Singular Proof

roger bannister

If you read the prior post on cherry picking, you may recall that I cautioned about seizing upon isolated incidents as “proof” of something. Now, however, I’d like to draw your attention to the fact that an isolated incident is always proof of something. A contradiction? Not at all. It just depends on what it is you’re trying to prove.

Consider a popular example: the use of guns for self-defense, commonly called defensive gun use (DGU). You’ve no doubt heard about plenty of these incidents; chances are your gun-loving friends will Facebook or Tweet every time such an incident drifts into their crosshairs, perhaps passing it along with the comment that “this proves that guns make us safer”.

But does it? “Us” is in this case a very inclusive pronoun. In order to prove that guns make “us” safer overall, you’d have to demonstrate that they effect a net reduction in crime — i.e., that the are used to prevent more crimes than they are used to commit. Nobody has ever been able to demonstrate anything even close to this.

For that matter, these incidents don’t even prove that guns make the individuals involved safer. They do prove that in some cases, guns can be used in self-defense. And that is essentially the value of an isolated incident: it demonstrates that such an occurrence is a possibility. When Roger Bannister ran the first recorded 4-minute mile in 1954, he proved once and for all that such a feat can be done. He didn’t prove that anyone could do it, but he did prove that it was at least humanly possible. (Since then, it’s been accomplished many times.)

Another thing about the singular proof, then, is that it also disproves something — Bannister disproved the commonly accepted notion that running the 4-minute mile was unattainable. He didn’t disprove a generality (running the 4-minute mile is very difficult) but he did disprove an absolutism (the 4-minute mile is impossible).

It’s been established that tobacco and excessive alcohol are harmful to health. Yet every now and then, you’ll hear about a man who’s lived a century even though he’s savored a cigar and a glass of whisky every day for years. Has he proved that medical science is wrong? Or that — as some of these superannuated persons maintain — these vices actually promote longevity?

Of course not. He disproves the absolutism that tobacco and alcohol invariably lead to premature death. And he proves that some regular smokers and drinkers can live long lives. But he’s done nothing to discredit the science that says such indulgences are harmful in general.

Scientists, however, are sometimes scornful of anecdotal evidence, declaring it to be totally worthless. Which is ironic, given how dependent they are on it. A scientific experiment is preceded by a hypothesis. And where does the hypothesis come from? Anecdotal evidence, quite often. Like the rest of us, scientists exercise inductive reasoning: they notice specific events and extrapolate from them that there might be a general pattern. Unlike the rest of us, they undertake methodical tests in an effort to prove this hypothesis — or hopefully, an effort to disprove it, since that’s really the only way to accomplish either proof or disproof. And how do they do this? By collecting more anecdotes, either in a laboratory or in the wild. But this isn’t considered anecdotal evidence, since the events are collected systematically rather than haphazardly.

Still. every anecdote does prove something. The trick is interpreting correctly what it proves, rather than being led over the lemming ledge of unwarranted conclusion.

(For more on the role of anecdotes in science and medicine, see here and here.)

10 thoughts on “Singular Proof

  1. I appreciate all of your usual perceptive observations, but in fairness to scientists, although the phenomenon that creates their interests may not always arise from verifiable facts, or might be based on indirect hearsay! it is none the less only worthy to base a hypothesis on, if it can then be investigated, with methodological certitude. But, If a hypothesis is deemed worthy of being tested, scientists must use well established procedures and previously affirmable data to justify beginning such an investigation.

    So don’t scientist feel that anecdotal evidence by itself really IS worthless—because by itself, it really IS? Before they can arrive at any conclusions, they must use a reasonable starting point, and one that is based merely on unsubstantiated or anecdotal evidence means nothing—unless it’s then subjected to empirical observations which depend on inductive reasoning, (as well as on logical deductive reasoning)? What sparks their interests may originate from anecdotal evidence, but by itself, that evidence offers no conclusive results. So as far as being relied upon to provide any provable conclusions, anecdotal evidence in itself, IS completely worthless! It may start the conversation but cannot reliably be used to produce any reasonable conclusions. So isn’t your descriptions of its worth and it value to scientists, based merely on a semantic argument?

    • Not really. There are two things to bear in mind here: (1) while anecdotal evidence may be worthless as a destination, it’s an indispensable signpost; (2) although all the single incidents in the world may not prove a premise, sometimes it only takes one incident to disprove one, depending on what the premise is. I certainly don’t mean to suggest that scientists are in the habit of ignoring these two facts, but sometimes people do ignore them in the name of supposedly supporting science.

      • POP,

        I am well aware that anecdotal evidence does not serve as a destination, but rather as a sign post. It does indeed, provides a starting point that, when explored with objective reasoning, can lead to valuable new knowledge.

        My point is that,when scientists discuss the worthless, or insufficient nature of anecdotal evidence, their definition of the term is based on the fact that it cannot in itself provide solid conclusions. Therefore, such anecdotal evidence IN ITSELF, really IS useless when the goal is to reach conclusions based on objectivity, reason, and experimental validation.

        I would be surprised if many scientists at all, disagree with your observation that AE can be used to establish a valuable starting point—because they understand just how valuable such evidence can be, when it sparks an idea that is investigated and then confirmed with empiracle evidence. However, when most scientists consider anecdotal evidence as being worthless, it can be reasonably assumed that they are referring to its failure to produce solid conclusions—that requires following through and using the scientific method to see if that hypothesis is probable,and/ or objectively provable. I am merely saying that your point about the value of anecdotal evidence often leading to credible results, is based mostly on a broader appreciation of the term.

        I think Few scientist would actually disregard the value of anecdotal evidence being used as a form of inspiration which lead to valuable discoveries.—However, when they call it “useless,” (or use any other term which denotes its inherent inadequacies), they are more likely referring to the fact that, (as you pointed out), it ALONE is insufficient for completely unlocking a scientific mystery. instead, it serves primarily as a probable sign post. That’s why I am saying you are using this term based based on semantic definitions,
        which scientists do not necessarily agree with, when they describe its inherent inadequacy.

        Your assumption is that all scientists, or some scientist, fail to grasp the worth of anecdotal evidence as a starting point, but in reality, they are only pointing out the objective fact, that it cannot provide affirmative conclusions IN ITSELF! For you the glass is half filled, and for them it is half empty. I’m just pointing out that most scientist already recognize the value of a signpost which may point to verifiable knowledge—they are simply reluctant to grant it an inordinate importance which it doesn’t truly deserve!

  2. I’m wasting my time, because it’s quite clear that you have already made up your mind and you won’t listen to reason (you admit you’re not a scientist, but you feel your “expertise” in propaganda and logical fallacies qualifies you to define what makes “true” science). In fact, you’ll probably just delete this post with the insinuation that I violated your posting policy, which you have already done.

    But it needs to be said, even if you are the only one who reads it.

    Your penultimate paragraph is pseudoscientific nonsense. That’s understandable; since anecdotal evidence will be a major part of your attack on meat, you have to convince your readers that anecdotal evidence is acceptable in a scientific debate. (The problem you fail or refuse to recognize is that this undermines your efforts in other areas, because your very arguments can be used by other pseudoscientists to try to legitimize their own nonsense. For example, if anecdotal evidence works as a “signpost”, then a faith healer or channeler can claim that their personal experience indicates that healing through prayer or talking to the dead deserves scientific study. Granted, the knee-jerk reaction is to claim that these ideas are nonsense and so dismiss the point out of hand, but in fact they illustrate why anecdotal evidence doesn’t work even as a supposed “signpost”. I’ll explain below.)

    However, your argument fails because you make a critical error: you equate “anecdotes” with proper scientific evidence (along with displaying serious misconceptions of the scientific method, including what is a hypothesis, where it comes from, and what constitutes proper evidence). A thorough explanation of why this is nonsense would take ten pages at least (which is a regular problem with debating pseudoscientists; a properly convincing explanation is boring, while the alternative “war of sound bites” just sounds like opinions rather than facts), but I can explain more succinctly; except, to do so I must restrict myself to definitions and axioms rather than rational argument, and if you refuse to accept these as legitimate, then my discussion will be a waste of time.

    The dictionary defines “anecdote” as a narrative about a real event, with a subsidiary definition of an account regarded as unreliable or hearsay. Using the second definition, science defines anecdotal evidence as follows (my words):

    any information, based on casual observations rather than rigorous analysis, that cannot be falsified, and which is usually passed along by word of mouth rather than by rigorous documentation

    The key phrase is “cannot be falsified”, because scientific evidence is defined as (again my words):

    falsifiable information based on the ability to be tested and verified under neutral conditions with statistical analysis in a manner other researchers can agree has been performed competently and which allows them to check for themselves

    This is the reason why science does not study faith healing or channeling: not because they’re nonsense, but because they cannot be falsified. As such, any anecdotal “signpost” evidence can be ignored because it is, by definition, unfalsifyable and therefore scientifically worthless. And this applies to any subject, not just those considered to be a priori nonsense. (That includes the claim that eating meat being essential is a myth; it cannot be falsified, being personal opinion, and it flies in the face of at least 200 years of scientific research that has established otherwise. Except for nutritional supplements, which actually undermine the claim, since they wouldn’t be necessary if the claim was true, the only way pseudoscientists can support this claim is by the additional claims that there are vegetable sources that can substitute, or that the nutrients in question are not truly essential and can be left out of the diet. Unfortunately, the first has not yet been verified by double-blind randomized placebo-controlled studies, and the latter is medical nonsense.)

    For the record, what you call “signposts” are actually derived from case studies and/or careful rigorous observations. To take a facetious example, a mouse that develops the ability to bend cage bars with its bare paws due to an injection of kryptonite is certainly an anecdote (in both senses!), but to act as a “signpost” to stimulate further research, the researcher who observed it would have to publish the account in a peer-reviewed journal. If all he does is write a letter to a journal saying, “Hey, one of my mice bent the bars of its cage after I injected it with kryptonite!”, no one will take him seriously, with some charitably speculating he had made a joke while the rest deride him as delusional. If instead he conducts thousands of manhours studying this anecdote, but never publishes his results, it won’t be a “signpost”, and if he just publishes a popular text about it, again no one will take him seriously. The only way it could succeed as a “signpost” would be for him to perform a rigorously designed and documented case study that presents falsifiable evidence. Except, then it isn’t an anecdote anymore.

    The point is, “signposts” only work when other scientists recognize them as such, but they won’t recognize anecdotes as “signposts” no matter how compelling, because anecdotes cannot be falsified. A fascinating anecdote might inspire an individual researchers to develop a falsifiable case study that he or she can publish, but that’s stretching the idea of “signpost” anecdotes to the breaking point and smacks of desperation.

    The lack of falsifiability is not the only reason why science avoids anecdotal evidence. Such information usually results from some form of faulty inductive reasoning, confirmation bias, or hasty generalization, and is subject to cherry picking, the “person who” fallacy, subjective validation, the availability heuristic, the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy, and the correlation fallacy, to name a few. Another problem is that anecdotes often illustrate the exception rather than the rule; for example: “Smoking can’t cause cancer, because my uncle smoked a pack a day for seventy years and never got cancer!” While some researcher might be inspired to study that man’s genetic makeup to see if there was some physical cause for his health, no scientist would seriously consider that a legitimate “signpost” that the established causal link between smoking and lung cancer is false. (Any more than any scientist would treat the claim that 40 years of non-meat consumption as a “signpost” that eating meant is not essential.)

    The ultimate problem is that anecdotal evidence doesn’t prove anything, despite your assertion in your last paragraph; from a scientific point of view, without proper controls, we can’t really know what caused the result told of in the anecdote. It doesn’t even work as “singular proof”. Your gun example is a perfect example of anecdotal evidence being used this way, as much as anything because the generalized claim cannot be falsified. (Specific claims of DGU are falsifiable, but these would be treated as case studies and rigorously tested.) However, your 4-minute mile example is an excellent example of a case study, not anecdotal evidence, because Roger Bannister’s accomplishment was rigorously documented and was in principle falsifiable, and his success has been replicated many times over. Even the general claim that a 4-minute mile is humanly possible is falsifiable, because had Bannister’s accomplishment never been replicated it could be argued that there was something special about him not shared by any other human. Even the universal claim that anyone can run a 4-minute is falsifiable.

    Yet even a claim we know is true, like that of a daily dosage of 81-mg of aspirin significantly lowering the risk of a heart attack, would be rejected if presented solely as anecdotal evidence; it wouldn’t even be taken seriously as a “signpost”, mostly because it wouldn’t be falsifiable, most because we can’t really know why a patient didn’t get any heart attacks. The only reason why we now considering it medical fact is because some researchers performed rigorously documented case studies that others used to create properly controlled falsifiable clinical studies that verified the aspirin affect. And as above, an attempt to claim that anecdotes of patients who took aspirin and didn’t get heart attacks inspired the case studies is just a desperate stretch to preserve some tiny “anecdote affect” to justify legitimizing anecdotal evidence.

    The length of this reply should demonstrate why it is impractical for me to thoroughly refute this blog post. For example, my next topic would be to show that even irrefutable demonstrations like Bannister’s accomplishment prove nothing because they are not statistically significant (he could have been successful by pure chance alone). Science never — that bares repeating: NEVER — advances due to a single successful study, observation, experiment, or trial; it only advances once a concept has been shown to be real by statistical analysis of multiple results. (Which is why challenges such as James Randi’s One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge is worthless from a scientific point of view; whether Randi ever pays it out, it’s just a publicity stunt designed to humiliate people who claim to have paranormal experiences.) But that would be a long discussion by itself.

    Besides, as I pointed out above, I would just be wasting my time.

    This will be my last post to your blog. Your defense of pseudoscientific arguments (as well as your deliberate distortion of my statements into strawmen) have made me lose my respect for you, and made me question the efficacy of your previous posts. Assuming you even allow this comment to be posted, I will not respond, so you can reply as you see fit without fear of contradiction. I have told you the way things really are; you can accept or reject that as you see fit. I suspect you will reject it, but regardless I don’t have time to waste on people who refuse to learn or accept the truth.

    Good bye.

    • I am publishing this comment because, even though it’s mostly beside the point, it does have some observations of value in it. Plus, I’m hoping someone who reads it can explain exactly what might have set you off. I’ll be damned if I can decipher it. Your decision to stop discussing matters here like an adult and descend into ad hominem attacks — putting words in my mouth and making huge leaps to unwarranted assumptions — is ill-informed, irrational, puzzling and sad. I wouldn’t say that I’ve lost respect for you, but I’m sure as hell losing patience with you. Trying to turn a discussion about the topic at hand into a discussion about me is not the best way to get into my good graces.

      Your statement that “Science never…advances due to a single successful study, observation, experiment, or trial; it only advances once a concept has been shown to be real by statistical analysis of multiple results” indicates that you really don’t have a clue what I was even saying in my post. You’re just repeating what I said in different words, and trying to pretend I said something very different. And “demonstrations like Bannister’s accomplishment prove nothing because they are not statistically significant (he could have been successful by pure chance alone).” Doesn’t matter how he did it. He proved that it CAN happen, one way or another. That was my point, and my only point in citing his achievement. Again, anecdotal evidence ALWAYS proves something: namely, that such a thing CAN happen. It doesn’t prove anything about how or why — that’s where the science comes in. But to dismiss it as proving nothing at all is about the most unscientific thing I can think of. To do so is to deny that such a feat is possible, even though it has been done many times. Evidently you have no problem with such epic silliness, because you’ve repeatedly maintained that it’s impossible to live (or at least live healthily) without meat, even though many, many, many people have done that. (By the way, you seem to be confusing anecdotal evidence with hearsay. There’s a difference.)

      If all scientists were so dismissive of anecdotes, we wouldn’t know about gravity, or x-rays, or penicillin, or microwaves, or the smallpox vaccination, or allergies, among many other things. Some of the greatest scientific breakthroughs came as a result of isolated chance incidents. You may choose not to call them anecdotes if you like. So call them episodes, narratives, events, stories or queezls instead. It doesn’t affect the point I was making.

      The one thing I might clarify is what I meant by “signpost”: I simply meant an event (or series of events) that inspires further investigation. This is indeed what leads to scientific hypotheses (well, except for when ideas come in a vision, I suppose), and there is nothing wrong with that. And they are often classifiable as anecdotal evidence, in at least some sense. If scientists decide to study whether, for instance, chimpanzees can learn to play chess, it’s a pretty good bet they were led to that topic by somebody’s observations about the behavior of chimps, and not by a Ouija board. Your elaborate scenario designed to discredit my observation about anecdotal evidence inspiring hypotheses begins with… anecdotal evidence. You draw a line between anecdote and case study. Fair enough; but what prompted the case study? A message from God delivered via burning bush? That’s an anecdote too, even if an imaginary one. Okay, Bannister’s run was a case study; but it’s also an anecdote, particularly if it serves as the springboard for determining, for example, whether… well, such an achievement is possible without “luck”.

      By the way, your presumption that because I do not earn my living as a scientist means I know nothing about science is (in addition to being irrelevant) quite off the mark. I did receive a fair amount of training in science, including participation in conducting research projects. That doesn’t make me an expert in science, and I’ve never claimed it does. On the contrary, I’ve made it clear that I rely on the research of the professionals. But that means the totality of research, and not just the proclamations of one scientist — especially one with a heavy ax to grind, who can’t even be bothered to wait for an article to be written before attempting to attack it.

      If you “question the efficacy” of my previous posts, then you’re missing the point of the whole blog. The things I say here are true, but not just because I say them; it’s the other way around. The facts I present can be verified by anyone willing to put in the effort that I do. That applies to what I WILL say about meat. (Notice, yet again, that I haven’t said it yet — yet you already have me tried, convicted and sentenced for being “pseudoscientific”). You will see then, if you bother to stick around and read, that what I have to report on the matter is soundly supported by science — a broader spectrum of evidence than the cherry-picked research you’re touting.

      It is certainly true that if you indeed are a scientist (and frankly I’m having my doubts) then you know many things that I don’t. But you’re not the only scientist in the world. When dealing with a subject I’m not an expert in, I just do what I would like to see everyone do: consult the collective knowledge of people who ARE experts in the field. As I mentioned, I’ve been doing that with nutrition for more than 40 years — a fact you’ve done your best to spin into a reliance on “anecdotal evidence”– BEFORE I’VE EVEN WRITTEN ABOUT THE TOPIC. (Have I said that before?) Such displays of arrogance, presumption and distortion are unfortunate in anyone, but I especially hate to see them coming from a purported scientist. Because not infrequently, anti-science fanatics seize upon them and display them as behavior typical of scientists in general. (I’ll be discussing that topic soon, and we’ll see what REAL pseudoscience looks like.) Whatever the actual roots of your strange vendetta toward me, you’re not doing yourself or your alleged profession any favors by pursuing it.

      Oh, and for what it’s worth, you’re also dead wrong about something else: I know of at least a couple of dozen scientific studies that have been done on the subject of faith healing.

      • POP,

        It seems to me that Biochemborg’s anger is coming from the fact that many scientists are dedicated to truth—the kind of truth which can only be established by real evidence, and as the result of real experimentation that tests the validity of that evidence. But your claim that AE is valid stems from knowing that sometimes hearsay sparks one’s imagination, and may leads one to wonder if the stories he or she has heard, might really have some truth to them.

        I would guess that if one were to poll, or a statistically large enough group of scientists, most of them would not want to give much credence to anecdotal evidence because, as I said, IN ITSELF, it can’t be used as proof for any idea or contention. So perhaps as a professional scientist, Biochemborg is incensed at the suggestion that anecdotal evidence plays any useful role in producing what must be objectively verifiable conclusions. But, this paste from his recent comments, actually, (in my opinion), is evidence that anecdotal evidence is indeed, useful to scientists:

        “The dictionary defines “anecdote” as a narrative about a real event, with a subsidiary definition of an account regarded as unreliable or hearsay. Using the second definition, science defines anecdotal evidence as follows (my words)….”

        Since I agree with you, (POP), that anecdotal evidence can, (in some cases) serve as a legitimate sign post that can lead to discovering objective truths, I decided to make sure exactly what the definition of “subsidiary,” is. In my Merriam–Webster’s dictionary. I found 3 primary definitions:

        1. Furnishing aid or support. 2. Of secondary support. 3. Of or relating to a subsidy.

        Some synonyms for SUBSIDIARY include; auxiliary, contributory, subservient, accessory.

        So, given the fact that anecdotal evidence has been the inspiration for many types of scientific inquiries, such as the claim that elderly people in the Caucasian mountain area of the old (USSR), lived extraordinarily long lives, and the idea that mind reading, clairvoyance, or levitation exist—then the extensive hearsay and stories told about both of these phenomenon, must have played a direct role in motivating scientist who actually did study them–even though some of them may have considered such account to be ludicrous, or consisting of nothing but “crack pot” ideas. As to the results of those studies, I believe that not much conclusive evidence was arrived at once all possible factors were accounted for, i.e. do many inhabitants of the Russia’s caucasian mountain areas live to be (for example), 112 year old or more, ( backed by significant statistical evidence about their own lifespans, as opposed to the lifespans of elderly populations elsewhere)? Additionally, do scientifically solid laboratory analysis of those calling themselves psychics—with all other factors eliminated—such as cheating, abnormal luck, or the type of methodology used to evaluate them etc, truly prove with certainty, that various forms of extrasensory perception exist?

        In the first case, the question could not be accepted or proven with certainty because birth records for those living to such ripe old ages, were not always available or officially archived, and factors like genetics and geographical locations, could not be adequately linked to advanced ages with scientific certainty. In the latter, I believe some research indicated higher that normal, or statistically more frequent, correct responses were given in regards to information that test subjects could not possibly have known in advance. But the results weren’t sufficient to prove that those being tested were truly psychics, or if the frequency of their correct responses were not also attainable (in regards to members of the general public)—according to the laws of probability?

        But the point is that IF these topics WERE objectively studied by scientists, and the results of those studies, conclusively proved, that the anecdotal evidence pointing to them was correct, then such topics would indeed, have served the role of being signposts which verified and eventually confirmed, genuine objective knowledge as a result of valid scientific inquiries–even if they were only investigated initially, because large bunches of people had heard stories about such apparent anomalies, and even if only rumors had initiated the use of objective and scientifically significant evidence.

        So I think perhaps you, POP, are assigning the term “anecdotal,” a much broader meaning than does a “by the book,” scientist like Biochemborg.

        Personally though, I think if hearsay evidence or folklore based only on speculations are numerous enough to spark interest, they are also numerous enough to act as signposts pointing in directions that MIGHT truly lead to the acquisition of objective knowledge. And, in the case of Bannister’s record and belief shattering 4 minute mile, if the question was whether running a mile in 4 minutes or less is HUMANLY POSSIBLE, then YES, only his lone example absolutely proved that such a feat IS Attainable! And as you said, that realization doesn’t imply that it is attainable by everyone or even for many people. So how can the fact that he truly accomplished this feat, prove anything less than that such an accomplishment really IS humanly possible–since it actually, and undeniably happened to a human being?

        Perhaps Biochemborg interprets your comments as giving greater credit to forms of anecdotal evidence than they actually deserve, simply because anecdotes alone can not DIRECTLY result in affirmable research–even though their existence has sometimes sparked scientific interests? But to me, and apparently you also, the fact that they can contribute to scientific knowledge, subsidize scientific knowledge, and aid or support investigations, deserves at least honorable mention, even though theirs are only subsidiary contributions. I can see how, as a scientist, Biochemborg might disagree, or even be angered by your point of view, but I don’t understand the degree of personal offense that has apparently been taken by him, simply because you grant such evidence significant credibility? Then again, there have been times when the remarks of another commenter have offended me, or made me resentful, because the offending party didn’t even seem to understand why the statement which offended me, in fact, did?

      • One can only guess what his problem is. I just know that he is trying very desperately and self-defeatingly to argue that I am standing opposed to science or posing as a scientific expert myself, when nothing could be farther from the truth. And he has no problem with making wild, inaccurate and irrelevant guesses about my motives in the process.

      • P0P,
        Since you are also dedicated to truth, of course science is meaningful to you too and, in the case of your post, probably necessary to examine in order to explain the things you want to convey. So I would not expect you to deliberately and falsely critique the findings of scientists nor misuse the scientific method. But, In cases like this, one wishes the other person would come right out and say what bothers him, or exactly why he is angered, so as to leave room to discuss that reaction, but often we assume that the other person must know why we are angered–even if that’s not always true. That’s all I have to offer in the way of explanations. But you are probably already aware of that type communication snag.

      • Normally, I wouldn’t even consider it worth publishing sleazy attacks, much less commenting on them. But his are particularly rich in self-contradiction and irony.

        In an attempt, for example, to discredit my observation that anecdotal evidence inspires scientific research, he illustrates an example of anecdotal evidence with a facetious case of a mouse bending bars. Then he explains how an actual scientific study would develop around such a topic, and concludes with this: “The only way it could succeed as a “signpost” would be for him to perform a rigorously designed and documented case study that presents falsifiable evidence. Except, then it isn’t an anecdote anymore.” Huh? It isn’t an anecdote “anymore”? He’s acknowledging that the project began with an anecdote while simultaneously denying it.

        Furthermore, after accusing me of distorting his words (while twisting MINE like strands of tobacco), of employing straw men and red herrings, of being a hypocrite and narrow-minded and anti-science and dogmatic, he indicates (if I infer correctly) that he doesn’t even intend to read the discussion that prompted his reaction in the first place. It remains not only unread but unwritten, yet he presumes it to be an all-out “attack on meat”. (I strongly suspect that he must have some investments in livestock.) All he knows about it is that I’ve expressed an intention to discuss the myth that one can’t live a long and healthy life without consuming meat — which he has haughtily declared an “opinion”. It isn’t. And he could verify for that for himself if he devoted half as much time and energy as he’s devoted to his bungled efforts to smear me. Actually, he’s given several indications that he already knows it’s a myth, but chooses to argue otherwise anyway.

        This kind of behavior is not at all uncommon among “wacko attackos”, who often make it entertaining. But coming from an individual of such potential, it’s downright sickening.

      • POP,

        I also don’t understand why acting on the basis of anecdotal evidence can never be considered making use of a valuable sign post, which then sparks objective scientific investigations—but rather, must be completely rejected as part of any process that may ultimately enable investigators to discover new, and objective, knowledge?

        I agree that you have not really had a chance to properly expound on, or explain your ideas concerning the value of a Vegan diet, or whether some amount of red meat really is essential to anyone’s diet. However I am sad that Biochemborg has taken such offense at something you or I, or perhaps both of us, apparently said—or didn’t say? In the past He has been a well informed and very well written commenter on this website, and I haven’t seen him react as he is doing now, even when he may have disagreed with some of the information in your posts, or with some of the things that you or I have said.

        Pardon me for saying that, I hope it’s mainly you he is angry with, since most of his complaints have been in response to things you have said, or things he thinks you have said–and it’s probably normal for the site moderator to receive that kind of flak. But as far as myself, I don’t pretend to be nearly as knowledgeable about science or history, however, I have sincerely tried to explain the opinions I have tried to express to those who don’t understand them. But, since I often write after having very little sleep, sometimes my comments may not be clear, or have been explained as well as they should have.

        I really meant no insult to him or anyone else, when just expressing my opinions on a forum which invites commenters to express and explore, differing opinions—as well as solid facts. To me,you’ve always seemed clear and fair in your rebuttals, but unfortunately we live in such an opinionated time that many of us take offense much too easily—myself included. That’s all I got!

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