The Cheat Sheet

Pseudo-science LOL: from Nithyananda to Sokal Squared

Venky Vembu | Updated on December 24, 2018 Published on October 10, 2018

What is Sokal Squared?

We’ll get to that in a bit. For now, let’s meditate on Nithyananda.

Isn’t he the fake ‘godman’ who faces some ungodly charges?

The same. Some of those charges, including of rape of a disciple and a sex scandal involving an actress, are serious.

So what’s he done now?

Going by a series of unintentionally hilarious videos of his sermons that are doing the rounds, he may now be guilty — and I say this only half in jest — of peddling scientific mumbo-jumbo.

Haha, tell me more.

It’s hard to fathom why a self-proclaimed ‘godman’ may want to sermonise on ‘science’ — from Einstein’s theories to Artificial Intelligence to aeronautical engineering — to a cymbal-clanging, horn-blaring audience of utterly clueless disciples. But he does so, elaborately bedecked in gold and seated on a silver throne, in his thickly accented English.

And what does he actually say?

It’s hard to make out, since his motormouth outpourings are just a word salad of scientific buzzwords. To capture the absurdity of it, I can’t do better than quote from one of his sermons, which claims to disprove Einstein’s equation E = mc2.


He says: “E equal to... not mc2, it cannot be. What is mc2: the difference between intensity and continuity. What is energy, what is matter? Matter is continuity; energy is intensity… The intensity and continuity is separate for a non-veg crooked brain, which has seen only ups and downs. Only a vegetarian brain, which can retain the experiences continuously without losing the intensity, can understand m and c is not mc, it is emceeee.”

Stop, my head hurts!

Already? There’s more where that came from. There’s another clip where he advances the mind-numbing theory that “chemistry and biology of the physics; physics and chemistry of biology; biology, physicality of the chemistry is one and the same.” But enough of this faux godman’s gibberish!

Tell me about Sokal Squared.

In the late 1990s, Alan Sokal, a New York University professor, set out to prove that post-modern academic discourse had become so meaningless that even experts cannot distinguish between scholars who make genuine claims and those who spout nonsense. He did this by having a parody article published in a revered academic journal. Just last week, three Left-Liberal academics — James A Lindsey, Helen Pluckrose and Peter Boghossian — amped it up several notches (hence, Sokal Squared) when they went public with an elaborate, year-long hoax they had perpetrated on peer-reviewed ‘progressive’ journals. They wrote 20 ludicrous ‘research’ papers, mostly in the cultural/identity/gender studies space, complete with Nithyananda-esque levels of scientific mumbo-jumbo.

For instance?

One paper explored “canine rape culture” at a dog park in Oregon and extrapolated from that to gendered human responses to sexual violence; it was published in a gender journal and “recognised for excellence”. Another reproduced passages from Hitler’s Mein Kampf and passed it off as feminist research; that too was accepted for publication. A third offered a pop-sociological explanation of the burning civilisational question of why men enjoy eating at “breastaurants” like Hooters, where busty waitresses serve chicken wings — with a view.

What does all this establish?

Both Nithyananda’s bilge and the liberal academic world’s endorsement of pseudo-intellectual research point to an abridgement of the space for rationality. Both would be laugh-out-loud funny if they were not so tragic.

The weekly column that helps you ask the right questions

Follow us on Telegram, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Linkedin. You can also download our Android App or IOS App.

Published on October 10, 2018
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor