User:Perey/Mike Sutton (criminologist)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Michael "Mike" Sutton (born 1959) is a Reader in Criminology at Nottingham Trent University.

Authorial note[edit]

This userspace page serves two purposes. Firstly, it is a place in which I might draft a revision of the main article, which has been tagged as having multiple issues (six tags dating from mid-2010, still present as of February 2015). First, however, it is also a place for me (Perey), to collect links and content that I believe are important in . As a result, much of this content will not be suitable for the main article, for reasons including being original research.

My interest in Mike Sutton's work began in February 2015, when I was trying to unravel the myth of the iron content in spinach. It seemed on the one hand, that "everyone knew" that it was a myth that spinach has an extraordinarily large amount of iron. Yet on the other hand, it seemed that "everyone knew" that it was a myth that someone had caused this misconception when they misplaced a decimal point (and that nobody had thought to verify the measurements since). Sutton's explanation of the matter clarified that both were myths, one compounded upon another—what Sutton calls a "supermyth".[1] (I put the preceding reference into the "Spinach" article, where it had previously languished as "Further Reading"; edit #645101190.)

Reading more about Sutton's work, I was intrigued by his claims that Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace had "stolen" Patrick Matthew's work on evolution. However, this interest was quickly matched by bemusement at Sutton's attitudes to Wikipedia, and at the behaviour of editors citing his work here.

Let it be said at the outset that I am not a "powerful Darwinian interest". The reason for this disclaimer will, I hope, be clear shortly.


Sutton has published several academic papers and blog articles in which he seeks to debunk myths in science, particularly cases where scientific priority may be misattributed. These cases include:

  • Jock Young and Stan Cohen popularised the phrase "moral panic" in the 1960s and 1970s. Both have been credited with coining it, but they "both concede… that they probably picked up the idea of moral panic from Marshall McLuhan’s Understanding Media…".[2] Sutton rejects the attribution not only to Young and Cohen, but to McLuhan as well, pointing to usages dating back as far as 1830.[3]
  • Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace, who both published on the topic of natural selection at approximately the same time, have been traditionally awarded priority over Patrick Matthew, who published On Naval Timber and Arboriculture 27 years before Darwin's On the Origin of Species. Darwin acknowledged Matthew's work in later editions, saying that Matthew had "anticipated" his discoveries, but denied that he or any naturalist he knew was familiar with Matthew's work. Sutton rejects this claim, showing that several prominent peers of Darwin had cited Matthew in their own work, and using "big data" to demonstrate that unpublished essays by Darwin use strikingly similar language to Matthew. Sutton's claims are published in his e-book Nullius in Verba: Darwin’s Greatest Secret,[4] and in a paper presented at the 2014 British Criminology Conference.[5]
  • Richard Dawkins, author of The Selfish Gene, has been credited with coining the term "selfish gene". Sutton contends that three other authors used both the term and the concept prior to Dawkins, a fact which others have overlooked and Dawkins himself failed to acknowledge.[6]

Ethics of Wikipedia editors[edit]

In April 2013, Sutton published allegations that Wikipedia had an official policy of not citing published experts, because "experts are scum".[7] The "official policy" in question was this paragraph, written by humorist Lore Sjöberg as a criticism of Wikipedia:

The Wikipedia philosophy can be summed up thusly: "Experts are scum." For some reason people who spend 40 years learning everything they can about, say, the Peloponnesian War—and indeed, advancing the body of human knowledge—get all pissy when their contributions are edited away by Randy in Boise who heard somewhere that sword-wielding skeletons were involved. And they get downright irate when asked politely to engage in discourse with Randy until the sword-skeleton theory can be incorporated into the article without passing judgment.[8]

The paragraph was quoted on the user page of Wikipedia editor "DreamGuy", who had previously removed a citation of Sutton's work from the article "Moral panic", with the explanation that " does not count as a reliable source per WP:RS[NB 1] rules".[9] Sutton alleged that "DreamGuy" had committed plagiarism by deleting the citation of his (Sutton's) work while also relying on his conclusions, which Sutton called "unique" (and so unable to be substantiated by reference to any other author). He further inferred that as "DreamGuy" was a "master editor",[NB 2] the passage that "DreamGuy" quoted represented "his, and presumably Wikipedia's, stealth-plagiarism philosophy".[7]

Sutton also cited the example of an author editing the article "The Selfish Gene", replacing the word "coined" with "used" in the following sentence:

Dawkins coined the term "selfish gene" as a way of expressing the gene-centred view of evolution...[10]

The author of that edit, "Scientificradical", explained the edit thus:

Dawkins popularized - rather than "coined" - the term "selfish gene". Strictly speaking the term selfish gene had been "coined" previously by W.D. Hamilton and used by others.

However, "Scientificradical" did not cite Sutton as the source of this information. Again, Sutton characterised his work as "unique",[7] and so claimed that "Scientificradical" had used his work without acknowledgement. "Scientificradical" has not made any other edits to Wikipedia before or since.[11]

"Experiment" in editing Wikipedia[edit]

To be continued![12]

Wikipedia editors of note[edit]

  • DreamGuy (talk | contribs): classifies Best Thinking as an unreliable source and has removed citations of it. Warned Questionnaire about conflicts of interest.
  • Questionnaire (talk | contribs): added the material about Sutton's research on the origins of "moral panic" to that article. (DreamGuy removed the citation but not the material; Sutton accused DreamGuy of being the one to insert it in the first place.) Identifies him/herself as a (soon-to-be, as of January 2013) research assistant of one Steve Hall, criminologist; and was accordingly warned about conflicts of interest in editing related material.
  • Scientificradical (talk | contribs): has only made one edit, the one that Sutton characterises as plagiarising his myth-busting work around Dawkins and the "selfish gene" term and concept. It's probably not worth noting that this edit was inappropriately marked as a minor edit.

IP-only editors[edit]

  • disputed User:DreamGuy's characterisation of BestThinking as an "unreliable source", posting as Bob Butler, CEO of BestThinking.


  1. ^ Wikipedia's policy on reliable sources.
  2. ^ A real, but somewhat tongue-in-cheek title that may be claimed by users with 42,000 edits and six years of "service".


  1. ^ Sutton, M. (2010). "The Spinach Popeye Iron Decimal Error myth is finally busted". BestThinking. Retrieved 2015-02-08.
  2. ^ Welch, Michael; Schuster, Liza (2008). "American and British constructions of asylum seekers: Moral panic, detention, and human rights". In Brotherton, David C.; Kretsedemas, Philip (eds.). Keeping out the other: A critical introduction to immigration enforcement today. Columbia University Press. ISBN 9780231141291.
  3. ^ Sutton, M. (n.d.). "The British moral panic creation myth is bust". Retrieved 2015-02-08.
  4. ^ Sutton, Mike (July 2014). Nullius in Verba: Darwin’s Greatest Secret. Thinker Media. ISBN 9781938240515.
  5. ^ Sutton, Mike (2014). The hi-tech detection of Darwin’s and Wallace’s possible science fraud: Big data criminology re-writes the history of contested discovery (PDF). British Criminology Conference. 14. University of Liverpool: British Society of Criminology. ISSN 1759-0043. Retrieved 2015-02-01.
  6. ^ Sutton, M. (2013-03-15). "The Selfish Gene myth is bust: Richard Dawkins is an invented originator". Retrieved 2015-02-08.
  7. ^ a b c Sutton, M. (2013-04-09). "Wikipedia is plagiarizing Best Thinking under an official philosophy that "experts are scum"". Retrieved 2015-02-08.
  8. ^ Sjöberg, Lore (2006-04-19). "The Wikipedia FAQK". Wired. Retrieved 2015-02-08.
  9. ^ "Moral panic: Difference between revisions". Wikipedia. 2013-01-26. Retrieved 2015-02-08.
  10. ^ "The Selfish Gene: Difference between revisions". Wikipedia. 2013-03-21. Retrieved 2015-02-08.
  11. ^ "User contributions for Scientificradical". Wikipedia. Retrieved 2015-02-08.
  12. ^ Sutton, M. (2014-08-04). "Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace plagiarised Matthew's book, lied and committed science fraud". Retrieved 2015-02-08.

External links[edit]

Official website (At least, it seems to be where Sutton does most of his blogging!)