Peter Boghossian

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Peter Boghossian
Born (1966-07-25) July 25, 1966 (age 52)
Alma materPortland State University
EraContemporary philosophy
RegionWestern philosophy
SchoolNew Atheism[1]
InstitutionsPortland State University
Main interests
Atheism, critical thinking, pedagogy, scientific skepticism, Socratic method
Notable ideas
Socratic pedagogy

Peter Gregory Boghossian (/bəˈɡziən/; born July 25, 1966)[2] is an American philosopher. He is an assistant professor of philosophy at Portland State University. Boghossian's areas of academic focus include atheism, critical thinking, pedagogy, scientific skepticism, and the Socratic method. He is the author of A Manual for Creating Atheists, released in 2013. Boghossian was involved in the Grievance Studies affair (also called "Sokal Squared" in media coverage) with collaborators James Lindsay and Helen Pluckrose, in which they published several hoax papers in academic journals, as part of their criticism of a set of fields including gender studies. As a result, Portland State University initiated a research misconduct investigation of him in 2018.


His 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.[3] 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.[4] Boghossian is employed as an assistant professor at Portland State University.[5]

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.[6]


Boghossian is 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.[7]

Boghossian is the author of A Manual for Creating Atheists.[8] He also contributed to Stefan Molyneux's book Against the Gods.[9][10]

Boghossian has called all faith-based beliefs "delusions."[11] 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."[12]

According to him, "the regressive left have taken over academia."[12] He has repeatedly stated that cultural relativism and egalitarianism are contradictory values.[12][13][14]

Richard Dawkins stated that "Boghossian's techniques of friendly persuasion are not mine, and maybe I’d be more effective if they were. They are undoubtedly very persuasive—and very much needed."[15]

The 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, fat and sexuality studies in which they believed were characterized by low scientific standards.[16]

Beginning in August 2017, the trio wrote 20 hoax papers, submitting them to peer-reviewed journals under a variety of pseudonyms, as well as the name of their friend 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.[17]

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.[18][19] 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.[20]

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".[21]

The project drew both praise and criticism, with author and Harvard lecturer 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?"[22] Daniel Engber of Slate criticised the project, saying "one could have run this sting on almost any empirical discipline and returned the same result."[23] 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."[24][25] Joel P. Christensen and Matthew A. Sears said it was "the academic equivalent of the fraudulent hit pieces on Planned Parenthood" produced in 2015.[9] Carl T. Bergstrom claimed "the hoaxers appear woefully naïve about how the [peer review] system actually works."[26]

Cogent Social Sciences hoax paper[edit]

In 2017, Boghossian and his colleague James Lindsay published a hoax paper titled "The Conceptual Penis as a Social Construct" [27]. 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.”[27][28] Boghossian and Lindsay initially submitted the paper to Norma, where it was rejected. [29][30] They later submitted the paper to Cogent Social Sciences, an open access journal which has been criticized as a pay-to-publish operation. [27]

The authors later revealed 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.[28] 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.[31]

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."[32]

Evolutionary biologist Richard 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."[32] IRB experts interviewed by Jesse Singal for New York Magazine agreed that Boghossian should have sought IRB approval for the study.[33]



  • 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.


  • Boghossian, Peter (January 1, 2013). A Manual for Creating Atheists. Pitchstone Publishing. ISBN 1939578094.


  • Reasons To Believe, 2017 documentary


  1. ^ Schulson, Michael (11 February 2013). "Atheist Philosopher Peter Boghossian's Guide to Converting Believers". The Daily Beast.
  2. ^ "United States Public Records, 1970-2009," database, FamilySearch (23 May 2014), Peter Gregory Boghossian, Residence, Las Vegas, Nevada, United States; a third party aggregator of publicly available information.
  3. ^ Boghossian, Peter (2006-01-01). "Socratic Pedagogy, Critical Thinking, and Inmate Education". Journal of Correctional Education. 57 (1): 42–63. JSTOR 23282687.
  4. ^ "Center for Prison Reform, Fellows". Center for Prison Reform. 03-06-2016.
  5. ^ "Portland State College of Liberal Arts & Sciences: Department of Philosophy | Peter Boghossian". Retrieved 2016-06-04.
  6. ^ "Federal Probation Journal - June 2012". United States Courts. Retrieved 2016-06-03.
  7. ^ Secular Global Institute: "Peter Boghossian"[dead link].
  8. ^ Winston, Kimberly (November 18, 2013). "Got faith? 'A Manual for Creating Atheists' would like to change that". The Washington Post. Retrieved November 30, 2013.
  9. ^ a b Joel P. Christensen; Matthew A. Sears (30 October 2018). "The Overlooked Messages of the Sokal-Squared Hoax". Retrieved 16 April 2019.
  10. ^ Beauchamp, Zack (15 Oct 2018). "The controversy around hoax studies in critical theory, explained". Vox Media, Inc. Retrieved 16 April 2019.
  11. ^ Holgate, Tess (20 June 2015). "How do you know? Atheist vs believer debates strike again". Bible Society Australia.
  12. ^ a b c Rubin, Dave (2015-12-18), "Peter Boghossian and Dave Rubin: Critical Thinking, Atheism, and Faith [Full Interview]", The Rubin Report, retrieved 2016-06-03
  13. ^ "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.
  14. ^ "One cannot simultaneously maintain relativism & egalitarianism. Yet these contradictory values are held by many contemporary leftists". Peter Boghossian on Twitter. 25 May 2013.
  15. ^ "Prof. Peter Boghossian: the "How do you know?" tour". Rationalist Society of Australia. 2015.
  16. ^ "Another set of fake papers takes aim at social science's nether regions". The Economist. Retrieved 2018-10-08.
  17. ^ "Academic journal duped by author of 'dog rape culture' article". Campus Reform. 2018-07-25. Retrieved 2018-10-08.
  18. ^
  19. ^ Melchior, Jillian Kay (2018-10-05). "Opinion | Fake News Comes to Academia". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 2018-10-08.
  20. ^ Schuessler, Jennifer (October 4, 2018). "Hoaxers Slip Breastaurants and Dog-Park Sex Into Journals". New York Times. 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.
  21. ^ Whipple, Tom (October 4, 2018). "Journals publish hoaxers' absurd gender studies". The Times. p. 19. Retrieved January 27, 2019 – via EBSCOhost Newspaper Source Plus.
  22. ^ "'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. Retrieved 2018-10-08.
  23. ^ Engber, Daniel. "The "Grievance Studies" Hoax Does Not Reveal the Academic Scandal That It Claims". Slate Magazine. Retrieved 2018-10-08.
  24. ^ McWilliams, James (25 Jan 2019). "A Philosopher's Hoax Embarrassed Several Academic Journals. Was It Satire or Fraud?". Pacific Standard. Retrieved 16 April 2019.
  25. ^ "'Conceptual Penises' and other trolling: On the philosophy of science and making sense of 'Hoax Studies'". Portland State Vanguard. 9 November 2018. Retrieved 16 April 2019.
  26. ^ "What the 'Grievance Studies' Hoax Means". The Chronicle of Higher Education. 2018-10-09. Retrieved 2018-10-30.
  27. ^ a b c Schuessler, Jennifer (October 4, 2018). "Hoaxers Slip Breastaurants and Dog-Park Sex Into Journals". The New York Times. Retrieved 23 January 2019.
  28. ^ a b Jaschik, Scott (May 22, 2017). "Hoax With Multiple Targets". Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved 23 January 2019.
  29. ^ Tillberg, Anneli (12 June 2017). "Attack on gender studies despite rejection of hoax article". Retrieved 17 April 2019.
  30. ^ "Statement regarding hoax article". NORMA: International Journal for Masculinity Studies. 26 May 2017. Retrieved 17 April 2019.
  31. ^ Sokal, Alan (June 14, 2017). "What the 'Conceptual Penis' Hoax Does and Does Not Prove". The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved 27 January 2019.
  32. ^ a b Mangan, Katherine (January 7, 2019). "Proceedings Start Against 'Sokal Squared' Hoax Professor". The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved January 11, 2019.
  33. ^ Singal, Jesse (January 11, 2019). "Is a Portland Professor Being Railroaded by His University for Criticizing Social-Justice Research?". New York Magazine. Retrieved January 11, 2019.

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