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.
Table of Contents
PART I: THE SOCIAL TEXT AFFAIR ; 1. Transgressing the boundaries: Towards a transformative hermeneutics of quantum gravity [annotated version] ; 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
Alan Sokal is Professor of Physics at New York University and Professor of Mathematics at University College London. He is co-author with Roberto Fernandez and Juerg Froehlich of Random Walks, Critical Phenomena, and Triviality in Quantum Field Theory, and co-author with Jean Bricmont of FashionableNonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals' Abuse of Science.