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 Post subject: Political science - it is a science. PostPosted: 2012-03-03 03:27am
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That's my statement here. Political science is a science. "Wait," says Drake Mallard, "Science requires that you have a have a hypothesis which is testable and can be objectively measured and recorded. Political science is merely theories and conjecture and is by no means testable."

I say that Political Science is only not regarded as a science as we have yet to develop the cold, dispassionate, future ethics needed to test these theories in a controlled, observable and repeatable manner. After all, no one complains when you corral a couple of trillion atoms and futz with them to test theories of physics or chemisty. But try to put even one human in an isolated environment for their lifetime in order to test a social theory and suddenly you're a monster.

So how, can you propose to test sweeping Political Science theories such as Communism when we neither have the ethical strength, nor the patience and endurance for such an experiment. To say nothing of the funding required.

My proposed experimental method for testing this theory:

-A minimum sample size of 1 billion people would be required for each experiment.
-These people would be required to be diverse in race, language, culture, religious beliefs, socio-economic status and sexuality.
-We would need to create a self-contained society for these people, free from external influence so as to ensure that the test is not contaminated.
-That society would be required to emulate as closely as possible the social and economic structures of the late 19th and early 20th centuries so as to ensure that the conditions under which the theory was originally conceived and proposed can be matched.
-The proposed run time for this experiment is 1000 years, less in the case of stable political structure being achieved or in the event of catastrophic failure.
-The experiment structure calls for 20 test cases, 10 utilising established Marxist and derived theories, 5 using "seeded" Communist/collective economic theory to see if new derivations arise and 5 control.

As you can see, utilising a population of 1 billion people per experiment - 20 billion people, and their descedents over the course of a millenia is not only "unethical" in today's society, but also far beyond the budgetary resources of any science program in the world.

Much like how certain branches of science only flourished - or were created in the twentieth century when discoveries made theories testable or unearthed new branches of enquiry, I put forward that contrary to the established belief of many on this intellectual crucible, Political Science is a science, but it is one which we are incapable of fully and correctly studying yet.



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 Post subject: Re: Political science - it is a science. PostPosted: 2012-03-03 05:14am
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Can a science exist when no one is practicing science in that field? What is the distinction between a science in which no experiments can be performed, and a not-a-science? How do we know which we've got?

The natural way to check is to ask the people practicing the maybe-science. Do they think in the patterns characteristic of science?

What do you have to say about that, weemadando?

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 Post subject: Re: Political science - it is a science. PostPosted: 2012-03-03 05:29am
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I am a bit dubious myself, but I am willing to listen to the arguments. However playing Devil's advocate here, isn't Ando likening political science's lack of testable predictions in a similar manner which string theory struggles to come up with testable predictions. Both make predictions, but neither have the means to test it.

Small print time - yes I realise that string theory can predict gravity, which is testable, but that type of prediction doesn't seem as "prominent" because we already know gravity exists before hand, as oppose to a prediction of something we didn't know about.



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 Post subject: Re: Political science - it is a science. PostPosted: 2012-03-03 05:39am
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I'd argue that to the extent possible, scientific thought is practiced - people put forward a theory, then attempt to proof it (theoretical tests) and eventually test it but this is hard given the fact that you may need to get elected, win over a Parliament with your ideas and then spend decades trying to finally get it running.

In my experience, that's why Political Science is stuck mainly being a retrospective science - relying on observations and lots and lots of debate and devil's advocating. But it's not like PolSci profs are incapable of rational thought. The same premise of theory, test, observe and analyse applies to academic debate.

Like I said though, due to the nature of many theories, it's hard if not impossible to test many of these theories.

Kinda like what MFG says.



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 Post subject: Re: Political science - it is a science. PostPosted: 2012-03-03 12:51pm
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Simon_Jester wrote:
Can a science exist when no one is practicing science in that field? What is the distinction between a science in which no experiments can be performed, and a not-a-science? How do we know which we've got?

The natural way to check is to ask the people practicing the maybe-science. Do they think in the patterns characteristic of science?

What do you have to say about that, weemadando?


The natural counter to that is to look at the so-called "historical sciences;" ie, paleontology and astronomy. I can't do direct experimentation on theropods to see if they really did develop feathers and become birds; instead, I have to do comparative anatomy studies with birds, crocodiles, and extinct dromaeosaurine dinosaurs along with DNA tests between birds and crocodiles to see how likely that is.

So, we can do similar things with political science; compare different societies with different features and see who does best with what. Command economies don't seem to work to well, at least as the Soviets and Chinese Communists implemented them, while universal healthcare seems to be universally good, for instance. Just because experiments can't be run doesn't mean that intelligent inferences can't be made with available data.



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 Post subject: Re: Political science - it is a science. PostPosted: 2012-03-03 02:43pm
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I'm not opposed to the argument made here as an argument, but I think that the question "is X a science" needs to be looked at from more than one angle.

mr friendly guy wrote:
I am a bit dubious myself, but I am willing to listen to the arguments. However playing Devil's advocate here, isn't Ando likening political science's lack of testable predictions in a similar manner which string theory struggles to come up with testable predictions. Both make predictions, but neither have the means to test it.
There's another difference- the role of mathematics. String theories derive from various ideas and possibilities using the law of mathematics, and those laws are a constraint on what explanations you can give for something. Is political theory likewise constrained? Can we find any political theories that are explicitly wrong because they contradict the core, self-evident axioms?

Akhlut wrote:
Simon_Jester wrote:
Can a science exist when no one is practicing science in that field? What is the distinction between a science in which no experiments can be performed, and a not-a-science? How do we know which we've got?

The natural way to check is to ask the people practicing the maybe-science. Do they think in the patterns characteristic of science?

What do you have to say about that, weemadando?
The natural counter to that is to look at the so-called "historical sciences;" ie, paleontology and astronomy. I can't do direct experimentation on theropods to see if they really did develop feathers and become birds; instead, I have to do comparative anatomy studies with birds, crocodiles, and extinct dromaeosaurine dinosaurs along with DNA tests between birds and crocodiles to see how likely that is.
Er, perhaps one of us is confused.

I thought I was saying that it's in the mindset- the 'patterns of science.' Good astronomers and paleontologists can't do experiments, but they're careful and thorough and use mathematical rigor where possible, and they're willing to man up and say "I'm wrong" when the evidence isn't on their side. Things like that.

That's what I think is in shorter supply in fields like economics and political theory, where bullshit tends to be longer-lived and public policy is dominated by "zombie lies."

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 Post subject: Re: Political science - it is a science. PostPosted: 2012-03-04 06:56am
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For doing science, you don't necessarily need to generate new data. You can also formulate theories and go through existing data to see if they hold true. If your corpus is big enough and of a high enough quality, astounding inferences can be made You are right in saying that scientific rigor is the most important quality. And that's where I, too, see the problem with "soft sciences" in practice, if not in theory: people are very very susceptible to believing what fits their view of the world or of humanity.
Since almost everyone is brainwashed from birth to believe his society's point of view, it's almost impossible to actually do science in there fields. That the personality types who shouldn't be allowed to get near these fields are exactly those who go into them, is another problem.



http://www.politicalcompass.org/test
Economic Left/Right: -7.12
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -7.74

This is pre-WWII. You can sort of tell from the sketch style, from thee way it refers to Japan (Japan in the 1950s was still rebuilding from WWII), the spelling of Tokyo, lots of details. Nothing obvious... except that the upper right hand corner of the page reads "November 1931." --- Simon_Jester

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 Post subject: Re: Political science - it is a science. PostPosted: 2012-03-04 12:04pm
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We can certainly find political theories that are falsifiable under Popper's principle. There were several theories on how the process of voting worked and how people made decisions on how to vote. The theory popular in the 19th century held that individual citizens made their choices based on their grasp of and reasoning about the issues at stake. When opinion polling took off, it was discovered that this was not the case, so a theory of beneficent elites with that grasp manipulating the public was instituted. It, too, was found later to be false, and incontrovertibly so. There are people who still hold to the obsolete theories, but here we must realize that in the social sciences, theories often have more investment from their believers than in the natural sciences, because they cross over more readily with philosophy and ethics. Thus, while the lumiferous ether or Daltonian atom are confined to crackpots nowadays, that is because there is little beguiling about them. However, obsolete models of sociology, history, and political science are still beguiling and can latch onto one's sense of moral rightness, making them harder to dissipate (though even then, I suspect that the crackpots of the social sciences are exacerbated by those natural scientists who have a vested interest in knocking the social sciences firmly into the other of Snow's two cultures).

Then, too, "obsolete" models and methods of the social sciences may be more like Newtonian mechanics or Lewis structures- useful for particular purposes.



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 Post subject: Re: Political science - it is a science. PostPosted: 2012-03-04 03:50pm
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Skgoa wrote:
Since almost everyone is brainwashed from birth to believe his society's point of view, it's almost impossible to actually do science in there fields. That the personality types who shouldn't be allowed to get near these fields are exactly those who go into them, is another problem.


┬┐Que? I've met with sociologists and most of them question the intrinsic nature of the societies they live within. Feminist discourse, for instance, is much more popular among sociologists than laymen, and they're often laughed at for having views so discordant with the dominant society. So, I strongly question the ability of people to do science in the fields of social science simply because people live within the society they're studying. That's akin to saying biologists can't effectively do biology because they're part of the corpus they're studying.



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 Post subject: Re: Political science - it is a science. PostPosted: 2012-03-05 03:27pm
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Then you obviously know quite different "soft scientists" than I do. Because in my experience they seem to almost exclusively be idiots who parrot whatever the "proper" opinion is.



http://www.politicalcompass.org/test
Economic Left/Right: -7.12
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -7.74

This is pre-WWII. You can sort of tell from the sketch style, from thee way it refers to Japan (Japan in the 1950s was still rebuilding from WWII), the spelling of Tokyo, lots of details. Nothing obvious... except that the upper right hand corner of the page reads "November 1931." --- Simon_Jester

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 Post subject: Re: Political science - it is a science. PostPosted: 2012-03-05 11:03pm
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Skgoa wrote:
Then you obviously know quite different "soft scientists" than I do. Because in my experience they seem to almost exclusively be idiots who parrot whatever the "proper" opinion is.


In my experience, sociology and psychology are very similar, in that both are very broad fields of study that encompass a wide variety of disciplines, the scientific rigor of which is highly variable. There are realms of both that are closer to philosophy than science - that is, they deal more with theory and logic, as opposed to any real empiricism. And, indeed, both fields have subsets that continue to be heavily influenced by previous work such as Freud (for psychology) or the neo-Kantians (for sociology), that while not necessarily obsolete to the point of uselessness are not as clearly grounded in contemporary standards of methodology or rigor. That said, both fields also contain disciplines that are firmly grounded in the scientific method and mindset. For example, A.I research and computer science often overlap into both fields.

I don't know enough about political scientists to really know where it may fall on this spectrum, however. I have always been under the impression that it fit more squarely in the "soft" side of sociology, as more of a philosophy than a practical science. However, I can't really back that up.



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 Post subject: Re: Political science - it is a science. PostPosted: 2012-03-06 12:46am
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As for ethical testing - aren't certain theories of economics now testable using world proxies such as world of war craft ect?

unlike a real world economy, you can have perfect knowledge and even attempt to hold factors constant to see the result.



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 Post subject: Re: Political science - it is a science. PostPosted: 2012-03-11 06:19pm
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The absence of a well defined professional scientist class amongst people who purport to do political science doesn't mean that the science doesn't exist. All the world's amateur stargazers could suddenly take to calling themselves astrophysicists, but it wouldn't make the tiny fraction of them who actually did practice a scientific approach any less scientific. Certainly the vast majority of people who purport to study or practice political science are not scientific. I do not think that anyone disagrees with that. However, I don't think that it is particularly pertinent to the question of whether the science itself exists / is practicable.



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 Post subject: Re: Political science - it is a science. PostPosted: 2012-03-12 01:27pm
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Feil wrote:
The absence of a well defined professional scientist class amongst people who purport to do political science doesn't mean that the science doesn't exist. All the world's amateur stargazers could suddenly take to calling themselves astrophysicists, but it wouldn't make the tiny fraction of them who actually did practice a scientific approach any less scientific. Certainly the vast majority of people who purport to study or practice political science are not scientific. I do not think that anyone disagrees with that. However, I don't think that it is particularly pertinent to the question of whether the science itself exists / is practicable.


By the same token, there are people that approach sports analytics scientifically (just look at some of the papers from the recent SLOAN conference in Boston), even though they are in the minority. Does this mean that sports analytics is a practicable science, or that the scientific method is simply robust enough to be applied by someone with the proper training and background to do so? Simply because it is POSSIBLE to approach an issue scientifically does not necessarily make that issue a science in and of itself.

(Just so you know, I am just playing devil's advocate. As I stated in my previous post, I don't know very much about political science, so I am just treating it like the "soft" sciences I have personal contact with; like sociology)



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 Post subject: Re: Political science - it is a science. PostPosted: 2012-03-12 01:40pm
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So Mike Wong's Star Wars vs Star Trek page is now counted as science. :D

Sure a lot of Trekkies ignore science when they go Star Trek will win because of <technobabble, technobabble, static warp field waaah>. A lot of the Warsies just got ICS II - 200 GT for the win. However Mike has obviously done some scientific analysis, like working out how powerful much energy the Death Star superlaser generates for example.

The absence of a well defined professional scientist class amongst people who debate Star Wars vs Star Trek doesn't mean that the science doesn't exist. :wink:

BTW - I was playing Devil's Advocate from earlier on, but as far as I can tell, if Feil's argument is considered valid, then all sci fi vs debates can be considered a "science."



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 Post subject: Re: Political science - it is a science. PostPosted: 2012-03-13 12:17pm
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Maybe we can get Sid Meier and Will Wright to cook up a simulator in which we can test political science hypothesis?

Many hard sciences use computer model tests to further their fields. Why not political science?

Then again, most political science departments aren't funded well enough to afford all the expansion packs.



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 Post subject: Re: Political science - it is a science. PostPosted: 2012-03-15 05:22pm
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Because it's kinda difficult to build up an internally consistent system that models human behaviour from first principles.You can't proof axioms in their own system. (Actually, I belive the correct phrasing is "in any system there are expressions that can not be proven with just the formulas you have in that system" but the difference should be minimal.)



http://www.politicalcompass.org/test
Economic Left/Right: -7.12
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -7.74

This is pre-WWII. You can sort of tell from the sketch style, from thee way it refers to Japan (Japan in the 1950s was still rebuilding from WWII), the spelling of Tokyo, lots of details. Nothing obvious... except that the upper right hand corner of the page reads "November 1931." --- Simon_Jester

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 Post subject: Re: Political science - it is a science. PostPosted: 2012-03-20 09:58am
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Mr Friendly Guy: Obviously not. Fiction can be analyzed quantitatively using methods developed by science, but that isn't science, because it can only extract information from events, it can neither predict nor explain them. The events in fiction occur because the author feels like making them happen that way. No meaningful prediction or explanation, no scientific method; no scientific method, no science. The only meaningful science one can apply to fiction is psychology, because that is the only one that attempts to explain why an individual makes a decision.

Ziggy Stardust: Potentially, sure. Sports exist, they can be observed, results can be tabulated and analyzed, generalizations can potentially be made, predictions can be experimentally verified.

Long and short: if one can observe a set of phenomena, apply the scientific method to it, and extract useful explanations or predictions therefrom, one has done science. Rigorous derivation from first principals is not science, it's math. Science is a method.

If all this is is a matter of nomenclature - political science is not a science because most of its practitioners are non-scientists - then any argument is absurd, for one could just concede the point, call a certain subset of political scientists 'scientific political scientists' and exclude the nonscientific practitioners, and that would be the end of it.

The meaningful question here is not, "Are there enough scientific Political Scientists to call Political Science a science?" It is, "Under what circumstances, if any, might it be possible and useful to apply the scientific method to political systems; and is the goal of Political Science - the prediction and/or explanation of political events from generalized principles - attainable?"



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 Post subject: Re: Political science - it is a science. PostPosted: 2012-03-21 01:59pm
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Feil wrote:
If all this is is a matter of nomenclature - political science is not a science because most of its practitioners are non-scientists - then any argument is absurd, for one could just concede the point, call a certain subset of political scientists 'scientific political scientists' and exclude the nonscientific practitioners, and that would be the end of it.


I think it is beyond a matter of nomenclature, it is a matter of method. As you said, science is a method. Branches of human knowledge and pursuit that follow this method are generally agreed to be "scientific." For example, biology is considered a scientific medium because the scientific method is necessary for any meaningful insight into it. To continue my previous example, the scientific method is NOT a necessary requirement to get meaningful insight into sports ... however, it is possible to apply the scientific method in that analysis. The question is whether "political science," as a field, is one that necessitates the use of the scientific method: if so, then it can be considered a "true science" (not that this really means anything, to be honest ... but this is the subject raised by the OP).

Feil wrote:
The meaningful question here is not, "Are there enough scientific Political Scientists to call Political Science a science?"


I agree.


Feil wrote:
It is, "Under what circumstances, if any, might it be possible and useful to apply the scientific method to political systems; and is the goal of Political Science - the prediction and/or explanation of political events from generalized principles - attainable?"


For the purposes of addressing the OP, as in whether or not "political science" is a "true science" (once again, I actually think this kind of thing is pretty arbitrary and pointless, but for the sake of the argument I want to try to keep things in the frame of what the OP means to address), I think a better question is whether or not the goals of political science necessarily require the application of the scientific method to attain any useful insight. I don't think there is any question as to whether or not it is possible in some circumstance to think "scientifically" about a field or a subject ... but if we are trying, as the OP is, to draw a hard line in the sand and determine whether or not political science is, indeed, a science, I think we need to determine the role of the scientific method in attaining whatever goals.



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