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09/08/2020

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Kevin Kim

I'm strongly reminded of the so-called "Sokal Hoax" from the mid-1990s, in which Alan Sokal, a physics professor, wrote a nonsense paper with the absurd, politically correct title "Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity," which he submitted to a journal called Social Text specifically to see how rigorous the peer-review process of a PoMo-saturated publication would be.

As it turned out, the journal heedlessly published the bogus paper, which was crammed with meaningless, unscientific garbage that might sound ideologically pleasing to the lit-crit crowd, but which was utterly unsound, scientifically speaking. Some time later, Sokal revealed to the world that his paper had been a hoax.

Stung, the staff of Social Text tried to salvage its dignity by condescendingly claiming that Sokal's paper lacked merit but had been published all the same in the spirit of science-humanities dialogue. But this was a lame post-hoc justification, and the damage had been done.

I'm getting a weird sense of déjà vu as I write this comment. If the topic of rigorous and fair peer review has come up on your blog before, it could be that, long ago, I mentioned the Sokal Hoax—of which I'm sure you are already aware. In any event, for interested readers, here's a link to a Wikipedia article about Sokal's scholarly prank: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sokal_affair.

John Pepple

Yes, the Sokal hoax was great fun! I don't know that I or any of my commenters have mentioned it before, though.

Charles N.Steele

Helen Pluckrose, James Lindsay, and Peter Boghossian wrote and published multiple papers that were intentional nonsense as part of their academic study of critical theory and postmodernism; one paper addressed rape culture among dogs in dog parks.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grievance_studies_affair

Lindsay and Pluckrose just published a book on all this.

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