Social scientists argue that social scientists shouldn’t do science

Sean at Cosmic Variance is rightly upset over an op-ed by University of Rochester political scientists, who write:

Many social scientists contend that science has a method, and if you want to be scientific, you should adopt it. The method requires you to devise a theoretical model, deduce a testable hypothesis from the model and then test the hypothesis against the world…

But we believe that this way of thinking is badly mistaken and detrimental to social research. For the sake of everyone who stands to gain from a better knowledge of politics, economics and society, the social sciences need to overcome their inferiority complex, reject hypothetico-deductivism and embrace the fact that they are mature disciplines with no need to emulate other sciences…

This isn’t a matter of emulating other sciences – it’s a matter of actually doing science, any science. Science’s commitment to empirical support and hypothesis testing is why it works so damn well. And it is the track record of success that is the source of science’s cultural authority – not the fancy degrees, scientists’ IQs, or deep thoughts. People outside science also have fancy degrees, high IQs, and deep thoughts. What sets science apart is its devotion to testing hypotheses and revising your beliefs in response to the results.

Author: Mike White

Genomes, Books, and Science Fiction

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