Baker's Response To James Lippard Re My Unattributed Copying

What follows is the complete text of Robert A. Baker's "Response To James Lippard Re My Unattributed Copying." My comments are the paragraphs in italics.

Response To James Lippard Re My Unattributed Copying

In the Summer 1993 issue of Skeptical Inquirer (vol. 17, No. 4) I published a review of Ivan Zabilka's book Scientific Malpractice: The Creation/Evolution Debate (Bristol, 1992). I thought the book was excellent and said so in my review. Mr. Lippard an authority on creationism took exception to my review and panned both it and Zabilka's book in his own long review in The Skeptic Vol. 2, No. 1, 1993.
Actually, my review predates Baker's and makes no mention of him. -jjl
[Note added November 20, 1995: Baker probably wrote his review first, but I believe mine was published first. I wrote mine before I knew he had written his. -jjl]

When I defended both Zabilka and my review Lippard proceeded to accuse me of improper copying from Zabilka and when I again defended myself he became more quarrelsome.
I never made any accusations of improper copying until almost a year after my exchange with Baker in the KASES File, which is the only thing I can imagine this refers to. Baker has never sent me anything in response to the charges of unattributed copying. -jjl

At this point, because I had heard from friends that Mr. Lippard relished these sort of endless "charge" and "countercharge" in neverending debate, I informed Mr. Lippard that I would no longer discuss the matter and that if I had, in any way, offended him then I apologized.
This sounds like he is again referring to the KASES File exchange. I don't care for neverending debate, unless it's a friendly give-and-take. I can be stubborn in response to dishonesty, however. I am curious to know who these "friends" are and how they know me. I suspect it is a reference to a short-lived but quite voluminous exchange of correspondence I had with Phil Klass between October 1992 and January 1993. (If there's anybody who loves neverending debate, it's Klass, who has exchanged letters debating Tom McIver and Jerome Clark literally for years.) -jjl

This response was greeted by a systematic and sustained attack upon me personally by Mr. Lippard who accused me of deliberately copying from others and giving them no credit--particularly in my book They Call It Hypnosis and specifically the work of Phil Klass, a man I consider a close personal friend and one whose work I admire deeply.
No, Baker's response in KASES File was greeted by seven months of silence, until I came across Jody Hey's posting about the Spring 1994 Skeptical Inquirer on April 15, 1995. I first found apparent copying from Klass on April 17, 1995. -jjl

Mr. Lippard next attacked my book reviews that I published regularly in the pages of Skeptical Inquirer, again accusing me of improprieties stopping just short of accusing me of plagiarism.
This puts things backwards. The first charges were regarding book reviews, and only then moved on to his books and an article in Skeptical Inquirer. -jjl

I defended myself at this time challenging him to find instances in 99.9% of many of my reviews wherein I was guilty of his charges. This challenge was unmet with the exception of one major glaring error on my part in which a reference from Professor William Grey that should have been in quotation marks was not because of an editing error on my part. Although I quickly apologized to Professor Grey who kindly forgave me Mr. Lippard refused to be so gentlemanly and, instead, stepped up his attack on my reputation, my character, my honesty and all of my previously published work.
Baker's challenge makes no sense. I did suggest a challenge to James McGaha in a letter dated May 22, 1994: "If I were Phil Klass, at this point I'd offer some kind of sucker bet like: 'I'll pay you $500 for every original word Baker wrote on pp. 130-131 [of They Call It Hypnosis] if you'll pay me $100 for every word he copied from Nicholas Spanos or John Chaves.' But I'm not Phil Klass, and I don't take you for a sucker." As for William Grey, he concurs that I have pointed out serious scholarly lapses in Baker's work. Regarding Baker's honesty--I never raised any questions about it until June 17, 1995. -jjl

I must frankly admit that I am in shock. As a psychologist and a student of human behavior I am totally amazed at Mr. Lippard's overreaction and extreme emotional response to my editorial errors and my attempts to defend myself against his attacks.
What emotional response? More importantly, what attempts by Baker to defend himself does Baker imagine I have been responding to, since he has never bothered to send anything to me and I deemed his only previous attempt unworthy of any response at all? -jjl

I have been writing and publishing in scientific and psychological and governmental publications since 1948 and I have published over a hundred professional experimental articles in the psychological journals well over a hundred governmental and military articles in this literature as well as twelve books and numerous articles and one book in the mystery field.
Clap, clap, clap. All the more reason that Robert Baker should know better than to do what he has done. -jjl

In all of this time dealing with hundreds of editors, writers, publishers and colleagues I have never before in my lengthy career ever been accused of plagiarism or unauthorized borrowing from the works of others or failing to give due credit to the efforts and works of others.
Two words: Terence Hines. -jjl

In fact, I have gone to the other extreme trying to help gain attention and recognition for the works of other writers that the public seems to either ignore, underestimate, or neglect. Being human and writing extensively, I am the first to admit that I have made a number of sloppy editorial and grammatical mistakes and misteps. [sic]
And unattributed copying. -jjl

Until I encountered Mr. Lippard I have never had anyone so angry and outraged with my work and I am curious as to what has caused it.
I have no anger regarding Baker's work. I am a tad annoyed by his failure to acknowledge his errors, his misguided attempts to analyze my motivations and character, his misrepresentations of fact, and his unfounded threats of legal action. -jjl

One of the professional failings of many younger people in the sciences and in the public arena is an attempt to gain attention, publicity, and notoriety by attacking the work of their elders and more senior members of their profession. In physics, for example, there is no quicker way to get the attention of the professional community than by attacking Einstein or Bohr or other senior physicists.
But a sure method of professional failure is to be a whistleblower. The established professionals inevitably circle the wagons, attack the whistleblower, and pretend not to see any wrongdoing, or dismiss it as insignificant (even when the same wrongdoing would be grounds for expulsion of an undergraduate). -jjl

Another possibility i[s] that I am merely the whipping boy for other CSICOP members and Mr. Lippard believes he can get them by attacking me. If Mr. Lippard's ulterior motive is to weaken and embarrass CSICOP through my perceived sins and errors, again, his efforts are misdirected. I have neither the status, standing, or importance he ascribes to me in the skeptical scheme of things. Mr. Lippard would be much more effective in his efforts if he attacked any such offenders directly rather than going through a much lesser skeptical light as myself.
I wonder whose paranoid fantasy spawned this paragraph. I honestly have no clue who Baker is referring to. My motive has not been to weaken or embarrass CSICOP, but to improve the quality of organized skepticism. That is why I refrained from public comment on these matters for nearly a year. But the way in which Baker and CSICOP have dealt with these matters led me to give up any hope of reform or improvement on the basis of criticisms from myself and a few others in local and regional skeptical groups, so I felt compelled to bring this to a wider audience. -jjl

It should also be noted that one of the reasons Mr. Lippard has received so little support for his efforts to have CSICOP members condemn and censure me is that most CSICOPERS, along with most other authors, editors, and publishers within the scientific community do not agree with Mr. Lippard's most extensive and broad, all-encompassing definition of "unauthorized copying" eg. "plagiarism."
Then they shouldn't have voted for the academic and professional codes of conduct that govern most universities and societies. Widespread hypocrisy is still hypocrisy. (Actually, unlike universities and most professional societies, CSICOP has no code of conduct or ethical guidelines, so I guess the charge of hypocrisy cannot be leveled against the organization on that account.) -jjl

Mr. Lippard has little or no training in the sciences or in the scientific disciplines and is, apparently, more concerned with grammatical niceities [sic :-)] and other literary proprieties than he is in the propagation and dissemination of principle and ideas.
Call me scientifically ignorant, if you like, but don't call me unconcerned about the dissemination of principles and ideas. The dissemination of principles--moral ones--is exactly what I've been concerned about in this controversy. -jjl

Anyone who has taken the time and trouble to read or examine closely my three skeptical books (thus far) is fully aware of the totally absurd nature of Mr. Lippard's claims and of the lengthy and extensive quotations, bibliographic references, and notes in all three of my books published with Prometheus. Without the references I furnished in my books Mr. Lippard could never have found those "examples of unauthorized borrowing" that have so upset him.
Several of the instances of unattributed copying I found in Baker's work were of references which were nowhere cited. Anyone who has taken the time and trouble to read or examine closely my report would know that my charges are anything but absurd. Would Baker care to try the "sucker" challenge, which was offered to James McGaha in jest? -jjl

Readers who have followed my work in Skeptical Inquirer, Skeptical Briefs, our State newsletter KASES FILE are well aware that I have never failed to credit the original author and the original source for all of my essays and reviews. Again, I have bent over backward to credit overlooked and ignored work and I sincerely believe that I have reviewed more Prometheus publications than any other skeptic in the nation.
Any reader of my report on Baker's unattributed copying knows that the first sentence is false--and the number of Prometheus books Baker has reviewed is simply a red herring. -jjl

Rather than considering this a service, Mr. Lippard sees it and considers my work, in toto, as an unforgivable sin against the skeptical and scientific community. In this regard and in my opinion I find Mr. Lippard is so focused on the miniscule, the insignificant, and the unimportant he is unwilling to credit me with anything at all of a positive nature--denying my efforts over the past 35 years.
I don't understand why Baker thinks that my criticisms of his work imply that I credit him with nothing. Did he not read my rather glowing review of his book They Call It Hypnosis in The Arizona Skeptic? Further, if the problems I have pointed out are so small, why is it so much trouble for him to admit that they exist? -jjl

Over twenty years of original, empirical research in hypnosis, lectures across the country on hypnosis at universities, colleges, and psychology departments as well as numerous hypnosis societies as well as thirty years of study went into my book They Call It Hypnosis (Prometheus, 1990). Fortunately the book review journal Choice recognized my efforts and my original contribution and voted it the "outstanding academic book of 1990." For Mr. Lippard to state that "I should be considered the editor rather than the author" betrays not only collosal [sic] ignorance but a deliberate attempt on his part to demean, discredit, wound, maim, and injure me personally and also to mislead, misrepresent, and misinform all of the general public who are not familiar with my book. Lippard's remarks are also callous and insulting with regard to the diligence, and editorial skills and efforts of the Prometheus editorial staff.
Perhaps the problem is that Baker simply does not understand the meaning of quotation marks, because he here makes a statement in quotation marks which he is apparently attributing to me, but is not to be found in my writing. What I did write is that "But it would perhaps be more accurate to bill Baker as the editor of the volume rather than the author and not to treat it as a primary source." This was somewhat hyperbolic, but in my copy of the book, where I have highlighted word-for-word borrowings, there are large sections which are patches of yellow with only a few words here and there not highlighted. I can only conclude, based on Baker's response, that his intended audience is those unfamiliar with my report, and that it is he who intends to mislead, misrepresent, and misinform. -jjl

In fact, I find it hard to believe that anyone would go to the lengths Mr. Lippard has to revile, discredit, and embarass a fellow skeptic--one who shares with him so many common philisopical [sic] stances--without much greater provocation and stimulation. People who know me and my work are very much aware that I am neither a thief, morally corrupt, nor one who attempts to ride to glory on the backs and works of others.
Have I made "miniscule," "insignificant," and "unimportant" complaints, or have I accused Baker of being a "thief," "morally corrupt," or "one who attempts to ride to glory on the backs and works of others"? Is it possible that the truth is somewhere in between these extremes? (These latter, extreme charges, by the way, are what we philosophers refer to as "straw men.") -jjl

To be accused of this is not only unjust but absurd. On every occasion wherein I cite the work of others and provide references quotations and citations because I use some of the author's same words, terms, manner of expression, etc. that the author himself employs--this is done to promote and further accurate and unambiguous communication. Mr. Lippard perceives and interprets this as plagiarism on my part.
If you are going to use the words of another author, they must be indicated as that author's words with quotation marks or indentation (blockquoting), or else that use is, indeed, plagiarism. -jjl

He ignores the fact that he would not be able to find the material in question had I not provided accurate references and citations of the work in question. It should be obvious that I am not attempting theft if I attribute to the author his words and concepts in advance. Lippard says that maybe I don't know the meaning of the word "plagiarism." In fact, I believe that it is Mr. Lippard, not I, who misunderstands and misinterprets the term.
Plagiarism clearly comes in degrees just as similarity comes in degrees. Some of the instances of unattributed copying in Baker's work are indeed rather minor. Taken as a whole, however, they demonstrate a scholarly sloppiness to the point of impropriety. Coupled with Baker's denials of copying in cases which are rather clear-cut (e.g., his copying from Hines, without citation or credit), I am forced to conclude dishonesty or delusion. -jjl

In my mind and from my point of view I do not believe that I have done anything wrong or that I committed any crime and that only, inadvertently, have I ever failed to give another author credit for his ideas and words. Being human and getting on in years, I have made some very embarrassing mistakes as in the case of Professor Grey. I am certain that if some of my enemies carefully comb through all of my published papers, books, et. al. they will most likely find others. I can only say that none of those whom I may have offended have notified me of this fact. I am, therefore, grateful for their forbearance. With regard to the charge made by both Hines and Lippard that I "stole" the Harris material on cryptomnesia from Mr. Hines, I would like to call the attention of both these gentlemen to pages 230 and 231 of my 1990 book They Call It Hypnosis. The words found there and the words found on pages 156 and 157 of Hidden Memories are identical. In other words, I borrowed from myself not from Hines. Moreover the words taken from Harris were from my notes after I read Melvin Harris's splendid 1986 book. I took these notes from my reading of Harris in 1987--a year before Hines's book was published. Since my original notes are dated (I make a habit of this) this I can prove in a court of law if it ever comes to this and becomes necessary.
As I have previously pointed out (in my Usenet postings of June 17, 1995), Baker follows the sequence and phrasings of Hines, not of Harris. If Baker can really show notes from 1987 which so closely parallel Hines' work, then he will have a strong case for the "precognitive cryptomnesia" postulated by "Diogenes, Jr." -jjl

Readers of Hidden Memories (1992) will also note that I quote and cite Hines in Chapter 5 and the question might occur to them as to why I would quote from Hines in Chapter 5 yet steal from him in Chapter 4???
Perhaps for the same reason Baker lifts word-for-word from Nicholas Spanos' "Past-Life Hypnotic Regression: A Critical View" on pp. 129-131 of They Call It Hypnosis (chapter 3) but only cites that article as a source in chapter 6 (where there are no such word-for-word borrowings). (There is virtually no content on pp. 129-131 of Baker's book which does not consist of words taken directly from Spanos' article or from Spanos and John Chaves' "The Cognitive-Behavioral Perspective: Synopsis and Suggestions for Research.")

I frankly don't know why Baker has done what he has done. Nor do I understand why he so stubbornly refuses to admit it. If he is serious about responding to my charges, why does he not address examples such as this one, or the case of his word-for-word copying from Kirsch and Council's "Response Expectancy as a Determinant of Hypnotic Behavior" on pp. 132-134 of They Call It Hypnosis, a work which is cited exactly zero times in Baker's book? After all, these were two of the three examples given a central place in my June 22, 1994 report on his scholarly impropriety. -jjl

I would also like to add that I spent five years writing They Call It Hypnosis (1985-1990) and the Harris account of Bloxham and cryptomnesia actually inspired me to write Hidden Memories.

Enough of this! I am not now nor have I ever been a literary or scientific criminal nor with luck will I ever be. If I could impart a bit of fatherly advice to Mr. Lippard (justified by my 74 years) I would suggest that he could better spend his time doing something more positive and productive than attacking an admittedly fallible--though good-intentioned--old skeptic in his dotage. Since I have several articles, book reviews, and book chapters in press for 1995 as well as signed contracts for four books on my desk plus my regular book reviews for Skeptical Inquirer, my columns for Skeptical Briefs and our own KASES bi-monthly newsletter--all of which will require Mr. Lippard's diligent inspection and monitoring if he is to continue to "catch his thief." I am afraid he will be so busy looking for Bob Baker's BB's (Boo Boos) he will not have any time left for better, more career-enhancing pursuits.

Actually, one of the reasons I have greatly reduced my involvement in "organized skepticism" (aside from being declared persona non grata by CSICOP and removed from their electronic mailing list without notice) is that the movement seems to me to have little positive to offer. Sometimes it is enjoyable to shoot fish in a barrel (which perhaps explains why I am writing this), but it is much more rewarding to try to grapple with mysteries where there is no easy conventional explanation to be found--and to do so with the cooperation of rather than antagonism against those who approach the problems from different perspectives.

As for "Bob Baker's BB's," at this point I am not the one Baker needs to worry about going over his work with a fine-toothed comb. The number of individuals (in and out of "organized skepticism") aware of the problems in Baker's work is growing, and I have no doubt that any further such problems will be discovered without any effort from me. -jjl

Although Mr. Lippard may feel he is protected in his charges by the legal right of "fair comment" he is getting dangerously close to going beyond the bounds of fairness and is now approaching personal malice and spite. If he persists in this behavior I will have no choice but to seek legal redress.
I am protected in my charges by the fact that I have done my homework and that what I say is correct. Many of Baker's remarks, however, are demonstrably in error. The published record is quite clear. Should Baker actually be foolhardy enough to want to pursue litigation, I suggest that he read carefully my response to his next few sentences. -jjl

At the moment, however, I perhaps should thank both Mr. Lippard and Mr. Hines for the publicity and attention they have given my work. According to Prometheus my books are now sold out and will have to be reprinted. As one of my former colleagues lamented some time ago, "Its better to be wanted for murder than than not to be wanted at all!" Apparently this is true.
This is in accordance with my information as well, based on a letter dated September 30, 1994 on Prometheus Books stationery which I received from Paul Kurtz. I am not so sure Baker should count on a simple reprint, however. This letter, headed "CONFIDENTIAL" and "NOT FOR QUOTATION OR PUBLICATION," explicitly states that Hidden Memories will not be reprinted until the the problems in the book regarding unattributed quotation are resolved. -jjl

Also, in a way, this response is a victory for Mr. Lippard who seems to thrive on this back-and-forth garbage that I consider a waste of time. In the future I will not be baited by Lippard or any other self-appointed Sheriff Of Publishing Propriety. I do, however, intend to respond promptly and legally to any further defamation of character and reputation by anyone. At the moment my conscience is clear and I do not believe that I have committed any crimes. If I am wrong and this can be proved, then and only then will I extend the few--if any--apologies that are required.
Should Baker decide to come clean, I will be the first to support him in his future work. -jjl

Finally, let me close with the comment that I am much too old, ornery, and set in my ways to change my behavior to conform to the ideals and wishes of others. If this annoys, angers, offends, or displeases anyone I want to hear it from the original source not from a secondary stooge. As for the rest of the crowd, may I cite a very well-known and famous exit line: "Frankly, my dear, I just don't give a damn!"*

Robert A. Baker
Lexington, Kentucky
June 1995

* My God! I've done it again! I am incorrigible!

If you say so. -jjl