Sunday, February 16, 2014

Another Japanese Professor


- Another Japanese Professor?*
- They seem to be turning up everywhere. This one was researching the Japanese massacre of Chinese that took place in 1938. Japanese researchers, himself included, were being told by indignant Chinese that Japanese work showed national bias. They weren't objective.
- And he said he could be objective?
- No. He was smarter than that. He challenged the expectation of objectivity. He spoke of historians as doing what philosophers of science say natural scientists do: have a consensus of what sort of theories are important to be pursued, the theories lead to hypotheses, which are tested by experiment. The facts that are revealed by experiment are only those that the selected theory and hypotheses lead to being looked for. In the same way, the documents historians work with are the result of selection, by the mere fact of their survival when others didn't survive, and by the interests and abilities of those responsible for producing the documents.
- Then there is no difference between the social and natural sciences?
- There is a big difference. Social sciences consistently fail to come up with theories that can survive even the beginnings of testing. That is an important experimental result in itself.
- The failure?
- Yes. Social sciences like history, economics, sociology pretend that science is about collecting facts, "objects" of perception. Facts, unlike theories and hypotheses, have a right to equal treatment, unbiased by nationality. In exactly the same way exchange of property exclusively for profit and biological change by chance are supposed to lead to economic prosperity and evolution of species, objects of history are all thought to be equivalent and all together somehow can be assembled into historical conclusions.
- Give me an example.
- The example the Professor gave was the recent book The Rape Of Nanking, criticized for suggesting Japanese isolation and nationalism as causes of the massacre. It was obvious that there was no way of telling, lacking experiments with people social science cannot do, if those Japanese national characteristics were direct causes, contributing causes, or no causes at all.
- The professor's idea was that we shouldn't imagine there were any objective facts that everyone could agree on but we should work to reach conditional consensus.
- Yes. The social science demand for objectivity, to pretend documents arise from chance or mechanical processes, an objectivity that has no place in the practice of natural science supposedly its model, reflects the influences of politics.
- How?
- Take our own country. We fight wars, crash our economy. What for? No one knows. It's not a secret, but no one is right. We have to be objective. Some say this, some say that. Everyone has a special interest to promote. Decisions are made, like trades in free market economics or adaptation in evolution, seemingly coming out of nowhere and going nowhere. There can be no progression of theory, hypothesis, experiment, new theory. One fashion replaces another. Is it really true that supporting mass murdering dictators is good for our own country? Is it really true that doing whatever makes more money for the rich also benefits everyone else? All we know is we say so now. And no one can tell us we have no right to our view.


- In Darwin's theory of evolution individual organisms randomly change. In free market economics trades are impersonal, done exclusively for profit.** In the generally accepted view of how science works, researchers begin with theory which suggests hypotheses that are tested by experiment. Which theories are to be tested is decided by consensus between researchers. In order for this process to work, to produce new understanding, consensus has to be rooted in agreement on, intuition of what kind of research allows the process itself to keep moving forward.
- Consensus, when isolated from understanding of how science progresses, gives us theories like evolution and free market economics.
- Gives us the entire realm of social sciences which claim to be seeking "objectivity", looking for facts independent of theory, gives us theories which reject both personal bias and the consensus of scientific research. In the social sciences, facts are supposed to suddenly fall into patterns of meaning, one after another, like evolution appears out of chance mutation, like economic prosperity develops out of impersonal trades for profit.
- The Darwinians, the free market economists, the objective historians of social life all believe they are doing science. If their sciences are not real science, if they don't work, don't lead to new understanding, why are they still around?
- They are fundamental to our education. We are taught to assume our social habits, our way of trading with each other, our very bodies are as they are by chance. Who we marry then divorce, who we cheat in trade, who we leave behind in the struggle for existence is arbitrary, totally without meaning.
- So we don't cooperate. And the people doing the education, cooperating with each other in perfecting our education, get what they want. What do they want?