How to be immensely cheered

You’re all too aware of my disdain for poor science. I like people researching weird, wild-haired, ‘Why the hell?’ stuff as long as they do it properly. Poor design or poor reporting, though, will get me spitting. I feel entitled to this view having spent over 30 years in various scientific disciplines.

One of the commonest problems is with researcher bias. Andrew Wakefield lost his job over that and nearly went to jail, because he was determined to find what he wanted, not what was accurate. In the late 80s, Fleischmann and Pons got blown out of the water regarding their cold fusion experiment, because they looked for the result they wanted. They’re scientific pariahs now, and they deserved it.

Courtesy of The Times, I have found a couple of new heroes. Peter Boghossian and his mucker, James Lindsay, wrote a marvellously po-faced academic paper in which they claimed to be exploring the idea that the human penis isn’t just an organ of reproduction. It’s ‘isomorphic to performative toxic masculinity.’ Sounds good yes?

It gets better. ‘We argue that the conceptual penis is better understood not as an anatomical organ, but as a gender-performative, highly fluid social construct.’ You can’t say fairer than that, can you?

There was lots more babbling about, for example, ‘effective criticism of (exclusionary) dialectic objectivism. All perspectives matter.’ Fighting talk indeed. That should set the cat among the pigeons, I’d wager.

Now we get to the best bit. They actually submitted the journal Cogent Social Sciences. This is a peer reviewed journal, and the aim of peer reviewing is to ascertain if researcher are talking out o their arses. It doesn’t always work that way, since Wakefield made it into the BMJ,  and the cold fusion guys made it into Nature.

Glad to report that Cogent Social Sciences wasn’t as cogent as its title suggests. One of the peer reviewers went so far as to describe the work as ‘outstanding.*’ It certainly was. Outstanding bollocks, if I may use that term in this context. Boghossian and Lindsay made the whole thing up. Every single word was gobbledygook, complete nonsense.

They had suspected that gender studies are inherently biased against maleness, and that the heavy use of constructionist arguments leads to weak or misleading conclusions. ‘We wrote a bogus paper claiming that we shouldn’t think of penises as anatomical organs but as the cause of many of the world’s evils.’

If I’d been reviewing the original paper, I like to think I’d have smelled a hoax rat at the point where the authors reckoned that manspreading was contributing to global warming. That’s inspired lunacy on the part of the authors.

*Somebody else came out with even bigger nonsense than the paper itself did. ‘…(capturing) the issue of hypermasculinity through a multi-dimensional and non-linear process.’ Sounds like some of the idiots I knew at university.

BTW some wag in Oz has got his dog onto the editorial boards of no fewer than seven veterinary publications.