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Thursday, July 26, 2001

There is a new book

There is a new book about the notorious Sokal Hoax. Reading a review of the book got me thinking again about the infamous incident.

Yes, that one that so fascinated the popular press, when a leftist alternative magazine Social Text published an essay written in the aureate "academic" prose, quoting a number of celebrated postmodernists: Foucault, Derrida and the likes. The article was subsequently exposed by Lingua Franca as a fake, written by one Alan Sokal, a (previously obscure) Physicist hell bent on making a mockery out of Social Science.

The popular press, in a mad scramble to appease the anti-intellectual American popular culture, jumped all over the report. Once and for all they had in their hands *the* evidence exposing the hot air that was the Academy.

But in so doing the press missed a number of important point. One being that Social Text was a popular lieftist magazine, not a peer-reviewed social scientific journal as portrayed in the hoax reports. Using an example from Social Text to dispell the validity of Social Science is akin to picking apart a scientifically weak exposition published in Wired magazine and pointing to it as evidence against the cogency of all Scientific inquiries.

Ludicrous, no?

I am not saying that Postmodernism doesn't have its share of carefully prosed PC rubbish. Of course it does, as do all other disciplines.

What I am saying is, Postmodernist philosophy has its well-deserved place in the world. After all, was it not the deconstruction of previously substantiated "truth" that supplied much of the progress in the world? And is it not deconstructionism that lies at the very heart of Postmodernist inquiry?

If we were to take all widely upheld beliefs as vérité absolu, there would be no progress, no advancement of scientific or any sort of inquiry. Where would we have been had Galileo Galilee not questioned the vérité absolu of his day by using his theory of projectile motion to substantiate that our earth in fact orbited the sun, and so provided future scientists with a new basis on which to ponder the state of the world.

This propensity for short-sightedness and arrogance in the Scientific world, as so aptly portrayed by Sokal, is evidently what is wrong with the Academy today, "hard" or "soft" sciences alike. Not the turgidly prosed rubbish on either side, nor the barely contained mutual hostility, but this arrogance that will be the Academy's own undoing.

In the meantime the popular press roars, ridiculing the frivolity of academic research.
And making yet a bigger mockery of our collective intelligence, Everybody Loves Raymond.

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