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New Scientist pulls post for legal reasons?


It was just one of their usual screeds attacking intelligent design sympathizers, non-materialists, and anyone who doubts, generally. Apparently, someone complained, but – although the post mentions me, – I wasn’t the one.

Go here for more.

Under British law, telling the truth is not a defense against libel. Amazing, but true. djmullen
kairosfocus, yes. It is often very difficult for a journalist or editor to know for sure what harm can come from a story because some harms are just not predictable. All we can do is a good job with the facts available in the present. Assume that devastating facts, related by a columnist on the even of an election, are actually TRUE - and the man is running for Prime Minister. When he loses the election, he goes home and blows his brains out. Is the columnist responsible for that? I would say no. It was his decision to respond by ending it all. Probably, no one told him or encouraged him to do it, or even thought that he might. No doubt, the journalist merely expected him to retire from public life ... but not from life itself. O'Leary
I've heard it is still in the print version, but couldn't find it today. Will check again if I get the chance tomorrow. Andrew Sibley
Mrs O'Leary: I agree wholeheartedly with your remarks. Indeed, "truth, fair comment, the public interest, and good intent" are reasonable defenses. I would explicitly add, something like, responsible comment/warning in the face of evident potential for harm. (So, for instance, someone who holds a responsible position cannot be dragged into libel court on cases where the evidence known or reasonably accessible at the time for decision and comment turns out to have been on further evidence, wrong. Otherwise, least regrets decision-making would potentially be seriously undermined.) I have become so disillusioned with current madly spinning advocacy-oriented journalism (including my former gold standard for objectivity and credibility [which shall for now be nameless] . . sigh!) that I have developed a grading scheme for detecting spin not straight. Hope that helps. As for the spin-laced commentary that sadly so often emanates from evo mat advocacy circles, I think a serious look at the implications of evidentialist form selective hyperskepticism would be helpful GEM of TKI PS: Happy St Pat's from M'rat,where we celebrate it in the main for the attempted but abortive slave uprising in 1768. (Latterly, there is an increasing balance of recognising the Irish- and Afro- Caribbean heritage we predominantly have here. And, in the aftermath of the volcano crisis, we are having a big multicultural element too -- Spanish [DR style] is now a major second language here. But today, we's all be celebrating the love of freedom. Happy St Pat's y'all!) kairosfocus
To see how this would work, consider a libel action that would succeed despite these defenses: A journalist posts a claim in her column that a candidate for a senior civil service position was twice convicted of drunken driving. As a result, he does not get the position. The claim is actually false. She hates him, and wants to destroy him because they had an affair years ago, and he dumped her. Well, let's see. Her claim is not true. It is not fair comment because she has no evidence (none exists). It is not in the public interest for her to advance this claim. And she can hardly claim to have had good intent. So he would likely win a judgement against her. I think that this is what libel laws should do - enable people to get legal redress for clearly unjust efforts to harm them using media. But right now, Britain is becoming a haven for "libel tourism", with predictable results - all sorts of nonsense is advanced on behalf of people living or dead by those with enough money to shop for a jurisdiction. Enough, please! Reform! Reform! I bet Gefter's piece is back up in a few days. I hope so. O'Leary
David, I don't understand either. Someone on staff there may have overreacted. Of course, as a journalist, I have no sympathy for "lawfare" as it is called (or SLAPP suits) - if that is what's going on. But I have been told that Britain's libel laws are in serious need of reform. If that's the root of the problem, maybe New Scientists' supporters could "root" for it. Here in Canada, we are in the process of reforming our libel laws, to clarify the defenses a journalist is entitled to. The ones I favour are truth, fair comment, the public interest, and good intent. Presumably, Gefter's piece would fit 2 and 4. O'Leary
Having read the article (it's available elsewhere), I don't see what possible legal challenge could be lodged. It merely provides a guide to the typical vocabulary of ID supporters. Of course, it also says those arguments are religious, which many here would debate. But that hardly seems actionable. David Kellogg
O'Leary, I think that a well-known ID proponent should retaliate against the shameless anti-scientific political shenanigans at New Scientist by writing an article titled "How to Spot a Hidden Materialist Agenda". The only problem is that, in general, materialists are so arrogant that they rarely take the time to hide their anti-science agenda. Theirs is out in the open and naked for all to see. Mapou

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