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Higher Superstition: The Academic Left and Its Quarrels with Science Paperback – November 6, 1997


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Editorial Reviews

Review

An original, brilliant, and important book. The authors clarify the impact, mostly malign, of postmodernism―at least postmodernism in the hands of the second-rate―on the evolving curriculum in higher education.

(Edward O. Wilson, Harvard University)

We should be thankful that Gross and Levitt have provided a wake-up call. Their significant overview of the thinking of those who teach our lawyers, journalists and teachers should be read by all who are concerned by the decline of the status of science in our times.

(Physics Today)

At last, somebody has performed the invaluable service of exploding the pretentions of those who think every equation derived this century undermines the fabric of western thought.

(New Statesman)

The authors' shredding of such luminaries of postmodernism and feminism as Stanley Aronowitz, Sandra Harding, and Evelyn fox Keller, among others, is not always charitable, [but] it is invariably compelling and frequently devastating.

(Elizabeth Fox-Genovese Washington Times)

Review

"An original, brilliant, and important book. The authors clarify the impact, mostly malign, of postmodernism -- at least postmodernism in the hands of the second-rate -- on the evolving curriculum in higher education." -- Edward O. Wilson, Harvard University

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 348 pages
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press; Reprint edition (November 6, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801857074
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801857072
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #117,112 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

And it's very, very funny.
L. F. Smith
They demonstrate very convincingly the handshake between the radical right and the left when it comes to fighting rationalism.
Tobias Budke
The only drawback for the book i!
jwk2@eecs.lehigh.edu

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

147 of 162 people found the following review helpful By Francois Tremblay on June 2, 2002
Format: Paperback
This book, by Paul Gross and Norman Levitt, both scientists (the former a biologist, the latter a mathematician), airs the grievances of science against the new post-modernist movement in the academia.
A movement that started as a deconstructionist method of literary criticism, postmodernism is now a way of thinking that is proposed by some proponents as an explanatory method for everything, including science. Briefly, post-modernism proposes that science is nothing more than a cultural construct, and has no more objective validity than any other form of knowledge. While natural sciences have remained untouched by this movement, it is taking over the social sciences, spurred over by the latter's failures at establishing its scientific basis as firmly as the former has done.
The subtitle of this book is "the academic left and its quarrels with science", and suitably, the first two chapters discuss politics. While politics should, ideally, be informed by science, it is a sad fact that science is also often informed by politics. The Academic Left demands that, rather than using science to inform the political process, the reverse should happen : feminist postmodernism demands "a complete overthrown of traditional gender categories", racial justice entails a society which prioritizes "black values" (in this case, Afrocentrism - the idea that Africa and black people are inherently superior), and environmental postmodernism "envisons a trancendence of the values of Western industrial society and the restoration of an imagined prelapsarian harmony to humanity's relations with nature".
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79 of 85 people found the following review helpful By Philonous on September 30, 2005
Format: Paperback
Gross and Levitt do a fine job of demolishing postmodernism in its various guises. The authors' impatience with, and honest surprise at, the academic left's ridiculously incompetent attacks on scientific objectivity is expressed throughout the book alongside some penetrating analyses of, and cogent arguments against, a string of postmodernistic theses.

The book has, however, one serious shortcoming: The authors' justified impatience with the academic left too often seems to make them forget - repeated assurances to the contrary notwithstanding - that a good many honest scholars within the humanities departments are just as hostile to postmodernism as any scientist. Eager to disclose the nonsense behind the empty rhetoric of the "scholars" of postmodernism, Gross and Levitt simultaneously discloses what seems to me to be a far from praiseworthy disdain of the humanities in general.

I am educated in the humanities, but my attitude is very much pro science. I was therefore frequently frustrated when I read "Higher Superstition", because I felt stabbed in the back by the authors' propensity to treat humanities scholars as of all of the same kind - e.g. as mathematically "illiterate". Gross and Levitt ought to know that even though humanities scholars rarely know anything about avant-garde mathematical and physical research this does not in itself betoken a lack of abilities, skill or intelligence on the part of those scholars. Reality has many different and fascinating aspects and no one can be an expert within every field of research. We pick the subject that interests us the most, and Gross and Levitt should accept that not all intellectuals find mathematics or quantum mechanics as interesting as e.g. history, anthropology or psychology.
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60 of 67 people found the following review helpful By Jeremy M. Harris on March 30, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Despite the subtitle "The Academic Left and Its Quarrels With Science," the dangerous aspects of the misconceptions exposed and dissected in this book are due much more to irrationality than to politics. Fortunately the authors take pains to clear up a potential misunderstanding by pointing out that there does exist a generous complement of academics who are left-leaning, rational, and not inclined to quarrel with science.
Gross and Levitt perform a valuable service in three parts. They take the time and trouble to wade through the more obviously idiotic postmodern anti-science drivel, they refute it, and they remind us that the purveyors of it are firmly ensconced in the faculties of major universities.
The authors of "Higher Superstition" are academics themselves, and write elegantly in prose laced with vocabulary-stretching words like hermeneutics, conspective, auspicating, tatterdemalian and weltanschauung. While not a particularly easy read, the book makes its main point clearly and simply enough: the postmodern science-bashers are aiming their largely spurious complaints at subjects they secretly resent and barely comprehend. Science has produced edifying, useful, beneficial results with more regularity and less ambiguity than any other field of human endeavor. To claim otherwise is deeply dopey. If academia tolerates a clique where such claims resonate, something is seriously out of whack and we must thank Gross and Levitt for providing fair and frightening warning. Self-styled progressives who berate science with politically correct non sequiturs are no less goofy than the religious zealots they so pointedly disdain.
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