Inverse weathervanes

I was thinking about something Razib Khan said – that sociology  is useful, because it has negative predictive value.  He’s probably right, but when you think about it, that’s odd. 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.


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97 Responses to Inverse weathervanes

  1. erica says:

    Do you believe sociologists actually believe their schtick? I don’t, surely not most of them. They realize that they are useful idiots to certain people in power. Thus, they are quite happy to blather on if it means continuing to collect a check.

      • erica says:

        “If it helps, you can think of my opposition to the notion that blacks are somehow intellectually inferior to whites as religious, and you might just as productively spend your time trying to convert me to Zoroastrian.”

        Claiming such beliefs as an article of faith is his last refuge, yet it provides no shelter. He’s the little kid sticking his fingers in his ear and yelling at the top of lungs.

        • Bryan Bell says:

          I suppose it’s the default for most people independent of exactly what their faith is.

          For me truth is the most important. But apparently not most others.

          • Jim says:

            Yes, for many people fantasy is much more important than a scientific understanding of reality. It’s like a child who really wants to believe in Santa Claus.

      • Luxanctus says:

        Last time that I checked, that particular user was the top-rated poster on Hacker News. Among nerd forums, Hacker News is top shelf. You will actually find more tolerance for HBD there than in other nerd forums, though not much more.

        • Anonymous says:

          Present-day HN is about 50% pre-2010 HN and 50% reddit. It was once a lot smaller and felt like more of a “community”, which encouraged forthrightness on controversial subjects and careful consideration of opposing viewpoints. Not so much anymore. It’s an inevitable fact that whenever a space becomes more “public”, whether online or in the real world, people get a lot more PC. The lowest common denominator of venue-appropriate speech gets a lot lower.

        • He’s the famous Thomas Ptacek formerly of Matasano Security

    • Greying Wanderer says:

      I think there are multiple reasons but one reason is there is a contrarian “type” – naturally contrary my aunt calls them – who define themselves in opposition to what is commonly believed (with the emphasis on the word “common”). It’s a kind of intellectual snobbery. Whatever is commonly believed they want to believe the opposite to separate themselves from the herd.

      If they ever create a 100% PC world which can’t become any more PC then all that type of people will become reactionaries just to be different.

      • Anonymous says:

        Completely agreed. I am one of these people and surrounded as I am by those embracing the blank slate I found myself driven to explore the other side. I’ve often imagined myself the guy in the ancient tribe who was out trying all the odd berries and going to the places others said were dangerous or too far. This sort of behavior could have real dividends for the individual as well as the group if things change. If the rains dry up or the game moves on nuts like me have some ideas where to could go. When times stay the same our in built distrust of the way things are, our drive to explore and forge new territory (in every sense) has us pushing for change even when none is necessary, because deep inside our bones we feel it is. We are both a blessing and a liability.

      • Panther of the Blogocube says:

        This is probably optimistic, since complete media control allows the orthodox position to contrive the appearance of being the underdogs fighting against opponents who largely don’t exist.

  2. Kevin Orff says:

    “sociologists typically deny the very existence of some of the most important causal factors on human behavior” Generally they don’t do that, it’s just that they know absolutely nothing about it. Ignorance, not denial.

    • gcochran9 says:

      Although it is of course true that they know nothing about genetics, they also deny its relevance. Many think of it as the enemy. That said, some are beginning to get their feet wet, although I can’t think of any sociologist who has said anything particularly interesting. along those lines yet. Obvious& interesting phenomena like the Amish changing because of less-plain individuals boiling off every generation are for them beyond imagination.

  3. Neocolonial says:

    Is this just a memory bias coming through? I.E. we notice when they are wrong, but notice when they get something correct?

  4. Luxanctus says:

    This dovetails with the theory that modern nonsense is a way for The Cool People(tm) to differentiate themselves from the normals. The obvious truth won’t do because anyone can see it, while an obvious falsehood works because only The Cool People(tm) can shield themselves from the consequences of believing it.

    Then again, “Most interesting phenomena have multiple causes.” I’ve seen that attributed to both N.P. Collingwood and N.P. Calderwood.

    Thinking out loud. Aristotle pointed out that small errors in the beginning lead to large errors later on if they’re not corrected. So the reason that The Cool People(tm) make these obvious errors is that they’re doubling down on the earlier errors from which they proceed. Admit that they’re wrong about genetics not mattering, and then they’ll have to admit that egalitarianism isn’t the be-all and end-all. That would mean that the supposed “Bad Guys” of history that we’ve all been taught to despise weren’t necessarily “on the wrong side of history.”

    There aren’t enough trigger warnings to deal with the implications.

    • Greying Wanderer says:

      “So the reason that The Cool People(tm) make these obvious errors is that they’re doubling down on the earlier errors from which they proceed. ”

      I think it’s partly that if you had a culture that was 80% wrong about stuff then people who were simply contrarian for “we are the cool kids and the rest of you suck” reasons would actually be quite useful.

      On the other hand if you have a culture that over time had become 80% right about stuff (from an adaptive point of view) then the contrarian personality type combined with power (aka the media) would destroy everything.

      So it’s partly proportional to how right/wrong the original culture was about stuff (imo).

  5. RCB says:

    Could you provide a recent an example of this phenomenon? I ask because I don’t really know what sociologists do, to be honest – and I have a degree in anthropology. I suspect they don’t exist solely to enforce political correctness with obfuscation…

    I could remedy this myself by looking around faculty webpages, but maybe you have something particular in mind.

    • erica says:

      It would be interesting to trace the growth of sociology courses in colleges since the late 60s . Even when I went to school eons ago they were known as easy courses in which to get at least a “B.” . Today, easy “A.”

      They should actually be fairly rigorous, requiring application and analyses of statistical data (which would require that students have a decent background in statistics) but that doesn’t appear to be the case.

    • dearieme says:

      Sociology is like anthropology applied to people who wear clothes.

  6. One of AVI’s rules of psychiatric care in an acute setting is Opposite Therapy: whatever you insist on doing is likely to be exactly the wrong thing that puts you at odds with society, and we should do the opposite. If you want to sleep, we make you get up; always awake, we want you to sleep. Refusing medications? You must have them. Seeking pills? You’ll get none. Blaming yourself – nah, it’s others. Blaming others, look to thyself.

    It is amazing how often it works, related to Luxantus’s comment. Patients do not draw lines in the sand arbitrarily, but at the sticking point. So too with theories. We can all give up and cede ground at a dozen places that have no importance to us. We dig in at spots we feel we must defend, where we have some need for the theory to be true. In sociology, there seems to be an initial bias toward the idea that “Society is Wrong because it enriches and exalts the Wrong People.” It’s a short hop to fighting against any theory that grew up by general wisdom, rather than the study of arcane knowledge.

  7. Sociology is interesting from a career perspective: it has no applied wing. Psychologists have many applied professions: clinical and educational are the most common, but psychologists also go into personnel selection, training, consumer research. There are many ways of earning a modest but comfortable living. Sociology, on the other hand, is almost entirely university based, and therefore reliant on subsidy, but for those who get tenure they are immune from market forces.
    So, the students of individuals/the mind (psychologists) can manage to get some work outside university, whereas students of groups/society (sociologists) are far more limited in their career opportunities, and more protected in their academic enclaves. Rather like court jesters. The best way of showing radical credentials, and incidentally confirming that one was worthy of tenure, is to bite the hand that feeds you in the most ostentatious manner possible. So, sociologists confirm themselves by being “radical” and not having “sold out” to capitalism/consumerism, and nothing is more radical than to believe the complete and utter opposite of what the common folk believe.
    They can see which way the compass is pointing, but chose to read South for North.

  8. MawBTS says:

    I was thinking about something Razib Khan said – that sociology is useful, because it has negative predictive value. He’s probably right, but when you think about it, that’s odd. There are a lot more possible wrong theories than right ones

    Nearly forgotten Scientology vehicle “Battlefield Eath” contains the following scene, as described by Roger Ebert:

    “For stunning displays of stupidity, Terl takes the cake; as chief of security for the conquering aliens, he doesn’t even know what humans eat, and devises an experiment: “Let it think it has escaped! We can sit back and watch it choose its food.” Bad luck for the starving humans that they capture a rat. An experiment like that, you pray for a chicken.”

    Maybe we can try something similar – finding people who are notably wrong and letting them choose their natural enemies.

    We could kidnap Malcolm Gladwell and tell him he must fight a battle to the death in an underground Thunderdome, but he can choose his opponent – Steve Sailer, John Derbyshire, Stephen Pinker, whoever. This could guide us on exactly what he hates the most. Would this be legal? Both parties choose their weapons and obtain 10,000 hours of practice.

  9. Staffan says:

    This reminds me of what Donald Hoffman said about that we see fitness rather than reality. Maybe something similar to llife history going on here: people pick up a worldview that give them fitness. They do this relatively early in life and then they’re stuck with it – they believe it regardless of evidence. If Judith Rich Harris is correct in that kids are influenced by their peers rather than parents, this will work even if your worldview is outdated long before you’re dead. It wouldn’t have benefitted someone like SJ Gould to admit he was wrong even today.

  10. Jim says:

    One thing that makes it psychologically easy to ignore genetics is that genetics is something not readily visible like the sun. Polynucleotides weren’t even discovered until the late 19th century. It’s astonishing to me how much has been learned about life over the last 100-200 years and particularly the last 50 years or so and yet how little of that knowledge has influenced intellectuals like sociologists. Sociologists seem to have a mental outlook little different from that of Old Testament prophets.

  11. dearieme says:

    “genetics is something not readily visible like the sun”: well, if you have no children, no pets, have never talked to a farmer, ……

    Come to that, by what miracle does it happen that I resemble my parents rather than, say, a Nigerian or Chinese?

    • Jim says:

      Sociologists believe that to the extent that children behaive like their parents it is because of explicit parental teaching or example. The causal connection between the behavior of parents and their children that is mediated by the chemical structure of polynucleotides is invisible.

      On purely physical features like skin pigmentation or type of hair even sociologists recognize heredity.

  12. jef says:

    Why do you always contradict me? I don’t! I don’t!

  13. Jim says:

    People have a deep desire to see reality as something that has a moral structure. The thing about science that is most difficult for people to accept is that the world is run by differential equations not by moral agents such as gods and spirits

    Equality of people or human populations is a moral ideal. Like moral ideals in general it is something simple. Natural laws do not produce simplicity and natural laws embody no moral ideals whatsoever. It is hard for people to accept this.

    • another fred says:

      “Equality of people or human populations is a moral ideal.” But it is only recently and regionally (mostly in the west) that this ideal has been widely held.

      I think what is deeper and of longer pedigree is the desire to control (by magic or propitiation) or predict (by prophecy or science) the forces (gods often) that rule the world. A lot of the denial I see of natural forces is rooted in fear of war with modern weapons and the understanding that there will be no winners, only survivors. Since war is “business as usual” in nature, nature must be denied – to avoid cognitive dissonance.

      The Old Testament is quite Darwinian, the moral overtone is just to arrive at the predictability – God struck Israel with a plague right after a census was taken, therefore because the census was taken, so census taking is bad. If people behave “righteously” the rain will fall and crops will grow, if not – drought and pestilence. Job, which presents God as unpredictable, is not a popular book.

      • Jim says:

        I agree that equality as a specific moral ideal is pretty recent and originated in the West. But the old gods including Jehovah were enforcing moral rules of some sort or the other – making the proper sacrifices, observing the Sabbath etc.

        I don’t think the Old Testament is at all Darwinian. In the Old Testament human history has a moral purpose and meaning. The Hebrews are God’s chosen people and their history is fulfilling God’s plan. God rewards them for their obediance to his law and punishes them for their transgressions.

        Darwinianism as such and more generally modern science describe an objective world that has no moral meaning whatsoever. Modern humans replaced Neanderthals not because of any moral superiority but just because that’s the way things worked out.

        As you say Job is not a popular book because we want to believe that the world has a moral meaning but it has none.

        • another fred says:

          The “morality” of Darwinianism is fitness, and fitness (along with an element of chance in a dynamic environment) determines who wins and who loses. The O.T. is quite willing to see winners and losers, not so much modern mainstream Christianity or Reform Judaism. Today everybody is supposed to be a winner and, if not, then something is out of kilter (as opposed to understanding that nature demands that losers lose and the unfit are winnowed out). Christian fundamentalists are more willing to see winners and losers (the saved and the damned) but they are not so much mainstream. Even some of the more literal evangelicals have come to the point of thinking everybody wins in the end (is saved) even though they must lose in this life.

          The recognition of winners and losers is the manner in which I see the O.T. as Darwinian.

          • Jim says:

            I see the basic difference between a religious view such as in the Old Testament and a scientific view is that in a religious view the world is run according to moral principles. The Hebrews are not just winners (for awhile at any rate) but even more they are God’s Chosen People and their triumph is just.

            In a scientific view there are winners and losers but there is no moral significance to anything. Europeans largely took over the North American continent from Amerindians not because Europeans were God’s Chosen People but for various reasons such as for example Europeans carried a lot of diseases to which Amerindians had little immunity. That wasn’t God’s Plan it’s just the way things worked out.

    • erica says:

      They accept it quite well in their daily lives: ” the guys on that team are just better than the guys on our team ; ” my brother is better in math than I could ever be–he didn’t even have to try” when I struggled to understand”; “the dog I have now is just not that bright compared to the one I had before”; the next door neighbors’ kid is anti-social, just like his old man.” And so on.

      • Jim says:

        People’s beliefs in different contexts rarely have any logical coherence. So yes someone will insist that crime rates of blacks and whites are the same and then carefully avoid driving in areas predominantly black. It’s not just differences between their professed beliefs and how they behave but also discrepencies between what they profess to believe on different occaisions. Logical consistency is certainly not a hobgoblin of most people’s minds.

    • Sund says:

      This. A lot of people in sociology are interested in pushing moral agendas, not in empirical research. They are political activists masquerading as scientists.

  14. Mindfuldrone says:

    If your goal is to change the world rather than understand it (as Marx put it) then clarity of vision could actually get in the way.

  15. A lot of major discoveries in natural sciences are highly counterintuitive. The Earth is round, and rotates, and revolves around the sun. Whales are not fish. Humans share a common ancestor millions of years ago with chimps and billions of years ago with yeast. Many diseases are caused by creatures too tiny to see. Time slows down when something moves close to the speed of light. An electron doesn’t have a definite position or location unless it’s being observed. It’s the mark of an educated, sophisticated person to believe these things even if you’re not quite sure why.

    Maybe people in the social sciences are attracted to counterintuitive beliefs because being able to tell the rubes that Everything You Know Is Wrong looks like a marker of Science. Science says little boys who love their mothers are sexually motivated. But Science also says rapists aren’t sexually motivated. Etc.

  16. dearieme says:

    The earth’s being round is entirely intuitive: ships vanish hull down.

    Humans being chimp-like is entirely intuitive: consider a newborn.

    • Jim says:

      But in the 17th century the Chinese were quite surprised when Jesuit missionaries told them that the Earth was spherical not flat.

      • dearieme says:

        Not many of the Chinese lived by the sea, perhaps. Virtually all the Ancient Greeks did.

        Then again, maybe the Jesuits were being deliberately misleading. They were notorious for that.

        • syon says:

          “Not many of the Chinese lived by the sea, perhaps. Virtually all the Ancient Greeks did.

          Then again, maybe the Jesuits were being deliberately misleading. They were notorious for that.”

          So far as I know, the Ancient Greeks were the only people to independently come to the conclusion that the Earth was a sphere.Everyone else thought that the Earth was flat:

          • Mindfuldrone says:

            Its not just the hulls of ships–although thats important. Aristotle observed “there are stars seen in Egypt and […] Cyprus which are not seen in the northerly regions.” Since this could only happen on a curved surface, he too believed Earth was a sphere “of no great size, for otherwise the effect of so slight a change of place would not be quickly apparent.” (De caelo, 298a2–10)

          • another fred says:

            RE: Chinese view of the spherical earth.

            The Wikipedia article, that says the Chinese thought the earth was flat cites, with a broken link, the following:
            Reading the article, what the Chinese did not have was a heliocentric model. While not explicitly stated a spherical shape of the earth is implied in that they had long accepted a geocentric model, they calculated the motions of the planets and moons, eclipses, etc.

            The article is about the fact that without a heliocentric model they had to adjust their algorithms as their predictions would lose accuracy with time. What they eventually adopted was the heliocentric model (which was relatively new in Europe).

            A pretty good example of the quality of Wikipedia.

          • syon says:

            RE: Flat Earth

            In ancient China, the prevailing belief was that the Earth was flat and square, while the heavens were round,[49] an assumption virtually unquestioned until the introduction of European astronomy in the 17th century.[50][51][52] The English sinologist Cullen emphasizes the point that there was no concept of a round Earth in ancient Chinese astronomy:

            Chinese thought on the form of the earth remained almost unchanged from early times until the first contacts with modern science through the medium of Jesuit missionaries in the seventeenth century. While the heavens were variously described as being like an umbrella covering the earth (the Kai Tian theory), or like a sphere surrounding it (the Hun Tian theory), or as being without substance while the heavenly bodies float freely (the Hsüan yeh theory), the earth was at all times flat, although perhaps bulging up slightly.[53]

            The model of an egg was often used by Chinese astronomers like Zhang Heng (78-139 AD) to describe the heavens as spherical:

            The heavens are like a hen’s egg and as round as a crossbow bullet; the earth is like the yolk of the egg, and lies in the centre.[54]

            This analogy with a curved egg led some modern historians, notably Joseph Needham, to conjecture that Chinese astronomers were, after all, aware of the Earth’s sphericity. The egg reference, however, was rather meant to clarify the relative position of the flat earth to the heavens:

            In a passage of Zhang Heng’s cosmogony not translated by Needham, Zhang himself says: “Heaven takes its body from the Yang, so it is round and in motion. Earth takes its body from the Yin, so it is flat and quiescent”. The point of the egg analogy is simply to stress that the earth is completely enclosed by heaven, rather than merely covered from above as the Kai Tian describes. Chinese astronomers, many of them brilliant men by any standards, continued to think in flat-earth terms until the seventeenth century; this surprising fact might be the starting-point for a re-examination of the apparent facility with which the idea of a spherical earth found acceptance in fifth-century BC Greece.[55]

            Further examples cited by Needham supposed to demonstrate dissenting voices from the ancient Chinese consensus actually refer without exception to the Earth being square, not to it being flat.[56] Accordingly, the 13th-century scholar Li Ye, who argued that the movements of the round heaven would be hindered by a square Earth,[49] did not advocate a spherical Earth, but rather that its edge should be rounded off so as to be circular.[57]

      • Beyond Anon says:

        I don’t disbelieve you, but do you have a citation?

        • dearieme says:

          “Blaise Pascal was a great critic of Jesuit casuistry, and coined the pejorative adjective “Jesuitical,” meaning “crafty; …. the image of the sly, deceptive Jesuit stuck.”

          I’ll let you google to see whether my editing of that quotation was jesuitical or not.

        • Jim says:

          I read it long ago but it is also stated in a Wikipedia article on the spherical shape of the Earth.

        • another fred says:

          See reply, above.

    • Jim says:

      How many people have actually observed that phenomenon? It’s pretty boring to carefully observe the disappearance of a ship on the horizon. But I guess sailors at sea anxiously scanning the horizon for signs of land would first see the tops of mountains appear.

      • dearieme says:

        I grew up on the coast. It’s utterly bleeding obvious. It’s even more obvious on board where the land vanishes and reappears “hull-down” too.

        • Jim says:

          Yes, the Greeks were a much more sea-going people than the Chinese and probably this had a lot to do with their being the first to realize that the Earth is spherical.

          • syon says:

            Yes, the Greeks were a much more sea-going people than the Chinese and probably this had a lot to do with their being the first to realize that the Earth is spherical.”

            Not just the first.So far as I can tell, they were the only people to independently discover that the Earth is a sphere.Everyone else seems to have learned it from them.

        • syon says:

          Strabo used that argument:

          “It has been suggested that seafarers probably provided the first observational evidence that the Earth was not flat, based on observations of the horizon. This argument was put forward by the geographer Strabo (c. 64 BC – 24 AD), who suggested that the spherical shape of the Earth was probably known to seafarers around the Mediterranean Sea since at least the time of Homer,[23] citing a line from the Odyssey[24] as indicating that the poet Homer knew of this as early as the 7th or 8th century BC. Strabo cited various phenomena observed at sea as suggesting that the Earth was spherical. He observed that elevated lights or areas of land were visible to sailors at greater distances than those less elevated, and stated that the curvature of the sea was obviously responsible for this.”

          But, as I noted earlier, the Ancient Greeks seemed to have been the only people who figured out that the Earth is a sphere:

    • RCB says:

      Oh yeah, that’s why kids are totally unsurprised to learn that the earth is round: they call upon all their years of nautical experience.

      • dearieme says:

        I don’t think there’s any natural law that requires all children to be as unreflective as you are.

        • RCB says:

          If you are suggesting that a sizable proportion (let’s say, >10%) of people could independently reason from everyday experience that the earth is round (which is a reasonable definition for “intuitive”, I think), then I will bet a small amount of money that you are wrong.

    • Beyond Anon says:

      It’s even more obvious if you are in the Crows Nest and your buddy is on deck 50 or so feet below you.

  17. Cultural anthropologists seem even worse. I suppose wrong and “post-moderny” to the point of having no predictive value.

  18. Cracker1 says:

    “sociologists typically deny the very existence of some of the most important causal factors on human behavior (like genetics)”

    Two problems.

    This fits nicely into the Nazi view and they run with it. The non-Nazi’s who understand the genetic influence on behavior do not know how to respond to the Nazis use of genetics.

    Secondly, the non-Nazis can’t come up with practical solutions to ordinary political and social problems that appeal to ordinary people who believe in equality, etc.

    • another fred says:

      “This fits nicely into the Nazi view and they run with it. The non-Nazi’s who understand the genetic influence on behavior do not know how to respond to the Nazis use of genetics.”

      I like to point out to people that what distinguished the Nazis was not what they objectively (or subjectively) thought about the world, but what they thought they could DO with the world.

      Pace Leo Strauss, Hitler liked chocolate and dogs, must we eschew them?

      • Cracker1 says:

        Pace Leo Strauss, Hitler liked chocolate and dogs, must we eschew them?

        He didn’t use whether one liked chocolate or dogs as a means of culling the population.

        My point was that eugenics is bound to Nazism and I haven’t seen anybody explain how to undo that attachment.

        • another fred says:

          Genetics (the word you used in the first post) and eugenics (the word you used in the second) are not the same.

          Nevertheless, even eugenics is understood by many people to have value in their personal lives quite apart from politics. Most people understand that if they marry someone with a dodgy genetic background they are taking chances that their children may have difficulties in life and choose accordingly. The list of other examples would be too long for this post.

          I admit that most Americans cannot seem to help injecting any and every thing into politics, but I do not accept that as an immutable law of nature. Connecting genetics to Nazis has to do with that (partly learned) propensity, and also to do with some very strenuous political indoctrination.

          • Cracker1 says:

            “Most people understand that if they marry someone with a dodgy genetic background they are taking chances that their children may have difficulties in life and choose accordingly.”

            Most people do not understand this. There a certain level of awareness of genetic disease, but most babies born in the US come here with little thought having been given to eugenics by the parents at the time of conception. Certainly a lot, if not most, still want to marry up, but they don’t understand that it is because of the genes that they, on average, get the results that they want. Let’s not even try to sort out the differences between getting married and having babies.

            If we wanted to have a discussion about social and political policies that discourage or encourage different segments of the population to have fewer or lesser numbers of children we could not do that based on eugenics.

            One of the main reasons that we could not talk about genes is because eugenics is tied to Nazism and nobody can figure out how to untie the connection.

  19. We have had a few candidates for the wrongest man in the world come into this blog and nobody appreciated them. The bronze age nazi pervert comes to mind, among others. My sense is the amazingly wrong are completely useless for anything. Just like you can’t fade a terrible gambler and make money you can’t find merit in the opposite opinion of an idiot.

  20. Fourth doorman of the apocalypse says:

    Which of these ideas could get you killed if you hold the incorrect (factually) belief:

    Different human groups have different average intelligence
    The Earth is approximately a sphere
    The Earth revolves around the sun.

  21. simontmn says:

    (My mother’s a Sociologist) A lot of Sociology operates within a Cultural Marxist paradigm* that is actively at war with reality: it seeks out reality – truth – in order to attack it. So a lot of effort goes into explaining away reality, turning truth into falsehood. It is not just random noise, it is based off an inversion of truth.
    I think this is what creates the negative predictive value.

    *A mix of Marx with Nietszchean ‘Value Creation’ – the idea that a new reality can be created by act of will. As the Neocon said about Iraq, they seek to ‘create their own reality’.

  22. Sund says:

    I am completing a sociology MA currently, and while the discipline as a whole lacks any central unifying theory, some sub disciplines are not anti-science. The problem with sociology departments in the United States is that they are amalgamations of positivists, political activists, and economists. The discipline needs to shed the political activists and economists if it wants to be taken seriously.

    • Yudi says:

      Interesting. Are there any sociology books or research papers you would recommend that don’t suffer from the weaknesses of the field?

      • Sund says:

        I’d suggest Anthony Giddens. He is a theorist who has consciously divorced his method of sociological analysis from the ideological and moralist strains that are popular, while still acknowledging that finding objectivist ‘rules’ of human society is a misnomer.

  23. Toddy Cat says:

    To be fair to the Sociologists, they are not the only ones. As I have pointed out before, James Fallows at the Atlantic magazine is a far more accurate reverse-weathervane than almost any sociologist, and he has a much wider audience. I can’ t think of a single issue that Fallows has been right about in over thirty years, but that doesn’t slow him down one bit. By the way, just for the record, the Nazis in general, and Hitler in particular, knew nothing about genetics, and cared less. and anyway, with the finding that , if any Herrenvolk actually exist on Earth in terms of intelligence at least, they are Ashkenazi Jewish, Hitler would be as against hereditarianism as Leon Kamin. Besides, the Commies killed more people than the Nazis did, and somehow this has not tarnished the ideal of equality, as indeed it shouldn’t. If people associate Nazism with modern genetics, it’s because Interested Parties have told them to do so…

    • Cracker1 says:

      Sometimes I think that I should just go back to reading and not make any comments.
      You should consider that option.

      • Toddy Cat says:

        Do you have a point, or can you just snark? What part of the above statement do you disagree with? The manifestly true points that Hitler was an ignoramus when it came to genetics, that Ashkenazi Jews are on average smarter than Germans, or that the Commies killed more people than the Nazis without discrediting equalitarianism?

        Or are you James Fallows? That would explain a lot.

        • Cracker1 says:

          Hitler caused a lot of people to be killed because they possessed the wrong genes.

          Whether commies killed 10 million and 1 people while the Nazis killed only 10 million doesn’t have anything to do with the price of tea in China.

          People that appear to me to be reliable scholarly types say that the Ashkenazi Jews score higher than other groups on the IQ scale and I accept that as fact.

          I would ask you to comment on my point but I can see that that is beyond your reach.

          Excuse me while I read some James Fallows.

  24. Weber, Durkheim, and Pareto make the pinnacle of sociology if you ask me.

  25. 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.

  26. Pingback: This Week in Reaction (2015/06/28) | The Reactivity Place

  27. lemmy caution says:

    I am super late to this but sociology books are trying to answer different questions than biology books or whatever. They are basically describing what people do in certain circumstances. They can be very interesting and perceptive. It isn’t really possible to describe how people act without examining how they act. A lot of sociology books are written after spending 1000s of hours in the field. I thought they were bullshit too until I actually read some of them.

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