Higher Superstition The academic left and its quarrels with science by Paul R Gross and Norman Levitt
The John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 1998 (second edition)
ISBN 0 8018 5707 4

 

Scientists owe a great deal to authors such as these. As they so cogently say “Life is short; the impulse to let the asses bray is strong” and that is the attitude most of us would take. Indeed, it is likely that the majority of scientists are barely aware of the travesties of their métier that are being published throughout the Western world.

Academic scientists have become aware of the nonsense because of the practice of having neutral chairman from another faculty at appointments boards. It is a peculiar experience sitting there and thinking “this person is talking self-evident nonsense and the people around me are nodding their heads sagely.”

These authors have taken the trouble to wade through thousands of words of turgid and turbid prose to produce a devastating critique of the American cult of post-modernism. It was one of the books that laid the foundation for Alan Sokal’s famous hoax  and subsequent demolition of the equivalent French school, who were the original movers. In the background always hovers the figure of that preposterous old fraud, Jacque Derrida, founder of the deconstructionist school of textual analysis. His unbelievably opaque and nonsensical writings were seized upon by the academic left in America as their model and slavishly imitated. They mounted a savage attack on modern science by trying to use its own concepts without even beginning to understand them. As variants such as cultural studies, feminism and political correctness spread throughout the academic world, such posturing replaced rational thought. Articles with titles such as “Towards a feminist algebra” were published and discussed in all seriousness.

The main problem that the authors have is that their raw material is all this ignorant, unreadable guff. However, they interlace the quotations with their own ironic analyses, which turn what could be a trial into an entertainment. Every scientist should read this book, if only to be aware of the perversions of science that are still being perpetrated in other faculties, poisoning the minds of a whole generation of students. Is it any wonder that pseudo-science manages to hold such sway in the media?

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