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As liberals  and progressives, we like to believe that we are part of the reality-based community. We try to make arguments based on evidence. We understand that evolution underlies all the modern biological sciences, and, unlike some members of the Arizona legislature, we know that the earth is more than 6000 years old. We know that Jesus was not riding around the Holy Land on a Stegosaurus 2000 years ago.

As members of the Daily Kos community, which now includes well over a quarter of a million members, we have a responsibility for community moderation. This community exists to elect more and better Democrats and to provide news and views that are missing from the traditional media. I have been honored to be a member of this community since 2005. However, as community members we have an obligation to question diarists and commenters whose assertions fail the credibility test. Unfortunately, this is not always happening.

Please follow me below the fold.

On Sunday, a diarist here posted a diary claiming that:

My grand daughter, who is concert pianist and has a double PH.D. in Economy and Biology, (by the time she was 20, who cannot find a fucking job in my country) asked me this question:

She said to me:

"I am thinking that the only thing that is left to be in to into the volunteer Armed Forces...."

That's right--the diarist claimed that her grand-daughter had TWO PhDs in unrelated fields and was a concert pianist by age 20 and and further claimed that the woman was unable to find a job for 3 years. The diary received 110 recs; the diarist received 130 tips; and the diary was 10th on jotter's high impact diary list for December 26th. You have got to be kidding me.

Now I will grant you that there are a handful of highly gifted people, almost all in math and the physical sciences, who have earned a PhD in a single field at age 20. Let's look at a few of them:

Robert Woodward completed his PhD in Chemistry at MIT in a single year at age 20. He went on to win the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

Noam Elkies completed his PhD in math at Harvard in two years at age 20. He went on to become the youngest tenured faculty member in the history of Harvard University.

Stephan Wolfram wrote his first paper on particle physics as a teenager. After completing his undergraduate education in the UK, he received a PhD in particle physics from Cal Tech at age 20.

Netz Katz received his PhD in math at the University of Pennsylvania at age 20 in 1993. He is now a full professor of Mathematics at the University of Indiana.

Note that these people had a PhD in one discipline at age 20, and they went on to prestigious careers in higher education. None of these people earned two PhDs in unrelated disciplines by age 20, and none claimed to be a concert pianist on the side.

I am not writing this diary to call out the diarist (I carefully did not mention his/her name). I am writing it to call out the community. People wanted to believe the diarist because the bulk of the diary was a rant about the problems of unemployment and the back-door draft. Now no one here is happy with the employment situation; unemployment is much too high. I see service to our country as a high calling, but I don't like a back-door draft, especially for kids who are poor and have no access to higher education. Having said that, we need to be part of the reality-based community. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. We can't abandon our critical thinking skills just because we agree with a diarist or because that diarist is popular.

Just remember, on the Internet, no one knows you are a dog.

Originally posted to blue jersey mom on Tue Dec 28, 2010 at 05:27 PM PST.

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