These Heroes Just Pulled Off the Greatest Academic Hoax of the Modern Age

These Heroes Just Pulled Off the Greatest Academic Hoax of the Modern Age

It’s 4 AM CST as we’re typing this, and in a few hours a lot of people are going to wake up to a whole world of shame and embarrassment.

For those of you who have time, please read the full write-up of this landmark event over at Aero Magazine. Trust us, it’s worth it. If you don’t, here are the highlights:

A Short History of the Hoaxers

A couple of years ago, philosopher Peter Boghossian and mathematician James Lindsay, exposed some of the glaring flaws in the academic field of Gender Studies by managing to publish a paper in one of its respected journals, entitled “The Conceptual Penis as a Social Construct“.

There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth, and the only seemingly valid criticisms that emerged from the screeching was the assertion that the journal in which it was published, just wasn’t that prestigious, and that it was just one paper.

Yeah, well, that’s when they went to work, recruiting Helen Pluckrose to their team to create a triumvirate of academic badassery and bullshit stomping. And after 18 months of working in secret…

The Papers

Each of these were submitted to respected, academic, peer-reviewed journals. So take a seat, because once you’re done reading this part, you’re going to need a few stiff bottles of whisky and a few hours of sweet unconsciousness:

  • A Feminist re-write of a chapter from Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf

  • A paper arguing that men should be trained like dogs to prevent rape culture

  • A paper that claims it is an act of violence for a man to masturbate about a woman without first seeking her consent

  • A paper about how Artificial Intelligence will be programmed using Frankenstien to be masculine and an extension of the patriarchy

  • A paper about how Social Justice advocates should be allowed to mock people but should be exempt themselves from being mocked

  • A paper about how “privileged” students shouldn’t be allowed to talk in class and should be forced to sit on the floor

  • A paper arguing for a new division of Competitive Bodybuilding for those who build their bodies with fat

  • A paper arguing for queer and feminist-focused Astronomy

  • A paper that asked why straight men do not masturbate using dildos for anal penetration


Haha, just kidding:

Our papers also present very shoddy methodologies including incredibly implausible statistics (“Dog Park”), making claims not warranted by the data (“CisNorm,” “Hooters,” “Dildos”), and ideologically-motivated qualitative analyses (“CisNorm,” “Porn”). (NB: See Papers section below.) Questionable qualitative methodologies such as poetic inquiry and autoethnography (sometimes rightly and pejoratively called “mesearch”) were incorporated (especially in “Moon Meetings”).

Again, read the whole thing over at Aero. Then maybe hit them up on their Patreon for their amazing contribution towards stemming (get it) the tide of bullshit in the academic world.


So why are we calling these three heroes? Well as the Wall Street Journal points out, Peter Boghossian doesn’t have tenure as a professor, and suspects he’ll be fired over this, Helen Pluckrose is concerned this will completely end her academic journey, and James Lindsay also expects there will be serious repercussions. Still, all three put their livelihoods, and their lives’ work on the line to expose this scabby wart on academia’s backside, and all three agree that it’s worth it, whatever the risk.




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  1. Santiago
    Santiago 15 November, 2018, 12:17

    Didn’t they submit it to a pay-for-publish “journal” before? If they’re exposing the number of totally useless pay-for-publish journals and being open about that, great, but I think this article needs more information written in it explaining exactly what they did.

  2. Phrost
    Phrost Author 17 November, 2018, 03:25

    That’s a reasonable question, but most if not all (we’re hedging because we’re not 100% sure) of the journals are highly respected within their fields. Hypatia, for example, is considered of the premier scholarly feminist journals.

  3. H_sh_m
    H_sh_m 1 December, 2018, 14:26

    Apparently their methodology involved submitting and having papers rejected by higher ranking journals, then using the criticism they received to revise the papers and submit to lower ranking journals. This is a pretty effective strategy for getting sham papers through scrutiny.

    One of the major flaws of their work is that they have no control group. After arbitrarily defining a group as grievance studies, they didn’t attempt to run the same hoax across fields of social science that they deemed as non-grievance studies. So we can’t really tell if the rate of failure here is significantly greater in this field than it would be in other non-natural science fields. Is this a problem with the social sciences in general or just these fields of study?

    In promoting their scam they’ve done a few questionable things like misrepresent polite constructive criticism from a journal that rejected them, as complimentary approval.

    Most of the journalism surrounding the issue has been seriously lacking. For example, Phrost’s article above does not make it clear that only 4 out of 20 submitted articles were published. (However this is still terrible, also 7 were accepted subject to revisions, 6 outright rejected, and the experiment was interrupted early.)

    I would like to have seen a table indicating which articles were published, in which journals, alongside a somewhat objective ranking of the prestige of the journal itself, as well as how many revisions were required to get the article through.

    This is important because the sham articles were not all of the same level of ridiculousness. Some of the articles were actually slight alterations of more reasonable claims that made then turned the claims ridiculous.

    There’s obviously a serious problem here. I think there should be a permanent fund dedicated to this sort of work, in the same way TSA will have undercover agents actually try to slip contraband onto the plane as a constant security test. However, I would hate for salacious coverage to promote the tech bro/douchebag conclusion that the entire area of study is worthless.

  4. H_sh_m
    H_sh_m 1 December, 2018, 14:30

    Oh also, Santiago brought up a good point as it is correct that the original Sokol sham involved a pay-to-publish journal.

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