Can We Please Put The 'Amateur Brain Surgeon' Strawman To Rest?

from the please,-make-it-go-away dept

For years, the common criticism of Wikipedia was the "brain surgery" myth, which usually was something along the lines of saying, "you wouldn't let an amateur or 'the crowd' perform brain surgery, so why would you let them create a reference book?" Of course, that makes a bunch of bogus assumptions. First, it assumes that there's some sort of equivalence between creating an encyclopedia and doing brain surgery. But that's silly. Second, it assumes that no one involved in Wikipedia is an expert, which is not true. In fact, there are some brain surgeons who patrol Wikipedia as well. Finally, it assumes that these kinds of services are based on everyone being on equal footing, rather than recognizing that well-supported content is what gets through.

Along those lines, we've now got people using the same bogus "brain surgery" myth to attack the concept of "citizen journalism":
First, would you trust a citizen neurosurgeon to remove your kid's neuroblastoma? No, you wouldn't. You would not trust a citizen dentist either for your cavities. Or even a people's car repairman.
Of course not. But most people seem to recognize the basic difference between reporting on something and cutting into someone's brain. And, many people also recognize that most reporters themselves are often not experts in the field they're reporting on -- and what participatory journalism and the internet enable is the ability for actual experts on the topic to take part in the discussion and reporting as well.


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    identicon
    Quick Brown Fox, May 21st, 2010 @ 1:41pm

    Citizen Journalism

    Citizen journalism is neither brain surgery nor rocket science.

     

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    Dan (profile), May 21st, 2010 @ 1:41pm

    Here is the Wikipedia entry in brain surgery, BTW.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brain_surgery

    Less then a page, hardly impressive.

     

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      Esahc (profile), May 21st, 2010 @ 2:05pm

      Re:

      An encyclopedia entree is supposed to be a general overview, not a how-to guide.

      As a layman this is perfectly adequate, if I wish to know more I will research further; perhaps starting at the bottom of the wiki page that give references.

       

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      Richard (profile), May 21st, 2010 @ 2:15pm

      Re:

      Yeah - Brain Surgery is a big topic. This is only the top page of the tree. There is a huge mass of information on the linked pages below - this is how HTML works.....

       

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        Jose_X, May 21st, 2010 @ 8:14pm

        Re: Re:

        Here is one of the second level links: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subarachnoid_hemorrhage .

        Together with the top page, this forms a tiny bit of the information you can access on Wikipedia related to brain surgery. This second page leads to hundreds of other pages on Wikipedia.

        *****

        Let me ask Dan something that apparently I have forgotten from my 5th grade human body study's class.

        We know that patients who had blood removed surgically after undergoing a CT scan showing the presence of hematoma have a significant risk of experiencing rebleeding at the site.

        This was basically common knowledge back in school..

        30 days hath September,
        April, June, and November,
        These plus one's still fewer
        Than the portion who rebleed
        Post fixing the Hematoma need.

        So since it's so important to pick the right surgical procedure, [and here is my question, Dan:] which, clipping or coiling, is generally used to fix aneurysms of the middle cerebral artery?

        I couldn't remember the answer, and Wikipedia, likely written by third and fourth graders, probably doesn't cover it.

        Help?

         

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      interval, May 21st, 2010 @ 2:26pm

      Re:

      @Dan: "Less then a page, hardly impressive."

      Disappointed that Wikipedia isn't going to get you off the hook for that neurosurgery exam you have on Monday?

       

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    Anonymous Coward, May 21st, 2010 @ 2:02pm

    comparison

    Journalists comparing themselves to brain surgeons... ahahahahahha. That's silly.

     

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      Jose_X, May 21st, 2010 @ 8:22pm

      Re: comparison

      Yeah, but try not to imply perhaps that some neural surgeons don't get a kick from the thought of collaborating with their peers to do a little bit to make sure the world's knowledge, accessible at everyone's fingertips, in relation to brain surgery is accurate.

       

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    Ima Fish (profile), May 21st, 2010 @ 2:10pm

    Are you telling me you let a neighborhood teenager mow your lawn? Are you fricken crazy?! Would you let a neighborhood teenager perform brain surgery on you? Of course not. Obviously only brain surgeons have the capacity to mow lawns.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, May 22nd, 2010 @ 10:02am

      In my experience

      I would rather have an unlicensed brain surgeon who had thoroughly studied my particular case as a devoted amateur and who did a meticulous job, than an arrogant professional with preconceptions of what he wants to be wrong, who is sloppy, in a hurry to make his tee time, and only opening my skull for the money and fame.

      This also applies to electricians who can burn your house down, firemen who can fail to prevent it burning down, and Christmas tree sellers who think they know how to rope the tree to your roof, whilst blowing the fuse on your seat belt motors. His 40 years experience didn't teach him anything except to overrate his skills.

       

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    cc (profile), May 21st, 2010 @ 2:17pm

    If it were possible to take the average movement of the hands of 1000 people with minimal training in brain surgery cutting into someone's brain and compare it to the movement of the hands of a trained brain surgeon, you'll probably find the former is more accurate and less prone to error than the latter.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 21st, 2010 @ 2:18pm

    I once let a brain surgeon fix my car. Then my car blew up. Stupid brain surgeon.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 21st, 2010 @ 2:25pm

    "First, would you trust a citizen neurosurgeon to remove your kid's neuroblastoma? No, you wouldn't. You would not trust a citizen dentist either for your cavities..."

    So neurosurgeons and dentists aren't citizens?

    Oh, and car repairs....that's hardly rocket science...

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 21st, 2010 @ 2:58pm

    If it could be put to rest easily, it wouldn't be a "good" strawman.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 21st, 2010 @ 3:03pm

    Balance?

    If brain surgeons were like journalists would they have to present equal consideration for the tumor's point of view?

     

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    Overcast (profile), May 21st, 2010 @ 3:11pm

    It's really a good point - what would qualify a 'writer' at an encyclopedia company to write an article on 'AI programming' for instance?

     

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    Spanky, May 21st, 2010 @ 4:00pm

    re

    And before you know it, MBAs will be giving expert commentary on patent law.

    One fallacy you may not have picked out here is the appeal to authority. I've known experts who were jokes, and average joes who knew more than the experts.

    Whether or not I believe what someone says or writes has to do with their facts and argumentation. They needn't bother sending me their resume.

     

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    Hugh Mann (profile), May 21st, 2010 @ 4:04pm

    Frankly...

    ... I'm rather disillusioned with what often passes for "professional" journalism these days, so I don't see any great harm in letting a wannabe Woodward (or Bernstein) send in his boxtops to get his "citizen journalist" creds.

    If we were to equate the skills and practices of a professional brain surgeon to those of a modern professional journalist, I'd give serious thought to just taking my chances on that tumor...

    HM

     

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    Wesha (profile), May 21st, 2010 @ 5:33pm

    At least citizen journalists fact check...

     

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    Richard (profile), May 22nd, 2010 @ 6:06am

    But

    First, would you trust a citizen neurosurgeon to remove your kid's neuroblastoma? No, you wouldn't. You would not trust a citizen dentist either for your cavities. Or even a people's car repairman.

    But we trust the unqualified to run major corporations and even to run the national banking system.

    Consider the following (reposted from the ZOPA jokes thread)

    WHO IS THE ODD MAN OUT - and more importantly - WHY??


    Lord Stevenson: former chairman, HBOS (Halifax Bank of Scotland (a major UK BANK))

    Sir Fred Goodwin: former chief executive, RBS (Royal Bank of Scotland - one of the largest banks in the world)

    Andy Hornby: former chief executive, HBOS

    Sir Tom McKillop: former chairman, RBS

    John McFall MP: Former chairman of Treasury Select Committee

    Alastair Darling: Former Chancellor of the Exchequer

    Gordon Brown: Former Prime Minister and former Chancellor

    Sir Terry Wogan: presenter of Radio 2's Breakfast Show



    You're probably thinking

    Terry Wogan.

    You're right.

    However, the reason may surprise you...........



    Terry Wogan is the only one out of this motley crew who
    actually holds any formal banking qualification.

     

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    FreemonSandlewould (profile), May 22nd, 2010 @ 10:07am

    Legacy Journalists are scum

    These state run media types like AP or CNN....

    they are actively misleading people. So they would be best compared to criminals rather than brain surgeons

     

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    Nathan Vegdahl (profile), May 22nd, 2010 @ 10:36am

    The comparison is also ridiculous because you can iteratively improve written works, like wikipedia, so mistakes are not at all permanent.

    The same cannot be said of brain surgery. If you screw up, you can't just roll it back or fix the mistake. So of course I wouldn't want a crowd of people (some not experts) working on my brain. The experts wouldn't be able to fix the non-experts' mistakes.

    The whole point of Wikipedia is that it progressively improves, not that it's correct the first time every time.

    The comparison is just utterly bogus on so many levels.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 23rd, 2010 @ 12:34pm

    Its pretty funny that that article came from a website called paidcontent. I think the guy is just upset that the average person can be a better reporter than a "professional" reporter.

     

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    Emmanuel Carabott (profile), May 24th, 2010 @ 1:24am

    The real reason

    I think the problem here is not that people are afraid of some doctor doing brain surgery on them who would have studied brain surgery on wikipedia (obviously no one expects that to ever happen) I think its more like fear of free. I have seen it a lot especially in the gaming world. A lot of people have the misconception that since its free, it doesnt generate money and thus it cannot be of equal quality of something that charges money. And it would be fine if it ends there but it somehow turns into hostility towards the free offering as if the free offering is harming the world and we need to get rid of it or something. Its like some people want to hate free stuff and they're looking for any excuse to rationalize it.

    Further more if its the profession that makes people good at their job and only people who are good at their job can do the job at all, isnt that a bit of a chicken and egg problem? no one is born into a profession. Surely everyone can see that! I think its really all fear of the free

     

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