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Friday, September 09, 2011

A New Moderation Policy: Doug Dobney Is Banned on Sandwalk

Up until now I have been proud of the fact that nobody is banned on Sandwalk. I delete all spam that consist entirely of threats and incoherent ranting (e.g. Dennis Markuze). I also delete spam that advertises products and/or commercial websites. But even the weirdest kooks are allowed to post comments as long as they don't post spam.

But there's one thing I won't tolerate and that's when people start threatening other bloggers and commenters by contacting their families or their employers. That's where I draw the line.

Doug Dobney has posted hundreds of comments on Sandwalk under "anonymous." He is apparently opposed to evolution and won't listen to reason from those who have tried to set him straight on the facts. That's fine with me. If others want to have fun with him here, then it's up to them. I've been ignoring him and so has almost everyone else.

Recently another commenter revealed that "anonymous" was, in fact, Doug Dobney, a well-known kook from Peterborough, Ontario, Canada. That made Doug very upset in spite of the fact that it was trivially easy to identify him based on his internet record where he has already admitted to his identity. (He also posts as "Socrates.")

That's fine too. What happened next is not fine. Doug Dobney sent letters to the Chair of my department and the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine complaining about me. Here's a copy of his letter.
Dear Dr. Whiteside:

I need to bring to your attention a serious problem that relates to the Department of Biochemistry.

Please see the emails below.

Not only has the problem not been addressed, but I have not even been given a response to my emails documenting this dangerous situation.

To give you some insight into this problem, here are three, of many, instances from Dr. Moran’s blog:

“Josef Gladstone said...

I don't even understand why Doug Dobney would even want to toil in anonytimity when he is doing such groundbreaking work on organism development, especially in the new field of pterosaur to bird development. He is truly one of the great minds of the 21st century.

Doug Dobney will eventually be viewed in the same light as Darwin by the time the history of organism development is written.

And of course, to quote the great Mr. Dobney, this is certainly not worth arguing about! (both his wonderful wife Angela and myself get a great chuckle out of this whenever he says it, which is quite often!)

“AND said...

Hey Doug Dobney, do guests at the Moffat House know you're insane?

AND if your stomach is up to it, there is this link on the blog:

I would appreciate your attention to this serious problem.

Yours sincerely,

Douglas Dobney
That's something I will not tolerate. Doug Dobney has earned the distinction of being the very first person to be banned on Sandwalk

My Dean is a very busy person but I'm sure she enjoys a little chuckle now and then when these kook emails turn up in her mailbox. I'll have to ask her if she remembers Doug Dobney next time I see her in the line for coffee downstairs.


  1. In the letter you posted there is a reference to emails below.

    Is there more to the letter?

  2. Not quite the Streisand effect, but close enough to generate massive lulz.

    What did he expect to come of this?

  3. Yes, but it's just a note to my Chair complainig about comments on my blog. People like Doug Dobney have no idea how universities work. My Chair won't even bother to mention the note to me. It goes directly into his delete pile.

  4. It would be funny if the effects couldn't have been worse.

    You (and I) are lucky - we work in academic environments where crap like this tends to be ignored, or spread through the department as a source of great hilarity.

    Unfortunately, for those in the private sector, a letter/complaint such as this could be a huge problem. I don't recall the details, but this week or last such a complaint lead one pharma-blogger to have his/her company tell them "stop, or get fired".

    I'd be the latter was what Doug was hoping for; and in most cases is probably what he would have received...

    ...and I'm sure we all ,s.eagerly,/s. await his return under a new pseudonym.

  5. ...and I'm sure we all ,s.eagerly,/s. await his return under a new pseudonym.

    Ah, but he is a master of disguise ...

    Seriously, though, this is an unfortunate turn. Private companies do take these things very seriously, and whatever feuds may have followed Dobney here from TalkRational etc, and whatever a bunch of strangers may feel inclined to say in comments, should not become the problem of the blogger. Certainly as regards Comments, one tends to feel that it has the status of a casual conversation, not a publication, and posts accordingly.

    As PZ Myers has said, engagement with the committed obsessive is futile. But also perversely compelling!

  6. anonymous asks,

    Not quite the Streisand effect, but close enough to generate massive lulz.

    What did he expect to come of this?

    I suspect he was looking for publicity. If you google "Doug Dobney" you'll see that the number 2 and 3 items are about his stupid behavior on the Internet. Those are right under his bead and breakfast ad.

    That should make him very happy.

    The thing about the Streisand effect is that those who are likely to suffer the most are usually too stupid to understand it.

  7. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  8. That letter to your Chair and Dean was terrible. He does not clearly state (what he considers to be) the problem. He includes some material he find objectionable, but never clearly states what is wrong with it, or what he wants to be done about it. What a kook.

  9. Perhaps he spells it out in the other emails that Moran said were attached.

  10. Gladstone is one of the small but burgeoning number of members of the Dobney cult.

  11. I don't know why Dobney is so obsessed with maintaining his anonymity when he has published internet articles on the subject of Pterosaur to Bird evolution:

    If he really was onto something you would think he would want his name to be the one to go on the Nobel list etc. How are people to reference his work - surely not as DR Pterosaur?

  12. WOW!

    If this is what goes on behind computer screens, I can't wait to engage in the debates of science or myth in this semester's class.

    I was aware of the "kooks" out there, as my Prof likes to call them, but this is just sheer proof of the absolute craziness and lengths that they'll go through just to get some attention!

    Bravo Prof. Moran...I look forward to being in your class! (Y)

  13. He doesn't seem to have a problem with using fraudulent methods to support his claims either. Take a look at how he misattributes opinions and inserts a false statement into a quote from Phil Senter's latest paper:

  14. I applaud Larry for keeping discussions free and open on this blog, although he does like to remind people of my real name and identity (no doubt so people can see my not so extensive record on Pubmed).

    Other bloggers like PZ and JC ban people like me because they don't like anyone who criticizes them. They even think they are doing the right thing in keeping one-sided debates. But censorship doesn't make their intellectual case right.

    At the same time, everyone needs to respect the privacy and rights of others. Larry has tenure which means he enjoys academic freedom and this should be recognized.

    I actually learn something from this blog which is not so for those of many scientists (except John Hawks).

  15. @Atheistoclast

    If I recall correctly, Larry published your name, Joseph Esfandiar Hannon Bozorgmehr, because you publish under multiple identities, Atheistoclast and Reza for example, in an attempt to bypass the posting rules for various blogs.

    Far from being a victim, you are a cynical attention whore who delights derailing online discussions.