I recently called John Cook a “filthy liar” for what almost certainly started as a mistake. There, the reasoning was simple. Cook knows he used a fabricated quote, and he refuses to fix it. That is dishonest. What about a more complicated situation?
A while back, I wrote a post highlighting problems with a post written by the blogger now known as andtheresphysics (nicknamed Anders). An exchange followed in which Anders misrepresented a paper in a glaringly obvious way. He accused Steve McIntyre and Ross McKitrick of publishing deceptive graphs in the paper when the paper contained nothing of the sort. Had he bothered to even glance at the paper he was criticizing, he’d have known what he was saying was false. When this was pointed out to him, he repeatedly refused to look at the paper, instead insisting other sources proved he was right.
Eventually, Anders painted me as a terrible person, left the exchange and banned me at his blog (for my behavior here). He then wrote a post referencing his experience in which he said:
What I was pondering was why, given that during this particular exchange I had said something that was not technically correct, I didn’t simply openly acknowledge that and try to move on?
Anders had fabricated a claim to criticize a paper by people he dislikes but he acknowledged is he made a claim “that was not technically correct.” That’s a fascinating situation. Nobody could possibly know what Anders thinks he got wrong. At face value, it seemed he thinks simply making things up to criticize people he dislikes is merely being “technically incorrect.”
Today’s developments make things more interesting. Anders wrote a blog post which said:
The comments also play a role. They’re there for people to correct me when I’m wrong, as I often am (well, as long as you can convince me that I’m wrong at least).
I found this amusing as I got banned for an exchange in which I proved him wrong and couldn’t resist commenting. My comment got deleted with this moderation note:
[Mod : Actually, I was going to put this through, but I’m not interested. Docevus, to answer your question though, yes I got the specifics of that wrong. Happy?]
He acknowledges he “got the specifics of that wrong.” What were the specifics? Well, the comment which got deleted said:
Is Anders acknowledging he fabricated a claim in order to criticize a paper then refused to even look at the paper? Nobody can know. Again, Anders made a vague comment admitting some mistake but didn’t actually say what the mistake was. So I responded:
That got deleted too, with the hilarious moderation note:
[Mod: Off-topic and rinse and repeat. He’s already acknowledged he got it wrong. Do you want the shirt off his back too?]
Apparently the moderator would have us believe asking someone to actually say what they got wrong is inappropriate. This seemed ridiculous so I commented:
That was let through, but another hilarious moderation note was added:
[Mod: I will let this comment stand in its entirety if only to allow you to have your word and be done with it. Any more like this will be deleted for rinsing and repeating. I just want to say though that I’ve never known anyone to acknowledge their mistakes more so than our host. You don’t have to read much of this blog to see that.]
I can’t decide what to make of all this. Anders openly acknowledges he got something wrong, but he refuses to say what that something is. He also refuses to make any effort to correct whatever it is. And he certainly isn’t apologetic about whatever it is. The way he and his moderator act (as well as at least one commenter), I’m the bad guy for asking him to do anything about it.
Are they dishonest? I’m not sure. They seem to genuinely believe I’m the bad guy and they’re the victims. The fact Anders completely fabricated a claim in order to criticize people he dislikes seems lost on them. It seems they are either unaware of it, despite how obvious it is, or they somehow think it is unimportant. It’s crazy.
My question is, if a person repeatedly insists a fabricated claim about a paper is true, refuses to look at that paper and bans the person who pointed out the fabrication then goes onto acknowledge he got something wrong but refuses to state what it was, refuses to take any steps to correct it and acts as though anyone expecting him to do so is unreasonable…
How can anyone shrug their shoulders, or even worse, say he’s right? If that sort of behavior isn’t dishonest, what is it? And what kind of world do we live in if it’s okay?