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?
A BS detector for the social sciences
All sides agree: progressive politics is strangling social sciences
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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