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Posted in alt.fan.rush-Limbaugh and alt.rush-Limbaugh. Wednesday, 22 May 22 1996
This unofficial summary is copyright (c) 1996 by John Switzer (email@example.com). All Rights Reserved. These summaries are distributed on CompuServe and the Internet, and archived on CompuServe (DL9 of the ISSUES forum). The summaries for the past 60 days can be found at ftp://ftp.aimnet.com/pub/users/jswitzer. Distribution to other electronic forums and bulletin boards is highly encouraged. Spelling and other corrections gratefully received.
Please read the standard disclaimer which was included with the first summary for this month. In particular, please note that this summary is not approved or sanctioned by Rush Limbaugh or the EIB network, nor do I have any connection with them other than as a daily listener.
May 22, 1996
BRIEF SUMMARY OF TOPICS: the first national Rush poll finds most listeners prefer "seafood surprise" when feeding their grandparents; professor Stanley Fish expresses his outrage over the practical joke that Alan Sokal played with his journal in a NY Times Op-Ed piece; Scott McConnell of the NY Post notes that Alan Sokal's piece exposes the pretentiousness of academia that leads to some major abuses in education;
Items deleted. Here is original text in unsorted documents. [firstname.lastname@example.org]
On Monday Rush talked about a piece written by physicist Alan Sokal that was published in a scholarly journal, "Social Text," despite the fact the article was nothing but scientific gobbledegook. Professor Stanley Fish of Duke University and publisher of "Social Text" fired back in yesterday's NY Times Op-Ed pages, attacking Sokal for academic dishonesty and "pretending to be himself."
Yet, Rush notes, Fish's article is full of the same gibberish that he takes Sokal to task for parodying and ridiculing. The following, for example, is Fish's attempt to defend his magazine for publishing Sokal's piece, which argued that the world does not exist:
"What sociologists of science say is that of course the world is real and independent of our observations but that accounts of the world are produced by observers and are therefore relative to their capacities, education, training, etc.
"It is not the world or its properties but the vocabularies in whose terms we know them that are socially constructed - fashioned by human beings - which is why our understanding of those properties is continually changing."
Another good passage that proves the point of Sokal's hoax is the following:
"Sociologists of science aren't trying to do science; they are trying to come up with a rich and powerful explanation of what it means to do it. Their question is, `What are the conditions that make scientific accomplishments possible?' and answers to that question are not intended to be either substitutes for scientific work or arguments against it."
Rush has seen Fish on some of the TV "Firing Line" type shows, and he's truly in a different world than most, being the prototype of the effete, elitist academic who's "above it all." Fish also complains as follows:
"Why then does Professor Sokal attack them? The answer lies in two misunderstandings. First, Professor Sokal takes `socially constructed' to mean `not real,' whereas for workers in the field `socially constructed' is a compliment paid to a fact or a procedure that has emerged from the welter of disciplinary competition into a real and productive life where it can be cited, invoked and perhaps challenged. It is no contradiction to say that something is socially constructed and also real." In short, Fish's stuff makes as much sense as Irwin Corey's humor piece about why men wear shoes. Scott McConnell of the NY Post addresses this controversy and the pretension that exists in academia, where parents spend thousands to send their kids to be educated.
McConnell writes that allowing this pretension to run unrestrained poses all sorts of dangers, and he praises Sokal for "popping the balloons of cultural studies and pseudo-history." He adds that Afro-centric studies are pseudo-history that is not based in fact, but rather comes from Marcus Garvey's stemwinder speeches of the 1930s.
For example, college students are being taught that Cleopatra and Socrates were both black, that Greek philosophy and science were stolen from Africa, and that Aristotle stole his philosophy from the library at Alexandria. None of these claims are based on any new scholarship but are taken from Garvey's claims in the 30s, yet they are taught as fact in places such as Hillary Clinton's alma mater, Wellesley College.
McConnell writes that some might argue pseudo-history is okay if the intent is "noble" (such as giving minorities greater self- esteem), but Rush disagrees with that. Teaching someone a lie is not going to do much that is genuine for someone's self-esteem.
McConnell points out that society does not tolerate all pseudo- history teachings, such as those who claim the Holocaust did not happen. Society is willing to confront these people, but when it comes to Afro-centric pseudo-history, everyone is willing to roll down and play dead.
Rush is impressed by how this minor story - which interested him only because he likes scientific jargon and gobbledegook - has spawn a controversy of its own that touches the centers of academic thought in America.