I’m not racist but …

I'm not a racist but

Have you ever noticed that there are certain statements that automatically mean the opposite of what the speaker intends?

The classic example is “I’m not racist but …” You just know that whatever follows those words is going to be racist.

According to Rational Wiki:

Any sentence that starts with the words “I’m not prejudiced, but…,” or similar formations (“I’m not racist, but…” or “I’m not homophobic,” “not sexist,” etc.) is likely to contradict itself very rapidly… Saying a sentence that starts with “I’m not X, but…” likely means that you are X.

The exact same principle applies to the favorite phrase of natural parenting advocates. That phrase is “I’m educated and …”

Popular formulations include:

I’ve educated myself about natural childbirth or homebirth or vaccination and …

I’ve done my research on natural childbirth or homebirth or vaccination and …

It is virtually guaranteed that whatever follows is going to be absolute nonsense.


When a natural parenting advocate claims to be “educated” about medical topics, she certainly doesn’t mean that she went to medical school, has hands on training caring for pregnant women and babies, or is familiar with the obstetric, neonatology or immunology literature. What does she mean? She means that she has adopted a cultural construction of “education” that has little if anything to do with actual knowledge of the topic. She means that she has used Google to access information that may or may not be true. She has ignored those who have actual education and training and crowd sourced her decisions by reading books, blogs, websites and message boards written by other lay people who are often equally ignorant.

A lay person’s claims to be “educated” about a health topic is really a claim of defiance. The person is proudly defying the recommendations of health experts with years of education and years of training in order to credulously accept the bizarre conspiracy theories and absolute nonsense of people who have little or no education and training in the relevant discipline. When a homebirth advocate or vaccine rejectionist claims to be “educated,” she means that she has thoroughly read and blindly accepted the propaganda of other people who are equally uneducated.

What’s doubly ironic about the claim of being “educated” is that people who really are educated on a topic never proclaim themselves to be “educated.” They might tell you about their training, their years of schooling, their professional titles or the papers they have published on the topic, but they will rarely if ever claim to be “educated.”

When someone tells me he is not racist but …, he has helpfully alerted me that the statement that follows is likely to be racist.

And hen someone tells me she is “educated” about childbirth, homebirth or vaccination, she has helpfully alerted me that she is thoroughly ignorant about that topic and about what being educated really means.

141 Responses to “I’m not racist but …”

  1. GeoffK
    May 16, 2014 at 3:54 pm #

    Who knows what to believe at this point

  2. Amilia Jones
    May 8, 2014 at 1:31 pm #

    This is what frustrates me: I do not have access to the same information that is available to the medical community, or I must pay a hefty price for this information. I must rely on bits and pieces of information tossed to me by folks who have this information. More transparency and direct access to medical statistics might lead to fewer conspiracy theorists. I don’t agree with these home birther folks, but I do try to understand why they have come to their conclusions. Hahaha, I used the but! 🙂

    • Lion
      May 8, 2014 at 5:50 pm #

      Even with access to the information it is likely to be either misunderstood or deliberately twisted. For example, look what anti vases do with factual information…it just sails over their heads.

    • Young CC Prof
      May 8, 2014 at 5:57 pm #

      There are a LOT of places to get accurate statistics. The problem is that so many people take a single data point, use it to represent something it isn’t, and then explain it to everyone else incorrectly.

    • wharves of sorrow
      May 11, 2014 at 12:19 pm #

      There are sites by reputable sources that give the consensus to laypeople.

    • Jeremy Rawley
      June 2, 2014 at 3:15 pm #

      We can start by getting rid of those paywalls and login walls. There is no reason why I should have to register or pay to read this information!

    • Jason Smith
      June 2, 2014 at 6:26 pm #

      You can access A LOT of medical journals through PubMed – a service provided for free by the US government. I believe that the EU has a similar service.

  3. KT
    May 8, 2014 at 12:37 pm #

    This is why I like to preface most of my statements with “I’m an unqualified lay person who has no training to assess this, but I’m wondering…” or the like when I’m talking to my doctor.

    Currently trying to figure out how to boil down my question on whether my long contractions last time (5 min. on the monitor was normal before the pitocin was started, at which point they shortened and minorly intensified) had anything to do with my daughter’s fetal distress which was diagnosed almost the minute they put me on the monitors after PROM. If so, and if my body is doomed to do that again, am I going to send every baby I have into distress?

  4. Kupo
    May 7, 2014 at 11:31 pm #

    As Susie Sheep (of Peppa Pig) says, “My talent is watching tv. I practiced all night.”

  5. ModerneTheophanu
    May 7, 2014 at 10:37 am #

    “I’ve done my research about natural childbirth and I’m going to do whatever my doctor and the L&D nurses think is best during delivery, though I will try to see if I can handle it without pain medication.”

    • Young CC Prof
      May 7, 2014 at 10:52 am #

      A very rational answer!

    • Elaine
      May 7, 2014 at 9:35 pm #

      Personally, I feel I do better in most situations if I have an idea of what to expect. I don’t like to fly by the seat of my pants. I don’t think it would be right for me to head into a procedure totally ignorant of how it typically goes. Going into the whole birth thing, I liked to know stuff like what is happening in each stage of labor, what I can expect it to feel like, when to head to the hospital, what I can expect the hospital staff to want to do at each step and why, what are some common issues and what, if anything, can I do to prevent them and how they are usually dealt with if they do happen. Stuff like that. Knowing that stuff makes me as prepared as I can reasonably expect to be, but it certainly doesn’t make me an expert, and it doesn’t mean that something couldn’t happen that I’d never read about. But at each point during birth, being able to recognize what was happening made me calmer than I would have been otherwise, if I’d had no idea what was happening.

      A friend posted on Facebook wondering what to expect from birth, and somebody else commented with something along the lines of “Go to the hospital, get your epidural, and push when they say to push”. If some people do okay with that attitude, more power to them. At the end of the day, the outcome is the same.

      • Jenny Star
        May 9, 2014 at 5:44 pm #

        Yeah. The thing is, I’m a total control freak and “educated” myself as much as I could before having my son. My mother was a nurse, plus I read everything I could get my hands on as well as keeping all of my doctor appointments. I could have recited every NORMAL labor phenomenon.
        But none of this helped because my body refused to go into labor until finally I had to have an induction at 41+5, with a 9 lbs plus baby, pre-eclampsia, and a cascade of other imminent bodily failures. We managed to pull through. But doing whatever they told me to do without arguing was really the most helpful thing I could do for both of us at that point. It’s difficult to prepare anyone for an emergency birth.

  6. Dr Kitty
    May 7, 2014 at 7:23 am #

    I am absolutely open to truly expert patients, the ones with rare syndromes or who are on unusual drug regimes, the ones who know what really works for them. If they suggest a test or medication I’m usually willing to give it a go unless Otis outright dangerous.

    I am less open to people who Google “cause of headache” and try to insist I organise an MRI scan to exclude a brain tumour, for what is clearly a tension headache.

    • Young CC Prof
      May 7, 2014 at 10:52 am #

      Yes, that’s a good way to put the difference. I remember one occasion when I was new in town, had a flareup of a chronic condition, wound up seeing a doctor I’d never met before. He gave me a diagnosis and treatment plan, and I was like, “No, no, trust me, I’ve been dealing with this most of my life, it’s my body, that’s not what’s going on here.”

      However, most of the time when I go to the doctor, he or she knows more than I do.

  7. Amy
    May 6, 2014 at 10:18 pm #

    One of my EX online “friends,” met through online parenting forums, had a tag she loved to use in her blog posts: “doctors are morons.” This woman had barely graduated high school, had zero years of undergraduate education, and claimed that the biased blog posts she wrote, using information from other biased blog posts, were “papers.” She also called herself a “lactation consultant” even without any certification– offering advice on breastfeeding support websites and owning a copy of Hale’s made her an expert. Any time a doctor told her something she didn’t want to hear, out came the tag.

  8. Beth S
    May 6, 2014 at 9:03 pm #

    I remember when I first got pregnant and was but a wee lurker on this blog, I went to my OB and asked her this list of questions I had from this site I hadn’t known to ask the first time around. I thought my doctor was going to be annoyed with me asking all those questions, instead she commended me and said she wished more mother’s would take an interest in their own bodies, and what’s going on with their pregnancies. However I never said “I’ve done my research,” Or “I know more than you because of Google.” I was more like “I don’t want to sound stupid or like an idiot, but I have these questions could you please help me?’
    I’m not saying my approach of scaring the crap out of myself helped me, or hurt me but I know that when I asked the questions and got the answers I felt better.

    • Jason Smith
      June 2, 2014 at 6:30 pm #

      Good for you for taking an active role in your own health and the health of your child. Medicine isn’t just a passive process where a doctor gives it and you receive it – your role could even be something as simple as taking your medicine every day or making sure you get enough exercise during the week.

      In this case, you asked questions because you wanted to know things – questions that you thought of because of information you read online. That’s a great way to use technology to inform yourself. However, most “Dr. Google” experts do the opposite of that: they read things online, and then instead of asking questions, they just assume the expert is wrong. Or they ask questions and declare that “doctors are idiots” when they don’t hear what they want to hear.

  9. GuestS
    May 6, 2014 at 5:09 pm #

    If someone says ‘expert’ or ‘educated in’ I immediately suspect it’s the oposite. In my experience of postgraduate education, I frequently come accross the gut wrenching realisation that the more I know, the more I realise that I don’t know and the more there is that nobody knows….yet…. Nobody is an ‘expert’ or proclaims themselves to be one in their own field because of this. If you don’t have the humility to accept that there is stuff we just don’t know then you don’t know enough in the first place!

    • GuestS
      May 6, 2014 at 5:09 pm #

      Need to edit that to say opPosite! Gah!

    • Angela
      May 6, 2014 at 7:37 pm #


    • nohika
      May 6, 2014 at 9:06 pm #

      I am just about to finish my first year of my MA/PhD program, and if there’s anything the past 9 months have taught me, it’s how much I don’t know and never will.

      • Elaine
        May 7, 2014 at 9:43 pm #

        I totally agree! And looking at how much I have learned and have yet to learn, I assume that someone with a comparable level of education to me, but in a different field, has a similar depth of what they know. Which, if it’s a field that’s somewhat related to mine, may overlap with mine a bit, but only a bit. And thus, I know that they know a whole lot! This is why I don’t bother “getting educated” about the vaccine controversies, for instance. I figure the people who are real experts in the field know way, way more than I ever will, since I do not plan on pursuing more formal education on this topic than I already have, and if they think a particular vaccine is best based on that knowledge, I’m happy to defer to their much superior knowledge. I know as much about vaccines as I need to for my own role as a parent and a health care professional. I don’t need to appoint myself a public health expert or immunologist.

        • The Bofa on the Sofa
          May 7, 2014 at 10:05 pm #

          It can be instructive to look up the make-up of the committee that handles vaccine recommendations for the CDC. It’s members are folks like “The Chair of Pediatric Immunology at LSU School of Medicine.” For shit’s sake, who am I to to tell that person about vaccines?

          i’m an educated man, but it’s safe to say that folks like that have forgotten more about vaccines than I’ve ever known.

    • The Bofa on the Sofa
      May 6, 2014 at 9:16 pm #

      I don’t know. I am absolutely comfortable (and justified) in saying that I am an expert in the field I am in, in the work I am doing. There are some things for which I am undoubtedly the world’s expert in them. However, I readily concede that my expertise is limited to those things, and if I stray outside of that very narrow topic, the extent of my expertise drops rapidly.

      • Sue
        May 6, 2014 at 10:24 pm #

        I agree. I am quite happy to express opinions in my area of training and expertise. It’s not that I claim to know everything – but wouldn’t there be something wrong it I didn’t know more in my own area of professionalism than others who don’t have the same training and exposure?

        The current post-modern ”everyone’s opinion is equally valid” approach is fine for matters of taste – but not for areas of expertise. And the suspicion of professionals as somehow ”brainwashed” by their training is even more silly. What would be better – amateur zealots? Like HB lay ”midwives” and anti-vaxers?

        • GuestS
          May 7, 2014 at 1:12 pm #

          Totally agree with that, although sometimes I feel in the pit of dispair that I know nothing….but then I go to a Mum and baby chat place and I overhear them talking about the thing that I specialise in (baby/children bilingual first language acquisition)…I can barely sit still on my chair from the absolute rubbish that I’m hearing!

      • GuestS
        May 7, 2014 at 5:23 am #

        And there must be stuff that you don’t know because nobody really knows at the moment? So it’s like the term ‘expert’ kind of becomes relative IYKWIM?

        One example of the type of person I’m thinking about it that lactation adjunct researcher, Dr Karleen Gribble…. Which I am sure that you are nothing like! But that’s who I had in mind when I wrote that!

      • MLE
        May 7, 2014 at 11:42 am #

        Bofa, what are you the world’s expert in??? If this were Facebook, you’d be vaguebooking!

        • The Bofa on the Sofa
          May 7, 2014 at 11:44 am #

          I can’t provide that much detail without revealing too much about myself.

          If I told you my expertise, anyone could figure out my true identity, which would, of course, compromise my superhero, crime-fighting ability.

          • MLE
            May 7, 2014 at 11:46 am #

            I knew you were going to say that and I’m disappointed. Can you make up something to satisfy my curiosity?

          • The Bofa on the Sofa
            May 7, 2014 at 11:52 am #

            It’s in the area of organic chemistry. That is sufficiently broad (I teach organic, though)

          • MLE
            May 7, 2014 at 2:28 pm #

            Awesome! I am married to a chemist (biophysical, your identity is safe). Now I suppose I have grounds to lecture you by virtue of my family’s achievements. IIRC, we had one breast feeding troll recently whose prodigious arguments were underpinned solely by the fact that her husband is an MD……

          • The Bofa on the Sofa
            May 7, 2014 at 5:53 pm #

            Hey, she was also an LC.

            My wife is a vet. That means I know a lot about animals (here’s what I know: reptiles are almost always hypocalcemic; the end)

          • wharves of sorrow
            May 11, 2014 at 12:22 pm #

            Chemists rock. Wish I didn’t have dyscalculia so I could be a chemist.

          • Siri
            May 7, 2014 at 11:55 am #

            Come on Bofster, we already know what you look like! Although it’s not clear whether the photo shows your superhero look or that of your mild-mannered alter ego…

          • The Bofa on the Sofa
            May 7, 2014 at 11:55 am #

            On the internet, no one knows you are a dog.

          • Siri
            May 7, 2014 at 12:46 pm #

            Just whom are you calling a dog, Sir?

          • The Bofa on the Sofa
            May 7, 2014 at 12:49 pm #

            Spuds Mackenzie

            (young folks might need to look that up)

    • Amy
      May 6, 2014 at 10:20 pm #

      Seriously. I’ve been teaching for 13 years. Every single year I teach, I get better at it, and every single year, all that tells me is how much I used to suck and how much more I still have to work on.

  10. Sarah
    May 6, 2014 at 2:02 pm #

    Well, I have a PhD in the humanities, and thus I can definitively tell you…..

    1) how the peer review process works, 2) that it can take years of study to become truly well-versed in a particular field to the point where you can do a lit review and summarize the existing research on a topic 3) that evidence is found in scholarly, peer-reviewed journals not by searching Dr. Google and 4) that I am no where near qualified to “do my personal research” on vaccines or any other public health topic and come to an evidence-based conclusion that differs from the overwhelming scholarly consensus.

    I don’t get these people who think their PhD in an unrelated field means that they are an expert in anything. My own research shows me how unqualified I am to comment on almost anything else.

    • Amazed
      May 6, 2014 at 9:12 pm #

      The research that sticks most in my mind was the one I did at the university, in the immediate pre-Internet era. I got all the perks: getting up at outrageous times (I think mornings should be outlawed), waiting patiently for someone to release a seat in the library, ordering the books and journals recommended not by someone with a PhD in an unrelated field but by professors who knew what they were talking about. Finding other references in them. Ordering new books and journals. Somewhere along the way, go to the coffee automat in the hall. Lunch? Sure, if you want someone else to take your seat. Rinse and repeat. Give your last money (you’re a student, remember? You don’t have redundant money.) to copy the relevant pages when your hand hurt from writing. Leave at dusk and pray the shop next door is still closed. Call the professor to arrange a meeting because something. Is. Off. Tomorrow morning? Hell. There’s no way to enter the library before noon. Oh well…

      Wait. Is there enough money for coffee tomorrow? Rush to your handbag. There is. You won’t commit a suicide tomorrow. But hey, you cannot commit a suicide even if you didn’t have the coffee money. It’s examinations time.

      End of memory walk.

      Did someone think I was describing my efforts to get a PhD in something? To become a university professor, or what?

      No. Just an ordinary day in the life of a very ordinary student.

      Now, these women sit comfortably on their sofas, read the free articles (because the worthy ones are usually behind a paywall and they won’t understand them even if they had access, because those article tend to be for people who are ACTUALLY educated in certain fields) and they feel that they have educated themselves.


    • May 7, 2014 at 2:53 am #

      I do search Dr. Google a lot- but I use Google Scholar. It’s still not nearly as good as a real journal database, and there’s a lot of things that only have abstracts, but it’s better than nothing. And it’s free, unlike JSTOR or other databases.

    • wharves of sorrow
      May 11, 2014 at 12:27 pm #

      Same here. My dad is a constructor worker who has also done landscaping and meat cutting but some people think bc he is experienced in those trades that he can do plumbing and electrics! *facepalm* He doesn’t know anymore on plumbing and electric systems than the average person. Even if a topic is vaguely similar does not mean one is knowledgeable in it.

  11. BeatlesFan
    May 6, 2014 at 1:26 pm #

    I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. The minute someone says “I’ve done my research”, I automatically ignore everything they say. I’ve never heard someone say that sentence and then follow it up with a peer-reviewed, evidence-based study.

    • Sue
      May 6, 2014 at 10:27 pm #

      There are two questions to follow-up to “I’ve done my research”:
      “Oh? Tell me where it is published so I can read it.”
      “By ‘research’, do you mean that you did experiments and measured things, or that you just read stuff, like when you ‘research’ which is the best fridge to buy?”

      • Chione
        May 9, 2014 at 9:57 am #

        I don’t entirely get this hate for the use of the word “research”. As far as I know, you can e.g. “do research for an article/essay/blog post” without there being an implication that you’ve conducted something peer reviewed. I know that there are people who use the word mendaciously, but that’s no reason to dismiss it altogether.

        I’m an occasional freelance journo myself and have written on science topics before, and I wouldn’t dream of writing a piece with my name on it on a given subject without looking into the (preferably primary) sources and doing at least a modicum of research (ha!) on it. If a subject matter interests me I tend to do the same simply out of curiosity.

        I’m well aware that I’m a generalist at heart, and I know I won’t be getting every little detail exactly right, but at least I have a bit more substance behind my texts and arguments, and can cite the relevant sources. I’m also loathe to weaken my hand by doing an inordinate amount of hedging (“Oh, I’ve done a little bit of reading, but I really don’t know that much.”) wrt the extent of my knowledge, when the unfortunate reality often is that I end up discussing such deep subjects as “we didn’t come from monkeys” or “there is mercury in vaccines and Andrew Wakefield is a martyr”, where I actually really do know exactly what I’m talking about. (I also don’t hesitate to admit to the limits of my knowledge when that is actually relevant, but being too forthright about your limits is a sure way to make yourself seem weak and irrelevant especially in internet discussions, where everyone is a self-proclaimed expert.)

        Would “reviewed the literature” make you more happy?

  12. Amy Tuteur, MD
    May 6, 2014 at 1:21 pm #

    Isn’t it great how the ignorant band together to defend each other’s ignorance!


    • Young CC Prof
      May 6, 2014 at 1:25 pm #

      TMR? Isn’t that kind of like hitting rock-bottom for someone who claims to support science?

      • Anj Fabian
        May 6, 2014 at 2:03 pm #

        I’ve always been impressed that group hasn’t spontaneously combusted. It reminds me of a fireworks factory – a lot of explosive personalities in one place.

        • Young CC Prof
          May 6, 2014 at 2:10 pm #

          Do you read “The Poxes Blog”? Fascinating play-by-play of some of the explosions within the antivax fringe.

          • Trixie
            May 6, 2014 at 2:31 pm #

            I love that blog!

    • Young CC Prof
      May 6, 2014 at 1:31 pm #

      So, her book (which has nothing to do with MS) was a finalist for one of several award categories by the NYC MS society. And she’s related to scientists. THOSE are credentials? Really?

    • Mel
      May 6, 2014 at 1:38 pm #


      “Oh, and did I mention Jennifer Margulis has a Ph.D.? From Emory University in Atlanta. And four children? And is part of an astonishingly intellectual family that includes at least one Nobel Prize winner (her uncle), a microbiologist who changed our understanding of evolution and whose name is in every Biology text book in the world (her mother), and the former head of the Math department at MIT, who solved several unsolvable problems?”

      1) A Ph.D in what topic?

      2) You know who else has 4 children? Dr. Tuteur. And my mother. Oh, and my mother-in-law. My grandmother had 8 children. Does that trump her?

      3) She has smart relatives. Good for her. That’s really nice and totally irrelevant.

      • Trixie
        May 6, 2014 at 1:42 pm #

        How many years of school is each birth equivalent to? My great grandmother had 15 children (all natural!), but an 8th grade education. Did she have a master’s degree based on the number of children she had?

        • Dr Kitty
          May 6, 2014 at 2:06 pm #

          I have a patient who left school at 12, married at 16 and raised 12 children on her bricklayer husband’s salary.
          If I want to know how to feed fourteen people with 8lbs of potatoes, 3 slices of bacon and a pint of milk, or how to re-work one piece of children’s clothing to fit four children of many ages and both genders, she’s my go to source.
          Not so much anything to do with recent developments in obstetrics or paediatrics.

          My grandfather wrote a well regarded scholarly book about Beethoven (in German). I don’t have a musical bone in my body and my German is limited to asking the way to the train station, or for a piece of Schwarzwalderkirschtorte.

          Your achievements are your own.

          • MLE
            May 6, 2014 at 6:35 pm #

            Does it in involve some kind of potato gratin?

          • Mishimoo
            May 6, 2014 at 7:55 pm #

            “Your achievements are your own.”

            Thank you! I had a similar reaction to a lady I met recently, who introduced herself as “Hi, I’m Mrs x and my husband is a physicist!” and proceeded to hold court on the subject of misogyny in mathematics. I really wanted to ask her what she personally had achieved, but I have manners (sometimes).

        • NoLongerCrunching
          May 6, 2014 at 3:14 pm #

          Well she can only get credit for the full 3 years per child if she breastfed and AP’d them.

          • Trixie
            May 6, 2014 at 3:19 pm #

            She did breastfeed the older ones, but by the last few, bottles were available and she was glad for them. Running a farm during the Great Depression while pregnant and providing for 10-12 children at any given time with no electricity doesn’t leave you with a lot of time to AP.

          • Jessica S.
            May 6, 2014 at 8:52 pm #

            Which is why I suspect AP is able to be such a popular practice now, b/c people actually have time on their hands, not so much b/c of it’s intrinsic values. (Not to say that there aren’t aspects of AP that are valuable – see my disclaimer below.) It’s kind of like the “first world problems” meme, if that makes sense. Only b/c our lives are comparatively easy do we have time for all consuming practices and ideologies, as we’re not distracted by empty stomachs or a host of diseases that have yet to be conquered with vaccines.

            (Boilerplate disclaimer on AP: I rag on the Dr. Sears branded version of AP as a packaged whole, and the extreme followers, not on the practices that parents adopt simply b/c that works for them. I’m all for “if it works for you, do it!”. But I think that’s understood here.)

      • The Bofa on the Sofa
        May 6, 2014 at 1:43 pm #

        1) A Ph.D in what topic?

        “”Swarthy pirates and white slaves: Barbary captivity in the American literary imagination””

        If I want to know how American authors have depicted Barbary captivity, I’ll ask her.

        BTW, her mom was also an HIV denialist. Did they mention that in terms of family pedigree?

        • Irène Delse
          May 6, 2014 at 3:29 pm #

          Lynn Margulis was a fascinating character. As a biologist, she did indeed revolutionized our ideas on cellular evolution, and she probably deserved a Nobel prize herself for her theory on the origin of mitochondria from symbiotic bacteria. But somehow, her ability to think outside the box led her into crank territory toward the end of her career. Kind of like Linus Pauling with vitamin C megadoses or Luc Montagnier (co-discoverer of HIV) endorsing homeopathy.

          • Lena
            May 6, 2014 at 3:59 pm #

            “her theory on the origin of mitochondria from symbiotic bacteria.”

            Oh, wow, that was her?! Makes the HIV denial even worse. Please tell me that was early on during the AIDS epidemic and not something she held on to til the end.

          • wharves of sorrow
            May 11, 2014 at 12:40 pm #

            Its really scary someone who has given a lot to science can still support quackery. I am a layperson who knows alt med is bunk.

      • Amazed
        May 6, 2014 at 1:52 pm #

        In bad old days, aka communist time, there used to be a special category of young people who were guaranteed a place at the university: children of Honoured Fighters against Fascism. Just being born into such families guaranteed the privilege of acquiring education. Fascinating to see the author of this article fully agreeing with our Holy Party of the time.

    • Anj Fabian
      May 6, 2014 at 2:17 pm #

      So she’s white knighting for Jennifer Margulis? Really?

      Hey Jennifer! Why aren’t you fighting your own battles?

  13. MLE
    May 6, 2014 at 1:19 pm #

    I remember when I first dipped my toe in an NCB argument and was told repeatedly to “do my (your) research.” I was baffled by an idea so ludicrous. I have no scientific education or training. How could they place such a burden on a person who only had nine months to learn it all? Then I began to think that perhaps these mothers did have the credentials I lacked, which was the only explanation for their extreme conviction and confidence in their claims. And down the rabbit hole I went.

  14. Amazed
    May 6, 2014 at 1:07 pm #

    Hey, Jen returned to her Facebook page to show triumphantly what a great book she wrote. Of course, the article praising her was on the Un-Thinkingmomsrevolution and was written by another layperson who referred to her as Dr Jennifer Margulis. Deception works full time!

    • The Bofa on the Sofa
      May 6, 2014 at 1:17 pm #

      You can take this over to them. Here’s the review of her book by Dr Bofa on the Sofa (hey, my PhD is as relevant as hers)

      “It’s a pile of shit.”

      And you can quote me on that.

      • Amazed
        May 6, 2014 at 1:19 pm #

        Don’t have a Facebook, although they sorely tempt me to make one.

        Then, I won’t last five minutes on their pages, so why bother?

        But hey, I recommend books for publishing (or not) and this is one book I won’t recommend. Especially when the only real doctor praising it on Amazon was the author’s aunt.

      • wookie130
        May 6, 2014 at 5:15 pm #

        Now that I just sprayed my soda all over my monitor…

    • The Bofa on the Sofa
      May 6, 2014 at 1:32 pm #

      In case anyone was wondering, here is the subject of Jennifer Margulis’s PhD thesis:

      “Swarthy pirates and white slaves: Barbary captivity in the American literary imagination”

      That sounds like a really cool English PhD. It does not quite make her an expert in childbirth or vaccines.

  15. Young CC Prof
    May 6, 2014 at 1:02 pm #

    It’s rather interesting how the whole “self-educated” phenomenon plays out in mathematics or theoretical physics.

    the lower levels of mathematics, there are very few real “I educated
    myself” people, and most of them seem to show signs of mental illness.
    That’s because it’s tough to Dunning-Kruger your way out of getting the
    wrong answers. (Of course, it’s very common for someone with a solid
    knowledge of the basics to pick up a book and self-educate in a new
    sub-topic, all experts do that when needed.)

    In the upper levels and especially in theoretical physics, you DO find “self-educated” people who in fact know nothing. In math, you know them by their claims to have proved famous unsolved problems. In physics, misuse of the word “quantum” to imply “magic works” is a key indicator, as is a claim to have written Grand Unification Theory.

  16. Zornorph
    May 6, 2014 at 1:02 pm #

    I really hate the phrase ‘do your research’ because the people who say it mean ‘Go read this website that espouses the things I believe in’. There are some things I am qualified to do research on, but the area of medicine is not one of them.
    Sometimes people come up with stuff that to them seems it ‘must’ be true. The best example of this is the delayed vaccine thing. They think that vaccines are ‘poison’ and since there are so many more these days, their precious little snowflake is being pumped full of poison at every doctor’s visit, so let’s spread it out so the little darling isn’t overwhelmed. I guess I can understand how somebody thinks that’s logical, but most of them don’t follow the logical conclusion. If all these new vaccines are a way for ‘big pharma’ and doctors to make money, wouldn’t those entities actually PREFER that you make more trips to the doctor? And if the shots are broken up, that means more shots and more money for the drug companies (and certainly for the doctors).

    Which reminds me, I need to get my LO an appointment ’cause he turned 9 months yesterday. Not sure if he gets any poison shots at 9 months, but my evil money-grubbing doctor will know for sure and like the sheeple that I am, I will do whatever he suggests.

    • LibrarianSarah
      May 6, 2014 at 1:10 pm #

      Well, I say some derivative of “do your research” about 5 days a week but that is more of an occupational hazard. And when I say it I mean, “I showed you how to search the database, I explained Boolean operators and the importance of multiple keywords and I worked with you for over an hour on picking a topic. I am not going to choose your sources for you. Now please get out of my office. It is not my fault the paper is due tomorrow.”

      • The Bofa on the Sofa
        May 6, 2014 at 1:16 pm #

        Well, I say some derivative of “do your research” about 5 days a week

        My version is, “Look it up.”

    • BeatlesFan
      May 6, 2014 at 1:29 pm #

      No shots at 9 months. He won’t be due for more until 12 months, among them the dreaded MMR! *cue Darth Vader music*

    • anne
      May 6, 2014 at 2:25 pm #

      It’s baffling when you consider other fields. When you have an important legal question no one tells you to do your research – they tell you to go talk to a lawyer.

  17. Lumen
    May 6, 2014 at 1:01 pm #

    There’s class and political issues bound up in it too. I’ve read/heard plenty of comments about how “we’re all educated people here” where it was clear that they were referencing that they all had college degrees. So clearly they aren’t THAT kind of high school drop out who has no reasoning skills. Oddly though this usually then get’s turned into a justification that they can “think for themselves” allowing them to dismiss expertise and advanced degrees as being “paid off” or “shills”, or “protecting their income source” or what ever.

    So you can clearly have too little education, as well as too much education. And you know precisely what the sweet spot is because the person speaking is the one with “just the right amount”.

  18. OBPI Mama
    May 6, 2014 at 12:59 pm #

    Love this! I always know when a friend says, “I’ve done my research on childbirth” it means she’s looked up biased or outdated information and that she is pro- all natural childbirth, homebirth, etc and totally against c-sections, interventions, etc. It has never meant anything else!

  19. Ainsley Nicholson
    May 6, 2014 at 12:41 pm #

    This is so true. I was baffled when I got into a disagreement with certain members of my due-date club about the safety (or lack there-of) of homebirth. I was maintaining that it is not safe, using data found on Dr. Amy’s blog and elsewhere to support my position. They kept saying that this made me look “Uneducated”. Mind you, I have a PhD in the biological sciences, I’m fairly confident that I actually do have an education. I chose not to tell them about those three little letters after my name, figuring that the data would speak for itself (it didn’t…apparently the experiences of seven close friends and the reassurances of a trusted CPM trump actual data every time), but I did assert that I am not uneducated. They continued to say that my statements proved that I was Uneducated. I stopped communicating with the due date club after that, but remained puzzled about the entire interaction until I figured out that when they said “Educated” , they meant “Indoctrinated and believes the same as I do”.

  20. DaniC
    May 6, 2014 at 12:35 pm #

    Reminded me of this comic. 🙂

  21. Sullivan ThePoop
    May 6, 2014 at 12:10 pm #

    This is the absolute truth. They should have a rational wiki on that because every time someone tells me they are educated about vaccines, cancer, infectious diseases, evolution or any such topic which actual requires years of schooling, training, and actual research it is followed by proof of the person’s absolute ignorance on the subject. I have taken to telling them I am sorry they wasted their time with no results.

    • EmbraceYourInnerCrone
      May 6, 2014 at 2:18 pm #

      When I talk to people like that I am always reminded of the insurance commercial where one character says “they can’t put anything on the internet that’s not true” “where did you hear that?” “the internet”

  22. Anj Fabian
    May 6, 2014 at 11:46 am #

    I tend to stick with
    followed by

    or, in the inimitable style of Terry Moore

  23. Mel
    May 6, 2014 at 11:38 am #

    I think part of the problem is demonstrated in the phrase “I educated myself.”

    In English, “to educate” is not a reflexive verb.

    When you receive education, you are educated by someone else the vast majority of the time. I educate my students by sharing biological information. My father-in-law educated me about pruning cherry trees. NCB advocates are educated by materials written by other NCB advocates.

    By making “to educate” a reflexive verb, you hide – consciously or not – the credentials of the educator.

    Compare these two sentences:

    A: I learned how to make cheese. (Which included buying a book on cheese making, asking my grandmother for advice, following a blog of a local cheese maker and by trial and error in my kitchen.)
    B: I educated myself on cheese making. (Which implies that you – and only you – made cheese from scratch without any input from person or informational source.)

    “I’ve done my research” is even weirder since it implies you ran some kind of experimental protocol. A more honest choice would be ” I’ve done a literature search of blogs available online that support my viewpoint.”

    • Young CC Prof
      May 6, 2014 at 11:57 am #

      Mind if I steal that phrase? “To educate is not a reflexive verb.” It’s so pithy.

    • Zornorph
      May 6, 2014 at 11:59 am #

      Blessed are the cheese makers.

      • Mel
        May 6, 2014 at 12:10 pm #

        For they shall make some incredibly awful cheddar.

        • Siri
          May 6, 2014 at 12:41 pm #

          For they shall inherit the churn.

      • Young CC Prof
        May 6, 2014 at 12:12 pm #

        My son is a self-taught cheese maker. Baby cheese would be about the most disgusting thing ever if it wasn’t made by adorable babies.

      • Siri
        May 6, 2014 at 12:39 pm #

        ….for they have smelly feet in perpetuity, amen.

      • May 6, 2014 at 12:55 pm #

        You’re a fan of Tillamook High School then? (It’s an Oregon joke. Locals will laugh).

        • Spamamander
          May 6, 2014 at 1:02 pm #

          Tillamook cheese is no laughing matter! (Remembers I have a block of cheddar in my fridge.)

          • Jessica S.
            May 6, 2014 at 10:38 pm #

            It is the ONLY cheddar cheese I’ll eat. Sharp cheddar, specifically. 🙂 Although I do like the Extra Sharp in the black packaging.

        • Zornorph
          May 6, 2014 at 1:04 pm #

          I had to go look that up. How do you lead a cheer for a team called the Cheesemakers?
          Ra, Ra, what do you say?
          We’re going to cheese you off today!

          • May 6, 2014 at 5:46 pm #

            I wouldn’t know; I went to Taft. Um, go Tigers.

    • Trixie
      May 6, 2014 at 12:09 pm #

      So true!
      Although we say, “self-taught.” And I think most people are more able to recognize the limits of what can be self-taught. You can be a self-taught quilter or a self-taught candlemaker. You can’t be a self-taught epidemiologist.

      • R T
        May 6, 2014 at 12:49 pm #

        Even within the fine arts, being self-taught is very professionally limiting. My mother was self-taught due to her family obligation and geographical location. However, as soon as we were all old enough to be weaned and out of diapers she travelled extensively to study at Art Student’s League of New York, Scottsdale Arts’ School and The Woodstock School of Art, to name a few. She knew to be truly competitive in the world of portraiture she had to have an education and learn technique from famous painters. Without her education it’s doubtful she would ever have reached the level she has of being chosen to paint senators, governors, college presidents, the Secretary of the Navy, Commandant of the Marine Corp etc.

      • Young CC Prof
        May 6, 2014 at 12:56 pm #

        Actually, I wouldn’t be a self-taught candlemaker. It would probably take a long time to make candles that were at all functional, much less nice-looking.

        • The Bofa on the Sofa
          May 6, 2014 at 1:12 pm #

          Oh come on, YCCP. I know you can do it. Just be creative…

          Let’s Make a Dope Deal

          Cheech and Chong

          HOST: He is the holder of a PhD,
          an MA, a BA and is a BMF besides.
          Would you please give a big warm welcome for Bob Bitchin.
          Come on, let me hear it for Bob Bitchin.
          Here he is all the way from Harvard.
          Bob Bitchin.
          It’s really great to have you on the show tonight, Bob. How you doing?

          BOB: Bitchin’.

          HOST: Bitchin’.

          Well, isn’t that far out and solid and right on, Bob.
          Tell us, Bob, here’s a question I ask of all our contestants–
          what made you drop out?

          BOB: Well, a lot of people think it was
          the 400 acid trips I took, you know?

          HOST: Uh-uh, but what was it really, Bob?
          One day I played Black Sabbath at 78 speed, man.

          HOST” Black Sabb…
          And then what happened?
          (audience oohing)

          BOB: I saw God.

          (MAN: I’ve done that, man.
          Other Man: Oh, yeah?
          MAN: Yeah, with Grand Funk.)

          HOST: Tell us, Bob, what have you been doing
          with all those degrees? I notice you had a PhD, an MA and a BA. What have you been doing with all that knowledge?

          BOB: Making candles, man.

          HOST: Making candles, well, that sounds creative, Bob. What kind of candles are they?

          BOB: Oh, they’re really neat table candles, you know?

          HOST: Table candles?

          BOB: Yeah, you pour wax on a table…

          HOST: Uh-huh.

          BOB: and you set it on fire, man.

          • Zornorph
            May 6, 2014 at 1:41 pm #

            Okay, first question, Bob. What is your name?

          • The Bofa on the Sofa
            May 6, 2014 at 1:49 pm #

            I knew it when I came in here, man…

            Ten seconds, Bob…


            How many joints are in a lid?



            I roll big joints.

            Our judges say, that’s ok, they roll big joints, too!

            Still, my favorite lines are

            “Tell us, Bob, here’s a question I ask of all our contestants– what made you drop out?”

            and when he says he played Black Sabbath at 88 speed and saw God, they guy says, “I’ve done that, man.” “Really” “Yeah, with Grand Funk”

            (I love Grand Funk – “Bad Time” is one of my favorite songs of all time)

        • Trixie
          May 6, 2014 at 1:33 pm #

          It would take a lot of trial and error, and reinventing things others had already discovered, but you could get pretty good at it within a few months of dedicated work, I think.

      • Mel
        May 6, 2014 at 1:31 pm #

        In my few years of farming, I’ve come to appreciate that no good farmers in our area would describe themselves as “self-taught.” Many over 40 do not have a college degree but learned through on-the-job training, asking for help from other farmers and taking intensive courses offered by extension services or industry representatives.

        • Young CC Prof
          May 6, 2014 at 1:47 pm #

          Human civilization has accomplished a lot over the past 10,000 years and especially over the last few generations. Starting from scratch would be just dumb, you learn from people, whether it’s by going to a formal school, reading a book, reading a document on the Internet, watching a video, or just talking to people who have done it.

          The real point of a formal school education is to make you good at all the others. Which brings me back around to something I often run into as a community college professor.

          There are these folks called “edupunks” running around claiming that you don’t need college, you can just learn things on the Internet. To which I say, You can learn anything you need to know on the Internet IF:

          – You can read well enough to understand it.
          – You can find sources and distinguish between reliable and unreliable, with many shades of grey in between.
          – You have a framework of general knowledge on which to hang your new information
          – You know the right questions to ask in the first place, and know what you DON’T know.

          And if you’ve got all that, you’re already educated, and yes you can go out and learn any other facts or minor skills you need along the way.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa
            May 6, 2014 at 1:50 pm #

            – You know the right questions to ask in the first place, and know what you DON’T know.

            This, to me, is the most important. There’s a lot of great information on the internet, and you can really learn a lot. But you actually have to know what you need to learn before you can actually learn it.

          • Trixie
            May 6, 2014 at 2:28 pm #

            Or you can just unschool your kids by letting them do nothing but play Minecraft all day. http://www.michelleconaway.net/2012/07/what-my-kids-are-learning-while-playing-minecraft/

          • Jessica S.
            May 6, 2014 at 10:28 pm #

            For the love of Pete. I think Minecraft is great, don’t get me wrong. My husband plays it and my three year old likes to sit on his lap sometimes while he plays. And yes, there’s something to the idea of learning something from anything, but this is reaching.

          • KarenJJ
            May 7, 2014 at 2:21 am #

            Wow. That was scary… Poor kids..

    • Sullivan ThePoop
      May 6, 2014 at 12:14 pm #

      Well, you can research a topic without actually doing an experiment which is how meta analyses are done, but what they think is research is not. They cannot even understand the basic math or concepts in any of the articles they try to show because they are either deeply flawed or don’t say what they think they say.

      • Mtbakergirl
        May 6, 2014 at 12:22 pm #

        Maybe the correct response to, “I have done my research” is, “Oh, that is great! Where were you published?”

        • araikwao
          May 6, 2014 at 5:50 pm #

          Yeah, if it was anything legitimate, you’d say, “I’ve done a lit review”, or, “I reviewed the literature on ..[topic]”

        • Carrie Looney
          May 7, 2014 at 11:21 am #

          I’ve pulled that one, and the people on the receiving end think I’m an asshole. C’est la vie.

      • The Bofa on the Sofa
        May 6, 2014 at 12:48 pm #

        I wouldn’t even consider meta-analysis “research.” It’s analysis.

        • Young CC Prof
          May 6, 2014 at 12:54 pm #

          Well, in the social sciences or history, people do perform research by looking through documents rather than by performing lab experiments. But yeah.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa
            May 6, 2014 at 1:04 pm #

            Yeah, I know that, and it’s a fine distinction. But my working guideline is “research” involves “the creation of knowledge.” IOW, you have either discovered something that no one has known, or you have created a new interpretation that no one has had. Either way, you’ve created knowledge.

            Looking up information that someone already has found and parroting it is not the creation of knowledge.

    • Irène Delse
      May 6, 2014 at 12:45 pm #

      The my in “I’ve done my research” is pretty revealing too. Say rather “I’ve looked for things that support this hunch I have, or that stuff my friend said that sounded sooo compelling”. It’s not doing research of the reproducible kind. Wasn’t it Neal Degrasse Tyson who said that with science, results are true whether you believe them or not?

      • Young CC Prof
        May 6, 2014 at 12:53 pm #

        I think the only time I’ve used that construction is in the sense of “I’ve done my chores.” As in, “I’ve done my research for the week! Let’s catch a movie tonight!”

        • Carrie Looney
          May 7, 2014 at 11:20 am #

          “I’ve done my research and put together the slides – now I just have to present it and see what everyone thinks.”

          (They invariably think I should do more research, and I almost invariably agree. The interim results tend to be cool, though.)

      • OBPI Mama
        May 6, 2014 at 1:00 pm #

        Love this! So true and totally guilty of doing the above “research”! ha

      • MLE
        May 6, 2014 at 1:11 pm #

        To them, every experience is valid just like everyone’s research is valid. It’s personal and customizable and therefore can never be refuted or questioned.

        • Amazed
          May 6, 2014 at 1:18 pm #

          Once again, I’ll point out just how much every experience is NOT valid. When I was a child, I narrowly escaped child molestation without even knowing what I had escaped. I just didn’t know how babies entered the place they came from. Was I scared? Yes. Did I perceive the attack (which included grabbing me over my protests, dragging me to his room, and trying to undress both of us) as a sexual assault? Hell, no. I still don’t FEEL like it was one. Should my experience be valid and could he have been trying to do something else?

          Hell, no.

          • MLE
            May 6, 2014 at 1:25 pm #

            Amazed, that is just horrifying.

          • Amazed
            May 6, 2014 at 1:33 pm #

            At the time, it didn’t look so bad. It was just an attack. I honestly couldn’t understand why my father wanted to beat him to a bloody pulp. (It was a young neighbour). Anyway, I started realizing (and feeling the effects) years later, when I was already a teen.

            But I do think it’s an excellent point to contradict the popular “everyone is entitled to their own feelings” sentiment. Yes, they are. No one is entitled to their own facts.

          • MLE
            May 6, 2014 at 1:37 pm #

            I had a vaguely similar experience with a bus driver. He singled me out for months of comments full of sexual innuendo, which I did not understand, but that alarmed my parents and the school so much that he was fired. I didn’t feel like anything bad had happened to me, just that I was confused and something was off. Now that I look back, I fully realize how wrong it was.

        • Young CC Prof
          May 6, 2014 at 1:23 pm #

          Everyone’s feelings are valid, it’s never appropriate to say something like, “Why are you still upset about this? It’s such a trivial matter, you should be over it by now.”

          However, the facts on which people base their feelings may still be wrong.

          • MLE
            May 6, 2014 at 1:31 pm #

            Exactly. It’s by couching “research” and medical decision making in the same language that emotional reactions to personal experiences are described that makes it possible to validate ANY conclusion, from “breech is a variation of normal” to “babies get oxygen while the cord is attached.” I am sure it is not unintentional. It is never ok to tell someone they shouldn’t feel a certain way, which has been wrongly extended to never telling someone their “research” is wrong as long as they have made the decision that is “right” for them.

          • MLE
            May 6, 2014 at 1:33 pm #

            Totally different from informed consent btw.

    • May 6, 2014 at 12:56 pm #

      Well put, Mel!

    • OED Fan
      May 6, 2014 at 1:13 pm #

      I completely agree with your analysis. Just as a nitpick, it IS a reflexive verb. OED entry 5. What you note is that the reflexive use is very much a passive construction in syntax, then, as you still need to educate yourself through or by various means. By making it passive usage, that makes it SO easy to conceal the credentials: the means are very often the “literature search of blogs online that support my viewpoint.” Anyway, it makes so little difference in what you’re saying, but for the language nerds in here. 🙂 Aaaaand now I’ll go sit alone with my dictionary…

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.