Let me throw a hypothetical situation at you. Suppose you have a blogger and journalist, who has a mission to eradicate childish attacks and disrespectful behavior from public figures. All well and good, except that this blogger is having a bit of difficulty finding the behavior he insists is rampant. Among his targets are two prominent and outspoken public figures who, despite accusations, deal with the issues and not things like ad hominem attacks.
Then, lo and behold, a commenter appears on blogger/journalist’s (hereinafter “BJ”) site and relates a story showing how childish and disrespectful attacks really do happen. The story is all by itself, relates no checkable facts, and sounds a bit over-the-top even for fiction. But it supports the BJ’s assertions, so rather than being an anecdote, it now becomes evidence. So much so, apparently, that BJ creates a whole new post highlighting this particular story, specifically labeling it as evidence.
But, there’s a catch. Through the course of events, the commenter and his story have turned out to be totally false – complete fabrications, confessed by none other than the commenter himself.
Further, it appears (again through confession) that many of the other commenters who chimed in with support for the story and the BJ’s standpoint itself, were actually the very same guy masquerading under multiple names – in internet slang, this is called sock puppetry. Even further, the fraudulent commenter maintained his own blog, specifically for the purpose of addressing those childish and disrespectful attacks, that was populated almost entirely by sock puppets of himself.
Now remember, we have BJ, who champions reasonable and respectful discourse, and we have the public targets of his attention, who are clearly nasty, brutish, and short-tempered.
So, now the questions. Who do you think performed research, contacted witnesses and companions, and laid all the evidence out for the world to see, while refusing to reveal the actual name of the sock puppet because of the potential of retaliation?
And who dodged the evidence, never admitted to fault, never fact-checked, and even, while being on one of the most prominent and advanced blog networks, missed the evidence of the sock puppet in the first place? And who continues to deny that he has actually no evidence whatsoever for his accusations, now that the source of his only anecdote has dried up and turned out to be a pathological liar? Who also banned and deleted comments from his blog that pointed out his errors, while allowing baseless accusations of lying from the sock puppet to remain? [Edit: Initially, I had attributed a specific epithet to the blog in question here, but have since discovered it was made on the sock puppet’s independent blog and thus not subject to the BJ’s moderation efforts. If that sounds confusing, suffice to say that I just deleted an incorrect attribution.]
Oh, I forgot one little detail: the BJ is getting paid by a notorious religious organization, and his targets are working, published scientists. Whoops, they’re also immoral atheists! Can’t forget that little tidbit.
Kudos to Jerry Coyne at Why Evolution Is True for handling the real research behind this – the comments on that thread, by the way, demonstrate just how mean, nasty and vindictive atheists are. If that wasn’t enough proof, PZ Myers at Pharyngula provides just a wee bit more evidence from his own commenters. Most especially, watch how the supporters of the BJ get taken apart on their bullshit, methodically, rationally, and without resorting to name calling.
And piles of shit on Chris Mooney, the supposed “journalist” who failed to perform even rudimentary research, still has no evidence to back his assertions, has weakly admitted he got taken but not that he never should have in the first place, and most egregiously, after seeing the confession of total fabrication from the commenter, demonstrates he has gall where his brains should be in stating that it still might be based in real life.
Science is based on evidence, and one of the key portions of the process is taking steps to eradicate the possibility of confirmation bias. If you continue to assert without evidence to support your point, and in the face of evidence to the contrary refuse to even recognize that you may be on the wrong track, that’s denial and delusion, the stuff crackpots are made of. Chris Mooney needs to be removed from Discover Blogs and any science advocacy whatsoever.