Well, What Do You Know . . .

So here I am in my new private office on a Saturday morning, waiting for my next patient, and I think:  OK, go ahead, let’s check out Facebook and see what’s happening in my corner of the world.  There I discover that a friend and colleague has posted a link to a New York Times article, “Ed Ray, Bus Driver During Kidnapping, Dies at 91.”

This is a nice, brief story eulogizing the bus driver who was so instrumental in saving the lives of the twenty-six children who were kidnapped from a school bus in Chowchilla, California in 1976.  Anyone alive and above the age of, say, ten in the United States at the time remembers this event quite well.  It even became somewhat of a cause célèbre in psychiatric circles years later.  The article ends with a very touching report that many of the then-children, now all in their forties, came by to visit him in his final weeks.

Nice.  So, as I usually do, I check out the “Most E-Mailed Articles” list on the side.  Have got to keep up with what’s au courant in progressive circles, after all.

And, lo and behold, there it was, at Number Eight, pretty as you please:  How Reliable Are the Social Sciences?

Well, my, my, my . . .

The article is by Gary Gutting, who, according to the bio blurb, is “professor of philosophy at the University of Notre Dame, and an editor of Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews.” 

I merely quote his final two paragraphs:

My conclusion is not that our policy discussions should simply ignore social scientific research.  We should, as Manzi himself proposes, find ways of injecting more experimental data into government decisions.  But above all, we need to develop a much better sense of the severely limited reliability of social scientific results.   Media reports of research should pay far more attention to these limitations, and scientists reporting the results need to emphasize what they don’t show as much as what they do.

“Given the limited predictive success and the lack of consensus in social sciences, their conclusions can seldom be primary guides to setting policy.  At best, they can supplement the general knowledge, practical experience, good sense and critical intelligence that we can only hope our political leaders will have.”

My, my, my . . .

Next time I drop my eldest off at Goshen College, I just might have to take me a little side excursion to South Bend and pay a little visit to the good professor.

My, my, my . . .


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