Inverse Weathervanes

Friday, June 26th, 2015

Sociology is useful, Razib Khan pointed out, because it has negative predictive value — which is odd, Gregory Cochran notes:

There are a lot more possible wrong theories than right ones — which means that identifying the right theories is difficult. Identifying anti-correct theories, exact negatives of the truth, should be just as difficult. Perverse, too, of course, but who’s counting?

Considering that sociologists typically deny the very existence of some of the most important causal factors on human behavior (like genetics), you’d think their theories would make about as much sense as Galenic medicine or Freudian psychology — not even wrong. Their theories should not make antisense — more like random nonsense.

Probably they manage this by denying experience. Experience can show that a method works centuries before anyone has a correct theory of why it works. There are things that your grandmother (and her grandmother) knew — (the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, blood is thicker than water) — and without those grannies, sociologists wouldn’t know what to disbelieve.


  1. Bill says:

    Gary Shockley’s 1984 science fiction short story “The Coming of the Goonga” introduces the concept of a ‘zero-master’. A zero-master is smart, opinionated, articulate and charismatic — a natural leader, he invariably attracts many followers. His other salient characteristic is that he is exactly 180 degrees wrong — the opposite of what he believes or predicts is true.

    So, identifying a zero-master is extremely valuable.

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