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In memoriam: Dr. Harriet Hall always asked “who disagrees and why”

 •  • by Paul Ingraham
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Weekly nuggets of pain science news and insight, usually 100-300 words, with the occasional longer post. The blog is the “director’s commentary” on the core content of a library of major articles and books about common painful problems and popular treatments. See the blog archives or updates for the whole site.
Rendered text: "Before accepting a claim, we should try to find who disagrees with it & why." ~ Dr. Harriet Hall

I am sad to report that Dr. Harriet Hall has passed away. Happily for me, I had a nice exchange of messages with her just a few weeks ago, for the first time in quite a while.

It was always nice talking to Harriet.

Harriet influenced me in many ways during and after my years as the assistant editor of I learned from all the contributors there, but my working relationship with Harriet was the most interactive. She was chatty with me, treated me like an intellectual equal (ha!), asked questions about anything she thought I might know more about than her: mostly publishing tech, sometimes pain science and musculoskeletal medicine.

And she taught me about critical thinking, of course.

The classic Harriet quote — “always ask who disagrees and why” — is one of the most influential nuggets of information in my whole life and career. It’s right up there with “billions and billions” and “the 3 most dangerous words in medicine: in my experience” (that one from another SBM alumnus, Dr. Mark Crislip). It’s one of the most important things I have ever learned … because it’s the key to learning about so much more.

The and why is the special sauce. Most reasoning is motivated reasoning. So what's the motive? Why someone disagrees is critical context.