I’m back home now from a week on family vacation, catching up on news from the last few days. I have been dismayed to read about Jane Goodall’s book debacle. She has been accused of plagiarism, fabricating meetings and interviews that did not happen, and spreading misinformation about the safety of genetically modified organisms. Michael Moynihan, who played a key role uncovering the plagiarism and fabrications of science writer Jonah Lehrer last year, has written the most in-depth account of Goodall’s alleged transgressions: “Jane Goodalls Troubling, Error-Filled New Book, Seeds of Hope”
There is a sense in many of the reported accounts that Goodalls co-author, Gail Hudson, is to blame. This is, of course, possible (Hudson did not respond to an email request for comment), but if Goodall had read her own manuscriptthe one with her name on itwould she not have noticed the quotes from interviews with people she hadnt spoken to? Wouldnt a noted scientist double-check her source material? She is, after all, the person who accepted the publishers check and Seeds of Hope is written in the first person.
Pat Shipman’s reactions largely mirror my own: “Betrayal and Disappointment”.
Naturally the plagiarism is disturbing. But the shameful part is that poorly-researched and specious anti-GMO arguments in the book probably would not have been scrutinized without these charges of plagiarism. I see this lack of scrutiny as akin to the continuing science illiteracy of mainstream media, which I noted earlier this year: “Recantation of a former genetic know-nothing”.