It hasn’t been long since I changed my comment policy, and already I’m getting complaints of censorship. I’m obviously not too concerned about the validity of these sources, but I thought I should address the issue regardless.
There are two reasons I will moderate a comment:
1) If you make a scientific claim which isn’t common knowledge (ie, you don’t have to cite “humans are causing climate change” or “the stratosphere is cooling while the troposphere is warming”), and don’t provide a citation from a legitimate peer-reviewed source to back up your statement, I will replace your comment with [citations needed].
For example, I would moderate comments such as these (all of which I just made up – nobody actually posted these):
Humans cannot be causing global warming. Volcanoes emit more CO2 than humans, and there have always been volcanoes and they have never changed the climate. The warming is obviously caused by the sun.
Climate sensitivity is very low – about 0.5 C. Read this post by Joanne Nova.
As Sallie Baliunas found, the medieval warm period was much warmer than today. This was very good for the Vikings and their grapes so we shouldn’t be worried about global warming.
The regular readers and commenters of ClimateSight will spend so much time debunking these common claims, which have been repeated endless times, that we won’t be able to move forward in our discussion. For example, compare the level of useful discussion on this post to this post. Whether or not you’re trying to, if you’re posting statements which claim to invalidate anthropogenic global climate change, with no scientific backing, you’re wasting our time. If you’re deliberatly wasting our time, of course we’re not going to include you in the discussion. If you’re genuinely interested and have heard these statements and want to know more, refer to Coby Beck’s How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic. It’s by far the most comprehensive list of common misconceptions on the web. We’d just be repeating similar arguments anyway….
If you’re getting into more complicated arguments with lots of math, you still have to cite your basic conclusions. Keep in mind that I am just a lowly high school student who doesn’t know any calculus. I can’t possibly assess people’s arguments on their content – so I trust the “peer-reviewed” credential more than any amount of logic.
2) If you post something which is inflammatory, aggressive, insulting, politically extreme, a personal attack on a respected scientist, a random grumble about Al Gore, etc, your comment will be replaced with [inflammatory]. Here are some examples (again, made up):
Al Gore is EVIL and he just wants to tax us all!!!!!!!!!!!! What about the ice ages where it warmed without anyone driving hummers!!!!!!!! That’s his INCONVENIENT TRUTH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Any form of liberal government will never, ever, work, and regulations should never be allowed, no matter what the threat is. All regulations should be suspected as government influence on our lives and incomes.
You are an alarmist and a quasi-religious zealot. You’re just believing what Hansen says because it fits with your preconceived conclusion. Did you know that Hansen adjusts all the temperature data before he graphs it? There’s good reason to suspect that GISS is committing fraud.
When I encounter comments like these, it’s pretty obvious that you’re not interested in having a useful discussion, and just want to yell at people. You’re not helping the quality of the discussion one bit.
There’s a difference between deleting comments like these – which waste everyone’s time and patience – and participating in what we call “censorship”. Censorship is the practice of suppressing ideas and free speech by eliminating someone’s form of communication to the world. I am in no way practicing or endorsing this. You are more than welcome to start your own blog and yell about Al Gore all you want, or to go and comment about CO2 lagging temperature on any other blog you find. A better example of censorship would be how Watts removed Peter Sinclair’s video from Youtube – how else was Sinclair supposed to get his videos out to the world?
There are lots of places to say what you want elsewhere. But here I am the editor, and I am not going to publish comments which will sabotage our discussion. I am going to cater to the requests of those who respect this blog and wish to further the discussion, not those who wish to delay it.
Inflammatory statements are quite obviously inappropriate in a useful discussion. Additionally, keep in mind that science is not built around the pillars of completely free and unrestrained speech, as Brian pointed out. If it was, Nature and Science would have to publish absolutely every submission they received, whether or not it was correct or legitimate. In the real world, however, if a study were to make unusual claims without appropriate evidence or citation, it would go right out the window.
You can say whatever you want. But if it’s inflammatory or lacks citations, and you try to publish it here, don’t complain if it gets deleted.
(Making up all those moderation-worthy comments was kind of fun, though!)
Update: RealClimate has a great quote which sums up my feelings on this issue:
“Comments that accuse as of bad faith, fraud and dishonesty are not ways to move forward any conversation – how can you have a dialog with people who don’t believe a word you say? We choose to try and create a space for genuine conversation, which means weeding out the trolls and the noise. This is an imperfect process, but the alternative is a free-for-all that quickly deteriorates into a food fight. There are plenty of places to indulge in that kind of crap. There are only a few places where it’s not and we are not embarrassed to try to make this site one of them.”