From the postmodernist Sandra G. Harding’s The Science Question in Feminism (1986):
“One phenomenon feminist historians have focused on is the rape and torture metaphors in the writings of Sir Francis Bacon and others (e.g., Machiavelli) enthusiastic about the new scientific method. Traditional historians and philosophers have said that these metaphors are irrelevant to the real meanings and referents of scientific concepts held by those who used them and by the public for whom they wrote. But when it comes to regarding nature as a machine, they have quite a different analysis: here, we are told, the metaphor provides the interpretations of Newton’s mathematical laws: it directs inquirers to fruitful ways to apply his theory and suggests the appropriate methods of inquiry and the kind of metaphysics the new theory supports. But if we are to believe that mechanistic metaphors were a fundamental component of the explanations the new science provided, why should we believe that the gender metaphors were not? A consistent analysis would lead to the conclusion that understanding nature as a woman indifferent to or even welcoming rape was equally fundamental to the interpretations of these new conceptions of nature and inquiry. Presumably these metaphors, too, had fruitful pragmatic, methodological, and metaphysical consequences for science. In that case, why is it not as illuminating and honest to refer to Newton’ laws as ‘Newton’s rape manual’ as it is to call them ‘Newton’s mechanics’?” (Harding 1986: 113).On the very next page of Harding’s book we are told that the heliocentric theory of the solar system was problematic in terms of its “gender symbolism” (Harding 1986: 114). Why? Because it displaced the older geocentric view that placed “mother earth” at the centre of the universe and put in its place the “masculine” sun (Harding 1986: 114). Make of that what you will.
Though many Postmodernists would tell us that basic standards of logic are just a “narrative” amongst other legitimate “narratives,” I would submit to you that the idea above is the logical culmination of a philosophy that says there is no objective truth, that texts cannot have a fixed meaning intended by the author, and that objective knowledge is impossible.
The result? We have a person telling us – apparently with a straight face – that it is just as meaningful and legitimate to refer to Newton’s Principia as “Newton’s rape manual.”
Is it even remotely convincing? No. There are apparently a few metaphors in Bacon about science taming nature that could be interpreted as rape metaphors (Soble 1998: 4). But why should Newton be tarred with the same brush as Bacon? As far as I am aware, there are no metaphors of rape in Newton’s Principia.
Even as some loose metaphor for “male” science taming or understanding “female” nature, the “Newton’s rape manual” comment insults the intelligence, and slanders the scientific method.
For those of you who would like a careful and rational expose of the Postmodernist abuse of science and the irrational hatred of science that can be found in modern Postmodernism, I direct you to these fine works:
Gross, Paul R. and Norman Levitt. 1994. Higher Superstition: The Academic Left and its Quarrels with Science. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.Finally, here are some reviews of Sokal and Bricmont (1998), a celebrated work:
Sokal, Alan and Jean Bricmont. 1998. Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals’ Abuse of Science. Picador, New York.
Koertge, Noretta. 1998. A House built on Sand: Exposing Postmodernist Myths about Science. Oxford University Press, New York.
Richard Dawkins, “Postmodernism Disrobed,”BIBLIOGRAPHY
Danny Yee. 1999. “Intellectual Impostures: Postmodern Philosophers’ Abuse of Science,”
John Sturrock. 1998. “Le pauvre Sokal,” London Review of Books 20.14 (16 July): 8–9.
Soble, Alan. 1998. “In Defense of Bacon,” in Noretta Koertge (ed.), A House built on Sand: Exposing Postmodernist Myths about Science. Oxford University Press, New York. 195–215.