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Alan Sokal

From Academic Kids

Alan David Sokal (born 1955) is a physicist at New York University.

An unabashed leftist, Sokal went to the National University of Nicaragua to teach mathematics under the Sandinista government.

He is best known to the general public for the Sokal Affair of 1996: in an attempt to "defend the Left from a trendy segment of itself", Sokal submitted a parodic paper to the postmodern cultural studies journal Social Text to see if they would publish any nonsense which "flattered the editors' ideological preconceptions". The journal published it and Sokal revealed the hoax in Lingua Franca, citing, among others, Noam Chomsky to argue that the left and social science would be better served by intellectual underpinnings based on reason. This, together with Paul R. Gross and Norman Levitt's book Higher Superstition, can be considered to be the beginnings of the so-called Science wars.

He followed this up by co-authoring the book Fashionable Nonsense with Jean Bricmont in 1998 (originally published in French, a year before, as Impostures Intellectuelles). The book accuses other academics of using scientific and mathematical terms incorrectly and proponents of the strong program for denying the value of truth. The book had mixed reviews, with some lauding the effort, some more reserved, and others pointing out inconsistencies and criticizing the authors for ignorance of the fields under attack and taking passages out of context. Nonetheless, Sokal's fellow scientists generally consider the "Sokal affair" as having demonstrably shown cultural studies and related fields to be "bunk".

In physics, Sokal's research interests include statistical mechanics, quantum field theory, mathematical physics, and computational physics.

External links

fr:Alan Sokal

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