AIP History Center Newsletter
Volume XXIX, No. 1, Spring 1997

 

Some Articles on the Sokal Hoax

Considerable thoughtful commentary has been stimulated by a notorious hoax by the physicist Alan Sokal, who persuaded a journal of cultural studies to publish an article in which scientific nonsense was camouflaged by jargon, borrowed from trendy thinkers who have questioned the authority of scientists. Although the journal was unrefereed and relatively unknown, many scientists felt that its editorsī acceptance of the article pointed to severe problems in the way some humanities scholars approach the sciences. The controversy may be reviewed on the World Wide Web using links posted on Sokalīs own homepage at http://www.physics.nyu.edu/faculty/sokal and by a student, Jonathan Walsh.

The hoax article: Alan Sokal, "Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity," Social Text no. 46/47 (Spring/Summer 1996): 217-252. Sokalīs discussion of his hoax: "A Physicist Experiments with Cultural Studies," Lingua Franca (May/June 1996): 62-64; "Transgressing the Boundaries: An Afterword," Dissent 43, no. 4 (Fall 1996): 93-99. Some of the commentaries: (Some of these articles were followed by valuable letters in later issues.) Liz McMillen, "The Science Wars: Scholars Who Study the Lab Say Their Work Has Been Distorted," The Chronicle of Higher Education (June 28, 1996): A8; Dorothy Nelkin, "The Science Wars: What Is At Stake," ibid. (July 26, 1996): A52; Steven Weinberg, "Sokalīs Hoax," New York Review of Books 43, no. 13 (Aug. 8, 1996):11; Paul Boghossian, "What the Sokal Hoax Ought to Teach Us," Times Literary Supplement (Dec. 13, 1996):14-15; Kurt Gottfried, "Was Sokalīs Hoax Justified?" Physics Today 50, no. 1 (Jan. 1997): 60-62.


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