Please have a look at this Youtube user account.  I immediately thought of this site upon watching a couple of his clips. I am told we have tried here to publish some stuff in audiovisual fomat, but it didn't quite work out. Maybe we should contact this guy, perhaps we could profit from each other's work and experience? I am fairly hopeful that he could use some of the material here, and we could use some of his talent with the medium.

This video, for instance, looks like it was taken right out of this very blog 

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This video, for instance, looks like it was taken right out of this very blog

It will be a sad day when fetishization of "science" takes over this site as well.

The word "science" should be taboo. It is used both for idealized pursuit of knowledge when you want to praise it; and then for a particular set of practice of academia which pretends to be about pursuit of knowledge, but it's really the most horrible waste of brainpower in history.

What about pursuit of knowledge involves shady statistics, obsession with "statistical significance", peer review to exclude "outsiders", massive publication bias, very little reproduction of anything (some estimates say that for 95% of published results, nobody bothered even once - but if it wasn't worth reproducing, was it worth studying at all?), hiding results behind pay walls, and focus on whatever lies within established disciplines instead of what's most important?

Not surprisingly nearly none of old discoverers of knowledge like Newton, Darwin, Maxwell, Einstein, etc. would be even considered "scientists" by modern criteria.

As far as I can tell the main reason people are blinded to all problems of practice of "science" is the very word "science" itself.

Not surprisingly nearly none of old discoverers of knowledge like Newton, Darwin, Maxwell, Einstein, etc. would be even considered "scientists" by modern criteria.

This claim is just bizarre to me.

Downthread I read you as implying that Einstein (for example) wouldn't be considered a scientist "by modern criteria" because he opposed peer review. As I see it, anyone who'd write off someone as a non-scientist for opposing peer review has a warped idea of what a scientist is.

Being a scientist vs. being heard by other scientists. I wonder how the surfer dude with his E8 based Theory of everything does in that regards?

The way current scientists inter act is error prone - but it gets some results. And eventually ideas get heard. For every Wegener there are thousands of Homeopaths, Snake Oilers and physics cranks that spread noise.

The surfer dude, Garrett Lisi, has an institutional affiliation, Lee Smolin's Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics. Basically the people trying to save physics from string theory. His arXiv post wasn't ignored and wasn't something that came from outside the high energy physics subculture, if that's what you mean. Paper on arXiv, discussion in the HEP blogs, vitriolic abuse from Lubos Motl, nothing unusual. That appears to be (from what I can tell as an outsider) how ideas are floated and initially looked over by peers in the HEP field.

The E8 theory appears not to have worked out - despite the media friendliness of "surfer dude wins physics." But, these things happen.

(I know nothing of the actual subject matter and the maths turned my brain to putty, but I wrote a parody of the media story and so did what journalistic research I could into how the story propagated. And then discovered that Dr Lisi and I know people in common, thus demonstrating how everyone knows everyone.)

Thinking about the issue i would suggest a few hypothesis.

(1) It is way easier to get an education in a specific field than ever before. (2) It is harder to find new genius level insights. (3) Good stuff eventually gets heard

It seems like a safe bet that anyone outside of a field claiming new insights into the field is probably a crank. Anyone who is not will be aware of the index (http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/crackpot.html), and be capable of avoiding it.

If someone were to find out something new and amazing, while also being ignored by the mainstream scientists he could go about getting the credentials eventually, or trying to build something useful with the ideas he has.

Einstein wouldn't be considered a scientist by modern criteria?

As far as I can tell the main reason people are blinded to all problems of practice of "science" is the very word "science" itself.

Science by any other name...I think the reason science criticism is difficult and rare is that while the scientific establishment is a mess and desperately needs reform it is constantly under siege by parts of the religious establishment. Good people look at this battle, come to the defense of the lesser evil and ignore the bad in science. It starts as Contrast effect and then turns into Group-serving bias.

Obviously science's enemies aren't equipped to give an accurate critique and her allies are unwilling to undermine their status by offering reasonable criticisms. It actually is a difficult double-bind but more voices that give reasoned and intelligent criticism of science would be good thing.

Jack:

Einstein wouldn't be considered a scientist by modern criteria?

That's certainly a hyperbole, but not one without a good point. For start, Einstein's early 20th century breakthrough into the milieu of elite scientists was performed in a way that would likely be impossible these days. Another significant observation is that while peer review has become something like a sacred mantra in determining what qualifies as "science" nowadays, Einstein's attempt to publish a paper on gravitational waves in Physical Review in 1936 "may have been his only genuine encounter with anonymous peer review."

(As you can read in the linked article, this episode resulted in a controversy in which Einstein was wrong, and the author uses this fact as a point in favor of the contemporary peer review system. However, regardless of this particular incident, the fact that Einstein and his contemporaries and predecessors did without this institution should throw some cold water on the modern common practice of using peer review as the gold standard for what constitutes valid science.)

Good stuff. Can you expand on:

For start, Einstein's early 20th century breakthrough into the milieu of elite scientists was performed in a way that would likely be impossible these days.

I'm not an expert on Einstein's biography, but I always had the impression that his path from youthful anonymity to the annus mirabilis papers and the subsequent fame and prestige -- and the discovery of general relativity a decade later, followed by even greater fame and prestige -- was extremely unusual by today's standards. In particular, observe the way the famous 1905 papers were published: a fairly obscure patent bureaucrat and part-time physics student mailed them to Max Planck, one of the top physicists of the time, who was impressed enough to publish them in the top journal of the time and promote them among his colleagues on his own initiative and authority. Such avoidance of bureaucratic and credentialist obstacles is hardly possible nowadays, especially considering the greatly controversial nature of the special relativity paper.

Now, one could argue that a genius of Einstein's caliber would nevertheless be able to jump through all the bureaucratic and credentialist hoops he'd face nowadays, but I can certainly imagine ingenious people put off or discouraged by the present system. Also, it should be noted that, at least according to my impressions, physics is generally among the healthiest and best-functioning areas of science nowadays, and I'm sure this problem is pronounced even more in various fields that are not in such a good shape.

It's likely true that nowadays it's unnecessarily harder to establish oneself in science, but I seriously doubt it's so much unnecessarily harder as to warrant the scepticism I see in this subthread.

Off the top of my head, some post-Einstein examples that give me doubt:

  • George R. Price was able to break into population genetics after fleeing the USA and his on-again off-again science career (none of which involved training in population genetics, as far as I know) by sending his work on the Price equation to W. D. Hamilton
  • John R. Skoyles managed to get a speculative single-author publication in Nature while still an undergraduate student
  • Nigel Calder got a similarly speculative Nature publication about ice age cycles despite having no university affiliation (nor any university qualification, as far as I know, although he was/is a science writer)
  • Until earlier this year, PNAS (which is something like the 3rd most prestigious general science journal in the world) accepted papers communicated by National Academy of Sciences members on behalf of non-members

More generally, it's not obvious to me that convincing other scientists to publish one's papers based on personal connections is actually easier (or better) than convincing them to publish one's papers based on peer review.

Thanks for listing these examples! They indeed seem to provide counterexamples to the trend of increasing bureaucratization and credentialism, though I must note that they are all several decades old.

However, more importantly, my main point is that bureaucratization tends to have the same negative effect on science as on any other field of human endeavor. The number one tendency in every bureaucracy is that things should be done in such a way that everyone can cover his ass and avoid any personal responsibility no matter what happens. In contrast, productive work always requires personal responsibility: someone must accept the blame if things go wrong, or otherwise there is no incentive to do things right, unless people are driven by sheer personal enthusiasm.

When Max Planck decided to promote Einstein's work, he was putting his own reputation on the line: his career and prestige would have suffered greatly if it had turned out that he was swindled by a crackpot. But the modern peer-review system absolves everyone of responsibility -- everyone involved has his little piece of bureaucratic duty, and no matter what happens, there is no personal responsibility at all.

Some supposedly "scientific" features of the present system are in fact the height of ass-covering perversity, like for example the "double-blind" peer-review -- how on Earth can you be an expert capable of reviewing a novel research paper, but unable to figure out who the authors are from the content of the paper? Even with a simple "blind" peer review, it's a complete farce, considering how small and tightly-knit any bleeding-edge research community necessarily is: either your paper will be given for review to clueless incompetent outsiders, or you can guess pretty reliably who the "anonymous" insider reviewers are. (And in any case, you know who is on the editorial board, and what nepotistic considerations are driving them!)

So, at the end of the day, I don't see any advantage that the present heavily bureaucratized system might have over the old system that was based on honor and reputation. In my view, the present system functions well only insofar as in many fields, the top people are still driven by enthusiasm and sense of honor and doing their best to keep their field sound. But this is despite the bureaucratizing tendencies, not thanks to them. In fields where the personal enthusiasm of prominent insiders hasn't been strong enough to keep bureaucratically backed pseudoscience at bay, the mainstream work has long since degenerated into sheer nonsense.

Thanks for listing these examples! They indeed seem to provide counterexamples to the trend of increasing bureaucratization and credentialism, though I must note that they are all several decades old.

True. I thought about acknowledging this in my post, but decided it didn't make much difference because (1) their age would be partly explained by availability bias, because younger scientists are less well-known just because they haven't been around as long, and (2) if I move the bureaucratic cutoff date forward from the early 20th century to the mid-1980s, I find your point of view less credible, because science was already much more oriented around credentials & peer review by then than it was c. 1905.

Still, my list of anecdotal examples is no stronger evidence than taw's. Really, one would have to do a systematic survey of author affiliations in published papers or something to be sure of an actual trend, but I can't be bothered.

However, more importantly, my main point is that bureaucratization tends to have the same negative effect on science as on any other field of human endeavor. The number one tendency in every bureaucracy is that things should be done in such a way that everyone can cover his ass and avoid any personal responsibility no matter what happens.

That's endemic in bureaucracies (or at least all those I've had to deal with!), but I'd expect incentives for arse-covering in any system where people feel a need to protect their image, and that includes honour-and-rep social networks too.

In contrast, productive work always requires personal responsibility: someone must accept the blame if things go wrong, or otherwise there is no incentive to do things right, unless people are driven by sheer personal enthusiasm.

This seems like a fairly impoverished view of motivation to me. What about professionalism: a simple wish to do one's job well, whether one has particular enthusiasm for it or not? There must be people with PhDs out there who dragged themselves through the PhD process and got worthwhile results through sheer force of will rather than special enthusiasm for their project; I'd be amazed if there weren't professional scientists out there fitting that description too. There are probably other motivations too that I can't think of off-the-cuff.

But the modern peer-review system absolves everyone of responsibility -- everyone involved has his little piece of bureaucratic duty, and no matter what happens, there is no personal responsibility at all.

Again, though, I don't see why the lack of personal responsibility (which I think is a slight exaggeration) is unique to bureaucratic science. There's no intrinsic reason why journals where, say, the editor glances over a paper themselves and informally shows it to a few friends before deciding whether or not to publish (instead of soliciting formal peer reviews from experts) would be better in this respect.

Some supposedly "scientific" features of the present system are in fact the height of ass-covering perversity, like for example the "double-blind" peer-review -- how on Earth can you be an expert capable of reviewing a novel research paper, but unable to figure out who the authors are from the content of the paper?

It's certainly possible if the authors aren't already established workers in the expert's field. If I submitted an econometrics/ecology/history/statistics paper to an econometrics/ecology/history/statistics journal with real double-blind review, I'd bet a lot of money that the reviewer(s) couldn't guess who I was! But yes, double-blind (and single-blind) review's often trivial to get around.

So, at the end of the day, I don't see any advantage that the present heavily bureaucratized system might have over the old system that was based on honor and reputation. In my view, the present system functions well only insofar as in many fields, the top people are still driven by enthusiasm and sense of honor and doing their best to keep their field sound.

But surely this is inevitable in any system of science, as long as science is run by people? Regardless of the system used for accepting diamonds and rejecting turds, as long as people are doing the judging, the quality of what's published hinges on the competence & motivations of whoever's running the show, bureaucracy or not.

But this is despite the bureaucratizing tendencies, not thanks to them.

I suspect those tendencies make little difference either way, overall.

In fields where the personal enthusiasm of prominent insiders hasn't been strong enough to keep bureaucratically backed pseudoscience at bay, the mainstream work has long since degenerated into sheer nonsense.

What I think's happening here is that you see poor science that's backed by parts of the establishment, and you're inferring that because the establishment is bureaucratic, bureaucracy's to blame for the poor science. But I doubt the chosen social structure is the root cause. I'd expect similar sections of rot in an Einstein-era honour-based system.

satt:

I don't see why the lack of personal responsibility (which I think is a slight exaggeration) is unique to bureaucratic science. There's no intrinsic reason why journals where, say, the editor glances over a paper themselves and informally shows it to a few friends before deciding whether or not to publish (instead of soliciting formal peer reviews from experts) would be better in this respect.

The contrast I'm pointing out is between a system where each decision and each claim puts the responsible person's reputation on the line, and a system where decisions are made according to established bureaucratic rules that allow everyone involved to escape any personal responsibility no matter what happens (except if crude malfeasance like data forgery or plagiarism is proven).

Thus, for example, if a junk paper gets published in a journal, this should tarnish the reputation of the both the authors and the editor. Yet, in the present bureaucratic system, the editor can comfortably hide behind the fact that the regular bureaucratic procedure was followed, and even the authors can claim that you can't really blame them if their false claims sounded convincing enough for the reviewers (who are in turn anonymous and thus completely absolved of any responsibility). If the existing heavily bureaucratized modes of publishing make it difficult to publish criticism (as is often the case), this situation coupled with the usual human tendencies may easily lead to utter corruption covered by an impeccable bureaucratic facade that makes it impossible to put blame on anyone.

It's certainly possible [that double-blind review works] if the authors aren't already established workers in the expert's field. If I submitted an econometrics/ecology/history/statistics paper to an econometrics/ecology/history/statistics journal with real double-blind review, I'd bet a lot of money that the reviewer(s) couldn't guess who I was! But yes, double-blind (and single-blind) review's often trivial to get around.

The key problem, however, is that blind review is ultimately another way of eliminating personal responsibility. For the reviewer, there is no incentive whatsoever to do a good job: the work is unpaid, uncredited, and without any repercussions no matter how badly it's done. On the other hand, considering how tightly-knit specific research communities typically are, the supposed blindness is a farce more often than not.

What I think's happening here is that you see poor science that's backed by parts of the establishment, and you're inferring that because the establishment is bureaucratic, bureaucracy's to blame for the poor science. But I doubt the chosen social structure is the root cause. I'd expect similar sections of rot in an Einstein-era honour-based system.

Often it's not about poor science being backed by the establishment for ideological reasons (though this also happens), but merely about the fact that a field can be run by a clique that produces junk science under a veneer of bureaucratic perfection, conscientiously going through all the bureaucratic motions despite the actual substance being worthless (or worse).

But, yes, all sorts of pseudoscience also flourished under the Einstein-era system of honor and reputation. Psychoanalysis is the prime example. The question is whether the subsequent bureaucratization has alleviated or exacerbated these problems. My opinion is that, at best, it hasn't put any real barriers against pseudoscience, and arguably, it has made things worse by allowing pseudoscience to be given a veneer of respectability (and sources of funding) much more easily.

What do you think of peer review vs. crowd-sourcing?

I'm not sure what exactly you have in mind by "crowd-sourcing" in this context. Do you mean publishing online in a way that's open for public comments and debate, whose content will come up whenever someone looks up the paper? If that's what you mean, I do have a favorable view of this approach.

Yes, that's what I meant by crowd-sourcing.

In fact, I'd say that the principal reason why such a system is not implemented in many areas is the sheer desire for ass-covering. Just imagine all the emperors in various degrees of nakedness who are presently hiding behind thick, impressive-sounding publication records, whose validity would however be seriously brought into question by this practice.

The way things are now, a paper can be retracted or marked as invalid only if outright plagiarism or data faking is proved. Otherwise, even those junk papers that have been debunked so convincingly that their authors were forced to publicly admit it still stand proudly in publication archives, both on paper and online, ready to fool any unsuspecting visitor who stumbles onto them.

Einstein wouldn't be considered a scientist by modern criteria?

Definitely. He was firm opponent of the very concept of peer review for example and I fully agree with him on this.

The requirement to sign allegiance to Peer Review with blood before being given the PhD has recently been withdrawn.

Obviously science's enemies aren't equipped to give an accurate critique and her allies are unwilling to undermine their status by offering reasonable criticisms. It actually is a difficult double-bind but more voices that give reasoned and intelligent criticism of science would be good thing.

Actually, I've only fairly recently started probing into this, and I've found no shortage of scientists willing to acknowledge how terribly inefficient publication processes and peer review are, how science is more opaque to the public than necessary, how politicized research is, and so forth. What's difficult is finding anyone willing to stake effort and status on actually trying to change any of these processes for the better.

I think the reason science criticism is difficult and rare is that while the scientific establishment is a mess and desperately needs reform it is constantly under siege by parts of the religious establishment.

Is this even true? The most obvious example of "Intelligent Design" is basically a brief footnote to Theory of Evolution stating that "God had something to do with it", to make it disagree less with other parts of people's belief network. It doesn't seem that much worse than similar footnote to the Big Bang Theory nearly every non-atheist holds. It's silly, but irrelevant.

I don't see any siege here.

I suppose Intelligent Design proponents try to portray it as a brief and uncontroversial footnote. But rather transparently it is the next in a long line of attempts to undermine or remove evolution from state biology curricula. This looks like a fight to me. I don't know what the history would look like if those fighting on behalf of science had been more critical of it but I think the scientific establishment's status as a credible arbiter of truth is pretty central to the argument that other 'ways of knowing' don't belong in science classes.

It's silly, but irrelevant.

And it isn't irrelevant. Part of the what science classes are supposed to do is explain science as a method and perspective for understanding the world. You can't talk about falsifiability one minute and Intelligent Design the next.

Besides which, focusing on what goes on in public school ignores the large numbers of American children who are schooled at home by parents who teach what religious leaders tell them to.

In any case, it shouldn't be impossible to reform the scientific establishment while defending it from evangelicals. In fact, one could craft a good argument that a better science would be harder for religious authorities to undermine. But I'd be very wary of underestimating the threat religion poses.

ETA: I'd be interested in skipping this debate and talking more about what a reform of science (or a replacement) would look like.

I suppose Intelligent Design proponents try to portray it as a brief and uncontroversial footnote.

Because that's what it is. As far as I can tell it was mostly due to overreaction of scientific establishment that baffled the moderately religious (here including even the previous Pope, who didn't have any problem with evolution as such, only with people using it to oppose their beliefs) have religious nutjobs managed to get the moderates on board and reach so much influence here.

Compare it with the minefield of tribal beliefs textbooks of modern history have to navigate in - you can't get away with just a few footnotes, nearly every sentence runs risk of gravely offending someone! So they compromised to get the most important bits across.

I don't this it would be right to ignore this, as this unreasonable siege mentality is a major impediment to fixing science.

I agree that there is a harmful "siege mentality" in the frenzy to defend the theory of Evolution from religiously-motivated challenges. Nevertheless, the main organized proponents of Intelligent Design (the Discovery Institute) are not just trying to add a footnote to the textbooks, have a victory party, and then retire. They have an explicit and not-particularly-concealed plan to overthrow secularism in the US.

But I'm with Jack. Lets not get into a discussion of ID or creationism. I'd like to hear the ideas about reforming science. Incidentally, one important reform is already underway. Open access publishing. Often with watered-down review standards. Einstein's famous papers on relativity, brownian motion, and the photoelectric effect would be published on arXiv and discussed in the physics blogs even more quickly in the present milieu than the time to get them printed and distributed in the relaxed days of 1905.

A second reform is increased interest in punishing scientific fraud. (The wrist-slap in the Hauser case being an exception, I hope.)

Science reform issues resemble politics while at the same time not mapping onto the traditional ideological spectrum and staying close to our areas of expertise here. Maybe we should try to tackle this before making the jump into politics some people want us to.

Without having done a ton of research reforming the way science gets funded looks like the most important piece of the puzzle.

As far as I can tell it was mostly due to overreaction of scientific establishment that baffled the moderately religious (here including even the previous Pope, who didn't have any problem with evolution as such, only with people using it to oppose their beliefs) have religious nutjobs managed to get the moderates on board and reach so much influence here.

I don't think the religious nutjobs have managed to get the moderates on board. Following the alteration of science curricula by evangelicals the public has consistently elected moderates who then removed ID from classrooms- plausibly this had something to do with science putting up a unified front against ID. I don't know how we can reliably compare this world to a counter-factual one in which science doesn't have the siege mentality. But it seems plausible that in such world the position of science would be more precarious.

But the ID issue aside, do you not think that, in general, powerful and influential fundamentalist movements will be bad for science? You've got around 40% of the American public that doesn't believe in evolution (though of course this varies by how the question is asked) and it seems reasonable to believe that the larger that group is the more at risk high school biology curricula is.

I don't this it would be right to ignore this, as this unreasonable siege mentality is a major impediment to fixing science.

This seems like putting the cart before the horse. Is there even an organized programme for reform around for the establishment to resist? While I think the siege mentality makes people wary of criticizing science I also think there plenty of ways to do so without especially undermining science visa vis religion. I think the successes of the more radical factions of the two American political parties is an illustrative analogy though obviously not the ideal inspiration for science reform.

I don't quite get what you're implying. Because the scientific method is somewhat poorly implemented we should do.. what exactly? Be more skeptical of current/new scientific theories? Not promote science? And more importantly, what alternatives do we have for a best estimate of how certain things in the world work?

"Somewhat poorly implemented"?

Try these two null hypotheses:

  • "science" as currently implemented is entirely worthless on the margin (relative to costs of brainpower etc.)
  • median "scientist" generates zero net contribution to human knowledge (relative to similar person who is not "scientist"; this claim is far stronger, as it is about median not marginal "scientist")

How confident are you they're not true, and the sign points in the right direction?

My overnight fix idea is impact factor tax - convince people scoring scientists by their publications to automatically slash citation value by some % (50% would be a good start, with clear understanding it will go up to 100% eventually) for every publication not openly available, to break their network effect, and at least make all results open.

That won't get anywhere near fixing science, but I cannot think of anything else with better returns on effort. I haven't heard anyone else proposing this particular idea, so if it turns out to be old it must be by convergence.

I'd estimate that including a lot more serious statistics in education would have more significant effect than destroying pay walls, but I see no realistic way of fixing that right now.

The word "science" should be taboo.

The word 'should' should be taboo.

Why? Certainly "should" is not a trivial concept, but refusing to use it entirely costs a lot in simplicity of expression, in exchange for a slight increase in clarity.

Explain to me what should means.

The long version is contained in the metaethics sequence, which I broadly agree with.

To noughth order, though, "should" means "satisfies my utility function, which is partly shared by you and others."

This would be more appropriate to post in the discussion section, rather than as a top-level post.

-_-; Sorry, I still need to completely get the hang of the way this site works. I thought top-level posts were discussions you really wanted to draw people's attentions to?

Yes, but what goes where is something of a matter of feel. In general, if you haven't worked up a piece with substantiating argument or it isn't urgent (and not much is urgent), it should go in discussion. If it's received with enthusiasm, make it top level.

I don't remember if there's a procedure for actually moving a post with its comments from discussion to top level.

That is basically my reply.

If your post is just a link with a brief description it will generally fit better in the discussion section, unless there is a lot of interest in it (like the recent Ben Goertzel post). Or in other words, if people really want their attention drawn to it.

The videos are really well done, but he's confused about some things. For example, the way he thinks about beliefs is very strange, and smacks of the silly logic-chopping of "hard" vs "soft" atheism - "I believe there are no gods" vs "I do not believe there are gods."

An LWer would just ask him to assign a rough epistemic probability to the proposition "one or more (ontologically distinct) gods exist," and that would be the end of the whole sophistic conversation.

It seems I have gotten my editing wrong somehow. Again

Is it okay if I delete this now that the problem is solved?

I'd rather if you left it up-- there isn't a general "how to use Less Wrong features" that I know of, so people are still finding out things like the unspeakably annoying mismatch between formats for articles and comments by cultural transmission.

Yeah, the editing format for top-level posts isn't the same as for comments :P A bit silly ...

I haven't been able to find a helpful "help" button there. Would you happen to know where the markup help is?

Apparently it doesn't use markup, you can directly edit links and the like with the tools at the top of the edit bar. There's also a button to edit the raw html.

Now I'll have to learn HTML (panics). Being a transfer student from the TV Tropes fora, which was my first forum ever, I might have overestimated myself and tried to run before I could walk...

My HTML is a bit rusty, but I believe the tag you want is:

Text goes here

That should do for a quick fix.

You don't need all of html. I get by with about half a dozen tags.

text italics

text bold

text

text
blockquote helpfully adds blank lines before and after the quoted block, so that it's harder to read your html because you have to leave the blank lines out

text puts a line through your text-- I don't use istrike much, but it's handy for being a wiseass

You don't need to use html; all the formatting options you need are at the top of the edit window.

They didn't seem to work, like they were turned off or something. Thanks all the same.

In order to enable the link button, select some text.

Please don't ask me why this is the way it works.