Richard Feynman Cargo Cult Science lecture here.
Feynman (wikipedia) wonders what makes science science. He manages to argue quite well why he doesn’t think psychology meets a certain standard.
At least, he says the following:
‘I think the educational and psychological studies I mentioned are examples of what I would like to call cargo cult science. In the South Seas there is a cargo cult of people. During the war they saw airplanes land with lots of good materials, and they want the same thing to happen now. So they’ve arranged to imitate things like runways, to put fires along the sides of the runways, to make a wooden hut for a man to sit in, with two wooden pieces on his head like headphones and bars of bamboo sticking out like antennas–he’s the controller–and they wait for the airplanes to land. They’re doing everything right. The form is perfect. It looks exactly the way it looked before. But it doesn’t work. No airplanes land. So I call these things cargo cult science, because they follow all theapparent precepts and forms of scientific investigation, but they’re missing something essential, because the planes don’t land.’
What is the bar as to when the social sciences become a science?
One place I find myself often retreating (knowledgeably, and sometimes not) is a place of skepticism when it comes to such fields gaining earthly authority and becoming conventional wisdom.
What if the latest research on a certain psychological disorder, early-educational practice, or thinking about certain mental-states and their treatment, because of this potential ambiguity, simply doesn’t hold up well over time and under greater scrutiny?
How much cost of error can be borne through political/legal channels? Is there room for self-correction and protection of individual liberties regarding movements which are essentially moralizing and reformist in nature?
Few with money, reputation, political power and influence to bear those costs will do so readily, for that’s not how man’s nature is constituted, especially when asses are on the line.
Just observe any politician come election time. Or your own behavior when you trip on a toy left on the stairs (you’ve probably resisted the urge to smash that toy at some point). Rather, I’d prefer holding many idealists and social reformers/do-gooders of all stripes to account for outcomes, not intentions.
How about some healthy skepticism?
***This is to say nothing of the anti-science, ideological and radical base often driving political/social influence upon reformers and public sentiment.
Food for thought: Rarely do those upholding an ideal or principle in the public square stop to reflect upon the possibility that their burgeoning political movement might eventually devolve into a racket. The injustice, and perceived injustice, is too great. The urgency of now becomes overwhelming. Thus, what is noble in true in a movement also contains that which is ignoble and untrue, for there are always the unbalanced and power-hungry seeking more influence as they are attracted to the movement.
If this movement doesn’t constrain the worst impulses, it can be relatively easy to predict where it may end-up.
Say it ain’t so:
‘Medical journals have thus gone over to political correctness—admittedly with the zeal of the late convert—comparatively recently. Such correctness, however, is now deeply entrenched. With The New England Journal of Medicine for July 16, 2016 in hand, I compared it with the first edition I came across in a pile of old editions in my slightly disordered study: that for September 13, 2007, as it happened, which is not a historical epoch ago. What started as mild has become strident and absurd.’
Another Dalrymple piece here: Via A Reader-Theodore Dalrymple At LibertyLawSite.Org: ‘How Modern Psychology Undermines Freedom and Responsibility’
Dalrymple takes care to respond to many modern knowledge claims and ‘cult of the expert’ tendencies with literary wisdom, criticism, and skepticism. Perhaps modern psychology, in trying to explain the world and soothe men’s souls, also pathologizes and medicalizes what are otherwise quite normal impulses and duties we human beings have in a pretty harsh world, with plenty of suffering.
This, unlike the system highlighted in the below quote from the late Robert Conquest, steadfast chronicler of Soviet authority and leadership in practice:
But, he does point out certain dangers and makes me laugh at the same time:
“Those teach who can’t do” runs the dictum,
But for some even that’s out of reach:
They can’t even teach—so they’ve picked ’em
To teach other people to teach.
Then alas for the next generation,
For the pots fairly crackle with thorn.
Where psychology meets education
A terrible bullshit is born.’
As previously posted:
Ken Minogue framed it thusly:
‘Olympianism is the characteristic belief system of today’s secularist, and it has itself many of the features of a religion. For one thing, the fusion of political conviction and moral superiority into a single package resembles the way in which religions (outside liberal states) constitute comprehensive ways of life supplying all that is necessary (in the eyes of believers) for salvation. Again, the religions with which we are familiar are monotheistic and refer everything to a single center. In traditional religions, this is usually God; with Olympianism, it is society, understood ultimately as including the whole of humanity. And Olympianism, like many religions, is keen to proselytize. Its characteristic mode of missionary activity is journalism and the media.’