Biology Intelligent Design Peer review Science

Alan Sokal, buy yourself a latte: “Star Wars” biology paper accepted

Spread the love
What’s hot? What’s not?/Niklas Bildhauer, Wikimedia

Physicist Sokal perpetrated the first hoax paper over two decades ago, to prove a point. From Stephanie Pappas at LiveScience:

Mitochondria: totally real cell organelles that convert sugars, fats and oxygen into usable energy for cells. Midi-chlorians: completely made-up and widely derided microscopic life-forms that give Jedi warriors their ability to use the Force in the “Star Wars” movies.

See the difference? A handful of “peer reviewers” apparently didn’t, as a paper that subbed in “midi-chlorians” for “mitochondria” got accepted into four journals this week. The paper mashed up lightly altered text from Wikipedia on mitochondria with Star Wars-related rambling, including the infamous monologue on the tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise from “Revenge of the Sith.”

The paper was a hoax written by the so-called Neuroskeptic, who blogs pseudonymously for Discover magazine. More.

Neuroskeptic is doing us all a favour. As Pappas makes clear, many new journals are mere parasites on the unearned prestige of “Science” (as opposed to science).

Meanwhile, the tone deaf make a living off universities in part by scolding the rest of us for our stubborn disbelief in poorly sourced, obviously political, out-of-date stuff marketed as science, stuff that seems doubtful on the face of the evidence and is to be accepted on faith alone. Faith in them, that is.

Hoaxes have at least the virtue of being entertaining. See, for example, the Gentlemen Prefer Blondes genre.

Keep up to date with Retraction Watch

See also: Replication crisis: Neuroskeptic on foxes guarding the henhouse

Free excerpt from Austin Ruse’s Fake Science

Sokal hoax 20 years old. (The original paper drawing attention to nonsense marketed as science.)


Nature: Stuck with a battle it dare not fight, even for the soul of science. Welcome to the most deadly threat: Post-modernism hits the sciences

Leave a Reply