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Summary of Articles from Le Monde

Emmanuel Marin


Feb 25th, 1997

All these papers have been published in  _Le Monde_,
except for (NL), in which is  published all the French
significant papers  on Sokal's hoax so far. Except
for (NW) they all have been published in _Le Monde_'s
opinion columns.

_Le Monde_ (about 350,000 buyers each day in 93),
and _Liberation (about 170,000 in 93) are the two
biggest left-center French  national daily
newspapers. The texts' length varies from about,
say, 6Kb to 20Kb.

I first include two references about Latour and
Le Pen, since Salomon refers to this in his text.
Summaries are my own. They are a bit "useless"
since the papers are very dense, but it gives
you an hint on the controversy.

(BL1)"A new offence : to do some politics"
Bruno Latour, 4 Oct 96.
->Those who wants to censor or to answer Le Pen
when he claims races  are inequal does not
understand science  should not interfer with
politics.  Furthermore, science cannot prove that
races are not inequal.

(AH)"It is wise to forbid" Antoine Hennion,
15 Oct 96.
-> A criticism of (BL1). The title refers
to the French famous slogan from May 68 "It
is forbidden to forbid", since AH  thinks
BL's dangerous and unexpected  purism seems
to be ages old. AH answers  BL in  his own
field, using his own words,  which  is not
surprising since AH is head  of the departement
BL is working in.

(NL) "Sokal's Hoax", _Liberation_, Natalie
Levisalles, 3 Dec 96.
->NL is a journalist at _Liberation_.  Like
_Nature_'s paper, it writes about  the facts
only, plus an interview with Sokal and an
interview with BL. BL  criticizes Sokal for
putting all the humanities in the same bag,
while "people like me have a scientific

(NW)"The pedagogical hoax of Pr. Sokal",
Nicolas Weill, 20 Dec 96.
->NW is a journalist at _Le Monde_. He writes
about the facts of the  controversy in the US.

(DD)"Sokal is not Socrate", Denis Duclos,
3 Jan 97.
->(NW) is wrong. Sokal's hoax should not be
taken seriously. It is meaningless, except
to prove that US scientists who criticize
French intellectuals as well as Freud, are
anti-Europeans. DD is a sociologist.

(JB)"The true meaning of the Sokal affair",
Jean Bricmont, 14 Jan 97.
-> (DD) is wrong. The true meaning is  to
catch some attention upon the lack  of rigor
in humanities. JB is writing with Sokal a
book on the errors and the impostures by
the post-modern philosophers. JB is teacher
in theoretical physics in Belgium.

(PG)"French rail against the US professor",
Pierre Guerlain,  14 Jan 97.
-> (DD) is wrong. What does DD read ? Sokal's
hoax is not just an isolated "coup" : DD may
not  believe it, but there are some US
scientists who are thinking about the problem
with the relativists for quite a long time.
Sokal is not anti-European, but (DD) may
well be anti-American. PG teaches a course
in American Civilisation in France.

(BL2)"Is there a science after the cold
war ?", Bruno Latour, 18 Jan 97
-> (JB) is too modest. The only interesting
thing is why does this hoax interest so
many people ?  _Social Text_ is a bad journal,
it has no peer-review system, and if Sokal
help us to make this journal disappear, BL
will applaud to it. But the true interest
is explained by the fact that after the
cold war, the US physicists need to find
new enemies : for them France is a new Columbia,
which produces very  dangerous "intellectual drugs".

(AS)"Why I wrote my parody", Alan Sokal,
31 Jan 97.
-> (BL) is too modest. AL disagrees that _Social text_
is a bad  journal even though it has no peer-review system,
In Sokal's opinion, _Social Text_ can publish very
interesting issues. Furthermore, if it is a matter
of physicists looking for new enemies because they
are searching for new reasons to receive funds, why
are many other scientists joining him ? And BL
is wrong in (NL) : he is amongst the targets, Sokal's
parody contains some excerpts from BL's papers. AS
explains that  BL's tactic to defend his field is
to present it without all the  significant
developments : BL simply writes about the now well
accepted conclusions that nobody, including Sokal,
ever considered to criticize. AS also writes that
BL is deliberately ambiguous : he can be understood
in a way provocative enough so that it  will make
his books sell a lot,  and in the same time he is
able  to answer "I have never said that" when he
is faced with criticism by scientists.

(JS)"Sokal's burst of laugh", Jean-Jacques Salomon,
31 Jan 97.
-> AS reminds us that relativism is also an
opportunity to write everything you want. Even in
the field of politics : JS gives an excerpt of a
speech by Mussolini which looks a lot like (BL1).
JS is a teacher in technology.

(MR)"Thanks to heaven, Sokal, and his  peers",
Michel Rio, 11 Feb 97
-> a strong, funny, criticism of (DD)
and (BL2), by a novelist, who is not a
specialist in the field, but who dares
to give his opinion since the words
seemingly have an huge role in the
controversy. From his point of view,
(DD), (BL) and al, should not only learn
some science, but should also learn to
write. To his ears, the words of (BL) and
(DD) are nothing more than what may
be translated into "the hissing of a
punctured ego".

This last paper so far is the longest of the
lot, and one of the most easily understandable
by the man in the street, in my opinion. So
far (BL) has lost the battle of the words in
_Le Monde_, in my opinion.

Emmanuel Marin
Paris, France

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Last Modified: 24 November, 1997