Soft Science

I see that Anne Applebaum has stumbled into something i’ve been stressing here for some time, that economics is a science of human behavior, that preferences matter, and that preferences may differ from country to country for a wide variety of reasons:

Anyone making economic recommendations, whether in the pages of a newspaper or directly into President Obama’s ear, should remember this: The viability of an austerity policy — or a fiscal stimulus — in the United States might also depend on the political climate in which it is introduced, the mood of the nation at the time and — who knows! — maybe the behavior of our celebrities too.

One size does not fit all. Human beings are not completely independent entities. They live within cultural contexts. They aren’t like atomic particles or perfect spheres. History matters. What the neighbors do and think matters. What their favorite actors or sports figures do (as well as say) matters.

18 comments… add one

  • michael reynolds

    I still think a “science” where the data is regularly interpreted in wildly divergent ways according to strictly partisan lines – not just by civilians, but by leading scientists themselves – cannot be called a science. It may become a science. But right now it feels a lot like pre-Nate Silver punditry: a whole bunch of b.s. with a light coating of numbers to add luster.

  • TastyBits

    Science is defined by the scientific method. Numbers are useful, but they are always suspect. It is harder to make variables “lie”.

  • jan

    Selective science is the Bible of social progressivism. It provides, in their minds, all the irrefutable evidence needed, to backup their own patented theories supporting the ideological remedies they want to impose on everyone.

    Whether it’s: global warming (despite a massive amount of contrary evidence leaning towards cyclical changes as one culprit); gun control (despite heightened violence in areas having strict gun control); huge government stimulus (despite being followed by an economy plagued by malaise); union domination (despite RTW states showing lower UE rates, along with more business opportunities filtering into those states); increased taxation opted for, instead of less regulation, as a singular tool touted to grow the economy (despite historical evidence indicating long-range implementation usually results in decreased revenues).

    The list is long and seemingly endless, regarding the science of the left, which is forced on everyone despite any experiential data showing how faulty or biased it might be.

  • michael reynolds

    Jan:

    Let me count the ways in which you are full of it:

    1) WASHINGTON – The verdict is in: Global warming is occurring and emissions of greenhouse gases caused by human activity are the main cause.

    This, according to Richard A. Muller, professor of physics at UC Berkeley, MacArthur Fellow and co-founder of the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project. Never mind that the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and hundreds of other climatologists around the world came to such conclusions years ago. The difference now is the source: Muller is a long-standing, colorful critic of prevailing climate science, and the Berkeley project was heavily funded by the Charles Koch Charitable Foundation, which, along with its libertarian petrochemical billionaire founder Charles G. Koch, has a considerable history of backing groups that deny climate change.
    http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/la-pn-kochfunded-climate-change-skeptic-reverses-course-20120729,0,7372823.story

    2) The evidence on real gun control, as practiced in countries where the laws are not utterly porous and easily-defeated by non-complying states, is quite clear. Developed nations with few guns have fewer murders than we do. All of them. Every single one.

    3) Show me a prosperous, wealthy right to work state. The closest you’ll get is Texas, and it’s still a dump. California, New York, Washington — you know, the states that pay the bills and drag the sorry-assed Red States behind them like weary toddlers — are not right-to-work. Alabama is RTW. Alabama is third world.

    4) Make a list of all the rich countries. Now make a list of all the countries with regulated capitalist economies. See how you have identical lists? Remember when your crew were touting Ireland as the Celtic Tiger that was leading the way by cutting taxes and creating a welcoming business environment? Ireland is now Alabama. Meanwhile, Germany — unionized and regulated — is doing rather well.

    Don’t talk about facts. You’re a Republican. You’re from the legitimate rape, 6000 year-old earth, party.

  • I still think a “science” where the data is regularly interpreted in wildly divergent ways according to strictly partisan lines – not just by civilians, but by leading scientists themselves – cannot be called a science.

    That’s a long-winded way of saying what Rutherford did a century ago: “Physics is science. Everything else is button-collecting.”

    By that standard the social sciences are all non-sciences. They’re not a great deal farther along than they were a century ago and that progress has largely been made at the expense of being close to the subjects they’re purporting to study. A mathematical model abstracts real behaviors. It doesn’t replicate them.

  • 2) The evidence on real gun control, as practiced in countries where the laws are not utterly porous and easily-defeated by non-complying states, is quite clear. Developed nations with few guns have fewer murders than we do. All of them. Every single one.

    Talk about interpreting the data through a political prism. You’ve been presented with evidence that countries with high per capita gun ownership does not lead to higher murder rates.

    To some people, Michael, empirical evidence simply does not matter. You are one of those people. Which makes your whining about them truly amusing.

    Don’t talk about facts. You’re a Republican. You’re from the legitimate rape, 6000 year-old earth, party.

    Michael, there are plenty of religious, conservative, and Republicans who happen to believe in evolution. As such your comment is in really poor taste.

    As for selective science I seem to recall we covered this topic before Michael, and it wasn’t so pretty for the Left/Dems either. If I recall correctly I pointed to an example of Obama himself spouting utter bullshit about autism and vaccines. How many Lefties get their panties in a knot over things the GMOs? Obama sure did pander to them as a candidate in 2007. How many hipster douche liberal douches do you know blubber on about “local food”…never mind that even if every liberal hipster douche grew heirloom tomatoes on in their personal gardens they’d never come close to feeding people in the densely populated areas they live in. How many liberals got the vapors regarding population back during the late 70’s when that idiot Ehrlich published his population books?

  • michael reynolds

    Dave:

    By that standard the social sciences are all non-sciences.

    You are preaching to the choir, there. I’d include “medical” sciences like psychiatry.

  • michael reynolds

    Steve:

    Again. Make a list of all the countries in the developed world. Rank them by murder rate. Now who wins? Us. It’s not close. We have a huge lead. And who has the highest rate of legal and illegal gun ownership and the least regulation on the storage and licensing of both guns and ammunition? Us. I’m sorry, but comparing us to randomly cherry-picked third world countries is irrelevant. Our peers all have regulation, and all have far lower rates of homicide.

    Michael, there are plenty of religious, conservative, and Republicans who happen to believe in evolution. As such your comment is in really poor taste.

    Seriously? It’s in poor taste to challenge creationism? In 2013? Really?

    How many Lefties get their panties in a knot over things the GMOs?

    Less than 50% of Californians were even willing to demand that GMO foods be labeled. In a state that went overwhelmingly for Obama.

  • TastyBits

    @michael reynolds

    The earth is 4.5 billion years old by the latest estimates, and the core has been cooling ever since. In the future, it will cool enough, and the earth will become a dead planet. The earth is presently between ice ages, and it has been warming since the last one. At some point, it will begin cooling again. The frost line will move south and glaciers will begin to grow.

    The earth has been around a long time before man. It will be around a long time after man, and man is no match for nature.

  • jan

    Michael,

    1) For every Richard Muller there is an equally respected climate scientist to counter his claims. The causes or reasons for any climate change manifestations is not a done-deal, by any means, which is why so many skeptics abound. Again, your scientific proof is no more a God-given conclusion than mine. And, regarding economy-killing CO2 regulations, with corrupted and/or disputed science behind it, we have other countries totally disregarding the CO2 global warming premise. China, Russia, India, even Brazil are brazenly and competitively steaming along, while places like CA are digging themselves into deeper fiscal holes, with their clunky, politically correct carbon exchange programs. In fact, we just got notice from a young, talented tenant who is getting married and moving out of this state, because “it’s not a place to do business in.” Ergo, there goes another promising taxpayer, sacrificed at the altar of either big government greed or stupidity ….

    2) I don’t look to other countries for gun-control comparison. The United States is a unique combination of states, with it’s own demographics, economics, and problems. There have been studies done here refuting your claims of our violent behavior all leading back to the number of guns owned by Americans. Lott is one guy who has extensively done work on this (and is panned by people like Steve). But, when you look at the variables behind gun violence, it usually involves a plethora of root problems — gangs, drugs, mentally ill/disturbed people, social/cultural and family cohesiveness flaws being some major ones. In fact, most of the recent highly publicized rampages involved young males having prior histories involving anti-depressant medications or SSRIs. There are even details leaking out that the CT shooter had such an undisclosed background.

    3) Your derisive description of RTW red states is kind of arrogant, IMO. Sure these states don’t have the large and glittering economy of CA, the one that you and I reside in. However, they also don’t have the massive debt, the lousy school rating (something like 49th in the country?), the huge welfare state (statistically housing a third of such recipients), the highest taxation (which is even going higher), along with the reputation of being one of the most anti-business states in America. If it wasn’t for the warm climate, beautiful coastline, celebrity-laden communities, and high tech business, we would not be superficially holding on so long. The tenant moving out of state offered his own opinion for people staying here — “You have to be wealthy enough to want to stay and play here.” So much for having fair government practices or a populace with a strong work ethic being behind our ‘greatness.’ However, even titans fall, when they suffer too much erosion — in the case of CA, that would be fiscal reason — and, I think it’s time will come, while the red states will scrape along and survive quite nicely.

    Don’t talk about facts. You’re a Republican. You’re from the legitimate rape, 6000 year-old earth, party.

    …and, as usual, you revert to the old slam-anyone-who-disagrees-with-you with crappy insults. However, Michael, I don’t fit your ranting stereotype. For most of my adult life, as I have said many times before, my party affiliation has been democratic. Recently I re-registered as an Independent, like quite a few disenchanted dems I know have done.

  • michael reynolds

    Jan:

    1) No. No, there is not an equally respected counterpoint. There just isn’t. Which is what the Koch brothers spent millions of dollars to find out.

    2) It’s absurd to insist that we compare states. Are there border crossings between states? Is it difficult to move a gun from Virginia to the District of Columbia? Is it hard to bring a gun from Virginia to New York City? The laws in this country don’t work because they are a patchwork of laws that are utterly ineffective.

    3) Actually, those states do have the lousy schools and all the rest of it. Yes, California does as well, thanks to a joint effort by Republicans and Democrats. But to pretend that Alabama isn’t a dump is silly. I used to live in the panhandle of Florida, I’ve also lived in Texas and Tennessee and North Carolina. So I have some direct experience of southern life. They have no RTW laws and people with full-time jobs are on food stamps, so let’s not pretend RTW laws are some kind of panacea.

    It’s not arrogance to say that CA and NY and other blue states pay the bills in this country. The top 10 donor states are: California, New Jersey, New York, Illinois, Michigan, Connecticut, Texas, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Massachusetts. 9 of the 10 are blue states.

    The top ten recipient states are: Virginia, Maryland, Missouri, Alabama, Mississippi, New Mexico, Louisiana, Kentucky, South Carolina and Tennessee. 6 hard red states, 2 purple states, 2 blue states.

    All but one of the donor states are RTW states.

  • Again. Make a list of all the countries in the developed world. Rank them by murder rate. Now who wins? Us. It’s not close. We have a huge lead. And who has the highest rate of legal and illegal gun ownership and the least regulation on the storage and licensing of both guns and ammunition?

    Well it is obvious you don’t know shit from shinola about science Michael. Comparing two observations like that and trying to draw conclusions is problematic, to put it lightly. I think the problem with violence, murder and gun violence is a function of culture as well as availability (and probably other variables as well). For example, Switzerland not only has a high gun ownership/possession rate, they own military grade weaponry and have been trained to use it effectively. Yet a very low murder rate. According to your analysis they should be swimming in blood.

    I’m sorry, but comparing us to randomly cherry-picked third world countries is irrelevant.

    Switzerland, dumb fuck, is not a third world country. The last time we covered this topic I also pointed to Sweden and Norway. Also not third world countries.

    Seriously? It’s in poor taste to challenge creationism? In 2013? Really?

    Wow, for somebody who can write, and apparently does it well, you suck ass at reading. I did not indicate the above at all. Not at all. What I was indicating is that it is in poor taste to suggest that an individual, merely based on membership to a group, must share all beliefs/behaviors of said group. Maybe Jan is a creationist…but maybe she isn’t. In any event, I think we have clearly established that you are a bigot Michael.

    And the part about legitimizing rape? WTF? Nice job being a complete douche.

    Less than 50% of Californians were even willing to demand that GMO foods be labeled. In a state that went overwhelmingly for Obama.

    Again, this actually makes my point. A significant sub-group amongst the Left believe in junk science.

    Really, you fail at critical thinking. Miserably. But hey, at least you are creative.

    It’s not arrogance to say that CA and NY and other blue states pay the bills in this country. The top 10 donor states are: California, New Jersey, New York, Illinois, Michigan, Connecticut, Texas, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Massachusetts. 9 of the 10 are blue states.

    The top ten recipient states are: Virginia, Maryland, Missouri, Alabama, Mississippi, New Mexico, Louisiana, Kentucky, South Carolina and Tennessee. 6 hard red states, 2 purple states, 2 blue states.

    Pathetic. And here you are lecturing us about science and facts. Truly pathetic.

  • Drew

    Its high comedy to see Michael lecturing on science.

    He appeals to authority. Heh. The LA Times? A single scientist? Fraud, politics, grant seeking etc are legion in this debate. The “science” is a mess. A total mess.

    Those same authorities told us just a few years ago about the coming Ice Age. Oops. What’s in common? Anti-capitalism and the prospect of taxes. Taxes, taxes, taxes. WTFU.

    As for the science. One of the lynch-pin notions of the MMGWists is at odds with an obvious answer, in light of humongous climate swings throughout millions of years of history, not just a hundred or so: the good old sun. You know, that big yellow ball out their that basically governs everything? That notion is tethered in the negative correlation between solar flares and temp……….as best we can measure. But as I have noted……….and no one dare touches, is that recent – if preliminary – work at the Swiss lab provides an answer that anyone actually trained in science, and understands basic heat transfer, as opposed to childrens book authoring, dirty monetary grants or such, would understand. Solar flares nucleate radiation heat transfer interfering water droplets in the atmosphere.

    For those of us familiar with science, and not narrowly politically captivated, that is so compelling as to make laughable the public discourse. Think a black car vs a white car in the summer. Simple and sweet.

    Moving on……

    Michael claims to be enlightened while snarking about 6000 year old earth believers. Michael, you can do better. You cheapen yourself with such childish crap. I know you are better.

    As for guns………and speaking of science…….you see, Michael, there is this thing called independant variables. Chicago, for example, has all the gun laws you cherish and site for other countries. Ain’t workin’ out so good, dude. Must be sumthin’ else goin’ on………..

  • jan

    To state that there isn’t any legitimate dissent to the media-driven global warming claims shows a blindness to recognizing the obverse side of a reasoned argument.

    A big problem in dispelling the religiosity, though, of the anthropological discourse behind global warming devotees, is that government funding tends to go to the ‘scientists’ who support the government position on such issues. Therefore, getting research published and out there presenting contrary evidence, has been difficult and publicly scoffed at by peers on the ideological left who primarily dominate academia in this country and abroad.

  • jan

    The article below somewhat dovetails into what Drew was talking about, regarding solar flares. There’s all kind of cyclical ‘stuff’ going on that doesn’t necessarily fit into the neat package of global warming speculation, dealing with CO2 emissions being the only cause of our climate pattern changes.

    Big sunspot unleashes an intense solar flare.

    The sun is in an active phase of its current 11-year weather cycle, which scientists call Solar Cycle 24. The sun’s activity cycle is expected to reach its peak (or “solar maximum”) in 2013, astronomers have said.

  • Drew

    There you go again, jan, talking sense.

    Don’t you dare upset the MMGW orthodoxy.

    I, for one, will be fascinated by how the MMGWists deal with solar flares and reflective vapor nucleation. I bet 95% won’t even understand the terminology or concept (after all, it won’t be on The View), and the remaining 5% will just deny, deny, deny……………

  • TastyBits

    @jan

    One of the tenets of the scientific method is negation. “Settled science” is an oxymoron. From Aristotle to Galileo, science was settled. Dissent was not recommended. Since that time, science has been constantly changing.

    The AWG theory is based upon trapped infrared heat. Infrared heat is a section of the electromagnetic wave spectrum. Solar flares, sunspots, sunlight, the earth’s magnetic field, and atmosphere are all related. This is not difficult to understand, but without this knowledge, a scientific judgement is not possible.

  • jan

    Ah, clarity from both Drew and TastyBits. What else is there to end a girls’ evening in contentment…intellectually, that is.

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