The Intersection

i-72e7dc89cec8335526aaef130e0200fc-battle of the five armies.jpg

I’m told that some of the strongest reactions to our article have not been published…more on that at the end.

First, since Sunday’s piece in the L.A. Times generated quite a lot of blog commentary, let me provide a brief (and necessarily incomplete) rundown–and have a little fun with it by doing a list of “bests”:

1. Best Title: This goes to John Quiggin, whose reaction was entitled “Science Wars: The Battle of the Five Armies.” (Geeks will get the reference.) Upshot of the post: Our op-ed signals a “realignment of forces” in which “previously discordant defenders of science” are now “united against the much more powerful armies of the religious right and the business wing of the Republican party, along with the the dwindling remnant of leftwing relativists (represented in the Dover ID trial by Steve Fuller).” Exactly what I hoped people would get from the piece.

2. Best Interpretation: Along the lines of Quiggin, the reaction to the piece that I most enjoyed was that of University of Wisconsin-Madison communications professor Dietram Scheufele, who interprets Sokal and I as two folks striving to “rally the troops.” Key quote: “the scientific community may be going into an era where external pressure from politics and interest groups will increase internal cohesion.”

3. Best Comments Thread: Here at the Intersection, reactions to the piece veered off topic and struggled to get back on track. At Matthew Yglesias’s blog, though, there was a valuable and lengthy discussion that (at last glance) ran 62 comments long….

4. Best Job Adducing Additional Evidence: Tim Lambert reacted to my post by showing that Higher Superstition co-author Norman Levitt, much like Sokal, is also more concerned these days about how the right wing is misusing science. It just goes to show….

5. Best Traffic: As we know, Pharyngula always wins this contest hands down. We’re not worthy, we’re not worthy (but we’ll take the link!)….

6. Best Post From a Blog I’ve Never Read Before: Check out Give Up Blog.

Other reactions, which I couldn’t list in David Letterman-style list format, came from Bora, Aardvarchaeology, David Roberts, Brendan Nyhan, and ChemJerk, among others. Thanks to you all for your thoughts.

Last but certainly not least, I am told by numerous folks that this piece has generated some “blowback” within the Science and Technology Studies (STS) community. This was most emphatically not my intent. I didn’t realize that there were still very hard feelings lingering from the “science wars” of a decade ago. After all, I was a college student when all that stuff took place. I hardly lived through it, and I simply didn’t know. In any event, I hope that most readers will see that one point of the op-ed was to say, we’re past all that. It’s history. Let’s lay it to rest.

After all, we’ve got bigger problems.


  1. #1 SLC
    February 6, 2007

    Re Science wars of the 1990’s.

    Another way of putting it is that the subject science wars are ancient history and we are now into current events.

  2. #2 Dano
    February 6, 2007

    Although much exaggerated, this contained a grain of truth. Some self-described leftist academics did seem determined to reduce…

    This, BTW, is why the contrascientists and denialists get play.

    Keep up the good work, sir.



  3. #3 coturnix
    February 6, 2007

    Could you please fix the Scheufele link….

  4. #4 Colugo
    February 6, 2007

    Will there be a “realignment of forces” on the other side? I think that one such realignment is already in effect: bio-Luddites left and right uniting in opposition to cutting-edge biomedical research such as chimeric embryos. Leading bio-Luddites include Leon Kass, Jeremy Rifkin, Claire Nader, Wesley J. Smith, Marcy Darnovsky, Stewart Newman.

  5. #5 Chris Mooney
    February 6, 2007

    link fixed, sorry ’bout that

  6. #6 Sean Carroll
    February 6, 2007

    Ah, Chris, you can’t quite hope to just lay these old controversies to rest when the third paragraph of your op-ed dredges up all the old strawmen. I appreciate the pro-science point of view, but the anti-humanities point of view doesn’t help the “let’s all get along” agenda (which I think is a good one).

  7. #7 Chris Mooney
    February 6, 2007

    not sure what strawmen…and I’m far from being anti-humanities. There were some excesses in the humanities, yes. How seriously intended they were, I always wondered–it often seemed a form of provocateurship to me, at least when I was an undergraduate. In any event, it’s history now.

  8. #8 declineandfall
    February 7, 2007

    Alas, I was a student in the ultra-trendy pomo Literature Department at UC Santa Cruz in the late 90’s and I can say that many of the Culture Studies types were in dire earnest in their attacks on science. All knowledge was, to them, culturally-based, relative and subject to scrutiny and deconstruction. Sokal’s brand of Enlightenment Liberalism was typically presented as merely another example of Western Culture’s subjugation of whoever they wanted to believe was being subjugated.

    They weren’t all that way, to be sure, but they certainly weren’t sticking their necks out to challenge their colleagues when they presumed to discourse on subjects of which they had no knowledge.

New comments have been temporarily disabled. Please check back soon.