Why Modern Alternative Mama Katie Tietje is dangerous

Beware Dog Sign

Katie Tietje, Modern Alternative Mama, is whining again in a post entitled Why The “Science” Critics are Dangerous.

You might be confused into thinking that Tietje is lamenting critics of science, but her helpful use of scare quotes around “Science” signals that she is whining about people who use science to criticize her.

She places herself in lofty company:

Just a few weeks ago, a group of doctors called for Dr. Oz to be fired from a staff position at a university because of his TV show — they didn’t like that he makes strong claims for supplements and alternative health products, and felt that this interfered with his ability to be employed as a serious doctor…

It may or may not surprise you that as a popular blogger in the alternative world, I’ve faced the same types of criticism — obviously on a smaller scale. There are entire groups dedicated to “stopping” me. These groups leave comments on my Facebook page almost daily, telling me how “dangerous” I am and linking to some article that’s pro-vaccine, pro-GMO, etc. They regularly — at least a couple times a month — write articles about me and all the “woo” I peddle.

I ignore them, generally, as do many of my colleagues. (Food Babe is another huge target for these people.) But it seems that despite ignoring them they’re only speaking out more and more. They’re doing so more publicly. They’re writing for major media and calling people out. (emphasis in the original)

Heaven forfend! How dare they speak out! How dare they do so publicly! How dare they write for major media and call people out! Only Katie is allowed to do stuff like that.

And you know what? It’s not okay. Which is why I’m taking a stand today. I think these so-called “science” critics are dangerous people. And it’s time everyone knew.

Why are bloggers like me dangerous?

The real point is, it’s my goal to provide people with another view point. Alternative information. The mainstream isn’t exactly kind to people who choose home birth (or to reject some/all vaccines, or eat only organic, or…). It’s not exactly accurate or remotely unbiased.

There are people looking for that information. People who want to know what “the other side” really thinks about these topics. And they deserve a safe place to go to access that information.(emphasis in the original)

Safe from what, precisely? Is anyone threatening them? No. When Tietje says “safe” she means “safe from demands for proof.”

For Tietje a safe place is one where she can be validated and she can’t be validated if she’s asked to provide proof for her claims because there is no proof. And that’s dangerous.

It is ironic that one of our greatest technological advances has provided an incomparable boon to scientific illiteracy. I’m referring, of course, to the internet. Prior to the advent of the internet, wacky pseudo-scientific “theories” were relegated to the fringes and had to be deliberately sought out. Now pseudo-scientific mumbo jumbo can be widely disseminated.

But perhaps more important than the actual dissemination of misinformation is that feeling of validation that internet communities provide. Pseudoscience can thrive when believers congregate on message boards that validate bizarre beliefs and ban information that undermines those beliefs. They don’t call it validation, though; that’s too clinical. They call it “support.”

Hart et al. explore this phenomenon in their paper Feeling Validated Versus Being Correct: A Meta-Analysis of Selective Exposure to Information. The authors explain:

… Receiving information that supports one’s position on an issue allows people to conclude that their views are correct but may often obscure reality. In contrast, receiving information that contradicts one’s view on an issue can cause people to feel misled or ignorant but may allow access to a valid representation of reality. Therefore, understanding how people strive to feel validated versus to be correct is critical to explicating how they select information about an issue when several alternatives are present. (my emphasis)

Avoiding cognitive dissonance is central to the search for validation:

… According to dissonance theory, after people commit to an attitude, belief, or decision, they gather supportive information and neglect unsupportive information to avoid or eliminate the unpleasant state of postdecisional conflict known as cognitive dissonance.

Minimizing cognitive dissonance requires selective exposure, seeking out information sources that confirm existing beliefs and avoiding sources that undermine those beliefs.

Tietje is correct that her critics are dangerous; they are dangerous to her self-esteem. Asking Tietje for proof or offering scientific evidence that she is wrong creates cognitive dissonance and Tietje and other believers in quackery cannot abide cognitive dissonance. Tietje finds cognitive dissonance unbearable, not merely because it causes leads to questioning her core beliefs, but because her self esteem rests on those beliefs.

Tietje’s claims about the dangers of critics of quackery would be hilarious except for the fact that she actually believes them.

They think that the mainstream view is clearly “right” and they’ll do anything to prove it.

Earth to Katie! Earth to Katie! That’s what science, real science, is all about. It looks for the right answer and the answer can only be right if there is proof.

These are people who will go to any length to say that there is ONE correct view.

That’s because there often is only ONE correct view. You can pretend that there is no gravity, but that doesn’t eliminate gravity. You can believe that the earth is flat, but that doesn’t make it flat. You can insist that vaccines are dangerous, but that doesn’t mean they’re actually dangerous.

And yet, they take no responsibility for the results of these actions.

Because Katie always takes responsibility for her recommendations. Oh, wait! She never takes responsibility.

I provide information; it’s up to you to read more, ask questions, and make a decision to use or ignore it.

Just so long as you don’t ask Katie any questions or request proof.

It’s time to stand up and say NO to these people.

… They do NOT have the right to harass people with an alternative view point.

Harass? Asking questions is not harassment. Insisting on proof is not harassment. Criticizing someone who publicly posts her beliefs for the entire world to see is not harassment!

Her conclusion (Irony thy name is Katie!):

Stand up for what you believe in and choose. Share information even when people don’t like it. Don’t let them make you stop.

Let me assure you Katie, that I’m taking your advice. I’m standing up for science. I’m sharing information whether you like it or not. And there’s nothing you can do (even whining about me) to make me stop calling you out for your dangerous quackery and your equally dangerous belief that you should be “safe” from any need to provide proof.