Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Long and Winding Road 2

A Fierce Critique of the Social Sciences

I have two proofs against the social sciences. The first is simply a summary of F. A. von Hayek's “The Counter-Revolution of Science” and the second is my own cute little logical paradox about social sciences and conspiracies.

FIRST PROOF: Hayek and his “Counter-Revolution of Science”

The problem with this book is that it is preposterously wordy and hard to read. It is very difficult to get through. At its heart it throws down three fallacies used by social scientists – objectivism, collectivism and historicism.

Objectivism is the belief that anything that exists can be reduced to a concise explanation in words. But not all phenomena are subject to reductionism. As human beings, we seldom understand our own motives fully; and, since Greek tragedy 2,500 years ago, the man who assumes he knows himself well has been the fundamental template for a tragedy. Further, there are things about which much is written, much is postured, but which in sum are demonstrable poppycock. I give to you as an example the mythological and amateurish business specialty of “risk management,” which lost trillions of dollars of money within the G7 nations in 2008. The black swans and seiche waves defecated upon and drowned the risk managers. Nations have gone bankrupt trying to underwrite some of these risk managers.

Collectivism is the belief that if you collect enough data and there seems to be a pattern, then the conclusions are as good as the scientific method or the double-blind test for pharmaceuticals. If you collect biased information, the conclusion is going to be inaccurate no matter how voluminous the database is. If the database is full of compterized iterations, it in fact contains no data at all.

Historicism is the belief that an established historical trends with several examples constitutes, in social science thinking, a scientific fact. But it is virtually impossible to impartially select the historical circumstances that are used to establish the trend. And the historical effort is obviously completely useless when dealing with an anomaly.

Let me now turn this subject of Hayek over to a splendid review written on January 17, 2008 by D.W. MacKenzie:

= = = = = = = = = =

This review is from: COUNTER-REVOLUTION OF SCIENCE, THE (Hardcover)

The Counter Revolution of Science is an important book for several reasons. First, The CRS explains the futility of schemes to plan progress, the impossibility of efforts for the "human mind to lift itself up by its own bootstraps". What this means is that "the attempt of conscious reason to control its own development limits the very growth to what the human mind can could foresee". Freedom "releases the knowledge and energies of countless individuals that could never be utilized in a society consciously directed from the top". Second, the CRS explains how the mindset of the physical sciences, which focuses on objective factors, fails when applied to economics. Understanding economics requires an appreciation of subjectivity in human relations. Engineers pursue technical excellence according to objective scientific principles, without considering economic factors (i.e. scarcity), and worse still the application of mathematical methods from the social sciences creates a false and dangerous impression that society can itself be engineered. Third, Hayek examines the history of the development of `scientistic' ideas, whereby various thinkers (especially St Simon and Comte) popularized positivism, socialism, and corporatism. Finally, reading the CRS instills an appreciation of the humility of individualism and disdain for the hubris of collectivism in the reader.

Generally speaking, Hayek makes the importance of recognizing and respecting the limits of human reason abundantly clear. Hayek saw that modern collectivism was working to undo the intellectual progress made during the Age of Reason and the Enlightenment. Collectivism was antithetical to reason, and would lead us to a new Dark Age if not reversed. Persons of the left with surely find this absurd, and their revulsion to Hayek's thesis is consistent with his thesis. The Left does not reject reason explicitly, it abuses reason unwittingly. People on the Left truly believe that they are progressive and scientific, but this is a false belief. Socialists and Welfare State Liberals abuse human reason by failing to see its limits.

The background to this book is simple. Hayek started his career writing technical economics. Hayek's efforts were initially met with success. Hayek initially swayed professional opinion on business cycles. Hayek also forced socialists to revise their early proposals. Yet professional opinion turned against Hayek during the mid thirties. Why? Had they proved him wrong? Did they fail to understand why he was right? How was it that intelligent and educated people could not see the strength of Hayek's arguments? Hayek's technical economics show how the capitalist system functions. Yet Hayek misunderstood the way in which his peers understood the term `technical economics'. That is, Hayek erred by underestimating the influence of positivist and other ideas. Hence Hayek turned to explaining why economists and other educated people were unable to understand correct economic theories: they had embraced a false notion of rationalism.

I find the sections on Engineers particularly interesting. Hayek's views on the role of engineers in society are so diametrically opposed to Veblen's Engineers and the Price System that one must wonder why he did little more than mention Veblen in passing. The Counter Revolution of Science is one of Hayek's best books, and that is saying a lot. The Counter Revolution of Science was important in the twentieth century because it penetrated to the core of intellectual problems of that time. We live in a new century now, but the old problem of abusing reason remains. One need only look at the policies of Bush/Cheney and Obama/Emanuel to see how the social engineering mindset prevails in modern America.

The CRS represents Hayek at his best, insightful, informative, and well reasoned in his conclusions. These are important ideas too, given that people still believe in false notions of rationalism, whereby most people still trust that the so-called best and brightest can best plan society. The Counter Revolution of Science should be read by the entire educated public.


= = = = = = = = = =

SECOND PROOF: Why haven't conspiracies taken over the entire social fabric of civilization?

A conspiracy is a secretive group of people, often called a cabal, who act together to achieve self-improvement and gratification regardless of the consequences upon all others. Simply, a conspiracy is group graft.

Something occurred to me while I was working as a state fraud examiner. Why haven't conspiracies taken over the world? What in the social sciences explains this failure of determined people to achieve total control?

And the answer is that social scientists are trapped in their own limitations. Their methodology is entirely reductionist – they can only deal with words and descriptions in words. So let's go to the dictionary and look for the answer. Conspiracy is a word without an antonym. The force against conspiracy cannot be described except through made-up words like “anti-conspiracy.” Social scientists can't study nor can they offer opinions about a counter-force that they cannot describe in words. So, for them, it doesn't exist. When a rant about the Bilderbergers or the elect or the Masons is presented, they have a hard time with a rebuttal, sinking to a reply that “you can't prove a negative,” it is not possible to absolutely prove something is non-existent. I consider this inadequate because they describe themselves as the experts of comprehending the social fabric and on, scientifically, how society works.

My conclusion is that the social scientists are bluffing. They imagine themselves experts at something that hasn't been developed yet. The social sciences are still at the stage of alchemy and magic divination.

And I have my own theory about conspiracies. What stops and starves conspiracies is capitalism, because it contains its own revolutions and on-going changes. To succeed as a capitalist means to make constant readjustments to face an ever-changing reality. Conspiracies consist of a cabal. Groups of crooks always want to keep things just as they are. That makes them slow, too slow to perpetually maintain an advantage, even the tremendous advantage of a monopoly.

Free people don't need to obsessively worry about conspiracies. I will concede that in a closed, locked, tyrannical society, cabals can thrive for many generations.

Footnote: but there is something else, something worse than conspiracies, something the social scientists don't know about – the fierce quality I call “negative quiddity.” And we're going to get to that discussion in this blog.

No comments:

Post a Comment