George Will: Academia may now be beyond satire

Note to readers: This Sunday column by George Will appeared in my local newspaper this week, and I thought it relevant to repeat the headline and excerpts of it here, because what Will discusses is relevant to the fractured state of climate science. Peer review has turned into “pal review” due to the small population of qualified researchers in climate, and many of the same lessons taught by an exercise in taunting the peer review process in 1996 are germane to the publication of climate science today, where there seems to be an air of “anything goes as long as it goes with our thinking”. On the opposite side, we have garbage papers accepted by people who transposed their names to get past what they feared would be gatekeeping.

Publishing a paper in a peer reviewed journal is by no means a guarantee of accuracy. Just look what happened to Eric Steig with his much ballyhooed front cover paper espousing warming in Antarctica in the world’s most prestigious journal Nature, in 2009. Climate skeptics soon discovered that the warming in Antarctica was nothing more than a mathematical artifact of some shonky Mannian-style methodology (Michael Mann was a co-author), due to familiar problems Mann had with his hockey-stick methods, and the paper was quite rightly trounced by a rebuttal paper. But, it took a huge amount of work, ten months of peer-review, and the headlines that original flawed paper received still reverberate today.

Note, the original article for newspapers did not contain links to references made by Will, I’ve added them – Anthony

peer-review-josh-donna
Source of Image: http://www.thegwpf.org/donna-laframboise-peer-review-why-skepticism-is-essential/


Academia may now be beyond satire

By George Will

The Chronicle of Higher Education, which is a window on the sometimes weird world of academia, recently revisited a hilarious intellectual hoax from 20 years ago. Reading the recollections of the perpetrator and of some who swallowed his gibberish is sobering.

In 1996, Alan Sokal, a New York University physicist and self-described “academic leftist,” composed an essay that was a word salad of solemn academic jargon. He said he strove to be “especially egregious,” by maundering on about “the dialectical emphases” of “catastrophe theory” becoming a “concrete tool of progressive political praxis.” His essay’s gaudy title was: “Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity.

He sent it to the left-leaning “cultural studies” journal Social Text, which swooned, perhaps in part because Sokal larded his nonsense with political tropes that are catnip to lettered leftists — “emancipatory mathematics,” “demystify and democratize the production of scientific knowledge,” “the crisis of late-capitalist production relations.” Soon after Social Text published his faux scholarship, Sokal revealed in another journal, Lingua Franca, that it was a parody.

This would have been obvious to anyone whose intelligence had not been anesthetized by the patois of “deconstructionist” and “poststructuralist” professors. They move on to Nietzsche’s assertion that there are no facts, only interpretations, which he wrote shortly before going mad at age 44. They begin with a few banalities: Science is influenced by political and social forces; literature is conditioned by the writers’ contexts. And they arrive at the doctrine that everything from science to sexuality is a “social construct” reflective of society’s power relations, and therefore everything is arbitrary and political.

[This month], Bruce Robbins, a Columbia University humanities professor who was a co-editor of Social Text, tells The Chronicle of Higher Education that Sokal’s essay appealed because he seemed to be a scientist “kind of on ‘our side.’” Robbins and another Social Text editor promptly claimed victim status, saying that “the deceptive means by which Sokal chose to make his point” will injure “the openness of intellectual inquiry.”

The epistemology Sokal attacked precludes serious discussion of knowable realities. What Sokal exposed was — and remains — radical relativism that asserts the impossibility of serious science and scholarship.

Today, Sokal, who seems eager to make amends for his good deed, claims “a small amount of credit” for what he says is diminished ardor for radical epistemological relativism. But he says “the main credit” belongs to — wait for it — George W. Bush, who discredited “science bashing.” Sokal and kindred spirits — he seems to be safely back in the bubble — tell the Chronicle that the real problem is “anti-intellectualism” off campus: “academic expertise” is under attack, “epistemological skepticism” by “the right” is abetting climate change, etc.

Twenty years on, one lesson of Sokal’s hoax is that many educators are uneducable. Another is that although wonderful sendups have been written about academia (e.g., Randall Jarrell’s “Pictures from an Institution”), it now might be beyond satire.


Full essay here

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178 thoughts on “George Will: Academia may now be beyond satire

      • Michael Palmer

        Surely the paper you reference is satire in the same vein as the paper that is the subject of this post. If not, then academia is definitely beyond satire. No rational, sane, person would write this sentence, found in the paper you reference:

        “Merging feminist postcolonial science studies and feminist political ecology, the feminist glaciology framework generates robust analysis of gender, power, and epistemologies in dynamic social-ecological systems, thereby leading to more just and equitable science and human-ice interactions.”

      • Old Engineer:

        Merging feminist postcolonial science studies

        I was never so glad to see there was an ‘i’ in the postcolonial thingy….otherwise, what on earth would the study be of?

      • “human-ice interactions”

        At first I thought I wanted to know what this means. Then I decided I’m better off not knowing.

      • old engineer: the “feminist glaciology” paper has been out a couple of months, and to my knowledge has not since been disavowed as satire by the authors. Also take a look at the references: How do you account for gems like “Chartier D (2008) The gender of ice and snow. Journal of Northern Studies …” and ” Harris C (2005) Do glaciers really listen? BC Studies: The British Columbian Quarterly …” ? There are more. There seems to be a whole industry producing this stuff.

      • “” Harris C (2005) Do glaciers really listen? BC Studies: The British Columbian Quarterly …” ?”

        No, glaciers never listen, they just ignore you.

      • old engineer,

        “Merging feminist postcolonial science studies and feminist political ecology, the feminist glaciology framework generates robust analysis of gender, power, and epistemologies in dynamic social-ecological systems, thereby leading to more just and equitable science and human-ice interactions.”

        ===========

        I think I need a week to figure out just what all that means, if I can make heads or tails from it.

        ;-)


      • Mark W wrote:
        “human-ice interactions”
        At first I thought I wanted to know what this means. Then I decided I’m better off not knowing.

        It means you waited to long to try to get your ice shanty off the frozen lake eh!

      • “I think I need a week to figure out just what all that means, if I can make heads or tails from it.”

        Ask Griff.

        That’t the sort of drivel Guardianistas communicate in all the time.

      • In the words of the great American philosopher W.C. Fields “If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit.”

    • Personally, my opinion is that this website is testament to what Sokal did. First off, Social Text is not a scientific forum where subjects such as climatology are peer reviewed. For goodness sake, google what Social Text is and understand what it is not. To be sure, it’s published by Duke and so, absolutely, it is in the realm of academia. But it’s not the same as what this blog purports to deal with. There is a difference between the “hard” sciences and the “soft” sciences.

      But let’s go back to what Sokal did. He wrote non-sense and the leftists lapped it up. Well, here we are, 20 years later, and the basic premise of this website is that A) global warming is not real and B) polar ice is safe. Of course, the facts are that, despite low solar activity, we are witnessing record temps and the polar ice caps are suffering mightily. But, on this website, the opposite is written and the right wing laps it up.

      So yeah, laugh at that paper. Laugh at the idiots on the left. And then look in the mirror. The difference is that that paper didn’t matter. I would suggest that losing the Arctic sea ice in the next 4 decades might actually mean something and it looks like it might happen well before the scientific consensus deemed probable.

      • Of course, the facts are that, despite low solar activity, we are witnessing record temps *and the polar ice caps are suffering mightily.* (bold emphasis mine)

        Sorry Koop: this is an editorial opinion — one supported by some sets of observations, but utterly contradicted/contraindicated by many others. Feel free to move the goalposts of the Arctic Demise(TM) by another 4 decades if that’s what you honestly believe, but most of us (myself included) have already seen many such “deadlines” come & go with no result.

        As for your opinion of this website’s readership, for my own part I doubt that humans are having a discernible (let alone significant) impact on the global climate, while you’re convinced that we are. I think it’s safe to say that at this point you will be no more swayed by my “sycophancy” than I will be by yours, no matter how many peer-reviewed papers we throw at each other, but at least I can say for certain that I will read such papers for content & make up my own mind about them, rather than allowing press release propaganda, political talking heads & popular opinion determine my own opinions for me.

        If you do the same, then more power to you, and may the best set of observations win.

      • Koop, typical troll response. State lies as facts to support your superior knowledge. One, most people here think global warming is real, we just think there is no evidence to support the notion that it will be catastrophic. Two, you have no idea whatever that Arctic ice isn’t safe. On the off chance you do, submit your evidence and reasoning here. Otherwise save it for Huffpo.

      • This is really not a valid statement.

        Firstly, there is a whole range of opinion on this website, including yours. Even if we confine the discussion to those stating that CO₂-induced warming is not a problem, there is probably a majority here who thinks it is real. And while indeed the majority of the clientele may be to the right of the center politically, that again is not universally true. I, for example, have never voted for a party right of center.

        Secondly, whatever Sokal did and wherever he published his stuff — we don’t need him as a witness. Take stuff like feminist glaciology for example. It is every inch as absurd as Sokal’s, yet peer-reviewed and seemingly not even meant satirical. For any sane person, left or right, is completely obvious that much of academia has gone off the deep end. And the so-called hard sciences are not free from tendencies like this — phony claims and expensive solutions to imaginary problems abound. One such problem being cAGW, of course; but nobody really needs “biosensors” and “drug delivery”, to name but two examples from my own field. (Yes, durg )

        Thirdly, you made a falsifiable and testable prediction — the sea ice will be gone in 4 decades. Well, others have made similar predictions for shorter time frames, and they have been proven wrong. You may yet be right, but considering our limited understanding of all the factors involved, you can’t be certain, and it is entirely possible and reasonable to come to conclusions that differ from yours — without emancipatory mathematics, feminist glaciology, or any other kinds of hocus-pocus.

      • “we are witnessing record temps” – record high somewhere, and record low elsewhere. Elsewhere is at this moment most of North America and Europe.

      • @Curious George, that’s why I focused on the one statement that I believed to be truly editorial, i.e, not obviously supportable based on the available facts.

        We ARE in an era of low solar activity (however temporarily remains to be seen), & we ARE seeing record temperatures all over the world (both high & low, and at a rate consistent from the moment humans began paying scientific attention). By contrast, the idea that our polar caps are in some kind of “danger” — let alone, being in danger because of human activity — is not clear from the data to hand, and does not follow logically from the other two statements in any case.

      • @Koop in VA. Our “record temps” place us in the coolest 10% of the past 10,000 years, as shown by Greenland ice core and North Atlantic sediment studies. Since there is no polar ice cap in the Arctic, you must be referring to the Antarctic, and it’s doing just fine.

      • chicken koop, not exactly what you would call “low solar activity”… note that the solar min in ’08 brought with it the coldest temps of the new millenium. Now that solar max/el nino is out of the way (nothing to do with agw) expect temps to plummet even further…

        You (and your pals) ought to try adjusting your attitude as it’s resulting in record losses at the polls. First rule of thumb? When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging. (in other words, stop your doubling down on stupidity)…

      • Hey, Koop–I’m a Virginian also, and the only temp records set recently are record cold–earlier this week the temp hit 0 degrees F on a day when the previous Richmond record was 1 above; day before yesterday, the record high was 71, and the weathercasters thought that record might fall, but it hit only 70; sad, as I would have enjoyed 71. The fact is, though, that during the 3.5 years I’ve been keeping records, there have been no record highs and several record lows. Nationally, more record highs came in the 1930s than in any decade since.

      • Hey Smokey, I’ll respond to my own comment since I can’t respond to yours.

        Thanks for the cordial response. But I’m at a bit of a loss as to where you think that I moved the goal posts on arctic ice melting. The fact of the matter is that most climate scientists were predicting a blue Arctic ocean event towards the end of this century. Of course, there are some groups (Naval Postgraduate School in particular) that predicted that Arctic sea ice may be “gone” (below 1M cubic kms) by 2013. They then revised their estimate to +/- 3 years from 2016. Anyway, my stating 4 decades is not moving the goal posts. Shoot just go to the IPCC for this:

        “Both models predict continued decreases in sea-ice thickness and extent (Vinnikov et al., 1999), so that by 2050, sea-ice extent is reduced to about 80% of area it covered at the mid-20th century.”

        https://www.ipcc.ch/ipccreports/tar/wg2/index.php?idp=605

        And as you likely know the IPCC is consensus based and so is “conservative” by nature.

        But in the climate science “skeptic” world the consensus is ignored and the outlier prediction is hyped. Hence your apparent belief that predictions have come and gone regarding arctic sea ice. Sure, the fringe set of predictions have but where do most of the experts stand on this issue? And are we ahead of their “alarmist” predictions or behind?

        On this issue of the polar ice caps suffering and your stating is is “supported by some sets of observations but utterly contradicted…by many others.” I would be curious where you are getting your data. According to NSIDC every single day in December was a record low for that date. Since the end of December the Arctic sea ice growth has essentially stalled. The same story is being played out with volume.

        As you may also know, 2012 was the record low minimum sea ice extent. Well, as of now we are tracking nearly 1M sq km below the same date in 2012. And there is a rather large Arctic storm brewing which is going to really stress the thin, “rotten” ice. So I ask for some “good news” and hope that you or someone here can show me why the Arctic sea ice is in good shape.

      • I find it somewhat ironic that on this blog that people aren’t fully aware of the poor state of the Arctic sea ice.

        For the big view of things this website is invaluable:

        https://sites.google.com/site/arcticseaicegraphs/

        Go through them and they all basically tell the same story.

        For one graph in particular that shows the poor extent go here:

        https://ads.nipr.ac.jp/vishop/#/extent

        Of course, you could have a situation where the ice has a low extent but that it is strong and thick but that’s not really the case either as you can see here:

        If you have been around here more than a few years there was always that Ace in the back pocket because while Arctic Sea Ice was struggling, Antarctic sea ice was above normal. Well, that Ace has now vanished and something scary weird is currently happening with our world’s air conditioner:

        https://sites.google.com/site/arctischepinguin/home/global-sea-ice

        That is an 8 sigma event and the likelihood of that happening is around 1 in 30 billion (or so I’m told).

        Anyway, the evidence is all around. To read some really excellent commentary on the state of the refreeze you may also try this:

        http://forum.arctic-sea-ice.net/index.php/topic,1611.1950.html

      • And yet the Arctic Sea is covered with ice, and is going to be covered with ice next winter, the winter after that and the winter after that, and so on and on. Humans are not destroying the environment. Climate changes constantly and humans have nothing to do with it.

  1. “… Robbins and another Social Text editor promptly claimed victim status, saying that “the deceptive means by which Sokal chose to make his point” will injure “the openness of intellectual inquiry.”

    The argument that Robbins makes is also the stance that the APS took over the affair. I can’t recall who was the President of APS at the time but he argued in an editorial that we needed to patch things up and regain comity with the intellectuals of post-modern literary theorizing. This was the last straw for me, I resigned from APS immediately. Over a ten year period both APS and AAAS drifted rapidly left-ward. They present two case studies in one of Robert Conquest’s Three Laws of Politics.

    • K Kilty, Is the APS editorial you refer to on line, and if so, do you have a URL to that editorial?

      • There was a long series of comments and counter commentary in Physics Today under the general heading of Science Wars that ran from January 1997 to October 1999 at least. The computer I used at the time no longer works and I have no paper copies of correspondence. I am now not sure who wrote the position that made me react. For some reason David Mermin comes to mind, but I don’t see that he had any official connection to APS. this is the best I can do.

    • will injure “the openness of intellectual inquiry.”–this means that it will injure the right to say whatever crazy thing comes into your head and get tenure for it

  2. For years the soft sciences have strived to garner the same level of respect as the hard sciences. Lately, the hard sciences are moving toward receiving the same level of respect as the soft sciences.

    SR

    • Actually a big part of the problem is that there are different kinds of sciences.

      First, divide the fields of study into: (A) the natural or physical sciences, and (B) the social sciences. Then divide the natural sciences, separating (A1) those concerned with homogeneous entities and deterministic (at least in the aggregate) relationships, from (A2) the ones that deal with chaotic processes (like climatology).

      Most of the progress in knowledge and technology comes from the (A1) category. Although researchers in the other categories would like you to think they are making comparable contributions to society, they are not.

      See more at There’s No Grand Unity Called “Science.”

    • They work in the same building. The community that surrounds them is the – dare I say it? – the driver of academic climate. Judith Curry once said she thought peer pressure is a greater influence than corruption (although, IMHO, it amounts to the same thing).

      It’s sort of like the old academic question, if you put a psychiatrist and a lunatic in the same room for a year, do you get two Rhodes scholars or two people who think they’re Napoleon?

      Question answered.

      • If they identify as Napoleon, who are you to question them? Just refer to them as, “Your Excellency,” and obey their instructions.

    • A doting grandmother said to her grandson who had a poor pass mark in sociology, you’ve got an ology, that means you’re a scientist.

  3. Academia should focus on doing some real science, with code and all.

    (this message brought to you by MoshBot, the mosher of all bots, so that Steve doesn’t have to.)

  4. “”Publishing a paper in a peer reviewed journal is by no means a guarantee of accuracy.”””

    Peer review was never meant to do that….

    Peer review only means throw it up against the wall and see if it sticks..

  5. So W was responsible for a hoax perpetuated 4 years before he ran for president?

    As noted in the article, Nietzsche went mad at 44 after his eponymous work. Apparently so did Sokal.

    • Listening to what Sokal says now, I strongly suspect that his career trajectory was dependent on his reaffirming his support for the academic paradigm of his homîes.

  6. Elsewhere on the net:
    If you google “Postmodernism Generator,” you can find a website that generates similar “sourced,” “academic” babble. Thanks to Sokol for lighting the way.

    I see it’s available for your smartphone.

  7. Over 20 yrs ago, I saw a paper claiming that a feminist mathematics was needed and under development. But it never happened. Perhaps because math does not care who invented it?
    The deconstructionist school is a triumph of form over substance. It takes a trivial point (no one can be perfectly objective) and turns it into “all knowledge is a social construct”. While knowledge is constructed by a social process, it is still true that airplanes fly and x-ray machines work. The relativist school wants to get participation trophies for writing incoherent stuff that is not testable in the real world. It is more important to be part of the club, by using the right buzz words, than to make sense or be right. Logic is just a white man’s construct. At least until they want to take an airplane trip or use their cell phone.

    • “It is more important to be part of the club, by using the right buzz words, than to make sense or be right.”

      Sadly, I first ran into that attitude on a development project I worked on almost 40 years ago. The division manager, a corporate VP, had never worked on a project that had made it out the door but he had excellent (academic) credentials. The project manager came from the customer environment, read all the latest industry rags and only hired managers that spoke the proper (i.e., en vogue) buzzwords. Non of them had worked on, much less managed a project that had shipped, but they also read the right rags. It wasn’t long before the buzzwords and the B.S. become so prevalent that they even had supplier salesmen talking the same language. And, non of the lot really understood what they were actually saying. Luckily I saw the hand writing on the wall and bailed out a couple of years before the whole crazy edifice came crashing down, eventually even took the company with it.

      • Joe,

        Ran into the same stuff in the corporate world. I believe that “networking” is the bane of professionalism and cause of much of the political infection which is evident in most corporate structures. Politics would, no doubt occur in any event but networking encourages hiring people based upon tne wrong factors. I am long retired but my experience was that it became worse as time went by along with nepotism in various forms.

      • Jim,
        I would guess it would depend on the type of networking. In most companies I worked for, it didn’t take long for the competent employees to figure out the incompetent ones. I was lucky in that the first company I worked for had a policy that if a new employee made it through his one or two year introductory period and could no long due the job it was his managers fault as much as it was his. If you didn’t get ride of ’em early or fix ’em you could go out the door with ’em. Most managers were competent and while each department might have a few slackers, even they were mostly useful. And each department had at least one guru that knew everything there was to know about the job. It wasn’t until later in my career that I started running into the buzzword idiots.

      • mmmmm….once all the powerpoint is done, cocktails drunk and all the frequent flyer lounges of the world have been promenaded through; someone actually has to do something and thats where it gets tricky.

      • @yarpos, +1000

        Being in the technology field, leading into the tech bubble, a good PowerPoint and warm cookies could get you $3MM in seed money.

        As you stated, then it got tricky, but the market doesn’t make jokes as the Nasdaq demonstrated.

      • Marketing is often the retarded cousin of the simple business model. They use some “funny” math sometimes, too.

    • I’m not sure that the internet can fix the International Brotherhood of Stupid that it spawned since it’s a propagandist’s wet dream.

    • The ultimate leap of human intellect will be Dadaist Quantum Field Theory or Totally Looped Out Quantum Gravity or Silly String Theory.

      I can’t wait.

      Up, … I’m not finished … General Irrelevantivity.

      … others ? (I’m open for suggestions)

    • Most academics know that if you really, really believe, you can fly a concrete aircraft. The reason these experimental planes have failed to date is that there are still too many enemies of the People who don’t believe. It is their negativism that caused the Cement Condor crash in 2007 and the Flying Frigate flop in 2009. Once all have adopted Socialist Thought, these planes will fill the air! Wait and see! Keep watching the skies!

  8. Individual scientists all seem to have Will’s described tendency to some degree. The scientific method, including where one scientists is suspicious of another’s results and interpretation, is supposed to correct this. But when all higher organizations from journals, to professional societies, to funding agencies, to politicians, to governments readily endorse a particular point-of-view, this control breaks down. A funding agency with a strong directed agenda can and does bias its own research.

    • exactly, but not when the definition of peer…..is equal

      Problem with peer review, in all sciences…is let one bad paper through
      ..and it’s built on, cited, built on, cited….etc etc until it takes on a life of it’s own

      That is exactly what has happened to climate science

      • “who told you that the polar ice capS are melting?

        and why do you believe them?”

        It’s not a “who” who told me. It’s what the satellites are telling all of us. Go near the top of this thread for some really excellent links to graphical representations of the data.

        As to why do I believe the satellites? Why would we not? And yes, the sea ice at both poles are far, far below normal for this time of year.

      • And no, sea ice in the Arctic and Antarctic is not ” far, far below normal for this time of year.” according to images available at NSIDC. It is running around average. A quick primer, ice melts in summer, freezes in winter, and those seasons occur at opposite times at each pole.

  9. [ Science advances through dogged contrarians testing the “settled science”, not through glassy-eyed consensus acolytes prostrating themselves before “one proven answer” ]

    Charles Krauthammer

  10. Amazing how many see peer review as the full stop to the scientific process. In fact it’s only the start. The peer review tentatively releases the science out into the public and this is where the real challenges begin. If your paper can absorb and deflect scrutiny for extended time then it is likely you did sound work.

    That’s how it’s supposed to work. Nothing is concrete. Plain old F=MA could be cast aside tomorrow should new understanding be discovered.

    In climate science peer review seems to be the full stop. Be all. End all. It’s wrong.

    Have a chuckle at this video if you want to see how garbage peer review can be:

    For those who can’t view. A paper with blatantly photoshopped microscope images made it all the way through peer review and into the world. A young child could see it was balls.

    • exactly….it’s the step before throw it against the wall and see if it sticks

      But let’s face it….how hard is it to peer review..when the premise is “if this trend continues”

    • Problem is, no longer does anyone fund proposals to repeat a previous study. Once the funders, now usually the government, get the ‘right’ answer they don’t waste money by trying to verify results they already believe in.

      • Back in the late 1950s, when the federal government began funding science and science education, the social sciences were left out of government grant money. Then the social sciences gradually found ways to tap into the stream of federal grant money.

        The funding was done to catch up with the Soviet’s space program but also included all or most all of the natural sciences.

      • “The funding was done to catch up with the Soviet’s space program…”
        Yep… and look where it’s gotten us now. No space program to speak of and practically every college and university now has a climate science department, all living off the government.

      • Yes Joe but you did catch up, and now have even got on board Russia’s space program. Meanwhile NASA does climate and diversity stuff.

  11. … Nietzsche’s assertion that there are no facts, only interpretations …

    There are no facts, only approximations with varying tolerances.

    • “There are no facts, only approximations with varying tolerances.”

      is that a fact?
      casuistry is not cogitation

      • I have three apples. John has three apples. John’s apples are twice as heavy as mine. Who has more apples? Is this casuistry or does it have some practical meaning?

        In my career I went from +/- 20% for antenna models to one part in 10^13 for atomic clocks. I learned that the truth of any statement has error bars.

        The farmer’s son’s foot was horribly disfigured in an accident.
        The neighbours came by to offer sympathy.
        The farmer said “We’ll see.”
        The next day the press gang came by and took all the young men for the army. They didn’t take the farmer’s son because of his deformity.
        The neighbours congratulated the farmer for his good luck.
        The farmer said “We’ll see.”
        Zhuangzi

        Is it casuistry to observe that circumstances alter cases? In any event, some people think cogitation is highly overrated.

      • “Is it casuistry to observe that circumstances alter cases?”
        nope. it’s really fundamental.
        here’s what you need to know:
        all proofs are done by means of logic.
        mathematical proofs are no exception.
        my proof, right here, right now is no exception.

        your new statement with the cute rhetorical question mark on the end is completely different from your false contention that “there are no facts”
        i’m not going galloping on your freakin hobby horse.

        Your proposition that ‘there are no facts’ was presented as a fact.
        your proposition states as fact that there are no facts.
        this is a self contradiction, because if there are facts, you have lied and if there are no facts and you simultaneously claim there is one you are also lying.
        qed.
        and extra credit i get for pointing out that you were blissfully unaware of how your statement proved you to be a liar.

        now, having established the proof that you lie, why don’t you just stop and go learn something about epistemology and logic?
        unless you imagine you can use logic to refute the existence of logic – then rock on! this will be very entertaining.
        lamers who pretend to be philosophical gurus and utter lies as truth are either ignorant and vain or else they are deliberately deceitful and fraudulent.
        heh- so try to find a middle ground between reality and bullshit. live stream that from your front yard.

      • … unless you imagine you can use logic to refute the existence of logic …

        I can design a cpu from raw gates. How are you at VHDL? I love logic.

        What you lack is an appreciation of the limits of logic. Once you are operating in the real world, you are faced with imperfection. That means that any premise is at least to some extent flawed. The result is that every logical operation on the premise carries you farther from the truth. After a couple of operations you can be into cloud cuckoo land. You can’t get around GIGO.

      • lol- and i can write a parser generator while routing pcbs using chips i know the pinouts by memory- so freakin wut?

        but great- we should chat about digital electronics. if you know stuff on that topic, that’s interesting. i eat it for breakfast and gcode for lunch.

        remind yourself what you get when you plug an inverter’s output to its input- a logical self contradiction produces oscillation as fast as the gate delay allows- which consumes maximum power making a buzzing noise.

        that’s how your ideas do harm to a brain and lag the critical processes making it vulnerable to exploits.
        they did it to you and you are communicating this man-made disease of stupidity.

        if you are actually interested in treating rather than spreading infection, visit Science or Fiction’s site where he’s preparing the vaccine that might save you.
        https://rulesofscience.wordpress.com/2017/01/10/the-principles-of-science-v6/

        cuz i have a problem with your clownsplaining about ontology. it does damage- gratuitously and unnecessarily.

      • I have to stand with gnomish here, with the caveat that the only thing worse than deni@l of certainty / absolutes is unwarranted certainty / false absolutes.

        WRT some people think cogitation is highly overrated: Some people fail – or refuse – to understand that reason ends where coercion begins.

      • heh- more worms in this can…
        “What you lack is an appreciation of the limits of logic.”
        what you didn’t get is that logic is all about limits.
        digitization is how we take a bite of infinities and make it a binary alternative.
        definitions is how we do that for using words as cognitive tools rather than simian calls.
        the 1/0 symbols used to represent true/false (the fundamental alternative in the universe is 2b or not) are not numbers. there is no fractional bit.
        but if you want to imagine there is something between truth and falsehood, let me put this blinky gif on your epileptic website:
        The new science of quantum infodynamics reveals that the ‘bit’, considered the ‘atom’ of information, is actually composed of subinformative particles called ‘morons’.
        get it? so lulz, right?

        so you like Voltaire?
        here- read my parody of Kandide – that was my very first website.
        http://reocities.com/Athens/Aegean/1835/kandide.html
        yep- written 36 years ago. did you know that without copyright protection nobody would ever write anything?

        so yeah- pwn3d.

      • so you like Voltaire?
        here- read my parody of Kandide

        Do you mean Candide?

        So you wrote a parody of a parody. That’s a little recursive isn’t it.

      • I think it was Will Rogers who said, “It’s not what Congress doesn’t know that bothers me. It’s what they know that just ain’t so!”

    • Fact, if you hit someone right between the eyes with a sledgehammer, it is going to do a lot of damage.

      Any social “scientist” who would like to disprove that is welcome to stand in a line while I swing the hammer.

  12. Enjoyed the stuff on Sokal.
    I completed a degree in Geophysics in 1962 when there was talk about an actual “Flat Earth Society”. Recall that one had to submit a nonsense paper that seemed like serious physics.
    Could never verify it, but going around the department–That the UN should debate putting up a fence along the edge of the world. To keep people from falling off. After all, the UN had debated sillier things.
    Oh Yeah–the motto of the Flat Earth Society was:
    “We are on the level”

  13. “Academia may now be beyond satire”

    Why should academia be any different? We just had a presidential election between a should-be felon & a ‘know-nothing’ game show host, for Carlin’s sake!

  14. The Donald Trump Administration should eliminate “Academic Nepotism”, ……. post haste.

    Stop and/or eliminate all federal funding for R&D that is now being given, with no “strings” attached, to colleges and universities …… and let the “private sector” again be responsible for all R&D.

    If there is not an “unlimited slush fund” available to the Administrators of colleges and universities for hiring their own graduates, ……. then all said graduates will be dependent upon the “private sector” for gainful employment.

    And when the “private sector” refuses to hire “their” graduates, the Administrators of colleges and universities will be forced to re-educate their Professors and demand that they teach their students what the “private sector” requires in/of a new employee.

      • Even if the parents reacted I don’t think they (academia) would miss the students. The administrations seem be quite happy with their 50-60% cut of the grants. Most universities now have more administrators and support staff than they do teachers. And besides, teaching just gets in the way of grant writing. If you actually broke it down I would bet that most universities have now become nothing more than extensions of the government bureaucracy. It might be fun to look at the numbers.

  15. Prof Bartneck did the same last year, using Apple Autocomplete App to write his paper for him, and it was accepted to the conference circuit.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3864600/Is-Siri-Professor-writes-entire-nonsense-paper-using-Apple-autocomplete-app-ACCEPTED-academic-conference.html

    But I am not surprised. As soon as you write a paper you are inundated with conference requests, because they are paid by the speakers and paid by the attendees – and all these fees, and all the expenses, are all paid by your taxes. The conference circuit has no interest in the quality of the work, all they want is your money (the tax-payers money).

    R

    • And on the other side of the coin, most peer review will reject outright (probably without even reading) a paper that appears to cast doubt on the reviewer’s dogma. Witness the issues Pat Frank has experienced trying to get his paper published: 6 climate journals, 16 reviews – 3 approved, 13 (by the climate modellers) NOT approved. Not surprising, since his paper shows what rot the climate models actually are.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=THg6vGGRpvA (about the 37 min mark)

      • If Pat Frank would submit a paper that didn’t contain as many errors as his paper had, his paper might have passed peer review.

    • Alan Ranger, if you are a chemist, the you are a “peer” of Pat Frank. If you are not a chemist and are a “climate scientist” then you can “peer review.” If you are neither, then shut up.

      • @Rob Bradley

        Thank you. That was the answer I expected. We can now safely assume that you have no knowledge of the “errors” to which you allude. Yes … I can now shut up – job done.

  16. A couple of years ago I went to give a talk at a conference hosted by the Imaginative Education Research Group at SFU in Vancouver. As a science teacher I knew I was in trouble when the first speaker gave a philosophically tortuous speech on the presently poor state of education and backed his stance with quotes from Dewey to Thoreau. Further lectures and more of the same, no science, just wishful thinking backed up by the musings from the greats. I asked a few questions, whoops, one should never look for clay feet when you are surrounded by acolytes. My talk, not well received, too sciencey I suppose. However, I came away realizing that there is another academic belief system out there, one in which the present dogma rules, don’t let facts get in the way, no need to test a hypothesis if Nietzche has pronounced.
    My fear is that we are seeing more and more of this ‘artsy’ interpretation and it in now extending its ‘rose coloured’ ‘good feelings’ into areas of science. Now it seems some of our science is acclaimed if there are enough sycophants to quell the opposition.

  17. >> Publishing a paper in a peer reviewed journal is by no means a guarantee of accuracy.

    In truth, it never was. At best, peer review is an editing pass, to filter out mistakes. In Science, the true review is replication. Can other people duplicate the results, by performing the experiment, or analysis, themselves. That is why a paper (purported to be scientific) should publish the full details of the experiment, the analysis, the raw data, and any code of the mathematical processing.

    The Fleischmann and Pons experiment got a bad name, because the replication results were mixed, some researchers got no extra heat, and some did. (It turns out that the effect is a surface effect, and F&P used rods with micro-fractures. And no one realized that this was a significant detail.)

  18. I wrote a paper explaining this phenomenon: The Academic Ape: Instinctive aggression and boundary enforcing behaviour in academia

    In simple terms it says that academia is like closed shop union and if you are part of the group you can do not wrong, and if you are outside the group you can do nothing right.

    And in fact, I set out with the opposite aim: to be entirely true, but produce a work that no academic would ever reference. (They are so predictable in their behaviour)

  19. Sokal’s essay appealed because he seemed to be a scientist “kind of on ‘our side.’”

    Feynman had a name for ‘our side’: pompous fools.

  20. If you think peer review guarantees accuracy check out the case of Jan Henrick Schon.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sch%C3%B6n_scandal
    Peer review in Climate Science is essentially used as an “Appeal to Authority” rather than a check on accuracy. The only “Peer” review worth anything in Climate Science comes from Lord Monckton! :-)

  21. Will somebody post the Goya etchings of the room full of jackasses sitting before the lecturing jackass dressed in his robe and mitre hat. This is an old discussion

  22. I think this nails some of the problems of academia today. In Australia I am sick and tired of hearing from University professors patting themselves on the back for their own activism and protest background during their university studies, of how they wanted to change the world and then on graduation they exited the university front door to face the world they craved to change, and instead, rushed around to the back door of the university to work their way in as post graduate and eventually full time employment playing with the minds of their students.

    What a recipe for the reality or should I say the unreality of an impending disaster for whoever tries to unscramble this egg.

  23. There is no truth in science beyond its practical application. Science is a method. Any attempt at moral or social derivation is religion: Nietzsches point exactly.

  24. “And they arrive at the doctrine that everything from science to sexuality is a “social construct” reflective of society’s power relations, and therefore everything is arbitrary and political.”

    Or maybe stay-at-home moms are better for children’s emotional, mental and moral development than teachers unions and peers.

  25. Oh it definitely is beyond satire. And so is the left. If you’ve seen the “Jonathan Pie” (fictitious character) video on Trump winning the election, you cannot tell if it’s satire. When satire cuts too close to reality, it’s no longer satire.

  26. Reblogged this on Climatism and commented:
    “Peer review has turned into “pal review” due to the small population of qualified researchers in climate, and many of the same lessons taught by an exercise in taunting the peer review process in 1996 are germane to the publication of climate science today, where there seems to be an air of “anything goes as long as it goes with our thinking”

    “Pal-Review” – the reason why you will ONLY read climate studies that are sympathetic to “man-made” climate effects caused by “man-made” CO2. This is the dangerous corruption of science where a handful of activist academics decide what is published and what is not.

    It’s no wonder climate “scientists” preface their studies with “anthropogenic”, because otherwise their studies are rejected and funding rejected. At worst they are sacked or vilified for not attributing climate changes directly with ‘evil’ mankind.

  27. Laugh it up all you want – here in Sweden the police can’t even use descriptive language when asking for hints, tips and leads about witnesses and suspects.

    Because stating that the suspect is a [gender] of [skin colour] is racist. That is the official policy by the way.

    So when they put out a ‘wanted’-post on twitter or FB (yes, swedish police work like that), the text generally goes like this:
    “The police are looking for information about a person seen in the vicinity of [location] at [time].” That’s it.

    And about the feminist snowplowing policy: it’s real. It’s a total flustercluck.

    I could go on.

    Yours,
    Rikard, former teacher

  28. Sokal wrote a very good book about this too. He said that a common tactic for the academics in the progressive social sciences was to be ambiguous -so a statement can be understood as a progressive and radical interpretation, but if challenged is also a prosaic self-evident conclusion that can be fallen back on. In climate science you can see this often – for example after a hurricane an advocate can say ‘this is what climate change looks like’ . You might question whether this can be said to be due to climate change. They can then fall back by saying that they didn’t actually say that, its just that models suggest more of this will happen in the future.

  29. One evidence of corruption is the constant bombardment one receives if you have published of invitations to submit articles and attend conferences. I have been invited probably 50 times as a keynote speaker or honored lecturer to conferences not sponsored by a professional society on topics far from my research. Medical, nutritional, computing, business, internet security, conferences that assume I am a climate alarmist. It is clearly a business. Why do people go to such conferences? Maybe they are just boondoggles, a free vacation? Some promise to publish your talk in proceedings, which would be an easy publication for someone who is desperate. Maybe this motivates some. And invitations from journals are nearly daily, but again have nothing to do with my history of publishing. Academic spam.

  30. This is not just amusing. With his joke on social science, Sokal appears to have opened the door wide for subjective ‘hard’ science, or possibly even actually created post normal science. This article has given me an insight and a eureka moment in understanding of what we as skeptics are facing in hoping to straighten out climate science. Social scientists were living uselessly but quietly in their own little bubble after the final touches to complete lefty political corruption of their ‘discipline’ some 50yrs ago, until the cork was removed by Sokal. The joke is now on Sokal and us.

    I now understand why it makes perfect sense to refiddle observations, to change them to support the ‘democratically’ arrived at subjective theory of climate science. Statistics doesn’t work? Invent one that does – maybe the ability to make a hockey stick out of white noise everytime will garner a Nobel Prize. Satellites giving you the wrong temperature data, sea level data, gravity data on Antarctica, CO2 sources and global distribution, “correct” them or stop reporting their data. The Ozone hole is getting bigger? Change algorithms to close if it keeps giving embarrassing headlines.

    I used to feel there was something wrong that the left (yeah there are exceptions but those are the most deluded of all because they think the left is the old left they used to know) were the supporters of ‘anti-science’ and the right (the thoughtful right, not the ideological contrarians that we see on both sides) were preservers of objective science, the traditional scientific method, empirical science, the science of Galileo, Newton and Einstein. Now I understand that the skeptic is a flat earther, dinosaur in the post modern context. You don’t debate with lesser evolved primates. Drs.Gavin Schmidt, Michael Mann, etc. are amazed we don’t get it. They’ve even explained to us ad nauseam that the ‘vote’ is in, there is an overwhelming consensus and we must be right wing old white guy yokels, the very ones that are defined to have been excluded from “Diversity” if we can’t see their settled science side as beyond question. They are amazed at our anti science truculence.

    I thought turning this thing around was going to be a giant global project. What to do with millions of scientists unfit for purpose going forward and hundreds of millions of designer brained pupils in the pipeline (taxi driving and bank tellering are not going to be able to absorb such numbers). What to do with all the overstuffed universities with post normal and new faculties happy with their contribution to an Alice in Wonderland world, and safe spaces for the legions of wannabe victims of the cruelty of reality? How to purge worthless journals stuffed with papers on feminine glaciology and jiggered principle component hockeysticks…Now I wonder if, indeed, it is an impossible task.

  31. …..due to the small population of qualified researchers in climate….
    Only thanks to them being able to set their own definition of climate scientist to exclude far more qualified people than any of them. The trouble is that each of those qualified is an expert in part of the skill set needed for climate science rather than a mediocrity in all areas.
    In effect using a building analogy we are allowing them to self define only general jobbing builders as experts while teams of real experts like groundwork specialists, materials specialists, structural engineers and architects are dismissed as unqualified.
    Their perception if the normal climate progression was proved back in 1966 to be facile and over simplistic and normal climate has proved to be remarkably close to the prediction of signal analysis and marketing trend analysis programs. These programs have been proved in applications where results can be tested and accepted or rejected in five year not five hundred year periods. Note that those writing the marketing programs do not accept their use in polls as put bluntly the sample used can be shown to be rather prone to lie. In the case of engineering signal analysis it takes only seconds to run each model on data lasting minutes so millions of runs have be made to refine and optimise the programs and since only machines are involved there is no subjective element.

    • David Cage: “Only thanks to them being able to set their own definition of climate scientist to exclude far more qualified people than any of them.”

      Indeed so, David.

      And not a single competent thermodynamicist or statistician among them.

      Which is disturbing, because 99% of climate “science” is thermodynamics and statistics.

  32. Interesting to read this sympathetically presented here. Seems to me a strong connection between the contrarian movement and the academic postmodernist conviction that “truth” is a construction of power and social forces rather than something which is empirically reproducible and fixed. Is it not something of a foundation of the contrarian world view that data, observations, statistics, conventional physics etc. are inherently much less trustworthy than previously accepted because powerful foes can manipulate them (explicit or implicit conspiracies or collusion with rarely-well-described but allegedly global powerful ‘socialist green’ elites)? Meanwhile traditional skeptics tend to challenge these narrative (reputational, conspiracy theory etc.) modes for understanding the world as inferior to conventional scientific method with its focus on reproducibility and empiricism.

  33. Reminded me of the ChomskyBot (http://rubberducky.org/cgi-bin/chomsky.pl)

    Conversely, the natural general principle that will subsume this case is to be regarded as the traditional practice of grammarians. Note that the fundamental error of regarding functional notions as categorial delimits the extended c-command discussed in connection with (34). On the other hand, the speaker-hearer’s linguistic intuition is not quite equivalent to an important distinction in language use. A consequence of the approach just outlined is that the systematic use of complex symbols suffices to account for a descriptive fact. Notice, incidentally, that a subset of English sentences interesting on quite independent grounds is rather different from the system of base rules exclusive of the lexicon.

  34. French Philosopher Sartre once said something like ‘there’s maybe 5 philosophers able to understand me.’

    What good is a philosopher life long specializing in writing so nobody understands him but 5 colleagues, life long
    specializing in reading him.

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