I had a seventh grade teacher who expressed the sentiment that perfectly sums up everything that sucks about modern academic inquiry, particularly sucky in the social-sciences.
She went way out of her way to explain to a classroom of thirteen-year-olds how unrealistic and irresponsible pre-marital abstinence is. She said that sex is absolutely something in which compatibility must be established beyond the shadow of a doubt before any commitment would be prudent*.
Sex, for her, dominated the question of fitness for companionship. In the same way, I argue, modern social science leans entirely on quantitative data, even meaningless data, instead of getting down to the essential ethical attributes at work in human behavioral phenomena. Their data is sexual gratification. Even if devoid of any real meaning, empty of its real purposes, give me only data, data, data.
So my wife and I enjoyed a sort of sad chuckle when it occurred to us that this is what most empirical science has devolved into: just obstinate, incurious, and eternal skepticism about the reality around us; like the sexual partner we’ll never commit to until they’ve sufficiently shown that they will please us regularly and sufficiently… and even then, “Who knows how things’ll go!? Marriage is risky!” (I imagine it is, with that attitude.)
But they’ll keep this meaningless relationship with data going forever, unless checked by budget cuts, or administrators that demand real results… a sort of lover’s ultimatum, I suppose.
In the mean-time, all necessary knowledge, like the effects from various government market-interventions is dismissed as tautology or lingual convention.
I say, “If you tax a population, there will less money to spend and invest in a higher-demand direction.”
The empiricist: “You can’t know that until you’ve tested that hypothesis, and even then, you may only say, ‘such and such hasn’t been falsified… yet.’ All else is unscientific!”
Me: “But it’s true by definition! It’s logically necessary!”
Empiricist: “Nothing is logically necessary. Your proposition must be tested and tested ad infinitum because science.”
Or, if you like:
Me: “A ball can’t be simultaneously blue and red all over”
Empiricist: “You can only say that it hasn’t been possible yet.”
Me: “Uh. The words blue, red, all-over, and simultaneously preclude any possible occurrence of this ever…”
Empiricist: “Have you tested this hypothesis in Australia?”
Me: “What? Why would…”
Empiricist: “Well how would you know if the rules stay consistent across the globe? What about across time? It might change tomorrow…”
Me: “What?! Your definition of red or blue might change tomorrow!?
Empiricist: “As a scientist, we never claim to know capital T truth. We only worry about what works.”
Me: “What works for what?! For whom?!”
Empiricist: “What works for…”
There’s no answer beyond what pays, or what lends prestige or furthers technology. Outside the context of what is cavalierly dismissed as big T truth, understood to the empiricist as only vague ramblings about the unknowable, all inquiry rapidly loses meaning. Just a succession of contributions to the new Tower of Babel… It’s a positive nihilism factory.
Since the seventh grade, when this radical skepticism is touted as the right scientific attitude, all I hear is excuses for unethical behaviour. Or in academia, vast landfills of mediocre (at best) research.
“Aren’t you worried about this person’s devotion and character before taking on all the risks and vulnerability of a sexual relationship?
“Nah, I really don’t care. I just wanna be sure they’re good in the sack.”
“What about meaningful companionship or mutual admiration or common goals?! Don’t you realize that she’s a completely different person after you’ve committed for life for better of for worse?! Don’t you see that the risks you’re trying to avoid change the experiment completely?”
“I don’t really care about all that.
You never know about something until you had sex with it. ”
And so descends the validity and respectability of our new illogical, selfish, whorish science.