A friend directed me to this fun little article from the Jewish World Review. I’m not a regular reader of JWR, so missed this wonderful little piece from Paul Greenberg, in which he recalls the Sokal Hoax of 1996. For those not familiar with it, the Sokal Hoax was an article written by Professor Alan Sokal, a professor of Physics at New York University and submitted to a not too widely followed academic journal called Social Text as part of a series on Science wars. The article was entitled Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity,( Social Text, Spring/Summer 1996), and was, according to Greenberg,
… itself a little masterpiece of satire. And the text that accompanied it was a perfect parody of the whole genre, complete with its indecipherable prose, layer upon layer of ideological rectitude, masses of arcane references, sociological gibberish, and the usual yard of footnotes that gradually swallows the text — like a pet boa constrictor that’s grown out of control. Vladimir Nabokov used the same trick in his “Pale Fire,” which is to academia what his Lolita was to motels.
The whole point of this story is that Sokal disgruntled more than a few fellow academics with his blatant, purposeful exposure of their dogmas. There are, I think, parallels to what is taking place today in the way dogmatic Darwinism is defended or how articles subject to peer review are selected for publication. The impetus for Greenberg’s article was a letter to the editor in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette in which the writer of a letter to the editor opined, “Indeed, science is not an objective enterprise. It is greatly influenced by power, culture, race, gender and ethnicity. Biologist Ruth Hubbard says that facts are invented, not discovered; facts are not necessarily facts forever, as shown by the constant change in dogma in biology as new data are obtained.”
To that, Greenberg responds with:
Beautiful. This guff is still widespread, apparently, having spread far beyond the ivory tower, like so much smog. Two plus two equals four only because we’re told so. The germ theory of disease is but a philosophical construct. It all depends on what we’re taught, and since there are fashions in science as in all human endeavors, then science itself is only fashion — a culturally agreed-upon illusion, a bourgeois plot, as ever changeable as mere fact.
All of this reminds me of a scene from The Last Battle, the final book in C.S. Lewis’s series The Chronicle of Narnia. At one point in the story, Narnia has been betrayed into the hands of the Calormen Empire, worshippers of the evil god, Tash, and haters of Aslan, the Great Lion (the God figure in the Narnia stories). The Narnian Dwarfs had had enough of betrayals and not knowing who to believe and decided to take matters into their own hands and side with themselves instead of fighting for Narnia. A handful of the dwarfs find themselves tossed into a stable by the Calormens. But, the truth was that the stable door was both a door into the stable, as well as a door into Aslan’s country. What one saw when tossed in, depended on their worldview.
Unfortunately, all the dwarfs could see was the darkness of the inside of the stable. All they could smell was the dank, smelly orders of a barn. Even though Aslan stood right before them, in all his golden glory, all they could see was what they expected to see inside a stable. Aslan’s lush country, awash in sunshine was right before them, yet they continued to bumble about in their darkness, even believing the delicious food brought to them by Lucy was straw and horse meal. Their mantra became “the Dwarfs are for the Dwarfs!”
This strikes me as a good analogy for the state of things with respect to ID and Darwinism. The splendor and glory of a beautifully designed universe and biological structures is viewed by the dwarfs of Darwinism as the cold, end result of the blind, purposeless forces of matter and energy evolving over eons of time through mere chance and/or necessity. Even when contrary evidence is staring them in the face (like Aslan to the Dwarfs), they see only what their Naturalism will allow them to see, and therefore must explain away the intricate details of actual design with improbable calculations of the powers of chance and/or necessity. And, as Sokal’s Hoax reminds us, those blinded by their dogmas, are easily taken in by the darkness of the stable, instead of seeing the sunshine of Truth!