There is no question Skeptical Science uses fabricated quotes. There is no question the Skeptical Science team is willing to keep using fabricated quotes after discovering them, discussing the issue in their private forum but doing nothing in public. In short, there is no question the Skeptical Science team is dishonest. The question there is, is, are they stupid, or do they just think we are?
For two years Skeptical Science has claimed it was hacked. For two years it has based this claim largely upon a single argument:
Anyone who has viewed the file containing the hacked forum can confirm that it contains the entire user database and that the forum was amended to display the email and IP address of every person posting on the forum.
This argument has been repeated time and time again. It is the only argument Skeptical Science has offered for two years, and it is either a bald-faced lie, or it indicates a level of stupidity so great I struggle to imagine how John Cook remembers to breathe.
The argument is idiotic. It is completely and utterly impossible. Any investigation of the released material would show this. All you have to do is think for one moment, “What is my IP address”?
Odds are you have no idea. However, I’m sure you know your IP address is different on your computer than it is on your phone. I’m sure you know it is different when you’re at home than when you are on vacation. I’m sure you know you may have used hundreds of different IP addresses in your life. So the question is, what “IP address” did this supposed hacker add?
If a hacker accessed user information, why would he be given IP addresses for users? Their IP address could be different every time they logged in. The average person’s IP address changes on a daily basis. Are we supposed to believe Skeptical Science stored a single IP address for each user when it would inevitably be out of date by the next day? If so, why? What could John Cook possibly do with a single, outdated IP address for each user? And how would he pick which IP address to store for each person?
It is mind-bogglingly stupid to think John Cook stored an IP address for each user. And even if he did do it, what possible reason would a hacker have to include it? The “hacked” forums had years of posts. Why would a hacker bother adding the same IP address to every post by a given user in 2010 as in 2012?
What kind of imbecilic story is this? How could anyone who knows anything about computers believe it? It’s ludicrous. And even worse, it’s obviously untrue. We can see that just by looking at the “hacked” forums. Pick a topic, any topic at all, and odds are good it’ll prove this story is a total fabrication. Here’s a screenshot from one I picked at random:
Notice anything about those comments? BaerbelW posted twice. Her IP address was given as 184.108.40.206 one time, 220.127.116.11 the other. John Cook commented twice, once with the IP address 18.104.22.168 and once with the IP address 22.214.171.124. Earlier in the same thread, Cook commented with 126.96.36.199 and 188.8.131.52.
How could a hacker have added dozens of different IP addresses to comments by the same user? What, did he find a list of every IP address every user had ever visited the forums with and start matching them up with comments? How would he have done it? Why would we have done it? Hell, why would that data have even been stored? Is anyone actually stupid enough to look at the forums and believe the hacker found each person’s “IP address” and added it to each comment by them? Is John Cook? Is Bob Lacatena?
Are you? I don’t think so. I think you’re a functioning member of society capable of stringing together a chain of thought more straightforward than an Escher drawing. I think your mental landscape is more coherent than a Picasso painting. I think you, like any rational member of the internet community, would expect to see something like this in a blog administrator’s comments panel:
That’s a partial screenshot of a comment shown in my blog’s dashboard. You’ll note it has my name, my website, my e-mail address and the IP address I used when I submitted the comment. That is exactly what we see in the “hacked” Skeptical Science forum, save that forum uses a row for full names instead of web site URLs (and it doesn’t use avatars).
What an amazing coincidence, right? I mean, according to Bob Lacatena of Skeptical Science, that’s all it could be. After all, he said:
There was no way that someone just got into the forum, went into every thread, and saved the web pages. You couldn’t generate the data released in the hack that way. Someone would have had to put a lot of work into editing the pages, to merge them all and to change the presentation. It would take a lot of work, too, to cross reference every user with their full name, e-mail and IP address, to insert those.
Skeptical Science has repeatedly claimed an IP address (singular) was added for each user. Skeptical Science claims a hacker “put a lot of work into” adding that singular IP address to each comment. In reality, we have clear and indisputable evidence many IP different addresses were shown for each user. The only sane interpretation is every comment had an IP address associated with it when it was made.
So we now know the hacker didn’t have to “cross reference every user with their” IP address. Why then should we believe he had to do it “with their full name” or their e-mail address? Why shouldn’t we assume those were stored with each comment like the IP addresses were?
And if we know Skeptical Science has been telling a false story about those IP addresses for two years now, why should we believe any of their story? Why should we believe the forum we’ve been given wasn’t just some naturally occurring output? On what basis can we conclude it wasn’t what you’d get if you made a backup or looked at the forums with the right administrative settings?
TL;DR: Skeptical Science has been telling a story which is obviously insane if you even glance at the evidence. Given that, why should we trust any of their claims about this “hack”? Either they’re incredibly stupid, or they think we are.