Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

What Would We Do Without Studies?

Thank God we live in an age when cutting edge scientific discoveries like this one are at our disposal.

Discussions - 21 Comments

Ok, cute, but for those of us who don’t know everything already research, polls, and science are useful. This study was pretty lame. It would have been quite interesting had they identified a special part or nerve center in the brain that triggers such action.

Just because we know or think certain things more science into how, why, and proof is always good.

The problem is that a certain kind of "scientific" approach is all too prone to degenerating into "scientism" --a narrow,dessicated account of how we know and experience the human world. Social science in particular risks becoming a caricature of itself when it runs rough shod over ordinary experience and tries to "prove" or explain away what common sense already knows. So I’m with Julie in being skeptical about a too ready resort to what "studies show"...

And because the scientistic, not scientific, mindset says one must have the numerically reducible data, gathered according to very precise methodological rules, before one can ever really say one knows something, this pathetic Dr. Vugt was able to make the case to some set of other academics that the funding for his experiment, involving "a team," 300 experiment subjects, and money given to the subjects for their little investment game would be worth it. Someone at the meeting that approved that funding should have spoken up and said, "Couldn’t we for the same amount of money hire three professors, or six grad students, to teach classic works of literature, history, and perhaps philosophy, which deal with the issue of manliness and war, and in that way more directly benefit our students and more substantially cultivate the amount of real knowledge about the subject in our society?" But you see, whatever it is you learn from Homer and Shakespeare, or from reading historical and anthropological accounts, isn’t knowledge, because nothing that can’t be counted is to the scientistic mind. And who cares if the undergrads are frog-marched in to sit at the feet of the likes of Dr. Vugt, because as boring as he may be, he has verifiably added to our "body of knowledge."

Whereas I, when I say that social scientists like Dr. Vugt are boring without having conducting any tests upon the matter, am simply OPINING, and have only added a long comment to a BLOG.

A lot of social science "studies" aren’t worth the paper they are written on. Others, like the one linked, are rather worthless because they are "allergic" to sociobiology. Of course men have a killer drive...it’s hardwired so that we could survive. ’Nuff said...no study needed, and certainly no grant money.

Let me join the chorus deconstructing "studies show." As both Tocqueville and Walker Percy explain, the very phrase shows the way that the techno-drift of modern democracy tends to replace personal responsibility with mindless deference to impersonal "forces." "Experts" say "studies show" in place of the more manly "I think." As Dan and Carl know, whenever I’m shooting the worst kind of bull about stuff I know nothing about, I preface my remarks with "studies show."

Again, however, we must have more than opinion and ’reason’ (which completely depends on one’s initial premises). Science can be valuable, and there is nothing inherently wrong with "studies have shown." I think the key is to realize that "falsification" is the key to science. No single study or even set of studies establishes "truth." Scientific truth emerges slowly from years of accumulated results, and even then there is nothing sacrosanct about such "truth." It stands until someone comes up with something more compelling.

So, does the scientific "proof" of the study Julie cites settle this particular question, or will we need more years of accumulated results to settle this one?


I think the real question ought to be, how does someone get grant money to "prove" something like this? What a great deal! How long did this particular study take? For how long was Professor Mark van Vugt able to live, he and his family subsidized by this study? It reminds me of the criticism of Patrick Fitzgerald in the "Plame" thing. How do people get these jobs? I suppose we could choose to think that it is wonderful that the Western world has the kind of affluence that this sort of thing just becomes routine.


It makes me wish I had the kind of credentials to allow me to seek a grant to do a sociological study of this kind of study.

I don’t know why folks here seem to be making sport of the study, rather than heralding its results. Sure, conservatives for years have insisted that there are natural differences between the sexes--those diffrerences are not merely social constructions, as the gender theorists would have us believe. However, conservatives’ arguments have always fallen on deaf ears for lack of evidence that could properly be called scientific. Now a study seems to confirm what we’ve known all along, and in a way that our opponents will find difficult to ignore. A major pillar is being knocked out from under gender theory. It seems to me that we should be thanking van Vugt, not accusing him of rent-seeking.

Yeah, you guys are only supposed to complain about the no-good, politically-motivated and biased scientists taking grant money from the mouths of corporate fat cats when you DISAGREE with the results of the study!

Maybe van Vugt did the study because he wasn’t raised by brainwashing conservatives who already "know" that men are from Mars and women are made of sugar and spice- you know, like most of you were! Now Julie and Kate, before you start furiously banging out your responses, you should consider where you REALLY belong! Is it at the computer, arguing with the men-folk, or is it in the laundry room, kitchen, or nursery? Think about it!

I agree that the intention of the study wasn’t ideological and the result sensible. It’s always good to have a study back up what you already know. But Julie’s point was that men are more aggressive than women is common sense, and the study didn’t really prove that anyway. Whether male aggression is "natural" or the product of "socialization" the study didn’t really address, and that’s the contentious issue.

Clay, Without fury, but rather a "sugar and spiced" amusement, I think I can fairly say that both Julie and I enjoy the fact that we can blog away here while doing the laundry (the dryer just told me it is done) and waiting for the pot to boil. While my nursery days are done, Julie seems to manage that, too.

If this seems blatant, furious, aggression, this blogging, you must live in a VERY gentle environment.

Besides, quarreling with men is what women do best, as any conservative with a well-washed brain knows, having read Aristophanes, Chaucer, Shakespeare and countless other literary examples. But if the modern man needs science to prove what is surely evident, perhaps one of you can get a grant and "prove" it.

Careful, folks, we’ve stepped on a few toes here. Social "science" is the Left’s only true religion (so long as the findings agree with their prejudices). It is rather sad, however, that they don’t quite understand why such "studies" would lose their legitimacy over time, at least for conservatives. Much like the MSM, eventually the bias becomes so strong that you have to reject almost all of it...you learn to just ignore it, in fact.

Far from being "anti-intellectual," I think filtering out Lefty science IS scientific. Using the scientific method, we observe a clear bias, we logically conclude that such bias doesn’t serve truthseeking very well, as we reject the enterprise. If this bothers our Leftist social science brethren (and ’sisteren’), then they should do a little soul-searching.

Kate and Julie: Your disrespect of science is a little disturbing. Comment 8 points out what we should be doing with the results. And while I operate on "common sense" all the time, I am almost always open to what studies, science, and outside opinions from the numerous fields of humanity have to say about life. Perhaps I have too much an open mind, but I would remind you that it was once "common sense" that the world was flat.

In earlier points it was brought up that social science sometimes steps beyond the true realm of science to make idealogical points. While this occurs, Peter in comment 11 agrees that this study is not done in this way. It is legitimate science, although disappointingly it did not get into the root cause of this aggression and answer the "natural" or "socialization" question.

"I was bold in the pursuit of knowledge, never fearing to follow truth and reason to whatever results they led, and bearding every authority which stood in their way." --Thomas Jefferson To Thomas Cooper, 1814.

Clint, maybe if Lefties would present "studies" for what they are (temporary findings that have yet to be falsified) we might listen a bit better. Instead, a few studies are published, the Left declares "scientific consensus," and anyone who resists the "policy implications" becomes either stupid or evil. Global warming is a prime example.

In short, if they would ACT like scientists and not grant-chasing whores we might give them the benefit of the doubt. Instead, we have a tendency to treat them the way they behave...as political advocates who have appropriated the patina of science to lend authority to their prejudices.

Clint, Who disrespects science? I disrespect that study! What is so scientific about it? I grant you, all we have to go on is this article. Yet, the study, as shown, doesn’t look to "prove" much. An experiment with 300 students and small sums of money and investment incentives.... that proves male aggression. This is science?


Mind, I do not dispute the results! But I DO say the truly open-minded would say that the world might still be flat. So feel free. Be open-minded. I confess to a stultifying close-mindedness on both topics, the aggression of men and spherical shape of the world.

I’m glad that you do not disrespect science, and only dislike that study. Be cautious though because that study is a type of science (although obviously imperfect). Science is never 100% conclusive; it just piles up lots of convincing evidence. In this way it’s not unlike our beloved political philosophy. We "know" many things, but human development can always change them. Jefferson said the only unchanging thing was man’s inalienable rights. And I (and I think Jefferson) would argue that we can come to understand those in a new light; they just can’t be wholly altered like the view of the earth’s shape.

But WHY NOT, Clint? If everything is open to as much flux as you claim, how do you know that our rights are inalienable? Doesn’t our understanding of our rights come from our understanding of a fixed human nature--one that is a middling spot between the gods and the beasts? If our human dignity is such that we ought not to be treated as beasts, so too is it flawed enough that none of us can claim to be gods. We are all equal in our nature as human beings and our rights come from that nature--both its good and not so good aspects. But if you are as open as you claim to be about the possibility of science proving something different all the time, let’s try this one on for size. Say, science "proves" an intellectual and moral superiority that could be said to give a claim to rule to some particular group of humans (or the flip-side of that argument--as "scientists" did, in fact, argue in the 1850s--that Negroes are justly enslaved because they could "prove" that they were inferior to whites)--then you must be prepared to be very uncomfortable with the results of your faith. For faith, is what it all comes down to in the end. "Common sense" can be misleading and prejudiced--there is no doubt of that. Sadly, however, science is not now and never has been immune to these flaws either. What is missing from both kinds of prejudice is statesmanship and persuasion--the necessary appeal to human reason. As long as men are not angels we can only brush up against the truth and very rarely grasp it.

My problem with today’s "science" and "scientists" is that they arrogantly assert their version of the truth and expect us to rush to embrace them and their research like little puppies--rather like today’s more wild fundamentalist claims. I agree with Peter Lawler that an "I think" is a much more productive way to begin a conversation than a "studies show." But I’m not sure it’s more manly . . . I’ll have to think about that one. It might be said to be more "feminine" by virtue of the fact that, despite its bold appearance, is actually more modest. Perhaps then, that gives us even more reason to accept it. If it’s properly both manly and feminine then maybe it is closer to being true.

If it’s properly both manly and feminine then maybe it is closer to being true

So the more human, the more true? Yet Genesis 6:5 says "The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time." Reconcile all this truth b.s. with faith--what it all comes down to in the end. If men aren’t angels and in no way good, then we can’t know truth anyway right? But I digress into a rant.

You raise valid points but admit that this "common-sense" about human nature is prone to flaws. Slavery was based on that also. I’m not arguing that science or this study is the answer. The point of my comments is to stop ignoring science. Sure there is flawed science just like flawed anything. There is also good science like good anything. So when conservatives like yourself pile on with quips and poke fun at science studies it is a little self-righteous because your own field of study is open to flaws too. I think we should all just be aware of that, and I doubt that Jefferson (or most of the other founders) would disagree.

But I digress into a rant.

The first step is admitting the problem.

So the more human, the more true?

Not at all my point. Who among us is perfectly balanced between the feminine and the masculine? That is not the way of humans. We all lean more toward one or another direction. If we did not, we would not need each other and we would have no gender to speak of. We would be as God is, above that. We are not angels, but neither are we (necessarily) beasts or devils. We can reject the higher aspects of our nature ("the better angels" as Lincoln called them) and descend into a more beastly existence. But we can also strive to be more than that and reach for higher pinnacles. Yet we can never quite reach the realm of God in this life. There are just some things we can never know--with reason or today’s "science."

I do not, as you claim, reject the accomplishments of science or wish to see a general attitude of disrespect toward it. In its proper role as a tool of reason, science can be quite useful. I rather like antibiotics, for example, and I don’t think they could have been discovered with the common sense of a mid-wife the most profound works of political philosophy. But if science tried to prove who should and who should not be permitted to get antibiotics, it would be over-stepping its bounds. Science today is very arrogant in assuming that it can explain all of the mysteries of the human condition. It cannot begin to grasp all the questions--let alone give us all the answers. Science, if respected the way that many people today claim it should be respected, would lead inexorably to tyranny. All I am saying to you is that science ought to be more humble and to recognize that it is but a tool in the arsenal of reason. It can tell us the what and the how--but it will never, never, never tell us why.

Further, you keep bringing up the question of slavery. But you failed to acknowledge my point that "science" in the 1850s was as great a defender of slavery as so-called "common sense" and even, in some cases, religion. What ultimately defeated slavery? It was not science. It was the political wisdom of Abraham Lincoln and he did not need a study to prove to him that slavery was wrong. He was able to persuade--through his political wisdom and his massive efforts--enough people to effect a change. Science does not leave an opening for persuasion. There is no "interpretation" or "discussion" possible if you take science as seriously as it apparently takes itself these days. From it’s point of view, you either accept or reject its findings. If you reject, the "scientists" will brand you an infidel--or worse, "a Christian."

Julie,
I did like that. Very good.

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