exception to homeopaths peddling their wares as cures for AIDS and malaria in southern Africa. Funnily enough, homeopaths who themselves lack any kind of medical qualification do not let it stop the denigrating evidence based medicine. Go figure. Similarly, Alexandre Gideon said “Homeopathy is a complete system of medicine whose lagitimacy (sic) is no puzzle to be explained to a self proclaimed anti-civilization frreak (sic) like you.If you want to learn more about homeopathy,GO TO SCHOOL,”
I do not recall proclaiming myself as being against civilisation. Anyone who listens in school science lessons will soon understand why homeopathy is bunk. This individual also accused me of lacking first hand knowledge of southern Africa (while demonstrating his own lack of knowledge of Botswana’s history). When I pointed out that my wife is a black South African and I have spent time in the township where her family lives, he went quiet.
Another who believed that he knew more about my own life than I do myself was Kaviraj who claimed he knew the contents of my degree course when I disputed Mike Adams claim that sceptics do not understand the nature of the electron:
“Oh waht (sic) a load of drivel by you a-skeptics. Your physics clas (sic) you claim to have had also teaches you that matter cannot be destroyed. Something can never become nothing.”
Not true and I doubt that it has been true of any undergraduate physics course since the 1920s.
Sometimes the ad homs are not so much amusing as deeply unpleasant. ‘F. Arseneau’ claimed that scepticism is fascism. This seems to be because we favour ideas that are supported by evidence and do not favour those that are not. This makes us discriminatory because we reject others’ viewpoints if they are not supported by evidence. Ironically, one viewpoint that I reject is the fascist notions on race because the evidence points to them being complete nonsense.
The winner of the top insult (on this blog anyway) has to go to the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, whose mouthpiece ‘Moses love’ who accused me of being the son of Satan:
“i think u need to see your GP coz u are insane. One thing for sure u are good in nonsense. probably u are a satanist who doesn’t want people to be delivered from your father lucifer demons. ”
I reckon that makes me the Antichrist. Has anyone had an insult that tops that?