Last year, James Lindsay and Peter Boghossian had a Sokal moment, when their conceptual penis paper was published by the online journal Cogent Social Science, in a hoax that aimed to show how gender studies journals would publish any load of rubbish, as long as it was ideologically aligned with the journal.
This year, Lindsay and Boghossian joined forces with Helen Pluckrose, and they managed to produce 20 faux papers for all kinds of grievance studies journals before the Wall Street Journal got itself involved. That’s why the three of them revealed their project this week, in what ought to be the most epic trolling of postmodernism charlatanry.
So far, so good. I have a quibble with both the conceptual penis paper and the grievance studies project, though — they are both, in my view, giving the right answer to the wrong kind of question.
See, the Sokal-like hoaxing of postmodernist journals seeks to answer whether grievance studies fields are fertile for pseudoscience, where anything that accuses men, whites and cis-straight people of any (actual or perceived) atrocity will get published, no matter how absurd, even if it is clearly nonsense that denies the most basic biology. And the answer is yes, they do.
The issue for me, however, is that these hoaxes only prove that grievance studies journals will publish nonsense that falls in line with their ideology. They do not prove that everything published by these journals is rubbish… which has been more or less what everyone has taken the successful hoaxing to mean.
There are, nonetheless, much more powerful questions to show the intellectual bankruptcy of postmodernism. For instance:
• How have grievance studies served to expand human knowledge?
• Which peer-reviewed papers published in long-standing grievance studies journals with high impact factor have allowed us to know things we did not know before, and would have never found out otherwise?
• What can we claim with reasonable certainty today, thanks to grievance studies, that we did not know 10, 20, 30 years ago?
• What is the predictive capacity of grievance studies — have they offered us enough knowledge to make a claim such as “Under ABC conditions, if Z occurs, we will have Y, with a probability of X%, for (individuals from) populations 123“, and have that claim tested against and contrasted with the rest of the body of accumulated human knowledge?
• Is there, perhaps, in the annals of science a hypothesis that was once considered sound knowledge and that, thanks to grievance studies, has been later refuted, refined, improved, replaced, enlarged or modified in such a way that it contributed to expanding our understanding of the world around us and/or our brains?
As far as I know —and I am completely open to the possibility of being wrong here— since their appearance, grievance studies have not offered any kind of satisfactory answer to any of these questions. Thus, I rest my case.