by John Aziz
The mathematics professor Alan Sokal famously shamed much of the humanities profession by publishing ‘Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity’ — a paper intended as ambiguous gobbledegook — in the peer-reviewed postmodern cultural studies Journal Social Text in 1996.
Sokal’s paper was a cleverly and artfully constructed piece of trolling. Sokal did it by conforming to the stylistic trappings of postmodernists like Jacques Derrida, Jean Baudrillard and Luce Irigaray — mimicking their dense and obscure verbiage, misusing concepts from science like quantum gravity (of which there exists no widely accepted scientific theory), and shrouding his argument in a great deal of ambiguity. The piece described the notion of a “postmodern science”, one that discarded the notion of objective truth.