Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Once every few years I feel compelled to republish Alan Sokal

Warning: no financial content at all

A link. Driven by a comment on a recent blog post.



PS. For those who need an explanation of perhaps the funniest thing I have read in my life - a reasonable summary is here on Wikipedia.


ehwotay said...

Oh gosh yes.

there needs to be far more debunking of this type.

Ferdinand said...

Sokal seems to have taken great care to write a paper which seems at least passable to someone who is not reading in order to detect red herrings. Bad editing, that's for sure, but it's not hard to see why it works as bait.

The question that the paper suggests, of whether science has privileged access to an objective reality, is a valid one. As far as I can see this question remains unanswered despite the hoax's aim to discredit one side of the debate.

As a shortseller the position you're forced to take in this debate in ambiguous. On the one hand, you assume the existence of an objective world with real people, assets and cashflows. On the other hand you assume that market prices for some reason reflect the conditions in the objective world or that if they don't, they will do so at some point in the future.

Like Hume however, who you quoted the other day, we can never be sure that this marriage between cause and experience will continue to be consummated in the future. In fact, unlike Hume, you're committed to believe that cause and experience haven't even been entirely faithful in the past. The deviations between market prices and reality that you claim to discover as a shortseller forces you into that position.

Ergo, your believe that the market will reflect reality is not based on reason, but is ultimately based on a faith in the well-behavedness of your fellow humans. If they all decide to become post-modernists then the frauds you're shorting might go to infinity.

Anonymous said...

@Ferdinand: Well, that's what you get by introducing narrativium into the world. Universe w/o narrativium follows some rules (whether we can find them etc. is immaterial - the rules exist outside of us, independant of us). Things don't happen just because someone believes they "ought to happen".

Universe where narrativium was introduced starts working slightly differently - some things start to happen because they "ought to happen". Not entirely consistently (and sometimes only for a short time), but with much higher probability than a pure chance would assign.

Nevertheless, neither of the above defines what science is - science still remains a tool to disapprove something (including the above), based on observation (technically, from that perspective maths isn't science either). Where values come in is philosophy (becasue there observation is much less, if at all, useful).

Anonymous said...

It is also worth highlighting that there are a ton of "scientists" who are doing spurious work in social science...a chap at my local university (he is from Harvard (not Belfast), and the university is rated globally) won a hefty grant (from the US, of course) to determine the biological characteristics of terrorists...hmmm.

sweetgirl said...

you are right Ferdinand i agree with you

gv said...

That's indeed a good strategy when you're short of real arguments.

Gary Horton said...

Huh - I'd never seen this before. Thanks John.

dmitry@sg said...

My learning of quantum theory was years ago but as soon as I saw some references to gender issues in quantum gravity I understood that is complete bullshit :) subject is quite special...as if you think of Copenhagen interpretation it sounds not crazy only on first look...so pretty scientific discussion about Copenhagen interpretation may sound as a bullshit to unprepared reader. But quite logical if you assume the most logical point of view that our universe is some sort of simulation (reference to nick bostrom)

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