The Sokal Affair

Today’s pervy link is here. Yes, it’s what you think.

Had the parents over this weekend for the first time. Amazingly, they were fun to be with! Who knew? The weirdest part was when I left them alone for 3 hours to go to my Hindi class, and returned to find my fridge and freezer scrubbed and re-packed, all my dishes washed, my shower cleaned and dinner made! Ahhh, the glories of a visiting hygiene-obsessed mother.

If you haven’t seen this already, check it out: dopplegangers of the Olsen twins singing for white nationalism. I predict that they’ll both be knocked up by pot-smoking Jamaican black men before they’re 20.

Cousin Ajay sends us this list of made-up words from the Simpsons.

Thanks to Eric G. for posting one of the longest and meatiest commentaries (to Friday’s vaccination post) in history. Eric mentioned something about Sokal’s hoax. I just wanted to say a few things about that.

In 1996, a leading “post-modernist” peer-reviewed journal called Social Text published an article by physicist Alan Sokal titled, “Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity.” Sounds like gobbledy-gook, right? That’s because it is. Sokal had thrown together some random social science terminology and mixed it with quantum mechanics to see if anyone would catch on to his jibberish. Apparently no one did.

The article is peppered with such academic double-speak as “the dogma imposed by the long post-Enlightenment hegemony over the Western intellectual outlook” and mention of “emancipatory mathematics”, “liberatory science” and “the morphogenic field”, all of which affect “the elite caste[‘s] canon of ‘high science'” for a “postmodern science [that] provide[s] powerful intellectual support for the progressive political project”. See what I mean?

In the article, Sokal jokingly claims that “physical ‘reality’ … is at bottom a social and linguistic construct” and that “liberal (and even some socialist) mathematicians are often content to work within the hegemonic Zermelo-Fraenkel framework (which, reflecting its nineteenth-century liberal origins, already incorporates the axiom of equality) supplemented only by the axiom of choice.” Yes, it gives me a headache, too.

In another journal (now defunct) called Lingua Franca, Sokal confessed to his hoax, claiming he had done it as an experiment to see if a leading academic journal would publish such twaddle “liberally salted with nonsense if (a) it sounded good and (b) it flattered the editors’ ideological preconceptions”. In essence, the fake paper had as its thesis the supposition that the obscure physics theory of quantum gravity had political implications –which, of course, is utter nonsence.

Sokal went further, however, by claiming that this foolishness is a unique condition of the political Left, since the political implications had to be “progressive” in nature. In a sense, he is correct, since the Left is plagued with those who think they are smarter than they actually are. (Some would place yours truly in that category, as well, but whatever.) And the language he co-opted is that traditionally used by the bloviating Leftist pointy-heads.

However, I would point out that just as the Left is tempted to co-opt even the stringiest theory to support an ideology, so too is the Right. The Right may not have the linguistic or intellectual infrastructure to formalize the inclusion of, say, quantum theory into their political agenda, but they do have their own social machinery. That’s how, for example, March of the Penguins somehow became a treatise on monogamy, heterosexuality and intelligent design. It’s also how the Republican failures in the wake of Hurricane Katrina have been re-worked to look like triumphs of Conservatism. Those on the Left may overestimate their intelligence. But those on the Right tend to overestimate their morality, insight, depth and popularity.