Cultural critics say that 'science is politics by other means,' arguing that the results of scientific inquiry are profoundly shaped by the ideological agendas of powerful elites. Physicist Alan Sokal recently poked fun at these claims by foisting a sly parody of the genre on the unwitting editors of the cultural studies journal Social Text, touching off a still-unabated torrent of heated discussion. This hard-hitting collection picks up where Sokal left off. The essayists offer crisp and detailed critiques of case studies offered by the cultural critics as evidence that scientific results tell as more about social context than they do about the natural world. Pulling punches, they identify numerous crude factual blunders (e.g. that Newton never performed any experiments) and egregious errors of omission, such as the attempt to explain the slow development of fluid dynamics solely on the terms of gender bias. Where there are positive aspects of a flawed account,or something to be learned from it, they do t hesitate to say so. Their target is shoddy scholarship. Comprising new essays by distinguished scholars of history, philosophy and science (including Sokal himself), this book raises lively debate to a new level of seriousness.
Noretta Koertge is Professor of History and Philosophy of Science at Indiana University.