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Theodore A. Hoppe

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What are we to do with "Comment Trolls" here at TED?

Stephen Downs writes on his blog that I subscribe to, "OLDWeekly. He recently wrote on the subject of " comment trolls."
"We'll use the word 'science' a little loosely here, but meanwhile there's an interesting survey on the consequences of comment trolls: "it appeared that pushing people's emotional buttons, through derogatory comments, made them double down on their preexisting beliefs." The author offers an explanation, "the psychological theory of motivated reasoning," akin to Hume's dictum, but I think the interplay between thoughts and feelings (if they are even distinct things) is a lot more complex than that. That said, I can attest first-hand to the way comment trolls can drain the life out of a discussion, out of a website, out of living itself. Which, of course, if their intent."
The author Downes is referring to is Chris Mooney. His article in Mother Jones observes:
"In the context of the psychological theory of motivated reasoning, this makes a great deal of sense. Based on pretty indisputable observations about how the brain works, the theory notes that people feel first, and think second. The emotions come faster than the "rational" thoughts—and also shape the retrieval of those thoughts from memory. Therefore, if reading insults activates one's emotions, the "thinking" process may be more likely to be defensive in nature, and focused on preserving one's identity and preexisting beliefs."

http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2013/01/you-idiot-course-trolls-comments-make-you-believe-science-less

Have a look at the article and share your thoughts.

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    Jan 24 2013: This is just a comment but trolling looks viruletic in nature. Hammer through the cell wall if it's a spike injector and flood the cell with it's own data. Bored individuals.
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      Jan 24 2013: Ken,
      I wanted to acknowledge your comment about fraud in science research.
      Forbes.com picked the story up also and supported it with an article from "Nature". It is obviously a problem.

      "Fraud, plagiarism, cherry-picked results, poor or non-existent controls, confirmation bias, opaque, missing, or unavailable data, and stonewalling when questioned have gone from being rare to being everyday occurrences. Just look at the soaring retraction level across multiple scientific publications and the increasingly vocal hand wringing of science vigilantes. Hardly a prestigious university or large pharmaceutical company is immune, with the likes of Harvard, Cal Tech, Johns Hopkins, Ohio State, University of Kentucky, and the University of Maryland recently fingered byRetraction Watch."
      http://www.forbes.com/sites/billfrezza/2013/01/09/a-barrage-of-legal-threats-shuts-down-whistleblower-site-science-fraud/

      "A surge in withdrawn papers is highlighting weaknesses in the system for handling them."
      http://www.nature.com/news/2011/111005/full/478026a.html

      A third related story puts an interesting twist on it.
      http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/the-curious-wavefunction/2013/01/22/study-indicates-that-scientific-fraud-may-have-a-male-bias/
      "The data seem suggest a certain laxity in behavior that might accompany tenure and a stable academic job. At the same time the findings may again illuminate the intense pressure and battles for funding that often tempt academic scientists to stray from the righteous path. Ultimately, studies like this may put the spotlight more on the dysfunctional aspects of our current academic research system rather than simply on gender bias."

      This was what I found note worthy:
      "What was also interesting was that the misconduct depended on the rank of the researcher; it seems that 88% of faculty members committing fraud were men, compared to 69% of postdocs and 58% of students."
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        Jan 25 2013: This is great Theo thanks.

        I was given the link by someone on one our politico blogs who has fallen with fearist fervour and started weaving a great story of climate change science, the bilderberg group to our local ice cream manufacturers. It was that one link that peaked my interest. So I thought i would ask someone who regularly reads papers and who has a vested interest in it.

        That last link was interesting, it raises a lot of questions but it's good to see the science community quickly adjusting and changing to suit, If this got out to the media it could be a potential for fearist mongering which I've fallen for quite a few times.
      • Jan 25 2013: Anytime there is a paycheck or profit involved, there is a potential for fraud and corruption, but that doesn't mean that everyone that earns a paycheck or makes a profit is corrupt.

        These articles actually point out what is great about science. Unlike matters of unquestioning faith, science is a process that doesn't rely on blind acceptance or appeals to authority. It demands objective data and rigorously defined and reproducible experiments. This is why falsified research gets exposed in the first place.

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