One of the blogs I read regularly is Respectful Insolence, written by a (thus-far-pseudonymous) oncologist. He is proud of the work he does, and he has no tolerance for those who attack his work out of stupidity, spite or miseducation. People who just don't know are bad enough; people who actively go out of their way to remain stupid are a whole 'nother brand of burning stupid entirely.
The blog itself is, like Ebert's blog, a source of a great many interesting and insightful commentators — and, unlike Ebert's blog, also a dumping ground for comments from the occasional wingnut. Sometimes they are relatively harmless, like the Libertarian-with-the-cap-L types who believe in "medical freedom" (and at the same time betray almost total ignorance of how medicine or science actually work); sometimes you get full-blown, raw-throated rage.
Most recently "Orac", as the doctor calls himself, has been following the increasingly sad story of Daniel Hauser, a young man with Hodgkin's lymphoma whose mother is refusing to allow him conventional treatment that may very well save his life. HL is, is caught early enough, extremely curable; I know a couple of people who have had it, been treated for it, and have gotten on with their lives. Daniel's mother refuses to let him be treated and has in fact gone so far as to abduct the kid and disappear with him (possibly to Mexico, home of a good deal of cancer quackery).
The post and the comments about this most recent turn of events have been terrific reading. For one, there has been a good deal of intelligent, informed debate about the ethics of the situation. The poster "James Sweet" is a good example of this: he's hesitant and uncertain about the benefits of forcing treatment on someone, but after people explain to him the situation is not as tentative as it might first appear (the kid is clearly not capable of making an informed decision; the mother's behavior amounts to endangering her child; etc.), he goes on to derive some good insights from the whole situation. I liked that: people were approaching a touchy, difficult subject and actually learning something.
And then came "Lee". His argument (against having the kid taken from his parents so that his life could be saved) was that "anyone should be able to turn down a good deal, even if he doesn't know how good of deal, even a life-saving deal". And "Has freedom been trumped by medical nazis [Godwin's Law!] in your part of the country. Doctors are smart but not smart enough to take away your decision making."
Good thing the other people in the thread didn't take this attitude lying down:
... you're cool with people dying for no "great cause" other than simple ignorance. and not ignorance amidst a culture where everyone is equally ignorant and no other options have yet been presented, but ignorance as an island in a country and culture where other options are known and widely practiced.
you seem to want to champion one's right to make one's own decision free of coercion, and that seems superficially very honorable. what i cannot understand is how you construe making a choice in ignorance to be a genuinely free and true choice.
dying to promote the "noble right of willful ignorance" is never a worthy death.
willful ignorance shouldn't be celebrated in any functioning society. when it is, and by the majority, that society is guaranteed to be on the brink of total social (and perhaps physical) total collapse. [*]
Go check out the whole thread, it's well worth it. Ditto the blog itself.
[* My feelings about "alternative" medicine are simple: there's no "alternative" medicine. There's stuff that can be demonstrated to work, and stuff that doesn't. The former we call, simply, medicine.]