Heroes of our time. Three liberals did what the right should have done

The Western scientific world is shaken by a massive scandal. Three respected scientists admitted that for a whole year they conducted a not quite ethical social experiment.

They deliberately wrote completely meaningless and even frankly absurd scientific articles in various fields of the social sciences to prove that ideology in this sphere has gained the upper hand over common sense.

The works were written under fictitious names - and, as their authors suggested, they were successfully tested and published in respected peer-reviewed scientific journals. And one of the most absurd articles - that sex between dogs in the park should be considered in the context of the culture of rape - was even awarded a special award.

Science aims to establish the truth, insist the authors, but in the field of social research the truth has long been of little interest to anyone. The main thing is compliance with ideological norms: the condemnation of oppressors of all stripes and the expression of support “humiliated and insulted”.

Who are these people?

Dissidents from the scientific world revealed their real names themselves, writing an open letter to Areo magazine and talking about his experiment. Here they are: James Lindsay, Helen Plakrouz and Peter Bogossian.

From left to right - James Lindsay, Helen Placrose and Peter Bogossian

Lindsey - Doctor of Mathematical Sciences, a famous skeptic, an atheist and author of several noise-making books, including “Everyone is wrong about God” (Everybody Is Wrong About God) and “Life In The Light Of Death” (Life In Light Of Death).

Placrose - A specialist in religious literature of the Renaissance. In her serious scholarly works, she explores how, in the XIV-XVII centuries, women used Christian texts to protect their rights.

Bogossian - perhaps the most famous of these trios - is a professor at the University of Portland. Ph.D., he specializes in teaching philosophy, critical thinking, and is also a member of the Foundation for Science and Common Sense, founded by renowned British biologist and writer Richard Dawkins. Boghossian himself also wrote a book called “A Manual for Creating Atheists” (A Manual for Creating Atheists).

All three of their political beliefs are defined as “Liberals who are left-winged”.

However, being themselves employees of the higher education system and members of the scientific community, they argue that in certain areas of the social sciences “a strong (if not dominant) place was occupied by scientific works, which are based not so much on the search for truth as on abuses social injustice. ”

“The authors of such works are increasingly putting pressure on students, administration and staff from other faculties, forcing them to express support for their views. At the same time, these views are absolutely not scientific ”,

- Authors of the open letter claim.

As a result, serious journals print absurd works, because “a person who calls into question any research in the field of identity, privilege and oppression risks being accused of narrow-mindedness and prejudice.”

What exactly did they do?

Since August 2017, Lindsay, Boghossian and Plakrose under fictitious names have sent articles designed as usual scientific research to reputable and peer-reviewed scientific journals 20.

Subjects of work varied, but all of them were devoted to various manifestations of the struggle against social injustice: studies of feminism, culture of masculinity, issues of racial identification and sexual orientation, bodypositive, and so on.

In each article, any radical skeptical theory was put forward, condemning one or another “social construct” (for example, gender roles). At the same time, the works themselves were frankly absurd, the authors deliberately wrote them with a bit of humor, allowing to doubt the seriousness of the study.

From a scientific point of view, the article did not hold water. The proposed theories were not supported by the figures cited, sometimes they referred to non-existent sources or works of the same fictitious author, and so on.

For example, in one of the works it was proposed to train men like dogs. In the other, forcing white students to listen to lectures sitting on the floor of the audience chained, as punishment for the slavery of their ancestors.

In the third extreme degree of obesity, threatening health, was encouraged as a free choice of a healthy person. In the fourth, it was proposed to consider masturbation, in the course of which a man represents in his fantasies a real woman, an act of sexual violence against her.

The article “Dog Park” claimed that the researchers felt the genitals of almost 10 of thousands of dogs, questioning their owners about the sexual orientation of the pets. In the article “Chest,” scientists seriously wondered what attracts heterosexual men in women.

And one of the articles on the topic of feminism - “Our struggle is my struggle” - was a somewhat rephrased chapter from Adolf Hitler’s book “Mein Kampf”.

“I won’t lie, we had a lot of fun working on this project,” admits James Lindsey.

What ended the experiment

Of the 20 written works, at least seven were reviewed by leading scientists and accepted for publication.

The only question asked by one of the reviewers was whether Helen Wilson (the fictional author of the work) really observed in the city park of Oregon “one dog rape every hour”.

“At least seven” - because seven more articles were at the stage of review and review at the moment when scientists had to stop the experiment and reveal their incognito.

The article “Canine Park” (full name - “The reaction of people to the culture of rape and sexual orientation in the dog parks of Portland, Oregon”) was published in the scientific journal Gender, Place and Culture - and ridiculed in social networks.

The published “study” was so ridiculous that it attracted the attention of not only serious scientists who pointed out its absurdity, but also journalists who tried to identify Helen Wilson.

When the Wall Street Journal correspondent called the number left by the authors in one of the editorial offices in early August, he was answered by James Lindsey himself.

The professor did not go into hiding and honestly spoke about his experiment - asking only for the time being not to make it available to the general public, so that he and his dissident friends could roll up the project ahead of time and summarize its results.

As a result, expose article in WSJ only 2 of October was published — simultaneously with an open letter from Lindsay, Plakrouz, and Bogossian.

What's next?

The scandal is still shaking the American - and in general Western - scientific community. The dissident scientists have not only ardent critics, but also supporters who actively express their support for them.

James Lindsay recorded a video message, trying to justify himself and explain his position.

“We believe that themes of gender, racial identity and sexual orientation, of course, deserve research,” he argues. - But it is important to investigate them correctly, without bias. The problem is precisely how HOW they are being studied now. ”

“The current culture dictates to us that only conclusions of a certain kind can be acceptable - for example, white skin or masculinity must necessarily present a problem. And the fight against manifestations of social injustice is put above the objective truth, ”he explains.

However, the authors of the experiment say that one way or another their reputation in the scientific community has been destroyed - and they themselves do not expect anything good.

Bogossian is sure that he will be fired from the university or punished in some other way. Plakrouz fears that now it may not take a doctoral program. And Lindsay says that now he will surely turn into an “academic outcast”, which will not close the way both to teaching and to publishing serious scientific works.

And at the same time, they all agree that the project justified itself.

“The risk that biased research will continue to have an impact on education, the media, politics and culture is far worse for us than any consequences we may face,”

- said James Lindsay in an interview with the WSJ.

Scientific journals, where fake works were published, promised to remove them from their websites, but they no longer commented on the scandal.

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