Social Sciences – Academic Paper Writing



Social Sciences (part2)

Another similarity between the social sciences and the hard sciences is their reliance upon the importance of verifying a thesis by making predictions and then being able to have those predictions come true. If the spread of gonorrhea is tied to the availability of inexpensive beer, then a study comparing the spread of the disease with the rates of taxation of beer ought to show a statistically significant correlation between the two, with the rate of gonorrhea going up if the tax goes down and down if the tax goes up. Once a prediction like this is made, proposals can be written, grant money secured, the study conducted, and the results analyzed and published. Such a study was actually done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention covering all the states from 1981 to 1995. It showed that raising the tax on a 6-pack by 20 cents could reduce gonorrhea by as much as 9%. Until the beer companies can fund a new study contradicting this one, this thesis stands.

One major difference between the humanities and the sciences is that the humanities celebrate the lone individual who comes up with fresh new insights, whereas the sciences celebrate the collective accumulation of knowledge. In the sciences, you need to show you have a grasp of the past work done on your subject. In this, the sciences can be thought of as Catholic and the humanities as Protestant. The Catholics, like grammar snobs, believe in the importance of obedience to rules passed down through a hierarchical structure; the Protestants tend to be slobs who emphasize each individual's responsibility to recreate the world for him or herself.

The social sciences are not only sciences; they are also social. That is, they deal with the slippery problems of human behavior. For this reason the so-called hard sciences like chemistry and physics and biology think the social sciences, including economics and "business science," are no more real science than literary theory is. All of this of course means that jostling for status plays a key role in all these academic battles. At least within the humanities, which in my opinion includes literary and social sciences, and the arts, each discipline uses a different language but pretty much says the same stuff. The job for the hardworking student is to learn the languages of the different departments. At bottom, most American colleges are simply language schools, and the job of the student is to master several different professional tongues. The first problem any student entering any of these disciplines must deal with is the bugaboo of free will. There ain't no such thing.

Therein lays your first mistake. To be sure, our popular culture worships free will as the corner stone of liberty. Our legal system enshrines it as the basis of our law. Our preachers tend to finesse the issue by saying God gave us free will; don't try to define it and don't ask how. But our academics have long since abandoned the notion as quaint in the extreme. This causes a great deal of trouble, especially in court. There the prosecutor argues that an accused mass murderer is a responsible free agent and should be punished for his crimes, but the defense attorney brings in social scientists who argue that the poor man is a victim who, given all that he has suffered, did not have any control over the circumstances that shaped him into the murderer he has become. He is in fact not evil but sick and suffering from a syndrome. We all have our favorite examples of this.

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