Debunking “The mathematics of happiness”

Alan Sokal weighs in again thanks to Nick Brown who was troubled by the conclusion that 

The mysteries of love, happiness, fulfilment, success, disappointment, heartache, failure, experience, random luck, environment, culture, gender, genes, and all the other myriad ingredients that make up a human life could be reduced to the figure of 2.9013.

It’s quite astonishing that Walker Percy, whom I’m currently reading, caught this in 1983, predating the Sokal Hoax by some 13 years.

By the 1970s and 1980s, self-help had mushroomed into a vast literary genre that encompassed everything from the secrets of material achievement to the new age promises of chakras, reiki and self-realisation.

In Lost in the Cosmos: The Last Self-Help Book Percy writes:

Carl Sagan is right in ridiculing the absurd pseudosciences now so popular. He is admirable in his defense of science as a reliable and self-correcting method of attaining truth.

Yet the fact is that nowadays there is no piece of nonsense that will not be believed by some and no guru or radio preacher, however corrupt, who will not attract a following (p. 172).

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