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From the Journal of Modern Illogical Studies
September 24, 2013 7:36 AM   Subscribe

The new Sokal: Serbian academics hoax a scholarly journal into accepting their gag paper. (Scribd copy of paper)
posted by doctornemo (21 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Alan Sokal's original paper is actually quite clever, in that it consisted mostly of real things postmodern French philosophers said. This is just silly.
posted by shii at 7:39 AM on September 24, 2013


Is the Serbian journal peer reviewed? If not, then why does this matter?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 8:04 AM on September 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Page 2: "Our heuristics is broadly related to work in the field of hermeneutics by Sokal Error! Reference source not found"

Gold!
posted by zippy at 8:38 AM on September 24, 2013


This is going back a few years, but some MIT students created a program called scigen which generates bogus papers. They even got one accepted at a (bogus) conference in 2005. There's even an online paper generator that lets you create your own.
posted by crazy_yeti at 8:58 AM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


And what the heck does this have to do with metallurgy?!
posted by crazy_yeti at 9:01 AM on September 24, 2013


Yes, but Pope Francis, the progressive new pope, actually issued a statement on the ontological falsity of "hoax papers" (that is, false theology) as a tribulation that is worth mentioning (it is in latin of course, official Vatican language)

"Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Sed fermentum a dolor eget blandit. Nulla accumsan mauris interdum neque rhoncus hendrerit. Maecenas sagittis massa luctus erat adipiscing accumsan. Sed ante nisi, congue accumsan mi ac, placerat tincidunt tortor. Aenean molestie, dui et vehicula sodales, quam sapien egestas purus, vel luctus sapien enim rhoncus mi. Ut in felis pharetra, tincidunt est id, eleifend eros. Cras elementum leo ut felis molestie venenatis. Phasellus pharetra eget erat in tincidunt. Cras non libero eu eros imperdiet auctor in sed erat. Fusce lobortis, odio eu fringilla ullamcorper, mi nulla placerat erat, eu mattis lorem ipsum ut nulla. Ut eget condimentum enim. Nullam non neque rhoncus mi laoreet vehicula id eu turpis. Quisque eu lectus condimentum, auctor quam in, consequat lacus. Pellentesque quis cursus mi.

Fusce rutrum est nec enim adipiscing ultricies. Cras a enim at mi euismod sagittis. In venenatis urna at nulla sagittis rhoncus. Sed laoreet cursus elit, quis ultrices quam feugiat quis. Aliquam sit amet condimentum lacus. Interdum et malesuada fames ac ante ipsum primis in faucibus. Sed elementum nisl id massa tempor, quis blandit elit volutpat. Morbi ullamcorper, nisi vel aliquam laoreet, quam nunc blandit mauris, sed vehicula mauris metus nec mi. Etiam laoreet nunc tortor, sit amet lacinia tortor consequat vitae. Ut lobortis magna sed malesuada gravida. Morbi ornare, nibh ac euismod venenatis, lorem sapien consectetur mi, et pellentesque diam arcu et odio. Donec in facilisis risus. Sed orci sapien, vestibulum at tortor a, adipiscing imperdiet enim. Duis et fringilla neque. Donec a sapien lacinia, consectetur leo a, accumsan leo.

Phasellus vel odio pretium, faucibus nisl eget, sagittis lacus. Phasellus nec feugiat metus. Sed a lectus eget ligula feugiat ultricies. Cras quis lorem vestibulum, condimentum tortor sed, ullamcorper dolor. Etiam consectetur ante ac mauris suscipit aliquet. Etiam pharetra risus tortor, ultrices egestas diam convallis lacinia. Nulla facilisi. Maecenas sed leo sit amet nisl molestie interdum sit amet et velit. Duis vitae nisi leo. Sed imperdiet, massa quis dapibus viverra, eros nulla cursus leo, eu tincidunt neque lacus ac diam. Sed congue tempor purus non sollicitudin. Duis scelerisque leo sed molestie placerat.

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Datum Romae, apud Sanctum Petrum, die undetricesimo mensis Iunii, in sollemnitate Apostolorum Petri et Pauli, anno Domini bis millesimo tertio decimo, ipso Anno Fidei, Pontificatus Nostri primo.

FRANCISCUS
posted by elpapacito at 9:10 AM on September 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


Based on the number of scammy spam solicitations I get in my inbox for fake journals and fake conferences, I could get my grocery list published if I wanted to.

I must get at least a solicitation a week.

(We've had this discussion before, but these journals are really problematic. Used to be, you could tell a legitimate journal by the absence of page charges. But now with the --- probably good --- rise of open access journals that charge any authors who are unlucky not to have institutional support quite substantial amounts, it's not so easy to tell. )
posted by leahwrenn at 9:23 AM on September 24, 2013


it consisted mostly of real things postmodern French philosophers said.

Do you have a source for that? I had thought that Sokal just put down things that might be taken for what postmodern French philosophers said. And why just French? Is that just part of the folklore surrounding the Sokal stunt?
posted by No Robots at 9:25 AM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


News flash: an obscure Romanian magazine's editorial standards aren't very high.

In the meantime, Elsevier is still publishing Chaos, Solitons & Fractals. At least El Naschie lost his libel case.
posted by Nelson at 9:45 AM on September 24, 2013


We highly recommend reading the article, whose endless inside jokes make it effectively an infinite jest.

I see what they did there.
posted by sour cream at 10:02 AM on September 24, 2013


> Based on the number of scammy spam solicitations I get in my inbox for fake journals and fake conferences, I could get my grocery list published if I wanted to.

I get those almost daily at this point -- it's insane. I sometimes get invitations to be on their editorial boards, too, which is pretty sinister because there are good but naive/tenure-panicked people who fall for it, and it gives these rags an air of legitimacy which is totally undeserved.

> Used to be, you could tell a legitimate journal by the absence of page charges. But now with the --- probably good --- rise of open access journals that charge any authors who are unlucky not to have institutional support quite substantial amounts, it's not so easy to tell.

Well, the quality of other articles and the citations they're receiving -- or even simply being indexed by Scopus/WoS -- are still a good to determine if a journal's legit. That's obviously harder if the journal's new, though, and it definitely creates a market which the mills want to get in on -- the respectable OA journals charge 2-3 grand per article [PLoS, BMC]. (And the discount for people with institutional memberships is only ~10% [eg PLoS], so institutional support doesn't get you much; those fees are still coming out of the research budget.)

Of course, Elsevier owns Scopus, so Chaos, Solitons & Fractals is still indexed ;)
posted by Westringia F. at 10:11 AM on September 24, 2013


Do you have a source for that? I had thought that Sokal just put down things that might be taken for what postmodern French philosophers said. And why just French? Is that just part of the folklore surrounding the Sokal stunt?

The bibliography for the paper is pretty exhaustive. The extensive sourcing was kind of key to his point I think.
posted by echocollate at 11:09 AM on September 24, 2013


...except there are very few actual quotes in the text and notes from the expected culprits. It's just a series of references, and including stuff in the bibliography does not mean that Sokal actually read any of it. "Extensive sourcing" as in compiling a list of texts does not a point make, in itself. And anyway there are more quotes from physicists and chemists than postmodern philosophers.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 11:22 AM on September 24, 2013


Thanks, echocollate, for the link to the Sokal paper with its citation information. Certainly some of the referenced material is from philosophers, some of whom are French. Do they in fact justify the claims made in the paper?

on preview: what Pyrogenesis said.
posted by No Robots at 11:24 AM on September 24, 2013


Do you have a source for that? I had thought that Sokal just put down things that might be taken for what postmodern French philosophers said. And why just French? Is that just part of the folklore surrounding the Sokal stunt?

Sokal made it a point to have his parody only have actual cites. He was not accusing philosophers, et al. of actually making up citations, so he never did that himself. He was accusing them of quoting material without having understood it, and of riffing on science/math concepts in ways which suggested a contempt for the material.

Certainly some of the referenced material is from philosophers, some of whom are French. Do they in fact justify the claims made in the paper?

That's a bit like asking if the Irish really could get all of their caloric intake from babies. Sokal went to great pains to wring the most tortuous conclusions from many of the things that he had cited, especially in the world of math and science. However, he did not go so far as to invent quotes, or anything like that.
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:16 PM on September 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


So Sokal's paper did not consist of 'real things that philosophers said'?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 12:48 PM on September 24, 2013


It was a mishmosh of his own incoherent "theory", parodically inane misinterpretations of science and math, and some connective tissue from the very people he was mocking. AFAIK he did not misrepresent anyone from the humanities.
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:57 PM on September 24, 2013


The basic gist of Sokal's paper is that he took some of these "parodically inane misinterpretations of science and math" by French writers who are taken seriously in the humanities, ferociously agreed with them, and then drew slightly hyperbolic conclusions to the tune that physical laws are a product of our conception.

I read his book about the postmodernists last week, and although I think he is a little hard-headed about the philosophy of science, he really did read the books he cited in the bibliography.

By the way, to Sokal and El Naschie, we might want to add Rosemarie Rizzo Parse, and possibly other editors on the secret blacklist.
posted by shii at 1:40 PM on September 24, 2013


The basic gist of Sokal's paper is that he took some of these "parodically inane misinterpretations of science and math" by French writers who are taken seriously in the humanities, ferociously agreed with them, and then drew slightly hyperbolic conclusions to the tune that physical laws are a product of our conception.

Basically this, although it's a little more involved than that. It's not just that Sokal quotes things that he thinks are stupid, and then agrees with them. He adopts the rhetorical techniques of stupidity.

From A Physicist Experiments With Cultural Studies, in which Sokal revealed his hoax:
The fundamental silliness of my article lies, however, not in its numerous solecisms but in the dubiousness of its central thesis and of the "reasoning'' adduced to support it. Basically, I claim that quantum gravity -- the still-speculative theory of space and time on scales of a millionth of a billionth of a billionth of a billionth of a centimeter -- has profound political implications (which, of course, are "progressive''). In support of this improbable proposition, I proceed as follows: First, I quote some controversial philosophical pronouncements of Heisenberg and Bohr, and assert (without argument) that quantum physics is profoundly consonant with "postmodernist epistemology.'' Next, I assemble a pastiche -- Derrida and general relativity, Lacan and topology, Irigaray and quantum gravity -- held together by vague rhetoric about "nonlinearity'', "flux'' and "interconnectedness.'' Finally, I jump (again without argument) to the assertion that "postmodern science'' has abolished the concept of objective reality. Nowhere in all of this is there anything resembling a logical sequence of thought; one finds only citations of authority, plays on words, strained analogies, and bald assertions.
From Transgressing the Boundaries: An Afterword, which Social Text refused to publish:
Like the genre it is meant to satirize -- myriad exemplars of which can be found in my reference list -- my article is a mélange of truths, half-truths, quarter-truths, falsehoods, non sequiturs, and syntactically correct sentences that have no meaning whatsoever. (Sadly, there are only a handful of the latter: I tried hard to produce them, but I found that, save for rare bursts of inspiration, I just didn't have the knack.) I also employed some other strategies that are well-established (albeit sometimes inadvertently) in the genre: appeals to authority in lieu of logic; speculative theories passed off as established science; strained and even absurd analogies; rhetoric that sounds good but whose meaning is ambiguous; and confusion between the technical and everyday senses of English words.2 (N.B. All works cited in my article are real, and all quotations are rigorously accurate; none are invented.)
Emphasis mine.
posted by Sticherbeast at 2:10 PM on September 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Thank you very much, Sticherbeast, for the links to Sokal's metanarratives. These show that his objectives were far broader than the simple lampooning of postmodernists, French or otherwise.
posted by No Robots at 3:11 PM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


My pleasure. I love political hoaxsters, Sokal being one of my favorites. He was more surgical in his approach than many people give him credit for.
posted by Sticherbeast at 3:44 PM on September 24, 2013


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