728 x 90
728 x 90
728 x 90
728 x 90
728 x 90

Academic Frauds

Opinion Editorial
July 28, 1999

By Linda Gorman

Efforts to stoke public fears that the electromagnetic fields emitted by power lines, home wiring, and household appliances can cause illness have been a growth industry for some time. Fringe environmentalists applaud any finding likely to induce anti-technology hysteria and trial lawyers salivate over the prospect of damage settlements wrenched from the deep industrial pockets. Research money continues to flow despite an existing body of evidence overwhelmingly suggesting that there is no cause for concern.

The trial lawyers case just got a lot weaker. Support for the argument that low power electric and magnetic fields affect basic biological processes came from two 1992 papers in which Richard P. Liburdy, a cellular biologist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, described experimental results purporting to show that low-strength electromagnetic fields affect cellular calcium signaling. Then a whistle-blower contacted the federal Office of Research Integrity. It investigated and discovered that Liburdy had intentionally falsified both his both his data and his claims.

By substituting lies for fact, Liburdy led other researchers to waste their time pursuing barren line of research. He made electric power industries divert scarce resources to defend themselves from baseless charges. He helped professional fear mongers scare the willies out of the less informed. Good science requires that individual researchers be able to rely on their colleagues results, a trust that Dr. Liburdy has forfeited. He is currently unemployed. In the past, he would have stayed that way. These days he would be well advised to take a look at university job openings.

As Kenneth Lee explained in the May/June issue of The American Enterprise, college and university faculties are surprisingly tolerant of leftist scholars who make things up and present them as truth. Academic icon Rigoberta Menchs autobiographical account of the civil war in Guatemala is assigned reading on campuses across the nation. When Middlebury College anthropologist David Stoll was doing graduate research in Guatemala in 1989, he met local residents who claimed that important sections of her “testimony” were false.

His curiosity aroused, Stoll investigated further. The result was a book, Rigoberta Menchu and the Story of All Poor Guatemalans , in which Stoll catalogs the falsehoods in the autobiography and explains how it seriously misleads readers about the root causes of Guatemalan violence. Academics responded by attacking Stoll. As Wellesley College professor Marjorie Agosin put it, “Whether her book is true or not, I dont care. We should teach our students about the brutality of the Guatemalan army.” One can only imagine the fix the professor would be in if the facts happened to show that the army was less brutal in reality than in Menchus book.

In 1981, Dr. Judith Reisman presented a paper questioning the data underlying Alfred C. Kinseys classic, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. She was condemned. One colleague worried that her efforts to expose Kinseys fraud were “going to set back sex education 20 years.” Reisman persisted. Compelling evidence now indicates that Kinsey biased his samples, falsified interviews, and fabricated data in order to provide a scientific veneer for his vision of American sexual mores.

Mike Davis is famous for City of Quartz , an analysis of how powerful people in Los Angeles used zoning to rid themselves of poor minorities. A Los Angeles realtor has exposed a number of fabrications in Davis work. When Davis was hired by the history department of the State University of New York at Stony Brook, Gary Marker, chairman of the Department, said that the University had heard of Davis inaccuracies and falsehoods but that “Those claims [of falsehoods] were made by real estate agents and journalistsall the academic commentary was complimentary.

Other frauds academics still revere include Margaret Mead for her fictional account of sexual mores in Samoa and The Education of Little Tree, supposedly an autobiographical account of a Native Americans experience. It was a hoax by Asa Carter, a notorious segregationist. Afrocentrist claims that Cleopatra was black and the ancient Greeks stole their ideas from Africans have been thoroughly debunked by classicist Mary Lefkowitz in Not Out of Africa Fact and fantasy mix in Black Athena by Martin Bernal, Stolen Legacy by George G.M. James, Worlds Great Men of Color by J.A. Rogers, and Civilization or Barbarism by Cheikh Anta Diop.

Academics in thrall to the notion that cultural motives matter more than facts continue to present these frauds as truth in their courses. In their world, motives matter, not facts. In the real world, facts take priority, and people need a command of them to thrive. Minds, like computers, operate under the rule of garbage in, garbage out. Academics who perpetuate frauds put garbage in. Students who take their courses will spend years trying to take it out.

Linda Gorman is a Senior Fellow at the Independence Institute, a think tank in Golden, Colorado.

This article, from the Independence Institute staff, fellows and research network, is offered for your use at no charge. Independence Feature Syndicate articles are published for educational purposes only, and the authors speak for themselves. Nothing written here is to be construed as necessarily representing the views of the Independence Institute or as an attempt to influence any election or legislative action.

Please send comments to Editorial Coordinator, Independence Institute, 14142 Denver West Pkwy., suite 185, Golden, CO 80401 Phone 303-279-6536 (fax) 303-279-4176 (email)webmngr@i2i.org
Copyright 2000 Independence Institute