A couple days ago I came across a link on Twitter to a post on Judith Curry's blog saying a scientist was suing critics to shut them up. Naturally, I was curious. I went to the blog post and saw it starts off:
Mannian litigation gone wild. — Steve McIntyre
Details given by Michael Schellenberger in Environmental Progress:
Stanford University professor Mark Z. Jacobson has filed a lawsuit, demanding $10 million in damages, against the peer-reviewed scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) [link to published paper] and a group of eminent scientists (Clack et al.) for their study showing that Jacobson made improper assumptions in order to claim that he had demonstrated U.S. energy could be provided exclusively by renewable energy, primarily wind, water, and solar.
A copy of Jacobson’s complaint and submitted exhibits can be found here and here.
What Jacobson has done is unprecedented. Scientific disagreements must be decided not in court but rather through the scientific process. We urge Stanford University, Stanford Alumni, and everyone who loves science and free speech to denounce this lawsuit.
The idea presented here is quite serious, but I wanted to do a little checking before drawing conclusions as filing a lawsuit is not trivial a thing to most people. Why would someone file a lawsuit like this? Would they think they could shut their critics up just by filing baseless lawsuits?
I know plenty of people like to act as though the answer to that question is yes. Anthony Watts ran a post about this lawsuit titled, "UGLY: Disputing peer review by lawsuit" and began it by saying:
Wow, just wow. Some scientists and their egos. Sheesh.
Another blog ran a post titled,
Academia Stunned As Science Anti-Free Speech Neurosis Flares…”Eminent Scientists” Sued Over Dissident Paper!
While quoting the reaction of only one academic (Judith Curry), which seems odd for an article saying academia as a whole is having any particular reaction. There doesn't seem to have been any effort to gauge how academics feel about this in general, much less an effort to examine what the lawsuit is really about. It's just more of the typical lazy talking points with no substance. It makes me wonder, is that all there really is?