Stephanie Zvan made a crucial point yesterday about inviting a certain kind of (contrarian or “controversial” or anti-consensus) speaker to give a talk. She started from something LeftSidePositive said in a previous comment.
(or indeed if the audience should be expected to have the tools to critique it thoroughly if it is not in their field)
QFT. If you have a speaker who is willing to misrepresent the conclusions of a paper, how does an audience who’ve never seen the paper properly question the speaker?
Charlotte and Amy amplified the point today on the Leeds SITP Facebook page. In response to a suggestion that
The only way SITP can come out on top is if the members take him to task; it’s recorded and publicised in order to counteracts any publicity claims he makes himself. It needs to be clear that this is an exercise in critical analysis and the application of skepticism and not a sounding-off platform.
But when he’s so badly misinterpreted his references, how can we trust any of the claims he makes enough to debate them? We’d have to do extensive homework for this and read most of the things he references in his book, and I don’t honestly have the time to do more on this.
You know what that’s exactly like? David Irving. That’s what Irving did, except that he didn’t misinterpret, he outright falsified. A judge has ruled that, so I can say it without fear of being sued for libel. A judge ruled it because a historian did the hard work of checking Irving’s references – thousands of them – and finding systematic falsification. That happened only because Irving was stupid enough to sue Deborah Lipstadt for libel for saying he did the very thing he ended up being shown to have done. That happened only because Penguin defended the case and could afford to pay the historian Richard Evans and two grad students to do the time-consuming work.
All skeptics should read chapter 2 of Evans’s book on the trial and his investigation, Lying About Hitler. It’s all about this crucial epistemic issue of the difficulty of demonstrating misinterpretation and/or falsification.