Alan Sokal

Professor Emeritus of Physics, New York University
and Professor of Mathematics, University College London

Papers by Alan Sokal on science, philosophy and culture

"Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity"
This is the original "parody" article, published in Social Text #46/47, pp. 217-252 (spring/summer 1996).

Available in four formats:

Also available in Croatian.

An annotated version of this article -- explaining some of the jokes and providing much additional bibliography -- appears as Chapter 1 of my book Beyond the Hoax.

"A Physicist Experiments with Cultural Studies"
This is the article in which I reveal the parody, published in Lingua Franca, May/June 1996, pp. 62-64.

Available in four formats:

Also available in Croatian, Finnish, German and Romanian.

"Transgressing the Boundaries: An Afterword"
Here I explain in more detail why I wrote the parody. This article was submitted to Social Text but rejected by them on the grounds that it did not meet their intellectual standards. It has now appeared in Dissent 43(4), pp. 93-99 (Fall 1996); and, in slightly different form, in Philosophy and Literature 20(2), pp. 338-346 (October 1996); and, in an updated version, as Chapter 2 of my book Beyond the Hoax.

Available in three formats:

Also available in Croatian

One of the references cited in this article is my "Informe sobre el plan de estudios de las carreras de Matemática, Estadística y Computación" to the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Nicaragua -- Managua (1987, unpublished). For whatever it might be worth 30-odd years later, I am making it available here.

"A Plea for Reason, Evidence and Logic"
Transcript of a talk presented at a forum at New York University on October 30, 1996. It was reprinted in New Politics 6(2), pp. 126-129 (Winter 1997). A slightly expanded version of this talk was presented at the Socialist Scholars Conference (New York, March 30, 1997) and was published under the title "Truth, Reason, Objectivity and the Left" in the Economic and Political Weekly (Bombay), April 18, 1998, pp. 913-914; in further revised form in Mistaken Identities: The Second Wave of Controversy over "Political Correctness", edited by Cyril Levitt et al. (Peter Lang Publishing, New York, 1999), pp. 285-294; and, in yet further revised form, as Chapter 3 of my book Beyond the Hoax.

"Les mystifications philosophiques du professeur Latour"
"Professor Latour's Philosophical Mystifications"
Reply to an article by Bruno Latour. Published in Le Monde, 31 January 1997, page 15.

"What the Social Text Affair Does and Does Not Prove"
Published in A House Built on Sand: Exposing Postmodernist Myths about Science, edited by Noretta Koertge (Oxford University Press, 1998), pp. 9-22. Reprinted, in slightly different form, in Critical Quarterly 40(2), pp. 3-18 (Summer 1998); in After the Science Wars, edited by Keith M. Ashman and Philip S. Baringer (Routledge, January 2001); and as Chapter 5 of my book Beyond the Hoax. Also available in Japanese.

"Impostures Intellectuelles" / "Fashionable Nonsense" (by Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont)
Book first published in French by Éditions Odile Jacob, October 1997. The second French edition -- which is much revised, and includes a new preface responding to our critics -- was published in March 1999 by Livre de Poche (price 50 FF), and can be ordered on-line from or FNAC.

The English edition was published in the UK in July 1998 by Profile Books under the title Intellectual Impostures; it can be ordered on-line from W.H. Smith or It was published in the US in November 1998 by Picador USA, an imprint of St. Martin's Press, under the title Fashionable Nonsense; it can be ordered on-line from Barnes and Noble or Click here for the preface and first chapter in English.

Lecturers who are considering the book for potential student use may obtain an academic inspection copy: please direct your requests here for UK, Europe and the British Commonwealth, and here for US and Canada.

Translations into Catalan, Dutch, German, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Persian, Polish, Portuguese (Brazil), Portuguese (Portugal), Spanish and Turkish have been published. Click here for the preface in Portuguese.

Translations into Chinese (PRC), Chinese (Taiwan) and Russian are in the works. I will post more information as it becomes available.

For reviews of Impostures Intellectuelles / Fashionable Nonsense, click here.

"The Furor over Impostures Intellectuelles"
"Les réactions face à la parution d'Impostures Intellectuelles"
"Réponse à Vincent Fleury et Yun Sun Limet"
Article, by Jean Bricmont and Alan Sokal, published in the Times Literary Supplement (London), 17 October 1997, p. 17 and, in slightly modified form, in Libération (Paris), 18-19 October 1997, p. 5.

"Du bon usage des métaphores"
Reply to an article by Jean-Marc Lévy-Leblond. Published in La Recherche, November 1997, page 8.

"Les critiques de Derrida et de Dorra ratent leur cible"
Reply, by Jean Bricmont and Alan Sokal, to articles by Jacques Derrida and Max Dorra. Published in Le Monde, 12 December 1997, page 23. Also available in Portuguese and Spanish.

"The uses of obscurity"
By Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont, October 1998. Originally intended for publication in the London newspaper The Observer, but bumped at the last minute to make way for breaking news, and never published.

"Risposta a Gianni Vattimo"
Reply, by Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont, to Professor Vattimo's review of the Italian edition of Intellectual Impostures (La Stampa, 20 maggio 1999). Published in Il Sole 24 Ore, 23 maggio 1999.

"Science and Sociology of Science: Beyond War and Peace"
Article by Jean Bricmont and Alan Sokal, published in The One Culture?: A Conversation about Science, edited by Jay Labinger and Harry Collins (University of Chicago Press, 2001), pp. 27-47. Available in PDF and Postscript formats. See also our contributions to round 2 (pp. 179-183) and round 3 (pp. 243-254) of this debate, as well as our reply to Gabriel Stolzenberg's review of The One Culture? [published in Social Studies of Science 34, 107-113 (2004)].

"Modesty, Rigor and Irony: Some remarks on Prodiges et vertiges de l'analogie: De l'abus des belles lettres dans la pensée, by Jacques Bouveresse"
Article by Jean Bricmont and Alan Sokal. Published in French translation in Agone 24, 115-122 (2000); and in Spanish translation as the prologue to the Spanish edition of Bouveresse's book (Libros del Zorzal, Buenos Aires, 2001).

"Defense of a modest scientific realism"
Article by Jean Bricmont and Alan Sokal, published in Knowledge and the World: Challenges Beyond the Science Wars, edited by Martin Carrier, Johannes Roggenhofer, Günter Küppers and Philippe Blanchard (Springer-Verlag, 2004), pp. 17-45. Available in PDF and Postscript formats.

"Commentary on Professor Barnes' paper `On social constructivist accounts of the natural sciences'"
Essay by Alan Sokal, published in Knowledge and the World: Challenges Beyond the Science Wars, edited by Martin Carrier, Johannes Roggenhofer, Günter Küppers and Philippe Blanchard (Springer-Verlag, 2004), pp. 128-136.

"Pseudoscience and Postmodernism: Antagonists or Fellow-Travelers?"
Essay by Alan Sokal, published in Archaeological Fantasies: How Pseudoarchaeology Misrepresents the Past and Misleads the Public, edited by Garrett G. Fagan (Routledge, 2006), pp. 286-361. Available in PDF and Postscript formats. Published in French translation, together with a very interesting preface by Jean Bricmont, by Éditions Odile Jacob (September 2005) under the title Pseudosciences et postmodernisme: Adversaires ou compagnons de route?.

"Taking the spin out of science"
Op-ed by Chris Mooney and Alan Sokal, published in the Los Angeles Times, February 4, 2007.

"Beyond the Hoax: Science, Philosophy and Culture"
Book (486 pp.) published in March 2008 by Oxford University Press. It can be ordered on-line from, Barnes and Noble and

Click here for the Table of Contents and Preface. (Note that this is from my manuscript, not from the published book, so the page numbers are not exactly right.) And here is a 2-minute video summarizing what the book is about. Last but not least, here is the author photo (at least one of us is cute!).

For reviews of Beyond the Hoax, click here.

Translations into Spanish and Turkish have been published.

"What is science and why should we care?"
Third annual Sense About Science lecture, given at University College London on February 27, 2008. Also available as an audio podcast on the Guardian website.

A slightly modified version of this talk was given in Stockholm on May 26-27, 2009 at the Swedish Humanist Association and at the Swedish Academy of Sciences, and is available as a 39-minute video.

An expanded and updated version of this talk was published in Logos, vol. 12, no. 2 (spring 2013) and in Scientia Salon, March 26-28, 2014 (in three parts: Part I, Part II, Part III).

Une version est disponible également en français: "Qu'est-ce que la science? Quelle importance?".

"Taking evidence seriously"
Published (in slightly edited form) in The Guardian online edition on February 28, 2008. Also available in Polish.

"Defending science: An exchange"
A dialogue with philosopher Michael Lynch, published in the on-line version of the New York Times on March 11, 2012.

"The complex dynamics of wishful thinking: The critical positivity ratio"
Article by Nicholas J.L. Brown, Alan D. Sokal and Harris L. Friedman, published Online First in American Psychologist 68, 801-813 (2013). Also available at arXiv:1307.7006 [nlin.CD].

See also "Nick Brown smelled bull", by Vinnie Rotondaro (Narratively, October 17, 2013). Artículo también disponible en español.

And see "The British amateur who debunked the mathematics of happiness", by Andrew Anthony (The Observer [London], January 19, 2014).

For follow-ups, see our response to Fredrickson and our response to five other commenters.

See also the slides of my talk "Physics envy in psychology: A cautionary tale" at City College of New York, November 19, 2015.

Contribution to the discussion on "Should Religion Keep Its Privileged Status in American Law?"
Discussion (with Professor Marci Hamilton) at the Debating Law & Religion Workshop, Yale Law School, November 6, 2013.

Canulars académiques, les «maîtres à penser» démasqués
Article, by Anouk Barberousse, Philippe Huneman, Manuel Quinon, Arnaud Saint-Martin and Alan Sokal, published in Libération (Paris), 1 June 2016, pp. 20-21.

And see our radio interview at France Inter, mardi 7 juin 2016, 21h-22h.

And here are the original parodies (far more brilliant than my own!) concerning sociologist Michel Maffesoli ("Automobilités postmodernes : quand l’Autolib’ fait sensation à Paris") and philosopher Alain Badiou ("Ontology, Neutrality and the Strive for (non-)Being-Queer").

Science has nothing to learn from theology
Letter to Nature in response to the article by Kathryn Pritchard, "Religion and science can have a true dialogue", Nature 537, 451 (22 September 2016) --- which the editors of Nature decided not to publish.

See also here and here for a more detailed critique of Pritchard's article -- and of Nature's apparent editorial line -- by the distinguished biologist Jerry Coyne. And see Coyne's article "Seeing and believing" for a more detailed analysis of the incompatibility between religion and science.

"The conceptual penis as a social construct": Some thoughts
Analysis of the Boghossian-Lindsay hoax, published in eSkeptic, 7 June 2017. Reprinted in the Chronicle of Higher Education, 14 June 2017.

Comment on the New York Times Magazine's profile of Bruno Latour
My critique of the New York Times Magazine's fawning profile of sociologist Bruno Latour ("Bruno Latour, the Post-Truth Philosopher, Mounts a Defense of Science", October 25, 2018).

And see also Andrew Gelman's comment.

Letter to Portland State University officials regarding the case of Professor Peter Boghossian
Letter concerning the proposed disciplinary action against Professor Peter Boghossian, co-author (with James Lindsay and Helen Pluckrose) of the so-called "Grievance Studies" hoax.

See also here, where Professor Boghossian has posted the original documents concerning this case.

Are journal editors "human subjects"?
Published in Inside Higher Ed, January 24, 2019. See also here.

Comment on Brian Martin's article "Bad social science"
This is a comment on Brian Martin's article "Bad social science", which was published in Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 8, no. 3 (2019): 6-16. My comment was published in Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 8, no. 5 (2019): 36-47, with a title and section headers added by the editor. A reply by Martin followed in Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 8, no. 7 (2019): 13-17.

What "alternative facts" have wrought
Published in Arc Digital, 22 January 2021, where there are also interesting comments by readers and dialogue with me.

See also this article by Robert Grenier for similar ideas from a writer with a very different background from mine. Grenier also stresses an important psychological point: "We must all earnestly engage in an effort to listen to others' ideas, no matter how daft they may seem; to understand where such ideas come from, no matter how hateful the source; to meet assertion with reason and evidence, not counterassertion. And where our evidence is lacking, we must patiently seek it out. ... [T]ruth is unavailing if not presented with clear underlying fact, and if not conveyed with respect."

Submission to the Joint Committee on Human Rights: Freedom of Expression
Submission to the Call for Evidence of the Joint Committee on Human Rights of the UK Parliament, 25 January 2021.
An abridged version of this submission -- redacted to remove reference to judicial cases sub judice -- was published on the Parliament website.

On Covid, Boris Johnson is fooling himself, again
Published in Areo Magazine, 4 March 2021.

This article was composed on the morning after Boris Johnson's 22 February speech -- outlining his "roadmap" for ending all coronavirus restrictions -- and was submitted, in succession, to three major British newspapers and to one major British news website. No response from any of them. Perhaps no one in the mainstream press wants, or even dares, to be a party-pooper. But someone has to be the messenger of bad tidings -- preferably before rather than after the fact.

It goes without saying that my reasoning could be mistaken; indeed, I very much hope that it is. We shall see.

See also some readers' comments, and my replies, on Andrew Gelman's blog.

Preface to the French edition of Gross + Levitt, Higher Superstition: The Academic Left and its Quarrels with Science
After more than 25 years, Gross and Levitt's influential book -- lauded in some circles, vilified in others -- is finally available in French. I was honored to contribute a preface.

Preface to the French edition of Pluckrose and Lindsay, Cynical Theories
Pluckrose and Lindsay's important recent book, Cynical Theories, has just appeared in French translation. I was honored to contribute a preface.

The moral argument for factual realism
Published in Areo Magazine, 14 October 2021.

Response to Judith Butler
Letter to The Guardian in response to the article by Judith Butler, "Why is the idea of ‘gender’ provoking backlash the world over?", The Guardian, 23 October 2021 --- which the editors of The Guardian decided not to publish. Indeed, as far as I can tell, The Guardian did not publish any letters in response to Butler's article.

Catechism class at British universities
Published in Areo Magazine, 26 October 2021.
French translation published in L'Express, 16 November 2021.

Submission to the UK Government consultation on "Banning conversion therapy"
My submission to the UK Government consultation on "Banning conversion therapy", 5 December 2021.

Further information on this issue can be found here and here at the website of the organization Sex Matters.

The bad-faith use of words
Published in Areo Magazine, 26 September 2022.
Spanish translation published in Letras Libres, 1 December 2022.

The implicit epistemology of White Fragility
Published in the Journal of Philosophy of Education 57(2), 517-552 (April 2023).

"White empiricism" and "The racialization of epistemology in physics": A critical analysis
Published in the Journal of Controversial Ideas 3(2), 1 (October 2023).

My review of Umut Özkırımlı's book Cancelled: The Left Way Back from Woke
Despite some imperfections, Özkırımlı's book has the merit of being one of the first explicit and thoroughgoing denunciations of "cancel culture'' from within the radical left. And this makes it an important starting point for dialogue and debate: not only within the left, broadly defined, but also among fair-minded people of all political persuasions.

Free-speech hypocrisies: The Tory government and the University and College Union
Published in the The Critic, 24 January 2024.

Our illiberal Terrorism Act
Published in the The Critic, 9 February 2024.

Free speech for everyone, except ...
Published in the The Critic, 17 February 2024.


Commentary by other people


Reviews of Impostures Intellectuelles / Fashionable Nonsense

Reviews of Beyond the Hoax

Some books of interest

Other useful Web sites on the "Social Text Affair" / Physics / GSAS / NYU

-- last modified 17 February 2024