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Sokal hoaxes strike social science again!

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Even the most alert reader may not recall our piece on how gender theory can turn a dog’s life into a, well, dog’s life: Turns out, it may have been another Sokal hoax:

Something has gone wrong in the university—especially in certain fields within the humanities. Scholarship based less upon finding truth and more upon attending to social grievances has become firmly established, if not fully dominant, within these fields, and their scholars increasingly bully students, administrators, and other departments into adhering to their worldview. This worldview is not scientific, and it is not rigorous. For many, this problem has been growing increasingly obvious, but strong evidence has been lacking. For this reason, the three of us just spent a year working inside the scholarship we see as an intrinsic part of this problem.

We spent that time writing academic papers and publishing them in respected peer-reviewed journals associated with fields of scholarship loosely known as “cultural studies” or “identity studies” (for example, gender studies) or “critical theory” because it is rooted in that postmodern brand of “theory” which arose in the late sixties. As a result of this work, we have come to call these fields “grievance studies” in shorthand because of their common goal of problematizing aspects of culture in minute detail in order to attempt diagnoses of power imbalances and oppression rooted in identity.

In other words, the authors set out to write absolute, intentional crap, just as Alan Sokal had done over twenty years ago.

1 paper (the one about rape culture in dog parks) gained special recognition for excellence from its journal, Gender, Place, and Culture, a highly ranked journal that leads the field of feminist geography. The journal honored it as one of twelve leading pieces in feminist geography as a part of the journal’s 25th anniversary celebration. Helen Pluckrose, James A. Lindsay and Peter Boghossian, “Academic Grievance Studies and the Corruption of Scholarship” at Areo Magazine

We don’t feel too bad about that because, the trouble is, a good deal of social science is not, for any practical purpose, distinguishable from a hoax. The only significant question is whether the authors are in on it.

Hat tip: Ken Francis

See also: Post-modern science 101: How gender theory “harms” pets


Nature: Stuck with a battle it dare not fight, even for the soul of science. Excuse me guys but, as in so many looming strategic disasters, the guns are facing the wrong way.

3 Replies to “Sokal hoaxes strike social science again!

  1. 1
    Barry Arrington says:

    An entire field of endeavor subject to Poe’s law. Incredible.

  2. 2

    Of the 20 papers they produced, the one entitled:

    When the Joke Is on You: A Feminist Perspective on How Positionality Influences Satire

    is worth reading. It is a paper about the proper way to handle hoaxes even though the paper is itself a hoax. Here’s a short sample from the introduction:

    “The comic mode is politically effective because it operates within a realm of openness to that which does not operate in accordance with the hyperrational, Western, philosophical logical tradition. Thus, it bears the potential for ironic, double-voiced, satirical humor to break through the intransigence of exclusionary epistemic systems, spark recognition of the existence of alternative epistemologies, undermine active ignorance (Medina 2013), and, ultimately, effect third-order change (Dotson 2014). However, when these same ironic, satirical, double-voiced tools of humor are used by members of dominant groups to disparage, mock, or discredit marginalized groups or socialjustice scholarship that seeks to make oppression visible, they serve no such purpose but rather perpetuate dominant epistemologies and power structures.”

    In other words, the joke is funny if it is on you, but seriously unfunny on me.

    Yup. That about summarizes grievance studies. Read the whole thing.

  3. 3
    PaV says:

    Here’s a Phys.Org article about these hoax.

    Here’s a quote:

    Faux research articles are not new: one of the most notable examples is physicist Alan Sokal, who in a 1996 article for a cultural studies journal wrote about cultural and philosophical issues concerning aspects of physics and math.

    This time the fake research aims at mocking weak vetting of articles on hot-button social issues such as gender, race and sexuality.

    The authors, writing under pseudonyms, intended to prove that academics in these fields are ready to embrace any thesis, no matter how outrageous, so long as it contributes to denouncing domination by white men.

    “Making absurd and horrible ideas sufficiently politically fashionable can get them validated at the highest level of academic grievance studies,” said one of the authors, James Lindsay, in a video revealing the project.

    For our intents and purposes, we can paraphrase: “Making absurd and horrible ideas sufficiently Darwinian can get them validated at the highest level of evolutionary studies.”

    This isn’t an entirely fair statement; unfortunately, though, there is a lot of truth to it. In the case of Global Warming, aka, Climate Change, this kind of statement is entirely true.

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