Postmodernism: The Opium of the Intellectuals

What follows is a post-modernist defense of Agha Waqar Ahmad’s water-car. The postmodernist author is Derridalacanlatour, a famous French intellectual specializing in, and battling against, the “Hegemony of the transcendental claims of science over the ontology of world concepts” Here it is:

A defense of Agha Waqar Ahmad’s water car from an epistemological perspective of the multifaceted critique of the ontology of the law of conservation of energy in view of the socially constructed nature of science.

As I was sitting in a cafe, ruminating on the futility of all reason and how the 17th century ‘age of enlightenment’ was a big farce, I came across a news item about Pakistan’s Agha Waqar Ahmad which talked about a car that he claimed was operating on water. Later on, I learned, the car was declared to be a hoax by some prominent scientists in the Pakistani community.

Well, I must say it is a great shame that those scientists are only concerned with science and seem to have such little grasp on philosophy and history, especially the notable contributions to the foundations of basic science by such luminaries as the French trio, Derrida, Lacan, Latour and many others from the radical city of Edinburgh.

Let’s get to the structure of the context. The car was criticized because apparently it did not adhere to the laws of conservation of energy. This piece of criticism is a fundamental fallacy, the kind of which many scientistic people often fall prey to. It should be remembered that Waqar Ahmad hails from Sind, the land of the Indus river which for the longest time, and to this day, provides water for irrigation in Pakistan. In that context, for Waqar Ahmad, an endless supply of water is part of the structure of the system: it is inside the closed system. This is because mother nature has been providing it and will keep on providing it for free. So the ontology of the term “closed-system” is not the same for him as it is for a Western intellectual. This was the first mistake that the objectivist scientists of Pakistan made. They followed their western counterparts blindly without paying any heed to their own social realities. They did not deconstruct Waqar Ahmad’s story properly, which is not surprising, since they are lacking in any and all such knowledge, and usually, I have to say, tend to be smug dogmatists. The fact is that a structuralist account (and indeed even a poststructuralist account) of Waqar Ahmad’s invention would have made it quite clear that his car did run on water and could run for a long time! And thus it was not a fraud.

But before I explain further, some thoughts on the ‘law of conservation of energy’. It is well-known that the French chemist Lavoisier, when he was working on exploring this law, was a member of the bourgeoisie who were interested in throttling the goals of the French revolution. So they came up with this law, even though, there were several pieces of evidence to the contrary. Their reasoning was that if no new energy could be created inside a closed system (which is what the law of conservation of energy purports), then by implication no new energy could be created to overthrow the existing French monarchy! As we know a revolution requires a great amount of energy, but since no new energy can be created, the people should just remain content in their lives and give up all hopes of a revolution, since it is not ‘scientifically’ possible. I hope I have made this connection clear! So, we conclude that at its very foundations, the law of conservation of energy is a socially constructed phenomenon having no objective reality. Of course, this is true of all science concepts. But in this case, we can see that the intentions were nefarious from the start, hence the law itself is not credible. The most that can be said about it is that it’s an interesting story.

Now coming to the terms “time” and “run”. How long is long and how fast is fast? Who decides? Some smug scientists who talk about objective realities? No, certainly not! Just like every other concept, since the time of the ontological paradigm shift provided by Thomas Kuhn in his landmark book, we will do well to realize that the words ‘run’ and ‘time’ depend on the social and cultural context in which they are used. Waqar Ahmad hails from a poor country like Pakistan in which cows and bulls are used for traveling. Such animals not only do not run very fast (while carrying a heavy load) but also tire more easily than the mechanical vehicles of the west. So in that context, if Waqar  Ahmad’s car runs for around 24 hours at the speed of 5-6 km/hr, then it could be declared to be running fast, and for a long time, given the cultural and social context.

However, since ordinary scientists do not engage in this kind of social deconstruction, they miss the bigger picture and accuse an ingenious person like Waqar Ahmad to be a fraud. We must all struggle against this hegemony over our ontologies that is exercised by a narrow-minded group of scientists.

To conclude, I invite the reader to go through the works of Bruno Latour and other notable STS (science and technology studies) scholars from the cultured cities of Paris and Edinburgh. It is the need of the hour, and the only way the hegemony of the west over east, the hegemony of men over women, and the hegemony of the white race over others, can be effectively countered in their backyard, their most potent domain: science and technology!

(Endnote: The above was a parody. But not really! In the west, post-modernist hacks can jump around all they want and it really doesn’t matter, since they are in a minority and there already exists a well-established culture of rationality and science. However, in Pakistan and other third world countries, with our literati (fiction writers and critics) already having gone down that path, and other intellectuals also possibly tempted to follow suit, we are surely to be doomed, because as it is, we are eons away from any semblance of a milieu of reason and rationality.

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rrameez

I am interested in understanding the links between science models and engineering models, and whether we can design a "science" for fields that require interdisciplinary research. Specifically, my field is the design of techno-social systems. Such systems are not traditional computing systems and require an inter-disciplinary approach for their design. Generally, I am interested in modeling and simulation, and seek to apply my knowledge of the same in various domains including arts, politics, science and engineering You can reach me at rrameez@gmail.com Rameez Rahman

7 thoughts on “Postmodernism: The Opium of the Intellectuals”

  1. dear writer,
    this was very funny and for a science illiterate person like me thoughtful as well. would like to know what its a parody of..but yes being a person who works in the social sector i do appreciate that the car ran faster than cows and donkeys.

    1. hey, about time. Well, that’s the thing. It is a parody of the postmodernist critique of science. But if you read their original texts, you will notice this is not a caricature

  2. Dear writer,
    I enjoy reading your piece.
    You portray the Enlightenment revolution as if there was a bunch of evil men who carefully planned to invent the scientific discourse in order to blind the masses and keep them away from ‘the postmoderni truth’ of deconstructionism. This is a felicitous parody.

  3. Closed systems, yes. Certainly there is an unconscious politic at play that is undeniable. Fortunately, the trickster figure, the inventor of the water car is postmodernism genius. That I applaud!

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