"Like some other scientists, Sokal and Bricmont appear to regret that science has any need of natural language to make itself known, that scientific facts can’t be implanted directly in our brains without resort to verbal mediation. When you complain, as they do, about Post-Modernism’s ‘emphasis on discourse and language as opposed to the facts to which those discourses refer’, a pause for reflection is in order, on whether it is legitimate to oppose the facts to the discourse when facts that are not contained in a discourse cannot be known. Sokal and Bricmont’s Platonic realm is one in which facts are mysteriously dissociated from the forms of words or strings of symbols of which they (in fact) consist. This comes out especially clearly in the least effective chapter of their book, that on Bruno Latour, the sociologist of science, whom they accuse, for example, of being guilty, when writing about relativity, of falling victim to a ‘fundamental confusion between Einstein’s pedagogy and the theory of relativity itself’. If I’ve got this right, they’re saying that the theory of relativity as propounded by Einstein, and the theory in its ideal, unpropounded state are not identical, because the act of propounding introduces an agent who is necessarily a reference-point in space-time that the ‘theory itself’ can do without; in which event, it beats me how we can ever have access to the theory except through ‘pedagogy’, which I take to be the sum of those real-life moments when the theory is communicated by one person to others. In the old and valuable Structuralist terminology, Sokal and Bricmont want their science to be all langue and no parole, its theoretical purity guaranteed by never being exposed to the risks of expression."
“Le pauvre Sokal” John Sturrock