Diederik Stapel hired to teach “social philosophy” because students got tired of success stories… or something (rejected post)

Oh My*.images-16

(“But I can succeed as a social philosopher”)

The following is from Retraction Watch. UPDATE: OCT 10, 2014**

Diederik Stapel, the Dutch social psychologist and admitted data fabricator — and owner of 54 retraction notices — is now teaching at a college in the town of Tilburg [i].

According to Omroep Brabant, Stapel was offered the job as a kind of adjunct at Fontys Academy for Creative Industries to teach social philosophy. The site quotes a Nick Welman explaining the rationale for hiring Stapel (per Google Translate):

“It came about because students one after another success story were told from the entertainment industry, the industry which we educate them .”

The students wanted something different.

“They wanted to also focus on careers that have failed. On people who have fallen into a black hole, acquainted with the dark side of fame and success.”

Last month, organizers of a drama festival in The Netherlands cancelled a play co-written by Stapel.

I really think Dean Bon puts the rationale most clearly of all.

…A letter from the school’s dean, Pieter Bon, adds:

We like to be entertained and the length of our lives increases. We seek new ways in which to improve our health and we constantly look for new ways to fill our free time. Fashion and looks are important to us; we prefer sustainable products and we like to play games using smart gadgets. This is why Fontys Academy for Creative Industries exists. We train people to create beautiful concepts, exciting concepts, touching concepts, concepts to improve our quality of life. We train them for an industry in which creativity is of the highest value to a product or service. We educate young people who feel at home in the (digital) world of entertainment and lifestyle, and understand that creativity can also mean business. Creativity can be marketed, it’s as simple as that.

We’re sure Prof. Stapel would agree.

[i] Fontys describes itself thusly: Fontys Academy for Creative Industries (Fontys ACI) in Tilburg has 2500 students working towards a bachelor of Business Administration (International Event, Music & Entertainment Studies and Digital Publishing Studies), a bachelor of Communication (International Event, Music & Entertainment Studies) or a bachelor of Lifestyle (International Lifestyle Studies). Fontys ACI hosts a staff of approximately one hundred (teachers plus support staff) as well as about fifty regular visiting lecturers.

 *I wonder if “social philosophy” is being construed as “extreme postmodernist social epistemology”?  

I guess the students are keen to watch that Fictionfactory Peephole.

**Turns out to have been short-lived. Also admits to sockpuppeting at Retraction watch. Frankly I thought it was more fun to guess who “Paul” was, but they have rules. http://retractionwatch.com/2014/10/08/diederik-stapel-loses-teaching-post-admits-he-was-sockpuppeting-on-retraction-watch/#comments

[ii} One of my April Fool’s Day posts is turning from part fiction to fact.

Categories: Rejected Posts, Statistics

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9 thoughts on “Diederik Stapel hired to teach “social philosophy” because students got tired of success stories… or something (rejected post)

  1. Nathan Schachtman


    An interesting approach to education, which reminds me of the Berenstain Bears. Remember Papa Bear would take the children bears out to show them how to do things, and he would always do them incorrectly, but he would then turn his demonstration into a lesson about how not to do them. So Stapel would be well positioned to teach impressionable youngsters how not to do research, how not write, how not to tell the truth.

    As a fraudster, Stapel is perfect for “Creative Industries.” Just make stuff up.


    • Nathan: I could see the Berenstein Bear lesson being taught if he were to instruct in fraud busting, in QRPs, research ethics, and proper methodological critique of data. That is not what this is. This will be teaching texts of post modernism: all truth is constructed, everything is relative, science is just one of many equally valid ‘ways of knowing’, and so on.

      That picture of him captioned “I have failed as a scientist” might have the following addition: “But I can succeed as a social philosopher”!

  2. Nathan Schachtman


    You’re right. I was interpreting his appointment in a way too optimistic fashion. I thought he might have had the role of the reformed alcoholic going to schools for their DARE programs, to tell the kids about the evils of drugs.

    I am sure Stapel will be as creative at Creative Industries as he was as an academic scientist. He will be able to get the students to join in at making fun of the science “establishment” for believing that truth is some objective state of affairs rather than a hegemonic narrative.


    • Nathan: I agree with you. The upshot will be to encourage the view that everything is relative, that scientific objectivity is impossible, (“everything is equally subjective and objective”), that all models are false, that the reward structure and the inevitable human craving for comfort and love precludes the kind of scientific ideal some self-deceived people still nurture, and that the reason people try to stifle the philosophy of Stapel is that they’re terrified to confront a challenge to their scientific religion. I don’t think he could perform a reliable statistical analysis even if he had the data. (That was the upshot of his disappearing act in response to my last question in the imaginary fictionfactory peepshow post last week.)

  3. Christian Hennig

    Scientific objectivity is highly problematic (and I say rightly so) also to people with a strong research ethic. There is no positive connection whatsoever between philosophical stance that is critical on scientific objectivism and realism and the behaviour of Stapel. As far as I know, Stapel tried to sell his stuff as objective truth, he wasn’t trading in postmodernism.

    • Christian: Well I don’t know what you mean about objectivity being problematic, but I totally agree that there is no connection between committing QRPs or fraud and one’s philosophical stance on objectivism (which I would distinguish from realism). I was talking about Stapel and his stated positions about postmodernism and science.
      (e.g., http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/28/magazine/diederik-stapels-audacious-academic-fraud.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0),and in his fictionfactory peep-show. I have other grounds for my reading of Stapel’s view, including but not limited to his book “Derailed”.

      • Christian Hennig

        I’m not starting off a discussion on objectivity here now but of course I agree that realism is not the same thing.

        Regarding Stapel, I’m not so sure whether what you call “positions about postmodernism and science” are really strong “positions” of his or rather a convenient attitude that allows him to not think as bad about himself as he should. I mean, even any reasonably intelligent postmodernist (as far as this means holding a postmodernist philosophical view, not a general selfish attitude that we may find too often in “postmodern times”) should agree that it’s a blatant unacceptable lie to say that something was true data what was actually made up. Even for a relativist a lie is a lie relative to what the person knows. That’s quite different from “if somebody says I love you, how do I know that it’s really true”, isn’t it?

        • christian: Well it may be that positions are chosen as convenient attitudes (somewhat postmodern in its own right). I’ve a feeling that here it’s both, but what’s relevant is the “social philosophy” he has and will exude in this role.

  4. I guess the following take was wrong about second acts given by the Dutch:
    “A country’s way of dealing with sinners is often shaped by its religious heritage. In Catholicism, sinners can get absolution in the secrecy of confession. … …In many American versions of Protestantism, the sinner can be “born again”. …Stapel’s misfortune is to be Dutch. The dominant Dutch tradition is Calvinist, and Calvinism believes in eternal sin. …But the downside to not forgiving sinners is that there are almost no second acts in Dutch lives.”


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