About Rationally Speaking

Rationally Speaking is a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual (yes, we know, that's such a bad word) ought to be: someone who devotes himself to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them." You're welcome. Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Michael Hecht-Rationally Speaking affair

by Massimo Pigliucci & Julia Galef
As many of our readers and podcast listeners have now learned, author, colleague and friend Jennifer Michael Hecht has started an internet campaign on June 22nd using social media to accuse us of plagiarism. This was done without contacting us first, despite a long association of both Rationally Speaking and NYC Skeptics with Jennifer, an association which has included a full episode of the podcast featuring her as a guest, as well as her recent appearance at the April 2011 Northeast Conference on Science and Skepticism.
Jennifer apparently believes that we in some form stole her ideas, as presented in her 2008 book, The Happiness Myth, and is so upset about it that she has even contacted Julia’s family about the matter. We have immediately called and emailed Jennifer directly to ask what was going on — initially under the not entirely implausible hypothesis that someone had stolen her online identity and used it for nefarious purposes (we have received in the past and continue to receive death threats and plenty of insulting or smearing emails, so this isn’t as far fetched as it may sound). Instead, Jennifer confirmed that she was indeed upset with us.
We then asked her exactly what the problem was, as we were absolutely sure that we hadn’t even opened her book in months and certainly couldn’t have plagiarized anything from it. At this point the story becomes confusing, as Jennifer seems to be accusing us of different things at different times, including: that we stole verbatim from her book; that we covered “the same topics in the same order”; that we adopted her “tapestry” when talking about happiness; that we stole from the previous podcast we did with her; or that we stole from a conversation she had with us at NECSS.
We protested our innocence, emphasizing that the only areas of overlap between her book and our podcast concern a few very common topics about happiness (its treatment by Aristotle and Epicurus, so-called happiness “set points,” and the question of whether wealth is connected to happiness). These, we pointed out, are so fundamental to a discussion of happiness that they are practically mandatory in any treatment of it. It would be odd indeed to have a show on happiness and not mention the research on set points, or on income and happiness — sort of like talking about evolution without mentioning Darwin and natural selection. We also pointed out that said topics make up only a small fraction of those we discussed in the podcast, and of her book for that matter. These ideas are certainly not Jennifer’s original contributions (of which there are many genuine examples in her book); rather, they have been widely discussed in the media, academic journals, and in many popular press books, such as Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Todd Gilbert, Authentic Happiness by Martin E. P. Seligman, and The Happiness Hypothesis, by Jonathan Haidt.
It is important to understand that a podcast (as opposed to, say, a book, or a technical paper) is a summary for a lay audience, and is not in any way a scholarly pursuit towards defining new ideas on the topic. This means that it isn't even clear how the very concept of plagiarism could possibly apply in this context. Nevertheless, we asked Jennifer — multiple times — to provide us with a detailed list of her charges, such as at what points in the podcast we used exactly what from her book. We thought that was fair, considering that she was the one making the potentially damaging charges. She refused, stating that we should do that kind of home work on our own. So we did. Below is a table that Julia and I put together, with a minute-by-minute summary and commentary of the entire podcast.
We maintain that the following points ought to be clear to anyone who has both read Jennifer’s book and has listened to our podcast:
a) There is nothing in the podcast that was lifted verbatim or close to from her book. 
b) In no sensible way does the podcast follow the outline of the book. 
c) Those ideas that do overlap with Jennifer’s are common knowledge in the field. 
d) Several of the sources we use appeared subsequently to Jennifer’s book (Amazon says it was released on 5 February 2008, so none of her sources could possibly be more recent than 2007, while almost all of ours are).
We deeply regret this incident, particularly the manner in which Jennifer has chosen to exploit social networks to smear our reputation before even attempting to contact us and hear our side of the story. We stand by the content and form of our podcast, which we think is intrinsically interesting (while certainly not groundbreaking!). We also still profess admiration for Jennifer’s work, not just about happiness, but in her other books as well, and hope that this ugly incident can soon be put behind us so that we can all get back to what we enjoy doing: writing and talking about interesting topics for an intelligent and informed audience.


Annotated transcripts of Rationally Speaking podcast on “The Science and Philosophy of Happiness,” released on 19 June 2011:


Massimo explains that the ancient Greek philosophers treated the question of happiness as an ethical question; Aristotle said that the life of “flourishing” (eudaimonia) isn’t just the life that you want to live, it’s the life you ought to live. And Plato connected the idea of that life to the idea of a flourishing society.
This is common knowledge – you’d find it in any intro to ancient Greek philosophy.
Massimo explains concept of “akrasia,” or weakness of the will, which keeps us from living the flourishing life. 

This is common knowledge.
Julia introduces the field of “positive psychology” – recent trend in the field of psychology that focuses not on fixing negatives, but on getting more positives. 

This is common knowledge – Julia just explained what you’ll find under “positive psychology” on Wikipedia.
Julia mentions the spate of books about happiness that have come out recently (including Jennifer’s The Happiness Myth), and Massimo notes that Jennifer was fairly skeptical of happiness research. 

This obviously doesn’t need a source.
Julia explains one striking finding from happiness studies: the idea that we have happiness “set points” that we return to.   

Widely discussed, but Julia first encountered it in Dan Gilbert’s TED Talk.
Massimo talks about correlational studies that try to explain the variation in happiness between people: about 50 percent apparently is due to the set point, 10 percent is the result of circumstances that people find themselves in. And 40 percent of the variance in happiness is the result of activities people choose to engage in.

Common knowledge – see this article from Psychology Today, for example. Massimo’s original source (found through Google Scholar) was: “I am so happy cause today I found my friend: friendship and personality as predictors of happiness” by Meliksah Demir and Lesley A. Weitekamp. Journal of Happiness Studies, volume 8, pp. 181-211, 2007. This fact does not seem to be mentioned in Jennifer’s book.

Julia makes the point that even though a lot of events that happen to you might not budge your happiness from your set point, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some things you could do, if you knew what they were, to budge your happiness permanently.

Julia talks about some findings from positive psychology that have been empirically shown to increase happiness:
- thinking about what you’re grateful for
- seeking out and forgiving people
- pursuing meaningful personal goals
- reflecting on your strengths and using those regularly

Julia is describing research from this paper, which Massimo emailed her before the podcast to look over: Positive Psychology Progress: Empirical Validation of Interventions.


Massimo says that you can’t be happy if you just keep pursuing pleasure, because of the hedonic treadmill – you get a short term boost but then go back to your earlier happiness level.

The concept of the “hedonic treadmill” is common knowledge. For instance, it is discussed in the above mentioned paper by Demir and Weitekamp.

Massimo brings up Epicurus, who said that friendship is a crucial component of being happy (and Facebook friends don’t count!). Julia argues that Facebook friends can increase your happiness, even strangers; Massimo disagrees.

Our debate about Fb was original; Epicurus’ endorsement of friendship as being crucial is common knowledge, discoverable even on Wikipedia.
Massimo discusses Christakis & Fowler’s research showing that human behavioral traits spread through social networks, similarly to an infectious disease.

Source is Christakis & Fowler. See for instance this commentary: “Biology, politics, and the emerging science of human nature” by James H. Fowler and Darren Schreiber. Science, volume 322, pp. 912-914, 2008.
Julia points out that cultural attitudes about happiness can bias people’s self-reports.

Julia first encountered this idea in a blog post by Will Wilkinson.
Massimo talks about ways around the measurement problem: don’t use the word ‘happiness’ (just ask person to rate the quality of their life).

Common knowledge in social science research. Again, see Demir and Weitekamp.
Julia brings up the “squishing effect,” in which you can’t be sure two people who rate their happiness a 7 out of 10, e.g., are actually experiencing the same level of happiness.
Julia first encountered this idea in Dan Gilbert’s book “Stumbling on Happiness.”

Massimo says you can get around that by measuring physiological symptoms like stress, which are highly correlated with self reports of happiness.
This is common knowledge – for instance, it’s discussed on the Wikipedia page for “Positive Psychology.” Massimo’s specific source was: “International happiness” by David G. Blanchflower and Andrew J. Oswald. National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper n. 16668, 2011.

Julia brings up a study by Dan Haybron which showed that people in a noisy office were more stressed, physiologically, than people in a quiet office – and yet they self-reported as being equally stressed. So maybe we don’t have conscious access to our happiness level?
This is the study: Do We Know How Happy We Are? On Some Limits of Affective Introspection and Recall. Julia found it because it was cited in an article by Will Wilkinson.

Massimo points out that the Greek philosophers weren’t saying there’s only one way to lead a flourishing life. There are many paths to flourishing, but there are also many wrong paths.
This is common knowledge in philosophy.

Massimo discusses the connection between money and happiness: GDP has risen steadily in the US but self reported happiness hasn’t. One study found that every extra $1,000 corresponds on average to an increase of .002 on a social science index of happiness from 0 to 1. So it takes a lot of money to make much of a difference in self reported happiness.
Noting that GDP and happiness are different, the UN has invented a “Human Development Index” including things like health and education, which make for good predictor of happiness.
The data looking for a pattern between money (both individually and nationwide) and happiness have been very widely discussed, both by economists and in the popular media. Here’s a book about it called The Progress Paradox. Massimo’s original source was the Blanchflower and Oswald paper cited above.

Julia expresses skepticism that people’s self-reported happiness is actually a good measure of how they feel. Maybe people report being happy if they believe that their life circumstances are supposed to make them happy.
Julia thought of this point herself.

Massimo brings up data on happiness and having children. Parents’ self-reported life satisfaction is higher, but their experiential happiness (measured on a moment-to-moment basis) is lower. We argue about whether it makes sense to have high life satisfaction but low experiential happiness.
The findings about happiness and children have been very widely discussed in the media in the last two years. Julia first learned about them in this New York magazine article, “Why Parents Hate Parenting.” Massimo’s source was the Blachflower and Oswald paper.

Massimo talks about overall trends in happiness: women tend to be happier, wealthier and healthier and more educated people tend to be happier; married people are happier; whites are happier; people who exercise and eat fruit are happier.

These are facts from widely available surveys of happiness. Details in the Blanchflower and Oswald paper.

Massimo talks about cross-national happiness – Western Europe is quite happy, whereas most unhappy places in the world come from Eastern bloc countries. Factors correlated with national levels of happiness: Low unemployment and inflation, low inequality, strong welfare states, high public spending and democratic participation, etc.
Sources and references in the Blanchflower and Oswald paper.

Massimo talks about happiness over the course of a lifetime – it’s a U-shaped function. It’s shifted between the US and Europe – most unhappy age in US is 40, whereas in Europe it’s 54. Julia theorizes that it might have to do with the American obsession with youth and beauty.
Sources and references in the Blanchflower and Oswald paper.

Julia brings up a question from a blog reader who asks about our reaction to the views of Pascal Brueckner, a French philosopher who says the pressure to be happy is making us less happy. Julia quotes a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon.
The source of this topic was the reader who asked us the question.

Massimo talks about a study showing that Americans tend to be optimistic about the future, but discontent about current situation, whereas Europeans are content now but not optimistic.
Massimo was referring (from memory) to this article.
Julia says there is some truth to the idea that focusing on happiness is misguided, so it seems that actively pursuing happiness is not the best way to achieve it; she quotes John Stuart Mill.
Julia originally got this idea from Bertrand Russell, in his book “The Conquest of Happiness.”


  1. ugh! This is an ugly affair, indeed. I am a bit flabbergasted at how Jennifer chose to express her feelings on the matter, so thank you for replying in such a straightforward manner.

  2. Wow! this seems such an unhappy incident that if you didn't post this, I would have thought that someone is trying to pull a stint to promote something. By the way, I agree with you. I listened to the podcast and can safely say that there is nothing that seem to be outside the common knowledge on the subject.

  3. All you guys (Jennifer included) must probably be unhappy about this happiness business.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. If someone is accusing another of plagiarism, it is a requirement to be specific about what the accusation is. Saying that you should do your own homework is nonsensical. This accusation sounds like that she is under the illusion that she invented the topic.

  6. By the way, I have not read her books, but there were very few things discussed in the podcast that seemed in any way novel. I was peripherally familiar with the research on the topic, and most of what what discussed seemed like common knowledge (especially in the field) to me.

  7. Hecht is attempting a Richard Howard imitation--a dramatic monologue in which an over-educated, gossipy, self-absorbed speaker reveals himself through his distorted perceptions of others.

    Seriously, this is ridiculous. Did she actually contact Julia's parents? Did she really say that Julia "missed naps"? This is incredible.

  8. Accusing a podcast of plagiarism? How absurd!

    What the heck, Jennifer? I thought you were cool...

  9. This touches on an interesting subject, namely how the internet is changing the obligations to acknowledge intellectual influences in our interactions with each other. Here are some thoughts which are not inspired by the specifics of your case.

    1. When I talk to someone - say, standing in line for coffee - I consider myself free to bring up arguments without acknowledging the original source. Thus I might say "But consider the following objection..." and neglect to mention that I read this objection in such and such a book years earlier. I simply might not remember where I heard the argument first, and even if I did, if I were to mention the source, my conversation partner will likely think I'm "name-dropping" and conclude that I'm an insufferable prick.

    2. On the other hand, if I were writing an essay, say to be posted on a blog, I would make a considerable effort to track down the origins of each argument. After all, its unfair to the original author if someone reads my essay and attributes arguments which originated with her to me instead.

    Conversely, I would be pretty peeved if I read something which regurgitated an essay of mine, point by point, without any acknowledgement.

    3. So what is a podcast? Is it more like a conversation or an essay? My first impulse is to say conversation, but on reflection, you could also make the case its closer to an essay. Conversations are ephemeral, and usually your conversation partner does not want to know the exact source of every argument you mention; but a podcast is posted online for public consumption, presumably forever. Someone might listen to it and attribute thoughts to the speakers which, in fact, originated elsewhere.

    4. So podcasts seem to be something of a grey area as far as acknowledging the intellectual debts we owe. Currently podcasts seem to be primarily used for having the "Hey, lets talk about the last episode of Dancing with the Stars" variety of conversation, but I expect as more and more academics record podcasts about ideas, controversies like this will become more common.

    Finally, I just want to repeat that I do not mean these comments to be pertinent to your case. Indeed, since you claim that there is no overlap between your podcast and the book with the exception of things that are common knowledge, these comments are irrelevant to the substance of the dispute.

  10. Yeah, I've heard the podcast, too. There's no plagiarism going on. I would think that if JMH had legitimate concerns she would have contacted you in a less hostile and inflammatory manner.

  11. 'You stole something of mine... but I won't tell you what exactly, you figure it out.'

  12. Very poorly handled by JMH. Unfortunately for her, that undermines the credibility of her position.

    On the other hand, it seems that many bloggers tend to blast other bloggers via blog posts, rather than attempting any sort of resolution via private correspondence. Doesn't the very nature of blogging tend to encourage that sort of behavior? Contentiousness drives up page hits for everyone involved in the dispute, so there is positive reinforcement involved, whether consciously observed or not.

  13. Greg, I assure you that neither Julia nor I want this controversy. We had to respond publicly because Jennifer went public without even attempting to contact us. And we did so only after several private emails with her and one phone conversation. We did try an amicable solution first.

  14. Massimo & Julia, you've handled yourselves in a very transparent, level-headed, classy fashion. This incident has only improved my opinion of you.

  15. Gotta say, as someone who was immensely influenced by both Doubt and The Happiness Myth and who has interacted with JMH on Facebook and Twitter and quite admire her, that I am very disappointed in her.

    Since I no longer have an FB account, I can't read her side of things yet. However, I've read The Happiness Myth twice, and also listened to the podcast twice, and I find any accusation of plagiarism (?!) baffling.

    Tip of the hat to Massimo and Julia, wag of the finger to Jennifer.

  16. Just to corroborate - it's true that they had no choice: I saw this on Facebook yesterday, and so will lots of other people.

    As soon as I did see it I listened to the podcast, which sounded to me like a lecture on the subject of happiness for a general audience, which is simply the kind of thing a podcast does. Plagiarism just doesn't come into it.

  17. JMH, It would be an awfully good idea to put your side of it in a public place, because having listened to the podcast and read this post, it's hard to see how there could be a plagiarism issue. I know the happiness literature reasonably well, but not your book, and I recognized most points J&M covered in the podcast, so clearly your book doesn't uniquely cover this material. Again--it would be great to read your side of it. Is it a question of the order of presentation, or specific examples, or...what?

  18. It is important to understand that a podcast (as opposed to, say, a book, or a technical paper) is a summary for a lay audience, and is not in any way a scholarly pursuit towards defining new ideas on the topic. This means that it isn't even clear how the very concept of plagiarism could possibly apply in this context.

    Quite so. If something like that were plagiarism, then all science communication and popular science journals would have to be abolished. They do not have a reference after every sentence mentioning common knowledge concepts either, as a scholarly article would, but usually limit themselves to interviewing one or two researchers or citing one specific study that is the starting point of their article. When New Scientist writes about a recent discovery in astronomy and the author used a textbook to get up to speed on concepts like dark matter, do you expect them to list the textbook as a reference at the end of the article?

    Nevertheless, we asked Jennifer — multiple times — to provide us with a detailed list of her charges, such as at what points in the podcast we used exactly what from her book. We thought that was fair, considering that she was the one making the potentially damaging charges. She refused, stating that we should do that kind of home work on our own.

    Hahahaha. That is rich. "I accuse you of being a thief." - "What do you think I have stolen?" - "I'm not gonna tell you, neener neener neener."

  19. "We did try an amicable solution first."

    Massimo, I didn't mean to suggest otherwise; my comment was directed towards JMH's actions and how this seems to be a consistent behavior amongst bloggers.

  20. I for one enjoyed the topic and the podcast. I was on a treadmill the same time, Massimo was articulating my thoughts "why am I on this treadmill?"

    I never read Jennifer's books, nor feel like I ought to now. But I hope that this comes to an amicable resolution.

    Keep up the great work, Julia and Massimo!

  21. I would like to think that the only reason someone would get so up in arms about this is because they genuinely feel wronged. Yes, a lot of the ideas are common knowledge, she's not disputing that. What she's trying to say is two people she considered friends, who she intimately conversed with on this very topic of which she's done huge amounts of research and writing, gave her "show" and didn't even so much as mention that she was an influence. It's like taking a comedians skit - its composed of mountainous works of "common knowledge" and one could cite a million sources for WHERE the knowledge came from - but it doesn't change the fact that they're doing someone else's routine.

  22. Heidi, except that we didn't "do her routine," and -ironically - we did acknowledge and plug her book right at the beginning of the podcast.

  23. Nonsense on stilts.
    To be happy, stay away from happiness.

    I don't like this fight.

  24. I've listened to Jennifer Michael Hecht's Point of Inquiry podcast interview, I've listened to this podcast, and I've read the Facebook comments and this post. I've not read her happiness book, but I've asked someone who has to listen to this podcast. I don't see a case for a plagiarism accusation, which should require specific examples of word-for-word, sentence-for-sentence, paragraph-by-paragraph, idea-by-idea, or other strong structural similarities--not just commonality of topic and general information. For example, here's a detailed report of plagiarism in the work of a prominent skeptic that makes the case in a way that anyone can compare sources side by side and see word-for-word duplication: http://www.discord.org/~lippard/Bakerreport.txt

    Jennifer's deleted comment here was a link to a Facebook transcription of Facebook comments that did not make a case with any specifics.

    Perhaps this is a case of pareidolia?

    Kudos to Massimo and Julia for a calm, quick, and measured response.

  25. I notice that JMH has removed the link she posted earlier to a brief FB reply. Curious. Also curious is that on her personal blog Dear Fonzie she posted on June 20th that she would be taking a break (after what appears from the post to be some personal trouble), but she has a new post up today as if nothing were amiss.

  26. What did she actually write I haven't seen it anywhere.

  27. -- Hahahaha. That is rich. "I accuse you of being a thief." - "What do you think I have stolen?" - "I'm not gonna tell you, neener neener neener." --

    Alex. I accuse you of plagiarizing my comment from June 23 at 5:43.

    See, its not hard to be specific.

    -- I would like to think that the only reason someone would get so up in arms about this is because they genuinely feel wronged. --

    Yes, but you can BE wrong in feeling wronged (if you weren't actually wronged), and feeling wronged is separate from the actions that result from such feelings.

  28. You can find it on her Facebook page.

  29. @dave7444 -- Her Facebook note doesn't add much detail. It pretty much just reiterates the accusations we mentioned in the post: that we stole her act, "near verbatim," used her examples and parroted her insights, and she warns that she's going to publish examples that prove our "crime."

  30. You would think that the examples to prove the crime would be the first thing JMH brought public. Whatever happened to evidence-based thinking?

  31. I replied to her Facebook note to say that if she doesn't have time to give specifics then she shouldn't make the accusation.

    More generally...it just isn't possible or desirable to try to copyright a subject this way. No writer should even want to, because the freedom of one writer is the freedom of all writers. I feel very confident in surmising that JMH is an enthusiastic fan of free speech, free inquiry, free exchange of ideas; as such (assuming I'm right) she should be very very wary of expansive versions of copyright. This one would be so expansive as to leave no room for anyone to operate.

  32. From reading the minutes of the podcast (not having had the chance yet to hear it), it occurred to me that perhaps her problem with the podcast (consciously for unconsciously) is a bit the reverse of what she says it is. She saw you as friends. She believes that her book on happiness is THE book on happiness. You only sparodically mentioned her book directly and her as the author. This bothered her on two levels. Since you know each other personally, you should have (in her mind) mentioned her in passing several times to promote the book. And secondly, she feels a pscyological intimacy and possessiveness about the topic due to the long hours of research and writing that the book took. Following from this, it really wasn't what you said specifically, but that you dealt in depth with this topic at all...without her and without constantly referring to her. That's why she can't get specific. It's the idea that hurts her...feels stolen from her, without, to her mind, enough recognition. That is my assessment on the fly, I could very well be off the mark.

  33. Bryan, you may very well be right on the mark. But of course that is an entirely different matter from accusing people of plagiarism and of "verbatim" lifting from one's work. And as much as I enjoyed Jennifer's book when it came out, it is far from being *the* book on happiness.

  34. One missing puzzle piece--did she give you a presentation of hers shortly before the podcast, and does the podcast resemble this presentation?

    Apart from that I just can't fathom what the problem is and think Bryan might be onto something. The material feels to her like "MINE" but that's feelings, not fact.

    As much as the podcast was interesting, the material was (I have to say) familiar, and not because I've read Hecht's book. All this stuff is in Gilbert, Haidt, Seligman, Argyle, McMahon, etc. There's a large popular positive psychology literature, with a lot of overlap between books. The Aristotle and Epicurus you started with is standard fare -- it's in many books (including one I wrote...so "MINE!").

  35. And in all fairness, Jennifer can't reasonably think her book is THE book on happiness. We know she's interested in the subject, so she can't have failed to notice the slew of recent books on the subject.

    But maybe she was a pioneer of this particular trend; maybe her book was one of the first of this batch (or maybe the first; I don't know). In that case maybe it feels wounding not to get credit as such. I could see feeling that...but again, that's way short of the actual accusations. (Plus one ought to learn to correct for such self-regarding little impulses. It's ok to have them, but it's not so hot to proclaim them.)

  36. I think Bryan's diagnosis sounds about right. She believes she "dug up" facts that, in fact, are commonplace. She's possessive about collective knowledge. It's really frightening.

  37. Not trying to be mean, because I can see she genuinely feels wronged, but--

    Hecht, 2007
    Haidt, 2005 (almost everything in podcast)
    Gilbert, 2006 (much of what's in podcast)
    Layard, 2005 (much of what's in podcast)

    I do not see why she feels "mine" about this material, though if there's a presentation of hers that closely resembles the podcast, that's another matter. If there is, I really think she should point it out and explain in detail.

  38. I have no position on this controversy, as I have not read JMH's book on happpiness nor heard either of the podcasts. However, I think this presentation of the case is clearly incomplete. The only way to judge is to put up, parallel to this analysis of your podcast, a similar one of hers, and a similar outline of the way she treated this subject in her book, so that likenesses and differences can be seen.

    Of course people talking about the subject are going to be able to cite many of the same sources. As I understand it, her accusation is that the particular form of analyzing and presenting those sources is what is at issue. That accusation cannot be judged from this information.

  39. @Janet --

    I've gone through her entire book now to see what the areas of overlap are. Here they are:

    There is one paragraph, on page 37, in which she describes how for Aristotle, "Nothing is higher than virtue," but that human beings have a hard time living up to that virtue.

    On page 168 she has a paragraph about how Epicurus advocated friendship.

    On page 7 she has a paragraph mentioning the research on happiness set points, and says she's skeptical of it (though not for the same reasons Massimo and I were skeptical of it).

    Pages 141-149 summarize findings on the relationship between income and happiness (i.e., there's a slight correlation between GDP and happiness, but not much for people above the poverty line).

    As we wrote in the post, these are very common and fundamental points to bring up in a summary of the field of happiness.

    The rest of her book is unrelated to our podcast.

  40. @Jean -- I have been unable to figure out what she means by the "presentation" she gave us. It's true we taped a podcast with her at NECSS in April, but the topic was bioethics, not happiness.

    We had her as a guest on Episode 14 of our podcast last year, and briefly discussed her book on happiness (the discussion spans 20:00 - 24:53). She expresses skepticism of the research on happiness set points, and also of the notion that researchers can get an unbiased measure of happiness by asking people.

    As I mentioned in an earlier comment, when Massimo and I discussed the set point research, we did not discount it for the same reason she did (her reason basically was: It's counterintuitive, and we should distrust science when it contradicts many people's personal experiences).

    And as for her point about people's self-reports of happiness being biased, many other writers and commentators have made that point before (including Will Wilkinson, whose blog post was the first place I encountered that point, long before meeting Jennifer).

  41. Janet, frankly I think our defense is more complete than it could reasonably be expected, considering that Jennifer has only laid out extremely generic accusations. She has given no particulars whatsoever, so all we could do was to show our sources and leave it at that.

  42. More than could reasonably be expected, especially considering it's a podcast, not even an editorial, much less a column or academic paper!

  43. I agree with Bryan. I think that people who invest so much in studying something get upset when other contribute to the field. You, of course, didn't do anything wrong but the way you prsenet the topic must resonates as something very familiar. It might be the same way she discussed the subject with you and hence the overaction.

    In any case, I think this might be a great introduction to a new podcast on why people feel they "own" a field and what are the repercussions for science. I see as a more general problem with scientist when they are so fixated on their own research and convictions that there is a little chance to change their mind on something.

  44. I've read Jennifer's remarks on her FB page, and your post and all of the comments in this thread. I'm a little shocked by the commenters in this thread who are questioning (even mocking in some cases) Jennifer's integrity without understanding what her position is or why she is pursuing this. There's a lot of bandwagoning going on here and frankly it's ridiculous.

    She obviously believes that the discussion she had with Masssimo and Julia two weeks prior to the podcast included specific information that was then recited nearly verbatim, in the same order, with the same details in the same places. If that is correct, then it's not hard for me to understand why she would be upset. Whether or not the information was available elsewhere, if her treatment and composition of that information was used without credit given, then she certainly has a point. But, I have no idea what occurred during that discussion, nor does anyone else who wasn’t in the room.

    Jennifer has said that she plans on proving her argument when she gets beyond a couple urgent deadlines. My suggestion is that instead of besmirching the integrity of someone who has made tremendous scholarly contributions, is highly respected, and who is a quality person by all accounts I am aware of, we wait to see a more fleshed out argument.

    Bear in mind also that the word “plagiarism” does not appear in her FB post. She used the word “derivative,” and the distinction is more than semantic. Others who commented on her post used the word plagiarism, but we should not attribute an accusation made by others to her unless she also specifically makes it.

  45. It's easy enough to take her book which is only one small part of the work she's done on the happiness topic. Did she have a conversation with you on this, and was your podcast a re-spewing of that conversation?

    I can take Colin Quinn's Long Story Short, shave 5 minutes off and change some of the wording and perform it locally here and while I could go line by line and say, this is all common knowledge! (It is!) it doesn't make it right.

    Does it make it plagiarism? I don't know. But she feels like she shared with you some awesome things that you just felt free to repeat with no mention that this was basically a re-hashing of her own "routine."

    And I think she also feels that people find it easy to just take her works and parrot them with little regard for the time and effort and soul she put into them - take the Hitchens example. He's made a name for himself and a lot of money off of reading her book and making it the cornerstone for his. That was many, many years of work, sitting in dark basements, libraries, what have you for years reading and putting together this information.

    Your response I think is rather cruel to her. You could of just said, "Yes, as a matter of fact, we had this conversation with JMH that led to this topic and her insights helped us be able to produce the show," but instead you reacted in a very cold way, line by line piece by piece, rather than answering the broader statement some of us who are not close to either of you want answered to.

  46. neuro,
    she did use the word plagiarism in her posts on my Facebook page, and in her emails to Julia and me. She also used the words "theft" and "crime."

    We had *no* discussion at all about happiness with Jennifer at the NECSS conference. As Julia said, the panel discussion was about bioethics, not happiness.

    While I agree with you that one needs to be careful about impugning a respect person's integrity, I do wonder why you don't feel that that courtesy should be extended to Julia and me.

  47. Heidi, we did *not* have any such conversation with Jennifer. Moreover, neither one of us even consulted her book at all in preparation for our podcast. Interesting that you consider our response "cold" but are not outraged at the tone of her (baseless, and unsubstantiated) accusations toward us.

  48. Heidi, I don't remember any conversation beyond the standard "Hi, how are you, thanks for coming" with Jennifer at NECSS (I'm sure of this because I was reading over my notes for the taping until the very last minute!).

    We stood in the wings of the stage together with a few other people for, at most, a few minutes before going onstage together. I have no memory of what we talked about then, if anything. After the episode taping was done, I immediately did another panel discussion and then left.

  49. Neuro, she did use the words plagiarism, theft, and crime. For example, here are two of the many, many comments she left on my Facebook page:

    "this is a theft of my work, an insane blatant, crazy act of theft"


    "pull this plagarized show NOW"

  50. Ophelia BensonJune 24, 2011 2:27 PM

    This is depressing...

    "She obviously believes that the discussion she had with Masssimo and Julia two weeks prior to the podcast included specific information that was then recited nearly verbatim, in the same order, with the same details in the same places."

    Excuse me but that's not obvious at all - it's much more precise than anything Jennifer has said.

    "Jennifer has said that she plans on proving her argument when she gets beyond a couple urgent deadlines. My suggestion is that instead of besmirching the integrity of someone who has made tremendous scholarly contributions, is highly respected, and who is a quality person by all accounts I am aware of, we wait to see a more fleshed out argument."

    Seriously? But she has accused M and J of stealing - using that very word. You don't accuse people of stealing and then say "Details later when I have time." Not fair.

    I don't have a personal axe to grind here. I've argued with Massimo frequently in the past, often quite...er...pugnaciously. But I think if that podcast counts as plagiarism (or "stealing") then nobody can write or say anything. Since I like to write and say things, I don't like that idea.

  51. Also, Heidi, she does specifically say that she thinks we stole from her book. For example, in this comment, left on my wall:

    "PLAGIARISM BOY STEALS GIRL's WORK! Massimo Pigliucci just did a Podcast on Happiness in which he summarizes (close to word for word) my years of research and original thought found in my my book The Happiness Myth and the ideas I shared with him at NECSS and ******He is pretending HE thought them up himself.******* This will not stand."

  52. Massimo - I think you need to let it go now, or people will start to think that 'you protest too much'... :-)

  53. Julia, what a bizarre comment. If you hadn't communicated wit Jennifer personally, I would think someone had hacked her account. That seems to me like something a Christian would email to PZ! Is JMH alright?

  54. Camus Dude, honestly, I don't know.

    That is a representative comment, though. She left me at least 50 similar comments in the past two days.

  55. Even more bizarre - spamming and trolling, basically. I would guess something is wrong (though what I decline to speculate what) to explain behavior so erratic.

  56. Are we in bizarro world already? I don't even understand how can a podcast about science and philosophy popularization be accused of plagiarism by a researcher. She *may* have a point if you talked about her research without mentioning it (that would still not be plagiarism, though). I hope Sagan doesn't rise from the dead and sue Brian Cox for talking about the same topics with a very similar format in "Wonders of the Solar System" as in "Cosmos".

    Come on, people, we are all here to spread the joy of science and critical thinking. We are going to repeat ourselves a lot of the time, is that a bad thing? Is not like you are making any money by doing this.
    No, this is too bizarre for me to really believe it. There *must* be some misunderstanding here; I cannot bring myself to believe that someone so reasonable and respectable as JMH seemed to me in your interviews would act in such a manner. It really surprises me that this wasn't the result of a hacked account or something like that. As Camus Dude, I suspect something's wrong here. Maybe she's having some personal issues and instead of bashing she needs help and support. Did you talked to her friends or relatives to see if there's something going on?

    Again, this all affair seems crazy to me. Reading this I feel like I'm in Wornderland, but "I don't want to go among mad people".

  57. I share your feeling that "there is something wrong here," which is why - as we say at the top of the post - I immediately emailed and then called Jennifer, to make sure it wasn't a hack job by someone else. Unfortunately, it wasn't. As for talking to her friends or family, I don't know them, and I don't think it is my place to do so (she is a colleague, but not a personal friend).

  58. Massimo -- I do think that courtesy should be extended to both of you. My point was that you have written a detailed account of your side of this story in the post above. I'd rather wait to see Jennifer's explanation before drawing a conclusion. I am speaking more in reaction to some of the inflammatory comments in this thread than I am to your post. This whole thing is really very odd.

    Ophelia -- actually, what I said in my comment is a paraphrase of Jennifer's exact quote from FB. So, no, my comment was not more precise than what she said. It's essentially a duplicate of what she said.

  59. @ neuronarrative

    Your perspective of 'wait for her response,' and accusing commenters of being inflammatory would hold more water if the accuser did not make baseless accusations. Why are we waiting for explanation when she is the one who made the inflammatory comments? Talk about besmirching someone's integrity... her accusations are as besmirching as you can get, and yet she still has not provided specifics. If she is too busy, then she should keep her mouth closed (metaphorically speaking) until she can address this in a professional fashion. At best, she is being irresponsible and unprofessional. At worst she is delusional.

  60. @ neuronarrative --

    Over the past two days, Jennifer has commented on my Facebook wall at least 50 times, commented on Massimo's page, commented on her own page many times, commented on the pages of other people in the skeptic movement to complain about us, commented on the podcast website, messaged and emailed me and Massimo multiple times, and messaged my father (whom she must have found through Facebook).

    After all of that, for her to claim that she "doesn't have time" to back up her accusations is a little hard to believe.

  61. @julia,

    It's the dissonance between JMH commenting that much and saying she "doesn't have time" that sends up a flag for me.

    For someone normally so joyful, skeptical and committed to rationalism, such behavior is VERY out of character.

    I find it worrisome, to put it mildly.

  62. plum grenvilleJune 24, 2011 7:00 PM

    This woman is clearly having a psychotic episode. Alleged plagiarism - OK. False accusation of plagiarism - maybe. But posting 50 times to one person's blog? That's got to be schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.

    Paranoid delusions often build on something in a person's culture or personal experience. The kernal of truth here was that the podcast topic was the same as the subject of her book. The three of them met at a conference and exchanged a few bland remarks becomes a lengthy coversation about subject of great importance to her.

    With all those emails, she's out of control. She needs a psychiatrist and some meds. And if there's any escalation in her accusations against the podcasters, they should be careful. Their best bet is to remove this post and stop defending themselves publicly.

  63. Ophelia BensonJune 24, 2011 7:07 PM

    neuronarrative - which exact quote from FB? There have been so many. Your "paraphrase" was indeed more precise than any of the many FB posts that I have seen, which are all so vague as to be useless for figuring out what exactly is meant.

    As for inflammatory comments - have you seen the FB posts?

  64. "Damn them! They will not let my play run, but they steal my thunder."

  65. Ophelia Benson wrote: "it just isn't possible or desirable to try to copyright a subject this way."

    I agree, but plagiarism is a broader ethical issue and copyright is a narrower legal issue. While perhaps nearly every copyright violation is plagiarism, plagiarism need not entail copyright violation. Copyright only protects specific expressions of ideas in fixed form, while plagiarism can involve using the ideas of another without proper reference, as well as other forms of intellectual property misappropriation independent of copyright.

  66. On second thought, it's not the case these days that most copyright infringements are plagiarism, either, since plagiarism involves representing another's work as one's own and most copyright infringement these days is duplication of media artifacts without claiming to be the author...

  67. @neuronarrative and @Heidi --

    Ophelia is correct. JMH made many different accusations at different times, including that we had "read from her book" on the podcast, that we stole from her comments on the podcast taping at NECSS, and that we stole from a conversation we had with her "two weeks ago" (for the record, I haven't seen her since NECSS which was in April):

    A sampling of the accusations she posted on my wall:

    - "Theif. Reading from my book as if it is your ideas."

    - "I just told you these things in an interview I did on your show a few weeks ago."

    - "almost every single thing you said came out of my mouth in the conversation we had two weeks ago"

    - "the people you cite are people I worked with on those papers! you cite only the things i just finished telling you on a podcast and in front of ten people."

    - "Your Podcast on Happiness is taken from my book The Happiness Myth and the ideas I shared with you at NECSS. Tell everyone that now."

  68. My thoughts turned in the same direction that plum grenville's have, early in this account. I'm not a psychiatrist but the most reasonable inference to the best explanation that I can come up with involves some kind of paranoid psychosis. It can happen to anyone, regardless of how smart or rational they are at other times. I might be wrong but it's pretty hard to account for her behavior without imagining some psychotic involvement. Remember John Nash and Kurt Godel...

    It's unfortunate and I hope JMH gets the attention she needs before her situation gets any more deleterious.

  69. I am not on facebook, and I have not read her book. However, the behavior described (accusations of crimes, 50+ facebook posts, etc.) are not typical for a rational person with a history of normal social function. That maybe could be written off as stupid or immature if she was a poorly educated teenager, but it is odd for a professional adult author.

    I agree with plum grenville, this smells like a psychiatric condition manifesting: psychosis, mania, or substance abuse. Hopefully this is not the case.

  70. @julia and @plum Those do strike me as more like the thoughts of someone with bipolar or schizophrenia than the thoughts of a well-known skeptic author, and generally rational and kind person.

    I won't agree with plum, though, that "clearly" mental illness (or a neurological defect) is the case, as I am no expert.

    Further, I don't know JMH personally and have absolutely no idea what is happening in her life or her head. Those are usually good things to have an idea about before making a diagnosis, so I'd suggest others refrain from doing so as well.

  71. Sympathies and praise for Pigliucci and Galef in this stressful situation. This post, and this defense, is very well-handled.

    As for the rest of us, I submit that it is inappropriate to speculate on Hecht's mental state. Some of the people speculating on her mental health seem to be acting out of sincere concern, but such speculation, even when well-intentioned, is never helpful. Hecht has real friends and family -- not her Facebook friends -- who can assist her if she is unwell.

  72. Does it strike anyone else as ironic that this lady has spent so long in the academic study of happiness, but is unable to find it herself? Is that not three wasted years?

  73. @plum grenville

    Maybe we should avoid making such sweeping diagnoses, but If Jennifer is having some psychological issues then it is in everyone's best interest to encourage her to address them.

    I hesitated to suggest this earlier, because it is such a sensitive issue, but JMH did accuse Julia of "changing medication", and later apologized, stating:

    "I'm so sorry, really, I didn't mean things that way. I was upset but trying to have a lighter touch, I see that wasn't the way to do it. I'm very sorry. Again, I was trying to be nice and find a way to say they had not... done it out of malice or something, that's all. Trying to lighten the tone not make it worse. I take meds myself. Thats why I made the joke..."

    and later:

    "I always think people know I take antidepressants because I talk about it on my blog posts, but that is a silly assumption on my part."

    Many of my close friends and family members take antidepressants, so I want to be very clear that I am not trying to bring this up in order to diminish her accusations. I ONLY bring this up because JMH's comments and actions seem so strikingly uncharacteristic of her normally insightful, evenhanded, and otherwise brilliant tone. Also consider Camus Dude's observation above that she had announced on June 20th that she would be taking a break from her personal blog after some apparent personal trouble. We've never met, but I have heard her interviewed, and I am at a loss to explain her actions otherwise. Could this be a symptom of some larger issues, or am I jumping to some wild conclusions?

  74. Apparently this is where it's going to be left. JMH said (at least twice) yesterday that she would "make everything perfectly clear" when she had time. Since then she's had time to do new, cheerful posts on unrelated subjects...so it looks as if the plan is just to drop the whole thing and move on - without withdrawing the accusations and without apologizing.

    I don't exactly know why I find this so irritating, but I do.

  75. I'm not exactly sure why ppl are admonishing plum grenville and others to withhold suggestions that some aspects of psychosis is the basis of this dust-up. It does not strike me as impugning anyone's character or moral status to suggest that they may be suffering from some organically based departure from what most of us consider normal or reasonable behavior. The discomfort that some people are expressing with this line of inquiry suggests that they believe such disorders are in some manner shameful. I disagree with such interpretations. If someone is in distress, identifying the source is not a form of blame, or at least shouldn't be.

    I think this whole episode should motivate an exploration of mental illness and how it functions as an explanatory trope for 'abnormal' behavior. A fascinating book addressing the topic was recently penned by Ethan Watters. It's called "Crazy Like Us: The Globalization of the American Psyche" and details the exportation of DSM mental illness categories to the rest of the world, in part to create markets for pharmaceuticals.

    It's a tricky subject. There are definitely organic processes involved, yet how they play out socially is very much a social construction. Seems like excellent fodder for a show.

    Of course the proximate inspiration here may be tragic or at least very unfortunate and I do not suggest that it be explicitly dedicated to or identified w/ JMH. And, of course, we have no firm diagnosis yet for the conflict detailed in this post. But we do have hypotheses and I think they could motivate further exploration in the abstract.

    I hope this comment doesn't offend anyone. I'm not trying to be callous or opportunistic but just think the subject is very topical. It deserves attention completely apart from any relevance to the current dispute. If it helps clear up some issues related to the current dispute, all the better.

  76. Massimo,

    Unfortunately, I do not have much to say regarding the theme of the present post, but I recently purchased the current issue of Philosophy Now and finished your piece on mathematical platonism. When you find the time and the inclination, I would enjoy a discussion, here on the blog,about your article. While I am not a mathematical realist (I am a mathematical non-realist ala intuitionism), I think realism about mathematical objects *is* compatible with physicalism, properly construed, of course.

    P.S. Apologies for the misplaced comment.

  77. Well handled Massimo and Julia. You have demonstrated grace under fire in an unexpected and unpleasant situation. I hope JMH eventually recovers enough from whatever sent her into that abnormal state to give the two of you an apology. Social media have given outbursts a wide new reach.

  78. Hi thw,

    I (the anonymous poster from last night) have two objections to diagnosing Hecht in these circumstances.

    Highly rational and intelligent people experience periods of irrationality. The way social media impacts these periods of irrationality /is/ fascinating, and deserving of study. Hecht is an ideal starting point, because of her sharp, rational mind and her frankness about her own mental issues. This can't be said of everyone, but in her case, there's no question: she is the best person to evaluate her own long-term behavioral patterns. By sitting around leveling diagnoses that we make in anger (and in some cases an impressive amount of ignorance), we impede her progress. Although this blog's comment stream was presumably never intended as a method of social networking, it runs the risk of sidetracking the relevant issues in the same way that Facebook praise and catcalls do.

    This leads into my second point, which is well-illustrated by "The discomfort that some people are expressing with this line of inquiry suggests that they believe such disorders are in some manner shameful." When you attempt to determine a stranger's motives over the Internet (rather than, you know, ASKING them), you are likely to come up with something time-wastingly, if amusingly, wrong.

  79. Nobody Too,

    You wrote, "Highly rational and intelligent people experience periods of irrationality."

    This certainly seems true but what does making the statement explain in this case? What is "rational" and "irrational?" No joke--rationality is a highly normative subject. I think it is best conceived as having to do with making "inferences to the best explanation," consistency, and coherency. Most people, I think, mean something like "reasonable." But that seems question begging to me--what is reasonable? Most usages seem to redound to what we all would agree is rational or reasonable, that is, what is normal and normative. But that's really vague and doesn't help us much in this case--why refer to rationality if all you mean is "normal?"

    Ultimately referring to JMH's 'rational mindedness' doesn't add much to the conversation unless you mean something like "inference to the best explanation, consistency, and coherency." And if you are applying such a definition JMH seems to have lost the capacity to be rational, at least for the moment. You did mention that people can suffer lapses of irrationality. Absolutely true. But such lapses are usually slips on the trail not tumbles off the mountain top (unless, of course, something is really amiss).

    "I (the anonymous poster from last night) have two objections to diagnosing Hecht in these circumstances."

    As for diagnosing JMH, a suggestion or an hypothesis is not equal to a diagnosis so that's a bit of a straw man. We can wonder out loud about the possibility can't we, w/o knowing with certainty the actuality of the case? Even if I think psychosis is the best explanation for what is going on that does not in any way mean I am sure that it is THE EXPLANATION or the only explanation. It's like any scientific question where hypotheses need to be tested and backed up with evidence interpreted through an established theory.

    continued below

  80. continued

    "Hecht is an ideal starting point, because of her sharp, rational mind and her frankness about her own mental issues. This can't be said of everyone, but in her case, there's no question: she is the best person to evaluate her own long-term behavioral patterns."

    I definitely don't think asking people to introspect their motives is always or even often the best way to discover their motives. We are all notoriously bad at knowing what motivates us. That's true of our normal, reasonable, rational behavior and much, much more so when we are entering highly stressed or psychotic states. In fact it would seem to be almost definitional of psychotic states that motives be self-misattributed if I can coin that term. Besides, JMH was asked and her answer didn't reveal anything new.

    "By sitting around leveling diagnoses that we make in anger (and in some cases an impressive amount of ignorance), we impede her progress."

    Who's angry here? I am mostly curious about this case. Not angry at all. I'm peripheral to the dispute. But I don't like ad hominem attacks suggesting that I'm motivated by anger if that's what you meant to imply by the comment. And I've been very careful to couch all of my statements with conditionals, "seems like" "best inference" "possibly" "suggests" "hypothesis" and so forth. Wish I could say that about everybody here.

    As for your second point, I stand by my hypothesis that "The discomfort that some people are expressing with this line of inquiry suggests that they believe such disorders are in some manner shameful." It's a suggestion, after all, which means it might be wrong. Historically, and even now, mental illness is something we are taught to be deeply ashamed of.

    This growing thicket of misunderstanding squares well with my suggestion that a podcast about the conceptual place of mental illness in contemporary society would be very useful. So thanks for helping that suggestion along.

    As an aside I meant to mention earlier that it's exquisitely ironic that all of this is happening on a blog entitled "rationally speaking."

    All the best, thw

  81. thw, when I spoke of anger, I spoke of the people in this thread who have either 1) confessed to anger or 2) used deliberately malicious language. You fall into neither category. I also spoke of myself -- unjust accusations of plagiarism make me angry, and when they come from someone I respect, they make me anxious and sad. Still, I do my best to observe these negative emotions and respond to them appropriately. Like all who are dedicated to self-diagnosis, I often fail in the short-term, then succeed in the long-term.

    I am glad that you had a negative, defensive response when you inaccurately believed that I was speculating on your emotional state. Perhaps this will lead you to understand why I consider it counterproductive to speculate on Hecht's emotional state, or anyone else's.

  82. To me, perhaps the most egregious error in this whole situation is how Jennifer seeks to handle this problem (whether actual or not) by going public with it without first approaching Massimo and Julia about it and trying to work it out with them in private, AWAY FROM THE INTERNET. She does herself a disservice by first taking the tact of going public.

    Only AFTER her attempts of trying to settle the affair privately has failed should she go public with the problem (if there is actually a problem). What made her to be so politically unsavvy? I don't know anything about Jennifer or her works or eve the topics her works touch on but from what I saw of her publication list and her public CV, she is clearly a very highly educated person who has done a lot of things in the world. And yet, what happened to what would seem to be the most common sense approach of trying to settle something like this, namely, IN PRIVATE AWAY FROM THE INTERNET FIRST.

    From her public C.V., I see that Jennifer is probably in her 40s, so she didn't grow up in the internet age where perhaps "youngsters" would react by first going to the internet or email to settle affairs. I'm younger than her but also didn't grow up in the internet age.

  83. I look forward to hearing further developments from Jennifer's side to see what she is up to, but even then, I still hope she realises her mistake and takes off all methods of settling to the private sphere. She can still do this. And of course, at the conclusion of it (if the settling can conclude in the private sphere) to come out with Massimo and Julia for a public statement of settlement (whatever it be).

  84. Frankly, first of all, I think Hecht overrates herself as an author.

    "Doubt" was the only book of hers I've read through, and I 3-starred it on Amazon. Other than the Carvaka in ancient India, I didn't learn a lot new otherwise.

    Second, beyond the books Massimo mentions, Barbara Ehrenreich's "Bright Sided" tackles some of the "myth" issues, as part of New Age deconstructionism, far better than Hecht does. I'd recommend Nathaniel Branden, at least some of his stuff, too.


  85. I find this whole mess to be more than a bit odd. I looked online to see JMH's actual accusations and could not find anything. Massimo and Julia, I think it would help a lot of us to see some screen shots of your pages. I thought maybe it was a gag at first, due to it being so weird. I did check JMH's facebook and she seems to be going on like this is not even occurring. I hope this is just a big misunderstanding. But I am skeptical.

  86. Mike, I don't have screen shots, though I believe Julia does. I can assure you that, unfortunately, this is no joke. See also the comments by Ophelia, who has seen the live stream on Jennifer's Facebook page.

  87. Massimo, I do believe you, I just thought that seeing it myself would help understand it. I am sure you can imagine how weird this must seem from those of us that have heard JMH on the podcast and heard what seemed like a pretty decent relationship. I think most people are on your, and Julia's, side.

  88. Ugh, I can't remember any specific examples off the top of my head now, she's a cool character, but in almost every audio or video interview of JMH I've had to cringe a couple of times because of her poor reasoning. Let's just say her behaviour here doesn't surprise me...

  89. I agree on that. I have heard her mention more than once that chronic pain is no big deal and you get used to it. Well I suffered a snowboard injury a few years ago and I am still not used to that nerve pain that runs down my leg. My guess is that she has never experienced true chronic pain. Also, as far as suicide goes her argument fails when it comes to a costly and painful and terminal slow death. My 94 year old grandmother died a few years ago and it would have been easier for her and my family if she died a month or two earlier. She did not know what was going on or even who she was. She was just scared every second she was awake and I just hoped that she would be asleep as much as possible. That seemed like the only time she was not terribly suffering. It made me understand Dr K even more. So, Suicide (assisted or otherwise) might not always be wrong. I don't think we should tell others how to live, so why should we tell them how to die.

  90. Wow, this seems really bizarre. It would be like if you were arrested for a crime and when you went to court not only were you not told what the crime was but you had to prove you didn't do it.

    That is some very irrational behavior on Jennifer's part... at least from your telling of the story. I'd really have to hear her side too.

  91. It's been almost a month. So what's going on with this whole crisis of accused plagiarism? No resolution? Or Jennifer never really responded?

  92. Have not heard anything from Jennifer. I'm expecting either an apology or a detailed explanation, but I'm not holding my breadth for either.

  93. Massimo and Julia, thank you for an amazing podcast. I regret that you had to experience this situation with Hecht. I looked through Hecht's facebook page, and it looks like she's taken down any accusations she made (unless I'm just missing them.) You handled yourselves perfectly throughout the ordeal, and I commend you for your hard work to set the record straight. I am a fan of Hecht's books, so to fair to her, I am still interested in seeing her specific charges. But as you said, I'm not holding my breath. Looks like there's been no activity on this page since last month, so apparently the whole ordeal is over. Keep up the great work, you two.

  94. I know this was a sordid experience, probably for everyone involved. However, one should always look at ways of how to move forward. To me the literature list you provided was VERY valuable. I was wondering if the two of you could, at least in podcasts that only feature the two of you, reference all the literature you looked at. One of the major outcomes of your podcasts (besides making me happy :) are that they make me aware of research I might want to look into. No need for a minute-by-minute correlation as you have done here, an alphabetical list (or the like) would be more than sufficient (and awesome). Just my 2 cents on this.
    BTW, my deepest respect for plowing through this amount of original research literature for one podcast episode!


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