News Psychology

Why social science is riddled with “flaky research and questionable theories”

Spread the love
Paper Cups - Patchwork Owl
Patchwork Owl/PressLoft

Because “ Graduate students were entering the field in order to change the world rather than discover truths. ”

For last night’s party theme, the news desk chose EMS Crying Towel!: Liberals attacking social sciences.

If it weren’t for the misunderstandings and mistrust that social scientists have inflicted by widely publicized fake data, one would almost feel sorry for people so friendless.

But then the frog pitied the scorpion too, and …

Anyway, from the Inbox:

How a rebellious scientist uncovered the surprising truth about stereotypes

Left-wing bias, he said, was undermining his field. Graduate students were entering the field in order to change the world rather than discover truths. Because of this, he said, the field was riddled with flaky research and questionable theories.

Jussim’s talk began with one of the most egregious examples of bias in recent years. He drew the audience’s attention to the paper: “NASA faked the moon landing – therefore (climate) science is a hoax.” The study was led by Stephan Lewandowsky, and published in Psychological Science in 2013. The paper argued that those who believed that the moon landing was a hoax also believed that climate science was a fraud. The abstract stated:

We…show that endorsement of a cluster of conspiracy theories (e.g., that the CIA killed Martin-Luther King or that NASA faked the moon landing) predicts rejection of climate science as well as the rejection of other scientific findings above and beyond commitment to laissez-faire free markets. This provides confirmation of previous suggestions that conspiracist ideation contributes to the rejection of science.

After describing the study and reading the abstract, Jussim paused. Something big was coming.

“But out of 1145 participants, only ten agreed that the moon landing was a hoax!” he said. “Of the study’s participants, 97.8% who thought that climate science was a hoax, did not think that the moon landing also a hoax.” More.

See also: Seven Myths of classroom social psychology

Two main things to see here: The field is riddled with this sort of thing, and the practitioners do not need to reform; they can function successfully as PR for powerful causes.

Second, now that a number of sciences are reckoning with the reality of drift, it may be time to acknowledge once and for all that the study of current human social behaviour is not a science, any more than opera is.

That’s not to say it isn’t valuable or can’t teach us anything; it’s just not best approached as a science.

If it weren’t approached that way, so many of the scandals either wouldn’t be happening or wouldn’t be scandals. And whose business is it anyway then?

Follow UD News at Twitter!

Hat tip: Stephanie West Allen at Brains on Purpose

One Reply to “Why social science is riddled with “flaky research and questionable theories”

  1. 1

    News wrote: Because “ Graduate students were entering the field in order to change the world rather than discover truths. ”

    I believe it’s because they don’t distinguish the facts from how decisions are made, from opinion about the agency of those decisions.

    I think subjectivity is part of doing meaningful sociological work. When for instance a sociologist is investigating the dynamics of a genocide, then judgement about the agency of decisions made is essential in my opinion.

    I think the bigger problem is scientists who demand that only facts are allowed, which then leads scientists to pronounce what is really opinion as if it was a fact.

    The focus should be on precisly distinguishing fact from opinion, but allowing both.

Leave a Reply