Breastfeeding advocate Maureen Minchin forfeits debate by refusing impartial rules

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On Friday I wrote about breastfeeding advocate Maureen Minchin’s increasing desperation to have her cake and eat it, too.

On the one hand, she is trying to get out of a debate with me that agreed to months ago; on the other hands she doesn’t want her followers to know that she is running scared.

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]She tries to drown her refusal of impartial debate in a tsunami of irrelevant verbiage.[/pullquote]

Her “solution”? To claim I have not responded to her entreaties and delete and block anyone who informs her followers otherwise.

That was not working, so in response to Friday’s post, Maureen offered this long screed, which began (ironically) by bemoaning long screeds:


Communicating via Facebook has limitations. Long posts are tedious, hard to read and hard to retrieve later.. To keep a record of multiple threads going on any topic takes work. I prefer to put longer posts on my website. So bookmark

Maureen’s priorities, as best I can determine, are to control what appears in print, have opportunity to censor her words or mine, protect her fragile ego from any outside comments … and, as always for Maureen, to promote her website and her self-published book.

But debates are not about shielding yourself from criticism; they’re about the opposite. A debate like this means having enough faith in your own arguments, and your ability to present them compellingly to others who have no vested interest that you are willing to expose yourself to questions and even criticism.

I am willing to do that.

That’s why I responded with this:


Maureen Minchin, yes or no? Oxford rules of debate. No censorship of any kind.

Her answer is no.

It’s also ridiculously verbose — complete with supplement — and inadvertently hilarious.

This process has been independently designed …

Pro-tip, Maureen, when YOU design it, it’s NOT independent.

But I am not interested in any (even my alma mater Oxford Uni) debating society rules. She would surely know, as I do, that these are geared around VERBAL debate as persuasive performance and emotive entertainment, not as rational discussion aimed at establishing fact.

Is there a relevant difference between oral and written debate that would render Oxford rules unusable? Maureen doesn’t offer one.

Maureen feels sorry for herself:

Nor will I commit to anything beyond my capacity to manage as a woman living on a small income after decades of helping families free of charge. This debate is meant to be my knowledge and ideas contesting AT’s and trying to (a) find common ground; (b) identify points of disagreement; and (c) compare our knowledge and ideas on those contested topics in light of the scientific evidence.

And she can’t resist promoting her book and herself in what she imagines is a persuasive argument.

A new edition of Milk Matters: infant feeding and Immune disorder will be where any recent detailed referencing and scientific discussion will emerge in due course.

That book is my massive argument for the importance of breastfeeding in every country,. It has been warmly greeted by eminent men and women knowledgeable in various medical fields and public health; my work has led to involvement in their research, membership in scientific societies, and much more. To have a leading immunologist write in an email that I’m their “breastfeeding encyclopedia” suggests that ex-obstetrician Tuteur should be a little more respectful of the many mothers like me, who, because of harms to their children, spend a lifetime learning about a field in which they have no formal qualifications.

She tries to drown her refusal of impartial debate without censorship in a tsunami of irrelevant verbiage.

That said, I have already wasted considerable time in a busy life on this rhetorical melodrama, and my patience isn’t infinite, even if my obstinacy can be, if I say I will do something…

And on … and on … and on.

Feel free to read the rest, including the supplement: ridiculously and unnecessarily convoluted “rules” for posting.

I proposed a debate, not because I have any hope of changing Maureen’s mind or the mind of her followers. They will undoubtedly pretend that even her refusal to debate by impartial rules is some sort of magnanimous offer on her part.

I proposed a debate to offer information to the vast majority of women who aren’t ideologically committed to one side or the other.

They will recognize that Maureen has forfeited the debate.

I knew she would.