Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Windy gets hoaxed

My paper on climate change correcting the climate change denialist drivel Quadrant has been publishing over recent months may not have been rejected as much for its content than because of the lack of judgement of its editor Keith Windschuttle. Windschuttle has been comprehensively hoaxed by a fictitious author 'Sharon Gould' who wrote a piece of preposterous drivel on genetic engineering which Windschuttle accepted as legitimate science. The hoax is described in detail at Crikey. In the tradition of Ern Malley – the famous literary hoax perpetrated by Quadrant’s first editor, James McAuley – the 'Sharon Gould' persona is entirely fictitious and the article is studded with false science, logical leaps, outrageous claims and a mixture of genuine and bogus footnotes*.

Windschuttle to 'Sharon Gould' on the article:
"I really like the article. You bring together some very important considerations about scientific method, the media, politics and morality that I know our readers would find illuminating… if you could re-work the intro along these lines, we would be very pleased to publish the article in our January edition. I would need to hear back from you as early as possible next week".
A blogsite has been compiled to describe the origins of the hoax. Windschuttle has admitted the hoax but has described the article as 'fraudulent journalism'. That is one interpretation - another is that Windschuttle in making editorial judgements is not good at discriminating between sense and outrageous stupidity.

That in itself is not a crime. I edit a journal myself and am not expert on more than half the submissions made. But that is why all articles undergo a refereeing process. Quadrant might think of doing much the same. Its output on climate change issues (in particular) could not fail to improve.

It might also think about checking the bona fides of its contributors.

* Example (quote from the hoax Quadrant article)

"Let us suppose Australia had plans to commercialise a variety of wheat engineered with human genes.

Too far-fetched a scenario? Not at all. Human genes are at present engineered into tobacco plants in order to produce a protein called Factor VIII, and into rice crops to produce a protein that when consumed triggers human immune responses.

In July 2003, buried within a footnote of an article in the Plant Biotechnology Journal was an astonishing revelation. Researchers at the CSIRO had, according to the reference, abandoned plans to commercialise a variety of wheat that had been engineered with human genes. The genes were responsible for helping trigger immune responses in humans. When eaten, the wheat could potentially trigger a body’s immune response to fight pre-cancerous cells, but the company’s annual report, according to the footnote, stated: “the transgenic wheat was abandoned because of the potential of perceived moral issues among the public”."

Yep, Keith, I strongly recommend refereeing science-based articles or articles claiming to state facts. What confidence can anyone otherwise have in the content of Quadrant?


Anonymous said...

You're letting your annoyance at a desk-rejection get the better of you. Most publications state facts without being peer-reviewed. Newspapers, for example, are not peer-reviewed, yet they're supposed to be very good at fact-checking. Quadrant is a journal of opinions and is written as such and is read by its readers as such. People who write in Quadrant wiould use a very different style if writting for a peer-reviewed academic journal.

And yes, we can trust sources that are not peer-reviewed. This blog, for instance, is not peer-reviewed yet I'm likely to trust most information I see here - although I might not always agree with the interpretation.

Anonymous said...


what the hell has happened to you over the festive season. I know it's the silly season but you're really taking this too far.

There is a germ of truth (no pun intended) in lacing/splicing our food crop with disease fighting agents.

Now be freaking honest here, if you saw similar piece talking about adding fortification to our wheat crop would you be at all surprised?

give us your best answer here, harry as you only have one shot.

the idiot who wrote the fraud actually added mostly credible science.

You're just sore Keith didn't publish another hysterical piece that the earth is going to end in 37 years.

hc said...


Published articles that bear on science should be refereed by those who understand the science. You cannot just write any nonsense and say that is an 'opinion'.

Given Windschuttle's obsession with fact-checking in other areas the success of this hoax is extremely embarrassing for his credibility. It is in tatters.


The claims made in this article are patently and obviously foolish. It is not credible science though - as you apparently see it as such - it is quite obvious why you hold the views on AGW that you do. Eventually I hope you will start to take some of these important issues seriously not merely as an opportunity to direct abuse and ridicule at people.

I liked these comments by David Marr. Quote:

"AFTER a terrible two hours, Keith Windschuttle convinced himself he hadn't been hoaxed at all. He was greatly relieved. How embarrassing such a stumble could have been for this fierce nitpicker, scourge of sloppy academics and current editor of the conservative Quadrant magazine".

Anonymous said...

I imagine one of the problems these little obscure journals have is getting reviewers. If you were a scientist at CSIRO, would you do a review for a little journal you hadn't heard of, or knew was just non-science opinion/drivel (at least scientifically speaking)? I wouldn't -- I already do at least 10+ reviews per year for journals in my field, which takes a lot of time, and I reject piles of requests -- If I haven't even heard of your journal, it's pretty much automatic rejection (this is of course one of the problems of the proliferation of low-class journals created essentially to allow people to publish to fulfill DEST points and their international counterparts -- other little journals that might have a reason to exist get caught in the crossfire).

Anonymous said...

"Published articles that bear on science should be refereed by those who understand the science."

And economics, and history and philosophy and so on. What you're saying is that all published articles must be referred. it is not clear that 'science' should have any privileged position.

"Grendel" said...

Sinclair, at the very least I would have thought that verification of an author's identity would have been standard practice. Windschuttle's failure to do this reflects poor practice in editorial management. I agree with Harry that there needs to be some level of checking of fact for all articles, particularly where the editor does not have personal expertise in that field. Most opinion magazines do this by having a team of editorial consultants to which they can farm out unsolicited contributions.

Anonymous said...

harry - karma - 2009 is obviously your year.

It's only Jan 7 and already you have enough schadenfreude for the rest of your natural.

What did you do over xmas? - sacrifice a few chooks and a goat? Stick pins in a second hand opshop doll with a passing resemblance to windy? Point the wishbone of the xmas turkey at a claret stained copy of Quadrant?

It's time to cash in on your good luck run and go short or long on a few selected stocks - make a killing. For good measure email a copy of your cv to the Latrobe board suggesting yourself for VC. Ride the wave.

hc said...

What schadenfreude? Me? You have to be joking FLM.

More like pricking a bit of pomposity. There is no joy in seeing anyone humiliated.

Particularly when we often barrack for the same team.

Anonymous said...

The claims made in this article are patently and obviously foolish.

No they are not, harry. Here, let Keith explain things himself.

A genuine hoax, like that of Alan Sokal and Ern Malley, would not have relied upon real issues, real people and real publications for most of its content, as ‘Gould’s’ article does. None of the principal subjects, personnel or publications discussed by ‘Gould’ in Quadrant are bogus. The biotechnology controversies she discusses genuinely occurred. The authors she quotes do hold the positions she says and they did write the works she cites. The institutions she says were involved in the biotechnology products she discusses are real institutions and are well known for funding projects of this kind. In particular:

* There was an MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine scare in Britain.
* Ben Goldacre is the author of Bad Science.
* Andrew Wakefield did publish a paper about the MMR scare.
* Richard Hindmarsh did write a book called Edging Towards BioUtopia.
* The chief plant scientist of the CSIRO until 2003 was Jim Peacock.
* There is a journal called the Plant Biotechnology Journal.
* There is a genetically-modified product called Golden Rice.
* The following institutions she cites are all real: the Rockefeller Foundation, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, the European Community Biotech Program and the Swiss Federal Office for Education and Science.

It is not credible science though - as you apparently see it as such - it is quite obvious why you hold the views on AGW that you do.

Harry, golden rice was/is spliced with human genetic material that fights disease, so lacing wheat with similar characteristics isn’t that far fetched either. Anyone who read that about the wheat isn’t a scientist and recalled the stuff going on with the rice wouldn’t ordinarily think this was crap if s/he weren’t a scientist.

And Harry, I do think AGW is real and could be a long-term problem, however I can’t abide by the hysterics and the quasi totalitarians on the pro-side of the debate. I also think it is vitally important to listen to the dissenters. In other words even if Bob Carter is wrong his views and opinions he shouldn’t be shut down they way your side (not the science) treats him. Big difference, Harry.

Eventually I hope you will start to take some of these important issues seriously not merely as an opportunity to direct abuse and ridicule at people.

I ridicule and abuse those who abuse others, as I can’t stand the totalitarian attempts to shut down debate.

Harry, when I see a second third rater (NO, I am not suggesting you as I think you’re pretty good)

attack people with differing opinions on the science

and recall that same “economist” has been on the wrong side of every single debate/discussion,

got most things wrong about employment,

wrote a book in the early 90’s suggesting that we could only reach full employment with massive doses of government spending

who now claims that he predicted the financial crisis ( which is really the equivalent of the ship’s captain of the Titanic being warned there are icebergs in the north Atlantic in early spring)

I begin to wonder why he isn’t being shut out of the profession and rather than Bob Carter why he isn’t called the denialist?

In other words I don't ordinarly go out of my way to abuse people... only those who truly deserve it.

Anonymous said...

"Sinclair, at the very least I would have thought that verification of an author's identity would have been standard practice."

Indeed. From the Sharon Gould blog - unfortunately the link to the "author's" site no longer works.

"Just finished the essay, and I’ve just created the author’s web identity. Here is Sharon Gould’s website (which I’ll include in correspondence with you). I think you’ll like her, cos she’s originally from New York, not Australia. Which reminds me of something funny. For years you alternately denied and confirmed documented evidence of CIA funding, and now I see this extraordinary half-admission on your website:

It is alleged by its critics that Quadrant enjoyed some kind of funding through the CCF from the US Central Intelligence Agency; if so none of its editors ever knew of or were influenced in any way by such funding. It is hardly however shameful to have been indirectly in receipt of funds from the agency of a democratic government rather than the Communist dictatorships which subsidised the Leftist publications.

That last claim’s a larf, innit? And the rest rather reeks of the insufferable “we didn’t know” nonsense coming out of the Howard years, dunnit Quadrant?

Anyhoo, as you can see from her family links, Sharon Gould is from a largely Republican family. She’s related to prominent musicians, and she’s even related to the late Stephen J Gould! Cripes, what a pedigree. You will be impressed."

Anonymous said...


I am surprised you endorse the fraud practised on KW at Quadrant, as it implies you also endorse the frauds of Madoff et al. Or are some frauds more deserving than others?

Anonymous said...

looks like out hoaxer has a history of this sort of thing.

"They never accepted my article about how the Port Arthur Massacre was a hoax"


"weathergirl, did you have better luck with your article about how the Australian Constitution was annulled by the Treaty of Versailles "


Tim Lambert said...

"They never accepted my article about how the Port Arthur Massacre was a hoax"

Sinclair, that's her making a joke, not attempting a hoax.

Anonymous said...

Oh. Joke. Ha. Ha. Ha.

Anonymous said...

how do you know it's a joke, Lambert?

She wrote about some seriously insane conspiracy theories at Lavatory Pronto.

In fact I recall one where she accused the US or UK government of attacking their own people in order to get the oil.

You're just assuming or covering up it was a joke.

And where's your update that this lunatic is the likely fraudster, Lambert? If the shoe was on the left foot you would've updated in a heart beat.

Anonymous said...

Good call Harry. if we find Labor is complicit in this act of stupidity they deserve to lose every seat in the house and then some.

I really can't believe how economically illiterate burrows actually is. Surely she herself doesn't believe that crap. I hope.