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Plagiarism Investigation Exonerates Terrence W. Deacon

Over the course of the last 13 months, UC Berkeley Professor of Anthropology Terrence W. Deacon has been the subject of a relentless email and internet campaign alleging that in his 2012 book, Incomplete Nature, as well as in other publications, he plagiarized ideas from a 1999 book, Dynamics in Action by Dr. Alicia Juarrero and from articles by two of Dr. Juarrero’s associates. A committee appointed to investigate these allegations issued its report, finding “no evidence to support” the allegations against Prof. Deacon, which it concluded were “without foundation.”  In fact, Prof. Deacon actually wrote some of the challenged papers before publication of the material he allegedly copied.

Plagiarism is one of the most serious charges that can be brought against research scholars, with the potential to destroy professional reputations and devastate careers.  Consequently, when an institution’s investigation finds such misconduct allegations to be fallacious, it has a moral and legal obligation to repair the damage done to the falsely accused.  Consistent with our institutional responsibility as well as Federal regulation this web page will set the record straight regarding the background, the allegations, and the University’s investigation and findings.  What follows is a detailed narrative that explains how the campaign against Deacon unfolded, examines how the allegations were addressed by the University, and culminates with a summary of a recently completed investigation into the allegations.

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Report of the UC Berkeley Committee of Investigation

On October 1, 2012, the UC Berkeley Associate Vice Chancellor for Research appointed a committee of senior faculty members to investigate allegations of plagiarism against Professor Terrance Deacon by three individuals, Michael Lissack, Alicia Juarrero, and Carl Rubino.  The committee submitted its report of findings on January 11, 2013.  After a thorough examination of the texts in question, the committee found “no evidence to support” any of the plagiarism allegations against Prof. Deacon, which it concluded were “without merit.”

Read full report here

Key Individuals

Terrence Deacon received a Ph.D. in Biological Anthropology in 1984. After holding faculty positions at Harvard and Boston University, he joined the UC Berkeley Department of Anthropology faculty in 2002, and is currently Department Chair. Prof. Deacon’s research has combined human evolutionary biology and neuroscience, with the aim of investigating the evolution of human cognition.  His theoretical interests include the study of evolution-like processes at many levels, and are currently focused on the problem of explaining “emergent” phenomena, such as the origin of life, the evolution of language, and the generation of conscious experience by brains.

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Michael Lissack was formerly a managing director of a Wall Street municipal bond department.  In 1998, the SEC issued an order finding that “Lissack willfully violated” federal securities laws and “that he undertook such conduct with an intent to deceive.” According to the New York Times, later that year, the Manhattan District Attorney’s office charged Lissack “with using the Internet to harass executives at his old firm.”  Media reports indicated that Lissack subsequently pled guilty to second-degree harassment.  

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Alicia Juarrero, according to her web site , received her B.A., M.A. and Ph.D degrees from the University of Miami (Florida) and is a Professor Emerita of Philosophy at Prince George’s Community College.  The web site of the Institute for the Study of Coherence and Emergence lists her among its Faculty and Fellows  In 1999, Juarrero published Dynamics in Action: Intentional Behavior as a Complex System (MIT).

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Carl A. Rubino, according to the Hamilton College web site, is the Winslow Professor of Classics at Hamilton.  He received A.B. and M.A. degrees from Fordham University, a Ph.L. degree in Philosophy from Loyola Seminary-Woodstock College, and a Ph.D in Classics from University at Buffalo. Before Hamilton, he held faculty positions at the University of Texas, Austin.  In 2008 he was an editor, with Alicia Juarrero, of Emergence, Complexity, and Self-Organization: Precursors and Prototypes.

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