I found a funny/serious and longish article on this 'affair' at:http://www.feedmag.com/96.06chapman/96.06chapman.html.
I think this is the Gary Chapman article also mentioned by Jason Walsh in his posting and, as he says it is excellent. To quote just a bit with thanks to Chapman: "For all cave dwellers with Internet connections, here is a summary of what happened: Sokal submitted an article, with the hair-raising title "Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity," to the journal Social Text, regarded as the premier organ of the left's latest intellectual fashion, "cultural studies." Sokal's article was included in a collection dedicated to an examination of the so- called "Science Wars," which have pitted some angry and vocal practicing scientists against social theorists who study the sociology and politics of science. Sokal's article, last in the collection, is mind-numbing in its use of postmodernist jargon, its descriptions of difficult theories of contemporary physics, and its amateurish recitation of ham-handed caricatures of recent left and feminist critiques of science and technology. It's a paper and ink barbiturate. Andrew Ross, co-editor of the issue and chairman of the American Studies Department at Sokal's own campus, NYU, called the piece a "curio," a somewhat bizarre and novice attempt by a scientist to get into the lingo and the "project" of criticizing science's power in the modern world. In addition to Sokal's deadpan, over-the-top earnestness (which perhaps should have raised some suspicions among the editors), the article is weighted with hundreds of footnotes and dozens and dozens of references, ten times or more the number provided by other authors in the Social Text collection. Ross said that the editors took this to be a novice's lack of self-confidence in new intellectual terrain, and, once they decided to devote an issue to controversies over science, they published Sokal's piece as a kind of affirmative action for a physicist. To their regret, they didn't run it past another physicist prior to publication". and... "Shortly after the issue of Social Text appeared, Sokal announced that his article was a prank, a hoax, a parody, and an "experiment" to see what kind of nonsense would get past the editors of a major journal of social criticism. Sokal claims that any physicist would have "laughed out loud" by the second paragraph of his article in Social Text, because it is there that he mimics the postmodernist sages with: "It has thus become increasingly apparent that physical 'reality,' no less than social 'reality,' is at bottom a social and linguistic construct; that scientific 'knowledge,' far from being objective, reflects and encodes the dominant ideologies and power relations of the culture that produced it." He later said that anyone who believes this is welcome to jump out his apartment window, which is on the twenty-second floor." and so on.... I have to say though that while this controversy would seem to be one of scientists against socio-cultural critics, in my view the same issues are at stake within the socio-cultural domain: 1) The attempt to deny, defy (or simply ignore) the concrete reality of experience in favour of a talked-up, theorized and self-referencing reality and 2) an equally 'mind-numbing' obscurity of language (with its attendant arrogance) which can challenge even the most esoteric scientific jargon with its impenetrable prose. Why? It is not the complexity of the issues which generate overly-complex and tortuous explanations. This is ultimately an ideological matter: the language of a new priesthood. I cannot remember the exact source but one member of the Frankfurt School, when asked why the language they used was so 'difficult' suggested that it was in order to protect it (and their concepts) from contamination by ordinary language. Needless to say, it is entirely possible even for members of the priesthood to get lost within the scholastic terminology of their own making: seeing only the 'key words' in a classic aphasic condition where context is deleted and so ultimately is meaning. Virtual reality. regards from Singapore Alex Brown BROWNA@tp.ac.sg
[Ed: "Envy among scholars increases knowledge." (Hebrew proverb) Let's hope laughter, however derisive, does too. -MG]