1. CDRW
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    CDRW Contributing Member Contributor

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    The Sokal Affair

    Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by CDRW, Jun 17, 2009.

    I was interested to find out about something that happened back in 1996. At the time certain journals were in the middle of what has since been called the "science wars" between postmodernists and realists about the nature of scientific advancements.

    Sokal wanted to perform an experiment to see if a leading post-modernist journal would accept a paper filled with nonsense as long as it sounded good and appealed to their ideology. He wrote a paper filled with appropriate sounding quotations, psudo-reasoning, and inside jokes titled "Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity," which he then submitted to Social Text. They accepted it.

    He submitted the paper to address a trend he saw in university liberal-arts departments to deconstruct and critique papers that they did not understand.

    The same day it appeared in the journal he had another article appear in Lingua Franca explaining that the paper was a hoax.

    To quote Wikipedia: "The resulting debate focused on the relative scholarly merits or lack thereof of sociological commentary on the physical sciences and of postmodern-influenced sociological disciplines in general, as well as on academic ethics, including both whether it was appropriate for Sokal to deliberately mislead an academic journal, as well as whether Social Text took appropriate precautions in publishing the paper."

    Any thoughts?
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Just goes to prove the old adage:
    If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullsh¡t.

    I'd like to think that eventually, peer review would have seen through the hoax. But then again, since no one would see any relevance to such an obfuscated "topic", it probably would have simply sunk out of site in a quagmire of murky obscurity.

    If it appeared to have any actual relevance to anything, it'd have been ripped to shreds in short order.
     
  3. CDRW
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    CDRW Contributing Member Contributor

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    At the time the journal didn't have a peer review process because they thought it would promote more original research.
     

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