It’s Easy to Hoax Academic Publishers — Since They Don’t Seem to Care About Good Scholarship 



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It’s Easy to Hoax Academic Publishers — Since They Don’t Seem to Care About Good Scholarship | Mises Wire

In 1768, the Portable Theology, or Brief Dictionary of the Christian Religion was published under the authorship of Abbé Bernier. It claimed that all of the “dogmas of the Christian religion are immutable decrees of God, who cannot change His mind except when the Church does.” Posing as an authority on Church doctrine, the piece was actually satire, and the true author was Baron d’Holbach.


In the twentieth century, following the birth and growth of academic publications, hoax articles showed up from time to time. In 1931, a handful of physicists published a parody article titled “On the quantum theory of the temperature of absolute zero” making fun of the then-fashionable attempts to identify constants in nature through the use of numerology (don’t worry, I don’t get the joke either), and the authors were later compelled to apologize.


Twelve years later, James McAuley and Harold Stewart wrote sixteen deliberately terrible poems by picking words randomly from books and tying them together with poor rhyme schemes. They then submitted them to a prominent literature journal as having been discovered among the papers of a deceased poet named Ern Malley. The journal published the poems before it came out that Ern Malley never existed, subjecting the editors to a great deal of humiliation.


The first famous (or infamous, perhaps) parody article was published in 1996 by Alan Sokal. His article, “Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity,” was meant to expose the lack of academic rigor that Sokal believed was plaguing the academic left at the time, particularly due to the fashionability of post-modernist relativism. The article was written in meaningless academic jargon with the purpose of demonstrating how vacuous, intellectually void articles could be accepted as serious scholarly contributions as long as they appealed to the biases of the day.


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