Please allow me to introduce myself (yes, I know it's a cliche...)
One thing that makes me think I can do this reasonably well is my long experience on Usenet (and this is where I finally begin to tell you a bit about myself--if you haven't already left this page). I've been a regular on some Usenet newsgroups now since around 1997 or 1998. During that time, I've posted prodigiously almost every day, despite my busy schedule. It started back in 1997 or so, when I first discovered alt.revisionism. I had always been a bit of a WWII buff and had had an interest in the history of the Holocaust. When I first encountered that newsgroup, it was a bit of a shock to me to discover that there were people out there who denied that the Holocaust happened and used such denial as a means of rehabilitating fascism. I also discovered that my medical knowledge came in handy in debunking these lies and distortions. For example, there was one Holocaust denier who made ridiculous claims about how one could bring prisoners with diarrhea from dysentery back to health with a few days of milk, and debunking him was my entry into the world of debunking Usenet Holocaust denial. A couple of years later, I became interested in alternative medicine. Which treatments worked and which were quackery? What is the scientific evidence that exists to allow one to assign a particular "alternative" treatment to one category or the other. This lead me to misc.health.alternative, where I have been a regular since around 2001. Other areas of interest on Usenet have included debunking creationism and various paranormal stuff and various music groups.
If there is one overriding theme to my Usenet postings, I would say that it is skepticism. I don't mean that in a negative "debunking" sense (although there is certainly some of that), but in the best sense of the word. I want to see the evidence and weigh it against competing evidence before making up my mind. When an alternative medicine practitioner or advocate makes a claim that some herbal remedy will (for example) cure cancer, I want to see the evidence behind that statement. If they can show me compelling evidence, I will take their claim seriously. Unfortunately, it is almost never the case that they can. On the other hand, I myself have sometimes posted studies that suggest some alternative treatment or other may have some value. I treat the claims of Holocaust deniers and creationists similarly. Taking it to the political realm, I treat the claims of politicians in the same way. Skepticism doesn't mean not having an open mind. It just means having critical thinking skills and a keen bullshit detector. It means remembering that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. All of this probably flows from my work as a cancer surgeon and almost NIH-funded researcher. It also probably contributed to my originally choosing my Usenet 'nym Orac (or here) and my favorites of Orac's many pithy lines: "A statement of fact cannot be insolent" and "I am not interested in trying to compensate for your amazing lack of observation." Because I'm not as nearly as arrogant as Orac, I chose the name Respectful Insolence for my blog because I hope to base my opinions and ramblings on facts, but to remain respectful of other viewpoints. Besides, it sounded kind of cool to me.
As far as my politics go, I suspect it will be hard to classify Respectful Insolence into a "conservative" or "liberal" blog. My tendency is to lean somewhat right of center, but that's not always a definitive description, particularly given what's considered "conservative" seems to have changed over the last few years and that I also have a bit of a libertarian streak. I've wanted to comment on these things, but such discussions on Usenet all too frequently degenerate into flamefests. At least here, I can respond to reasonable comments (if anyone actually wants to take the time to make any) and delete abusive, racist, or insulting comments.
But enough. Here are the topics I'll probably be commenting on most frequently:
- Medicine and surgery. Go with what you know, I always say. I know surgery and medicine, and this is a great forum for such discussions. One disclaimer: No one should EVER take my ramblings to represent medical advice except in the most general of terms. You should see your doctor or appropriate specialist for treatment recommendations. I never give specific medical advice without doing a complete history and physical examination. (Besides, how do you know I'm really a doctor?) This disclaimer will be repeated any time I make a comment on a medical issue that might be interpreted as offering advice.
- Biosciences. Again, go with what you know. This can also cover the politics of medical research.
- WWII history and Holocaust denial. I've been a WWII buff and debunking Holocaust denial for so long, why stop now? Besides, discussions of Holocaust denial segue nicely into discussions of freedom of speech, hate crime laws, and all sorts of other political issues. Check out the Holocaust History Project and Nizkor for a primer.
- Alternative medicine. I'll tell you what I think is quackery and what isn't (and why). No doubt my views will piss off a fair number of people, but my real hope is to inform and educate the five people who actually read this.
- Creationism and other pseudoscience. No doubt I'll manage to piss off anyone who wasn't pissed off by my comments on alternative medicine when I get to this topic.
- Politics. There are a lot of other bloggers who can do this better, but, hey, this is the Internet. Everyone can say what they like. Why should I miss out on the fun?
- Science fiction and fantasy. Because I love it. Too bad I don't have enough time to indulge in it much anymore.
- Music and movies. Because everyone wants to be a critic, and I'm no exception.