Tag Archives: prediction

Partly Cloudy, with a 30% Chance of Riots

Gary Gutting

In this morning’s New York Times, distinguished philosopher Gary Gutting raises a commonly discussed set of questions about social science research and theory and the ability to make accurate predictions. As is common in such arguments, physics is held up as the best “real” science because it gives us theories with clear predictions that always work. Experimental evidence has allowed for the clear elaboration of (what appear to be) invariant physical laws, at least in areas like classical mechanics (e.g. we can predict precisely where the moon will be 200 years, 3 days, and 7 hours from now). The social sciences are then held in contrast to this. As the argument goes, the social world is amazingly complex, making it hard to generate predictions, and it is often too difficult or too immoral to do controlled experiments on people, so social scientists could never test those predictions anyway. Gutting’s conclusion: “we need to develop a much better sense of the severely limited reliability of social scientific results.” And the implication he draws from this conclusion? Continue reading

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