The endless cycle of idea and action,
Endless invention, endless experiment,
Brings knowledge of motion, but not of stillness;
Knowledge of speech, but not of silence;
Knowledge of words, and ignorance of the Word.
All our knowledge brings us nearer to our ignorance,
All our ignorance brings us nearer to death,
But nearness to death no nearer to GOD.
Where is the Life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
May 8, 2014
On statistician Andrew Gelman's blog, there is an argument between Gelman and Steven Pinker over the so-called "replication crisis" in the social sciences, with Pinker defending evolutionary psychology in contrast to social psychology.
If I could step back for a second to take a larger view, much of the problem with social psychology in the 21st Century is that it discovered that there was money to be made by becoming a branch of marketing research while still maintaining the pretensions of being a science. I suspect Malcolm Gladwell’s 2000 bestseller “The Tipping Point” was a, uh, tipping point in this evolution.
The selling point of social psychology is that it’s a Science and therefore, goes the unstated but implied assumption, any experimental result that social psychologists come up with about how to manipulate college students is Science and therefore part of the Unchanging Laws of the Nature of the Universe.
For example, the canonical experiment in 1990s social psychology was that a social psychologist had manipulated college students into walking ever so slightly slower to the elevator by showing them words related to old age.
People in the marketing and advertising industries went wild over this experiment because it was much like what they do -- manipulate young people -- except it was Science!
When you get started in advertising, it seems very exciting because you have New Ideas about what today's youth think is cool. But as the years go by and you rise up the corporate ladder to the point where you get sent to conferences featuring expensive speakers like Malcolm Gladwell, marketing starts to seem like a giant hamster wheel of pointless motion. As T.S. Eliot, who worked in the publishing industry, lamented:
So, this guy with the crazy hair up on the stage talking about Science is very appealing. Now that you have a mortgage and a family, you don't want to lose your hard-earned job to some 20-something who is more in touch with what today's youth are into. You've got to emphasize your advantage in wisdom. But nobody believes in wisdom anymore, they just believe in Science. But by going to this expensive conference, you are learning the latest Science, like how a Genuine Scientist got college kids to walk slower down the hall to the elevator. Granted, it's not immediately obvious how walking slower can make your clients more money, but the point is that this stuff isn't just an endless hamster wheel of fashion, it's Science, which you can best learn about by attending exclusive conferences. And the great thing about Science is that it doesn't change, right?
Unfortunately for middle-aged marketers everywhere, this famous experiment has proven hard to replicate, however. Maybe it was garbage in the first place, or maybe it was just some 1990s college kid fashion, like wearing flannel shirts. Somebody manipulated them into doing that back then, right? Maybe college students want to be manipulated into the latest stupid fads?
In contrast to social psychologists, the basic assumption of marketing researchers is: We can figure out for you what’s working right at the moment to manipulate consumers, but, hey, this isn’t the Law of Gravity, this isn't the search for eternal wisdom, it's just business. So whatever works now will probably stop working soon as shoppers get bored by it. So, you’ll have to come back and hire us again next year to tell you what those crazy kids have gotten into next.
By Steve Sailer on 5/08/2014