Alvin Pastore

One Good Shepherd


and counting..


Sheffield, UK


PhD researcher @ The University Of Sheffield

Don’t tell me how educated you are,
tell me how much you traveled.

The Prophet Mohammed


a good shepherd’s thoughts

Science vs quackery

Lately there has been a lot activity connected to the dispute that science is a failure, that it is enslaved by the big companies that seek profit, implying that several thousands of researchers are carrying out their jobs in a “biased” way. Here is my point of view on the matter.

Few years ago Internet (and social media) was still inaccessible to most of the parents for several reasons. Some of them did not have the time to engage, some of them were simply turned off by the amount of technicalities they were asked to face.

I believe that, by lowering the access threshold, a lot of these are now wandering online, submerged by an ocean of information. My generation had time to learn to face the problem and to discern between good, reliable news and crappy ones. Not everyone learnt of course. Parents have been plunged into this noisy world with no time to learn.

This setting gave rise to a few major problems in the approach to social networked news:

  1. Title trusting,
  2. Share racing,
  3. Blind defense,
  4. Hoax generation.

The first is the attitude to believe what the Title of a post says, no matter what the article is actually about. There are still a lot of users who don’t enjoy clicking on the link they share because (I speculate) they are lazy. Now I can see these people reading a title and thinking the entire article is summarised in those 6-7 words. What really leaves me astonished is that the same users that trust a title, on a post, on facebook, on the Internet, are the same that distrust people in real life. I might be induced to think that the click on the link is a barrier, probably too high to overcome, between them and the perception of the article’s author as a real life person.

The laziness that characterises these users vanishes when it comes to sharing. Even if it is likely that a part of their brain is still thinking about the fact that they really don’t know who wrote the article (and its title), the urge to share it takes over. They have to share it on their timelines, it does not matter if in a few seconds the smart guy they are friends with will comment on it showing them how stupid that choice was.

This leads us to the third point, blind defense. After someone commented on their post, arguing how the article is a hoax – probably reposted after few months from its first sharing – they step in to defend their shared article. In their heads they were, perhaps, expecting a stream of likes and retweets. Sadly now they have to face a discussion during which they take the side of the article (mind you, without even having read it). Needless to say, failure is not an option.

Lastly, as you can see, there is a plethora of users willing to blindly believe an article (as long as the title is cool), that are willing to share and spread it at supersonic speed, that will most likely defend it once they shared it. This army of mental numbness includes people that do actually open the link and do actually click on those banners in the page.

If you were not one of these, won’t you start a hoax website with plenty of ads just to fish in the sea of dumbness??

One of the biggest clashes that keeps happening on social networks, as well as in real life debates, is whether it is safe or not to administer vaccines to young children. It is clear that parents want the best for their children, they would never want them to suffer or to experience serious illness and diseases. What is less clear is whether they have a full understanding of the topic.

There is a very nice and well documented article by Jennifer Raff that focuses on this problem, read more about it (link opens in new tab).


Disclaimer: All characters appearing in this work are NOT fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely NOT coincidental. If you think I was talking about you, you are probably right. Peace.


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By ilpianista Published April 9, 20142:59 pm Reply

Yeah! The Shepherd is back! Great!

You already know I wrote about this a month ago in a rant-post on facebook, but this is more detailed (as it’s in your style) and you even provides some reference…well done!

By theshepherd Published April 9, 20143:02 pm Reply

cheers mate, I saw your post. And more or less the same days I posted a really nice comic version of the MMR wakefield story.
(reposting it here and another very nice response here).

By Gemma Sampson Published September 27, 20152:32 pm Reply

So the shepherd is not real?

By theshepherd Published November 4, 20153:02 pm Reply

Everyone can be their own shepherd. Follow the light!

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Travel only with thy equals or thy betters;
if there are none, travel alone.



Who is The Shepherd?

My name is Alvin and I am an Italian born learner.

I am interested in a broad variety of topics.

I am currently working on a multi-perspective topic called Neuroeconomics. It involves studying human behaviour in uncertain situations from different points of view. Psychological, Economic and Neuroscientific.

I cannot live without music. It is impossible to give a comprehensive list of genres therefore I will point you to my tagcloud.

I read a lot, mostly scientific papers, but I don’t dislike a good novel once in a while.

I love movies. I have a discrete collection (~140 titles), but I am always looking for new – or old – pearls to add.

I enjoy football, a lot. The company, the competition, learning tricks, using tricks, the passion, the commitment, the hits taken, the hits given, the victories, the defeats.

I had many teachers in my life. Some were in school, in university. Others were somewhere else, along my path. Some are still there and some are not anymore. Some are yet to be met. To all of them I say thank you.

Social Shepherd

The real thing is not reaching,
the real thing is the journey.