The Theory of Evolution and the Life of its Author in Contemporary British Fiction and Non-Fiction
Darwinism and the Humanities
In 1996 Alan Sokal, a French physicist outraged by the careless and pompous way in which French humanist illuminati refer in their essays to scientific terms and notions they plainly do not understand, decided to test the gullibility of Academia by preparing what is now known as Sokal’s hoax. Compiling fragments of articles written by postmodern philosophers (Gilles Delleuze, Jacques Derrida, Luce Irigaray, Jacques Lacan, Jean-Francois Lyotard, and others) he produced an apparently very ‘learned’ and patently nonsensical piece of writing he entitled “Transgressing the Boundaries. Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity”. His ‘essay’ was absurd: its paragraphs taken from diverse sources went together neither thematically nor logically, and the conclusion was not at all related to the argument. As far as ideologically-charged terms and phrases go, “Transgressing the Boundaries….” aped post-structural philosophy in its effort to prove that Enlightenment dogmas are dated. It argued that there is no outside world independent of the human perception of it, that what we call reality is a culture-dependent socio-linguistic concept, and that both Euclid and Newton are wrong. Sokal demonstrated that last matter using a number of very twisted references to the newest theories of space-time and ‘post-Heisenbergian physics’. Generally, Sokal’s article claims that empiricism is always tainted by cultural relativism and that virtually nothing can be said to be universal – even gravity itself. What Newton erroneously described as a universal “g” factor is in fact relative and embedded in the bygone historical situation of 17th-century England.
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