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The Importance of Studying the Obvious

- June 27, 2012

Duncan Watts responds to the efforts to defund the NSF’s political science program:

So why is social science research uniquely and repeatedly singled out for this sort of criticism?

Because it’s about us.

In brief, we don’t have any experience being ants or atoms, so if I tell you something about them that you didn’t know, it sounds exotic and non-obvious. It sounds like science. But everyone has experience being human, and so the vast majority of findings in social science coincide with something that we have either experienced or can imagine experiencing. The result is that social science all too often seems like common sense.

As social scientists have long pointed out, however, common sense can easily support opposite conclusions — which is why politicians on both ends of the political spectrum invoke it in support of their arguments, even as they disagree bitterly.

More at the post.


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