Thursday, October 8, 2009

Leave it to Coburn

Somehow the junior Senator from Oklahoma got the brilliant idea of proposing ending federal funding of political science research. His amendment will fail, thankfully. I'm not a political scientist, but I did get my training in the social sciences. There does indeed seem to be a great deal of hostility toward social science research, much of it from right-wing extremists, coupled with a misunderstanding of the work social scientists do. Like other scientists, we test hypotheses. It's merely that our focus is on human social behavior, sometimes involving tangible social problems, leading to conclusions that may be inconvenient for those who are rigidly ideological. Let's just say that our work involves more than a few superficial remarks on a news show or a blog, and involves thinking in a way that most of us normally don't. Ordinarily in everyday life, humans look for evidence to confirm their pet hypotheses and then once they've satisfied themselves, they stop seeking. Social scientists look for evidence that may debunk their pet hypotheses, and if their particular hypotheses survive, they continue to search for the limitations of those hypotheses (i.e., for the exceptions to the rule).

I get Coburn. He's anti-intellectual to the core, as are his primary constituents. One thing about this bunch: not only do they themselves wish to shield themselves from "scary" answers by not asking scary questions, but they want to make sure that no one else attempts to ask those same scary questions.

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