I'm still trying to get over this latest bout of the lung thing, so I'm not sure this will be explicable as a monologue, but it's been something I've discussed over the past couple of days and I'm trying to crystallize the concept and explain it one-sidedly...which does not work!
[In the situation described below 'Ruth' is a fictional nutter. She was inspired by a potentially real nutter, but that's not the same thing as being a real nutter. Even the 'potentially real nutter' that inspired this might not be a real nutter, but is described second hand. Some of you will recall two experiences I had with real psychotic individuals, so you can understand if I'm not going to see if the person is a real nutter or not...I've dealt with real nutters, I don't need to poke someone to see if they are nuts, misunderstood or angry! I'm going to assume nuts...and note I'm using "nuts" not psychopathic...someone can have wacky ideas without being certifiable! Someone can disagree with me and not be nuts...but you can't say I said the exact opposite of what I said unless you've got some problem.]
The journey in this started in part when someone (you know who you are!) emailed me to comment on a third party's "review" (complaint) about one of my older books...I also experienced something similar on a blog where someone was discussing meditation, but that's neither here nor there... I tend to avoid reviews, but her claim was that a person had said that I had said that the only form of Wicca I considered valid was my form of Wicca. Now, I will tell you that coming up with this from one of my books is something that takes A HELL OF A LOT OF NUTS (which is what I replied in the email...some people are nuts, and responding to nuts makes them know that you know that they exist...but if you believe the line after the line 'I'm not claiming this works for everyone' claims that something works for everyone, you're just whacked.) So, I made a note to not follow the link to her review, and when I was in the hospital, and discussing homeopathy (of all things) with a nurse, we came up with the idea of research derangement syndrome...
Research Derangement Syndrome is the phenomenon where a person investigates a set of things and disregards, glosses over or disputes the efficacy of something that someone is emotionally invested in...and the person with the emotional investment reacts by attaching all sorts of whack-a-d00 reactions to the research. To keep anyone (I hope) from being offended, I'm going to use a fictitious example, of a person who reacts this way to treatments for ear-infections.
So, author Bob writes a paper about treatments for ear infections which talks about garlic oil ear drops, ear candling, hand massage, antibiotics and waiting. He says there is no evidence the first three do anything, provides a source for that claim, then compares and contrasts antibiotics versus waiting. There are maybe 13 words, including the work cited, that discuss garlic oil ear drops, but his paper is read by reader Ruth (as in Baby Ruth, because she's a lot of nuts) who has used garlic oil ear drops, recommends garlic oil ear drops to her friends and even makes her own garlic ear drops.
After reading author Bob's paper, she feels the double insult of her chosen treatment not getting enough attention (after all, Bob goes on to compare and contrast two other treatments) and her chosen treatment being labeled as not working. She might even get more insulted if she feels hand massage is a stupid treatment for ear infections, so she feels that by lumping her treatment in with it, Bob has called it stupid. Rather than do the research herself, or even challenge Bob, Ruth reacts by attacking Bob, attacking research, attacking medicine, attacking people who go to the doctor for an ear infection, the hospital who tries to give her antibiotics for an ear infection, etc.
The conventional response to someone like Ruth is to write her off as a nut. Bob can respond to her personally, but she's a little whacked, and maybe that's a bad idea, so maybe the next time that Bob writes a paper like this he includes some wiggly phrasing, like saying "While some individuals report getting relief from garlic oil, hand massage and ear candling, research shows that there is a better response when patients are either given antibiotics or are encouraged to wait..."
Bob, burned by Ruth's Research Derangement Syndrome is now actually making the situation worse. Someone like Ruth, who is short a few screws, will read this wiggly phrasing and decide that Bob is HIDING SOMETHING, because if he'd studied the three things he's dismissing, he'd know they didn't work. So now Bob, by trying to deal with the nutters like Ruth, has created, or at least worsened, a whole other set of nutters who now think he's hiding something, because he's trying to not offend those emotionally invested in garlic oil ear drops or whatever.
My nurse suggested that this is part of the same "two sides" controversy that we see with anti-vaccine people...the idea that there is research supporting two sides of an issue and that all fair minded research must provide both sides, even when there are not both sides. Another friend suggested it is part of the same "teach both sides" we see with creationists...
So I guess the question I'm struggling with is how do you avoid the research derangement reaction... Do you use wiggly speech like "while X may work for others, I have found that Y works for the following reasons?" Do you just not support your views at all by treating all research as equal? Do you not bring up things that you've tried but have not worked? Do you bring up things you've tried that didn't work and offer an out, like 'but maybe I didn't do it right'? Do you (like me) include a line in your introduction disclaiming stuff by saying "everything here should be considered the opinions of the author, and your mileage may vary?" Do you never say something is wrong when you have proof that it's wrong? Or do you just ignore the occasional nutter and write off their Research Derangement Syndrome as just that... a form of derangement?
I make no claims of knowing the best reaction, obviously I've leaned towards the idea that beliefs that don't seem to be based on what's written are derangement and reactions that seem to be based on what's written aren't derangement, but other than that I'm stumped...
So, I guess I'm putting out the idea to the world...is there a Research Derangement thing, how do you deal with it, should you deal with it?
This has been a very hard thing to even put into words, so please feel free to tell me what is not understandable.