Over twenty years ago postmodern academia was rocked by a hoax perpetrated by Alan Sokal. On this Blog we have written about the hoax on several occasions. First, let me give you a flavour of the article that comprises the hoax:
Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity
There are many natural scientists, and especially physicists, who continue to reject the notion that the disciplines concerned with social and cultural criticism can have anything to contribute, except perhaps peripherally, to their research. Still less are they receptive to the idea that the very foundations of their worldview must be revised or rebuilt in the light of such criticism. Rather, they cling to the dogma imposed by the long post-Enlightenment hegemony over the Western intellectual outlook, which can be summarized briefly as follows: that there exists an external world, whose properties are independent of any individual human being and indeed of humanity as a whole; that these properties are encoded in “eternal” physical laws; and that human beings can obtain reliable, albeit imperfect and tentative, knowledge of these laws by hewing to the “objective” procedures and epistemological strictures prescribed by the (so-called) scientific method.
In 1996, Alan Sokal, Professor of Physics at New York University, published, after being reviewed and accepted, a paper in the cultural-studies journal Social Text entitled Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity. Sokal immediately confessed that the whole article was a hoax designed to expose and parody the style of extreme postmodernist criticism of science, and became front page news around the world, triggering a fierce and wide-ranging controversy.
It has been some years now since the amazing case of Alan Sokal and the pomo journal Social Text that published his “attack” on science and realism. Here is his description of the event: A Physicist Experiments With Cultural Studies … Continue reading →
In a three part essay Sokal asks “What is science and why should we care?”
— Part I
— Part II
— Part III
Steven Weinberg on Sokal’s Hoax.
A report from the New York Times in 1996.