Sboros on Noakes and academic “mobbing” at UCT

The text below was submitted as a letter to The Cape Doctor, a South African Medical Association publication for medical professionals in the Western Cape. In the August 2019 edition, Marika Sboros includes my name in some of her fantastical musings, and I felt that a rebuttal was in order.

Given that the publication is typically only seen by its subscribers, I post the text of that letter here also, for the record. The edition in question (pdf link) is available on, and a backup is stored here on Synapses too.

[Letter begins.]

Marika Sboros includes references to me in her piece on “academic bullying” (pp. 11-12), which seeks to present the cases of Dr Bongani Mayosi and Prof. Timothy Noakes, who has been criticised by some of his peers as well as others such as myself, as analogous.

I write to inform readers that Ms Sboros speaks inaccurately in all respects with regard to my existing commentary on Prof. Noakes. Anyone who cares to read my writing on the subject will find nothing “vicious” about it, and will struggle to reconcile her claim that I accuse him of “practicing ‘pseudoscience’” with reality.

I titled one of the 30 (to use her number, rather than to endorse it) blog posts Sboros refers to as “Lessons in bad science”, but that was to illustrate how an occasional study published by Prof. Noakes teaches us lessons about pseudoscience, and nothing more.

Sboros goes on to say that I am not things I never claimed to be, namely a scientist or someone with qualifications in nutrition. Indeed, this is why I have written about things I am qualified in, namely epistemology and logic.

She then casts a conspiratorial pall over my surname, given that my father, Prof. Jacques Rossouw, is a scientist who has worked in fields related to those of Prof. Noakes. This is a distraction, first because I was writing about Prof. Noakes before my father was involved, and second because I have only addressed issues of scientific reasoning, rather than clinical evidence (where I have no expertise). Characterising my name-change – which happened some 30 years ago – as being conspiratorial is amusing, but also of concern with regard to Sboros’s integrity.

Another conspiratorial element relates to the section on the UCT Faculty of Health Science’s website titled “The Big Fat Debate”, which was put up around the time that Prof. Noakes and Prof. Rossouw engaged in debate. Sboros says “that Senekal and Rousseau junior [sic] are said to have put [the website] together (neither is confirming that on the record).”

What she does not say is that she is the only one who has ever asserted that Senekal and I were involved, so there is no credible claim that merits engagement here.

Finally, it is worth mentioning that all the inaccuracies regarding my involvement in this alleged “mobbing” of Prof. Noakes were comprehensively rebutted in a blog post of November 4, 2017, following the publication of “Lore of Nutrition”, yet are published unedited in the newly-released, apparently “updated” version, “Real Food on Trial”.

In closing, I would say first that Prof. Mayosi’s life, and his contribution to medical science and to UCT, merit more respect than to be exploited in this fashion. And, that if Prof. Noakes has been subjected to as much victimisation as Ms Sboros would like us to believe he has been, that the case for this should be made with reference to verifiable evidence, rather than partisan speculation and conspiracy theories.

By Jacques Rousseau

Jacques Rousseau teaches critical thinking and ethics at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, and is the founder and director of the Free Society Institute, a non-profit organisation promoting secular humanism and scientific reasoning.