Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Some Thoughts On Blogging

Phew, a narrow escape. I was worried that if I was hit by a bus and 'lost' that the previous post would have been left on my blog forever. Not that I regret the post. The way the comment that started it all was worded, it appeared that I was part of the 'mercury militia', so I felt the need to defend myself. Having said that, it was not my proudest moment. And FWIW, I accept Bazooka Joe’s overall explanation about what he meant (as opposed to what he originally wrote), even though I disagree that this blog is used by EoHers as evidence that an environmental trigger is responsible for autism. From my perspective there are no hard feelings.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking for a little bit now about why I’m blogging. Memory can sometimes be a bit self-serving, but I believe that I originally started for two reasons. First, as stated in my first post, I thought that in light of the increasing polarization of the ‘debate’, and as the “challenge to the more contentious bio-med practices is morphing into a more direct challenge against even mainstream accepted methods of investigating and potentially treating autism” that it was time for more moderates to join the debate. And second, I thought of the blog as a record of my thoughts and views for my daughter, the Bear. When she’s older she can read it, if she chooses, to understand the evolution of my thinking.

Very quickly, when I saw someone’s Demeaning Words I added a third reason – advocacy of understanding and (my view of) acceptance. I have intended to write a post specifically about ‘Acceptance’ for a while now, but I keep holding off. There is always one more post that I want to write first, to build my views upon. I don’t feel I can do the subject justice until I can point to what it is that I actually ‘accept’.

Also, because of the tone of the ‘debate’, I expect to get ‘lawyered’, which - no disrespect intended to my friend in the legal profession - is a shorthand I use for being exposed to a rigorous and hostile cross-examination. I’ve gone through these before, and witnessed a lot of others facing them too (on both ‘sides’). I also notice that sometimes when people can’t find an opening in something that was said that they then proceed to attribute both statements and motives to people that happen to be non-existent. The best defence is to have material to which to link, to clearly substantiate one’s views.

Since then I’ve added another reason for blogging, which is to draw attention to some of the science in autism that I think is both important and interesting (and that I understand). At either end of the debate a lot of time is spent using science - and in some cases what loosely passes as 'science' - as a weapon, or to explain what ‘isn’t’. I’m trying to use it to explain hypotheses of ‘what may be’. So far I’ve focused on minicolumns, but there are also other subjects that I find of interest that I am also digging into. I also like to go after ToM, at this point anecdotally, to demonstrate where I think some of the accepted scientific beliefs – especially those that underestimate the Bear - may go a bit too far. I hope to back this up with more scientific evidence in the future. If nothing else, this aspect of the blog has been very educational for me, since I like to have a clue about what I’m writing about. In this regard, blogging is probably a good excuse for following my own perseverations. And on this note, I’ll point out that I’m very much looking forward to María Luján’s upcoming posts.

What I try to avoid is joining in some of the more vigorous causation debates. They already have enough participants. I do not see it as wrong to defend one’s POV in these debates, and I do support efforts to keep the discussions both scientifically honest and grounded in respect for those who are autistic. But I do believe that some (and by no means all) debaters can a) over-interpret some scientific evidence, b) support their positions using ‘bogus’ science, c) sometimes go beyond arguing the ‘science’ to arguing an agenda that is at this point still hypothetical, anecdotal, and/or unsupported, and d) have turned the debates into blood-sport and/or an opportunity to throw out gratuitous insults. There is an awful lot about autism that is still unknown at this point. Some argue as if all the evidence they need to support their opinion is already in. Maybe to them it is. Personally, I’m still waiting for some answers, and I don’t think that they will ultimately support either extreme. But that too is just an opinion.

Which brings me in a long-winded way to the final thought of this post. What I find more than a little sad is that last week’s post resulted in the highest readership that this blog has ever had. Not by a huge amount, but it was quite noticeable. I don't worry too much about readership stats, but I would have liked the Minicolumns, Genius, and Autism post to hold the top spot, because it - the subject, not the post - was about something potentially important to our understanding of autism. I’d like to think that this week's blip in readers occurred because over time a blog can build up a group of people who find it interesting, like to stop by to see what one has to say, and possibly to engage in some reasoned discussion of the material posted. Unfortunately, I don’t think that this is the case. I’m the one who is at fault here, as I am the one responsible for the blog’s content. But the post in question is not the direction in which I want this blog to go - I’m not interested in hosting one more autism battlefield. My next post will get back to more reasonable territory.

Okay, maybe I do regret my last post a little bit.

1 comment:

Shawn said...

Ian,

I haven't been reading blogs for quite a while as parenting has consumed most of my energy. The thoughts you posted here are exactly why this is one of the first blogs I stopped at tonight to start reading again.

I hope all is well.