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Can the history of medicine help social sciences out of their dark ages?

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Well, when we read about the “issue” of misgendering dogs, well, everyone had to know that social science has gone barking mad. As if you can’t trust a dog to know that kind of thing without human intervention…

Okay, more seriously, a historian of science thinks that social science could take a leaf from how medicine got out of the dark ages:

In its subject matter, medicine is in many ways like social science. We have irreducible values that will inevitably guide our inquiry: we value life over death, health over disease. We cannot even begin to embrace the “disinterested” pose of the scientist who does not care about his or her inquiry beyond finding the right answer. Medical scientists desperately hope that some theories will work because lives hang in the balance. But how do they deal with this? Not by throwing up their hands and admitting defeat, but rather by relying on good scientific practices like randomized double-blind clinical trials, peer review, and disclosure of conflicts of interest. The placebo effect is real, for both patients and their doctors. If we want a medicine to work, we might subtly influence the patient to think that it does. But whom would this serve? When dealing with factual matters, medical researchers realize that influencing their results through their own expectations is nearly as bad as fudging them. So they guard against the hubris of thinking that they already know the answer by instituting methodological safeguards. They protect what they care about by recognizing the danger of bias.

Like medicine, social science is subjective. And it is also normative. We have a stake not just in knowing how things are but also in using this knowledge to make things the way we think they should be. We study voting behavior in the interest of preserving democratic values. We study the relationship between inflation and unemployment in order to mitigate the next recession. Yet unlike medicine, so far social scientists have not proven to be very effective in finding a way to wall off positive inquiry from normative expectations, which leads to the problem that instead of acquiring objective knowledge we may only be indulging in confirmation bias and wishful thinking. This is the real barrier to a better social science. …

Lee McIntyre, “To Fix the Social Sciences, Look to the “Dark Ages” of Medicine” at The MIT Press Reader

To the extent that so many social scientists seem comfortable with Correctness (that’s at the root of many scandals), one fears that Dr. McIntyre’s approach can’t be adopted.

Many doctors are prepared to slay beautiful theories for the sake of the lives of their patients. Have social scientists any similar motivation?

See also: “Motivated reasoning” defacing the social sciences?

At the New York Times: Defending the failures of social science to be science Okay. So if we think that — in principle — such a field is always too infested by politics to be seriously considered a science, we’re “anti-science”? There’s something wrong with preferring to support sciences that aren’t such a laughingstock? Fine. The rest of us will own that and be proud.

What’s wrong with social psychology , in a nutshell

How political bias affects social science research

Stanford Prison Experiment findings a “sham” – but how much of social psychology is legitimate anyway?

BS detector for the social sciences

All sides agree: progressive politics is strangling social sciences

and

Back to school briefing: Seven myths of social psychology: Many lecture room icons from decades past are looking tarnished now. (That was 2014 and it has gotten worse since.)

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One Reply to “Can the history of medicine help social sciences out of their dark ages?

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    as to:

    In 1847, Ignaz Semmelweis, then a lowly assistant physician in the world’s largest maternity clinic, made a discovery that would save the lives of countless women. When one of his colleagues received a puncture wound during an autopsy on a woman with childbed fever — a fever caused by postpartum infection — and died of an illness that presented the same symptoms, he had an aha moment. Semmelweis realized that medical students who came directly to the maternity ward after performing autopsies were probably transferring “cadaveric matter” to pregnant women. This was, after all, before antisepsis and the germ theory of disease, before routine handwashing and the sterilization of medical instruments. As a test, he ordered the students to wash their hands in chlorinated water before performing their deliveries. The mortality rate plummeted.

    That short recap misses the hostility that Semmelweis faced from the supposed ‘scientific community’ at the time:

    You would think that the doctors would praise Semmelweis for his discovery, but instead, they were outraged.
    Many were completely offended that someone would suggest that they were the cause of these deaths.
    Some were incensed that someone would have the audacity to claim that their hands were dirty at all—after all, they were gentlemen. Their hands couldn’t be dirty.
    Because of this, Semmelweis was laughed at, despite his demonstrable success in saving thousands of women’s lives.
    After being denied the ability to influence the greater medical establishment in Vienna for political and cultural reasons in 1848, he left Vienna. He ended up becoming the head obstetrician in Pest (modern-day Hungary). There he replicated his results and nearly eliminated Puerperal Fever entirely. By now, he was having physicians not only wash their hands, but sterilize their instruments as well. This lead to a further drop in the death rate.
    He ended up in a mental institution, though, for what we would now know to be a combination of severe depression and possibly early-onset Alzheimer’s syndrome. Two weeks later, he was beaten to death by guards.
    A man who should have been a medical hero met a sad, tragic end.
    https://www.littleimages.org/blog/semmelweis/

    ,,, As time went by, Semmelweis became angrier, more dejected, and more stressed. In 1865, he was detained in a mental hospital against his will. When he tried to leave, he was severely beaten by the guards, bound in a straitjacket, and imprisoned in a darkened cell. Two weeks later, at the age of 47, he died from a septic wound, probably caused by the beating.12
    https://creation.com/semmelweis

    Sounds very similar to the hostile reaction of present day Darwinists to any evidence that challenges their theory

    Of related note,

    Creation and the Germ Theory
    How a Biblical Worldview Encouraged the Concept that Germs Make Us Sick
    by Dr. Alan L. Gillen and Douglas Oliver on July 29, 2009
    Excerpt: In this short paper, we provide historical background on the emergence of the germ theory of disease in the 1800s. Christians, Jews, and non-religious scientists have contributed to the germ theory over the past 150 years. The basic history of the germ theory is given in many texts, most often giving credit to the experimental work of Pasteur, Lister, and Koch. However, the role of worldview, and the fact that many of these scientists were Christian and creation biologists, is often left out (Table 1).1 This article seeks to illustrate how creation and biblical thinking led to the germ theory in a logical chain of development.
    https://answersingenesis.org/biology/microbiology/creation-and-the-germ-theory/

    “Certainly, my own research with antibiotics during World War II received no guidance from insights provided by Darwinian evolution. Nor did Alexander Fleming’s discovery of bacterial inhibition by penicillin. I recently asked more than 70 eminent researchers if they would have done their work differently if they had thought Darwin’s theory was wrong. The responses were all the same: No.,,, In the peer-reviewed literature, the word “evolution” often occurs as a sort of coda to academic papers in experimental biology. Is the term integral or superfluous to the substance of these papers? To find out, I substituted for “evolution” some other word – “Buddhism,” “Aztec cosmology,” or even “creationism.” I found that the substitution never touched the paper’s core. This did not surprise me. From my conversations with leading researchers it had became clear that modern experimental biology gains its strength from the availability of new instruments and methodologies, not from an immersion in historical biology.”
    Philip S. Skell – (the late) Emeritus Evan Pugh Professor at Pennsylvania State University, and a member of the National Academy of Sciences.
    http://www.discovery.org/a/2816

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