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Higher Superstition: The Academic Left and Its Quarrels with Science Paperback – November 6, 1997
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"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)
"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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Gross and Levitt examine and systematically demolish a number of postmodernism's anti-science subspecies. In a way, this amounts to no more than swatting at a swarm of annoying academic insects; Gross and Levitt are genuine scientists, so, unlike the academic postmodernists, they are good at analyzing data and presenting logical arguments. And that's what they do, devastatingly and humorously. It seems unlikely that a densely footnoted and referenced academic study could be laugh-out-loud funny, but this book is.
However, there's something important here, too. That is that the academic postmodernists' attacks on science have a cumulative harmful effect of deflecting young people away from real science, confusing the scientifically illiterate public about scientific and technological principles and policies, and, most dangerously of all, creating the impression that science is just one of several possible "ways of knowing," all of which are equally valid.
No, they're not. The plain fact is that science works; it accurately describes physical reality. Diverting intellectual effort and research money to the study of alternative "ways of knowing" is wasteful and academically bankrupt.
Read this book. It's still relevant and important. And it's very, very funny.
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.
Are the authors a bit harsh? Not if the punishment fits the crime. What price a generation of confused students? The POMO charlatans get the sound thrashing they so richly deserve.
There are plenty of examples of the intellectual flim-flam and snake oil that typifies the POMO genre. By the end we can only wonder in disbelief that it has fooled so many for so long.
The authors have done humanity a great service. In the tradition of Voltaire and Paine, they have unmasked the priests of obscurantism. With luck and common sense, we may be spared the cost to civilisation of the resurgence of cults of unreason.