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Meat eaters absolved, professor in the dock - 08-09-2011

Are you a meat eater? Then you can breathe a sigh of relief: you are not a selfish bastard.

When the papers one and all published social psychologist’s Diederik Stapel's findings, vegetarians the world over tucked contentedly into their tofu. They had known all along and now science had confirmed it: you can’t trust a meat eater. They think about a juicy steak and, boom, they turn into selfish bastards.

Their joy didn’t last very long, however. This week, Stapel (45) was shopped by two fellow researchers who thought his methods, although not unheard of in the scientific world, were a little unorthodox: Stapel made up his own data. He also made up a student who collated the non existent data.

The Gelderlander was one of the few papers who questioned the validity of the findings. It asked Stapel’s research partner social psychologist Roos Vonk, who is a vegetarian, if the research could possibly have been biased. At the time Vonk huffily dismissed this possibility as ‘insulting’ and described herself and her fellow researchers as ‘experienced scientists with an excellent track record’.

Vonk has since apologised to the paper. ‘It goes to show that even psychologists can be completely wrong about people’, she said ruefully. She didn’t like to speculate why Stapel, who has agreed to step down from his job at Tilburg University, did what he did.

Meanwhile Stapel’s webpage at the university has been removed. The prestigious professor has become a figure of shame.

It turns out that his fellow scientists had been harbouring suspicions for some time. But jealousy is no stranger to academia and Stapel published ‘very frequently and appeared on television programmes’. Some of his research subjects - a messy room makes people aggressive, beautiful people have better chances in life – must have grated on scientific sensibilities, however.

So why did he do it? Does he hate meat eaters? Or does he suffer from DSK syndrome and think he can get away with anything? Maybe someone should do the research.


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