poly: Technical social science

From: CurtAdams <CurtAdams@aol.com>
Date: Tue Jan 06 1998 - 19:08:55 PST

In a message dated 1/6/98 3:15:31 PM, hanson@econ.berkeley.edu wrote:

>I'm delighted that Damien took the time to survey some recent economics
>journals, but I could have told him that his summaries were unlikely
>to generate much discussion here.
>The sad fact is that most technical "polymaths" know next to nothing
>about technical social science. You can talk with them about
>number theory, complexity theory, astronomy, particle physics,
>electronics, natural selection, viruses, computer languages, traffic
>routing, war machines, space travel, etc. But beyond simple supply
>and demand reasoning and some awareness of the prisoner's dilemna,
>they just don't know much about technical social science.

Indeed, I think that's the crux. Most polymaths seem to get their
"polymathism" from secondary sources like books for public consumption
and popular science magazines. Primary sources often require too much
specialized knowledge to read, and are often difficult to obtain as
well. But in that secondary literature there is precious little
discussion of technical social science. Apparently people don't
find it "sexy" enough to make it into Discover and mainstream books.
The only "technical" social science from the mainstream I can think of
is Kahnemann (sp?) & Tversky's psychological work on learning
methods and misevaluations of gambling outcomes.

>As an aside, many people have this odd impression that while there are
>a bunch of people who use math in social science, they are a disjoint
>group lost in formalism that has little relevant to say about real
>social systems.

Well, my bachelor's is in economics, and I would indeed say that social
science is short in empiricism. The harder sciences are full of
empirical tests so convincing that they shove unpopular theories
down opponent's throats, but such things are rare in social science.
Received on Wed Jan 7 03:20:03 1998

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Tue Mar 07 2006 - 14:45:29 PST