Higher Superstition the Academic Left

This book sparked the Science Wars with its publication in 1994 as a attack on the very intellectual foundations of postmodernism. In the minds of the authors, Paul Gross and Norman Levitt, this theory of thought includes also radical feminism, science studies, and romantic environmentalism. Much of the Higher Superstition is composed of refutations of postmodern writers, from Derrida and Foucault to Hayles and Ross with an arguably modernist use of logic. This would not make it the first book of its kind: in fact Gross and Levitt routinely cite previous authors. What makes this book special is itsĀ  polemical nature and acerbic wit. This book is meant to offend (and the authors, though not in so many words, readily acknowledge this) in order for there to be a backlash and discussion. The first word of the piece is “muddleheadedness” with regards to postmodernist thinking and Gross and Levitt have no qualms about calling their opponents arguments “sophomoric” or saying that they are in need of “psychoanalysis,” despite referring to them as “colleagues.”

An even more interesting part of the book than the arguments is presents (Which from my opinion are weighty but I doubt that from a historical perspective are relevant. What is the more important part of the Declaration of Independence, the long list of grievances against King and Parliament or rhetorical flourish of “all men are created equal?”) is the world view of scientists that the book is trying to present itself as. In the authors’ eyes, postmodern thought is the product of the death of the New Left in all but the universities, where is has found a safe but niche. Nevertheless, many on the left are left resentful and full of despair (though there are still a few “unabashed Marxists”), thus they attack (though without even the possibility of changing anything or being affected by a backlash) all that has to do with Western Society, including the Enlightenment and science. They nevertheless generally have no scientific knowledge and are more akin to creationist thinkers, romantics of the 19th century, and premodern thinkers. Thus from the point of view of Gross and Levitt, which seems to be more than just their view, judging by the success of the book, postmodernism is in fact a reactionary movement and the “Academic Left” is not the true left, it is a parody of it.

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