Friday, August 26, 2005

the revolution will not be televised. it might, however, be blogged. if so, be sure to look for my picture.

Remember the video for that Blind Melon song ("No Rain") where the little girl walked around dancing in a bee costume for various unappreciative audience until she finally found her way to a field where everyone was dancing around in bee costumes? I feel this way when I read certain literatures about causal inference. Awhile back, I was actually listening to "No Rain" on a quasi-loop right now while looking through articles on problems in causal inference via instrumental variables. (No, I’m not kidding.)

Truth be told, I have long held these grand ambitions about being a leading figure in what I have come to refer to as the Postcounterfactualist School of Causal Reasoning in the social sciences. The only problem is, at least in sociology, the Counterfactualist School still hasn't managed to secure even that much of a foothold, much less the hegemonic-oppressive-strangulation-grip on the discipline it needs to have before the radically clever precepts of Postcounterfactualism will make sense to the masses. If you spend any time following the intellectual history of social thought, you soon conclude that one can only truly make a mark by being exactly one step ahead of things; if you are more than that, the most you can hope for is to be "rediscovered" later by the folks who really mattered, who will perhaps profess their lament for how you were "underappreciated."

So, instead of setting myself up for that sorry fate, I'm biding my time.

Well, biding my time and primping, because the Postcounterfactualists will be fighting such an uphill battle that we will not be able to succeed on the basis of our winning ideas and shining rhetoric alone, but we will have to look appealing as well. Indeed, I have already started saving for the botox, hair plugs, and extensive cosmetic dentistry that will be needed to even start to convince others of the wisdom of the postcounterfactualist heterodoxy. And yet, I am completely convinced that, if only we can muster enough early followers and skin-care products, a victory march through the grove of academe will eventually be ours.

My only worry is that as we Postcounterfactualists finally reach our triumph after decades of struggle, it will turn out to be at the very moment that the alien overlords watching over academia determine that astrosociology is getting too close to discovering The Truth and that the Earth needs to be destroyed.

18 comments:

jlp said...

Classic!

Anonymous said...

yeah, well try being a postastrosocial theorist...

Anonymous said...

are you considering what physics, particularly quantum physics, has to say about causality?
-sr

jeremy said...

I think basically every time social science tries to draw an epistemological conclusion by reference to an example from quantum physics, it ends up getting farther from anything that is useful, rather than closer. I would even go so far as to support a fifty-year moratorium on any references to quantum physics in discussions of inference for the sorts of causal questions most commonly asked by social scientists.

Anonymous said...

I just concluded a survey of 12,376 quantum physicists around the world. 93% agree that a moratorium on references to quantum physics in discussions of inference for the sorts of causal questions most commonly asked by social scientists is needed, but 82% believe 50 years is too short. 61% believe that only a moratorium of 250 years or more would be sufficient to rid quantum physicists of the unpleasant duty of having their discipline infiltrated by poseurs from the social sciences.

jeremy said...

I'm fine with the idea of a quarter-millenium moratorium.

Anonymous said...

so, are you saying that the "social" and/or social sciences is somehow outside of physical science?

jeremy said...

I believe that the issue of how to approach the kinds of questions social scientists have historically sought to answer is not much illuminated either by reference to the actual substantive findings of physics or by weird and specious analogies to some of the more counterintuitive aspects of quantum physics.

Anonymous said...

perhaps that is the problem, the approach is wrong. are humans that different that you require your own little science to understand?

Anonymous said...

Ah, August — that long month with no holidays and endless speculation zzzzzz.

islander said...

Ah, the age-old issues in social sciences!
1. What is the relationship between the natural and social sciences?
2.Should social science provide us with causal explanations of historical particulars or, alternatively, result in the articulation of pre-existing general and broadly applicable laws (like the laws of physics) believed to uniformly govern the social world.
I could talk about this stuff all day!

Anonymous said...

jeremy at 10:59am -- you're right on.

Anonymous said...

Dare I ask? What is your definition of postcounterfactual causal analysis?

jeremy said...

Yeah, right. You can wait for the revolution just like everyone else.

Anonymous said...

But what if I want to join the revolution, Chairman Mao?

jeremy said...

You can't join the revolution if you are not a Counterfactualist first. Plus, you have to sign up two friends to be Counterfactualists as well. First, the Counterfactualists must triumph; then, the Postcounterfactualists will strike.

Tom Bozzo said...

Resistance is useless!

slark said...

Gawd, sounds as though you cranked out one of these :-P