Maybe I should save this stanza for a slightly more apt occasion, but I’m impatient, so:
But my Totem saw the shame; from his ridgepole-shrine he came,
And he told me in a vision of the night: —
“There are nine and sixty ways of constructing tribal lays,
“And every single one of them is right!”
(Kipling, In the Neolithic Age, of course). But back to the post.
We might hope that the blogosphere would be full of reasoned debate, with people making interesting points supported by logical argument and careful references. Of course, any such hope would be dashed by fare such as posts titled “IPCC: not science, just dishonest!” (I’ve deliberately not linked that; before I go on, try and guess who that is) and quotes like:
Now, (yet again) these climate “scientists” have been caught out working not to the level of science, nor even to the standards of economics, but at a standard so appalling it would not be tolerated by any politician. Claiming to be “scientists”, getting public money to be “scientists” and then not behaving as “scientist” is totally dishonest. And when these people obtain public grants as “scientists” and they are not, such dishonesty must be fraud.
That’s a direct, and entirely false, accusation of fraud and dishonesty. What saves it from being actionable, in my humble non-legal opinion, is the careful avoidance of any specific individual targets.
Now, lets compare that to a minor kerfuffle that my attention was drawn to, viz The Sceptic View (Rev. 0.5) by ScottishSceptic – examined by CC and the follow-up, Dear ScottishSceptic, why do you keep threatening me? (you guessed, didn’t you?). This, in turn, is a critique of The Sceptic View (Rev. 0.5). Before I go any further, I’ll take a moment to revisit my criticism of (some small aspects of) that. This occurs in the comments on another post, sceptics vs. academics (a post so bizarre as to be largely surreal) and which (keep up at the back there!) has a post commenting on it at ATTP.
Anyway, I said
Its sweet that you try to claim the “hard facts” for your side. But that’s hard to reconcile with your view, that you say most “skeptics” support, that “Current estimates of about 0.8 C temperature rise in the past 150 years are very likely too high. There is compelling evidence of malpractice, urban heating and poor instruments & siting. A figure of 0.5-0.6C warming appears more likely”, and which you say is based on
“We had a discussion on this on WUWT (which I cannot find!!) where the consensus was around 0.5-0.6C from memory!! I felt if we said “the 0.8 figure is wrong”, I had to give a sense of what kind of warming we felt could be realistic.”
There are no hard facts in your revision, just your memory, which is as fallible as everyone else’s.
If the IPCC tried to produce temperature records, or evidence for or against UHI, based on “errm, a discussion we had somewhere, I can’t find it now” you would (correctly) rip them to shreds. But when it comes to your own words, suuddenly your “skepticism” disappears.
this gets a non-answer, as you’d expect, and it continues further on if you can bear it. So far, so many excuses for swipes by me, but bear with me, the connection will become clear in due course. Now, back to SS’s complaints (SS is ScottishSceptic) against CC’s posts (CC is citizenschallenge). SS complains under two headings, copyright and libel.
But before I do that… Wikipedia has an interesting and possibly relevant policy, WP:NLT which is, somewhat expanded, “No legal threats”:
This page in a nutshell: If you have a dispute with the community or its members, use dispute resolution. If you do choose to use legal action or threats of legal action to resolve disputes, you will not be allowed to continue editing until it is resolved and your user account and or IP address may be blocked. A polite report of a legal problem such as defamation or copyright infringement is not a threat and will be acted on quickly.
Within the blogosphere, I’d translate this into: if you’ve got a problem, start off by making a reasonable attempt to solve it reasonably. In this case I don’t think it would have worked, but it was worth a go nonetheless. Within wiki, the policy is strictly enforced, and does a good job of preventing people using legal threats as a debating trick, or to intimidate people in argument. You can go to law of course, if you really want, but if you do you’re off in a different arena and can no longer participate on wiki.
Claim one is The document is my copyright. You have copied it without permission.
It is true that CC has reproduced SS’s “Sceptic View (Rev. 0.5)” statement. However CC has done it in blocks, and clearly with the purpose of critiquing it, and the original is clearly attributed. It might also be argued that the document isn’t clearly SS’s copyright: as it says of itself, its been compiled from the views and with the input of numerous others.
I would also argue that anyone publishing a “statement” that is clearly political in nature offers an implied right to reproduce it – indeed, it seems pretty clear that SS would like the document itself to be widely publicised; what he is really objecting to are the critical comments.
Is it possible to permit copying only if no critical comments are made, but permit and encourage it otherwise? Perhaps. It hardly fits within a desire for vigourous debate, though: it smacks strongly of defensiveness.
What of the moral issue? Here the answer seems clear: because the document’s original source has been clearly attributed, and its been so cut about that no-one would copy the copy, they’d certainly go back to the original, I can’t see that any theft of intellectual property has occurred.
Claim two is and then listed it under “denial industry” making numerous false claims. This is a libel… (is there a missing “and” in there? I.e., should this read under “denial industry” and making numerous false claims? Or is this suggesting that the listing, under “denial industry”, in itself constitutes numerous (false) claims? That seems an odd reading; I’ll go with the former).
I’m not sure what the “numerous false claims” are supposed to be. On a quick skim, I’d say that CC is more correct than SS. I’ve already noted the problem with the arbitrary lopping off of 0.2 oC. It would be interesting to see SS back up the NFC assertion with evidence, but based on past behaviour I consider this unlikely.
The unambiguous claim, though, is that by filing the post under “denial industry” CC has, errm, labelled SS as part of the denial industry (BTW, allow me to make it clear that I don’t think the SS is part of a “denial industry”. He says he isn’t paid for anything he writes, and I know of no reason to dispute that). But… well, firstly, its not exactly prominent. Here’s a half-size screen grab, but remember its taken from the bottom of a loooong post. Secondly, its also labelled “AGW educational link”, which is far from uncomplimentary. Third, I’m dubious that just putting a post into a category is really as serious as SS thinks. It seems rather thin-skinned to me.
Conclusion: clean hands?
Morally, I can’t see that SS has much of a case, even on the merits of these few posts taken in isolation. But more than that, SS doesn’t have “clean hands”. The quote I started with – when these people obtain public grants as “scientists” and they are not, such dishonesty must be fraud – isn’t an isolated example; you could find many more at his blog. More, there’s a complete lack of reflection, or self-consciousness, or any ability to read his own words as others would. Try this comment of his for example, ending There are two standards of morality in this debate – ours which is what any reasonable person would expect – and that of your side which would lock us up and tattoo us for the crime of saying it isn’t currently warming. Need I say more, guv?