The upcoming Mann vs Steyn trial of the century took to the airwaves yesterday.
In the morning, I joined notorious denier and my old Speccie/Telegraph colleague James Delingpole on his Radio Free Delingpole show. "I'm so excited," sang James, "and I just can't hide it." I'm not sure we quite live up to E J Hill's white-knuckle thrill-ride poster, but we did kick the Mann case around mainly for laughs.
The BBC, meanwhile, put together a "debate" on the "issues" raised by the case. You can hear the show here - the main segment starts about 29-and-a-half minutes in, but there's a couple of soundbites at the top of the show and about 14 minutes in. The host's framing of the topic - should there be limits to what one is permitted to say about "climate change"? - sounds slightly nutty to those of on the free-speech side of this thing. But it's a useful reminder that, increasingly and in many of the most respectable institutions in the western world, there is no deference to freedom of expression. Oh, sure, it's somewhere in the mix, but, as a priority, it's subordinate to all kinds of things - from multiculturalism to climate change.
In that context, Bob Ward of the LSE's Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change was prepared to allow that, when it came to climate change, "arguments between experts" should be permitted. But the rest of us should just push off.
[UPDATE: Richard Tol, who is a scientist, Tweets that "Bob Ward is no prof. He does not even have a doctorate. He is a PR guy." So even he's not expert enough to be qualified to debate climate change. In fact, he may not even be expert enough to be qualified to debate whether I should be allowed to debate climate change. The only scientist on the BBC show was Dr Curry.]
Professor Ward was debating Judith Curry, who held up the free-speech end very well. Note the exchange where Ward asks, "Judy, if you were accused of being a fraud in the media, and you asked for a retraction and that person refused, you would not use legal means to try and get a correction?" And Dr Curry replied that "in fact, the most egregious attacks on my scientific reputation have come from Michael Mann himself."
Dr Curry writes about her appearance on the Beeb here, and adds:
The key statement of concern made by Mark Steyn is that Michael Mann molested and tortured data â€“ specifically the tree ring data that were used in his famous hockey stick analysis. [For the record, that statement was made by my co-defendant Rand Simberg, but I did quote it.] Unlike data that you collect in a controlled laboratory environment, climate data is messy. First you have to select which data you are going to use, and this selection process inevitably leads to concerns about 'cherry picking.' Second, you need to calibrate or adjust the data, particularly if you are using proxy data such as tree rings. And thirdly you need to select the statistical methods for analyzing the data. Mann's data analysis has been criticized with regards to all three of these issues.
On the other hand, William M Connolley of The Gaia Gazette feels things are going swimmingly for Dr Mann:
Various people have pointed out that Mann vs Steyn is descending into farce, as Steyn demonstrates ever more clearly his incompetence. Eli. Barry B. Mind you, the Watties are still whistling in the wind: Watts is like Steyn countersues Mann for 10 millon dollars and the crowd are all like "hey wow, that must mean he's winning". Its an interesting illustration of the basic inability of the two "sides" to agree on anything. Presumably the wavefunction will collapse at some point when the case actually gets heard, but that could be a way off. Speculation: this is already a success for Mann, in that it will make anyone vaguely sane hesitate to go down the Steyn route to insanity.
I like to think of it as the scenic route to insanity, and I'm enjoying the ride. If you'd like to help me and my new legal dream team string it out awhile longer, I hope you'll consider swinging by the SteynOnline bookstore, or picking up one of our new SteynOnline gift certificates.