Monday, October 05, 2009

Motl's Defamation

Here's another accusation sent around that is utterly irresponsible, and probably defamatory: Lubos Motl wrote:
But I think it is pretty obvious that pretty much all the relevant authors of the article must know that without any fabrication of the data, they don't get any hockey stick from the trees. It means that it can't be an innocent mistake and all of them, and not just Keith Briffa, are fraudsters who know very well what they're doing and why they're doing it.

That is, Motl alleges that Briffa et al are not simply wrong (which they're not), but that they have intentionally made up data. That is, instead of using numbers they (or someone) measured, they sat down and wrote out numbers that were guaranteed to give them the result they "wanted." Of course, Motl has no proof whatsoever, and doesn't even attempt to offer any.

If that's not defamatory I don't know what is. I'm waiting for the day when a scientist sues someone like Motl for a post like this. I don't think it would be an entirely bad idea.


rhhardin said...

Worry more about the science.

Anonymous said...

The lawsuit approach might be very interesting. Several people (I can think of Oscar Wilde, and a politician named Jonathan Aitken) have found that libel suits can be a minefield.

The great tragedy of McIntyre vs the Hockey team is that all the data refusals could be viewed as supporting the claim that McIntyre is being deliberately blocked. (I personally think that there has been a significant amount of sloppy data handling, and that McIntyre was mislabelled as a kooky "quasi-stalker".)

On the other hand, both science and the debaters would benefit from people choosing their words more carefully. When you don't intend to imply malfeasance, make your claims in such a way that this is ruled out. When you do intend to imply malfeasance, make the claim explicitly.



Anonymous said...

It's worth looking at the structure of McIntyre's criticism.

He's saying that:
1. The Hockey stick in the Yamal data appears to depend on a small number of trees.
2. The Hockey stick disappears when other Yamal data is used.

Because Briffa used all the data initially provided by the Russians, no active cherry-picking appears to have taken place. The question McIntyre poses is, should an effort have been made to obtain additional data?

In any case, I don't think in the case of Yamal, it's as clear as Motl suggests.

However, the fact that the reconstructions use some combination of Yamal, Bristlecones and the Finnish lake sediments, and no reconstruction has appeared which looks at removing all three is rather suspect.



EliRabett said...

Actually there are a number that use no tree ring cores at all. Real
Climate shows a few of them.