We use cookies to track usage and preferences. See Cookie Policy
Pocketmags Digital Magazines
CA
Pocketmags Digital Magazines
Christmas Presents
   You are currently viewing the Canada version of the site.
Would you like to switch to your local site?
Digital Subscriptions > Skeptic > 22.3 > More Fashionable Nonsense

More Fashionable Nonsense

Some thoughts on “The Conceptual Penis as a Social Construct” Hoax

Academic hoaxes are nothing new. In 1768, the Baron d’Holbach published the Portable Theology, or Brief Dictionary of the Christian Religion—slyly attributing authorship to the Abbé Bernier—in which he stoutly defended the prevailing Christian dogmas with entries like

Doctrine: What every good Christian must believe or else be burned, be it in this world or the next. The dogmas of the Christian religion are immutable decrees of God, who cannot change His mind except when the Church does.1

Probably not very many people were taken in by the hoax. But d’Holbach’s mordant satire was brilliant nonetheless, and it circulated clandestinely for decades.

In 1931, the physicist Hans Bethe and two colleagues published—while they were still postdoctoral fellows—a short article entitled “On the quantum theory of the temperature of absolute zero,” parodying speculative attempts to determine the fundamental constants of nature by numerology, in the journal Die Naturwissenschaften.2 Senior physicists were not amused, and the authors were forced to apologize.3

In 1943, the young Australian writers James McAuley and Harold Stewart hoaxed the modernist literary journal Angry Penguins into publishing 16 poems allegedly found among the papers of a recently deceased—but, alas, fictitious—poet, Ern Malley:

We opened books at random, choosing a word or phrase haphazardly. We made lists of these and wove them into nonsensical sentences. We misquoted and made false allusions. We deliberately perpetrated bad verse, and selected awkward rhymes from a Ripman’s Rhyming Dictionary.4

The hoax was quickly outed in the Australian press, and the editor of Angry Penguins held up to ridicule. But some critics nowadays claim that “Crazy as it seems, the Malley poems do have merit.”5

So there were precedents—most of which I was unaware of at the time—for my parody article, “Transgressing the boundaries: Towards a transformative hermeneutics of quantum gravity,” which was published in the spring/summer 1996 issue of the cultural-studies journal Social Text.6

But in the past few years, academic hoaxes seem to have proliferated. In 2014, the French sociologists Manuel Quinon and Arnaud Saint-Martin hoaxed the journal Sociétés—edited at the time by the very media-savvy French sociologist Michel Maffesoli—into publishing a hilarious article gushing over the Parisian rental car Autolib’ as

READ MORE
Purchase options below
Find the complete article and many more in this issue of Skeptic - 22.3
If you own the issue, Login to read the full article now.
Single Issue - 22.3
$6.99
Or 699 points
Annual Digital Subscription
Only $ 5.25 per issue
SAVE
25%
$20.99
Or 2099 points

View Issues

About Skeptic

SPECIAL ISSUE: Did a Mysterious Unknown Advanced Civilization Help Ancient Peoples Build Their Monuments? SPECIAL SECTION — EVALUATING THE EVIDENCE FOR AN ADVANCED LOST CIVILIZATION: Debating Science and Lost Civilizations: My Experience on the Joe Rogan Experience by Michael Shermer; Conjuring Up a Lost Civilization: An Analysis of the Claims Made by Graham Hancock in Magicians of the Gods by Marc Defant; Lost Civilizations and Imaginative Conjectures: An Analysis of the Myths and History of Graham Hancock’s Magicians of the Gods by Tim Callahan. SPECIAL SECTION — AN ACADEMIC HOAX: Failure to Communicate: Why We Published the “Conceptual Penis as a Social Construct” Hoax Exposé by Michael Shermer; The Conceptual Penis as a Social Construct: A Sokal-Style Hoax on Gender Studies by Peter Boghossian (aka Peter Boyle, Ed.D.) and James Lindsay (aka, Jamie Lindsay, Ph.D.); More Fashionable Nonsense Some thoughts on “The Conceptual Penis as a Social Construct” Hoax by Alan Sokal. ARTICLES: Big News on Homo naledi: More Fossils and a Surprising Young Age by Nathan H. Lents; The Real Origin of UFOs and Aliens: How the Media Shaped Our Ideas About Extraterrestrials by Tim Callahan; Publicly Funded Stem Cell Research: California’s $3-Billion Experiment in Public Science by Raymond Barglow; How to Tame a Fox and Build a Dog by Lee Dugatkin and Lyudmila Trut; Science, Facts, and “Provisional” Knowledge by David Zeigler. COLUMNS: The SkepDoc: Juicing for Health or Torture by Harriet Hall, M.D. The Gadfly: Our Angry Era by Carol Tavris. JUNIOR SKEPTIC: Zombies: The Gruesome True Story of Zombies by Daniel Loxton
Ways to Pay Pocketmags Payment Types
At Pocketmags you get Secure Billing Great Offers HTML Reader Gifting options Loyalty Points