A comment from a Doper.

One of our long time Dopers sent me this comment on Facebook and I’d like to share it with you. They have requested anonymity so I will not call them out by name … but I do appreciate the sentiment.

It speaks to something I believe as well – this place can be a powerful force for increasing knowledge in this world and I hope you will all do more of that work; it’s more artillery in the Battle Against Ignorance, which is never-ending.

So, last week I attended the national American chemical society annual conference. As I was checking out of the hotel at stupid o’clock in the morning, I chatted with the guy behind the desk. He saw from the tag around my neck that I was attending ACS. It was early and nobody else was around, and I guess I seemed friendly enough that he felt comfortable enough to say “I’ve always wanted to know…” He then asked a chemistry question which was way, way wrong. I understood, and took the time to explain to him what the reality was, and he was genuinely grateful for it.

I thought to myself: you know, there needs to be a place where people can feel comfortable and safe to ask their questions about science and medicine and the world. Where they won’t be made fun of, where people won’t roll their eyes or make the asker feel stupid.

That maybe one of the reasons for the rise in anti-vaccination in part comes from when a new Mom or dad in concerned about their baby goes looking, pro-vaccinators start rolling their eyes and lecturing and being angry at the person for asking. Whereas the anti-vaxxers go “oh, yes, it’s perfectly reasonable for you to be concerned! And you should be!” And they feed into the person’s fears.

And then I realized that this is exactly what the Straight Dope always was, a place where people could come to ask literally anything and not be talked down to or made to feel shitty for their ignorance.

So, for what it’s worth, keep up the good work. In this age of disinformation, now more than ever it is critical for resources like SD to be available to people.
And thank you for all of your hard work. And I’m sorry that it took me literally decades to appreciate just how important SD is.

Best of luck to you. You never know what will inspire people to learn more. It could be a nerdy ninja turtle or Mythbusters or a newspaper column. The important thing is to get people asking questions. Asking questions means you don’t just accept things at face value. I don’t claim to be a sociologist but I will bet it’s one of the healthier attitudes for a society to encourage.


I could not agree more. :smiley:


Exactly this.


I agree.

(Can we have the LIKE button now?)


Bravo!! :slight_smile:

Absolutely. It’s what keeps me coming back, year after year.

I basically agree with the latter sentiment. However I would amend it to something like: People should be free to ask questions with the assurance that genuine attempts to gain knowledge will be treated respectfully - however, stubborn repetition of grossly offensive and/or erroneous claims in the face of numerous attempts at education may well be met with eye-rolling or worse.

I don’t know what set off Mr./Ms. Anonymous Facebook messager, but it’s been my experience not just here but on other forums, that respectful attempts at gaining knowledge are overwhelmingly treated respectfully, but that doggedly ignorant questions/postings that ignore repeated attempts at enlightenment DO provoke eye-rolling, or even (gasp) insults. This goes for questions about putative undesirable characteristics of racial/ethnic groups, various conspiracy theories and one of my areas of interest, antivax ideology.

I can’t recall a sincere-sounding poster being hounded into silence on the Dope for daring to question scientific/medical consensus on some aspect of vaccination. I can think of at least one instance where someone kept on firing brain-dead antivax tropes in the face of good counter-information and was not treated with exceptional kindness by all concerned.

Remember that a common Internet tactic is to express sympathy for a poor downtrodden individual who was Just Asking Questions, but who was allegedly brutalized for doing so (somehow, all the factual respectful answers this individual received are ignored in favor of emphasizing the isolated ones that contained insulting language).

In the case cited in the OP, I wonder how the ACS attendee would’ve reacted if, after his detailed response on the chemistry question, the other guy had told him he was just spouting what the Chemistry Establishment wanted him to say, that anyone with a grade school education and Google access knows that the government, ACS and Bill Gates are controlling the dissemination of chemistry information and that we’re all in deadly peril from chemicals in everything we eat, drink and breathe no matter what amounts are involved?

Not even a tiny eye-roll? :slight_smile:

This is why I spend my spare time here although I should be out mowing the lawn, patching the roof, painting the living room walls, et al.

A great post Jenny and hopefully reflects most of the members, guests, visitors opinions. Although I do admit to sneaking a peek in the BBQ Pit for grins and giggles.

The point our fellow Doper was making is that we serve a useful purpose in the world and that more people need to know about it.

As to those who abuse the privilege of being here when getting an answer to a query, we know how to deal with them. There will always be someone who will disagree with what we tell them, or prefers their own opinion or what some website or radio guy or cable program or their mother told them, or wishes for another outcome, or even, to use the technical term, just wants to be an asshole. Again, we can handle it.

your humble TubaDiva

I agree with Jackmanii.

The SDMB is relatively civilized, with a generally high standard of discourse. That’s important, and something to value.

But it’s not as though people who are genuinely curious are otherwise devoid of resources in the modern world. I’m skeptical that the absence of sufficiently polite answers is a significant factor in the level of ignorance about (for example) vaccination.

Like the OP said, some people don’t know how to ask or where to go.

Sure, you can Google or use any other search engine you like … and you will get a result, most certainly you will … will it be correct? Will you know what to do with it? Will it enlighten you sufficiently?

Sometimes you just gotta ask somebody. I can see the need for that. Again, as the OP said, you have to reach people where they are. I hope we are always available for that purpose.

your humble TubaDiva

Well, to take the OP’s example, googling “is vaccination safe” takes you to a wide variety of excellent and informative resources. I’m just questioning the OP’s claim that a lack of polite and respectful answers to genuine enquiry is really a significant contributor to widespread ignorant attitudes. Scientific illiteracy, distrust of scientists, conspiracy theories etc. - there’s a lot going on.

Again, I’m not disputing the main point about the value of SDMB as a forum for civilized discussion.

I’m sorry, but I really think this guy must be talking about a different board. Maybe some misguided science question gets answered respectfully in GQ, but if someone posts here with a question like “Did Mercury retrograde make my phone break?” or “I think I saw my grandma’s ghost the other night,” certain dopers will jump on them with vituperative language I wouldn’t use on my worst enemy.

People here are very helpful with cut and dry questions that have fairly clear fact based answers.

Oh come on. If somebody in 2018 is “asking questions” about ghosts and astrology, I seriously doubt that their problem is a lack of polite and respectful accounts of the lack of empirical evidence to support their beliefs. There’s a difference between ignorance and stupidity, and when the latter is entrenched the appropriate response is mockery.

Yes, that’s my point. Thank you for agreeing with me that this board is full of assholes.

I’m not fully convinced that my point was your point.

Why don’t you explain just how respectfully people should handle astrology or ghost discussions on a board dedicated to fighting ignorance? How about Flat Earth Theorists? Moon landing hoaxers? Birthers? Is there any amoung of stupid nonsense at which we should draw the line, given that we are not actually dealing with ignorance in these cases - we are not talking to young children who are encountering these questions for the first time in their lives.

My point was only that this board isn’t very nice. It’s full of bitter misanthropes who feel that not believing in astrology gives them some “I’m very smart” cred. I don’t believe in astrology either but some of my friends do, and a random sample of them are going to be nicer and kinder than a random sample of dopers.

Larry has a point here and I tend to agree — I’ve seen a lot of inappropriate meanness here. Some Dopers reply as if a poster is stupid and their stupidity must be mocked.