Harry R. Schwartz

Software engineer, nominal scientist, gentleman of the internet. Member, ←Hotline Webring→.

The Sokal Affair

Published 18 Aug 2009. Tags: books, language, science.

The Sokal Affair was an incident in which a physicist, Alan Sokal, wrote a parody article using deconstructionist terminology and managed to have it published in a reputable journal of cultural studies. There was a big fuss. He discusses his reasons for doing such a thing here; an excerpt:

But why did I do it? I confess that I’m an unabashed Old Leftist who never quite understood how deconstruction was supposed to help the working class. And I’m a stodgy old scientist who believes, naively, that there exists an external world, that there exist objective truths about that world, and that my job is to discover some of them. (If science were merely a negotiation of social conventions about what is agreed to be “true”, why would I bother devoting a large fraction of my all-too-short life to it? I don’t aspire to be the Emily Post of quantum field theory.

The ongoing struggle between the two cultures is awesome and hilarious but mostly just sad.