Peter Boghossian

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Peter Boghossian
Peter Boghossian TAM 2013 (9326703388) (cropped).jpg
Born
Peter Gregory Boghossian

(1966-07-25) July 25, 1966 (age 55)
EducationPortland State University (EdD)
EraContemporary philosophy[citation needed]
RegionWestern philosophy[citation needed]
InstitutionsPortland State University
Main interests
Atheism, critical thinking, pedagogy, scientific skepticism, Socratic method
Notable ideas
Socratic pedagogy, street epistemology
Influences
Influenced
  • Anthony Magnabosco
WebsiteOfficial website

Peter Gregory Boghossian (/bəˈɡziən/; born July 25, 1966)[1] is an American philosopher and pedagogist. Born in Boston,[2] he was an assistant professor of philosophy at Portland State University for ten years, and his areas of academic focus include atheism, critical thinking, pedagogy, scientific skepticism, and the Socratic method.[3] He is the author of A Manual for Creating Atheists and (with James Lindsay) How to Have Impossible Conversations: A Very Practical Guide.

Boghossian was involved in the grievance studies affair (also called "Sokal Squared" in media coverage) with collaborators James A. Lindsay and Helen Pluckrose, in which they published several hoax papers in low-impact academic journals which put forth intentionally preposterous ideas as a way of demonstrating the ease of having ideologically leftist papers published in relation to gender studies and other fields. After an investigation, Portland State University restricted Boghossian's future work on the basis of what they considered his research misconduct, including failure to adhere to institutional review board (IRB) processes. In September 2021, Boghossian resigned his position from Portland State University, citing harassment and a lack of intellectual freedom.[4]

Career[edit]

Boghossian's primary interests are critical thinking, philosophy of education, and moral reasoning. Boghossian's thesis looks at the use of the Socratic method with prison inmates for critical thinking and moral reasoning with the intention to decrease ongoing criminal behavior.[5] The research was funded by the State of Oregon. Boghossian was Chairman of the Prison Advisory Committee for the Columbia River Correctional Institution and he is currently a fellow at the Center for Prison Reform.[6] Boghossian was recently employed as an assistant professor at Portland State University, quitting in protest due to what Boghossian viewed as a culture of illiberalism.[7][8]

Boghossian is the author of two books, A Manual for Creating Atheists,[9] a book with a foreword by Michael Shermer,[10] and How to Have Impossible Conversations: A Very Practical Guide.[11] He also contributed a foreword to Stefan Molyneux's book Against the Gods.[12][13]

As part of his ongoing interest in Prison Reform, Portland State University entered into a partnership with the Columbia River Correctional Institution in 2009 to address the needs of inmates releasing into the community. Details of this partnership have been elaborated in an article titled Prisons, Community Partnerships, and Academia: Sustainable Programs and Community Need.[14]

Along with Michael Shermer and Jennifer Whitson, Boghossian was featured as an expert in the 2017 documentary Reasons To Believe, which explores the psychology and science of belief.[15]

Boghossian has been a speaker for the Center for Inquiry, the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, and the Secular Student Alliance. He has been nominated as a member of the Global Secular Council.[16]

In September 2021, Boghossian resigned his position from Portland State University.[4] In his resignation letter, Boghossian called the university a "Social Justice factory", said that he faced harassment and retaliation for speaking out, and accused the university of limiting free speech in order to promote racial equity and social justice.[4]

Views[edit]

Boghossian has called all faith-based beliefs "delusions".[17] He has been described by The Daily Beast as aligned with the New Atheist movement.[10] He advocates using the Socratic method to dissuade religious believers, though he recommends focusing on criticism of faith as a way of knowing (he calls it an "unreliable epistemology"), rather than the outward trappings of religious communities.[10]

In a 2015 interview with Dave Rubin, Boghossian described himself as a classical liberal who has never voted for a Republican candidate, but is "not a fan" of the Democrats. He stated that any of the Republican candidates for the 2016 presidential election "would be an unmitigated disaster".[18] He donated to and endorsed Andrew Yang for the 2020 United States presidential election.[19]

According to Boghossian, "the regressive left have taken over academia".[18] He has often stated that cultural relativism and egalitarianism are contradictory values.[18][20][21]

Grievance studies affair[edit]

The grievance studies affair, also referred to as the "Sokal Squared" scandal by the news media, consisted of the submission of hoax academic papers for peer-review, performed by Boghossian, James A. Lindsay and Helen Pluckrose on a series of academic fields which they termed "grievance studies", a sub-category of race, gender, feminist and sexuality studies which they believed were characterized by low scientific standards.[22]

Previous hoax paper[edit]

In 2017, Boghossian and Lindsay published a hoax paper titled "The Conceptual Penis as a Social Construct".[23] The paper, which the authors said was intentionally absurd and written in a way that imitated the style of "poststructuralist discursive gender theory", argued that the penis should be seen "not as an anatomical organ but as a social construct isomorphic to performative toxic masculinity".[23][24] Boghossian and Lindsay initially submitted the paper to Norma, where it was rejected.[25][26] They later submitted the paper to Cogent Social Sciences, an open access journal which has been criticized as a pay-to-publish operation.[23] The authors later revealed the hoax in Skeptic magazine. Boghossian and Lindsay stated that they intended to demonstrate that "gender studies is crippled academically by an overriding almost-religious belief that maleness is the root of all evil", and also to highlight problems with the review processes of open-access journals.

A number of critics questioned whether Boghossian and Lindsay's paper demonstrated a problem in the field of gender studies.[24] Alan Sokal, a mathematics professor who was responsible for a similar hoax in 1996, noted that Cogent Social Sciences was a low-tiered open access journal that did not specialize in gender studies, and said that it seemed unlikely the paper would have been accepted at a mainstream gender studies journal.[27] While the journal did conduct a postmortem, Boghossian and Lindsay concluded the "impact [of the hoax] was very limited, and much criticism of it was legitimate".[28]

A 2021 study assessing the grievance studies affair concluded, "1) journals with higher impact factors were more likely to reject papers submitted as part of the project; (2) the chances were better, if the manuscript was allegedly based on empirical data; (3) peer reviews can be an important asset in the process of revising a manuscript; and (4) when the project authors, with academic education from neighboring disciplines, closely followed the reviewers’ advice, they were able to learn relatively quickly what is needed for writing an acceptable article. The boundary between a seriously written paper and a “hoax” gradually became blurred. Finally (5), the way the project ended showed that in the long run, the scientific community will uncover fraudulent practices."[29]

Sequence of events[edit]

Beginning in August 2017, Boghossian, Lindsay, and Pluckrose began a much larger attempt in which they wrote 20 hoax papers, submitting them to peer-reviewed journals under a variety of pseudonyms as well as the name of Richard Baldwin, a professor emeritus at Florida's Gulf Coast State College and friend of Boghossian. The project was halted early after one of the papers in the feminist geography journal Gender, Place and Culture was criticized on social media, and then its authenticity questioned on Campus Reform.[30]

After this, the trio revealed the full extent of their work in a YouTube video created and released by documentary filmmaker Mike Nayna, alongside an investigation by The Wall Street Journal.[31][32] By the time of the revelation seven of their twenty papers had been accepted, seven were still under review, and six had been rejected. One paper, which was accepted by feminist social work journal Affilia, transposed up-to-date jargon into passages lifted from Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf.[33]

Tom Whipple of The Times wrote that academic reviewers had praised the studies prior to the revelation of the hoax as "a rich and exciting contribution to the study of ... the intersection between masculinity and anality", "excellent and very timely", and "important dialogue for social workers and feminist scholars".[34]

Reactions[edit]

The project drew both praise and criticism, with author Yascha Mounk dubbing it 'Sokal squared' in reference to the famous Sokal Affair hoax perpetrated by Alan Sokal and saying "The result is hilarious and delightful. It also showcases a serious problem with big parts of academia." Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker said the project posed the question "is there any idea so outlandish that it won't be published in a Critical/PoMo/Identity/'Theory' journal?"[35] Daniel Engber of online magazine Slate criticised the project, saying "one could have run this sting on almost any empirical discipline and returned the same result".[36] In an open letter, eleven of Boghossian's colleagues at Portland State University wrote that the hoaxes "violat[ed] acceptable norms of research," and were "fraudulent, time-wasting, anti-intellectual activities".[37][38] Joel P. Christensen and Matthew A. Sears said it was "the academic equivalent of the fraudulent hit pieces on Planned Parenthood" produced in 2015.[12] Carl Bergstrom claimed "the hoaxers appear woefully naïve about how the [peer review] system actually works".[39]

Research misconduct investigation[edit]

In 2018, Boghossian's employer, Portland State University, initiated a research misconduct inquiry relating to the grievance studies affair. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, the university's institutional review board (IRB) concluded that Boghossian violated the ethical guidelines by conducting research on human subjects without approval. The University also said it is "considering a further charge that he had falsified data".[40]

After news of the research conduct investigation broke, a number of prominent academics wrote letters defending Boghossian, including evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker, mathematician and physicist Alan Sokal, philosopher Daniel Dennett, social psychologist Jonathan Haidt, and psychologist Jordan Peterson.[41] Pinker wrote that Portland State University's investigation struck him and his colleagues "as an attempt to weaponize an important [principle] of academic ethics in order to punish a scholar for expressing an unpopular opinion".[42] Dawkins suggested that the investigation could be politically motivated: "If the members of your committee of inquiry object to the very idea of satire as a form of creative expression, they should come out honestly and say so. But to pretend that this is a matter of publishing false data is so obviously ridiculous that one cannot help suspecting an ulterior motive."[40] Peterson said that those pursuing allegations against Boghossian, and not Boghossian himself, were guilty of academic misconduct.[42]

On the other hand, IRB experts interviewed by Jesse Singal for New York magazine agreed that Boghossian should have sought IRB approval for the study.[43]

In December 2018, Portland State University ruled that Boghossian had "violated ethical guidelines on human-subjects research". Consequently, he was banned from doing research until he had "completed training and could demonstrate that he understood how to protect the rights of human subjects".[44]

Bibliography[edit]

Thesis[edit]

  • Socratic pedagogy, critical thinking, moral reasoning and inmate education: an exploratory study (Ed.D. thesis). Portland State University. 2004. OCLC 57569353. Retrieved June 5, 2014.

Books[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Washington, David Charter. "Peter Boghossian: 'The woke don't give a reason for their faith. It's different rules of engagement'". The Times. ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 2021-09-20.
  2. ^ Washington, David Charter. "Peter Boghossian: 'The woke don't give a reason for their faith. It's different rules of engagement'". The Times. ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 2021-09-20.
  3. ^ "Department of Philosophy: Faculty and Staff". Archived from the original on May 17, 2021. Retrieved May 16, 2021.
  4. ^ a b c Meerah Powell (September 9, 2021). "Longtime PSU instructor quits, citing harassment, lack of free speech". Oregon Public Broadcasting. Archived from the original on 2021-09-10. Retrieved 2021-09-11.
  5. ^ Boghossian, Peter (2006-01-01). "Socratic Pedagogy, Critical Thinking, and Inmate Education". Journal of Correctional Education. 57 (1): 42–63. JSTOR 23282687.
  6. ^ "Center for Prison Reform, Fellows". Center for Prison Reform. 03-06-2016. Archived from the original on 2016-06-25. Retrieved 2016-06-04.
  7. ^ "Portland State College of Liberal Arts & Sciences: Department of Philosophy | Peter Boghossian". www.pdx.edu. Archived from the original on 2019-12-17. Retrieved 2016-06-04.
  8. ^ "My University Sacrificed Ideas for Ideology. So Today I Quit". Common Sense With Bari Weiss. Archived from the original on 2021-09-08. Retrieved 2021-09-08.
  9. ^ Winston, Kimberly (November 18, 2013). "Got faith? 'A Manual for Creating Atheists' would like to change that". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on March 27, 2019. Retrieved November 30, 2013.
  10. ^ a b c Schulson, Michael (11 February 2013). "Atheist Philosopher Peter Boghossian's Guide to Converting Believers". The Daily Beast. Archived from the original on 24 March 2017. Retrieved 22 May 2016.
  11. ^ Boghossian, Peter; Lindsay, James (2019). How to Have Impossible Conversations. Da Capo Lifelong Books. ISBN 978-0738285320.
  12. ^ a b Joel P. Christensen; Matthew A. Sears (30 October 2018). "The Overlooked Messages of the Sokal-Squared Hoax". insidehighered.com. Archived from the original on 30 October 2018. Retrieved 16 April 2019.
  13. ^ Beauchamp, Zack (15 Oct 2018). "The controversy around hoax studies in critical theory, explained". vox.com. Vox Media, Inc. Archived from the original on 16 April 2019. Retrieved 16 April 2019.
  14. ^ "Federal Probation Journal - June 2012". United States Courts. Archived from the original on 2017-08-14. Retrieved 2016-06-03.
  15. ^ "Prime Video: Reasons To Believe". Amazon.com. Archived from the original on 1 October 2020. Retrieved 1 October 2020.
  16. ^ Secular Global Institute: "Peter Boghossian" Archived 2018-06-12 at the Wayback Machine.
  17. ^ Holgate, Tess (20 June 2015). "How do you know? Atheist vs believer debates strike again". Bible Society Australia. Archived from the original on 25 June 2016. Retrieved 22 May 2016.
  18. ^ a b c Rubin, Dave (2015-12-18), "Peter Boghossian and Dave Rubin: Critical Thinking, Atheism, and Faith [Full Interview]", The Rubin Report, archived from the original on 2020-11-19, retrieved 2016-06-03
  19. ^ Peter Boghossian (2019-09-25). "I also donated to his campaign. Our best hope. #YangGang Join Andrew Yang and his campaign of ideas". Twitter. Archived from the original on 2021-03-08. Retrieved 2019-09-30.
  20. ^ "One cannot be both a cultural relativist & an egalitarian. You can't simultaneously claim all cultures are relative & equal. #RegressiveLeft". Peter Boghossian on Twitter. 21 November 2015. Archived from the original on 8 March 2021. Retrieved 22 May 2016.
  21. ^ "One cannot simultaneously maintain relativism & egalitarianism. Yet these contradictory values are held by many contemporary leftists". Peter Boghossian on Twitter. 25 May 2013. Archived from the original on 8 March 2021. Retrieved 22 May 2016.
  22. ^ "Another set of fake papers takes aim at social science's nether regions". The Economist. Archived from the original on 2018-10-09. Retrieved 2018-10-08.
  23. ^ a b c Schuessler, Jennifer (October 4, 2018). "Hoaxers Slip Breastaurants and Dog-Park Sex Into Journals". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 5 October 2018. Retrieved 23 January 2019.
  24. ^ a b Jaschik, Scott (May 22, 2017). "Hoax With Multiple Targets". Inside Higher Ed. Archived from the original on 11 February 2019. Retrieved 23 January 2019.
  25. ^ Tillberg, Anneli (12 June 2017). "Attack on gender studies despite rejection of hoax article". genus.se. Archived from the original on 12 May 2019. Retrieved 17 April 2019.
  26. ^ "Statement regarding hoax article". normajournal.wordpress.com. NORMA: International Journal for Masculinity Studies. 26 May 2017. Archived from the original on 13 April 2019. Retrieved 17 April 2019.
  27. ^ Sokal, Alan (June 14, 2017). "What the 'Conceptual Penis' Hoax Does and Does Not Prove". The Chronicle of Higher Education. Archived from the original on 28 January 2019. Retrieved 27 January 2019.
  28. ^ Pluckrose, Helen; Lindsay, James A.; Boghossian, Peter (October 2, 2018). "Academic Grievance Studies and the Corruption of Scholarship". Archived from the original on 2018-10-10. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  29. ^ Lagerspetz, Mikko (2021-03-01). ""The Grievance Studies Affair" Project: Reconstructing and Assessing the Experimental Design". Science, Technology, & Human Values. 46 (2): 402–424. doi:10.1177/0162243920923087. ISSN 0162-2439.
  30. ^ "Academic journal duped by author of 'dog rape culture' article". Campus Reform. 2018-07-25. Archived from the original on 2018-10-07. Retrieved 2018-10-08.
  31. ^ "The Grievance Studies Affair revealed". Archived from the original on 2018-10-03. Retrieved 2018-10-09 – via www.youtube.com.
  32. ^ Melchior, Jillian Kay (2018-10-05). "Opinion | Fake News Comes to Academia". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Archived from the original on 2018-10-03. Retrieved 2018-10-08.
  33. ^ Schuessler, Jennifer (October 4, 2018). "Hoaxers Slip Breastaurants and Dog-Park Sex Into Journals". New York Times. Archived from the original on 2018-10-05. Retrieved 2018-10-08. ...a third paper, published in a journal of feminist social work and titled "Our Struggle Is My Struggle," simply scattered some up-to-date jargon into passages lifted from Hitler's "Mein Kampf. ... "They set out to write 20 papers that started with "politically fashionable conclusions," which they worked backward to support by aping the relevant fields' methods and arguments, and sometimes inventing data.
  34. ^ Whipple, Tom (October 4, 2018). "Journals publish hoaxers' absurd gender studies". The Times. p. 19. Archived from the original on January 10, 2019. Retrieved January 27, 2019 – via EBSCOhost Newspaper Source Plus.
  35. ^ "'Sokal Squared': Is Huge Publishing Hoax 'Hilarious and Delightful' or an Ugly Example of Dishonesty and Bad Faith?". The Chronicle of Higher Education. 2018-10-03. Archived from the original on 2018-11-20. Retrieved 2018-10-08.
  36. ^ Engber, Daniel. "The "Grievance Studies" Hoax Does Not Reveal the Academic Scandal That It Claims". Slate Magazine. Archived from the original on 2018-10-07. Retrieved 2018-10-08.
  37. ^ McWilliams, James (25 Jan 2019). "A Philosopher's Hoax Embarrassed Several Academic Journals. Was It Satire or Fraud?". Pacific Standard. Archived from the original on 28 June 2021. Retrieved 16 April 2019.
  38. ^ "'Conceptual Penises' and other trolling: On the philosophy of science and making sense of 'Hoax Studies'". Portland State Vanguard. 9 November 2018. Archived from the original on 9 May 2019. Retrieved 16 April 2019.
  39. ^ "What the 'Grievance Studies' Hoax Means". The Chronicle of Higher Education. 2018-10-09. Archived from the original on 2018-10-09. Retrieved 2018-10-30.
  40. ^ a b Mangan, Katherine (January 7, 2019). "Proceedings Start Against 'Sokal Squared' Hoax Professor". The Chronicle of Higher Education. Archived from the original on January 8, 2019. Retrieved January 11, 2019.
  41. ^ McWilliams, James (25 January 2019). "A Philosopher's Hoax Embarrassed Several Academic Journals. Was It Satire or Fraud?". Pacific Standard. Archived from the original on 28 June 2021. Retrieved 10 September 2019.
  42. ^ a b Soave, Robby (8 January 2019). "Steven Pinker, Richard Dawkins, Jordan Peterson, Others Urge Portland State Not to Punish Peter Boghossian for 'Grievance Studies' Hoax". Reason.com. Archived from the original on 9 November 2019. Retrieved 14 August 2019.
  43. ^ Singal, Jesse (January 11, 2019). "Is a Portland Professor Being Railroaded by His University for Criticizing Social-Justice Research?". New York Magazine. Archived from the original on January 11, 2019. Retrieved January 11, 2019.
  44. ^ Mangan, Katherine (July 24, 2019). "Portland State Says Researcher Violated the Rights of the Editors He Duped". Chronicle of Higher Education. Archived from the original on November 1, 2020. Retrieved September 20, 2021.

External links[edit]