Monday, October 24, 2011

Hauser response to plagiarism allegations

So, I'm not sure exactly how I wound up covering this story here. Somehow I have this vague memory of posting a link. Then there was a green fog, and some comments, and tiny dogs riding tricycles, and Katie Holmes struggling to escape from her Katie-Holmes-shaped prison cell, except she had giant fangs, and next thing you know, here we are.

Anyway, a few days ago I mentioned that Gilbert Harman had reposted his mini-paper in which he lays out the case that Marc Hauser had taken many of the ideas in his book Moral Minds from a young researcher named John Mikhail, and that Hauser had not given Mikhail adequate credit for those ideas. Harman argues that Hauser's qualifies as plagiarism, not of Mikhail's words, but of his ideas.

A commenter noted that Hauser has responded to the allegations, and Harman provided a link to Hauser's response, which he has posted on his webpage. You can view the response here. Briefly, Hauser argues 1) that many of the ideas in the book, which Harman claims were copied wholesale from Mikhail, were, in fact, indebted to a number of non-Mikhail sources, many of which predate Mikhail's work (e.g., Chomsky), 2) that the scope and thrust of Moral Minds is quite different from Mikhail's, and 3) that Harman seems to be lobbying for a standard of citation that is not at all standard in the field (or any field), and would result in books being completely overwhelmed with citations.

It is worth remembering that Harman himself has stated that his original allegations (which you can read here) were meant to be "a draft of a case for the prosecution and not a final verdict on this topic." So I think that even Harman would not want any of us jumping to any conclusions without reading and considering Hauser's response.

What I would love is to hear from someone out there who is familiar with the work in question, but is not connected to Hauser, Mikhail, or Harman. Does any such person exist out there?

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