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.

Shoot.

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.

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Published on October 10, 2018
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