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Science Blogger Sued for Unfavorable Book Review

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 7 years ago | from the hope-he-countersues-and-buys-a-nice-summer-home dept.

The Almighty Buck 588

tigerhawkvok writes "Recently, new author Stuart Privar provided Professor PZ Meyers of Pharyngula a copy of his book, Lifecode, for review. Over the course of the review itself and a few follow-ups, it became evident that the content was nonsense (including, among other things, ten-legged spiders and other phenomena strongly at odds with developmental biology). However, the common threat of lawsuits finally became a reality, and now Privar is suing Myers for $15 million. Can calling someone a 'classic crackpot' in the face of such incorrect data have any chance at making it to court, or even winning the suit?"

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Kill a future cop. Support the war in Iraq. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20317331)

Kill a future cop. Support the war in Iraq.

Soldiers often go on to become police. Police uphold a fascist state. By the time they have a badge and a gun it is too late. They must die before then, so I say we let the Iraqis take care of them.

Fuck all redneck soldiers, the future police men. Fuck you and your oppression. I have been persecuted by your fascist compatriots. I have more sympathy for the insurgency than I do for you.

So die in Iraq, you fascist waste of humanity.

Re:Kill a future cop. Support the war in Iraq. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20317709)

I agree with your sentiment, but I deplore your methods.

Re:Kill a future cop. Support the war in Iraq. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20317851)

I wish you would die.

When Wealthy Christians and Crackpots Attack! (5, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 7 years ago | (#20317335)

Contrary to this "this is the first time this has happened!" tone of this article, religious nutballs (as this Picar guy appears to be), frauds, and crackpots actually have a long history of suing when someone challenges them. The Church of Scientology has sued [wikipedia.org] many people. Uri Gellar sued [wikipedia.org] James Randi and others. Crackpots sue all the time (that part of what makes them crackpots). Some, like this Pivar guy apparently, have the financial resources to use their lawsuits to harass (like the aforementioned Scientologists). It's just a sad reality, here in the U.S. anyway (where we have no "loser pays" lawsuit system).

Re:When Wealthy Christians and Crackpots Attack! (5, Informative)

pimpimpim (811140) | more than 7 years ago | (#20317417)

Not just in the US, in Netherlands [skepsis.nl] the society against quacks had to pay a considerable amount to a quack, by court order! And because of the 'loser pays' system, even had to pay for this quacks lawyer costs :( Face it: stupidity has settled itself in all social layers and is international, no way to run or hide from it anymore.

Re:When Wealthy Christians and Crackpots Attack! (5, Insightful)

Goaway (82658) | more than 7 years ago | (#20317451)

Scientologists aren't crackpots, though. They're a very deliberate scam. The things they teach are a mixture of self-help material and crackpottery, but don't think for a second that the leaders actually believe in any of it.

Re:When Wealthy Christians and Crackpots Attack! (1, Informative)

gregoryb (306233) | more than 7 years ago | (#20317513)

Scientologists aren't crackpots, though. They're a very deliberate scam.

And they're not Christians either.

X(enu)ians? (1)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 7 years ago | (#20317759)

And they're not Christians either.
I'm not aware that anyone thought or said they were.

Re:X(enu)ians? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20317929)

And they're not Christians either.
I'm not aware that anyone thought or said they were.

*woosh*

Re:When Wealthy Christians and Crackpots Attack! (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 7 years ago | (#20317735)

OMG! You are going to be sued now ;-)

Re:When Wealthy Christians and Crackpots Attack! (2, Interesting)

intx13 (808988) | more than 7 years ago | (#20317771)

I realize we're getting off-topic here, but this is something I've always wondered about. I think it's fair to say that Hubbard was not "into" Scientology - but what about the modern leaders? They weren't founders; they rose to their positions by buying into the whole deal (and buying is exactly the correct word!) and staying prominent within the organization for a long time.

I wonder if when they get together out of the eyes of the cash cows they slap backs and laugh among themselves at the profit they're turning... or whether they run it like a business, closing the doors and examining quarterly earnings and futures with charts and Powerpoint presentations... or whether they actually believe it, having been drawn in like all the "younger" members, and debate Scientology theology among themselves.

Interesting stuff, and rather unique among both organized religions and cults. Of course, the odds of one of these top-level Scientologists leaving the group and revealing the details (and living to tell the tale!) are very unlikely - but that just makes it all the more secretive and interesting.

Re:When Wealthy Christians and Crackpots Attack! (2, Insightful)

plague3106 (71849) | more than 7 years ago | (#20317817)

And Christians aren't crackpots? What makes them better, that their leaders believe too?

Re:When Wealthy Christians and Crackpots Attack! (1)

Goaway (82658) | more than 7 years ago | (#20317907)

What is this, reddit, where every comments has to be turned into an attack on christianity?

Re:When Wealthy Christians and Crackpots Attack! (3, Insightful)

A nonymous Coward (7548) | more than 7 years ago | (#20318023)

What is this, jesusdot, where every Christian thinks superstition is immune from derision just because it has been around for 2000 years?

Re:When Wealthy Christians and Crackpots Attack! (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 7 years ago | (#20317871)

Now tom cruise would not believe so completely in something that was a scam.

He is a highly intelligent person.

What? no! I am not on crack!

Re:When Wealthy Christians and Crackpots Attack! (1)

jcr (53032) | more than 7 years ago | (#20317925)

Being a scammer and being a crackpot are not mutually exclusive. Hubbard was definitely nuts, and was also crook.

-jcr

Re:When Wealthy Christians and Crackpots Attack! (1)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 7 years ago | (#20317939)

but don't think for a second that the leaders actually believe in any of it.

Actually, I read somewhere in the web (forgot where) that the leaders of Scientology are freemasons - just like the leaders of Jehovah's Witnesses, whose founder was a 33rd degree mason. Other famous 33rd degree masons [whale.to] include Aleister Crowley (famous satanist), Joseph Smith (mormonism), Gerald B. Gardner (wicca), Dr. Wynn Westcott (Societas Rosicruciana), and... George Bush, Father.

Re:When Wealthy Christians and Crackpots Attack! (2, Insightful)

Billosaur (927319) | more than 7 years ago | (#20317483)

You see a common thread in these lawsuits: an individual or group cannot stand criticism of their ideas. Of course, this is nothing new, hence the Inquisition. Our legal system needs to do a better job in weeding out the frivolous lawsuits, and where a lawsuit has any merit, ensuring that when these individuals/groups lose based on the lack of supporting evidence, they should pay their opponent's legal fees. This might put a halt to Scientology's constant waste of the court system. The fact that people do not take them seriously is based on their own flawed thinking and their superiority complex. After all, their "religion" was based on the maunderings of a science fiction writer (and not a very good one at that).

Extending the Idea (0, Troll)

WED Fan (911325) | more than 7 years ago | (#20317747)

You see a common thread in these lawsuits: an individual or group cannot stand criticism of their ideas. Of course, this is nothing new, hence the Inquisition.

So, extending the idea, we should be seeing lawsuits from the following:

  • RMS, all Holiness to his Name the Prophet of GPL, because people ridicule him as a commie and whack job
  • GPL3 Supporters against Linus
  • Linux Fanboys against Ballmer
  • Al Gore against:
    • Orson Scott Card [slashdot.org] for laughing at him
    • Against people who chase down his wild exagerations
    • Against people who accuse him of being an energy hog

Re:Extending the Idea (1)

aichpvee (631243) | more than 7 years ago | (#20317835)

Don't forget Orson Scott Card suing anyone who isn't a christian nutcase and/or likes good writing for accurately labeling his work (assuming he actually wrote it) as crap and him as a quack.

Re:When Wealthy Christians and Crackpots Attack! (1)

aichpvee (631243) | more than 7 years ago | (#20317773)

Which makes it just as credible as any other religion.

Re:When Wealthy Christians and Crackpots Attack! (1)

AndersOSU (873247) | more than 7 years ago | (#20318061)

I just had a thought.

What if the legal system's tiers were set up so each level could compel an increasing penalty. After a verdict either party could appeal the ruling or could offer a settlement up to the limit the next court could award. If the upper court judge dismisses a lower courts ruling, the losing party is responsible for all the victors legal fees, on the other hand, if the judge upholds the ruling of the lower court, the loser is still responsible for only the victors legal fees, but only for the last round, on the third hand, if the upper court judge increases the lower courts penalty, everyone is responsible for their own legal fees.

In this case it might play out like this:

The crackpot sues the critic in the lowest civil court, which can award up to $500. The critic need not even defend himself due to the small potential damage (but he may if he wishes). Regardless of who wins, both parties decide (independently), if they want to raise the stakes.

This would encourage the victor to get out while the getting's good, and not to continue litigating in hopes of a massive payday.

Re:When Wealthy Christians and Crackpots Attack! (4, Insightful)

faloi (738831) | more than 7 years ago | (#20317489)

Just a quick question... On what basis do you claim Pivar is a religious nutball? I've read most of the connected articles and it sounds like he's just a regular nutball, religion isn't mentioned anywhere that I've seen. Unless you're just inferring that because he's putting up something contrary to real evolutionary theory (which I would maintain makes him a regular nutball).

"First time" tone? (3, Informative)

Selanit (192811) | more than 7 years ago | (#20317519)

The parent quoth:

Contrary to this "this is the first time this has happened!" tone of this article,

Huh?

In the article I read, the author starts out like this:

There comes a time in every debunker's life when they are threatened with a lawsuit. It's the bar mitzvah of skepticism.

How is that a "first time this has happened" tone? Or maybe you were reading a different article?

Re:"First time" tone? (1)

Otter (3800) | more than 7 years ago | (#20317607)

I think he's referring to the "However, the common threat of lawsuits finally became a reality..." in the blurb here, not to the link. Of course, the blurb also spells the blogger's name two different ways.

My sympathy for Myers/Meyers is limited, though. If you want to build your reputation on kicking around crazies, occasionally getting bitten back is the price you pay.

Re:"First time" tone? (1)

plague3106 (71849) | more than 7 years ago | (#20317855)

Right, because you should expect to pay a price when pointing out absurdity.

Re:When Wealthy Christians and Crackpots Attack! (4, Insightful)

hansamurai (907719) | more than 7 years ago | (#20317563)

I'm confused why you point out Christians in your subject. There is no indication that the author of the book is a Christian, or that its content is motivated by Christian principles. Nor do you mention Christians in your text, let alone wealthy Christians. I'm not denying that there aren't Christian nutballs, because there definitely are, but it is simply an off topic jab.

Either way, I agree with everything else you said.

Re:When Wealthy Christians and Crackpots Attack! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20317763)

I'm confused why you point out Christians in your subject
Allow me to remove your confusion: On Slashdot, Insult Christianity == +1 Moderation.

Maybe the guy wasn't convinced his arguments would get the Slashdot stamp of approval so he slapped a little icing on the cake. Bait on the hook, more like.

Re:When Wealthy Christians and Crackpots Attack! (4, Insightful)

ajs (35943) | more than 7 years ago | (#20317953)

I was wondering the same thing. I'm actually getting rather tired of this particular knee-jerk. Yes, there are Christian crackpots in the world. No, not all crackpots are Christian nor are all Christians crackpots. Faith in a deity is tangential to the search for truth through the scientific method. Only where one allows the two to become entangled does crackpottery arise.

Re:When Wealthy Christians and Crackpots Attack! (5, Funny)

ColonelPanic (138077) | more than 7 years ago | (#20317999)

The very real danger to the book's reviewer is that he may be placed in the position of defending rationality before a jury comprised of people who find it perfectly reasonable to symbolically eat the flesh of a cosmic Jewish zombie and telepathically implore him to save them from the consequences of a snake-deceived rib-woman's consumption of magic fruit.

Which is to say, in our rapidly medievalizing former republic, crazy nutbag plaintiffs are granted a decisive advantage.

Re:When Wealthy Christians and Crackpots Attack! (1)

tylernt (581794) | more than 7 years ago | (#20317951)

Don't forget the Robert Novak / PetsWarehouse.com [petsforum.com] suit.

This is the United States. (2, Insightful)

AltGrendel (175092) | more than 7 years ago | (#20317337)

Can calling someone a 'classic crackpot' in the face of such incorrect data have any chance at making it to court, or even winning the suit?"

Of course it could, probably will, and will be appealed all the way to the Supreme Court.

Re:This is the United States. (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 7 years ago | (#20317407)

"Dad, why is American government the best government?"
"Because of our endless appeal system." ...
. ...
"Wait, you're not actually writing that are you?"

Re:This is the United States. (1, Troll)

TheLink (130905) | more than 7 years ago | (#20317733)

Well an appealing system is better than one with a lack of appeal right?

And In Soviet Russia.... (1)

the MaD HuNGaRIaN (311517) | more than 7 years ago | (#20317413)

The Pot Cracks YOU!!!!

Re:This is the United States. (2, Interesting)

chalkyj (927554) | more than 7 years ago | (#20317693)

It's probably worth noting that he doesn't even call the author a crackpot - he says the book is "flagrant crackpottery." If you called someone's book "insane", you wouldn't necessarily be saying that the author is insane themselves.

I see dollar signs (5, Funny)

Sierpinski (266120) | more than 7 years ago | (#20317339)

If someone can be sued for their opinions... man I'm going to make a TON of money from my mother-in-law!

Re:I see dollar signs (3, Insightful)

Billosaur (927319) | more than 7 years ago | (#20317393)

If someone can be sued for their opinions... then Slashdot users will have to start a collection for a community lawyer pool, because some or all of us are going to get sued at some point.

Re:I see dollar signs (3, Funny)

Nerdfest (867930) | more than 7 years ago | (#20317633)

A pool full of lawyers ... for some reason, the thought brings a smile ....

Re:I see dollar signs (1)

FishWithAHammer (957772) | more than 7 years ago | (#20317683)

Face-down lawyers, I trust.

Re:I see dollar signs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20318071)

Pool of acid, I suggest...

Re:I see dollar signs (1)

Jaysyn (203771) | more than 7 years ago | (#20317719)

Just add man-eating sharks!

Re:I see dollar signs (3, Funny)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 7 years ago | (#20317805)

Now, now.

That would be cruel to the sharks. Just think of all of the desperate shark screams as they're getting eaten alive by the lawyers.

Re:I see dollar signs (1)

Scuff (59882) | more than 7 years ago | (#20317651)

A community lawyer pool won't help when the inevitable happens and most of the slashdot users are suing each other. Well, it might help the lawyers. Everyone else loses.

Re:I see dollar signs (1)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 7 years ago | (#20318009)

because some or all of us are going to get sued at some point.

Why, we already have [slashdot.org] !

This needs to be stopped (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20317375)

It should not be possible for suing a private individual for expression an opinion you solicited (byt sending a review copy of a book). Especially when you claim to be "revolutionizing" some field - even the breakthrough scientists got called crazy sometimes, so it should not be considered in any way slander or libel to discount someone's theory.

I'm waiting for (1, Informative)

Mycroft_514 (701676) | more than 7 years ago | (#20317383)

The Global Warming adherants to start sueing the people who deny Global Warming.

What was the question again?

Re:I'm waiting for (1)

networkBoy (774728) | more than 7 years ago | (#20317493)

Nah, Suing is for ametures. Once you go pro you get in government and censer your opposition. (case in point the censorship of dissenting opinions about global warming, just in case someone thought I was trying to troll)

Re:I'm waiting for (1)

db32 (862117) | more than 7 years ago | (#20317853)

You may be on to something. Maybe he isn't trying to sell books! Maybe he is trying to get enough PR on his quackery science that the current administration will hire him!

new business plan (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20317397)

Aha, I see the floodgates opening now:

1). Write ridiculously inaccurate book
2). Send it to a well-known, respected scientist for review
3). Wait for the scathing reviews to come in
4). Sue
5). Profit!

But, at the expense of respect. Hey, who needs respect when you have 15 million dollars?

Re:new business plan (-1, Troll)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 7 years ago | (#20317441)

Hey, who needs respect when you have 15 million dollars?


I would imagine if you treat your butler like shit and without respect, he will shank you in a dark hallway when you get up for a midnight piss.

Re:new business plan (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20317777)

If I had $15m there would be no dark hallways in my house, and if I wanted to piss I would do it in the bed and order a new one in the morning!

Alternatively, depending on what shanking is, I might quite like it!

Re:new business plan (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20317859)

You know mods, just because you don't find a joke funny doesn't automatically make a post a troll-post...

Re:new business plan (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20317795)

I believe your plan is missing a crucial step:

??????

Bestest. Review. EVAR. (5, Funny)

plover (150551) | more than 7 years ago | (#20317427)

I love this quote:

The doodles in this book bear absolutely no relationship to anything that goes on in real organisms, but after staring at them for a while, I realized what this book is actually about.

This book is a description of the development and evolution of balloon animals.

It's that bad. This is a book suitable only for use at clown colleges, and even there, I suspect the clowns would tell us that it is impractical, nonsensical, and has no utility in their craft.

Mod parent up (3, Informative)

Fozzyuw (950608) | more than 7 years ago | (#20317637)

Bestest. Review. EVAR.

For no other reason than getting people to RTFR (RTF-review) because the 2 images alone will probably make whatever liquid substance you're drinking come shooting out your nose. Lets hope it's not scalding hot coffee. This is one link /. readers need to read. =)

Cheers,
Fozzy

The chilling effect (3, Funny)

mcmonkey (96054) | more than 7 years ago | (#20317787)

For no other reason than getting people to RTFR (RTF-review) because the 2 images alone will probably make whatever liquid substance you're drinking come shooting out your nose. Lets hope it's not scalding hot coffee. This is one link /. readers need to read. =)

And now people are afraid to write a bad review of the review!

Re:Bestest. Review. EVAR. (2, Interesting)

julesh (229690) | more than 7 years ago | (#20317961)

I love this quote:
The doodles in this book bear absolutely no relationship to anything that goes on in real organisms, but after staring at them for a while, I realized what this book is actually about.

This book is a description of the development and evolution of balloon animals.


This prompted a poster on another blog I read [nielsenhayden.com] to produce what I think is the best lolcat ever [flickr.com] .

Re:Bestest. Review. EVAR. (1)

Ed Avis (5917) | more than 7 years ago | (#20318045)

Obviously animals are not formed from deformations of a doughnut shape. Everyone knows [wikipedia.org] that the shape of living things is derived from the behaviour of one-dimensional cellular automata.

Me too! (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20317429)

Ten-legged spiders? Stuart Privar is a classic crackpot!

And I'll proudly say it...anonymously.

Ten Legged spiders Exist! (4, Funny)

Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) | more than 7 years ago | (#20317751)

They only require a little patience, a couple extra spider legs, and some super glue.

Re:Me too! (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20317893)

Though if you look at a picture of a tarantula, such as http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Tarantula_020.j pg [wikipedia.org] , it really does look like it has ten legs. I assume the pedipalps do not count as legs because of the way they're attached to the body?

He's done himself no favours (4, Informative)

Silver Sloth (770927) | more than 7 years ago | (#20317431)

If you look at the Amazon rating he's a solid 1 star based entirely on a 'scientists don't sue over disagreements'

Re:He's done himself no favours (2, Insightful)

Billosaur (927319) | more than 7 years ago | (#20317509)

Which now begs the question: if you go on Amazon, but the book, then review it and tell him he's a crackpot, are you going to be sued to? Can an Amazon review be held against you?

hmm. (4, Informative)

apodyopsis (1048476) | more than 7 years ago | (#20317459)

many brilliant men have been called crackpots by their contemporaries but have ended up being exonerated by history.

however, on examination of the links from the article, this man looks like a crackpot with a capital C.

my fave quote from TFA: "To Mr Pivar, I would suggest a simple rule. Theories are supposed to explain observation and experiment. You don't come up with a theory first, and then invent the evidence to support it."

Re:hmm. (5, Insightful)

Larus (983617) | more than 7 years ago | (#20317533)

As Niels Bohr said, "Your idea is crazy, but not crazy enough to be true."

Re:hmm. (3, Insightful)

nomadic (141991) | more than 7 years ago | (#20318047)

As Carl Sagan said, "They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright Brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown."

Re:hmm. (1)

e2d2 (115622) | more than 7 years ago | (#20317655)

"To Mr Pivar, I would suggest a simple rule. Theories are supposed to explain observation and experiment. You don't come up with a theory first, and then invent the evidence to support it."

Yeah, because theories like superstring have so much observable evidence to support them..

Re:hmm. (1)

sholden (12227) | more than 7 years ago | (#20317701)

And I wouldn't be surprised if a biologist wouldn't call them science anyway. "Just math" would be a likely response I suspect.

Re:hmm. (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 7 years ago | (#20317761)

Whether or not string theory is right and whether or not you can observe the evidence with you naked eyes (or, in fact, through any scientifical means you can fathom), it IS based on evidence. It tries to explain evidence that other (more high-level) theories currently cannot.

Re:hmm. (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20317831)

(Before I drop into my string theory rant, I want to point out that there is a difference between having no evidence and MAKING UP evidence.)

String theory is an interesting bit of physically-motivated mathematics that has been WAY oversold as a description of nature. It is the theorist's job to invent new mathematical descriptions of unexplained phenomenon, and to extrapolate from what we know to what we could potentially discover. It takes a while to get there, though. Lots of nice ideas which are wrong get generated along the way.

Somewhere in the process the string theory PR machine got out of hand, and it started being sold to the general public as more than just a crazy conjecture. In the process, I think it has done a lot of damage to the credibility of high energy physics. There's a lot of argument within the field about string theory as well. I would suggest checking out The Trouble With Physics: The Rise of a String Theory, the Fall of a Science, and What Comes Next [amazon.com] .

Re:hmm. (1)

Gulthek (12570) | more than 7 years ago | (#20317863)

What, you think physicists just came up with superstring theory because they were bored one day? String theory is an attempt to theorize the *evidence* unaccounted for by other theories on the workings of the universe.

Re:hmm. (1)

acvh (120205) | more than 7 years ago | (#20318035)

"What, you think physicists just came up with superstring theory because they were bored one day? String theory is an attempt to theorize the *evidence* unaccounted for by other theories on the workings of the universe."

yeah, that's prety much how it happened. a physicist happened across an old mathematical formula and thought it looked interesting. yadda, yadda, yadda.... string theory.

don't get me wrong. it's fascinating stuff (I'm no scientist, I'm currently working at my cigar store), but string theory led to some strange developments (exactly how many dimensions does it need?). theorizing about bizarre physical states solely because the math leads you there doesn't seem to me to be physics, exactly.

Re:hmm. (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 7 years ago | (#20317891)

That is the pitfall of anecdotal evidence. For every person labeled a crackpot who was later exonerated, there would be 10 or 100 persons, labeled crackpots in their time, later confirmed as one or at least never exonerated by history.

Statistically if a person is labeled crackpot the odds are more than 10 to 1, he/she is really a crackpot. Another thing to remember about the "labeling" is how many times the label is confirmed by independent analysis. If one clergyman declares someone a crackpot and a million of his flock repeat it, still it counts as one "crackpot" label. If 10 scientists independently call some theory crackpot, it would count as 10 crackpot labels. The odds of something labeled quackery by many many scientists being exonerated later by history, is very very low.

The number of crackpots are so high that most patent offices will not patent a device that is a perpetual motion machine (of class I that produces more energy than consumes it, or class II a machine that runs for ever without additional energy input).

Obligatory Carl Sagan Quote (1)

Captain Sarcastic (109765) | more than 7 years ago | (#20317979)

"They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright Brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown." - Carl Sagan

Real scientists don't sue (5, Interesting)

pzs (857406) | more than 7 years ago | (#20317475)

This may not be true in all cases, but people who actually know what they're talking about don't usually need the law to back up what they say.

The other case of this was "Dr" Gillian McKeith [guardian.co.uk] a "nutritionist" who sells a lot of books about how you should eat less chips and more salad. This is all very well, but of course it also includes a bunch of quakery about eating leaves so that their photosynthesis can oxegenate your gut. As the article I link points out, that wouldn't work too well unless you had a torch up your arse.

Naturally, McKeith is mighty litigious at people who point out that she bought her doctorate from the web.

Peter

Re:Real scientists don't sue (4, Funny)

dkf (304284) | more than 7 years ago | (#20317865)

This is all very well, but of course it also includes a bunch of quakery about eating leaves so that their photosynthesis can oxegenate your gut.
It's "quackery". "Quakery" is something to do with porridge oats.

Re:Real scientists don't sue (2, Interesting)

Nevynxxx (932175) | more than 7 years ago | (#20317965)

Amusingly though, in one of her books, it describes exactly how and where she bought said degree.

Re:Real scientists don't sue (1)

MontyApollo (849862) | more than 7 years ago | (#20317997)

>>This may not be true in all cases, but people who actually know what they're talking about don't usually need the law to back up what they say.

I think a Feynman biography mentioned that Gell-mann was talking about a lawsuit over one of Feynman's books where it seemed like Feynman was taking credit for one of Gell-mann's discoveries.

That was a different situation, but I thought it was kind of interesting to see great scientists reduced to that level.

Rather than suing... (1)

mattb112885 (1122739) | more than 7 years ago | (#20317481)

What ever happened to civil debates? It seems like every time people are in a disagreement over something, they want to sue over it... instead, it would probably be a better solution for him to actually address the concerns of people who disagree with him. I highly doubt that this guy's beef is worth 15 million dollars anyways.

Re:Rather than suing... (1)

superwiz (655733) | more than 7 years ago | (#20317803)

Civil debate presumes that the general public can comprehend rational. They were possible when every person studied geometry during his schooling and was capable of understanding a simple chain of logic. This is not longer the case.

Hey, maybe the makers of Gigli... (1)

downix (84795) | more than 7 years ago | (#20317499)

can sue everyone that thought the movie stank. Oh, even better, sue the people that didn't come and see the movie, after all because they didn't come and see what others had called a pile of rubbish!

Re:Hey, maybe the makers of Gigli... (1)

aadvancedGIR (959466) | more than 7 years ago | (#20317609)

I guess you realize that there would be some problem to constitute a 12 person jury in that case.

the power of the web... (5, Informative)

apodyopsis (1048476) | more than 7 years ago | (#20317511)

Seems like word gets around, already the book reviews are flooding in....my word, he has really not done himself any favors here - I sense another internet laughing stock in the making.

from: http://www.amazon.com/LifeCode-Theory-Biological-S elf-Organization/dp/0976406004 [amazon.com]

I do not own this book. I do not propose to read it. My "rating" is based solely upon the fact that the author has chosen to sue a reviewer for "Injury - Assault, Libel, and Slander", because he didn't like the review. (Unlike the author, the reviewer is a professional biology professor who actually understands this subject.) No reputable scientist would react in this way - indeed the whole point of science is to prove things wrong! (As Richard Feynman wrote, "We are trying to prove ourselves wrong as quickly as possible, because only in that way can we find progress.") So caveat emptor...

A 164 page book for $60?
And from an author without any doctorate in the sciences he purports to write about? With a non-peer-reviewed 'theory'?
Don't waste your money.

The reviewer above wrote everything I intended to, but I just thought I would add my voice here. By sueing a critic of his theories, the author of this book threw away any claim he might have had to any kind of scientific credibility. A scientist might argue with his critics, but the fact that this author has instigated a lawsuit against someone for criticizing his theories suggests to me that even he is aware that said theories have no merits to argue.

Re:the power of the web... (1)

ArcadeX (866171) | more than 7 years ago | (#20317963)

By sueing a critic of his theories, the author of this book threw away any claim he might have had to any kind of scientific credibility.

I think he did that just by publishing the book...

Professor's mistake? (3, Interesting)

aadvancedGIR (959466) | more than 7 years ago | (#20317561)

I really don't want to support Stuart Privar, but didn't Professor PZ Meyers made a mistake by accepting to review that book, apparently at the request of Stuart Privar or its publisher, without the security of a contract?

I feel a class action suit coming on... (3, Interesting)

Analogy Man (601298) | more than 7 years ago | (#20317573)

If a reviewer can be sued for an unfavorable review, can the poor suckers that go to the "Movie of the Year - five stars!" file a class action suit against the lame-o reviewer for their $7.50 + $1M in emotional anguish?

Suing for fun and profit (1, Interesting)

intx13 (808988) | more than 7 years ago | (#20317619)

In true Slashdot fashion, I did not read the review, but I wanted to make the general point that the fact that it's a nutjob filing the lawsuit doesn't mean it's not a valid lawsuit. Libel and other such laws are often valid, and sometimes when discussing a particulary outlandish author's particularly outlandish claims it's easy to slip from lambasting the claims to lambasting the author. If this crosses the line to libel then a lawsuit might, under some circumstances, be warranted.

I doubt that's the case here - but the answer to "Can calling someone a 'classic crackpot' in the face of such incorrect data have any chance at making it to court, or even winning the suit?" is in my opinion, "Yes, and it can sometimes be valid". I mean after all, that's what the court is for, to sort that sort of thing out and determine what's a valid complaint and what's not.

That said, I don't think the reviewer needs to get out his checkbook just yet :)

Re:Suing for fun and profit (1)

Mr. Underbridge (666784) | more than 7 years ago | (#20317861)

I doubt that's the case here - but the answer to "Can calling someone a 'classic crackpot' in the face of such incorrect data have any chance at making it to court, or even winning the suit?" is in my opinion, "Yes, and it can sometimes be valid". I mean after all, that's what the court is for, to sort that sort of thing out and determine what's a valid complaint and what's not.

Legal standards for libel vary widely, but one standard that I understand is often applied is that the statement must be proveably false. Is that proveably false?

From http://usinfo.state.gov/products/pubs/press/press0 8.htm [state.gov] :

Besides making distinctions between public and private figures, American courts also have ruled that various kinds of published information are generally immune from libel charges. For example, it is almost impossible for a writer to be found guilty of libel if the writing deals with opinions rather than facts. "Under the First Amendment, there is no such thing as a false idea," the Supreme Court said in a 1974 libel ruling.

Not long ago, the owner of a restaurant in New Orleans sued a food critic for writing unflattering things about his eating establishment. Too bad, the Louisiana Supreme Court told the restaurant owner, before sending him back to his kitchen empty-handed.


I'm not a lawyer - but to me, for the case against the book reviewer to get away from the above, they'd have to prove that the 'crackpot' slur is more than just an insult, but carries with it a specific (and false) allegation. There are two problems with that: 1) it's non-specific, and 2) it's true. ;)

That said, I don't think the reviewer needs to get out his checkbook just yet :)

See, that's the problem - he does, even though the check he's writing is to his lawyer. That's why I think the courts should look harder at thinking about punitive damages against plaintiffs in cases that are clearly intended simply to stifle legitimate, protected speech.

Won't get far (3, Insightful)

faloi (738831) | more than 7 years ago | (#20317647)

As one article points out, the bar for libel is pretty high in the US, especially for public or semi-public figures. The author of the book has put themselves in the public view multiple times, for many different things. I'd expect it never makes it to court.

In these times? (0, Flamebait)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 7 years ago | (#20317741)

When fiction is being tought in schools as a "valid theory"? No doubt about it.

No chance of winning (1)

DrXym (126579) | more than 7 years ago | (#20317749)

PZ Meyers is a tough but fair cookie. If the book is as bad as he claims I really see no judge in the land sending it to trial. The case is going to get laughed out of court if it even gets that far.

It will get that far (1)

cheros (223479) | more than 7 years ago | (#20317843)

(1) No judge is going to deny himself the pleasure of hearing this case, even though it means sitting there trying to stop laughing. They're human too- they can do with a laugh

(20 It will be far more preventative to let it come to court and THEN blast it to kingdom come rather than throw it out and let other morons try again. Better suffer the pain (or amusement, see above) once and set a precedent. And it has the benefit of allowing the blogger to ask for costs, heightening that pain belonging to true education by fire.

So I think it'll get to court. No further, but I think it may get there.

Not to worry. (1)

jcr (53032) | more than 7 years ago | (#20317775)

This is the kind of Kooksuit that gets tossed at the first hearing. The real issue for the court is whether to sanction the kook's lawyer for filing this action.

-jcr

IN SOVIET NEW YORK... (1)

MntlChaos (602380) | more than 7 years ago | (#20317875)

Crackpot sues YOU!

Libel is about incorrect factual statments. (2, Interesting)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 7 years ago | (#20317923)

This case obviously has no merit. You don't need to be a lawyer to know that libel in the United States is knowingly making incorrect factual statements. I.e. saying "John raped sue", when you know that not to be the case.

A value judgment like "this guy is a crackpot", or "the food at restaurant X is bad" is not libelous. Read the wikipedia article [wikipedia.org] for a more in depth description.

DON'T FORGET ABOUT THE FACTS (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20317975)

Professor Myers, who you can see that he is a jew, tries to extort money from the author in exchange for favorable reviews, a common practice of jews in general (business,science,politics,whatever.) When the extortion failed, the professor decide to write a bad review about the book.

Next time read BETWEEN the lines before you guys post comments against any type of plantiff. I know you guys have been messed with RIAA,MPAA or things like that, but that doesn't mean you should have prejudice against anyone who launch a lawsuit.

Remember extortion is a common practice along the jews.

Making a statement vs. stating an opinion (2, Insightful)

BigGar' (411008) | more than 7 years ago | (#20317985)

This is why you should put "in my opinion" in front of opinion based statements. Even if you put a general declaratory statement of "this is opinion not fact" at the bottom of of the page it is, in my experience, it's good practice to preface such statements just to be clear.

Answer (1)

christurkel (520220) | more than 7 years ago | (#20318013)

Can calling someone a 'classic crackpot' in the face of such incorrect data have any chance at making it to court, or even winning the suit?"

No.

The standards for libel are very high. The author has to prove the reviewer knowingly and wilfully libelled him. This doesn't sound like the case at all.

In America, truth is what you say it is..... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20318019)

if you're rich.

Look at Hollywood. It rewrites history to show Americans in a favorable light. Americans have just got used to the idea that they are somehow the best in the world at everything, and they have got spoiled.

I see America as Cartman - a big fat amoral childish bully. Are you surprised that people in such a country would sue for a bad review?
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