Boudry’s Hoax on “Sophisticated Theologians”

Dr. Maarten Boudry performs a ‘Sokal-style hoax‘ on two theology conferences. Here is the abstract:

The Paradoxes of Darwinian Disorder. Towards an Ontological Reaffirmation of Order and Transcendence.
Robert A. Maundy,  College of the Holy Cross, Reno, Nevada

In the Darwinian perspective, order is not immanent in reality, but it is a self-affirming aspect of reality in so far as it is experienced by situated subjects. However, it is not so much reality that is self-affirming, but the creative order structuring reality which manifests itself to us. Being-whole, as opposed to being-one, underwrites our fundamental sense of locatedness and particularity in the universe. The valuation of order qua meaningful order, rather than order-in-itself, has been thoroughly objectified in the Darwinian worldview. This process of de-contextualization and reification of meaning has ultimately led to the establishment of ‘dis-order’ rather than ‘this-order’. As a result, Darwinian materialism confronts us with an eradication of meaning from the phenomenological experience of reality. Negative theology however suggests a revaluation of disorder as a necessary precondition of order, as that without which order could not be thought of in an orderly fashion. In that sense, dis-order dissolves into the manifestations of order transcending the materialist realm. Indeed, order becomes only transparent qua order in so far as it is situated against a background of chaos and meaninglessness. This binary opposition between order and dis-order, or between order and that which disrupts order, embodies a central paradox of Darwinian thinking. As Whitehead suggests, reality is not composed of disordered material substances, but as serially-ordered events that are experienced in a subjectively meaningful way. The question is not what structures order, but what structure is imposed on our transcendent conception of order. By narrowly focusing on the disorderly state of present-being, or the “incoherence of a primordial multiplicity”, as John Haught put it, Darwinian materialists lose sense of the ultimate order unfolding in the not-yet-being. Contrary to what Dawkins asserts, if we reframe our sense of locatedness of existence within a the space of radical contingency of spiritual destiny, then absolute order reemerges as an ontological possibility. The discourse of dis-order always already incorporates a creative moment that allows the self to transcend the context in which it finds itself, but also to find solace and responsiveness in an absolute Order which both engenders and withholds meaning. Creation is the condition of possibility of discourse which, in turn, evokes itself as presenting creation itself. Darwinian discourse is therefore just an emanation of the absolute discourse of dis-order, and not the other way around, as crude materialists such as Dawkins suggest.

(h/t Jerry Coyne, Why Evolution is True)

About Matt DeStefano

Matt is pursuing his PhD in Philosophy at the University of Arizona.

  • Blue Devil Knight

    Getting an abstract “accepted” at a conference is pretty trivial. At Society for Neuroscience, for instance, I have never heard of someone getting an abstract rejected. Also, I hope this doesn’t start a tit-for-tat war, as theists could easily do the same thing with materialists, who offer no shortage of stupid quotes. Also, lying about one’s credentials to do this, and the general disrespect involved makes the ethics seem questionable.

    • Matt DeStefano

      Thanks for the comments, BDK. I want to clear up a few things: I don’t think that “no matter what we do to theists” it is justified. However, it’s a bit of a stretch to associate a Sokal type-hoax with the idea that “they deserve derision” and especially with torturing someone on YouTube (?).

      I certainly agree that lying about one’s credentials is questionable at best – and the same applies to the Sokal paper. However, I think that this acts as an important check on the credibility of an academic discipline. Since they accepted the abstract (and published it in the proceedings), either they don’t read what they decide to publish, or they read it and thought that it was worth publishing. While it might be fairly trivial that an abstract gets accepted – I would wager that the Society for Neuroscience probably bothers to read them before putting them in the program.

      • Keith Parsons


        I also do not see a moral problem with Sokal-type hoaxes of purveyors of pompous nonsense. Actually, the most effective strategy might be just to let them speak for themselves. A colleague of mine once sagely observed that when it comes to postmodernists and other obscurantists there is an algorithm for debunking them: Quote them!

    • Steven Carr

      ‘ At Society for Neuroscience, for instance, I have never heard of someone getting an abstract rejected’

      Is this because the people who write papers for that society are real scholars?

      • Blue Devil Knight

        It’s because they have 20,000 abstracts a year so there is no way they can be properly vetted. That said, this is an extreme. My main point is that anyone who would make a big deal out of conference abstracts doesn’t understand the low bar typically set for such proceedings, even in the “hard” sciences.

        There are some exceptions, but it is standard practice to just accept abstracts at most conferences. It’s one way they make money, as typically you have to send in a processing fee with your abstract, not to mention you usually register for the conference which is what they ultimately want.

        It probably won’t be long before creationists realize this, and start publishing their ideas in conference proceedings. That would be an effective way to boost the number of “peer reviewed” publications they have. It would be total BS, and they are not peer reviewed at all, but the public doesn’t know that.

    • John Danaher

      I have to agree with this. Getting an abstract accepted for a conference is pretty trivial. At least Sokal actually got an article published, which is a step up.

  • Blue Devil Knight

    There is a weird mentality from skeptics sometimes that no matter what we do to theists, it is justified, no matter how disrespectful. If you criticize such hijinks you are just being prude or not appropriately appreciating how stupid and deluded these people are, and that they deserve derision not respect and kid glove treatment. Someone should kidnap a Christian and torture them on video, and post it on youtube, because that would be a hoot.

  • Pingback: blue ofica()

  • Pingback: cheats hay day()