SIO45: James Lindsay, Co-Author of the ‘Conceptual Penis’ Hoax Paper

Last week you heard Eli Bosnick’s side of why the ‘Conceptual Penis’ hoax paper was disingenuous and unskeptical, and today I speak with one of the paper’s authors, James Lindsay. James has been a previous guest on the show; he’s been someone I have always admired for his intellectual rigor and willingness to back up what he believes and to have the tough conversations. For that much I really, really respect him coming on. But I can’t hide my opinion on this hoax. I think it was garbage and it was latched onto unskeptically by people who fancy themselves critical thinkers. I challenge James on the paper and we get to hear his side of it.

Today’s episode is actually 2 in 1, because after the conversation I reminded James to send me the links corroborating his arguments. When I received them, I was appalled that each description of the scholarly articles he sent was a lazy and ideologically motivated strawman. As such, I emailed him a heads up that I would be going in depth into his sources and describing exactly how he (or maybe Real Peer Review, if that was his source) is either intentionally or just ignorantly misunderstanding these abstracts. I’m incredibly disappointed at this dishonest or careless behavior. If you are going to waltz into a field that ISN’T your expertise and claim that the bulk of it is bunk, it is incumbent upon you to do the research and know what you’re talking about. For the sake of transparency, I will paste word for word the sources email James sent me:

“Hi Thomas,

In all the fuss, I can’t remember what I was supposed to send you, but I’ll give it a try.
Curing erectile dysfunction reinforces hegemonic masculinity: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1097184X00003001004 (we cited this paper in ours)
Fat men’s penises might not exist, social construction: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1363460716640734
Male lactation can exist through social construction: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2916660
Pregnancy shouldn’t be associated with femininity: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10894160.2012.653766
Wikipedia shouldn’t demand sources because sexism: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S8755461515000547
STEM syllabi are sexist because focus on facts: http://nsuworks.nova.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2467&context=tqr
Feminists see themselves as activists to infect other fields of study with ideological biases, compare themselves favorably to viruses like HIV and ebola: http://hipatiapress.com/hpjournals/index.php/generos/article/viewFile/1983/1624#page=78
Meanwhile, almost 15000 kids a year are graduating from such programs: https://datausa.io/profile/cip/05/

 

Those are all the papers. In the later half of the episode I discuss the research I did on all of them and how atrocious James’s descriptions were.

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18 Comments on "SIO45: James Lindsay, Co-Author of the ‘Conceptual Penis’ Hoax Paper"

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Tomas
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Some good news SGU #620 includes discussion on this and surprise surprise they somehow share your view because maybe just maybe they DO RESEARCH.

PsychopompGecko
Guest
Yeah, just looking at those links, it’s pretty clear that Lindsay let his bias get in the way of basic reading comprehension. Like “Male lactation can exist through social construction” somehow obtained from “It argues that male lactation can be seen along a continuum, from the literal production of milk by a small number of mammals of the male sex, to male-identified parents and caregivers breastfeeding their children, to males’ role in shaping breastfeeding norms and practices.” I haven’t gone through all of them yet, nor have I even seen the podcast, but it’s astonishing the amount some of these… Read more »
Oscar
Guest
Before I even listen to the ep, wanna say that when I read the skeptic article (prior to listening to last episode), the phrases about payment seems a bit sus, and the line of “a mere $650 and it was published” or w/e basically screamed SCAAAAM. ANY SITE suggesting pay-what-you-want with a 650 minimum should be regarded with suspicion. I didn’t even finish the article, but their attempt to pre-spin the publishing into a larger story was quite transparent. Our digitized news cycle lets nonsense fall through the cracks. Seems like they were trying to shoot through some of their… Read more »
Oscar
Guest
Glad you called out the litmus defense. Also you suggested the logical next step in their experiment. Submitting to more and more reputable journals to find the questionable peer review threshold. I.e multiple data points. And if the issue is the article that Shermer wrote(?) with it’s preconception laden narrative, basically aiming the arrow, then this goes to what he said about twitter and social media deadlines. Perhaps the desire to publish an article is likewise compelling of brevity in action. People always talk about how our brains didn’t evolve to perceive our world in a wide range, the same… Read more »
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PsychopompGecko
Guest
Ok, I’ve had myself a listen. It felt like he was keeping you from making points at times, but I was very glad to see you bring up that the paper itself mentions that it’s supposed to be about debunking Gender Studies as a field. Also liked the point about how, if he’s going to fall back on saying there were so many other papers debunking the field, that he should have written about them. It has been some time since I had to write a science paper, and that wasn’t at what anyone would call a high academic level,… Read more »
Mike Samsa
Guest
Yeah you’re absolutely right about the squirrel paper, it was essentially a similar analysis to the “alligators teach kids hegemonic masculinity” paper, that Thomas accurately describes as the argument that we infer and project gendered, racial, etc, assumptions onto animals. The paper just basically says that the living conditions, location, and eating habits of different species of squirrel in the city lead to people talking about them in a number of anthropomorphic ways. And the argument is that analysing this kind of talk can help us learn more about how these assumptions and beliefs arise, and how they’re generated and… Read more »
PsychopompGecko
Guest

Sometimes, studying how humans project that kind of thing onto other animals, I’m reminded of Slartibartfast talking about mice running experiments on humans where the humans think they’re the ones experimenting on the mice.

Tomas
Guest
Since noone mentioned it yet I’d like to point out that James states many times that he chose the useless journal to publish in because “it seemed like a journal that publishes the kind of articles that you find on real peer review”. You should have pointed out how flawed this choice is, it’s kind of a rabbit hole of biases. You first have this idea that the minority of ridiculous opinions/papers somehow define an entire field of research. Then you find this troll twitter that misrepresents actual articles and panders to people with opinions like yours. Continuing forward you… Read more »
Tim Dawson
Guest

You hit the nail on the head, here. The way they found the zero-impact journal was by looking for where the “nonsense” papers were being accepted, and not once did the idea that this was a poor methodology for testing their hypothesis cross their minds. The fact they were rejected from it is simply hilarious, but rather than learn something they doubled down repeatedly.

epistememe
Guest
A cogent comment from a reddit responder after listening to the podcast. “OK… so let me take one example here. Thomas says round about 52m that RealPeerReview only works off the abstract (though I don’t quite know where he’s getting this from, since I’ve seen them refer to the body of articles on a few occasions). He then claims that it is a ‘horrible straw man description’ to say that the paper says that fat men’s penises might not exist. Well, that is certainly true of the abstract, but here is the very claim mentioned in the body of the… Read more »
John H
Guest

Dude sounds embarrassed. His backpedalling is Gorge Costanza level awkward.

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[…] implications of this paper for Gender Studies. Recently, he appeared on the Serious Inquiries Only podcast to defend his part in the hoax. It deserves to be mentioned that the host, Thomas, spends the last […]

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[…] implications of this paper for Gender Studies. Recently, he appeared on the Serious Inquiries Only podcast to defend his part in the hoax. It deserves to be mentioned that the host, Thomas, spends the last […]

Bad Academia
Guest

The guy seems obsessed with logical fallacies, but doesn’t apparently grasp begging the question.