From Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 28(2), 1997: 219-35

Splendours and Miseries of the Science Wars

Nick Jardine and Marina Frasca-Spada*

``Reasonable men may be allowed to differ, where no one can reasonably be positive.''
(D. Hume, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion)


In Higher Superstition, published early in 1994, biologist Paul R. Gross and mathematician Norman Levitt denounced an `Academic Left' at once militant and ill-informed in its criticisms of science. Gross and Levitt showed sharp eyes for the pretentious and absurd in the works of American postmodernists, feminists, multiculturalists, radical environmentalists and, alas, exponents of science studies -- that is, historians, philosophers and sociologists of science. In the Autumn of 94, physicist Alan Sokal, inspired by Gross and Levitt's book, submitted a spoof article portentously entitled `Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity' to Social Text, a leading journal in the expanding field of cultural studies. As he later told Janny Scott of the New York Times:

I structured the article around the silliest quotations about mathematics and physics from the most prominent academics, and I invented an argument praising them and linking them together. All this was very easy to carry off, because my article wasn't obliged to respect any standards of evidence or logic.

The editors of Social Text were hoodwinked. By an unhappy coincidence, shortly after receiving Sokal's article they decided to produce a special `Science Wars' collection, including the unrefereed article together with responses to Higher Superstition. `Transgressing the Boundaries' duly appeared in the Spring/Summer 96 double issue, accompanied by articles from a number of those denounced by Gross and Levitt and lampooned by Sokal -- the perfect setting!

Yet more unhappily for the editors, Sokal's article is very funny indeed, containing such widely quoted gems as:

... the pi of Euclid and the G of Newton, formerly thought to be constant and universal, are now perceived in their ineluctable historicity; and the putative observer becomes fatally decentered from any epistemic space-time point.

And (our own favourite), a learned footnote to the effect that:

Just as liberal feminists are frequently content with a minimal agenda of legal and social equality for women and `pro-choice', so liberal (and even some socialist) mathematicians are often content to work within the hegemonic Zermelo-Fraenkel framework (which, reflecting its nineteenth-century liberal origins, already incorporates the axiom of equality). But this framework is grossly insufficient for a liberatory mathematics, as was proved long ago by Cohen 1966.

To add to the merriment, when Sokal `confessed', one of the editors of Social Text accused him of fraud. Another at first opined that Sokal's admission `represented a change of heart, or a folding of his intellectual resolve'. As Sokal observed, `Oh, well!'

[figure 1]

This will, we predict, go down in history as one of the all-time great hoaxes, on a par, say, with Defoe's A Short Way with Dissenters and Swift's Modest Proposal. It has received extensive media coverage, has sparked off heated exchanges in newspapers and periodicals, has fuelled dozens of seminars and conferences, and has been escalating on the Internet on a quite extraordinary scale.

Before looking on the bright side, let us pause awhile on the regrettable aspects of the Science Wars.

Some of the interventions have indeed verged on paranoia. An internationally famed sociobiologist is said to have astonishingly pronounced that ``multiculturalism equals relativism equals no supercollider equals communism''; and a senior and respected sociologist of science has charged the angry physicists with ``insidious harassment which comes close to constituting an offence against natural justice''. With calmer aggression, Lewis Wolpert has declared:

You might expect that the sociologists and philosophers would have helped to illuminate the nature of science. The great disappointment is that not only have they failed to illuminate it, but they have actually obfuscated it... Why are the sociologists of science doing this? I can only give a sociological explanation. It's little more than envy. For me science has been remarkably successful in providing us with an understanding of the world.

Bruno Latour by contrast has maintained:

A small number of theoretical physicists deprived of the fat budgets of the cold war, seek a new menace against which they heroically offer the protection of their esprit... France, in their eyes, has become another Colombia, a country of dealers who produce hard drugs -- derridium, lacanium, to which American doctoral students have no more resistance than to crack.

Moreover, depressingly authoritarian attitudes have been much in evidence, humourless condemnations of Sokal for betrayal of editorial trust being countered with dour denunciations of the editors of Social Text for want of editorial vigilance. (We feel bound to declare out of solidarity with other overworked editors that such spoofing is excusable only when the spoof is seriously funny.)

Sokal, like Gross and Levitt, is dismayed by the irrationalism and the subversion of science that he sees as rampant among postmodernists and leftists (who should, he thinks, know better) in the American humanities. Now the merits or demerits of postmodernism and leftism are hardly matters for a Studies editorial. However, there are issues raised by the Science Wars and the Sokal affair that are of specific concern to those who read, write, and edit Studies. In addressing these issues we shall not presume to take a stand on one side or other in the controversy. Nor could we do so, beyond hearty endorsement of such minima moralia as Sokal's plea for `reasoned argument over wishful thinking, superstition and demagoguery' and Andrew Ross's plea for `non-scientists' participation in decision making about science's priorities'. For as a moderate pragmatist and sceptic respectively, we are bound to sit on the fence, suspicious both of glib pronouncements about the social construction or gendered constitution of scientific truth and reality, and of uncritical claims for the power of the scientific method to yield theories which mirror the world-in-itself.

Of course, anything which encourages an actual or perceived association between science studies and `science bashing' is damaging to us -- not merely because it threatens our institutional support and funding, but more importantly, and more insidiously, because it compromises the legitimate critical roles of historians, philosophers and sociologists of science in debate over scientific education, policy and accountability. On this score the Sokal hoax may have done a modicum of harm; but this is, in our view, more than compensated for by its fostering of debate between scientists and their critics.

In the 1950s and 60s -- the `golden age' of Popper, Conant, Kuhn, Feyerabend, Bronowski, Merton -- the emerging fields of science studies were in constant dialogue with the sciences. Then, with the consolidation of science studies as university disciplines in the 70s and 80s, the dialogue with scientists faded away. Higher Superstition and the Sokal affair, however, have provoked a renewed and public engagement with scientists on central issues concerning the nature of scientific truth and rationality, and the unity and autonomy of science. Though much of the debate has been hostile and fraught with misunderstanding, such engagement is, we believe, of the greatest importance for our culture and its fate. For these are at once central topics within science studies, and issues with direct and substantial implications for science policy and accountability, for science education, and for the public awareness of the sciences.


The status of the findings of science -- are they social constructs, or truths about nature, or perhaps both? -- is the most chewed-on bone of contention in these Science Wars. Thus, Gross and Levitt object to Evelyn Fox Keller's statement:

Recent developments in the history and philosophy of science have led to a reevaluation that acknowledges that the goals, methods, theories, and even the actual data of the natural sciences are not written in nature; all are subject to the play of social forces.

Instead, they voice their own conviction that:

Few serious thinkers about science, however, outside the camps of feminists and social constructivists, argue that the stable results of science, those that have been subject to empirical test over time and have survived, are not written in nature. Most know that whatever the underlying calligraphy, self-correcting science is the best translation of it we have.

Similarly, Sokal insists that the scientific method yields true laws of nature; and with Johnsonian delicacy he invites anyone who believes the laws to be mere social constructs `to try transgressing those conventions' from the windows of his twenty-first floor apartment. Oh, well!

Johnson himself once declared: `Depend on it, Sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully'. Sokal's kindly invitation should similarly focus our faculties. Johnson famously kicked a stone to refute Berkeley's alleged denial of the existence of matter. But posterity has not endorsed Johnson's short way with idealism, judging that idealist metaphysics has adequate resources to come to terms with the pains of stone-kicking. Similarly, one may doubt the efficacy of Sokal's short way with social constructivism.

Sokal's window test is not without precedent -- in Hume's Dialogues Cleanthes jests:

Whether your scepticism be as absolute and sincere as you pretend, we shall learn bye and bye, when the company breaks up: We shall then see, whether you go out at the door or the window; and whether you really doubt, if your body has gravity, or can be injured by its fall; according to popular opinion, derived from our fallacious senses and more fallacious experience.

Now the test would surely be effective against anyone who held that the truth of opinions about gravity of bodies and their vulnerability to impact could be made or unmade by social convention. But it is the laws of physics, not everyday knowledge, that are at issue. Doubtless a suitably refined window test, in which the descent of the social constructivists was suitably monitored and measured, would bear witness to the predictive power of some laws of aerodynamics. But even the most intrepid science warriors presumably acknowledge that predictive power. Indeed, many of the concerns about the destructive environmental and social impacts of the sciences which motivate radical critiques are premised on recognition of their powers of prediction and control.

Sokal, one may suspect, supposes that the formidable predictive power of the laws of physics would be miraculous unless, by and large, they were at least approximately true. But this, though plausible, is on a number of counts contestable. There are some who would argue that just as there are divergent metaphysical systems compatible with the pains of stone-kicking, so there are divergent theories empirically equivalent to our best physical theories. It is further called in question by the historical record, which reveals many predictively powerful theories that are substantially false from the standpoint of the theories we now hold true. Finally, there is the argument that the truth of theory is not needed to explain the predictive power of physics: given the long history of painstaking selection for empirical adequacy, it would be surprising if physics did not have great predictive power.

The miracle argument becomes yet more contentious if the objective truth of physical laws is cashed out in terms of `one-to-one correspondence with aspects of objective reality' (Weinberg), or `translations of nature's underlying calligraphy' (Gross and Levitt). Many impeccably pro-science philosophers hold empiricist or pragmatist views at odds with such strong realist construals of truth in science. Nor are Gross and Levitt safe in supposing such views to be the consensus of scientists. Weinberg is probably right in implying that many natural scientists now endorse some such account of the objective nature of scientific knowledge. However, instrumentalism was rife amongst scientists at the beginning of our century, and many scientists still regard theoretical laws as convenient predictive devices rather than portrayals of nature.

Of course, if we do accept the shaky inference from predictive power to approximate truth, then refined versions of Cleanthes' window test can be applied to relativists who deny that the sciences accumulate truths about the world. But these candidates for defenestration are oddly elusive. Weinberg, for example, cites Sandra Harding's announcements that modern science is `not only sexist, but also racist, classist, and culturally coercive', and that `physics and chemistry, mathematics and logic, bear the fingerprints of their distinctive cultural creators, no less than do anthropology and history'. As Weinberg indicates, there is some apparent tension between such statements and a view of science as yielding `accurate accounts of an objective reality'. But Harding's and similar remarks are open to interpretation not as espousals of relativism about the truth of the findings of science, but as claims about the effectiveness of power and prejudice in defining the agendas and applications of science. This may be provocative and open to historical question in particular cases, but it is a serious and copiously documented contention. And it is in no way at odds with the view of science as an accumulation of objective truths.

What of the `methodological' relativist claim that in accounting for beliefs historians and sociologists of science should proceed without regard to their truth or falsity? To justify this precept appeal is often made to a constructivist view of truth and representation, as in the following `rule of method' from Latour:

Rule 3 Since the settlement of a controversy is the cause of Nature's representation, not its consequence, we can never use this consequence, Nature, to explain how or why a controversy has been settled.

Methodological relativism is widely endorsed by historians and sociologists of the sciences. Certainly there is much that is unsatisfactory in traditional accounts of scientific progress in which attainment of truths is explained by disinterested adherence to scientific method, lapses into error by personal, social, and political bias. The truth or falsity by our lights of past and alien belief systems often appears irrelevant in accounting for their genesis. However, true or `ontological' relativism, relativism about truth, is not entailed by methodological relativism. So historians and sociologists whose practice embodies methodological relativism are not thereby committed to a relativism about truth at odds with a view of the sciences as accumulators of objective knowledge. Nevertheless, many historians and sociologists have, it seems, been lured into ontological relativism by the attractions of methodological relativism.

In fact, considerations of historical method appear to count against certain forms of relativism about truth. For constructivist accounts of truth do, as Latour implies, block appeals to truth in explaining the genesis of scientific beliefs. Yet, it seems obvious that the evaluation of testimony, on which inquiry in the history of the sciences ultimately rests, often involves accounting for scientific beliefs in terms of their truth or falsity and of the competence of witnesses.

What, finally, of the social constructivist claim that consensus on novelties in the sciences is generally the product of negotiations among parties whose attitudes and arguments are conditioned by extraneous interests? Again, the conflict with scientific realism is hard to pin down. The claim is indeed subversive, often intentionally so, of stereotypes of science as disinterested pursuit of knowledge. But, as it stands, it is compatible with the view that by and large in the long run reasonable argument and responsiveness to experimental findings do prevail. There are, however, versions of this claim that clearly do threaten the view that the sciences accumulate knowledge through the use of reliable methods. Thus, Latour and Woolgar in Laboratory Life suggest that scientists' stories about the fair and methodical procedures by which experimental facts are established are often retrospective legitimations, at odds with the strategies actually employed. More specifically, in his Changing Order Harry Collins has argued that the replication of experiments and calibration of instruments to which scientists appeal when faced with controversial experimental findings often involve an `experimenter's regress' in which production of the desired result is the only evidence of successful calibration or replication; and that the controversies are in reality settled by scientific elites on altogether different grounds. One may well question the prevalence of the experimenter's regress, and whether in the examples Collins gives the replications and calibrations do in fact involve viciously circular reasoning -- but here at last we find a genuine challenge to realist views of scientific objectivity and progress.


Once it is acknowledged that the West does not have a monopoly on all the good scientific ideas in the world, or that reason, divorced from value, is not everywhere and always a productive human principle, then we should expect to see some self-modification of the universalist claims maintained on behalf of empirical rationality. Only then can we begin to talk about different ways of doing science, ways that downgrade methodology, experiment and manufacturing, in favour of local environments, cultural values, and principles of social justice.

Thus Andrew Ross in his introduction to the Science Wars issue of Social Text. By contrast, many of the pro-science warriors have declared their allegiance to what Gross and Levitt engagingly characterise as `the dissecting blade of scientific scepticism, with its insistence that theories are worthy of respect only to the extent that their assertions pass the twin test of internal logical consistency and empirical verifications'.

Here, it seems, we have a genuine confrontation, and one that does effectively divide many natural scientists from many of their radical critics. On the one hand is the view that a reasonably well defined method, widely applied in the sciences, is our only reliable route to systematic knowledge of nature. Opposed to this are views like Ross's, according to which there is no one such universal thing as the scientific method, but rather a multiplicity of radically divergent, locally valid means to the attainment of insight into nature.

Again, the polarisation is not quite so stark as the science warriors have made it appear. Thus, all but the most radical exponents of epistemic pluralism pay at least lip service to certain minima rationalia, accepting coherence and responsiveness to experience as virtues, if not always cardinal virtues. Further, there is a wide range in pluralist epistemologies, from those which insist only on the radical differences between methods within the domain of the sciences as traditionally understood, to those like Ross's, which embrace alternative ways of knowing outside that domain. On the other side, even the most ardent champions of the scientific method allow for some variation in the styles of inquiry appropriate in different disciplines at different times. Moreover, their prescriptions vary widely, some merely endorsing the Huxleyan view of scientific method as disciplined and organised common sense, some backing a more specific methodology, Popperian, Bayesian, or whatever.

As with the issue of scientific realism, appeal to the consensus of practising scientists is of little avail here. For there is no such consensus: studies of scientific practice reveal extraordinary diversity even amongst declared adherents of a single `official' methodology.

Nor will appeal to philosophers of science -- traditionally happy to pontificate on the issue -- be of much help. For there is currently the most lively debate among them on the question of the unity of scientific method. Moreover, there is a sharp division between `rationalists', who hold that methods are to be justified in terms of their conformity to reason, and `naturalists', who hold that only a track record of reliability can vindicate a method.

The current debates on the nature and status of the methods of the sciences have obvious and major moral and social implications. Should there be a single scientific method, a single route to systematic knowledge of nature, clearly it should be taught, and taught well. If, however, the reliable routes to knowledge vary widely from scientific discipline to scientific discipline and from field to field within disciplines, then this diversity of methods should be taught, and taught well. Likewise, supposing there to be effective and organised ways of knowing nature beyond the bounds of the sciences as currently established -- among collectivities of women, in other cultures, in ethnic minority groups, then they too should be respected and, insofar as it is possible, shared.


We must hope that the painful bolus of postmodernism will pass through the costive bowels of academic life sooner rather than later. Pass, of course, it will eventually. Keeping the hard sciences from contamination should not be impossible...

The Science Wars are marked by a high incidence of the language of the purification rituals with which according to Mary Douglas threatened groups typically maintain their solidarity and integrity. As Douglas emphasises, concerns about contamination and defilement are particularly in evidence when the threat is from something that is of uncertain status, neither flesh nor fowl: science studies, bordering as they do on the Humanities and Sciences, are just such ambiguous objects.

Here, yet again, an apparently simple confrontation -- science as a disinterested pursuit of knowledge vs sciences as socially and politically engaged activities -- masks a multitude of currently contentious issues. First and foremost, there is the question of the extent to which the doctrines of the sciences are constituted by the social and political conditions of their production, the issue that excites in Weinberg the fear that

If we think that scientific laws are flexible enough to be affected by the social setting of their discovery, then some may be tempted to press scientists to discover laws that are more proletarian or feminine or American or religious or Aryan or whatever else it is they want.

Bound up with this is the difficult issue of separability of the strict contents of the sciences from the images, metaphors and interpretations that may be used to teach or popularise them, or to extrapolate them into new areas. There is, to be sure, little problem in separating chaos theory itself from the metaphorical extensions of it into the domains of culture and politics which Gross and Levitt dismiss as `confused', `vaporous' and `grotesque'. More questionable is their suggestion that in discussing gender-laden language the authors of ``The Importance of Feminist Critique for Contemporary Cell Biology'' mistake ``imagery'' for biological content. For the distinction appears unworkable in a field as pervaded by gender-laden language as reproductive cytology -- unless, question-beggingly, gender-ladenness is taken to imply metaphorical status.

It is one thing to use the distinction between scientific content and its metaphorical expressions and extrapolations in order to deny the socially-, politically-, or gender-laden nature of the sciences; it is quite another to absolve the sciences altogether from social and political answerability. Full moral absolution of science would require the isolation of pure science from the applications of science, and of pure research activities from social and political activities. The inextricability thesis to the effect that no principled distinction can be drawn between scientific, technological and socio-political activities is widely endorsed amongst sociologists and historians of the sciences. But even if such distinctions can be made in principle, given the extent to which research agendas in the sciences are manifestly linked with commercial, military, medical, etc. concerns, it is hard to make them in practice.

Despite the difficulties of `decontamination', disinterested knowledge remains a prevalent and powerful ideal. What is the status of this ideal? In `Science and the Social Order' (1938) R. K. Merton, echoing Max Weber, assigned to this ideal the function of preserving science from ever becoming `the handmaiden of theology or economy or state'; and he alluded to the distorted sciences of the Nazi regime as a cautionary tale. By contrast, in his `Irresponsible Purity' Herbert Mehrtens has argued that these ideals played the diametrically opposed role of facilitating collaboration with the NS state by mystifying the nature of scientific activity. How far science is, can be, and should be a disinterested pursuit of knowledge, the issue that we take to lie at the very heart of the Science Wars, is a matter of the most immediate moral concern.


As we have seen, this latest bout in the Science Wars revolves around questions concerning the objectivity, unity and purity of the sciences, questions that have immense educational, social, and political implications. Science studies address these questions. In certain areas -- medical and environmental ethics, participant-observer sociological studies of laboratory life, philosophy of quantum physics, for example -- there is ongoing dialogue with scientists. But by and large exponents of science studies nowadays talk to, read, and write for other exponents of science studies. Only a modest proportion of the institutions of science education offer courses in science studies, and at those which do the take-up rate is generally quite small. Except in the fields of medical and environmental ethics, philosophers, sociologists and historians of science are rarely called on as advisors in matters of science policy, and yet more rarely perceived as having anything to offer to the actual conduct of scientific research. Moreover, in the domain of public awareness, the mid-century vision of Bernal, Bronowski, Conant, Warren Weaver and others of historians and philosophers of science as educators of the public has borne sadly little fruit. To be sure, historians of science are involved on a modest scale in such institutions as the Committee on the Public Understanding of Science. But in the media as a whole critics of literature and the arts outnumber commentators on the sciences by dozens to one.

Yet, as Latour has observed in connection with the Sokal hoax,

All of us, researchers in the exact and in the soft sciences, politicians and users, have an interest in possessing the most realistic possible vision of what the sciences are and are not capable of doing. We are all in the same boat, launched into the same controversies.

If there is to be informed debate on these issues, and if the Enlightenment vision of the sciences endorsed by Sokal as instruments of human betterment and liberation is to be sustained, then it is crucial that there be dialogue between policy makers, educators and scientists on the one hand, and historians of science, philosophers of science and sociologists of science on the other.

If such dialogue is to yield mutual enlightenment, the participants should make proper efforts to inform themselves adequately of the others' disciplines. This is not just a matter of exponents of science studies taking care to avoid scientific errors of the kinds exposed by Gross and Levitt, of scientists acquainting themselves with the findings and theoretical frameworks of historians, philosophers and sociologists. Worthwhile conversation requires also sensitivity to others' norms of inquiry and communication. For example, within the sciences provocation and satire are not officially acknowledged activities. Though one might not think it given some of the reactions to Sokal's hoax, in the humanities these are eminently respectable genres dating from classical antiquity -- think of Socrates. But to the extent that they try to engage with scientists, exponents of science studies should be aware that such tactics -- much in evidence in Latour's writings, for example -- are liable to be mistaken by scientists for subversion and flippancy.

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Equally important is awareness of the boundaries of the disciplines. Of course, there may be much to analyse and criticise in demarcations of science from non-science, elite science from popular science, orthodox science from marginal science; and the boundaries between ``academic'' science studies and popular and journalistic reflections on the sciences are equally open to question. But whether critical or irenic, constructive interdisciplinary dialogue requires knowledge of the ways in which the lines are conventionally drawn between sound science and third-rate or crank science, between well-researched and unbiased science studies and unscholarly or prejudiced science studies.

Much of the debate sparked off by Sokal's hoax has signally failed to measure up to the standards of conversational decency. But a war of words, with what ambassadors call `a frank exchange of views', is better than the cold war of silent mutual suspicion. To the extent that it has fostered communication on issues of outstanding public concern everyone -- even editors -- should welcome Sokal's little joke.

A mathematician friend recently declared that in these Science Wars decent people should stand up and be counted. Well, even sedate pragmatists and sceptics must rise to such a challenge. We, and Studies, are pro responsibly conducted science, pro informed and well argued criticism and celebration of the sciences, and pro dialogue with scientists.


For extensive advice we thank Nick Hopwood, Harmke Kamminga, Peter Lipton, Emma Spary. We also profited greatly from meetings of the Cambridge Historiography Group devoted to ``Purity in the Sciences'', ``The Moral Responsibility of Historians'', and ``The Epistemology of Testimony''. Useful information was provided by Sachiko Kusukawa, Greg Radick, Simon Schaffer, Anne Secord, Jim Secord, Liba Taub. None of the above bear responsibility for views expressed here.


* Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge, Free School Lane, Cambridge CB2 3RH, U. K.

P. R. Gross and N. Levitt, Higher Superstition. The Academic Left and Its Quarrels with Science (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins, 1994).

J. Scott, ``Postmodern gravity deconstructed, slyly'', New York Times, 18 May 1996, p. 22.

For editors' accounts of the sequence of events see B. Robbins and A. Ross, ``Mystery Science Theater Forum'', Lingua Franca, July-August 1996, (on the Internet: <>); and A. Ross, Times Higher Education Supplement, 17-22 June 1996 (<>).

Sokal, ``Transgressing the Boundaries'', p. 222.

Ibid., pp. 242-3.

For Sokal's confession, planned to coincide with the publication of ``Transgressing the Boundaries'', see ``A Physicist Experiments with Cultural Studies'', Lingua Franca, May-June 1996, 262-4 (<>); for the editors' responses see S. Fish, ``Professor Sokal's Bad Joke'', New York Times, 21 May 1996, p. A25; Robbins and Ross, ``Mystery Science Theater Forum''.

This is not without precedent. William Whiston, natural philosopher and former Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge, never conceded that Mary Toft's giving birth to seventeen rabbits in 1726 had been a hoax. See Dennis Todd, Imagining Monsters: Miscreations of the Self in Eighteenth-Century England (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1995).

Sokal, reply to the editors of Social Text, Lingua Franca, July-August 1996 (<>).

Periodical exchanges include: New York Times (18, 21, 23 May 1996); New York Review of Books (8 August and 3 October 1996); Times Literary Supplement (13, 20, 27 December 1996, 3, 10 January 1997); Le Monde (3, 20, December 1996, 3, 14, 18, 31 January, 11, 14 February 1997); Nature (30 January 1997). For a constantly updated list of publications and Internet sites see Jason Walsh, ``Sokal and Social Text'', <>. On 2 March this site recorded 12,223 visitors since 4 June 96 (it recorded 11,376 visitors on 13 February 97, and 9,886 visitors on 20 January 97). An excellent forum is in the ``Books'' section of Salon Table Talk, ``Alan Sokal's Hoax: Did Social Text deserve what it got?'' (started on August 12 or Sept 4, 96, it included 380 messages at 4 Feb 97) (<>).

E. O. Wilson as reported by A. Ross, ``Science Backlask on Technoskeptics: Culture Wars, Spill Over'', The Cultural Studies Times, <> (reprinted from The Nation, 2 October 1995); D. Edge, ``The Umpire Strikes Back'', Internet EASST Website 16/2/97.

Aisling Irwin, ``Sociology Row Erupts at BA'', Times Higher Education Supplement, 16 September 1994, p. 44.

B. Latour, ``Y-at-il une science apres la guerre froide?'', Le Monde, 17 January 1997.

For charges of fraud against Sokal see S. Fish, ``Sokal's Bad Joke''; S. Fuller, letter to New York Times, 23 May 1996, p. A28. For indictment of the editors for carelessness see Sokal, ``A Physicist Experiments with Cultural Studies''; ``Professor Sokal's Transgression'', in Notes and Comments, The New Criterion, June 1996.

Sokal, ``A Physicist Experiments with Cultural Studies'', and ``Transgressing the Boundaries: An Afterword'' (<>).

Sokal, ``A Plea for Reason, Evidence and Logic'', New Politics 6 (1997), 126-129, p. 126 (<>); Ross, ``Introduction'', Social Text 47 (1996), 1-14, p. 12.

For the editor's moderate pragmatism see N. Jardine, The Fortunes of Inquiry (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1986), and The Scenes of Inquiry, (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1991); for the associate editor's moderate scepticism see M. Frasca-Spada, ``The Existence of External Objects in Hume' s Treatise: Realism, Scepticism, and the Task of Philosophy'', forthcoming in R. Popkin and J. van der Zante (eds), Skepticism at the End of the Eighteenth and the Beginning of the Nineteenth Century, Leiden: Brill.

As cited in Gross and Levitt, Higher Superstition, p. 139.

Sokal, ``A Physicist Experiments with Cultural Studies''.

J. Boswell, Life of Samuel Johnson, ed. G. Birkbeck Hill, rev. and enl. by L. F. Powell, 4 vols (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1934), vol. 3, p. 167.

D. Hume, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, edit. with an intr. by N. Kemp Smith, 2nd ed., with supplement (London: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1947), Part 1, p. 132. Note that in the Dialogue the ``Socrates of Edinburgh'' has Cleanthes address his jest to Philo, his own sceptical persona.

See, for example, D. W. O. Quine, ``On Empirically Equivalent Systems of the World'', Erkenntnis 9 (1975), 313-328, and W. Newton-Smith, ``The Underdetermination of Theory by Data'', Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, suppl. vol. 52 (1978), 71-91.

See, for example, L. Laudan, ``A Confutation of Convergent Realism'', Philosophy of Science 48 (1991), 19-49.

See B. C. van Fraassen, The Scientific Image (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1980), ch. 2; for a reply, P. Lipton, Inference to the Best Explanation (London: Routledge, 1991), ch. 9.

S. Weinberg, ``Sokal's Hoax'', New York Review of Books, 8 August 1996, 11-15, p. 14; Gross and Levitt, Higher Superstition, p. 139.

To mention but a few: B. van Fraassen, op. cit.; H. Putnam, Reason, Truth and History (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1981); I. Hacking, Representing and Intervening (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983).

``Sokal's Hoax'', p. 14.

On instrumentalism amongst scientists at the end of the nineteenth century see: M. R. Gardner, ``Realism and Instrumentalism in 19th-Century Atomism'', Philosophy of Science 46 (1979), 1-34; M. J. Nye, Molecular Reality (London: Macdonald and New York: American Elsevier, 1972), ch. 1; J. Heilbron, ``Fin-de-siecle Physics'', in C. G. Bernhard, E. Crawford, and P. Sorbom (eds), Science, Technology and Society in the Time of Alfred Nobel (Oxford and New York: Published for the Nobel Foundation by Pergamon Press, 1982), pp. 51-73.

S. Harding, The Science Question in Feminism (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1986), pp. 9, 250.

``Sokal's Hoax'', p. 14.

Indeed, Harding' s remarks should, we think, be taken in this way; for in her contribution to the Social Text `Science Wars' issue she declares: `Science studies does not claim that sciences are epistemologically relative to each and every culture's beliefs such that all are equally defensible as true. Rather, the point is that they are historically relative to different cultures' projects -- to cultures' questions about the natural and social orders' (``Thinking Science, Thinking Society'', Social Text 14 (1996), 15-26, p. 16).

For example, in the history of natural history the shaping of agendas by imperial interests and activities is well substantiated: see, e.g., M. L. Pratt, Imperial Eyes. Travel Writing and Transculturation (London: Routledge, 1992); R. Grove, Green Imperialism: Colonial Expansion, Tropical Island Edens, and the Origins of Environmentalism, 1600-1860 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995); D. P. Miller (ed.), Visions of Empire. Voyages, Botany, and Representation of Nature (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996); N. Jardine, J. A. Secord and E. C. Spary (eds), Cultures of Natural History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996) (articles by L. Koerner, M. Dettelbach, J. Browne, G. Beer, and M. T. Bravo).

Science in Action, p. 258. This ``rule of method'' is criticised by Sokal, ``Pourquoi j'ai ecrit ma parodie'', Le Monde, 31 January 1997; expanded version ``Les mystifications philosophiques du professeur Latour'' (<>).

See P. Lipton, ``The Epistemology of Testimony'', essay review of C. A. J. Coady, Testimony: a Philosophical Study (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992), and S. Shapin, The Social History of Truth: Civility and Science in Seventeenth-Century England (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1994), forthcoming in Studies in History and Philosophy of Science.

However, there is something distinctly fishy about Stanley Fish's declaration that the story sociologists of science tell is `full of honor for scientists' and that ```socially constructed'' is a compliment paid to a fact that has emerged... into a real and productive life'. Could this be a counter-spoof? For a hilarious travesty of Fish's response to the hoax see ``Fish at Lagado University'' (<>).

B. Latour and S. Woolgar, Laboratory Life. The Construction of Scientific Facts (Beverly Hills: Sage Publications, 1979; 2nd ed. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1986).

H. Collins, Changing Order. Replication and Induction in Scientific Practice (London: Sage Publications, 1985), chs 3-4.

For attempts to counter the experimenter's regress see N. Jardine, The Scenes of Inquiry, ch. 9; A. Franklin, ``How to Avoid the Experimenter's Regress'', Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 25 (1994), 463-91.

A. Ross, Introduction, Social Text 14 (1996), 1-14, p. 4.

Higher Superstition, p. 24.

On radical diversity within the sciences see, e.g., L. Laudan, Science and Hypothesis. Historical Essays on Scientific Methodology (Dordrecht: D. Reidel, 1981); I. Hacking, ``Language, Truth and Reason'', in M. Hollis and S. Lukes (eds), Rationality and Relativism (Oxford: Blackwell, 1982); Jardine, The Scenes of Inquiry, chs 5 and 8; P. Galison and D. J. Stump (eds), The Disunity of Science: Boundaries, Contexts, and Power (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1976) (especially the articles by I. Hacking and A. I. Davidson).

On diversity of practices among followers of the Newtonian ``rules of philosophising'', the Baconian method, and Popperian falsificationsm, respectively, see: T. M. Brown, ``From Mechanism to Vitalism in Nineteenth-Century Britain'', Journal of the History of Biology 7 (1981), 389-407; R. Yeo, ``An Idol of the Marketplace: Baconianism in Nineteenth-Century Britain'', History of Science 23 (1985), 251-98; M. Mulkay and N. Gilbert, ``Putting Philosophy to Work: Karl Popper's Influence on Scientific Practice'', Philosophy of the Social Sciences 11 (1981), 389-407.

See, e.g., A. Goldman, Epistemology and Cognition (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1986); D. Papineau, Philosophical Naturalism (Oxford: Blackwell, 1993).

Gross and Levitt, Higher Superstition, p. 106.

M. Douglas, Purity and Danger. An Analysis of the Concepts of Pollution and Taboo (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1966).

Weinberg, ``Sokal's Hoax'', p. 15.

On the problematic nature of the distinction between content and figurative or narrative expression, see, for example, G. Myers, Writing Biology (Madison, WI: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1990); M. Landau, Narratives of Human Evolution (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1991).

Not all such extrapolations of chaos theory emanate from the `Academic left'': P. F. Drucker, The New Realities (Oxford: Heinemann, 1989), ch. 11, uses chaos-theoretic arguments in support of laissez-faire economic policies.

The Biology and Gender Study Group, ``The Importance of Feminist Critique for Contemporary Cell Biology'', in N. Tuana (ed.), Feminism and Science (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1989), pp. 172-87 (reprinted from Hypatia 3 (1988)).

On the inextricability of scientific from social activity see, for example, S. Shapin and S. Schaffer, Leviathan and the Air Pump: Hobbes, Boyle and the Experimental Life (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1985); B. Latour, Science in Action: How to Follow Scientists and Engineers Through Society (Milton Keynes: Open University Press, 1987).

On the history of this ideal see R. N. Proctor, Value-Free Science? Purity and Power in Modern Knowledge (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1991).

In R. K. Merton, The Sociology of Science: Theoretical and Empirical Investigations (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1973), pp. 254-66.

H. Mehrtens, ``Irresponsible Purity: the Political and Moral Structure of Mathematical Sciences in the NS State'', in M. Renneberg and M. Walker (eds), Science, Technology and National Socialism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), pp. 324-413.

The BJHS Guide to History of Science Courses in Britain, no 4 (1996), provides a comprehensive listing of courses in science studies at British Universities. It seems that teaching in one or more of history, philosophy, and sociology of science is available to science students at approximately 40% of the universities. However, the uptake rarely exceeds 15% (the average at Cambridge over the past 10 years).

COPUS is sponsored by the Royal Society, the British Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Royal Institution. On the range of its activities see COPUS Looks Forward: the Next Five Years (London: COPUS, 1991). On US promotion of public appreciation of science, especially by the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Association of Science Writers, see B. V. Lewenstein, ``The Meaning of `Public Understanding of Science' in the United States after World War II'', Public Understanding of Science 1 (1992) 41-61.

For a review see B. Lewenstein, ``Science and the Media'', in S. Jasanoff et al. (eds), Handbook of Science and Technology Studies, (Thousand Oaks, CA, and London: Sage Publications, 1995), pp. 343-60. On the sciences in the press see, for example, D. Nelkin, Selling Science; How the Press Covers Science and Technology (New York: W. H. Freeman, 1987, rev. ed. 1995). On TV presentation of the sciences see R. Silverstone, Framing Science: the Making of a BBC Documentary (London: BFI Publishing, 1985). On museum presentation of the sciences see, for example, J. Durant (ed.), Museums and the Public Understanding of Science (London: Science Museum, 1992); S. Pearce (ed.), Exploring Science in Museums (London: Athlone, 1996).

Latour, ``Y-at-il une science apres la guerre froide?''.

Sokal, ``A Physicist Experiments with Cultural Studies''.