Googling for Laughs

I’m a kind and generous person, and I’ve just been enjoying a good laugh, so I’ll let you enjoy it too. It’s funny how I found this essay. It’s on Alan Sokal’s site, but that’s not how I found it (there are a lot of articles there, happily, and I haven’t read them all yet). No, I found it by typing Sandra Harding and – a certain unkind adjective, into google. What a lot came up! I’ll have to try it with different unkind adjectives in the future. What a pity that life is so short – I’m sure to miss some interesting stuff. Quite a lot. But I found a lot, too.

This essay is about Social Text and the Sokal hoax and related matters. The author has a good time with Andrew Ross, and then he gets to Harding: ‘If Gross and Levitt are “shrill,” what would Ross have to say about Sandra Harding, whose raving essay opens this Ross-authorized collection?’

“It is ironic,” she begins, “that the major criticism of the new social studies of science and technology from the antidemocratic right in fact provides yet more evidence for the value of these science studies.” For me, “antidemocratic right” did not bode well for the level-headedness or credibility of this essay, especially when goofily reiterated in “the antidemocratic right’s recent clarion calls for the citizenry to join in stamping out feminism,” which reads like a parody from “Doonesbury.”…Harding, incredibly enough, is a professor of philosophy at the University of Delaware, which doesn’t speak well for the current state of precise thinking amongst people who nowadays can pass as philosophers. Her first two footnotes defy credulity: “I use antidemocratic right and democracy-advancing movements or tendencies in a somewhat simplistic way throughout this discussion,” surely the understatement of the year. And the second note offers yet another modification of her intemperate off-the-wall philosophizing: “Local knowledge systems … are by no means always more accurate and effective than modern scientific knowledge, but sometimes they are.” And sometimes professors of philosophy are hard to distinguish from idiots (but not always)! Why say stupid things in the first place if you are going to take them back in footnotes?

It was that last line that caused me to crack up. It sounds so exactly like the kind of thing I scream, shout, snarl, or whine as I read Harding. ‘Goofily reiterated’ is exactly right, too, and so is the ‘incredibly enough’ about the professorship of philosophy. Yes, it is incredible. Well, I have to go think up some more adjectives now.

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