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 Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Portland State University.[3] His primary research areas are critical thinking, philosophy of education, and moral reasoning. 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.[4]

Boghossian is the author of A Manual for Creating Atheists.[5]


Boghossian's thesis looks at the use with prison inmates of the Socratic method for critical thinking and moral reasoning with the intention to decrease ongoing criminal behavior.[6] 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.[7]

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.[8]

Philosophical work[edit]

Boghossian has stated that he wants to be "the type of person who is willing to revise his beliefs, maybe I want to be the type of person who is inquisitive, trustful of reason and treats people well."[9]

Boghossian has called all faith-based beliefs "delusions."[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."[9]

According to him, "the regressive left have taken over academia."[9] He has repeatedly stated that cultural relativism and egalitarianism are contradictory values.[9][11][12]

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."[13]

Cogent Social Sciences hoax paper[edit]

In 2017, Boghossian and his colleague James Lindsay published a hoax paper in the pay-to-publish journal Cogent Social Sciences. They initially submitted the paper to the unranked Norma, where it was rejected, and then submitted, on recommendation from Norma, to Cogent Social Sciences, where it was peer reviewed and accepted. The paper, later revealed as a hoax in Skeptic magazine, intended to highlight a couple of problems: firstly, the "echo-chamber" of morally driven postmodernist social sciences and, secondly, the problem of "lax standards" with pay-to-publish journals.[14] The journal later retracted the paper.[15]

Steven Pinker tweeted about it to his followers,[16] but later linked to a Salon article, saying that the "hoax missed the mark".[17] Others, such as the science communicator Yvette d'Entremont, pointed out that similar hoaxes involving randomly-generated scientific papers have been conducted many times before in pay-to-publish, peer-review scientific journals, yet no one has concluded that these papers undercut science; rather, they merely reveal the problems associated with pay-to-publish platforms.[18] Once the extent of the hoax had been revealed by its authors, Pinker tweeted a link to a Quillette article in which several academics critiqued the societal and academic practices that allow for such hoaxes to occur.[19]

The Grievance Studies affair[edit]

The Grievance Studies affair (also referred to as the "Sokal Squared" scandal by the news media) was an academic hoax perpetrated 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 poor science was undermining the fields.[20][21]

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[22].

After this, the trio revealed the full extent of their work in a viral YouTube video created and released by documentary filmmaker Mike Nayna, alongside an investigation by The Wall Street Journal.[23][24] By the time of the revelation seven of their 20 papers had been accepted, four had been published, one had won an award, and three were in the final stages of revision before formal acceptance.[25] The documentary did not disclose that Boghossian fabricated data to support one of the papers.[26]

The papers made bizarre recommendations including chaining up children and keeping men on leashes. Another paper was accepted by leading feminist social work journal Affilia and added up-to-date jargon into passages lifted from Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf;[26]

The studies were variously praised by academic reviewers as “a rich and exciting contribution to the study of ... the intersection between masculinity and anality”, “excellent and very timely” and — in the case of feminist Mein Kampf — offering “important dialogue for social workers and feminist scholars”.[27][28]

The project drew both praise and criticism, with author and Harvard lecturer Yascha Monk dubbing it 'Sokal squared' in reference to the famous Sokal Affair hoax perpetrated by Alan Sokal and said "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?"[29] Daniel Engber of Slate criticised the project, saying "one could have run this sting on almost any empirical discipline and returned the same result."[30] Joel P. Christensen and Matthew A. Sears said it was "the academic equivalent of the fraudulent hit pieces on Planned Parenthood" produced in 2015.[31] Carl T. Bergstrom claimed "the hoaxers appear woefully naïve about how the [peer review] system actually works."[32]



  • 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.



  • 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. ^ "Portland State College of Liberal Arts & Sciences: Department of Philosophy | Peter Boghossian". Retrieved 2016-06-04.
  4. ^ Secular Global Institute: "Peter Boghossian"[dead link].
  5. ^ Winston, Kimberly (November 18, 2013). "Got faith? 'A Manual for Creating Atheists' would like to change that". The Washington Post. Retrieved November 30, 2013.
  6. ^ Boghossian, Peter (2006-01-01). "Socratic Pedagogy, Critical Thinking, and Inmate Education". Journal of Correctional Education. 57 (1): 42–63. JSTOR 23282687.
  7. ^ "Center for Prison Reform, Fellows". Center for Prison Reform. 03-06-2016.
  8. ^ "Federal Probation Journal - June 2012". United States Courts. Retrieved 2016-06-03.
  9. ^ a b c d Rubin, Dave (2015-12-18), "Peter Boghossian and Dave Rubin: Critical Thinking, Atheism, and Faith [Full Interview]", The Rubin Report, retrieved 2016-06-03
  10. ^ Holgate, Tess (20 June 2015). "How do you know? Atheist vs believer debates strike again". Bible Society Australia.
  11. ^ "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.
  12. ^ "One cannot simultaneously maintain relativism & egalitarianism. Yet these contradictory values are held by many contemporary leftists". Peter Boghossian on Twitter. 25 May 2013.
  13. ^ "Prof. Peter Boghossian: the "How do you know?" tour". Rationalist Society of Australia. 2015.
  14. ^ "The Conceptual Penis as a Social Construct: A Sokal-Style Hoax on Gender Studies". Skeptic. 19 May 2017.
  15. ^ Lindsay, Jamie; Boyle, Peter; Halsall, Jamie (19 May 2017). "The conceptual penis as a social construct". Cogent Social Sciences. 3 (1). doi:10.1080/23311886.2017.1330439.
  16. ^ "Steven Pinker on Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 2017-05-27.
  17. ^ "Steven Pinker on Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 2017-05-27.
  18. ^ "Get Me Off Your F*cking Mailing List, The Penis As A Construct, and Other Predatory Publishing Tales. - SciBabe". SciBabe. 2017-05-23. Retrieved 2017-05-24.
  19. ^ "Steven Pinker on Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 2018-10-03.
  20. ^ "Another set of fake papers takes aim at social science's nether regions". The Economist. Retrieved 2018-10-08.
  21. ^ "Papers - Google Drive". Retrieved 2018-10-08.
  22. ^ "Academic journal duped by author of 'dog rape culture' article". Campus Reform. 2018-07-25. Retrieved 2018-10-08.
  23. ^
  24. ^ Melchior, Jillian Kay (2018-10-05). "Opinion | Fake News Comes to Academia". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 2018-10-08.
  25. ^ "Subscribe to The Australian | Newspaper home delivery, website, iPad, iPhone & Android apps". Retrieved 2018-10-08.
  26. ^ a b 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.
  27. ^ "Subscribe to The Australian | Newspaper home delivery, website, iPad, iPhone & Android apps". Retrieved 2018-10-08.
  28. ^ "Papers - Google Drive". Retrieved 2018-10-08.
  29. ^ "'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.
  30. ^ Engber, Daniel. "The "Grievance Studies" Hoax Does Not Reveal the Academic Scandal That It Claims". Slate Magazine. Retrieved 2018-10-08.
  31. ^ "Sokal-squared hoax was a put-down of scholars concerned with racial issues (opinion) | Inside Higher Ed". Retrieved 2018-10-30.
  32. ^ "What the 'Grievance Studies' Hoax Means". The Chronicle of Higher Education. 2018-10-09. Retrieved 2018-10-30.

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