In my experience, skeptics as a whole aren’t self-correcting. They are every bit as guilty of willful blindness as anybody else. They just like to claim otherwise. There are a handful of exceptions, but by far and large, their reaction to any criticism depends entirely upon who and what is being criticized.
After a comment like that, I suppose it was inevitable I would start getting censored by skeptics.
Watts wrote a post in which he said a Polifact article was wrong when it said Steven Goddard had made an erroneous criticism of a particular temperature record. Specifically, the Polifact piece claimed to be examining the issue:
“That’s the hottest year on record in the United States,” Doocy said. “At least until NASA scientists fudged the numbers to make 1998 the hottest year to overstate the extent of global warming. The 1930s were by far the hottest decade in the United States.”
A reader wondered if NASA really did cook the books (we love reader suggestions!), so we are checking Doocy’s claim about fudging the numbers.
It referenced this blog post by Goddard and focused on a gif he had made:
The Polifact piece explained why the differences that gif shows exist, and it explains why we shouldn’t consider think there is anything wrong or fraudulent. Anthony Watts addresses that piece by saying:
Besides moving toward a more accurate temperature record, the best thing about all this hoopla over the USHCN data set is the Polifact story where we have all these experts lined up (including me as the token skeptic) that stated without a doubt that Goddard was wrong and rated the claim “pants of fire”.
They’ll all be eating some crow, as will I, but now that I have Gavin for dinner company, I don’t really mind at all.
Which clearly indicates he thinks the piece is wrong. I found this difficult to understand as his reason seemed to make no sense. Watts says Goddard was right because:
Goddard initially claimed 40% of the STATIONS were missing, which I said right away was not possible. It raised my hackles, and prompted my “you need to do better” statement. Then he switched the text in his post from stations to data… this time Steve Goddard was right
If 40% of the data is missing, that’s obviously an issue worth discussing. If Goddard correctly pointed out 40% of the data is missing, he deserves credit for that. That doesn’t have anything to do with his gif though. His gif wasn’t about missing data. Data can be missing without causing changes like those visible in that gif. In other words, the issue of missing data had (as far as I could tell) nothing to do with what the Polifact story said.
I tried pointing this out multiple times, and the responses rang false. For example, Watts said:
Goddard initially said that in comparing the USHCN raw versus the final data set, that 40% of the STATIONS were missing, and that is clearly wrong…
The Polifact story used my quote related to my objections to Goddards initial claim, it also linked back to Zeke’s post about Goddard’s initial claim.
Only, if you look the post by Zeke Hausfaster linked to by the Polifact article, it doesn’t say anything about the claim “40% of the STATIONS were missing.” The entire post is about a bad methodology Steven Goddard has used to create temperature records.
Anthony Watts responded to that post, and the Polifact piece quoted him. Naturally, they took his comment as responding to the topic of that post, not the idea “40% of the STATIONS were missing.” In fact, Watts clearly distinguished the idea of the post from the idea “40% of the STATIONS were missing” by saying:
I took Goddard to task over this as well in a private email, saying he was very wrong and needed to do better. I also pointed out to him that his initial claim was wronger than wrong,
He clearly distinguished between Goddard’s “initial claim” and the topic of the post.
The Polifact piece is not about what Anthony Watts claimed it was about. It wasn’t about anything discussed in Watts’s post. Nothing about Watts’s post supports the idea anyone needs to “eat crow” for that Polifact story. This is a simple, but important matter. You shouldn’t say a bunch of people are wrong if they aren’t. Only, Watts doesn’t think it is important. He told me:
Your points have no value to me, right or wrong
He said a bunch of people were wrong. I said they weren’t. He said there’s “no value” in my point, even if it is right. That is, he claims it doesn’t matter if he falsely accused a bunch of people of being wrong. And it gets worse. He went on to say:
For the purpose of getting you to stop being pedantic and cluttering up this thread with an issue I don’t consider important, I’ll just say I’m wrong. But nothing is going to change in the article above. This will be the last comment on the subject.
He “admitted” to being wrong in his post which said a bunch of people were wrong, but he refused to change the post to acknowledge they weren’t wrong. And with that, he told me I would be censored from then on in. I thought perhaps he didn’t mean what he said. I thought perhaps he meant that would be his last comment, not the last comment. To check, I tried submitting another comment. It got deleted with the note:
[snip – Brandon, I’m sorry but as stated above I’m not discussing this anymore. We’ll simply have to agree to disagree – Anthony]
Showing he meant it when he announced the censorship. He could have just walked away from the exchange. That would have ended the exchange just as effectively. All of my comments were made in direct response to him. If there was nothing more for me to respond to, I’d stop responding. The only difference is I would have had the last word. That means I was censored just so he could get the last word, so he could make the final, petty remark you saw just above.
He denies this. On Twitter, he claims I wasn’t censored. He says:
But this tweet is clearly wrong. He did not tell me “that would be [his] last comment on the issue.” He said it would be the last comment. Had things been as he claims, there would have been no problem. I’d have made one more comment, and when I got no response, I would have stopped commenting on the issue.
Another issue is the comment he deleted did not demand a response. I pointed these two issues out, and he complained about it:
It’s obviously not a bad thing that I responded to point out he mispresented why I had a comment deleted. I pointed this out, saying of course I’d respond to correct false claims. He misunderstood this, saying:
The false claims I referred to were clearly the ones he said on Twitter about why he deleted my comment. I don’t know why he thought I was referencing the exchanges on his blog. Regardless, it’s fascinating to see he misrepresented the wrong topic as well. According to him, everything I said was because I think he shouldn’t cite an article. I never said anything of the sort. I said he misrepresented the Polifact piece. That’s not complaining about him citing it.
Saying a person shouldn’t misrepresent in a piece in no way says they shouldn’t cite it. I pointed out I didn’t say what he claimed, and he responded:
Of course, he didn’t provide a quote or link or anything to support his claim my problem was with him citing the Polifact article. I made a comment to this effect, and soon after silence followed.
The Polifact piece did not say what Watts claims it said. The post by Zeke did not say what Watts claims it said. My comments didn’t say what Watts claims they said. Watts’s comments didn’t say what Watts claims they said. And in all this, I’m the “bad guy” because I refused to “agree to disagree.” As I told Watts:
Anthony, if by “agree to disagree,” you mean I say you’re misrepresenting the Polifact piece and Zeke’s post, and you simply hand-wave me away, sure. I laid out what those pieces were about, with quotes to back it up. If I’m wrong, it should be easy to show.
I don’t know why a simple point of what topics were covered in sources should require us “agree to disagree.” Even people who violently disagree should be able to agree what topics a source covers.
I don’t understand why Anthony refused to offer any quotes to support anything he said. I don’t understand why he ignored the quotes I offered to support what I said. I certainly don’t understand why he feels it is appropriate to censor a critic to ensure he gets the final word in a disagreement. I think that’s all… very strange.
In any event, here is the comment Watts claims I demanded a response in. I challenge anyone to: A) Find anything resembling a demand in it; B) Explain what legitimate purpose is served by deleting it instead of just allowing it and not responding.