A new academic hoax: a bogus paper on “the conceptual penis” gets published in a “high quality peer-reviewed” social science journal

Oh, the humanities!

It’s been 21 years since physicist Alan Sokal submitted a bogus paper to a special “Science Wars” issue of the cultural studies journal Social Text. His paper, “Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity“, maintained that quantum gravity was a social construct, using many bizarre quotes from postmodern scholars to make its case. Almost immediately after the paper was published, Sokal revealed it was a hoax in an article in Lingua Franca.

The “Sokal Affair” inspired a lot of debate, as well as accusations that Sokal himself was unethical in submitting the paper, but I thought it made its point superbly: much of the social sciences and “culture studies” in academia is intellectually vacuous—a repository for dumb ideas couched in bad prose.

Now we have another hoax: a piece on the “conceptual penis” published in the journal Cogent Social Sciences, self described as “a multidisciplinary open access journal offering high quality peer review across the social sciences: from law to sociology, politics to geography, and sport to communication studies. Connect your research with a global audience for maximum readership and impact.”


A .pdf of the hoax article is available here, and Peter Boghossian and James Lindsay's writeup on Skeptic.com is available here.

As for retorts, here is one by Ketan Joshi, and another over at Daily Nous.

Helen Pluckrose has written a rejoinder to the criticism over at AERO Mag: SOKAL AFFAIR 2.0: PENIS ENVY: ADDRESSING ITS CRITICS