At Shub Niggurath Climate blog, he’s done a follow up to his first essay on the ongoing issues with integrity that the oxymoronically named blog “skepticalscience” has. Excerpts are posted below. I’ll point out the John Cook has not responded to my modest proposal yet, and even today, he allows the denigrating word to be used. It appears he has no scruples in the use of language people see as offensive, nor any scruples when it comes to the keeping the integrity of invited commentary intact.
Here’s Shub’s findings:
“…resist the temptation to reply to [trolls].
Instead, do what the troll hates most — simply remove the comment.”
— John Cook
The recent censorship episode at the skepticalscience.com brings an often overlooked aspect to the forefront. The target of deletion Prof Roger Pielke Sr, runs a blog. The actions of Skepticalscience were revealed because he posted them there.
What if a scientist or a lay person, interacted with websites like Skepticalscience and did not have a blog?
Consider what Skepticalscience did in reader Paul and AnthonySG1′s cases. In 2007, the website had an article explaining Antarctica’s cooling —a thorn in the pitch for a clean story about global warming— as an “uniquely” regional phenomenon. It talked of how ‘Antarctica was overall losing ice’, citing a peer-reviewed paper Velicogna et al 2003 for support.
The response in the comments section from Cook’s readers was simple: ‘Antarctic ice is increasing. You cannot take a paper that has three years worth of data and conclude that the continent was losing ice’. They cited references that Skepticalscience neglected – which showed an overall increase in Antarctic sea ice.
The rewriting that John Cook undertook is now recounted at Bishop Hill.
In the first step Cook changed the entire article, taking off from the criticisms. Next, he deleted his original ‘responses’, and added new ones that made it appear as though these commenters did not know what they were talking about.
The rewriting of Skepticalscience history
After this was openly revealed, John Cook offered explanations for his actions. It went something like this: ‘I accidentally mistook my readers to have responded to my updated article. Thinking that was indeed the case, their comments sounded silly to me. So I ended up adding responses to guide new readers’
A closer examination of the threads on Skepticalscience, reveals a different picture. Let us begin by examining a few examples to get a sense of what these might be.
Let us start with the thread “Climate models are unreliable”. As is known, the website portrays skeptical arguments as such simple statements and offers rebuttals. The article was published sometime late 2007.
In July 2008, ’poptech’ left a comment which questioned assertions made in the article. He quoted scientists at the Realclimate consensus blog:
From mid-2008, Poptech’s comment remained intact on the thread till as recently as Feb 2011 . At some point afterward, the comment was deleted. Another of poptech’s comments upthread, to which three commenters responded (example) was deleted, leaving the responses hanging mid-air.
Take the exchange between ‘Adamski’ and ‘chris’ (comments 36, 37, 38, 39 originally):
What is more: as can be seen from the screen captures above, Cook goes into the comments and deletes commenters’ references to each others’ posts. This is no computer glitch and it demonstrates he knew what he was doing. Nor does this square with the explanations Cook provided at Bishop Hill. . Again, as before, parts of a conversation are deleted and altered in such a way, the end result looks like something that never happened.
Why does John Cook do this?
The deletions carried out by Cook don’t make sense as an exercise in moderation. They seem driven by an ardent need to present a clean and neat view of global warming. Of a need to reassure that no intelligent discussions exist, and all possible questions have (long) been answered.
The structure of Cook’s website appears to push things in his direction. In the beginning, pages are born as undemanding and easy arguments. Cook then seems to realize that the skeptical arguments are more involved and complex than the simplistic picture he presents. He updates the same pages with more detail. But messy comments have accumulated below the line, sticking out like sore thumbs. The ‘broad picture’ that Cook so wants to convey is sullied.
In the meantime fresh readers, oblivious to the confusing mish-mash of claim and counter-claim, arrive in greater numbers on the shores of the global warming debate. Journalists, policy-makers and other influential opinion-makers land up everyday at skepticalscience, looking for a quick grasp on the consensus position in climate issues. How does one protect these newcomers?
Cook’s solution: the inconvenient comments go flying out the window.
One clearly sees that the mission of the website underwent a change ~end of 2009. In the earlier years, Cook seems welcoming to comments. His interest it seemed was to point out findings from scientific papers, that he thought contradicted climate skeptics’ claims. By November 2009, Cook had arrived at a dramatically different viewpoint. He saw ‘global warming skepticism’ as a sort of a mental illness or a psychiatric condition, with the afflicted being beyond any hope. Psychologic diagnoses permeates his thinking from that point on.
Cook voices his thoughts on the shift in a post in November 2009. It is hard to fathom, why, anybody who ran a website and worked hard at attracting and nurturing an online community, would commit the most fundamental of indiscretions with his readers’ comments – deleting and moulding them at his own whim.
As seen in his response above, Cook viewed the comments section of his website topics as a resource, to be used for ‘educating’ the public.
From there on, editing, deleting and moulding the historical record probably did not seem any wrong to Cook.
More here: Skepticalscience – Rewriting History