Astronomical Odds


Over at Easily Distracted, Tim Burke highlights two recent academic news stories and finds a common theme.

This is what I call the porcupine strategy. Make yourself as pointy, sharp and inflated as you can, and hope that any predators will just go away. The problem with this particular porcupine act is that it’s not fooling anyone. Scholars who know something about the theories [Aliza] Shvartz is fumbling to deploy know full well that she’s said very little that makes sense in this passage, that it’s close to being a random assemblage of words. Observers who don’t know anything about those theories just see it as babble.

In fairness to casual readers, several, more seasoned, purveyors of postmodernist theory have also lapsed into random assemblages of words. Even those figures held in great esteem by other likeminded theorists have often proved no less impervious to comprehension. Oddly, this tendency hasn’t stopped many of their admirers from hailing the results as “skillfully poetic”.