My Sokal-ed Life, The Sequel

Back in the Dark Ages before there were internet blogs (1996) NYU physicist Alan Sokal scandalized the humanities with his phony article for the postmodern journal Social Text, entitled “Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity.”

Sokal, who describes his own politics as fairly left, described the article as “”a pastiche of left-wing cant, fawning references, grandiose quotations, and outright nonsense…structured around the silliest quotations [by postmodernist academics] he could find about mathematics and physics.”  Social Text fell for it, hook, line and stinker.  Amazingly, Social Text still exists, when quite obviously it should have been shut down for good.  Some academics are just impossible to embarrass I guess—a defect in our ability to “socially construct” desirable social traits.  The Koch brothers better get on that.

Looks like we may have a worthy sequel to the Sokal Hoax out of Eastern Europe.  The website Retraction Watch, which I highlighted here last year in a post about the great Ron Bailey, has an item up right now about a journal article that has been published that is not only complete nonsense, but contains references to “scholarship” from Ron Jeremy (the porn star) and Michael Jackson (the pop star who missed his calling to star with Ron Jeremy).

The whole thing is very much worth reading for the many snorts it provides, but here’s the abstract of the article, which is a gem if you ask me:

The improved understanding and proper application of simulation models for various domains, from e-government to e-learning is an appropriate riddle. In this significant paper, we increasingly understand how randomized heuristic algorithms could be unexpectedly applied to the intuitive processing of random data in a novel way. While such a claim might seem counterintuitive, it is supported by prior relevant work in this thriving field. We describe a robust conceptual tool for solving this promising challenge using transformative hermeneutic heuristics for processing random data. Accordingly, the main focus of our work is, obviously, the evaluation of such methodology on an encouraging and intriguing subject of finding in which ways people in an insufficiently developed country see the aid provided by European Community. This illustrative case clearly demonstrates our profound approach, and, thusly, is a compelling foundation for future improvements of the methodology. In fact, the main contribution of our work is that we argue that although a random process might carry a slight risk of being insufficiently relevant for the problem at hand, the solution to any such conundrum could be surely looked for in a multidisciplinary approach.

I say the authors of this splendid piece of work deserve tenure.

JOHN adds: It occurs to me that pretty much anything written by Noam Chomsky could be entered in this competition.


Books to read from Power Line