An article in the Journal of Clinical Oncology on the just price of cancer drugs in the United States contains an odd reference to a nonexistent book by Aristotle, notes John B. Shannon. Unraveling the origins of this error reveals an almost farcical series of misinterpretations.
Arguments from authority are generally a good thing. If claims come from people with a few letters after their names, it’s often safe to bet that those claims are backed up by years of invested study and expertise, especially when they’re published in peer-reviewed journals. Scholars want to protect the integrity and reputation of their discipline, which in theory should filter out any faulty arguments or unfounded claims long before they reach the public eye. But when scholars speak outside their sphere of proper authority, that system can fail spectacularly—hilariously, even.