I’ve previously established John Cook, proprietor of the Skeptical Science website and lead author of multiple scientific papers promoting the consensus on global warming, is a liar. I’ve demonstrated dishonesty on his part multiple times, including when I showed his scientific publications are built entirely upon an intentional campaign of deception.
Today I’d like to revisit one the more baffling examples, Cook’s tendency to fabricate quotes. About a year ago, I wrote a post pointing out Cook had published an article which used a fabricated quote, seen here:
The post was republished at a blog with far more traffic (Watts Up With That?), with many people having read it. As I found out later, the people who read my post included a number of Cook’s colleagues at his website, Skeptical Science.
Despite this, Cook reused the same figure in a later post. When I found this out, I called him a “filthy liar” and noted:
The quote “reposition fact as theory” is a strange bastardization of the widely reported quote which said “reposition global warming as theory (not fact).” The two are dramatically different. If one does not believe global warming is a fact, repositioning it as a theory is perfectly reasonable. However, repositioning something one accepts as fact as merely a theory is not reasonable. It’s dishonest.
The difference in the versions of the quotes is obvious. The real quote advised people to argue global warming isn’t fact, something they probably believed. The fabricated quote advises people to lie by arguing global warming isn’t a fact even though they secretly acknowledge it is.
The error is obvious, but for some reason, neither Cook nor his colleagues cared to correct it. They didn’t even defend it as a paraphrase or anything else. They just kept quiet. At least, they kept quiet in public. They secretly discussed the issue in the forum Cook runs (as can be seen in results of an investigation I describe here).
That shows John Cook and his colleagues at Skeptical Science know they’ve been using a fabricated quote. They’ve known they’ve been using a fabricated quote for going on a year now, but they apparently don’t care. That same image is currently on their web site, being used in several posts (e.g. here and here). That means Skeptical Science has been knowingly lying to its readers on this issue for going on a year now.
But that’s all old news. Today we have something new. Today we have proof John Cook knows about this error. That proof comes in the form of him correcting it. This is a figure included a paper he recently published:
This figure is nearly identical to the previous one. A few items were changed to add detail or information, but the only important change is Cook changed the fabricated quote “reposition fact as theory” to the real quote “reposition global warming as theory (not fact).” That proves John Cook is fully aware the quote he is using on his website is fabricated but simply chooses not to fix it.
I believe the correct description for such a person is “liar.”
On a related note, John Cook’s tendency to use made up quotes seems to have been a constant problem for Skeptical Science. At one point, people in their forum had to go through over a hundred web pages to check quotes he posted because so many of his “quotes” weren’t real. One of them, Tom Curtis, even said:
Given the number of quotes involved, the best thing may be a short blog from you explaining the exact reasons for the misquotation, ie, intended to fairly represent the quoted person, did not follow proper conventions because you where not aware of them.
Ironically, Curtis also said:
John does not have a humanities background, and he made the mistake early in his attempts to build the site so I have no doubt that the mistake was inadvertent. But we cannot just ignore it and hope it goes away.
I don’t know why someone would need a humanities background to understand how to accurately quote people, but it is funny to see Curtis say they can’t “just ignore it and hope it goes away” given that’s apparently exactly what they’ve been doing with the fabricated quote I found.