Friday, March 25, 2016

Creationist and anti-vaxxer Galileos - step this way

Sou | 6:20 AM Go to the first of 9 comments. Add a comment
Pinocchio by André Koehne
A couple of lawyers seem to be wanting to make a name for themselves as defenders of anti-science defamers (archived here). David B. Rivkin Jr. and Andrew M. Grossman have written an article at the Wall Street Journal about how they or their current or future clients (presumably) want to press their right to falsely defame climate scientists. Why do I say this? Because right in the middle of the article is written:
The Climate Inquisition began with Michael Mann’s 2012 lawsuit against critics of his “hockey stick” research—a holy text to climate alarmists. The suggestion that Prof. Mann’s famous diagram showing rapid recent warming was an artifact of his statistical methods, rather than an accurate representation of historical reality, was too much for the Penn State climatologist and his acolytes to bear.
That is a complete fabrication of the situation. Dr Mann's case isn't about critics of his research. It's about defamation. This pair of scallywag lawyers seem to want to join the queue waiting to be sued. Since they are lawyers, they must know that the case is about the ugly and false allegations of fraud by the people Professor Mann is suing.

So the only conclusion that can be drawn is that climate science disinformers, or this couple of unsavoury lawyers, are willing to lie and call it "free speech", and support defamation. They are promoting what they euphemistically call a "free speech project" and the way they've written the article, the first case could be against themselves.

The lawyers David B. Rivkin Jr. and Andrew M. Grossman talk about an anonymous website called https://www.freespeechinscience.org/. (They could have called it "the scientist defamation fund".) The website seems pointless. It has no name associated with it (reminding one of Anthony Watts' very long delay in letting people know it was he who was behind his secretive closed Open Atmospheric Society). The Free Speech website has no apparent purpose. It is not asking anyone for money. It has no names, no address, no phone number, and a lone email address starting with the anonymous "contact". Other than that there is nothing but a few words, some rotating graphics, and a clip from the Wall Street Journal article. A search of the domain name registrant shows that it was set up anonymously. So for "free speech" advocates the people behind the website sure are secretive.

The only other entity named in the parts of the article at WUWT which could be associated is the denier lobby group the Competitive Enterprise Institute. However, there's no indication that organisation hired the legal duo to write the article or set up the website.

The article also mentions Senator Whitehouse and the potential for a RICO investigation. I must say that if this is an attempted push back on behalf of Exxon or others in the fossil fuel business who might or might not have funded disinformation programs, then I'm not sure those organisations would be very much in favour of what is being done. I'd think they'd want to dissociate themselves from any such activity right now. (I'd have thought their best defense would be to admit to funding some anti-science organisations in the past but to say they stopped doing that some time ago.)

On the other hand, what this legal pair may find are hundreds of creationists and anti-vaxxers beating a path to their door. Let's hope so :) (h/t TB)

You can read parts of the article at WUWT (archived here). It's complete nonsense from start to finish. It starts out pretending that climate conspiracy theorists are 21st century Galileos and goes downhill from there. The authors are making out there is some effort to stop scientists from reporting their findings. No-one is doing that except maybe the Murdoch media, which has a preference for anti-science ahead of science. The effort being made by honest people is to stop disinformation campaigns from misleading the public.

Anthony Watts wrote at the bottom:
Note that the  Free Speech in Science Project is the antidote to this sort of Mannian nonsense: http://climatesciencedefensefund.org/

He's wrong. The Climate Science Defense Fund is clear about who is running it, what the fund is used for. It has an address and a phone number.  It is set up to help scientists defend themselves against people who defame them and similar cases. The Free Speech in Science Project has no information about who is behind it, who is running it and it has no address or phone number and a single anonymous email address. It's all a dark secret. Going by the Wall St Journal article, it is set up to support the people who defame scientists and who promote disinformation.

From the WUWT comments

Most of the comments were arguing about Galileo and the Catholic Church. Not too many people seemed particularly interested in a couple of lawyers looking for free speech gigs. Janice Moore complained about the image Anthony posted. GTL asked about funding skeptical research - as if scientific research doesn't get funding already:
March 24, 2016 at 9:39 am
Read this in the WSJ this morning and applaud the concept of a defense fund for free speech in climate science. It is simply absurd that this is necessary, but the need for a way for skeptics to pool resources has been lacking for too long. What about an outlet to fund skeptical research?

george e. smith hit the nail on the head:
March 24, 2016 at 9:55 am
Why feed the lawyers ??


  1. That WUWT post is rightly in the category misinformation.

    People who are not scientists may mistakenly take this stupid claim seriously: "Mr. Mann’s lawsuit divided climate scientists—many of whom recognized that it threatened vital scientific debate".

    No scientist fears this. You do not get sued for presenting evidence in a scientific article. For something to be libel you have to say something you know to be wrong. By definition this would not be a scientific debate.

  2. "For something to be libel you have to say something you know to be wrong."

    VV: that's not quite strong enough. "reckless disregard of the truth" can be enough. Some people are absolutely sure of wrong things.

    1. Okay, but also does not sounds like a scientific dispute. ;-) No scientist fears this lawsuit.

    2. Yes, indeed, it's no scientific dispute ...
      but it really important that sincere belief in something wrong is not a shield against a legitimate libel claim, if "reckless disregard for the truth" can be shown ... and this is relevant to the Mann libel cases.

      Of course, this whole Rivkin/Grosasman thing is bogus, like many other things in the WSJ's Opinion sections.

  3. if you clivk on the Facebook logo at the website, it links to Rivkin's Facebook page. Rivkin works for BakerHostetler. BakerHostetler BakerHostetler was ranked among the top 10 U.S. law firms for merger and acquisition deals in the oil, gas and oilfield service industries.

    1. gee so the roots are funded by dirty oilmen... How VERY *surprising*

    2. I think this is more likely to be Rivkin trying to suck-up to the oil industry. Like Sou, I doubt they'd want the help of an acquisitions lawyer in libel cases or, for that matter, criminal or divorce proceedings.

  4. Another conduit for fossil fuel industry money to be dispersed by. But it is nice to see the organisers of climate change denial getting so concerned about what, if there is any justice, should be coming their way (a Climate Nuremberg) that this one is intended to cover their legal costs.

  5. Well, Rivkin and Grossman invoke the memory of Galileo Galilei---ergo they are nutters. It's an almost perfect test similar to seeing the word quantum in an alternative (i.e. quack) medical claim. I may be misreading them but it would appear that what they want to defend is the “right” of large corporations such as Exxon to lie to their shareholders.

    Still a number of writers actually seem to know something about the Galileo story and some even seem to get most of it right. I'm impressed.

    On the other hand some are not quite as accurate.


    The Copernican theory had wide acceptance at the time among scientists due to the development of the telescope, but was not openly admitted due to fears of being accused of heresy.

    No the Copernican theory was one of several competing theories and the existing observations at the time of Copernicus and the time of Galileo were not accurate enough to decide the issue on the side of Copernicus. A good case could be made for Copernicus but an apparently equally good case could be made for a earth-centric theory. And of course, Galileo had, among other problems, the tiresome detail that his actual theory did not work.


    Copernicus lived in Poland hundreds of years earlier.

    Nicolaus Copernicus

    Galileo Galilei

    GLT's time sense seems a bit off and whether Copernicus lived in Poland is open to argument though I don't think that there is any dispute that where he lived was subject to the Polish crown.


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