Academic journal article Journal of Information Ethics

Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Philosopher's Abuse of Science

Academic journal article Journal of Information Ethics

Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Philosopher's Abuse of Science

Article excerpt

Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Philosopher's Abuse of Science Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont. New York: Picador USA. i998. xii, 3i7 pp. $23.00.

In i996, Alan Sokal published a lengthy critique of gravity in Social Text. Since Sokal is a respected New York University physicist, his unusual perspective seemed to confirm many of the ideas, opinions, and theses held by post-modern critics of contemporary science. But simultaneously Lingua Franca published a second Sokal article that explained that the reassessment of gravity is a parody compiled from the works of many of the most important post-modern thinkers including Deleuze, Derrida, Harding, Irigaray, and Lacan. And since the extensive bibliography also lists Bohr, Einstein, Lorentz, Pais, and Wheeler only a careful and scientifically knowledgeable reader would realize that much of "Transgressing the Boundaries" is gibberish. Sokal o∂ered some further explanations in print and then decided to collaborate with Jean Bricmont, a Belgian physicist, in order to completely annihilate the cultural commentators who abuse science. And this is what Fashionable Nonsense attempts to do.

Science is one way of viewing, analyzing, predicting, and controlling the universe. It frequently works quite well and its triumphs are reflected in the technological applications that have shaped contemporary civilization. But science is a product of human interaction and since humans are controlled by their linguistic, cultural, social, and personal characteristics and needs, even the implementation of an objective scientific method may (for many reasons) result in non-replicable conclusions. Science is extraordinary but not beyond criticism or reproach. …

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