Intellectual Impostures, Alan Sokal & Jean Bricmont
Intellectual Impostures by Alan Sokal & Jean Bricmont, Economist Books, 2003.
In 1996, Alan Sokel decided to test the decline in intellectual standards in the humanities by trying to get the article Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity published in a leading cultural studies journal, i.e. Social Text. The text was, to quote Sokal, "liberally salted with nonsense [that] sounded good and ... flattered the editors' ideological preconceptions." The article was published!
The article suggested that there was no external world, and that it was just a social and linguistic construct. He introduced concepts that no scientist would hold in their wildest dreams, e.g. the idea that a "morphogenetic field" provides a theory of quantum gravity, and that Lacan's psychoanalytic musings have been supported by quantum field theory. "Nowhere in all of this is there anything resembling a logical sequence of thought; one finds only citations of authority, plays on words, strained analogies, and bald assertions".
From the anti-feminist bias of set theory, to the political implications of
quantum gravity, the paper is "fundamentally silly". Sokal wrote the
article so that any undergraduate physical scientist would realize that it is a
spoof. But the editors of Social Text published it without
consulting anyone knowledgeable in the subject. And even they should surely have
spotted he article's overall illogic.
In Intellectual Imposteurs, the authors contend that abuse of science is rampant in postmodernist circles, both in the form of inaccurate and pretentious invocation of scientific and mathematical terminology and in the more insidious form of epistemic relativism. When Sokal and Bricmont expose Jacques Lacan's ignorant misuse of topology, or Julia Kristeva's of set theory, or Luce Irigaray's of fluid mechanics, or Jean Baudrillard's of non-Euclidean geometry, they are on safe ground; it is all too clear that they are babbling.