Bad Arguing, Case Study #1:

Skeptical Science recently misrepresented Judith Curry. She was quoted in an article:

“All we can do is be as objective as we can about the evidence and help the politicians evaluate proposed solutions,” she says. If that means doing nothing, “I can’t say myself that that isn’t the best solution.”

This is an unremarkable statement. Curry said if the evidence says we should do nothing, she can’t argue against that “solution.” John Cook misrepresented at his site by providing only this quotation:

“I can’t say myself that [doing nothing] isn’t the best solution.”

Obviously, this misrepresents what Curry said. It leaves off a major caveat of her statement. Her statement was predicated upon the idea evidence shows doing nothing is the best opotion. Cook pretends that caveat wasn’t stated. That’s grossly misleading

Simple, right? Wrong. I came upon this issue when I saw this tweet:

Notice this tweet says nothing about the caveat John Cook ignored. It says nothing about the context John removed. All it says is the quote was “manufactured.” It frames the entire issue as John Cook changing the word “that” to “doing nothing.”

John Cook replaced a pronoun with the word (well, phrase) it referred to. There is nothing wrong with that. The problem has nothing to do with him replacing “that” with “doing nothing.” That’s the sort of thing anyone would do. Because of that, anyone seeing this claim will think it’s idiotic. They’ll know John Cook could have just written:

In reference to the idea of doing nothing, Curry said, “I can’t say myself that that isn’t the best solution.”

Which would have had the exact same meaning. That shows “fixing” what John Cook changed has no effect on how the quote is interpreted. That’s all that would matter to anyone who just heard the “quote was manufactured.” They’d make that “fix,” see it didn’t change anything, and they’d think what John Cook wrote was fine.

In effect, claiming this quote was “manufactured” is creating a straw man for John Cook and his supporters to attack. That’s what happens when you exaggerate an argument. It lets the other person attack your exaggeration and ignore the actual issue.


You might wonder why I posted this. The answer is simple. In the last hour, I posted over 30 messages to Twitter. That’s over 30 posts trying to get people to stop saying the quote was “manufactured.” The thought was we could all agree the quote was accurate but deceptive due to the removal of its context.

That didn’t work. Nobody seemed to agree replacing a pronoun with its antecedent, while disclosing the change, was fine. I don’t get that. I’m hoping maybe this post will help clarify things. I’m hoping people will either see why calling this a “manufactured” quote is wrong. Failing that, I’m hoping they’ll explain to me why replacing a pronoun with its antecedent deserves criticism.

And maybe, when free of the 140 character restriction, we’ll be able to reach an agreement.

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41 comments

  1. Why is the font size so small?

    Let me take the liberty of reproducing Dr Curry’s quote in full, and paraphrasing the way I think captures the meaning conveyed in the original text:

    “All we can do is be as objective as we can about the evidence and help the politicians evaluate proposed solutions [and if that means doing nothing] I can’t say myself that that isn’t the best solution”

    What I see Curry doing here is saying “doing nothing” is an option and should be pursued if objective evaluation of evidence suggests it.

    This is Cook’s:

    “I can’t say myself that [doing nothing] isn’t the best solution”

    For reference, here’s the original text:

    “All we can do is be as objective as we can about the evidence and help the politicians evaluate proposed solutions,” she says. If that means doing nothing, “I can’t say myself that that isn’t the best solution.”

  2. I’ve already said this at Twitter:
    1) If you [add words] it is no longer ” a quote”.
    2) If after [adding words] it was still a quote, then both of these would be “quotes”
    “I can’t say myself [if objective evaluation of the evidence suggests ‘do nothing’ ] that isn’t the best solution. ”
    “I can’t say myself that [doing nothing ] isn’t the best solution. ”

    Both indicate substituted words with []. Because words were added these are “close paraphrases”– which can be legit– and the [] calls that out to the reader. But they are not quotes. Notice also: the two convey different ideas of “what Judy ‘said'”. In reality, she said neither. I think the former is a more accurate rendition of her meaning. But it’s obvious if you can call one a “quote” you could call the other one a “quote”. And yet… she said neither and the two mean entirely different things.

    Beyond this: If one writes this

    “I can’t say myself that [whatever words I think make sense here ] isn’t the best solution. ” and then add a ‘*’ which points to a footnoote that said

    “actual comment from Judy Curry”, the foot note makes a false claim. Because that is not what Judy said in her comment. The close paraprhase by John Cook would more accurately be

    “Actual comment [as edited by John Cook] from [words spoken by] Judy Curry. “

  3. Also, Brandon, Cook and Nuccitelli not only wrongly quote Curry but also believe their own quote. Curry’s talking about objective evaluation of evidence and going wherever it takes whereas Cook and Nuccitelli shift the focus as though it were a question of a binary ‘doing something’ vs ‘doing nothing’. This is highlighted by Russ R’s comment as well. As is well known, Curry’s actual position in matters of ‘risk management’ (or whatever buzzword you would want to use) is far advanced to a joker like Cook, and she’s advocated no-regrets measures and highlighted Taleb’s fat tail problem several times. In other words, via messing around with her words, these guys are feeding Curry’s own messages back to her and their readers.

  4. It seems this forum won’t change anyone’s minds, but I’ll answer a couple points regardless. To answer your question Shub Niggurath, the font is small because I find it makes breaks for things like blockquotes stand out more. I may go back to the regular font size if other people are bothered by it enough, but I find this size preferable.

    lucia, my understanding of your position is we cannot say, “Curry said” if the the quotation marks following include anything within brackets. This contradicts the lessons I had on the use of brackets in English classes, what I was taught in Journalism and what I see in newspaper articles, essays and scientific papers on a regular basis. Suffice to say, I think you’re completely wrong.

    Similarly, I think you’re completely wrong when you provide this alternate quote:

    “I can’t say myself [if objective evaluation of the evidence suggests ‘do nothing’ ] that isn’t the best solution.”

    As I pointed out on Twitter, you replaced the first “that” in Judith Curry’s quote while John Cook replaced the second. On Twitter you claimed you:

    replaced first “that” with its antecedent. Cook replaced the *other* “that” with something that was not its antecedent.

    But the reality is the first “that” in the sentence had no antecedent. It was purely extraneous. It was used in the same form as if I say, “Bob told me that he went to the store.” No, Bob did not tell me that he went to the store. He told me he went to the store. The word “that” in the sentence was extraneous and a case of poor speaking. The same is true of Judith Curry’s quote. The reality is she probably should have said, “I can’t say that isn’t the best solution.”

    It’s difficult to take one claim about grammatical usages seriously when you get the next one so remarkably wrong.

  5. Evidently, Brandon didn’t like my editing to replace first that. So, here’s another version:

    “I can’t say myself that [if objective evaluation of the evidence suggests it’s so, ‘do nothing’ ] isn’t the best solution.”

  6. Brandon,

    lucia, my understanding of your position is we cannot say, “Curry said” if the the quotation marks following include anything within brackets.

    Ordinarily, I try not to be to anal about these things. But your entire point complaining this is not a manufactured quote appears to be some attempt on your part to be anal in application of whatever it is you think a “manufactured quote” might be.

    1) Taken literally, se didn’t say that. So: if one is being anal: no. She did not say that.
    2) I would let ordinarily the claim ‘she said’ that slide if the close paragraph conveyed what what she meant.

    But in this case, she did not mean to communicate what is communicated [after john cook inserts words]. It’s perfectly possible to include words [inside brackets] that would have conveyed what she meant but John Cook’s version did not do so. His version distorts the meaning by replacing “that” with something that does not match what Judy meant.

    In my view: When claiming “she said that” at a minimum, one is required to either :
    1) literally report what she said or
    2) faithfully communicate what she meant while using very close paraphrasing.

    John Cook did not do either.

  7. lucia, your new version is wrong. The phrase “doing nothing” was half a dozen words before “that,” and it was in the same sentence. The remark about evaluation of evidence was more than twice as far away, in a separate sentence. When determining a pronoun’s antecedent, the most recent reference gets priority. You certainly give priority to the reference within the same sentence as the pronoun over a reference in a previous sentence.

    That your version is wrong is easily seen by looking at the alternate version I posted in this blog post. As I pointed out, John Cook could have conveyed the exact same meaning without replacing any words by saying:

    In reference to the idea of doing nothing, Curry said, “I can’t say myself that that isn’t the best solution.”

    It has the exact same meaning, and all it does is move the phrase “doing nothing” from within brackets to prior to the quotation marks.

    That shows the issue of evaluating evidence is not part of the quote John Cook was discussing. It was part of the context for that quote.

  8. “Ordinarily, I try not to be to anal about these things. But your entire point complaining this is not a manufactured quote appears to be some attempt on your part to be anal in application of whatever it is you think a “manufactured quote” might be.”

    That’s correct. This is Brandon’s attempt at fairness.

  9. lucia, I have to ask: What are you smoking?

    It’s difficult to take your complaint about which that to replace when you think one of them is extraneous.

    The fact one “that” was extraneous is the entire reason we know which “that” to replace. You don’t replace a word which has no meaning with an antecedent as having an antecedent requires having a meaning.

  10. lucia, let’s suppose using brackets in what one calls a quotation is wrong. You say:

    Ordinarily, I try not to be to anal about these things. But your entire point complaining this is not a manufactured quote appears to be some attempt on your part to be anal in application of whatever it is you think a “manufactured quote” might be.

    If you would normally allow something like this to go by without comment, why should we single out this one example? Why should we say this quote is “manufactured” but not say the same for the dozen other examples I could find from the last 72 hours?

    It’s not like Niggurath made some passing, off-hand remark about this. He criticized Skeptical Science for it, suggesting this was somehow remarkable. If he can do that in this case, why can’t I do that whenever I feel like it? What’s the difference?

    Or is there none? Can I go on Twitter and start criticizing person after person, saying they, “Manufactured that quote” because they used brackets in it? I don’t think so. In fact, I’d wager if I did that to you or Niggurath last week, you’d have scoffed at me.

  11. Shub Niggurath:

    That’s correct. This is Brandon’s attempt at fairness.

    This is my attempt at fairness. By the standard you two use to claim this quote was manufactured, I’ve manufactured at least half a dozen quotes on this blog. If you can paint Skeptical Science as bad for doing this, they can paint me as bad for tons of things I’ve written. Heck, they can probably do the same for you. I bet you don’t use brackets as strictly as lucia’s standard requires.

    To put it simply, you don’t get to paint someone as bad by saying they “manufactured a quote” because they replaced a pronoun with an antecedent. If you want to say John Cook misrepresented Judith Curry, more power to you. You’ll find me in agreement. But if you abuse grammar in what is, to put it charitably, opportunistic semantic nitpicking designed to trump up charges, I’ll call you out on it every time.

  12. The phrase “doing nothing” was half a dozen words before “that,” and it was in the same sentence

    So what? Antecedents can be discontinuous and need not be in the same sentence.

    The remark about evaluation of evidence was more than twice as far away, in a separate sentence

    So what? Antecedents are allows to be disjoint. Judy Curry is also not required to carefully diagram her sentences before answering an interviewers question to ensure that the antecedent is as close as possible as one can possibly make it.

    When determining a pronoun’s antecedent, the most recent reference gets priority. You certainly give priority to the reference within the same sentence as the pronoun over a reference in a previous sentence.

    This means that a copy editor might have suggested Judy rewrite. But in real life, any rearrangement that changes the meaning is not a “quote”.

    That your version is wrong is easily seen by looking at the alternate version I posted in this blog post

    Do you mean this “In reference to the idea of doing nothing, Curry said, “I can’t say myself that that isn’t the best solution.””
    Because if your claim is that sentence captures what Judy says, you are simply mistaken. That paraphrase would be misleading. (But at least it’s a paraphrase, so everyone would know the first bit is the writers interpretation of of something– while only the 2nd part is a quote.) A more correct rendition of what Curry wrote is:

    “In reference to the idea that one has to accept the idea of doing whatever objective evaluation of the evidence dictates even if that’s doing nothing, Curry said “I can’t say myself that that isn’t the best solution.”)

  13. A quote is ‘manufactured’ if it is changed from the original (not an absolute bad, by itself) AND conveys a different meaning.

    Cook’s quote does it.

    You can ‘call’ whatever you want.

  14. By the standard you two use to claim this quote was manufactured, I’ve manufactured at least half a dozen quotes on this blog. If you can paint Skeptical Science as bad for doing this, they can paint me as bad for tons of things I’ve written.

    I don’t know which of your quotes you think I would diagnose as “manufactured” by your standard.

    When you used brackets [to insert or change words], did you also change the meaning [of the sentence]? Or, failing that: did you force one particular interpretation where another might have been intended?

    If you did these things you quote could be said to be “manufactured”. One might argue either way. But you can’t flat out say it’s not manufactured if both of the following apply (a) you report it’s what ‘they said’ and (b) the new quote does or may not convey what they actually meant.

    Obviously, you can call a literal quote a quote. And it’s ok to call a close paraphrasing a quote if that paraphrasing obviously captures the intended meaning. But you can’t call it a “quote” unless it falls under one umbrella or the other!

  15. Brandon

    they replaced a pronoun with an antecedent

    To be clear: my point is they replaced a pronoun with the wrong antecedent. You may disagree with me, but leaving out my point: that it is the wrong antecedent is misrepresenting what I claim.

    But if you abuse grammar in what is, to put it charitably, opportunistic semantic nitpicking designed to trump up charges, I’ll call you out on it every time.

    I’m not abusing grammar. You are both suggesting silly rules (like whole sentences or phrases can’t be antecedents and/or that antecedents can’t be disjoing) and trying to evaluate intended meaning in a spoken interview as if it’s a text that has been edited by a careful copy-editor who recast it all following some style manual.

    If you would normally allow something like this to go by without comment, why should we single out this one example? Why should we say this quote is “manufactured” but not say the same for the dozen other examples I could find from the last 72 hours?

    Not my blog so I can’t complain about the rhetorical questions. But I’m not sure what your point is meant to be.

    I didn’t start this. Others on twitter noted this was manufactured. Then you jumped in to insist it is wrong, wrong, wrong to say it is manufactured and giving convoluted theories why it can’t be called that. I’m telling you that — strictly speaking– it fits the definition of “manufactured quote”.

    Did I go on and on about that when I first saw the quote? No. Was I going to make a big deal of it? No. So your question about “Why…”? Dunno. Possibly, on twitter, the thought it was manufactured– according to rules that many consider to mean “manufactured”, they spent 30 seconds crafting a tweet.. They get to do that. No “big” motive is required.

    But you are jumping over people who express idea that it is manufactured– and it technically, they are correct– at least by what I take to mean “manufactured”. And it seems lots of people’s definition agrees with my definition– and not yours.

    As for rhetorical questions: If people want to observe that this particular one is manufactured– which it is– and post a short tweet- why are you jumping all over them?

    opportunistic semantic nitpicking designed to trump up charges, I’ll call you out on it every time.

    Wow! You’re the one who started jumping over people at twitter with what can only be called semantic nitpicking by decreeing that they cannot call this a “manufactured quote”. But worse: your definition of “manufactured quote” seems to differ from everyone else’s definition. You should not be surprised that people call you on it!

  16. Lucia, this is a simple matter. But Brandon will refuse to see through since he’s already made a stand.

    He’s gotten into his head that I’m out to get Cook (‘paint him bad’).

    On the other hand, what I see, is Cook’s likes simple contrasty stories in his quest for climate communication’ and he dearly loves ‘Myth vs reality’, ‘before vs after’, 2007 vs 2013 and other similar hackneyed devices. He’s not anything if not a man in search of a narrative. Any hook – he’ll use.

    In his hurried rush, he picks parts, bits and pieces of what skeptics have to say and comes up with these story lines. The present one is about Curry and ‘risk-management’. The problem is, skeptical and/or lukewarmer experts are not idiots, nor do they make completely unqualified statements that would serve the purpose of Cook’s simplistic story-telling, that often if at all. Which is why this problem recurs with Cook. Not because he’s fundamentally dishonest, as Brandon insists I am implying with the use of the word ‘manufactured’.

  17. Are you certain you have the meaning right?

    “All we can do is be as objective as we can about the evidence and help the politicians evaluate proposed solutions,” she says. If that means doing nothing, “I can’t say myself that that isn’t the best solution.”

    This is contrary to “We can be non-objective about the evidence and push the politicians towards good solutions.’ This prevents doing nothing. ‘I should say myself that that isn’t the best solution.'”

  18. This is what I wrote about Cook in 2011:

    “Ordinarily, I try not to be to anal about these things. But your entire point complaining this is not a manufactured quote appears to be some attempt on your part to be anal in application of whatever it is you think a “manufactured quote” might be.”

    This, in 2012:

    In other words, Skepticalscience.com creates an impression that ‘skeptic arguments’ are grossly wrong and simplistic, uses a manipulated quote from Michaels’ article to exemplify such a position, and then proceeds to provide a rebuttal which consists exactly of the same facts laid by him in the first place.

    This, in 2013:

    Cook gets rid of key phrases, adds new words and an exclamation point to the CDC’s careful language. An optimistic statement about probabilities has been mutated into a false categorical declaration about absolute risk from a vaccine. […]
    Consider what Cook does on his website. He takes a purported ‘myth’ which is usually a caricatural simplification of an original question and start off confidently pretending that there is a clear-cut refutation. The refutation is constituted by an answer that is often over-simplified to the point of falseness. When all messy questions that arise from reality are ‘myths’, all answers are simple.

    In 2014:

    Doctored quotes? Guess where my first reaction was to look. Sure enough, this is what one finds on Skepticalscience:

    The underlying impulse in all the above episodes, in which I’ve criticized Cook, is not ‘dishonesty’, but an urge for simplification. If I wan’t to call Cook dishonest, I’ll him that.

  19. The first quote is wrong. This is what I wrote in 2011:

    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.

  20. The term is Dowdification.
    “Al Qaeda is on the run. That group of terrorists who attacked our country is slowly, but surely being decimated. Right now, about half of all the top al Qaeda operatives are either jailed or dead. In either case, they’re not a problem anymore. ”

    Dowd wrote:
    ”Al Qaeda is on the run,” President Bush said last week. ”That group of terrorists who attacked our country is slowly but surely being decimated … They’re not a problem anymore.”

  21. I’m thinking I may just leave you two to this argument. I had to step out to take care of an unexpected family problem, but quite frankly, I don’t think input from me is necessary. You guys are doing a great job of sabotaging your own case. lucia, you said:

    So what? Antecedents can be discontinuous and need not be in the same sentence.

    So what? Antecedents are allows to be disjoint. Judy Curry is also not required to carefully diagram her sentences before answering an interviewers question to ensure that the antecedent is as close as possible as one can possibly make it.

    Both of these questions were answered in the very paragraph you responded to. I said two things, then I explained why those two things mean you’re wrong about what the antecedent is. You responded to each statement saying, “So what?” You then responded to the explanation I provided, which answers your question (“So what?”) by saying:

    This means that a copy editor might have suggested Judy rewrite. But in real life, any rearrangement that changes the meaning is not a “quote”.

    This flagrantly ignores the explanation I gave. Not only did you ignore the explanation I provided, you did so while asking for it. What kind of response do you expect to get? And what kind of response do you expect to get when the argument in your comment is:

    Because if your claim is that sentence captures what Judy says, you are simply mistaken.

    You don't actually do anything to show I'd be mistaken. You just assert it. I provided a demonstration showing how we can tell I'm not mistaken, and rather than argue the logic of it, you just dismissed what I said out of hand.

    The worst part is you then distort Judith Curry's quote while claiming to give a better version:

    “In reference to the idea that one has to accept the idea of doing whatever objective evaluation of the evidence dictates even if that’s doing nothing, Curry said “I can’t say myself that that isn’t the best solution.”)

    That depiction is not remotely accurate (even ignoring the misused quotation mark and parenthesis), a point anyone reading this should immediately see. You just painted Curry’s “best solution” as referring to “the idea of doing whatever objective evaluation of the evidence dictates.” That’s obviously not true.

    I don’t know what role I’m supposed to play if you’re going to just flagrantly ignore things I say, pretend I don’t say them then blatantly misrepresent what you claim was misrepresented. Am I supposed to just stand here and be the straight man?

  22. Continuing on, lucia you made things up about what I’ve said, multiple times. You say:

    To be clear: my point is they replaced a pronoun with the wrong antecedent. You may disagree with me, but leaving out my point: that it is the wrong antecedent is misrepresenting what I claim.

    You say I misrepresent your claim, but the quote you offer was a response to Shub Niggurath. His position is not necessarily yours. In fact, I gave the representation of his position I gave because of certain things he said which you have not said.

    That means you accuse me of misrepresenting your position in a comment which didn’t say a word about your position. You continue on with this by saying:

    You are both suggesting silly rules (like whole sentences or phrases can’t be antecedents and/or that antecedents can’t be disjoing)

    Which is a not true. You claimed to be replacing the word “that” with its antecedent. I said your claim was wrong, arguing the actual “antecedent is not an entire sentence.” That’s specifically referring to one antecedent. It does not say anything about antecedents in general.

    That means you’re painting me a buffoon by making things up about what I’ve said. Many times. For another example:

    Not my blog so I can’t complain about the rhetorical questions. But I’m not sure what your point is meant to be.

    I didn’t ask a single rhetorical question. I asked simple, straightforward questions. You say you don’t know what the point of my questions is, but that’s hardly surprising given you’ve apparently jumped to conclusions about what the questions were.

    .

    To put this bluntly, you’ve misrepresented things many times on this page. It’s to the point you’ve flat-out made things up about what I said. You did the same with grammatical points, completely making things up about a word. And when I pointed that out, rather than acknowledge your obvious mistake, you just mocked me for pointing it out.

    I don’t get any of this. All I know is it is hilarious someone claiming John Cook manufactured a quote would misrepresent the things she responds to in such obvious ways.

  23. Shub Niggurath, if word count measured significance, this response to you would not do you justice. For as much as I just said to lucia, your latest comment is far, far more entertaining.

    I’m not going to focus on your derogatory comment about me. I’m not going to focus on your faulty conclusions which make it appear you believe you can read my mind. There’s no point. It’d just distract us from the hilarity of your comment:

    He’s gotten into his head that I’m out to get Cook (‘paint him bad’).

    That quote is a fabrication! You just flat-out manufactured a quote.

    I don’t have the words for how hilarious that is. All I can say is if you can’t tell what words I actually say, I’m pretty sure you can’t be trusted to tell what thoughts I think.

  24. John Cook replaced a pronoun with the word (well, phrase) it referred to.

    I agree John Cook hadn’t done anything beyond the bounds of reason here (for once) with a quote based on what he can reasonably say was reported to him.

    I.e. Cook has no need in looking any further than the reported material. He has enough there to create his caricature.

    The reported material is a “proxy” for something that happened once – and – as we all know in climate, this can never, ever, be really known in fact..

    Oh! what’s that?

    Seems there is some source information that can be referenced here! Whodda thunk?

    Regarding ‘doing nothing’:

    HARRIS: Of course, doing nothing to address climate change is actually doing a lot. Carbon dioxide levels are growing fast in the atmosphere, and destined to double or triple over pre-industrial levels. Curry acknowledges that.

    CURRY: I don’t know how concerned I should be about it – on what time scale that might happen, whether it’s 100 or 200 years; what societies will be like; what other things are going on with the natural climate. I mean, I just don’t know what the next hundred or 200 years hold, and whether this will be regarded as an important issue at that time. I just don’t know.

    Regarding the ‘caricature’ quote:

    CURRY: All’s we can do is be as objective as we can about the evidence, and help the politicians evaluate proposed solutions. Um –

    HARRIS: But their solutions seem to be, don’t do anything. I mean, it’s…

    CURRY: Well, that may be – I don’t know. I can’t say myself that that isn’t the best solution.

    Transcript

    http://wypr.org/post/uncertain-science-judith-currys-take-climate-change

    Audio

    http://www.npr.org/2013/08/22/213894792/uncertain-science-judith-currys-take-on-climate-change

  25. If I want to quote someone, I’ll use hard qoutes, i.e., double quotes. You wrote:”you don’t get to paint someone as bad …”

    You did mean to say I’ was trying to paint Cook as bad, right?

  26. Brandon
    On misrepresenting: Sorry, I thought you had transitioned to addressing me, that was my mistake.

    On this: You say these aren’t rhetorical

    If you would normally allow something like this to go by without comment, why should we single out this one example? Why should we say this quote is “manufactured” but not say the same for the dozen other examples I could find from the last 72 hours?

    Really? Really?! They are just simple straightforward questions? I don’t know how you think anyone would imagine these are anything but rhetorical.

    This flagrantly ignores the explanation I gave. Not only did you ignore the explanation I provided, you did so while asking for it.

    Nonesense. I did not ignore what you wrote. I addressed it. You wrote this
    lucia, your new version is wrong. The phrase “doing nothing” was half a dozen words before “that,” and it was in the same sentence. The remark about evaluation of evidence was more than twice as far away, in a separate sentence. When determining a pronoun’s antecedent, the most recent reference gets priority. You certainly give priority to the reference within the same sentence as the pronoun over a reference in a previous sentence. And i address your “explanations”. You are merely making up rules. But as this seems to escape you, I’ll put it in a bullet list.

    1) There is no rule that says the antecedent has to be very, very close.
    2) There is no rule that the antecedent has to be in a previous sentence. And
    3) although a copy-editor would advise keeping an antecedent and it’s replacement close to each other, there is no rule that says one must do that, nor is there any rule that someone speaking will do that.

    The thing you think “ignores” what you said is making point #3 which addresses the bit I highlighted.

    And if you would like me to be specific: One is not required to give precedence to a noun in the same sentences as to an entire phrase in the previous sentences. This is simply not a rule. Replacements exists precisely to let people replace longer, more complicated ideas already referred to and they are not required to keep repeating the long sentence long idea over and over and over nor to make absolultely certain no nouns fall between the entirely idea (for which there is no specific word) and the replacement (i.e. the word ‘that’.)

    I did not flagrantly ignore your point. I addressed your points.

    To summarize:
    You are making up fake rules (1,2) and trying to apply a sometimes used copy-editing guideline to decree the antecedent is the one used in informal non-copy-edited speech. It’s ridiculous.

    And when I pointed that out, rather than acknowledge your obvious mistake, you just mocked me for pointing it out.

    What obvious mistake? Replacing a one of the extraneous that’s? It doesn’t make any difference. We can show your antecedent is wrong by replacing the other one just as easily.

    As for “mocking” you, I wasn’t mocking you. I was replying to your combined “It’s difficult to take one claim about grammatical usages seriously when you get the next one so remarkably wrong.” combined with “The word “that” in the sentence was extraneous and a case of poor speaking. “. If your view is one of the ‘that’s’ is extraneous, it shouldn’t matter which one replaces. I don’t know why you think my saying it’s difficult to take your complaint about which “that” is replaced seriously when you go on to say one is extraneous is “mocking”. What I mean it literally: I find it difficult to take your complaint seriously owing to this fact.

    In any case: My substitution works if I replace the first or the second and even if I eliminate one. And my replacement retains the meaning of the fuller quote. And while you may think your “rules” about how to identify the true antecedent are real, they aren’t. But if you want to defend they are real, do so. You’ll find you can’t. Because they aren’t real rules.

  27. Let me repeat: A quote is ‘manufactured’ if it is changed from the original AND conveys a different meaning.

    I am fairly liberal with quotes. But not when the quotation changes the meaning, and, not when you enclose it in double-quotes and hold it up as a stand-alone.

    The gap between Cook and Nuccitelli position and Curry’s position is not very different, if Curry’s full quote is considered. The only difference is Curry is open to the possibility that the objective evaluation might lead to a course of no action on global warming. Cook and Nuccitelli may not agree that an objective evaluation leads there, but, if it does, by their own standards (whatever they are), I hope they’ll be ready to take such a course, i.e., not do anything.

    Given that the gap between these two positions is not wide, the only way Cook would be able to draw a cartoon and lampoon Curry’s position is if he were make Curry’s position into something it is not.

    That is exactly what he and Nuccitelli do in their little write-up.

    Do you think there’s any substance to comparing global warming mitigation to fire insurance or driving without a seatbelt on the basis of what Curry wrote? I’m not sure and I don’t think so.

    Just as Cook and Nuccitelli argue that a fat tail may make global warming outcomes worse, they forget, and have always forgotten that there are errors inherent in the entire framing itself. This has been Curry’s point if I’ve understood it. We may ‘mitigate’ like there’s no tomorrow and yet face abrupt climate change. Or, by framing the issue as a fat-tailed one, damage resilience today only to realize there are no benefits tomorrow.

  28. Shub Niggurath, I don’t understand your response. You claim if you “want to quote someone, [you’ll] use hard qoutes, i.e., double quotes.”* I have no idea what sort of rule this would be using. It’s certainly not using any rule I’ve ever heard of.

    What you say is also unquestionably wrong. What you used were hard quotation marks. Hard quotation marks are single quotes. Double quotes are soft quotation marks.

    It mostly comes up in programming. Hard quotation marks mean the enclosed text should be taken literally. Soft quotation marks mean the enclosed text should be parsed. If we apply that standard to grammar, it’d mean we have to be stricter, not looser, with what we enclose within single quotation marks.

    *I fabricated a quote!

  29. It seems the standard people are advancing here for what is a “manufactured quote” is:

    A quote is ‘manufactured’ if it is changed from the original AND conveys a different meaning.

    This seems incredibly strange to me. By this standard, I can change a quote as much as I want and still call it a quotation as long as I don’t change the meaning. Taken to the extreme, I can paraphrase anything, and as long as I do it accurately, I can call my paraphrase a quotation.

    I reject that idea. The standard I hold, which is the one I’ve been taught have seen used for my entire life, is: A quotation is a quotation if it is accurate. Did the person say what they were quoted as saying? If so, it’s a quotation. It doesn’t matter whether or not the quotation is fair or representative of their remarks. It’s still an accurate quotation.

    And as far as things like enclosing words within brackets, everybody knows that means the quotation has been altered. Nobody would think the bracketed words were actually quoted. As such, they cannot change whether or not the quotation is an actual quotation. Whether a quote is real or manufactured does not hinge upon whether or not it was an accurate representation of a person’s views. All it hinges upon is whether or not the person said what they were quoted, not paraphrased, as saying.

    The standard I use is simple and straightforward, and it provides results everyone can agree on regardless of any other disagreements they have. This other standard is unclear, and its results depend upon how people interpret things that were said. That means it won’t be applied consistently. I’d say that makes my standard far better, even if we ignore that it is the one taught in school and used in every professional field in the world.

  30. lucia:

    Really? Really?! They are just simple straightforward questions? I don’t know how you think anyone would imagine these are anything but rhetorical.

    The sentences are direct and neutrally worded. There is no reason to assume they’re rhetorical. They highlight an apparent discrepancy in people’s behavior, but the doesn’t mean they were asked without the intention of receiving an answer.

    Anyway, before continuing this discussion any further, I must point out a moderation policy I’ve stated on my blog is people must address any disputations of factual statements they make. You said:

    You are both suggesting silly rules (like whole sentences or phrases can’t be antecedents and/or that antecedents can’t be disjoing)

    Which as I pointed out, is false. The rule you claim I made up is not anything I’ve ever said. Before we continue any further, I must ask you to either retract or support this claim of yours.

    Similarly, I must also ask you to retract or support your new claim I am “making up fake rules (1,2)”:

    1) There is no rule that says the antecedent has to be very, very close.
    2) There is no rule that the antecedent has to be in a previous sentence.

    I have never said anything like these supposed rules. You are wrong to claim I have advanced them, much less that I made them up.

  31. Brandon,
    I refuse to be your whipping boy for the sake of remonstration of your piety. You’ve already done this to me on an earlier occasion. I think I deserve a better deal than to be jerked around over what ‘manufacturing a quote’ means.

    You may perceive I have a bias against Cook. I am asking you to read carefully, both literally and between the lines and examine why I characterized Cook actions as ‘manufacturing’.

    You say, in the post above, “In reference to the idea of doing nothing, Curry said, “I can’t say myself that that isn’t the best solution.” – would have been better for Cook to say.

    It would still be wrong.

  32. Shub Niggurath, I have no idea what you’re talking about in your first paragraph. In regard to your second, I don’t “perceive [you] have a bias against Cook.” I think you painted John Cook as having manufactured a quote to make him appear bad because you think he behaved poorly. There is nothing about that which assumes bias.

    In regard to your third paragraph, I have no idea why you claim I said that version “would have been better for Cook to say.” I said nothing of the sort. I don’t know where you got this idea of yours, but it isn’t from anything I’ve written. As for the claim it “would still be wrong,” that’s a meaningless comment to make as I explicitly stated that version would have been misleading.

    I find it tedious to have people keep making things up about what I say, especially in a topic which started because you guys claimed a quote was manufactured. You two have managed to claim I’ve said at least five different things I have never said. That’s obscene.

  33. It is not possible to talk to you. I doubt that you are even a human being.

    The sentence

    “In reference to the idea of doing nothing, Curry said, “I can’t say myself that that isn’t the best solution.”

    is offered by you as an cumbersome alternative to what Cook actually wrote, but one which would according to you convey the same meaning. Is this correct? Or do I/we have to litigate this over another half-a-dozen comments?

    Would the quoted passage above convey the same meaning as Cook’s version?

  34. Shub Niggurath, I made it perfectly clear I think the two sentences have the same meaning in this post by saying the two sentences “would have had the exact same meaning.” I don’t get why you feel the need ask me if I think they have the same meaning. I’ve already made it clear I do.

    Similarly, I don’t get why you previously claimed I said it would “have been better for Cook to say” the wordier version. I didn’t. I said the two versions would have had the same meaning. That’s all.

    You say it “is not possible to talk to” me, but the reality is you’re the problem. You’ve just posted two comments which could have been largely resolved just by accurately reading one sentence in this blog post:

    Which would have had the exact same meaning.

    Because that’s the entirety of my position regarding the alternate version I offered.

  35. “I made it perfectly clear I think the two sentences have the same meaning in this post by saying the two sentences “would have had the exact same meaning.””

    Ok, good.

    Here’s where I differ.

    Cook’s quote, and your version of it – have a different meaning than the Curry original.

    Now, if Cook’s quote differs in meaning from the original, and, if the quote is not, literally, the same as what Curry said, it is ‘manufactured’.

    Curry’s saying that doing nothing would not be a bad idea if an objective evaluation of evidence leads her to it.

    Cook’s version? “doing nothing would not be a bad idea”

    I don’t think I can go on anymore. At least, I’m making it clear where I differ with you. I agree with Lucia’s take, which is similar to what I present above.

  36. Shub Niggurath, as I’ve said above, your standard for determining what is a “manufactured” quote is unworkable. It basically lets anyone who disagrees with how a quote is used claim that quote is manufactured if any modification to the quote was made, even if that modification is disclosed and in line with common practices. I think that’s stupid rule you two are making up. You’ve offered no basis for it, and you’ve done nothing to address the problems with it.

    That said, as I’ve told lucia, I have a moderation policy which requires people address any disputations of factual statements they make. I try to get people to do so without making it a matter of moderation, but you guys aren’t making that possible. As such, I want to be clear. You said:

    You say, in the post above, “In reference to the idea of doing nothing, Curry said, “I can’t say myself that that isn’t the best solution.” – would have been better for Cook to say.

    This is a direct, factual statement that is false. You need to either retract it or justify it.

    At this blog, you don’t get to make things up then simply walk away.

  37. “It basically lets anyone who disagrees with how a quote is used claim that quote is manufactured if any modification to the quote was made”:

    I don’t think you even understood why I object to Cook’s modification. From the beginning.

    The Cook version leaves out stuff present in the full quote. The full quote is part of a conversational exchange. The second sentence/part of the exchange is conditional on what was in the first. The second is presented as a stand-alone by Cook.

    You have accepted the above. For you, however, this maneuver is part of a taxonomy of classification of textual reproduction – leaving out the first portion, in your terminology, counts as ‘removal of context’. Putting stuff in square brackets counts as quote modification.

    You think I accept your taxonomy. I don’t.

    This is evident when you say, regarding my first tweet: “…Notice this tweet says nothing about the caveat John Cook ignored.” According to you, I should not have called Cook’s quote ‘manufactured’ because it would focus readers’ attention on the text of the quote, which would then be superficially interpreted as being OK and let Cook off the hook easily.

    I disagree. You failed to realize I link to Russ R’s comment in the same tweet. Russ R’s comment clearly clarifies the leaving out of the caveats. I encapsulate the entire meaning with the use of ‘manufacture’, a word that refers to how Cook wrenched out the second portion of the quote and put it between double-quotes.

    The only reason for taking you claims seriously and following up on them is from respect for what you have/had to say. The stuff you are asking me to ‘retract’ has been repeated between us in the subsequent comments.

    I said “your version X is a better version of Cook’s quote C”
    as in, “you version is another way of putting down Cook’s quote”

    I don’t know why this simple thing should cause you so much heartburn. We already clarified you feel those two things (X and C) are the same. My understanding is: you gave X as an example of what people would think an alternative version of Cook’s quote would look like, had they seen my characterization of it as being manufactured. But, and here’s the real deal, for this to happen, they would have to think exactly like you did, which is your claim to begin with. A claim that I contest.

    Let me just walk away when things are good enough between us.

  38. Shub Niggurath, your defense of your false claim is ludicrous. You say:

    The stuff you are asking me to ‘retract’ has been repeated between us in the subsequent comments.

    I said “your version X is a better version of Cook’s quote C”
    as in, “you version is another way of putting down Cook’s quote”

    First, I want to point our you just fabricated a quote you attribute to yourself. Even by the made up rule you said before, that single quotes don’t indicate a quote, this is a fabrication as you used double quotes and said, “I said.” This shows the point I made before – that your standard allows for fabricating quotes. By the standard you and lucia put forward, that quote is a “quote” even though it is obviously a paraphrase. You’re doing a great job of showing why your position is untenable.

    Second, the interpretation you give of your statement is ludicrous. Your claim was:

    You say, in the post above, “In reference to the idea of doing nothing, Curry said, “I can’t say myself that that isn’t the best solution.” – would have been better for Cook to say.

    There is no possible way to take “would have been better for Cook to say” as merely meaning the version I offered “is another way of putting down Cook’s quote.” The word better means better. It was completely inappropriate to claim me saying something is an alternative meant I said it was better.

    Let me just walk away when things are good enough between us.

    Anyone can walk away at any point. I can’t force anyone to comment further. All I can do is use my moderation system on people who refuse to follow simple rules. And I will. I don’t care who it is. I’d treat you, lucia, John Cook or even Michael Mann the same way when it comes to moderation decisions.

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