There’s something I’ve been hearing a lot lately—the call for a more scientific society. Scientific American thinks Big Data is the wave of the future. British associations call for more scientists in political office. As far back as 1998, UNESCO released an opinion piece of sorts, declaring that “scientists have an increasing obligation to become involved with policy makers and the public in finding or implementing solutions as means of adaptation to issues that are both local and world-wide…”

If you follow this blog, you might be anticipating some sort of defense of the opposite. It’s not uncommon that I take a devil’s advocate position in this space. But this time, I want to join the chorus. Call up the choirmaster, see if there’s a position in the baritone section!

Really, I couldn’t agree more. However, I would like to clarify some terms. By “scientific,” I mean truth-seeking. Though often considered synonymous, being rational or scientific frequently means floating along with the current of what is popularly considered true. If we are not too arrogant and have even a minimal grasp of the history of ideas and knowledge, we can safely assume that our current era is no different than previous ones. Our knowledge of the universe and ourselves, though generally more than in previous epochs, is no less flawed, incomplete or, at times, completely wrong.

Current problems in inquiry span the spectrum from physics to neuroscience to politics to pop culture, but for this blog, let’s focus on what most applies to our personal and social lives (that is the focus of this blog after all) and take a look at the social sciences.

The social sciences have always been considered soft in the middle—things are so subjective, theories might assert opposing viewpoints, studies are subject to various biases, and at times it seems that the border between philosophy and science greatly overlaps.

I don’t see this as really the problem, and I’ll get into that later. What seems to be the problem lately is a lack of integrity. It’s difficult to trust much of what we’re seeing lately—for a variety of reasons.

A few striking examples:

  • Diederik Stapel’s falsified data to support his premise that a dirtier environment correlates with racism. It was a relatively big study. It garnered significant attention, but it turns out he simply made a lot of it up. 

  • The Positivity Ratio” This could be a canary in the coal mine. It begs the question: How many studies like this exist that we’re not putting in the effort to debunk? Essentially, this 2005 paper claims that there is a sort of magic ratio (2.9013) of happiness to unhappiness that determines any given person’s success in life. It seems silly in those terms—and it is—but this study has been cited nearly 1,000 times on Google scholar alone, showing the danger for bad science to quickly proliferate. 

  • Modern economics is one of my favorite axes to grind. First of all, look around, it’s not working. Second of all, is it a social science—as in having to do with people—or is it abstract mathematical models

What’s the solution? 

There are many. First, social science and its critics might simply embrace what is “wrong” with social science. Yes, it’s ambiguous—people are ambiguous. Yes, it is subjective—experience is subjective. Yes, it is philosophical—what it is to be human, individually and socially, is a philosophical quandary. Sure, these are problems when you’re concerned with demarcation, pseudoscience and academic definitions, but we should be concerned with reality.

Academic research is important; it has its place. So, when we engage in it and present it, we need to do so with more rigor—both from researchers and scientific publications and their journalists. This goes without saying. But the state of scientific publishing is dismal and evermore racked with scandals and uncertainty.

While much of the responsibility for bad scientific publishing falls on the heads of publishers, editors and journalist, much of it falls on us as well. We continue to click through to We continue to take un-replicated, pop science research using white kids at expensive American colleges for subjects as gospel. That needs to change.

But there’s more.

A New Approach is Possible 

The social sciences are in crisis, but we can see this as a good thing. Necessary and positive changes often emerge from crisis and breakdown.

My hope for what comes out of this crisis is the acknowledgement of a unity. We cannot truly comprehend it (almost if we really try), but we can acknowledge it. And in doing so, we can begin to understand the interrelation of the social sciences. While the work of psychologists and sociologists within their respective fields is important and necessary, they shouldn’t feel that there is some border over which they cannot cross. The sum of the social sciences should simply be a mirror of the multi-faceted, yet unified and one-contained phenomenon that is the individual. You feel a unity within yourself, don’t you? Zoom out and you’ll find that you probably feel a similar multi-faceted, yet unified and one-contained phenomenon that is all of us—or society. You’re unique, but also the same as everyone else. Can current social science handle that apparent contradiction?

What social science needs is a method for—and openness to—trans-disciplinary inquiry, and THEE offers that method. We are, after all, individuals, members of a family, a neighborhood, political beings and spiritual all at once. THEE is a myriad of different, distinct “things,” or elements we all share that, when combined, are the total person and the society he or she and all others create. The insights within, discovered and undiscovered, seem boundless. It is a social science in and of itself, dedicated to helping create a world fit for people by acknowledging the truth about them, not just what seems popular or in-fashion.

Mankind has always been served by the willingness and openness of individuals and society to investigate and accept new pathways to truth. Science has already undergone various revolutions and every time this occurs, we leap forward in our overall social development.

Social science still has much to teach us, but only if we’re willing to change our attitude from “make it interesting so people keep coming to the website” and academic wrangling to orienting ourselves to making our personal and social lives better. That is a scientific society I would like to see.

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