The Seventh Circuit has affirmed the dismissal of John Lott's defamation claim, the one tied to the meaning of the word "replication."
The court reasoned as follows:
But this technical reading is not the only reasonable interpretation of the passage. After all, Freakonomics didn't become a bestseller by targeting just academics. The book takes into account the lay reader, breaking down technical terms into easily understandable, if imprecise, ideas. For example, the technicalities of regression analysis are explained by an analogy to a golfer's handicap, since both even the playing field so that variables (or golfers) can be compared on all fours. The book relies on anecdotal evidence and describes with only the broadest strokes the statistical methodologies used. In this context, 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.
The court is wrong to think the "generic definition" of replication is "outside the realm of academia," but the ultimate outcome -- affirming the district court's dismissal -- is the right one.
H/T - Volokh
The court is wrong to think the "generic definition" of replication is "outside the realm of academia," but the ultimate outcome -- affirming the district court's dismissal -- is the right one.The opinion is here.