Friday, September 30, 2011

Duncan Watts is a genius

This is one of the best things I've read on the Internet. The point is that things that seem obvious, like common sense, are usually a lot more complicated. I'll quote the crescendo:
Social problems, that is, must be viewed not as the subject of rhetorical debates, but as scientific problems, in the sense that some combination of theory, data, and experiment can provide useful insights beyond that which can be derived through intuition and experience alone.
That said, I think he left out one very, very important point. Thinking about problems using evidence and scientific methods will only get you so far. Sometimes people have differences in values. We could pinpoint (almost) exactly the impact expanding Medicare coverage will have but people will disagree whether the tradeoff between x amount of lives saved and y quality of life improvement for the poor is worth a z decrease in quality of life for whoever pays for the program.

1 comment:

  1. Really good point. People always argue so much about policies, and it usually annoys me because I feel like there's actually always a scientific way of getting an answer (not just opinion). But you make the point that actually it's still subjective...