Preventing High-Tech Hoaxes: Scientists Turn to Intelligent Design

By John Stonestreet

If you’re ever in the mood for a laugh at the expense of your fellow man, late night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel’s “Lie Witness News” segment is probably for you. In it, producers hit the streets of Los Angeles dressed as reporters and ask pedestrians baloney questions. It’s funny because of just how many people pretend they know about the completely false story they’re being asked about.

For example, a whole group of interviewees claimed to have watched March Madness games that never actually happened. Others said they were fans of rock-bands Kimmel and his crew made up on the spot. And even a few expressed disapproval for a movie based on the tragic 1954 Godzilla attack on Tokyo. They claimed that it would be insensitive to those who suffered through the giant mutant lizard’s actual rampage, you see.

But these are just folks on the street. For reputed experts, there’s a much greater embarrassment of nodding along with nonsense. In recent years, many people have even tried to pull fast ones over on scientists. And many, you’ll be shocked to find out, have succeeded.

For example, “Science” magazine recently reported that editors at peer-reviewed publications were consistently receiving bogus article submissions, all of which contained zilch in the way of coherent content, but were fabricated to bear at least a passing resemblance to genuine research. They were created, says “Science” magazine, using a program called SCIGen.

By mimicking the wording and structure of real papers, SCIGen automatically generates work that, according to the trio of MIT graduates who created the program, puts out meaningless, random assortments of words and sentences stitched together by an algorithm. The results are impressive enough to bamboozle a shocking number of peer-reviewed scientific journals…


Scientists Turn to Intelligent Design