sociologists get no love01 Aug 2003
Just a quick rant here. I read this article on the NYT, about economist Steven Levitt. Aside from being one of the NYT’s always slightly odd man-as-god profile articles, it irked me in another way.
Take this, for example:
So, obviously, first of all, that logic is a huge honking fallacy, but to be fair, this article mentions that:
But it then continues on its way, deifying Levitt as some sort of messiah to the shady and troubled field of sociology.
On another paper of Levitt’s:
Sure, it was proved to be based on a giant mistake, but it was still ingenious!
The article mentions conservatives and liberals being aghast at his conclusions. That’s fine, but how about the respectable social scientists who spend their entire careers studying this, who have to watch some nerd get famous with his solution because he demonstrated reverse causality and drew a (fallacious) conclusion.
I know that I am harping on a paper (of Levitt’s) that was mostly refuted, anyway. But, the basic tone of the article seems to be “Well, sure he draws a lot of flak from people who know what they’re doing, but he doesn’t play by the rules! He shoots from the hip! Economic models be damned! Math is boring! Social science? What’s that?! This guy tells it like it is!”
Don’t get me wrong, this guy sounds like a smart guy. He sounds like your basic nerd who looks at things from a different perspective. Sometimes, his simplistic solutions are a well-needed breath of fresh air, but it’s obvious that sometimes, they’re an insulting gross oversimplification.
It’s like people are oblivious to the fact that there is a science that studies these sorts of things. It’s called sociology. It’s been around for a long time, now. Crime rates are a little bit more complicated to explain than “they aborted lots of future criminals”. Give me a break. Let’s leave the sociology to the sociologists, okay?