From the Sokal affair to the Teissier affair

A session at 12th European Skeptics Congress

  • Jean Bricmont

In 1996, the New York physicist, Alan Sokal, published an article entitled "Transgressing the boundaries. Towards a transformative hermeneutics of quantum gravity.", in a cultural studies journal, Social Text. The text was densely filled with obscure references to modern physics, quotes of famous french and american "postmodern" authors, and embraced quite openly a radically relativist attitude with respect to scientific knowledge. He author revealed later that the article was a hoax, whose goal was to test the willingness of the editors to publish blatant nonsense. In 2001, the astrologer Elisabeth Teissier was awarded a doctorate in sociology at the university of Paris V, for a thesis entitled: Situation épist�mologique de l'astrologie à travers l'ambivalence fascination/rejet dans les sociétés postmodernes, which claimed to be a sociological study of astrological beliefs but in reality was essentially a defense of astrology. These two affairs are quite different (at least concerning the intentions of their authors), but both reveal a hostility to science and a sympathy for the pseudosciences that is surprisingly present in certain academic or intellectual circles, that can loosely be described as postmodernist. My goal will be to try to analyze the connection between pseudoscience and those intellectual currents.

About the speaker

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Jean Bricmont

professor of theoretical physics at the University of Louvain (Belgium). He is the co-author, with Alan Sokal, of the book "Intellectual Impostures"

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Date Sat 15th October 2005


De Markten

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