Saturday, March 05, 2005

A Critique of Social Science

After a couple of abortive attempts at producing a tightly written essay explaining why I do not believe that the social sciences are sciences by any stretch of the imagination I have decided to put forth an informal compiling of reasons. This approach has the advantageous characteristic of ease of writing thus assuring that I will finish it. Perhaps critical review will help me to shape it better. I was simply unable to work out a satisfactory framework that would put my criticisms into a logical order.

I will begin with the obvious criticism to which all of my other criticisms may be linked. The events examined by social scientists are infinitely complex and thus are not subject to the methods of the physical sciences. That is, an essential characteristic of a properly conducted scientific experiment is that all significant variables are cataloged and controlled and this is not possible when the system includes a human being. This is obvious, though I will explain briefly so that no one may doubt the truth of it.

First I refer to physics, as it is the most fundamental of the physical sciences and its very simple systems yield best to the methods used in the physical sciences. In physics the events described are always very simple. They involve a handful of uniform particles or some like thing, but in order to describe these exceptionally simple systems physicists must utilize mathematical equations that are virtually unrivaled in complexity among any of the other physical sciences. The human brain is, in terms of complexity, to these simple systems as a supernova to a flickering candle. And the relationship between the difficulties involved in explaining a system and the number of relevant variables is not linear, it's exponential. Thus if we need a super computer to describe the almost unthinkably simple systems explained by physics we would need a quantum computer the size of a city block to describe the human brain. But this over simplifies the task at hand.

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In reality even a perfectly efficient computing machine the size of the entire universe could not predict the behavior of a single human brain. First, one could never produce the input data necessary to prime the system. This is because perfect knowledge of the initial state would be essential for making sound predictions, while Heisenberg's uncertainty principle assures us that we can never achieve perfect knowledge of the initial state. Furthermore, even if we were to magically obtain the necessary data, our computations would immediately begin to run contrary to the actual behavior of the system due to quantum level effects. That is, on the quantum level the universe is not mechanistic but probabilistic. Thus future states could only be determined to be more or less probable (a weak reward for having turned the entire universe into a brain simulator). I leave contemplating how much more complicated the combined interactions of the polities of the human race may be as an exercise for the reader.

At this point hopefully you are thinking, of course we cannot predict the outcome of an individual decision making process with absolute certainty. This is not necessary; all we need is a decent approximation, one that will yield better results than our current approximations. This would be sufficient reward to justify our efforts. Unfortunately this too is impossible. In order to demonstrate this we need only think about the nature of a chaotic system.

The American Heritage Dictionary provides the following as the mathematical definition of chaotic: A dynamical system that has a sensitive dependence on its initial conditions. That is to say, in a chaotic system, seemingly insignificant alterations in the initial conditions will lead to profoundly significant differences in later states. The brain is a chaotic system. In a chaotic system small approximations will lead to colossal failures of prediction.

In physics mathematical approximation is justified. To understand the behavior of a gas in a balloon it is useful to consider the average velocity and mass of the particles constituting it. To understand the behavior of a parliament it is not at all useful to consider these properties with regard to the members that constitute it. When considering the expansion of the balloon the exact disposition of each particle is of no consequence, indeed, if it was, the science of thermodynamics could not exist (for the movement of an individual particle in a gas is highly chaotic and would far surpass our powers of calculation). When considering an action of the parliament any minutest detail of the disposition of its members may be of great significance and thus a mathematical science of politics is misguided.

In a highly complicated system virtually all variables are interdependent and their importance with regard to the desired output are also highly variable. Thus what appears for a period of time to be the most significant variable may, at a seemingly random time become far less important while some obscure and unconsidered variable may move, for a period, into prominence. Indeed, it is certain that the majority of variables in such a system are connected to one another in exceedingly complicated ways such that the particular convolutions of the system must remain mysterious. Thus a ten variable or twenty variable or one-hundred variable model will inevitably fail to encompass variables which are of primary importance in determining the outcomes of the system. The physical sciences use controlled experiments because any significant variable that is unaccounted for will ruin the value of the data; in the social sciences the very idea of a controlled experiment is ludicrous. Richard Feynman, in a speech attempting to explain why the social sciences fail[1] explains that it is the scientist's duty, if he wishes to achieve meaningful results, to carefully document all of the reasons why his conclusion may be unjustified. This he rightly notes is not common practice among social scientists. This seems understandable, for a scientist might exhaust his entire career trying to exorcise all of the potential sources of error in any social science experiment. But this is, of course, the point. If social scientists had been scrupulously honest with themselves from the beginning they would never have gotten past the first experiment for they would still be accounting for uncontrolled variables.

Another problem can be seen when one looks at what happens to the data available when social scientists try to subdue it with mathematics. This is that the data gets selected. This is not necessarily a bad thing. It depends upon the criteria you are using to select. For instance, a good criterion would be relevance. But this is not the criterion that mathematical computation forces upon social scientists. No, that criterion is numerability. Those data that can easily be quantified become weighted as exclusively important and those that do not yield to numeration are categorically excluded. But in the subjects of social science there are many non-numerical inputs that are of critical importance. This is always true of an epistemology, it filters the input data accepting only those bits that are amenable to it's methods; to a man with a hammer everything looks like a nail. The obvious truth though is that there are many factors that are of critical importance in a social science that must be ignored if one wishes to make the field amenable to calculation. Here I am reminded of one of my earlier attempts to broach the subject of the failures of the social sciences:

An Essay Motivated by a Reading of Psychology and Economics by Matthew Rabin
Matthew Rabin’s criticisms of Standard Economics, though neither new nor innovative, are perfectly apt and well considered. The assumption that men rationally strive toward the maximum fulfillment of stable and well-defined preferences is indeed absurd. This is not therefore the basis of any sound systems of economic reasoning. Rabin’s suggestion that models based upon this postulate should be revised to accommodate the inconsistencies that he observes is noted and rejected upon the basis that even such a revised model would be so seriously flawed as to be useless. The error in Rabin’s reasoning resides in the presumption that an accurate and useful model of human economic behavior is attainable. All reasonable and useful economic theories, such as that of Ludwig von Mises are composed, explicitly, without the inclusion of this erroneous belief.

The presumption that man acts always to maximize his rational self-interest is undoubtedly the single most frequently and most easily criticized tenet of any economic theory. Man acting in this way has long been referred to as Homo Economicus and one can get the flavor of this long-standing debate by reading the astonishingly pertinent Wikipedia entry regarding that term (this being the first item on the list when one googles Homo Economicus). Of course, it is quite likely that Rabin was fully aware of the history of his paper’s topic and went ahead with publication because he believed that it made a useful contribution to the aforementioned debate.

For our purposes it will suffice to understand why someone made this assumption, so idiotic, so obviously contrary to truths observable both internally and externally by all human beings, in the first place. The answer is, of course, that it is a simplification, the bread and butter of the modeling so essential to the epistemology of mathematical induction. That is, without such an assumption, economic calculation would not have been possible. It is certainly a stupid assumption, given that it removes the very essence of the phenomenon being described. But it is a very useful assumption inasmuch as it enables economists to construct predictive models. Unfortunately those models describe only the imaginary Homo Economicus and not his more substantial cousin Homo Sapiens.

It was Rabin’s intent to use recent findings in the field of psychology to illuminate some of the improvable flaws in theories generated using this assumption. He thought that, so long as this idea could not be discarded without giving up on all attempts to model human economic behavior (to his thinking, clearly, the only way to advance our knowledge of the subject), the least we could do was add back in some of the significant terms that had been eliminated by the original simplification. Prior to the discoveries that he highlights in his paper this was not possible. The irrationalities, failures to act in a properly self-interested fashion, and fleeting or uncertain preferences that had been excised in order to create Homo Economicus had been removed for a reason. They were not subject to numeration. The innumerable is the kryptonite of the mathematical modeler. Rabin’s insight was to recognize that psychological researchers had begun to shed some mathematical light upon a handful of previously indescribable phenomena. He suggested that perhaps some enterprising economists might set about reattaching these bits to Homo Economicus.

These bits, which might be reincorporated into Homo Economicus, are those irrationalities that happen to be easily quantifiable. As such they are useful to modeling economists. Unfortunately the rubbish bin is still full of the difference between Homos Economicus and Sapiens. These are the differences that aren’t so easy to quantify. These differences are still more than sufficient to sink any theory based upon Homo Economicus 2.0. “Wait” Rabin might exclaim, “ I understand that this model is still incomplete, but economics requires models that are not so rich as to retard the process of drawing out their economic implications. For a discipline such as economics that places a high premium on the logic and precision of arguments and the qualification of evidence, incorporating all facets of human nature is neither attainable nor desirable.” But, what Rabin would be failing to comprehend is that precise logical argumentation is an epistemology that requires all relevant information to be considered. He would be hoping to create algorithms that will solve brainteasers without all of the necessary clues. I am put in mind of some amusing words of Charles Babbage, “On two occasions I have been asked [by members of Parliament], 'Pray, Mr. Babbage, if you put into the machine wrong figures, will the right answers come out?' I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question.” Rabin is attempting to employ a methodology that he does not understand. The characteristic that determines whether a given datum would be included in the model is not relevance; it is calculability. Thus, rather than allowing his data to select his epistemology he makes his epistemology select his data. In paying undue reverence to a methodology he sacrifices the end to the means.

Homo Economicus is not an approximation in any scientific sense; he is a fiction. An approximation simplifies (or makes possible) calculation at the expense of an increased margin of error. Using models created with Homo Economicus it is impossible to calculate a margin of error. Economic modelers throw out the baby with the bathwater and the proof is in the pudding. If you wish to know the future state of the economy you may as well consult an astrologer as a modeling economist. Rabin’s observations do not constitute the vanguard of a coming influx of successful quantification techniques but merely the continuation of a constant stream that has flowed since the dawn of inductive mathematical Economics, an ongoing process of adding refinement upon refinement in the hope that superior results will be achieved. Superior results were not achieved, have not been achieved, nor will they ever be achieved so long as Economists persist in the application of inductive mathematical methods. The formula that those economists are looking for is infinitely complex and chaotic and if they were ever able to discern it its implications would be incalculable. Seemingly insignificant variables would form endlessly diverse combinations to trigger extremely significant events. Physicists use mind bogglingly complex formulas to explain systems which are almost unimaginably simple and, given that each additional factor increases the difficulty geometrically, one can safely assume that, in terms of complexity, the most complicated system understood by physics is to the state of human economy on earth as the fart of a mouse is to the big bang.
This excerpt reiterates some of the points that I have already made above and provides a concrete example of inappropriate data selectivity. The problem is that the epistemology that the social scientists adopt forces them to eliminate critical data from the field of their consideration. It is undoubtedly true that paternal love, sexual love, hatred, pride, fear or any number of other factors could each, at times, be the single overriding factor in determining an individual's actual behavior. But it is equally true that any quantization of these factors must be arbitrarily and subjectively assigned and thus could not appropriately be utilized in mathematical models. Thus mathematical models, the cornerstones of the physical sciences, are not useful in the social sciences.

One might yet claim that, although there are many uncontrollable factors in any social scientific experiment we may yet, by averaging, reduce the net influence of the uncontrolled factors to a level of insignificance. This too is false. Many factors will indeed vary randomly among the test population and for these factors the preceding assumption is largely true. But for many other factors, those which change slowly or discontinuously, this will not be true. Many things will be nearly constant among the study populations (exemplas g. they have seen a Coca-Cola advert, they have watched television, they are familiar with objective patterns of though, they have never hunted their own food with weapons of their own making, they have not lived outside of a fiat currency system), the effects of these factors will not be averaged out, nor will the experimenter have any sense as to which of them are significant. This is to say; the events of the experiment are neither controlled, nor repeatable. From such an experiment one may draw no logically appropriate correlations. The results will not be universally applicable, and the boundaries of their applicability must remain wholly unknown.

The sum of these arguments is that inductive experimental claims about the subjects of the social sciences are not entitled to any greater validity than subjective statements based upon historical or personal experience. For the argument against the validity of such subjective statements is that they don't account for the uncertain vicissitudes of the phenomena from observations of which the conclusion was drawn, and the same criticism applies equally well to experimental social science.

I will devote the remainder of these pages to answering, as best I can the following questions.

Why, if the methods utilized by the social sciences are invalid, have so many people subscribed to them for so long?

If the methods currently utilized by social scientists are misguided is there any method of reasoning that can result, with regard to social organization, in assertions the validity of which are greater than mere subjective assertions?

The origin of the social sciences is clearly rooted in a false analogy; the objects of the analogy being simple and complex natural phenomena.

The justification of the validity of the physical sciences was functionality. Prior to the rise of the modern scientific method many competing epistemologies strove to explain the cause of events in the material world. Some of these epistemologies justified more than one explanation, some countless explanations. The arrival of the objective inductive scientific method changed things. It changed things because it worked. It made predictions, and those predictions were verified by observation. Thus, in accord with the long-standing trend of cultural admission for notions that allowed individuals to successfully adapt their behavior to physical reality, the notion was admitted. The arrival of this epistemology radically transformed man's interactions with his environment. It allowed technological innovations, which previously had been enabled only by infrequent acts of subjective intuition and random chance, to be developed selectively and at will. Such a powerfully transformative notion necessarily rose to unrivaled transcendence. It is undoubtedly the core of our modern civilization.

The victory of objective inductive science also had negative consequences. It produced a willful blindness. Other epistemologies, useful within their own sphere, were cast into the dustbin, their failures exposed by the light of the new favorite. But the failures of these epistemologies were due, not to their inherent disutility but rather to their misapplication. This subtlety was lost upon the new science's enthusiasts. The new epistemology, rightly beloved by all right minded intellectuals, was unthinkingly raised to a dogmatic and unjustified supremacy. The same love-blinded enthusiasm that had induced the early philosophers to attempt to deduce the nature of the stars and of life itself led the epigones of the natural philosophers to attempt to induce the nature of man and of correct action. Thus the same sickness that befell the deductive reasoners, that of presuming the existence of a universally valid epistemology, befell their inductively reasoning descendants.

The thinkers of the nineteenth century wrongfully concluded that the epistemology that so successfully explained the simple natural phenomena so critical to proper development of useful technologies must prove equally apt when one sought to explain the more complicated phenomena that govern how and why technologies are used. After all, the two categories of phenomena differed only in scale and complexity. It seemed only natural that, just as objective science had moved from explaining very simple phenomena to progressively more involved systems, so it might proceed on through the most complex occurrences observable. Their intuition was wrong. They failed to grasp the full measure of those more complicated systems. As the complexity of systems increase the possibility of objective validation of hypotheses rapidly moves from being possible for man to being possible only for a hypothetical perfect intelligence. But the question remains: why, more than a century hence, do individuals persist in believing what is surely false?

Intellectual success led to a growing complacence; an eagerness to proceed as rapidly as possible toward more perfect understanding brought about a willingness to bypass the roots of knowledge. As the branches of knowledge grew more diverse and numerous it became generally accepted that it was sufficient for each researcher to be familiar with the growth of his own branch. But this required an implicit faith in the support and integrity of the confluent super branches, the trunk, and the roots. By the time the social sciences were conceived this tendency was in full bloom and the fathers of the new field began to work as if they were merely sprouting a new branch from the old trunk. What they failed to realize was that the newly grafted branch was an entirely different species. It derived no nourishment from the trunk and thus had no connection to roots. But they lived, and we still live, in an age in which it was (and is) almost unthinkable that one might question the epistemology of empirical science. It is the modern religion. Thus, one reason that the fallacious social sciences persist is that it is no longer routine to argue from the roots of knowledge, as was quite fashionable in the age of deductive reasoning. But once again a question arises: if the methods of the social sciences are bunk and they yield no real results why have people not forsaken them?

It is obvious that men are inclined to proceed unquestioningly in acquiescence to popularly established modes of thought. It is also clear from an examination of nineteenth century discourse that the concept of social science rapidly rose to widespread popularity. Thus one reason that the false science was propagated might have been the assumption among those rankled by uncertainty that, ranked among the countless multitudes of believers must be many individuals wiser than themselves who had seen to the roots of the matter and were certain of the validity of the social sciences. This avenue is all the more plausible when one pauses to examine modern academia where implicit faith in the validity of methods and results abounds. This may be linked to the common belief that the division and expansion of knowledge have made pursuit of the roots of ideas impractical but this is merely a lazy fallacy. Although a great tree may possess a massively intricate and diverse tangle of branches, and their combined length may encompass miles, the distance from the tip of the tallest branch to the roots is never very far. Yet again this explanation is incomplete, ideas rise to and fall from popularity with regularity, one may yet ask what has provided the social sciences with such longevity?

One source of longevity for the erroneous principles of social science is random positive reinforcement, such as gives rise to superstitions. During the twentieth century technological innovations brought about dramatic improvements in productivity and the standard of living of the average American improved. Just as B.F. Skinner was able to demonstrate superstition in pigeons by rewarding them at random (they associated whatever behavior they had been engaging in prior to the reward as bearing a causal relationship to it and repeated that behavior) rising prosperity provided a reward to social scientists that they were inclined to attribute to their work though there may in fact have been no correlation between the events.

A second source of longevity may have been the appearance of progress. From the earliest works relating to the modern social sciences there is an air of progressive excitement. It is always perceived that we are on the cusp of great discovery, that a revolution is at hand. The ultimate reward for the hard work of the social scientists is perpetually just over the horizon. The fallacy here is that because we have demonstrated flaws in the previous theory its replacement must be significantly closer to the truth. Although the new theory may be closer to the truth, if the truth is infinitely distant it is not significantly so. If the social scientists were not blinded by optimism and ignorance it would have seemed quite odd that while in every physical science fundamental principles abide, the fundamental principles of the social sciences are in perpetual revolution. While true sciences are additive these false sciences are only negative. The reason is obvious. As was previously demonstrated, no social scientific experiment can be properly controlled, thus no principle based upon such experiments may be considered fundamental. No progress is made as new flaws are necessarily substituted for old. It is only willful ignorance of the new flaws that perpetuates the illusion of progress.

There is one final source that I can see for the continuation in the application of the social scientific philosophy. This is its persuasive utility. So long as man has been able to record his ideas it is clear he has been eager to convince his fellow men that they should organize their lives in accordance with his propositions. Every epistemology known to man has been utilized in the advancement of such arguments and the epistemology of inductive science is no different. Indeed few modern social engineers attempt to pass off their speculations without a healthy dose of social scientific evidence. Thus one might suspect that these individuals who have flourished at all times in human history have largely taken up residence in social science departments around the world. Indeed the social sciences are an ideal tool for such thinkers, as the experiments of the social sciences prove nothing conclusively they may be endlessly manipulated and contrived to support virtually any hypothesis. Indeed, my partial explorations of social scientific work have yet to uncover a non-obvious social scientific principle that has garnered accord throughout any social science discipline. Yet this is not an unreasonable thing to ask. In the physical sciences nothing is considered to be a scientific fact unless it is indisputably verified, everything else is explicitly maintained as speculative hypotheses. In this sense the social sciences contain no scientific facts and are thus not sciences.

I now turn to the question of a possible replacement for the modern social sciences. We know that we may respond to the phenomena of our experience based upon the insights afforded by subjective judgment for this is the general mode of human understanding. Our ancestors bested the vicissitudes of their environment via the application of this method yet we are justified in longing for more. Subjective judgments are necessarily uncertain; they cannot yield scientific facts. Subjective judgments clearly led to a wide array of non-useful conclusions among our primitive ancestors. Thus the question is: if the methods of inductive objective science do not apply to complex phenomena then is it possible to arrive at verifiable conclusions with regard to such phenomena? The corresponding answer is: yes. We may use the epistemology of deduction.
To this point I have engaged in a mild subterfuge. In truth there is only one epistemology capable of generating verifiable conclusions and that is reason. I have divided this category by the use of induction or deductions and by the use of objective and subjective premises. This division was justified and was useful in the earlier stages of the discussion but here an understanding of the unity of these epistemological subcategories is of great utility.

It is common, nowadays, to think of only objective premises as being valid. This belief may only be held if one neglects the roots of knowledge. In truth all knowledge is founded upon subjective principles. The validity of the logical structure of the human mind must be considered a subjective fact. We are incapable of proving or disproving its validity, as we would be required to use the logical system in question in the act of proof. All truth statements depend upon this assumption. Further all objective premises are merely inputs into this subjective system. We use our powers of observation to generate subjective analogs to the objects of our observations. It is these subjective logical artifacts that we submit to our processes of reasoning. In the physical sciences this is less obvious but these sciences are inextricably integrated with mathematics and with regard to mathematics this is plain to see. Lines and circles do not exist in the world; they are merely objects useful to cognitions. Yet it is clear that the Pythagorean theorem, a scientific fact based upon deductive reasoning applied to subjective facts, is of objective utility. Indeed, all of mathematics consists entirely of deductions from subjective premises. I challenge the reader to discover a matrix in the world at large. Physical science itself is merely a series of deductions based upon subjective premises induced through objective observation. Thus, even within the physical sciences experimental methodology is merely a facet of the overall process, it merely justifies postulates; if Euclid had stopped at the postulation of lines and circles his geometry would be pitiful indeed.

Physical science then is only a subcategory of scientific knowledge but it has been blindly glorified to the exclusion of all other sources of knowledge. It is a premise generator. Its goal is to arrive at premises which no reasonable person can deny. But so is the human mind. That is, we are capable of asserting truths and those truths are sometimes indisputable. Any such truth is a fitting subject for the operation of logical processes. If I use correct logical operations and indisputable premises then any conclusion that I reach must be a scientific fact. You may dispute my premises, you may correct my logic but short of these you must accept the validity of my conclusions. It is certainly true that philosophers have used these methods to reach a wide variety of spurious conclusions but the method was not responsible. These philosophers, without fail, either admitted questionable premises or violated fundamental logical principles.

The procedure of the physical sciences is fundamentally identical to this process. The procedure of the social sciences, though superficially similar to that of the physical sciences, is fundamentally at variance with this procedure, as they do not establish indisputable premises. Indeed, I would qualify the error in modern thinking that has lead to the discarding of old deductive truths and the acceptance of new inductive falsehoods as a form of superficiality. We have romanticized the forms related to experimental investigation and demonized those associated with old-fashioned deduction. Although I outline above the technical errors in the thinking of the social scientists I think that for many of them their error is not technical. They do not have faith in objective induction, if that was truly their epistemology they would long ago have recognized their error, I think their epistemology is that truth proceeds from lab coated equation wielders. That is they don't even have a philosophical justification for their epistemology they merely have a justification based upon subjective judgment, to quote Richard Feynman:

"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 with lots of good materials, and they want the same thing to happen now. So they've arranged to make 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 for 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 the apparent precepts and forms of scientific investigation, but they're missing something essential, because the planes don't land."

So again, the short answer to my second question is: yes. I understand that my abstracted explanation of the possibility of arriving at objective truth through deductive subjective methods may yet seem a bit hazy but this is unavoidable. Such arguments are very involved and I could not easily include a convincing example within the confines of this paper. Although I hope that this paper itself is such an example (I would also recommend the Federalist Papers, and Human Action by Ludwig von Mises), as I have not used induction in my arguments and yet I seek to demonstrate a verifiable truth. Indeed, the explosion of the social sciences could not legitimately be accomplished through inductive objective methods for the very reasons that I have stated above (hence my deliberate avoidance of the obvious argument that the social sciences don't get results). This may provide another argument as to why the social sciences have persisted for so long: their failure results from actively rejecting the methods of reasoning by which alone they might recognize the cause of their failure.


It is undoubtedly true that many social scientific experiments imply interesting relationships. It is also very likely that many of the correlations they suggest bear significant relations to truth, but these relations have only subjective weight, they do not bear the force of logical certainty. Thus, they belong in the category of historical evidence. It was the great coup of the physical sciences that they were able to arrive at data that had greater than mere historical weight. The occurrence of the attack on the world trade center in 2001 is an historical fact. It undoubtedly happened, but its placement in the chain of universal causality is reserved to that assigned by subjective understanding. We cannot truthfully say that it was 69.9% responsible for G.W. Bushes re-election for instance. All historians may agree that it was a significant factor but they are not in a position to say with certainty whether or not it was the greatest factor, much less what its exact causal relationship to the subsequent event was. This is also the type of data that the social sciences generate. It is contrary to the reality of their studies for social scientists to spurn non-numerical evidence or theories based upon such evidence, for the numerical character of their evidence does not lend it any greater credibility. Yet this is precisely what they do. They feel that they may justly ignore theories that were formulated before it was considered necessary to include statistical evidence. They use a new statistic to claim that all theories formulated before the discovery of this new statistic cannot be valid. This is nonsense. One might remove all quantization from all social science experiments and the logical weight of their arguments would not change. Indeed, it is much more useful to carefully phrase conclusions with regard to social phenomena in Standard English, this makes the arguments much more amenable to careful logical analysis. The reason that mathematical equations are useful in physics is that they allow calculation. The phrase "objects in the universe are attracted to one another with a force that diminishes as they recede from one another in precisely the same way that the intensity of a light source diminishes as you move away from it, with the mass of the object being equivalent to the brightness of the light" contains all of the information contained in the equation Fg = k(M1*M2)/r^2 and is heuristically and logically far more informative, especially to those not fluent in mathematical language. Yet physicists use the equation, but this is not to exclude the common reader, it is to include the possibility of calculation. If I wish to know precisely what force a one million kilogram object will exert on a one kilogram object that is one meter distant from it the equation is more directly useful than the plain English statement. But in the social sciences such precision is impossible and thus equations in these fields do not add to understanding. They merely encrypt and obscure the observations of researchers. This is disingenuous and it has done great harm to our understanding of these fields of knowledge. The compilation of a bunch of somewhat useful observations into one mathematical model does nothing but annihilate the value of the original observations. Charles Munger, Warren Buffett's business partner, relates such an event, "Once Warren and I bought a company and the seller had a big study done by an investment banker, it was about this thick. We just turned it over as if it were a diseased carcass. He said, “We paid $2 million for that.” I said, “We don’t use them. Never look at them.”[2] How can Buffett and Munger afford to ignore the kind of detailed synthesizing predictive studies that are the bread and butter of the big investment banks and Wall Street firms? By recognizing that they can't afford to heed them. They outperform every single one of these firms virtually every year because they understand that the only useful tools for understanding business and economics are subjective understanding and subjective deduction. A single well considered observation can be assigned a subjective relevance and mentally cataloged. To accept the results of a grand synthesizing study would require a faith in the subjective judgments of every individual that contributed to it, and further, an absurd faith in the objective nature of its conclusions. Buffet and Munger are too smart to risk the wealth of their shareholder on such baseless speculation, while the leaders of the majority of U.S. corporations are not.


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