Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Wednesday, October 21, 2021

The jig is up for us political scientists (my BA says I’m one, thanks very much): Congress is debating cutting National Science Foundation funding for a discipline that can’t decide just how “scientific” it is (or isn’t):

“The danger is that political science is moving in the direction of saying more and more about less and less,” said Joseph Nye, a professor at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, whose work has been particularly influential among American policy makers. “There are parts of the academy which, in the effort to be scientific, feel we should stay away from policy,” Mr. Nye said, that “it interferes with the science.”

In his view statistical techniques too often determine what kind of research political scientists do, pushing them further into narrow specializations cut off from real-world concerns. The motivation to be precise, Mr. Nye warned, has overtaken the impulse to be relevant.

Reminds me of the joke one of my professors tossed off regarding the very same conjecture. The gist was that, as above, a segment of the discipline’s practitioners wanted to amp up the pure statistical focus, thus emphasizing the “sci” part of poli-sci. To which Prof, decidedly on the softer social-trending side of the debate, haughtily scoffed, “The fools!”

He got a big laugh from the class, because none of us fancied ourselves as the scientist type, either in labcoats or somewhere crunching numbers. Indeed, for undergrads, you’re a political science major either because it’s the most in-line prep for pre-law and law school; or else, like me, you have an affinity for the combination of history and applied social processes.

Trying to forge a hard science out of that soup seems like a tall order, despite Congressional preference for NSF money going into pharmaceuticals and the like. Quantifying the body politic would be a lot easier if human beings, with their quirks and general irrationalities, weren’t involved.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 10/21/2009 10:31 PM
Category: College Years, Political, Science
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go joe, you betcha
Here’s an interpretation of the lovely Sienna Miller’s recent work in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra that I hadn’t picked up on:

For half the movie she’s the Baroness, a brainwashed villain in glasses and dark hair who looks unnervingly like Sarah Palin.

What’s the official backstory on The Baroness? Does she happen to be descended from a clan of exiled Russian royalty who have a centuries-old estate in — wait for it — Alaska?

Otherwise, the character’s long dark hair and rimless sunglasses certainly do evoke everyone’s favorite former Alaskan governor. I’m sure this is just an outcropping of the New York Times’ stealth bias against the fringe Republican sweetheart. Still, I feel a bit unclean now, since Miller as a brunette badass in skintight leather actually made me consider going to see the flick.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 10/21/2009 09:03 AM
Category: Celebrity, Movies, Politics, Pop Culture
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