Since I am, by nature, a compassionate individual, I had been thinking of how we might Sokal the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS). It is for their own good.
Alan Sokal: remember him? He’s the physicist who submitted the scam article “Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity” to the oh-so-prestigious postmodern journal Social Text.
Postmodernists are intellectuals who are so jealous of the success of real scientists, that they pretend that scientists’ accomplishments are nothing special. They are the sort of people who authoritatively state, “There is no truth,” or “‘Truth’ is a social construction.” You may find postmodernists in any university English or Sociology department, the New York Times editorial desk, and in the current administration.
Anyway, Sokal typed up an article of complete gibberish larded with science words, such as:
As Althusser rightly commented, “Lacan finally gives Freud’s thinking the scientific concepts that it requires”. More recently, Lacan’s topologie du sujet has been applied fruitfully to cinema criticism and to the psychoanalysis of AIDS. In mathematical terms, Lacan is here pointing out that the first homology group of the sphere is trivial, while those of the other surfaces are profound; and this homology is linked with the connectedness or disconnectedness of the surface after one or more cuts.
Painful, right? Stuff no serious person would ever read, and only the insane would take seriously. That Sokal was able to slip this rot though Social Text‘s five-hole demonstrated unequivocally that postmodernists are Aesopian foxes, people whose college physics classes left sour tastes in their mouths.
Humanities scholars here in the States started down their slippery slope and became postmodernists only after they opened the doors to a rabble of French and German philosophers. Men such as Heidegger and De Man; all of whom were mighty big fans of 1940’s-style National Socialism.
As long as postmodernists kept to themselves, churning out “literary theory” by the bucketful, they were thought to be harmless.
But some warned us that postmodernism can spread like a disease; that the chance of catching it increases as a function of the proximity of the uninfected to the carrier. And since most postmodernists reside inside universities, their hives exposed to scientists, it was only a matter of time before the infection spread.
And that is what happened. For example (thanks to reader John Moore), at the 11th Statistical Climatology Meeting, Demetris Koutsoyannis asked another scientist whether, as a rule, “original data should be available to the interested scientists or not?” That is, should raw data be shared so that people could independently verify extraordinary claims?
The answer—the only answer to this prior to the postmodernist infection—must be “Yes.” But the infected person answered, “No”, the data should not be available “because some could misuse them….[to] demonstrate a specific behaviour that they want to advocate.”
See what I mean? People cannot be trusted to come to their own judgments because those judgments might fall afoul of the party line, a line which, by definition, is socially constructed. Those in power decide “truth.” The disease rampages.
It’s always sad to witness the progression of morbidity, and worse when it happens to someone you love. Take PNAS, a journal which, prior the postmodernist pandemic, was lovely and pure. But the infection is now so strong that it has published an Enemies of Science list!
Anderegg et al., “Expert credibility in climate change.” Not one word in this article attempts to refute the theories its enemies; instead, it is one long, suppurating logical fallacy. I weep.
And then this: “Irrelevant events affect voters’ evaluations of government performance“, a piece by Healy et al. which would have been excised mercilessly by blarney-detecting white blood cells before the disease struck.
The American voter, says Healy, is irrational. Little things, like his favorite football team winning, will influence his vote. Via a goofy statistical model, they claim “that voting decisions are influenced by irrelevant events that have nothing to do with the competence or effectiveness of the incumbent government.”
This isn’t just bad statistics—a symptom common to many diseases, not just postmodernism—but bad reasoning. They emphasize their findings “have implications for understanding elite incentives and strategies to manipulate voters’ perceptions of their own well-being.” If the voter cannot decide rationally, perhaps he should not be allowed to decide at all. Keep the raw data from him!
Postmodern infections are best killed by inoculation using a dead virus, i.e. a Sokal-like spoof masquerading as genuine. I therefore say that we, dear readers, compose a scam article that, when exposed, will restore the critical senses of the editors of PNAS.
Suggestions for a topic?