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Seventh Circuit Affirms Dismissal of John Lott's Libel Lawsuit Against Steven Levitt:

The opinion is relatively short, and quite readable. Note that the Seventh Circuit is applying Illinois law, which is relatively defendant friendly in this class of cases: "a statement that is reasonably capable of an innocent construction is not [in the absence of evidence of specific losses] defamatory."

Using an academic definition of "replicate," Lott maintains that the passage [which said that "When other scholars have tried to replicate his results, they found that right-to-carry laws simply don't bring down crime"] means that others repeated, to a tee, his technical analysis but were unable to duplicate his results, suggesting that he either faked his data or performed his analysis incompetently.

In [the] context [of a book, Freakonomics, aimed at the general public], it is reasonable to read "replicate" in more generic terms. That is, the sentence could mean that scholars tried to reach the same conclusion as Lott, using different models, data, and assumptions, but could not do so. This reading does not imply that Lott falsified his results or was incompetent; instead, it suggests only that scholars have disagreed with Lott's findings about the controversial relationship between guns and crime. By concluding that this more generic definition of "replicate" is reasonable, we are not assuming that the reader is a simpleton. After all, econometrics is far from conventional wisdom. We are, however, taking into account the context of the statement and acknowledging that the natural and obvious meaning of "replicate" can lie outside the realm of academia for this broadly appealing book.

Sounds quite right to me.

Thanks to How Appealing for the pointer.

Alexia:
Huh? I am about as general as the public gets, and I think that replicate means exactly the same.
2.11.2009 3:55pm
FantasiaWHT:
"By completing ignoring the meaning of the word 'replicate', a reader might reach an entirely different conclusion."

Yep.
2.11.2009 3:57pm
Adam B. (www):
My two thoughts on this:

1. How many 7th Cir judges had to recuse themselves because they were on the Chicago faculty while Lott was visiting -- three?

2. I think there's much to be discussed in the court's notion that the response to this kind of "bad" speech is rebuttal speech -- it strikes me that in libel law generally, the ability of many plaintiffs to self-publish-and-promote a response mitigates the harm that otherwise libelous speech causes, and I wonder how much the law now takes that into account.
2.11.2009 3:58pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
As this other Volokh Conspiracy posting points out, Levitt has also written a letter of apology that admits that he made false statements about Lott's work to another economist--and statements that Levitt at the time knew were false. (For example, Levitt claiming that Lott's paper in the JLE was not peer-reviewed, when Levitt was one of the peer reviewers.)
2.11.2009 4:00pm
TerrencePhilip:
Judge Evans is a great writer. His avuncular style is perfect for judicial opinions. I think his opinions run a nice middle ground between the "legalist" traditional style, and the more free-form, here's-what's-on-my-mind-today approach that Posner and Easterbrook sometimes seem to take.
2.11.2009 4:05pm
Matthew K:
It's also important to realize that, even in academic circles, "replicate" can mean a variety of things. Lott was really reaching.
2.11.2009 4:12pm
CJColucci:
No surprises here. I hope Lott's lawyers got a decent retainer as opposed to a straight contingency deal.
2.11.2009 4:12pm
OrinKerr:
Terrence,

I agree: Judge Evans is a great writer. I always enjoy reading his opinions.
2.11.2009 4:13pm
Lior:
In experimental science, "replicating" results normally means duplicating the experimental set-up, gathering new data, and analyzing the new data. Saying that others have "failed to replicate" the results certainly casts doubt on the experimental methods, but surely suggesting that someone is not infalliable is not defamatory? Most of the time the error is not malicious, it is scientific (an effect was thought to be negligible but is in fact significant, or the reverse).

Perhaps there is more to this lawsuit than the simple allegations that a scientific paper was wrong?
2.11.2009 4:15pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
I dunno.
Suppose, just for grins, somebody polled the demographic which can be shown to have read the book and asked them what "replicate" meant? And they responded pretty much in the scientific meaning of the word.
After all, there aren't many times you'll run across the term "replicate" when the writer is trying to mean "approximate" (v.)
The judge made a huge error here, so huge he can't have done it accidentally, except if he thinks the reading public really are simpletons, not as smart as he.
So huge, it might be corrupt. At least, done to screw Lott when the facts indicate otherwise.
Because, absent a poll, the judge's view on what the reading public believe about "replicate" may as well be written on stone. Who can possibly argue with that?
2.11.2009 4:16pm
FantasiaWHT:
If Leavitt's passage is read as "using other methods, nobody else has found the same results", it is completely out of context, because Leavitt is arguing that Lott's results using that test specifically were wrong.
2.11.2009 4:20pm
Houston Lawyer:
I'd have to agree with the court on this one. The offending sentence doesn't imply falsehood on Lott's part, it implies a difference of methodology or emphasis. In fact, the sentence is one of those weaselly ones where the conclusion doesn't follow from the premise. Maybe the writer intended to impugn Lott's character, but was unable to grammatically get there.
2.11.2009 4:21pm
M (mail):
The most common purpose for trying to "replicate" results is not so much to test for mistakes (or faked data), since researchers usually assume that others are minimally competent and honest. (That might be a good assumption with Lott, knowing what else we know about his behavior, but leave that aside.) The point of replication is to test for robustness- to see if the findings are somehow an artifact of the experimental design or the data set somehow. To test that, though, you have to change the setup or data-set in some way. So, "replicating" the way Lott implies would only be done if people suspected him of simple mistakes or dishonesty and isn't normally what's meant. The normal meaning, as used by scientists and philosophers of science, is much closer to the one the court uses. This fact, in turn, ought to give us a bit more reason to doubt the sincerity and ability of Lott as a researcher.
2.11.2009 4:28pm
Bob White (mail):
Lior: I really don't think so.

I recommend Jim Lindgren's post linked at #5 in the chain, which does a good job of going through the issues in context and points out the language in Freakonomics is poorly drafted, conflating two separate issues.

Personally, I agree with Judge Evans that the most natural reading of "replicate", particularly in a popular book like Freakonomics, is that other researchers have not found the same causal linkage Lott did, i.e. more guns lead to less crime, not the stricter claim that, under Lott's methodology and using Lott's data and assumptions, more guns lead to less crime.
2.11.2009 4:36pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
M
If you try something else and get different results, you haven't said squat about the original experiment. By definition.
However, the point is what the judge thinks, or hopes to get away with convincing us he thinks, or doesn't care if he gets away with it because he's the judge, is his view of the reading public's understanding of the word.
IMO, he's wrong.
And if I read somebody replicated Lott's experiment and came up with different results, then I'd be wondering what was wrong, since, by definition, they'd done the same thing.
If I found that what the second guy meant was that he looked at Lott's thesis and tried got different data, used different dates, included a group Lott had excluded, or something else, I'd conclude he found nothing whatsoever relevant to Lott's thesis.
And if I found the basis of the experiment was, "Okay, so we don't have blood running in the streets as we'd hoped, but at least he can't PROVE it wasn't something else.", I'd be suspicious, too.
2.11.2009 4:40pm
ArthurKirkland:
Judge Evans is an unusually direct and able writer among judges, but he needs an editor. In the first paragraph, for example, he inappropriately uses "believes" instead of "asserts" or "claims." He similarly misuses "understood" within a sentence or two. A couple of paragraphs later, he unwittingly ascribes to Mr. Levitt a championship that belongs to Mr. Lott. (After that, I put down my copy desk pen and read simply to enjoy an interesting tale.)

This judge's writing is deft -- more interesting, less stilted and more understandable than most -- but nevertheless would benefit from a good editor.

It strikes me as far more difficult to find fault with the judge's analysis of the claims than it was to find the occasional poor word selection.
2.11.2009 4:44pm
AJK:
I think if you read the quote in context, it's quite clear that Levitt and Dubner are implying (if not explicitly stating) that Lott's research was unreliable. Whether that is or should be actionable is of course a different question.
2.11.2009 4:46pm
Steven Lubet (mail):
As Eugene pointed out but others have ignored, the case was decided under the Illinois "innocent construction rule," which requires the court to adopt any reasonable non-defamatory interpretation of the offending words. Thus, Judge Evans did not need to base the opinion on the best or most common definition of "replicate," or even the most scientifically accurate defintion. Rather, he had to ask whether there is a plausibly non-defamatory interpretation -- as is quite obviously the case.
2.11.2009 4:51pm
Happyshooter:
I disagree with the result and the reasoning.

Freakonomics was sold as a means of explaining academic results to the public. That means the technical terms were in academic speak, explained by general english at about the 8th grade level.

The academic terms were used in their academic sense. They should have been read under that standard, and only the general english terms should be judged under the loose standard.
2.11.2009 5:02pm
FantasiaWHT:
Steven Lubet, I don't think Judge Evans' reading of "replicate" it at all reasonable, because if you read it as he does, it's completely out of context.
2.11.2009 5:07pm
MRosh:
The judge is corrupt and is obviously expressing a deep seated agenda with the only aim to undermine Lott for fear of what he has to say. This is not law, follow the money, he was probably bribed. You so called professors are blind.
2.11.2009 5:47pm
Andy Bolen (mail):
Rosh jokes were funny for a couple of weeks, maybe.
2.11.2009 6:24pm
frankcross (mail):
Richard Aubrey, I don't really think you are familiar with the term as used in academia. While some use it as you say, most don't. You often hear something like: "I couldn't replicate the results with data from a different time period." Or other similar uses.

Your hypothesis about readers is a good one, though. Had the plaintiffs bothered to conduct such a survey it would have been strong evidence for their case. Or perhaps they did and it came out wrong.
2.11.2009 7:01pm
Thales (mail) (www):
Of course the innocent construction rule is a great way to avoid evaluating the merits of Levitt's plausible defense of truth (i.e. Lott likely could not meet his burden of proving that the statement was false.) And since even in the unlikely event that Lott had been allowed to go forward, he would have been in the defamation per quod category, there's the pesky question of whether he has a reputation left to damage. The Mary Rosh incident, conveniently vanishing data sets, plus a penchant for vexatious litigation (including disingenuous choice of law arguments, as Judge Evans highlighted) all cut against that likelihood.
2.11.2009 7:11pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
If you try something else and get different results, you haven't said squat about the original experiment. By definition.
Uh, wrong. You've said that the original experiment's results may not be correct, which is something "about the original experiment."

If I found that what the second guy meant was that he looked at Lott's thesis and tried got different data, used different dates, included a group Lott had excluded, or something else, I'd conclude he found nothing whatsoever relevant to Lott's thesis.
If you think that analyzing additional data and getting different results is not relevant to a thesis, then please stay away from science, okay?
2.11.2009 7:24pm
frankcross (mail):
A couple of things worth noting, as discussed in the past on the empirical studies blog.

Over ten years ago, political science professors convened to try to define a standard for replication. They could not agree, because there were too many different definitions of the term.

Also, they discovered cases where John Lott had used the term replicate in the sense that he says it does not mean.
2.11.2009 7:29pm
jab:
Mr. Aubrey,

I am a practicing physicist. I have heard "replicate" used in many ways:
(1) If the experiment was particular challenging and sensitive, and produced an unexpected result, then yes, "replicate" could mean to do EXACTLY the same thing to confirm.
(2) Other times, in scientific, peer-reviewed papers, I have seen "replicate" to mean "using the same analysis on a different set of data taken with an independent methodology, we tried to replicate the result that...."
(3) I have also seen "replicate" in the context of: "looking at the same data with a different method of analysis, we tried to replicate the result..."

In other words, replicate could mean EVERYTHING exactly the same, or it could mean SAME experimental data, but different method of analysis, OR it could mean DIFFERENT DATA but SAME method of analysis. The point is to see if you get the same END RESULT.

So no, you are incorrect when you state as fact that there is only one meaning for "replicate" in academia. Usually it is obvious from context.
2.11.2009 7:31pm
ChrisTS (mail):
"When other scholars have tried to replicate his results"

If this is, in fact, what Levitt wrote, it seems very far from any of the more crabbed 'academic' usages being touted by some of the posters. Indeed, in the context of results, 'replicate' most likely means 'reproduce the results' - not follow the precise methodology of the original investigator.

I think the Judge's reasoning was quite sound, especially in light of innocent construction.
2.11.2009 7:34pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
frank
If you couldn't replicate the results from a different time period, you didn't address the original assertion about the first time period. If the assertion is that it is true across many or all time periods, that would be different.
How is "replicate" used academically? Does it mean, "I did the same thing to within a zillionth of a skosh and got the same results [or not]"?

David.
if you try "something else", getting the same result would be...I think they call it a miracle.
I can mix sugar and water trying to replicate the taste of salt and water. Right? I prove or disprove what? I might be trying to replicate the amount of solid which is soluble. But I change the temperature, too. I prove or disprove what?

If you can't reproduce the results by replicating the original experiment, there's a problem. If you can't reproduce the results by varying one item, you've proved that the variance is important. Or maybe not, because that depends on the original experiment being valid.

But the main problem here is that the judge, almost certainly wrongly, picked the most likely interpretation. Whether he is merely misinformed, or got complacent, being a judge and all, or has some other motive, the size of his error is interesting.
2.11.2009 7:44pm
RPT (mail):
How is this not a pretty easy statement of opinion case?
2.11.2009 7:50pm
frankcross (mail):
Richard Aubrey, there are different uses in different contexts. In a science experiment in a lab, it probably means the same procedure.

But in this sort of research, someone presents a study in support of a hypothesis. So, John Lott says more guns mean less crime, and he presents a study with certain measures and a certain time period and says it supports his hypothesis. He admits that his study only proves this for one time period but believes that result is generalizable for other time periods. That was obvious from his research. So, if someone else were to use roughly the same methods for a different time period and got different results, that wouldn't negate his empirical findings but it would negate his hypothesis.

Virtually no one does replication of the type you suggest, because it's considered a waste of time and not publishable. The more important question is whether the empirical findings are true (demonstrated by replication with different data) or a simple statistical coincidence.

That's the issue. And its very clear that the term replicate has multiple meanings.
2.11.2009 8:00pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
It may not be publishable. I heard, years ago, that we have so many different types of pre-hominids because nobody wanted to have discovered the second Lucy.
But trying to reproduce the results of an experiment by reproducing the experiment is only a waste of time in a career sense.

What's that guy's name??? Wakefield, was it?
2.11.2009 8:03pm
loki13 (mail):
Richard Aubrey,

As has been pointed out:

1. The meaning of the word replicate does not mean, even within the specialized field of science, what you want it to mean. Even if you really, really want it to.

2. Furthermore, even if it did (and it doesn't, although you chose to ignore this), the plaintiff has used "replicate" in the more expansive meaning himself. Oops.

3. Even if 1 &2 weren't true, we would still look to the context of the word (basic defamation law) and see that the issue was "replicate his results", not his methodology, not his experiment. Given this context, it is hard to see how a more draconian interpretation could be reached.

4. Even if 1 &2 &3 weren't the case, we would look to the state defamation law (I'll spell this out, because I know you don't read opinion or, like, law stuff before posting) and look to innocent construction. Since it is capable of an innocent construction (as evidenced by the majority of posters on this thread) we should use the non-defamatory meaning.

5. Even if 1, 2, 3 and 4 had issues, this defamation case would still have some severe problems. However, that's not the case.

I broke this out in very simple, easy-to-understand steps. You can either try and understand this (perhaps even read an opinion!), or, enjoying the sound of your voice, could chalk it up to the judge having another motive. Because your analysis is far superior to the posters here who actually know a little libel and slander law (aka defamation) and, of course, Prof. Volokh. who clearly doesn't know enough about the First Am. to recognize a raw deal when he sees it. Maybe he just hates guns?
2.11.2009 8:04pm
frankcross (mail):
No, Richard Aubrey, it's a waste in any sense unless you are a very, very cynical person. People don't replicate John Lott's research in your sense of the word because they trust him to do the statistics right. They trust he didn't lie. The only reason to replicate would be if you thought he was just a liar who got certain results and then fabricated different results.

It makes more sense to replicate in the broader sense to see if the results are generalizable. Unless you believed John Lott to be dishonest.

But your points are wholly irrelevant to this topic. Courts do not use "Richard Aubrey's definition" in defamagion cases, they use the general understanding of the term. And it's amply documented that your sense of the term is not the general understanding. That's pretty clear from the political science conference. And from John Lott's own use of the word. You can say the word is misused, but that is irrelevant to a defamation action.
2.11.2009 8:22pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
frank. Then there ought to be more cynics around. Trusting the original? I recall a bunch of noise about cold fusion.
BTW, cynical does not mean what you think it means. Prudently skeptical is what you mean, but "cynical" has all that nasty, untrusting connotation. If you can switch the words like that, people might be reluctant to be prudently skeptical when dealing with, say, frankcross. That would be good, right?
2.11.2009 8:32pm
David Welker (www):
David M. Nieporent:


Uh, wrong. You've said that the original experiment's results may not be correct, which is something "about the original experiment."



If you think that analyzing additional data and getting different results is not relevant to a thesis, then please stay away from science, okay?


Well said. I was going to comment something along these lines, but you beat me to it.
2.11.2009 8:32pm
BobbyS (mail):
Levitt in his academic work has used replicate the exact same way as lott. If you look up the abortion debate, Donohue and Levitt have a Reply to the Foote and Goetz paper in the Quarterly Journal of Economics. I have just a copy of their original manuscript handy.

p. 10 -- "The data set we provide to researchers who want to replicate our findings . . . ."
P. 14 -- "The top row of the table, using the crude abortion proxy, replicates the results reported in Foote and Goetz (2005) . . . ."

Levitt is talking about redoing the research in exactly the same way that Foote and Goetz did. For those interested, Foote and Goetz showed that Levitt's work when done the way that Levitt said that he had done it, got the opposite results for violent crime and no results for property crime.

You should also look at the exchange that Donohue and Levitt had with Ted Joyce on abortion.

p. 42, "We replicate his specification with one important difference: we use the Supplemental Homicide Report data in place of arrest data so that we are not constrained to look at crimes that occur below the age of 25."
p. 43, "These regressions replicate Joyce's Table with the three exceptions noted in the text."

No one can read this debate and not believe that Levitt meant what Lott felt was being said.
2.11.2009 8:45pm
frankcross (mail):
Richard Aubrey, that may be about the way it should be. But the question is whether it was timeworthy. If only one in ten thousand of these studies is faked, it's not rational for any individual researcher to take the time to do a literal replication of any given article. But it may make sense for something that seems implausible.

However, as I said, the way it "should be" is utterly irrelevant to this lawsuit.
2.11.2009 8:46pm
jab:
BobbyS,

Has it occurred to you that the same researcher can use the word "replicate" in different ways and in different contexts? Even if Levitt used it as "exact duplication" in one work does not mean he is bound to always use it in that sense in EVERY work.
2.11.2009 9:11pm
frankcross (mail):
BobbyS, you could believe that. People use words in different ways at different times. There are plenty of cases finding that the same words mean different things in different places of the statute or different parts of a contract.
But what Levitt meant would seem irrelevant to the legal issues.
2.11.2009 9:11pm
traveler496:
AFAICT no commenter so far has raised a relevant point against the opinion that was not already disposed of <i>in </i>the opinion. Even BobbyS's point is irrelevant given the innocent construction rule.
2.11.2009 9:20pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
The other David.

"additional data" has to be shown to not be "different data".
If you increase the sample size, you have to show you haven't materially changed its composition from the original sample...or you'll be testing a different sample.
Different results will not then address the results of the first experiment.
If I get an opinion on something from college students and I say that's an opinion of a majority of college students and somebody else decides to do late adolescents and early twenties not restricted to college students, his result may be valid but does not address my result. If, on the other hand, I had generalized from college students to the larger age group, I would be in the wrong.
2.11.2009 9:22pm
zuch (mail) (www):
JOOC, didn't at least Mary Rosh try to replicate Lott? ;-)

Cheers,
2.11.2009 9:30pm
jab:
Richard,

Give it up already. You are using the most restrictive definition of "replicate", and has been stated over and over and over again, that is NOT the only way "replicate" can be used... in political science, in economics, in physics, etc.

Why do you willfully ignore this simple fact? Oh, right, because it doesn't advance the agenda you want... funny that you accuse the judge of the same thing. What's that other word you might want to look up? Begins with an H...
2.11.2009 9:32pm
David Welker (www):
Richard Aubrey,

Think about this in a very simple way.

The more sensitive your results are to changes in methodology, the less robust is your thesis.

A result that majorly changes due to even small changes in methodology or slightly different data is not as robust as a result that stays mostly the same in response to small changes in methodology or slightly different data.

And when we go about doing research about things that exist "out there" we want to have robust results? Why? Because we want our results to be driven by some external reality that we have documented, rather than being driven primarily by our particular methodological choices or the particular data sample we happen to have selected.

Typically, we are aiming to say something about the world, not merely something about the particular data sample we have. The more robust our results, the more confidence we have that we are in fact saying something about the world rather than something about the methodological decisions we have made or the particular sample we have gathered.

So, yes, replicating an experiment with different data or using acceptable variations in methodology and getting different results DOES tell us something about the experiment. It tells us the results of the experiment are not very robust.
2.11.2009 10:09pm
frankcross (mail):
Richard Aubrey understands the basic principles perfectly well, but he doesn't understand the factual context. When John Lott said: "More Guns, Less Crime" he didn't say "more guns, less crime for the particular time period and crimes studied conditioned on particular choices of variables." He generalized.

But that is pretty typical and understandable. Research is to guide the future, so we conduct studies of the past that we believe to be generalizable. There is nearly always an implicit claim of generalizability. And that claim is what is being retested or replicated.
2.11.2009 10:34pm
BobbyS (mail):
Frank, here are some dictionary definitions.

Cambridge dictionary

replicate
verb
1 [T] FORMAL to make or do something again in exactly the same way:
Researchers tried many times to replicate the original experiment.


Webster
to repeat, duplicate, copy, or reproduce

American Heritage

To duplicate, copy, reproduce, or repeat. 2. Biology To reproduce or make an exact copy or copies of (genetic material, a cell, or an organism). 3. To fold over or bend back.

The Free Dictionary

reproduce or make an exact copy of

Encarta

1. transitive verb do something again: to make an identical version of something repeatedly and exactly, or do something again in exactly the same way

If you write replicate with a different data, that is different than saying you want to replicate something.

Possibly the audience for doesn't use dictionaries?
2.11.2009 10:52pm
BobbyS (mail):
Has Volokh done any empirical work? Has Frank done any? I did have one question that you lawyers might be able to help me with. What is the relevant audience here? The Judge seems to concede that academics mean what Lott says replicate means and the judge says that some academics read the book. Do you have to be harmed among all readers or can you be harmed among a set of readers? As an assumption, lott presumably cares more what other academics think. Is that relevant here?

Fank do you have any evidence that Levitt used the word differently. I have just spent some time looking through his papers online and I can't ever find him using it differently. Suppose that he has always used it the way lott says, would that change your mind?
2.11.2009 10:57pm
jab:
BobbyS,

There is a difference between "replicating the experiment" and "replicating the results." When a scientist tries to "replicate results," it does NOT necessarily mean replicate every detail of the original experiment... the goal, sometimes, is to see how robust the result is... would you trust a result that was particularly sensitive to the exact details of the methodology? NO.

Again, I'm a practicing physicist, for what it's worth... "replicating results" may or may not mean repeating the identical experiment with identical analysis... it depends on the context.
2.11.2009 11:04pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
If I get an opinion on something from college students and I say that's an opinion of a majority of college students and somebody else decides to do late adolescents and early twenties not restricted to college students, his result may be valid but does not address my result. If, on the other hand, I had generalized from college students to the larger age group, I would be in the wrong.
I don't believe someone can possibly be this obtuse. We're not talking about different group definitions; we're talking about different samples. If you get an opinion on something from college students and say that's an opinion of a majority of college students, and then someone else asks the same question of a different sample of college students and gets a different result, then that "someone else" has failed to replicate your results.

If a bunch of researchers ask this question of college students and they all get different results than you, then these people have all failed to replicate your results, and it certainly does address your result.
2.12.2009 12:14am
David M. Nieporent (www):
Has Volokh done any empirical work? Has Frank done any? I did have one question that you lawyers might be able to help me with. What is the relevant audience here? The Judge seems to concede that academics mean what Lott says replicate means and the judge says that some academics read the book.
No, the court doesn't say that. The court says that it's irrelevant what academics mean.
Do you have to be harmed among all readers or can you be harmed among a set of readers? As an assumption, lott presumably cares more what other academics think. Is that relevant here?
Not under relevant Illinois law, no, which doesn't permit defamation per se claims if there's a possible construction which is innocent.
Fank do you have any evidence that Levitt used the word differently. I have just spent some time looking through his papers online and I can't ever find him using it differently. Suppose that he has always used it the way lott says, would that change your mind?
No. The issue isn't how Levitt used the word. It's how people might reasonably understand the word.

(Also, note that Frank didn't say that Levitt had previously used it differently; Frank said that Lott had previously used it the way he now claims it can't be used.)
2.12.2009 12:29am
zuch (mail) (www):
David Nieporent is partially correct here:

Not under relevant Illinois law, no, which doesn't permit defamation per se claims if there's a possible construction which is innocent.

As long as the charge is libel, or intentional infliction of emotional distress, and not some inchoate tort of ruining a person's reputation (or "false light" or such), what really matters is what the speaker intended. For libel law, the relevent standard (for public persons) is knowing falsity or reckless disregard for the falsity of a statement; it may well be false, but if the person didn't intend to make a false statement, there is no tort. Of course, truthful statements are an absolute defence, and that's a liberal standard; any statement that is ambiguous but that may be true is not a false statment. The speaker can't be held responsible for how some people choose to interpret his words.

Cheers,
2.12.2009 2:16am
AJK:
Here is the full context in Freakonomics:

"He [Lott] exacerbated his trouble by creating a pseudonym, "Mary Rosh," to defend his theory in online debates. Rosh, identifying herself as a former student of Lott's, praised her teacher's intellect, his evenhandedness, his charisma. "I have to say that he was the best professor that I ever had," s/he wrote. "You wouldn't know that he was a 'right-wing' ideologue form the class....There were a group of us students who would try to take any class that he taught. Lott finally had to tell us that it was best for us to try and take classes from other professors more to be exposed to other ways of teachign graduate material." Then there was the troubling allegation that Lott actually invented some of the survey data that support hi more-guns/less crime theory. Regardless of whether the data were faked, Lott's admittedly intriguing hypothesis doesn't seem to be true. When other scholars have tried to replicate his results, they found that right-to-carry laws simply don't bring down crime."

If you think there's an intellectually honest way to interpret that as anything but an attack on Lott's scholarly credentials, I'd love to hear it.
2.12.2009 3:33am
David M. Nieporent (www):
If you think there's an intellectually honest way to interpret that as anything but an attack on Lott's scholarly credentials, I'd love to hear it.
"Attacks on scholarly credentials" are not libel. Libel requires false statements, not merely disparaging ones.

Did they accuse Lott of falsifying his research? That's the relevant question. And "his hypothesis isn't true" and "other scholars couldn't replicate his results" do not an accusation of falsification make. As the court notes, the proper response to those sorts of claims is more research, not a lawsuit.
2.12.2009 3:57am
Tom Perkins (mail):

Libel requires false statements, not merely disparaging ones.


And Levitt made admittedly false ones concerning Lott and his work. There has to be some way to turn that into a successful suit--but it isn't this judge's job to make that come about.

Also, Rosh jokes will always be funny if you support "gun control" laws and are a certain regrettable sort of person.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, &pfpp
2.12.2009 6:39am
loki13 (mail):

Also, Rosh jokes will always be funny if you support "gun control" laws and are a certain regrettable sort of person.


1. Mary Rosh jokes are always funny. Always.

2. Also, any jokes along the lines of "But the hard drive ate my data/homework" are also quite humorous.


"He [Lott] exacerbated his trouble by creating a pseudonym, "Mary Rosh," to defend his theory in online debates. Rosh, identifying herself as a former student of Lott's, praised her teacher's intellect, his evenhandedness, his charisma. "I have to say that he was the best professor that I ever had," s/he wrote. "You wouldn't know that he was a 'right-wing' ideologue form the class....There were a group of us students who would try to take any class that he taught. Lott finally had to tell us that it was best for us to try and take classes from other professors more to be exposed to other ways of teachign graduate material." Then there was the troubling allegation that Lott actually invented some of the survey data that support hi more-guns/less crime theory. Regardless of whether the data were faked, Lott's admittedly intriguing hypothesis doesn't seem to be true. When other scholars have tried to replicate his results, they found that right-to-carry laws simply don't bring down crime."


Unpacking the claims (using Lott's scrubbed wikipedia page- where does Mary Rosh get the time?)-
1. The whole Mary Rosh thing is well documented, although Lott does claim that on occasion Mary Rosh was either his children or his wife (because he's such a standup guy).

2. There were allegations that Lott invented some of his data (that's the "hard drive ate my data and no one can remember the survey bit"). It's fascinating that whenever Lott fin find an a microphone, he suddenly remembers a fascinating anecdote (cf. Obama told him he wants to ban guns- only no one else was there, and no one else has ever heard such a thing, and this is completely out of character for Obama) that can't be backed up.

3. The last claim is true as well- when scientists tried to replicate the results (right to carry or concealed weapons = decreased crime) they couldn't. Not that they found it leads to increased crime. But they couldn't replicate his results (aka verify his theory).

Was this a negative portrayal of John Lott? Yes. Was it defamatory (in the sense of the legal meaning)? Not even close.

I neither support nor defend gun control laws (I am agnostic). I just dislike John Lott and craptastic research. What I dislike more is vaxatious litigants trying to use defamation to shut down public discourse.
2.12.2009 8:22am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
David N.
Ref my example of opinion surveys. You are taking that extremely literally. Either you are an engineer, you suffer from Asperger's syndrome, or, as a lawyer, you see a chance to misrepresent the point.
The point is that if you use a different set of data and you get a different answer you have not said much at all about the result of the first set of data.
You can massage the first set of data, making it larger but with strict attention to the criteria otherwise, and come to a relevant conclusion, perhaps.
If Lott claimed that his conclusion was supported by sufficient data and others said that larger data sets, with proper attention to criteria, contradicted it, that would be one thing. If Lott claimed that a small and restricted data set proved something applied to a much larger universe and other studies with larger data sets showed it didn't, then there is a problem. But before you go there, you need to demonstrate--if you wish to convince--that the data in the larger set are relevant to the problem.
AFAIK, the anti-Lott groups have set themselves to demonstrate that the drop in crime observable in so many places is due to something else than more legal carry. That speaks of an agenda, an agenda which is a fallback position from having been disappointed that blood did not flow in the streets and the neighborhood park did not turn into the Okay Corral.
Or it could be the most disinterested science imaginable.
Unimaginable.
2.12.2009 8:34am
loki13 (mail):
Richard Aubrey,

1. As usual, you conflate two issues- whether there is a legal claim for defamation (there isn't) with whether you really really like John Lott's results.

2.

AFAIK, the anti-Lott groups have set themselves to demonstrate that the drop in crime observable in so many places is due to something else than more legal carry.


Um, no. The observable crime drop has been correctly attributed to many factors, including, but not limited to, the rise in average age (less young males = less crime) and perhaps changing in police strategy. The burden was on Lott to prove his novel theory. Several researchers desperately wanted to replicate his results (cf. Marvel and Moody) and even with data massaging were unable to do so. You would think that it would be victory enough to point out that right to carry laws do not cause an increase in crime (natl. research council); the data does not support Lott's theory in this case, as it usually doesn't as Lott is none for using bad data sets (cf. "What recession" article in April of last year) or data sets that aren't available (the hard drive ate my homework). There are many good arguments for gun ownership- relying on Lott for gun owners is like a gun control advocate relying on Bellesiles.
2.12.2009 9:07am
loki13 (mail):
none=known,

I am none for my typos.
2.12.2009 9:08am
frankcross (mail):
BobbyS, I have done plenty of empirical work. Your dictionary definitions were surely cited in court, as were different definitions. Identical replication is not the common academic meaning (though it is one meaning in some contexts). Levitt may or may not have used the word with different meanings, but we know that Lott has done so.

Lots of talk on this thread, but the opponents of the decision are ignoring lots of evidence including two key facts.

1. Lott has personally used the word in the way that he claims is not its meaning, which would seem pretty strong evidence of its multiple meanings.

2. Academics obviously have many different meanings for the word in different circumstances, as evidenced by the political science conference story and academic commenters on this thread.

Until you come to grips with that evidence, there doesn't seem to be much of an argument against the decision.
2.12.2009 10:15am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
frank. Ref yr #2. Wasn't the issue the definition that the judge thought lay people used? If so, what academics think about the word is irrelevant.
2.12.2009 10:45am
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

It's fascinating that whenever Lott fin find an a microphone, he suddenly remembers a fascinating anecdote (cf. Obama told him he wants to ban guns- only no one else was there, and no one else has ever heard such a thing, and this is completely out of character for Obama) that can't be backed up.
Except by the 1996 campaign questionnaire that Obama supported a handgun ban, and the current White House webpage that supports an assault weapon ban. That's not "backed up"?
2.12.2009 10:54am
Brett Bellmore:
<blockquote>
There were allegations that Lott invented some of his data (that's the "hard drive ate my data and no one can remember the survey bit").
</blockquote>

IIRC, he's actually produced substatial corroboration as to the hard drive damage, and subsequently reproduced that research with substantially the same results. And wasn't it for one of his studies that had a huge level of significance

But, yeah, you get caught at something like the Mary Rosh nonsense, you should expect it to follow you around until the heat death of the universe. Just like people should snigger whenever Carl T. Bogus' name is mentioned; He's not responsible for his name, but he didn't HAVE to live down to it.
2.12.2009 11:16am
Thales (mail) (www):
"Except by the 1996 campaign questionnaire that Obama supported a handgun ban, and the current White House webpage that supports an assault weapon ban. That's not "backed up"?"

The statement Lott claims to have overheard is something along the lines of "I don't think people should be allowed to own guns." That's a bit stronger than support, real or not, for banning or regulating particular types of guns. Note that nearly everyone draws a line at some type of weaponry.
2.12.2009 11:19am
Tim Lambert (mail) (www):

IIRC, he's actually produced substatial corroboration as to the hard drive damage, and subsequently reproduced that research with substantially the same results.


Umm, proving that you own a dog is not the same thing as proving that it ate your homework.

Lott does claim that the survey he did in 2002 got substantially the same results, but nobody can replicate his results. I'm using "replicate" here to mean using exactly his data and his methods.
2.12.2009 12:08pm
Brett Bellmore:

Umm, proving that you own a dog is not the same thing as proving that it ate your homework.


Yeah, but proving that the dog did eat some paper certainly makes the dog having eaten your homework fairly plausible.
2.12.2009 12:30pm
zuch (mail) (www):
[David Nieporent]: Libel requires false statements, not merely disparaging ones.

[Tom Perkins]: And Levitt made admittedly false ones concerning Lott and his work.

What did he say that was false? Nonetheless, David misstates the case just a tad. Falsity is not enough; it has to be knowing falsity (or reckless disregard for the truth of the matter asserted).

An interesting sidenote: In some countries (as was the case the the U.S. long ago, pre-Sullivan), truth is not a defence; even if true, courts will recognise any ill will and resultant damages. Thank goodness for the First Amendment and our ability to foster discourse, even if at times messy and even nasty:
Also, Rosh jokes will always be funny if you support "gun control" laws and are a certain regrettable sort of person.


Cheers,
2.12.2009 12:42pm
Tim Lambert (mail) (www):
So Brett, do you find Bellisles claim that his data was destroyed in a flood fairly plausible as well? Because there really was a flood and people had books and papers damaged.
2.12.2009 12:43pm
Brett Bellmore:
I suppose it's possible that Bellesiles lost some data in a flood. It's quite irrelevant to his fraud, though, which involved re-writing historical documents to accord with his theisis, taking quotes out of context to reverse their meaning, and relying on archives destroyed before he was ever born.

The offenses Lott is alleged to have committed are penny ante stuff compared to what Bellesiles was proven to have done even before he won the Bancroft prize.
2.12.2009 1:21pm
loki13 (mail):
Brett,

The problem with econometrics is the old adage- lies, damn lies, and statistics. Or, put another way, garbage in, garbage out. It is possible to use numbers (data sets) to show, basically, anything you want them to (this is before going into the simple difference between correlation and causation, third variable problems etc.). John Lott has a long history of using bad data sets to (surprise) come to conclusions that match his a priori beliefs. Whenever there's a controversy, you can depend on John Lott to show up with massaged data or wonderful quotes (that only he heard) that supports the cause he is flogging at that point. Obama's running for President? Wow- he just happened to tell John he wanted to take everyone's guns. Recount controversy in Minnesota? John Lott uses garbage stats to "prove" that it's being stolen (I won't make a normative claim about that election- but his analysis was bs). Is there a recession? John Lott uses the magic of his numbers to tell you it's liberal media bias. Do guns cause less crime? John Lott tells you yes- with magic numbers other researchers are apparently too stupid too use, even ones that really want to back him up.

At a certain point, it isn't statistics; it's numerology. John Lott's supporters should have seen the clear red flag from the whole Mary Rosh/hard drive mess; that they don't is an indication that ideology (a desire to believe the implications of his "studies") has triumphed over rational discourse.

In short, it's poisoning rational debate. Anything can be shown by using statistics improperly; I will be impressed when Lott uses the numbers to see where they lead instead of leading the numbers where he wants.
2.12.2009 2:13pm
zuch (mail) (www):
Brett Bellmore:
I suppose it's possible that Bellesiles lost some data in a flood. It's quite irrelevant to his fraud, though, which involved re-writing historical documents to accord with his theisis, taking quotes out of context to reverse their meaning, and relying on archives destroyed before he was ever born.

Assuming arguendo the facts as you state them, this is not the worst kind of "fraud", seeing as people could go to the originals and determine for themselves whether the originals support his thesis. Perhaps poor scholarship (although you have yet to make a specific case for such here), but hardly of the same calibre as actually making up one's own data, something that is harder for other to uncover.

Cheers,
2.12.2009 2:22pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
What did he say that was false? Nonetheless, David misstates the case just a tad. Falsity is not enough; it has to be knowing falsity (or reckless disregard for the truth of the matter asserted).
Just to clarify, I was talking about what was necessary, not what was sufficient. I didn't say that falsity was "enough," just that one needed to show it rather than merely showing that the statements were negative. (Incidentally, you're assuming that he's a public figure (or that this is a matter of public concern); I agree with that in this case, but it's not true as a general principle.)


As for what Levitt said that was false, it was from his letter to a colleague, not from the Freakonomics book. He falsely claimed that Lott had created a fraudulent non-peer reviewed thing, when Levitt knew it was false because he himself was one of the peer-reviewers!
2.12.2009 2:38pm
Brett Bellmore:
Let me see if I've got this straight: Your argument is that Lott's 'fraud' is worse than Bellesiles', because you can prove that Bellesiles committed fraud, but can't prove that Lott did?

You seem, at any rate, to be unclear about what Bellesiles got caught at: He most assuredly DID make up his own data, among other offenses.
2.12.2009 2:42pm
zuch (mail) (www):
David Nieporent:

Yes, I understand that you stated necessity, not sufficiency. I was just pointing out that more is required, in the interest of furthering the discussion.
Incidentally, you're assuming that he's a public figure...

Yes, I put that further condition in a comment further up in the thread.

Cheers,
2.12.2009 3:07pm
zuch (mail) (www):
Brett Bellmore:
Let me see if I've got this straight: Your argument is that Lott's 'fraud' is worse than Bellesiles', because you can prove that Bellesiles committed fraud, but can't prove that Lott did?

Glad you asked. No, I didn't make that comparison. What I said was what I said: Adding controversial (or even wrong) interpretations to quotes is hardly "fraud", particularly when people (given sufficient citation, but see David Barton and his manufactured or apocryphal quotes for an example of the fringes of such) can check out the originals. It may be a mistake, but not obviously fraud, and if there is an element of fraud involved, easily remedied. Making up raw data is a bit harder to unearth; this generally requires replication (thankfully, science lives on replication, and in part due to the possibility of such fraud or experimental error). That was my point.
You seem, at any rate, to be unclear about what Bellesiles got caught at: He most assuredly DID make up his own data, among other offenses.

I won't offer an uninformed opinion there, but I was responding to your comment:

[Brett, from before]: I suppose it's possible that Bellesiles lost some data in a flood. It's quite irrelevant to his fraud, though, which involved re-writing historical documents to accord with his theisis, taking quotes out of context to reverse their meaning, and relying on archives destroyed before he was ever born.

where you seemed to acknowledge that Bellisle may have indeed lost data, and where you seemed to suggest that his actual "fraud" was in the abovementioned (alleged) misquotation.

Cheers,
2.12.2009 3:21pm
Brett Bellmore:
By your own quote, I cited <i>three</i> forms of fraud:

1. Re-writing historical documents: He actually <i>changed</i> what some documents he cited said, to make them agree with his claims.

2. Taking quotes out of context to reverse their meaning. Ok, this can be just really bad scholarship, but when the mistakes are always in your favor, incompetence seems an unlike explaination.

3. Relying on archives destroyed before he was born: Bellesiles cites as sources archives which no longer existed at the time he did his research. This, of course, means that he had to <i>make up</i> the contents of the non-existent records.
2.12.2009 3:32pm
Eli Rabett (www):
If someone wanted to check a result by repeating the analysis with the same data they would say something like "exactly repeating the analysis with the same data" not replicating the analysis. As has been pointed out here, replicating includes redoing the analysis by the same method with different data sets. The advantage of this is to try and see if the result depends on the data set. Often people will replicate and analysis with subsets of the data to see if the result is determined by the entire data set or just parts.
2.12.2009 3:45pm
John Lott (mail) (www):
Dear Loki13:

I would kindly suggest that you are relatively unfamiliar with my research. Many people like to focus on my research that they view as conservative. But many libertarians and conservatives are upset with me because of other research that I have done.

If you were to guess in advance how I would write about tort reform or environmental penalties, I would bet you that you would be wrong. Attached are two of my papers on those topics. I have 12 papers that talk about one aspect of so-called political market failure, the claim that political markets don't work well because politicians deviate from the interests of their constituents (see attached brief summary from my book, there is also a survey article that I did for Public Choice with Bruce Bender (April 1996)). What is most amazing to me is that you have no idea that most of my research has been to show how efficient government is! If you don't believe me, see the lead article that I had in Public Choice discussing Don Wittman's book on the efficiency of government. I sum 15 of my papers are contained or described in what I have attached -- 15 papers that have given me no end of grief from many libertarian/conservative types.

Anyway, please do me a favor. Guess how you think that I come down on tort reform and then read the JLE piece (the abstract points out "Supreme Court and legislative actions affecting punitive awards generally have not had systematic impacts on firm values."). Guess how you think that I would come out on environmental penalties, then look at the paper in the Journal of Law and Economics with Karpoff, etc..

Dear Frank Cross:

You are incorrect about how I have used the term "replicate" in my work. There is one case that I can think of where there was an extremely obvious typo from an editor's edit that made the statement complete mash, but I have always been consistent in how I have used the term.

Dear Zuch:

Please see the discussion here regarding Levitt.

Lambert:

Lambert is simply wrong here regarding the survey. I have provided a detailed discussions of the differences in the surveys. The questions and methodology for the survey have long been made available to others. There are important differences in the surveys that he doesn't mention (asking people to recall events over one year (me) versus others asking events over five years to be recalled. Over a period of a decade there are only four related surveys, two by me. For those interested, please see the link here.
2.12.2009 4:22pm
John Lott (mail) (www):
Dear Loki13:

I would kindly suggest that you are relatively unfamiliar with my research. Many people like to focus on my research that they view as conservative. But many libertarians and conservatives are upset with me because of other research that I have done.

If you were to guess in advance how I would write about tort reform or environmental penalties, I would bet you that you would be wrong. Attached are two of my papers on those topics. I have 12 papers that talk about one aspect of so-called political market failure, the claim that political markets don't work well because politicians deviate from the interests of their constituents (see attached brief summary from my book, there is also a survey article that I did for Public Choice with Bruce Bender (April 1996)). What is most amazing to me is that you have no idea that most of my research has been to show how efficient government is! If you don't believe me, see the lead article that I had in Public Choice discussing Don Wittman's book on the efficiency of government. I sum 15 of my papers are contained or described in what I have attached -- 15 papers that have given me no end of grief from many libertarian/conservative types.

Anyway, please do me a favor. Guess how you think that I come down on tort reform and then read the JLE piece (the abstract points out "Supreme Court and legislative actions affecting punitive awards generally have not had systematic impacts on firm values."). Guess how you think that I would come out on environmental penalties, then look at the paper in the Journal of Law and Economics with Karpoff, etc..

Dear Frank Cross:

You are incorrect about how I have used the term "replicate" in my work. There is one case that I can think of where there was an extremely obvious typo from an editor's edit that made the statement complete mash, but I have always been consistent in how I have used the term.

Dear Zuch:

Please see the discussion here regarding Levitt.

Lambert:

Lambert is simply wrong here regarding the survey. I have provided a detailed discussions of the differences in the surveys. The questions and methodology for the survey have long been made available to others. There are important differences in the surveys that he doesn't mention (asking people to recall events over one year (me) versus others asking events over five years to be recalled. Over a period of a decade there are only four related surveys, two by me. For those interested, please see the link here.
2.12.2009 4:22pm
John Lott (mail) (www):
Dear Loki13:

I would kindly suggest that you are relatively unfamiliar with my research. Many people like to focus on my research that they view as conservative. But many libertarians and conservatives are upset with me because of other research that I have done. The discussion that you have is very selective.

If you were to guess in advance how I would write about tort reform or environmental penalties, I would bet you that you would be wrong. Attached are two of my papers on those topics. I have 12 papers that talk about one aspect of so-called political market failure, the claim that political markets don't work well because politicians deviate from the interests of their constituents (see attached brief summary from my book, there is also a survey article that I did for Public Choice with Bruce Bender (April 1996)). What is most amazing to me is that you have no idea that most of my research has been to show how efficient government is! If you don't believe me, see the lead article that I had in Public Choice discussing Don Wittman's book on the efficiency of government. I sum 15 of my papers are contained or described in what I have attached — 15 papers that have given me no end of grief from many libertarian/conservative types.

Anyway, please do me a favor. Guess how you think that I come down on tort reform and then read the JLE piece (the abstract points out "Supreme Court and legislative actions affecting punitive awards generally have not had systematic impacts on firm values."). Guess how you think that I would come out on environmental penalties, then look at the paper in the Journal of Law and Economics with Karpoff, etc..

Dear Frank Cross:

You are incorrect about how I have used the term "replicate" in my work. There is one case that I can think of where there was an extremely obvious typo from an editor's edit that made the statement complete mash, but I have always been consistent in how I have used the term.

Dear Zuch:

Please see the discussion here regarding Levitt.

Lambert:

Lambert is simply wrong here regarding the survey. I have provided a detailed discussions of the differences in the surveys. The questions and methodology for the survey have long been made available to others. There are important differences in the surveys that he doesn't mention (asking people to recall events over one year (me) versus others asking events over five years to be recalled. Over a period of a decade there are only four related surveys, two by me. For those interested, please see the link here.
2.12.2009 4:22pm
loki13 (mail):
John Lott,

While I cannot say I enjoyed the triple post, I did appreciate the thoughtful response. I cannot say that I have done a complete survey of your work; that you may have some articles that are good (perhaps excellent) is a credit to you. And the quality is not dependent on your conclusions; I am neither particularly pro- nor anti- gun (though I do believe it is an individual liberty) so I am not against the results of one of your questioned studies, simply the methodology used.

That said, I still believe you have a penchant for engaging in politically charged issues (as either a full study or a quick op-ed) using poor techniques. I believe (and this is only my quick and unknowledgeable opinion) that you might have too quickly reached conclusions on some matters using poor data sets or a poor design in order to make news. I documented some examples above. If true (and that's my belief) it does a disservice to your scholarly work. See also, Chomsky, Noam.

Also, I still find Mary Rosh jokes funny. I can't help it. I'm a bad person.
2.12.2009 4:47pm
zuch (mail) (www):
Brett Bellmore:
By your own quote, I cited three forms of fraud:

1. Re-writing historical documents: He actually changed what some documents he cited said, to make them agree with his claims.

Once again, assuming arguendo the gravamen of the charge, this is hardly "forging" original materials or data, and is easily remedied but simply looking up the quotes and reporting his account as inaccurate or false if they do not say what he said they said. Science takes care of such.
2. [already disposed of]

3. Relying on archives destroyed before he was born: Bellesiles cites as sources archives which no longer existed at the time he did his research. This, of course, means that he had to make up the contents of the non-existent records.

It means no such thing. Once again, assuming the gravamen of the complaint, he might have been relying on secondary accounts of the primary sources, and not indicating that he did so. This would be deceptive, but it hardly is "mak[ing stuff] up". If so, what he reported may in fact be true but unverifiable. I don't know. And I'd say that neither do you. I prefer to profess my ignorance and refrain from charges I can't back up with evidence. After all, isn't that the gravamen of your real charge of "fraud"?

Speaking of which:
[Brett, from above]: He most assuredly DID make up his own data, among other offenses.

This, in my book, is a more serious charge. Where is the evidence for this?

Cheers,
2.12.2009 5:11pm
zuch (mail) (www):
Mr. Lott:

Thank you for the link. I'm curious as to what you think it explains WRT what I had posted. That's not clear to me.

If what you're indicating is that he has corrected a previous statement (in private e-mail) and thus acknowledged an error in his initial statement, it seems this is true. But your appeal [under discussion here] was concerning the statements in Levitt's book, not the private e-mails (which claim you settled, I understand).

FWIW, though, his animus towards you (even if so) is not actionable in and of itself ... the "actual malice" standard is a bit of a misnomer, and really refers to the level of knowledge of the falsity of the allegedly libelous statements made. If one has extreme animus and "actual malice" (in the dictionary sense, not the legal one), and makes a false statement which is sincerely believed (and which doesn't violate the "reckless disregard for the truth of the matter asserted"), this is not libel. Recklessness is apart from malice, even if in certain situations, such malice may lead one to engage in what is legally reckless behaviour. But we never reach that point, as the alleged defamatory paragraph in the book was ruled not false.

BTW, after reading the decision and its statement about the prior proceedigns, whatever you paid your lawyers, it appears to have been too much ... on the part of both parties.

Cheers,
2.12.2009 6:33pm
Brett Bellmore:
Zuch, Emory was not dragged, kicking and screaming, into taking away the Bancroft award, and dumping him, by a shortage of evidence. Bellesiles was a conscious fraud. Even people who desperately wanted to believe him right eventually got around to admitting it.
2.12.2009 7:06pm
zuch (mail) (www):
Brett Bellmore:

That's not what I'd call compelling evidence (even if true; you didn't even provide a cite or link). You made a claim that Bellisle "most assuredly DID make up his own data, among other offenses." Well and fine, but I'd expect you to actually provide evidence of this specific claim. Otherwise ... well, maybe a less-than-reckless nature might urge caution here in a public forum.

Cheers,
2.12.2009 8:11pm
zuch (mail) (www):
Bellisle => Bellesiles. Mea culpa.
2.12.2009 8:12pm
BillBodell (mail):
I have no idea what the legal definition of "replicate" is or should be. But, I do know what I took it to mean.

I read "More Guns.. Less Crime" and believed it.

I read "Freakonomics" and enjoyed it.

When I read in the later that no one else had been able to replicate the results of the survey, I took it to mean that Lott had made up his data. I was very disappointed, thought that Lott was a fraud and disregarded everything he had said.

Luckily, I just happened upon this post from another website (thanks Tim!), read Lott's side of the issue and have reformed my opinion of him and his work.

The survey is clearly a non-issue. The "Mary Rosh" issue, while being poor behavior, hardly effects the validity of the arguement he made regarding "More Guns... Less Crime".

This mostly appears to me now as frightening example of just how far some will go to discredit those that dare to go against the grain on politically incorrect issues.
2.13.2009 12:35am
Brett Bellmore:




Read, and it's at least theoretically possible you'll stop being disappointed. But at this point I doubt it.
2.13.2009 12:44am
Tim Lambert (mail) (www):
Despiting having no supporting data, Lott claimed over and over and over again that merely brandishing a gun was sufficient to scare off a criminal 98% of the time. In 2002, he conducted a survey that he claims gave a very similar number -- 95%. But nobody can replicate this result. And by "replicate" I mean using exactly his data and the methods he said he used. You can read about my attempt to replicate here and also download a spreadsheet with my calculations. (You have to get the data from Lott because he doesn't allow redistribution of his data.)

And I'm not the only one. In a peer reviewed article(subscription required) in Public Opinion Quarterly David McDowall reports on Lott's 2002 survey:


Among the 1,015 respondents, 7 persons reported a total of 13 incidents of armed defense. Given the goal of Lott's research, the incident count is of greater relevance than the person count. For the 13 reported defensive incidents, 12 involved only brandishing. This implies a 92 percent brandishing rate, less than the 98 percent or 95 percent figures that Lott has cited.

Lott (2003a, p. 259, 2003c) says that "the estimates were weighted by race (black, white, other) and gender," and this may be responsible for the difference between the sample value and his larger figures. Table 2 presents estimates with weights for the six combinations of race and gender that Lott apparently applied. [A footnote here says that Lott "did not respond to an e-mail asking him about the weights he used." I've asked him this as well, also without response.] This produces a brandishing rate of about 91 percent, almost the same as from the unweighted data.

In commenting on an earlier version of this review, Lott said that he did not employ the weights that he had described in his written accounts. Instead, he reported that he used "national weightings by age, gender, and race for the age groups from 10 to 19, 20 to 29, and so on." This alternative weighting method is obviously not a good fit to the youngest group in his survey, which includes only a handful of respondents aged less than 20 years. These respondents likely appeared in the sample by mistake, but they would receive large weights because of their rarity. An analysis that I conducted using this scheme nevertheless produced a 93 percent brandishing rate, a value similar to those from the other methods. ...




Many of Lott's statements during 2003 and 2004 strongly suggested that he had revised his brandishing estimate downward. In an article in the American Rifleman, for example, he wrote, "In 2002, some 90 percent of the time when people used guns defensively, they stopped the criminals simply by brandishing the gun" (Lott 2004, p. 60). In commenting on an earlier draft of this review, however, Lott strongly affirmed his continuing support for the 95 percent figure.
2.13.2009 1:20am
Kristjan Wager (mail) (www):
The survey is clearly a non-issue. The "Mary Rosh" issue, while being poor behavior, hardly effects the validity of the arguement he made regarding "More Guns... Less Crime".


I don't really care about the Mary Rosh thing, except that I think it's a good indication of Lott's personality. The survey, on the other hand, is certainly not a non-issue. Lott's whole argument is based upon the surveys he has made - one of which, the data has been lost in a data crash (according to Lott), and another of which, other people can't replicate Lott's results, even when using the same data.

That pretty much invalidates Lott's "more guns, less crime" hypothesis.

I don't care what side of the debate you are on (personally, I think it's up to you Americans to decide what type of gunlaw you want), but science, even political science, is a process, and you can't just pick the results that you like, because it suits your agenda.
2.13.2009 1:31am
Brett Bellmore:
Hey, where did my links go? Well, this is a good compilation:

Tries again
2.13.2009 6:34am
zuch (mail) (www):
Thanks, Brett. I'll look at them in my spare time. But I'd note that RKBA.org and SAF.org are hardly dispassionate parties. There's also the other side's account (for instance, here, here, and here). I'd note that the Emory panel made no conclusion that Bellisle "most assuredly DID make up his own data, among other offenses." Where do you get that? Be specific now, both as to data and the evidence as to it's being falsified.

Cheers,
2.13.2009 2:17pm
Nick Patterson (mail):
I am a statistical geneticist, and "replicate" is
a common technical term in my business. It certainly
does not mean to reanalyse the same data, or anything close
to that. The meaning is (almost invariably) "to analyse
new data, with a similar method", and see if one reaches
the same conclusions. Hundreds of attempted "replications"
are published each year with this meaning.

Further "failure to replicate" is not defamatory in my
field. It simply means that the new study did not get
the same results as the old. There are many reasons for
this, including bad luck with the new (or the old) study.
I'm not a lawyer, but the fact that the meaning above is
without doubt the common meaning in a technically similar
field (statistical analysis of complex data) seems to me
enough to invalidate the Lott suit.
2.13.2009 3:47pm
Tom Perkins (mail):
zuch, as I'm sure someone has already pointed out to you (and was referenced here) Levitt knowingly made false statements RE lott.

An aside, I believe you have a uselessly strict definition of nasty.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, &pfpp
2.14.2009 5:26pm
zuch (mail) (www):
Tom Perkins:
zuch, as I'm sure someone has already pointed out to you (and was referenced here) Levitt knowingly made false statements RE lott.

I saw that and acknowledged that here. While Levitt acknowledged error, that is not sufficient to constitute knowing falsity, however, his settlement of the claim concernign this e-mail (terms of which I'm not familiar) might indicate a tacit acknoweldgement of some wrong .. or might not.

But that claim, as I said, was not the gravamen on the case under discussion here.

Cheers,
2.14.2009 7:57pm
Tom Perkins (mail):

But that claim, as I said, was not the gravamen on the case under discussion here.


I have not claimed differently. You are incautious in your reading, for example, you write:


While Levitt acknowledged error, that is not sufficient to constitute knowing falsity


Levitt claimed a paper by Lott was not peer reviewed, when Levitt was one of the reviewers, prima facie evidence of knowingly speaking falsely.

Also, Tim Lambert writes disingenuously at best to say Lotts work has been falsified, per Clayton Cramer.

Of the two, I know who I'd trust to be honest.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, &pfpp
2.14.2009 8:49pm

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