I’m a bit preoccupied by this paragraph from Philip Moriarty’s recent post about the invocation of quantum physics in the social sciences. I’d assumed this was true, inferring from things I’d seen others say and things I’d seen them not say, but I’ve never seen it acknowledged so bluntly before:
Social science is important – it provides key insights into human behaviour and addresses questions that are beyond the scope of the physical sciences. I enjoy interacting and collaborating with my colleagues in social science both at Nottingham and elsewhere and gain a great deal from our discussions. But I’ll be brutally honest. I know for a fact that there are many in the “hard” sciences (and elsewhere) who would argue that the funding of social science is a waste of money and that it could be much better spent elsewhere. Misappropriating ideas from quantum mechanics in an attempt to ride on the coat-tails of the (highly successful) intellectual framework underpinning physics does social science no favours at all.
To what extent should the imperialistic tendencies of contemporary data-driven behavioural science be read as, at least in part, expressions of this attitude? Can you be motivated to use the computational tools of the contemporary natural sciences to ‘fix’ the social sciences unless you quite straight forwardly regard them as broken?