Sokal

At first glance, Sokal’s article “Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity”, is a challenging read which could hardly be understood by readers with no background in Physics. It was challenging to understand, let alone grasp the importance of it to a History seminar class. After doing a Google search about the article, however, I discovered that the article was not, in fact, supposed to be taken seriously at all. The truth is that Sokal was attempting to make a point that the standards for publishing in academic journals had seriously declined. To prove his point, he wrote this article and sent it in to one of the most prestigious academic journals in the country. With hardly any hesitation, his article was published.

What is interesting about this story is not so much the fact that Sokal was able to essentially trick the highly educated members of the journal, but rather that it brings to light a very interesting aspect of history and those who write it. If Sokal was able to say whatever he wanted and have his work published, what does that say about other academic journals? How can it be believed that they are not themselves lies? Now, there are certain subjects which can never be contested or used in such a ruse as Sokal’s. However, there are historians who take it upon themselves to research and write about abstract concepts or little known events. If the publishers of such academic journals are unable to catch and keep from publications Sokal’s outright hoax, how can it ever be sure that other historians are not also writing for the sake of writing, rather than fact? That is not to say that all historians are liars; simply that it is a lesson in the caution with which students must approach any and all sources that they use while researching a particular topic.

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