Wednesday, July 4, 2007
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In praise of social science
Virginia Postrel is attending the Aspen Ideas Festival, and has a scabrously funny post on the opening festivities. Her basic complaint -- too many humanities types and not enough social scientists:
[The opening night] illustrated a bizarre lacuna in the conference in general: a distinct lack of social scientists. The absence of economic thinking is glaring, especially given its dominance in the rest of public discourse, but it's not as though the lineup is full of sociologists or psychologists either. The presumption seems to be that anyone can opine on those topics, especially if they're experts in something else, and that there are no new ideas or discoveries to be found in the social world.This is a problem Brad DeLong encountered last month as well in the pages of The New Yorker.
This leads to an interesting question: what publication outlets and/or bigthink conferences would benefit the most from an infusion of social scientists?
And, just to be contrary, which publication outlets and/or bigthink conferences would benefit the most from an infusion of humanities types?posted by Dan on 07.04.07 at 08:58 AM
Well, since half my degree is social science and the other half is humanities, I'm inclined to say all of them in tropical or otherwise idyllic locations would benefit, as long as I'm doing the infusing.posted by: Doug on 07.04.07 at 08:58 AM [permalink]
Social scientists and humanities experts usually can't get time off from their jobs at Burger King to attend three day conferences.posted by: Useless Sam Grant on 07.04.07 at 08:58 AM [permalink]
Posting 20 minutes into your 15-minute lunch break again, Mr Grant? Back to the prep line, please.posted by: Doug on 07.04.07 at 08:58 AM [permalink]
Busted again...posted by: Useless Sam Grant on 07.04.07 at 08:58 AM [permalink]
None. What those publications need is an infusion of engineers. Seriously. Engineers are what social scientists aspire to be. Social scientists are humanities/gaia/eco-utopianists (i.e. humanities folks) with just enough scientific method to intimidate their non-mathematical brethren, but not enough scientific method to build bridges.
Skposted by: Sk on 07.04.07 at 08:58 AM [permalink]
Well, next time I need a federal agency to fly, I'll call an engineer. Or maybe a travel agency.
As someone who went to MIT, I can state firmly the very LAST group of people you want to put in charge of designing any social system is a bunch of engineers. Most of them don't know how humans interact, nor do they care.posted by: grumpy realist on 07.04.07 at 08:58 AM [permalink]
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