Category Archives: science

long live the fact/value distinction

Phil Gorski’s argument that the fact/value distinction is bankrupt is out in Society, along with a marquee of big-name responses. Phil and I had an interesting and productive exchange on the article this fall. The exchange follows here, with Phil’s permission. I still think I’m right!

beyond the existence proof

In response to Fabio’s defense of nonrepresentative sampling, Sam Lucas sent his paper, “Beyond the Existence Proof,” published last year. Fabio mentions Lucas’s article in his follow-up, but doesn’t really address the claims in the paper. I hadn’t seen it before Sam sent it, but after reading it I think it’s really smart and deserves […]

elysium and the fact/value distinction

I saw the new Matt Damon movie, Elysium, this summer. I loved the prior movie by the same director (Neill Bloemkamp), District 9, which is a dystopian alien-visitation movie wrapped up in an extended allegory for apartheid.  Like District 9, Elysium has an explicit political message along with plenty of violence, action, and gore (all of […]

is obesity a problem?

I started this post as a reply to the OrgTheory thread on obesity but it got long enough I decided to move it here. With all due respect, I think the claim that “obesity is not the problem” is overstated. I suspect that this overstatement is due in part to medical sociology’s tendency to infer […]

aaup new report on irbs and academic freedom

AAUP has released a new report, the first in five years, on restrictions posted by the IRB system on academic freedom. The report is here.  A couple of key points:

could we prevent some scientific retractions?

Fabio Rojas and others have been discussing retractions over on our buttoned-up nemesis, and making the excellent point that the presence of scientific retractions is good for science. However, it can only be good for science insofar as bad or even falsified science takes place to begin with.

neuro folly: the quest for biological bases for politics

The sociological fad for seeking straightforward biological bases for complex social phenotypes has spread in recent years to political science. A recent collection of articles and blog posts rehashes the rhetoric that garnered widespread criticism in sociology. Essentially the scholarship establishes an entirely noncontroversial position–that biological influences on political ideology are “nonzero”–and spins this into […]

irbs, mission creep, and prior restraint

I am beginning a new thread here to avoid threadjacking the other conversation going on about the relationship between COI and IRBs. Fabio writes: How far do we let IRBs go before we actively resist? If the IRB decided they needed to see my medical records, should I just give it to them? and: IRBs […]

humbling

It’s humbling to go to the library every once in a while. Standing in the stacks reminds you of all the things you don’t know – regardless of whether you think of these as the things you have left to learn, the things you’ll never know, or the things that others don’t know either so […]

blood pressure, the slavery hypothesis, and social construction

My wife is a physician, and like many doctors was taught in medical schools that African Americans are susceptible to hypertension, and particularly salt-sensitive hypertension, as a result of genetic selection through conditions during the middle passage. I raised this possibility in chatting with Liana Richardson, a postdoc here at UNC, about her very interesting […]

on the value of religious experience to sociology

Krippendorf asks why I suggest: I think lacking religious experience of some sort probably makes it harder to be a good sociologist. The short answer is that religious experience is an amazingly widespread social phenomenon, and it has a sui generis quality to it that makes it difficult to explain without some sort of experiential […]

don’t follow the money

The latest issue of Academe, the AAUP’s magazine, features several articles on corporate and other “suspect” funding, under the title “The Conflicted University.” The articles are varied, and I don’t intend a critique of any particular one. But the overall causal logic is simple–too simple. The claim is that corporate funding (and also nonprofit corporate-oriented […]

science and morality, harris-style

Sam Harris is back. Since writing The End of Faith, apparently while an undergraduate at Stanford, he wrote Letter to a Christian Nation; he’s also been completing a Ph.D. at UCLA’s interdisciplinary neuroscience program. In his new book, The Moral Landscape, he seeks to bring his new field to bear on one of the thorniest […]

frontiers of polling

A commenter on TPM writes about being polled by Rasmussen and how it was “bad practice” because of question ordering and suggestive language. I’m not sure if I believe this post was actually Rasmussen, though it might have been. But in any case–the question of how to ask questions, how to poll on emotions, and […]

bender, the new metaphysicals

The Immanent Frame asked me to participate in a discussion/forum on Courtney Bender’s great new book, The New Metaphysicals. The book, like the discussion, is really interesting and a fun read on its own. Also interesting, from a disciplinary-boundary sort of perspective, is the way in which this portion of the study of religion transcends […]

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