Scientists — ev…

January 14, 2013 § Leave a comment

Scientists — even the hardest of scientists — fabricate data, fabricate studies, fall prey to fads, and otherwise get things wrong. But more relevantly, they just don’t know that much. We have very little idea of how the body works; the pills we take are made through the bluntest of means. We don’t know how to calculate very simple things, like the dispersion of milk in a cup of coffee. The illusion that social science is ineffective can only be sustained by ignorance of such ineffectiveness of hard science. The upside of all this is that there is hope for social science.

Many people have written and spoken much more poignant words about Aaron Swartz’s passing over the weekend. I never knew him, and was only familiar with his work in passing. But, for good reason, I found myself reading a lot about him over the weekend and I found this article from 2005 on his website particularly compelling. 

For such a short piece about the nature and state of the social sciences, Swartz really packed a punch. These are thoughts that I’ve thought and talked about many times before, but this piece is a great articulation of them. 

In an effort to not mystify Aaron’s work and contributions, I find this sort of thing to be something I can do to help. I can look through his body of work, look up to his example and do my best to find my calling in the quest to bring the social sciences, and specifically the empirical social sciences, to serve society. Rest in piece Aaron. 

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