Beyond the Hoax: Science, Philosophy and Culture

Beyond the Hoax: Science, Philosophy and Culture

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By (author) Alan Sokal

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  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Format: Paperback | 488 pages
  • Dimensions: 170mm x 242mm x 28mm | 839g
  • Publication date: 19 March 2010
  • Publication City/Country: Oxford
  • ISBN 10: 0199561834
  • ISBN 13: 9780199561834
  • Illustrations note: black & white tables, figures
  • Sales rank: 142,722

Product description

In 1996, Alan Sokal, a Professor of Physics at New York University, wrote a paper for the cultural-studies journal Social Text, entitled 'Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a transformative hermeneutics of quantum gravity'. It was reviewed, accepted and published. Sokal immediately confessed that the whole article was a hoax - a cunningly worded paper designed to expose and parody the style of extreme postmodernist criticism of science. The story became front-page news around the world and triggered fierce and wide-ranging controversy. Sokal is one of the most powerful voices in the continuing debate about the status of evidence-based knowledge. In Beyond the Hoax he turns his attention to a new set of targets - pseudo-science, religion, and misinformation in public life. 'Whether my targets are the postmodernists of the left, the fundamentalists of the right, or the muddle-headed of all political and apolitical stripes, the bottom line is that clear thinking, combined with a respect for evidence, are of the utmost importance to the survival of the human race in the twenty-first century.' The book also includes a hugely illuminating annotated text of the Hoax itself, and a reflection on the furore it provoked.

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Author information

Alan Sokal is Professor of Physics at New York University and Professor of Mathematics at University College, London. His main research interests are in statistical mechanics and quantum field theory. Among non-physicists, Sokal is probably best known for his famous parody of postmodern science criticism, known as the 'Sokal Hoax', which aroused fierce debate in cultural circles, and received widespread coverage in the media, including front-page stories in the New York Times, the International Herald and Tribune, the Observer, and Le Monde. Alongside many publications in physics, Sokal's previous books include Intellectual Impostures (with Jean Bricmont, Profile Books, 1998; published as Fashionable Nonsense by Picador in the US).

Review quote

Review from previous edition If you're concerned about the role of science in making sense of our world, you need to read it. BBC Focus, Robert Matthews Most scientists will be highly appreciative of and deeply fascinated by what Sokal has to say in this remarkable book. Chemistry World

Table of contents

PART I: THE SOCIAL TEXT AFFAIR ; 1. The parody, annotated ; 2. Transgressing the boundaries: An afterword ; 3. Truth, reason, objectivity, and the Left ; 4. Science studies: Less than meets the eye ; 5. What the Social Text affair does and does not prove ; PART II: SCIENCE AND PHILOSOPHY ; 6. Cognitive relativism in the philosophy of science ; 7. Defense of a modest scientific realism ; PART III: SCIENCE AND CULTURE ; 8. Pseudoscience and postmodernism: Antagonists or fellow-travelers? ; 9. Religion, politics and survival ; 10. Epilogue: Epistemology and ethics ; Index