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January 29, 2020



"Evil does not exist; once you have crossed the threshold, all is good. Once in another world, you must hold your tongue." —Franz Kafka

While evil people exist, they hold no power in this world. If you see evil, it's because you're either a deist or an atheist.

Incidentally, Franz Kafka was Jewish, and while he did not live long enough to see the Holocaust, he was well aware of Jewish suffering through the ages. And yet, he wrote these words.


There seems no shortage of social science journals and presumably journalists to write them. But your issue seems to be that newspaper (and TV) journalists do not present social science - but why should they.

The purpose of a news media organisation is to sell content. The way they do this is to include things that motivate people to buy or click. These include tits, bums, shiny cars, expensive rags, slebs, royals and more or less biased content. Our traditional media work on the he who pays the piper call the tune principle, journalists lucky enough to have a job must suck up or stay unemployed.

News media journalism seems to be part of the 'cogs, wheels and levers' of human activity and is a fit subject for study by social scientists. Whether anyone reads their papers is another matter.


Social science is currently beset by a massive replication crisis. It's particularly bad in Social Psychology. As I understand it, around half of the classic papers in So-Psy fail to replicate.


There might well be a prejudice against the social sciences. A typical social science article may not chime with a particular newspaper's agenda or demographic. Or the article might be like many learned papers - dull.

I confess I have listened to some learned sociologist on the radio only to think 'this person is nuts'. The prejudice being that had I listened to a mathematician I might have thought 'don't understand but maybe interesting' whereas in the sociologist's case we all think we understand a bit and feel qualified to dismiss them as 'nuts'.

Cosmological articles (say) make it into the mainstream press if they offer some gee whizz pictures, the social sciences do not seem to do gee whizz, just misery. Misery does not sell and is unwelcome politics too, hence very few social science articles in the news media.


“frictions to trade can impede growth and, worse still, gradually slow down productivity growth.”

Discuss, with reference to the USA and Germany in the late 19th century.


Evil people do exit. However they should hold no power and you need to ensure in how you react to them that you do not give them any!!



There’s a fierce debate in physics about String Theory. Roger Penrose claims the theory’s being uncritically enhanced by a bandwagon effect, with younger researchers not wanting to challenge their professors’ cherished beliefs. But outside of physics, no one’s invested in String Theory being right or wrong. The rest of us can happily live with either eventuality.

Social science is different, because far more of us really want some findings to be true, even if the evidence for them is weak. Ego Depletion, Growth Mindset and Implicit Bias are all ideas that have gained institutional endorsement and patronage, even though they have failed to replicate well or even at all.

At the extreme you have Diederik Stapel, who fabricated data for no less than 58 academic papers before being exposed. Stapel always made sure his “findings” went with the grain of his profession’s political/cultural biases (e.g. that meat-eaters are more selfish than vegetarians, or that disordered contexts promote stereotyping and discrimination). That’s why it took so long for his frauds to be uncovered.

Then there’s Michael Bellesiles, who won a Bancroft Prize for his book “Arming America” using fabricated data (he was stripped of the prize when his fraud was exposed). The book argued that peacetime gun ownership in America was extremely rare before the Civil War. The thesis was always dubious, but it felt useful to Americans who wanted to restrict Second Amendment gun rights. Hence the initial credulous endorsement of the book.


One suspects that if you analysed the degrees of those in positions of power (MPs, senior Civil Servants, Local Government, Quango heads etc) those with social science degrees would outnumber the STEM ones by a large margin.

If you ask me the problems facing the country are caused by too much social science, rather than not enough.



"He Most High wills all that exists and directs all events. Nothing occurs in the physical or spiritual world, be it meager or much, little or great, good or evil, of benefit or detriment, faith or unbelief, knowledge or ignorance, triumph or ruin, increase or decrease, obedience or sin; save through His ordinance, apportionment, wisdom, and decision. What He wills is, and what He does not will is not. Neither sidelong glance nor passing thought is beyond His design. He originates all and returns it, does what He wills, and none can repulse His command. There is no rescinding His destiny, no flight for a servant from disobeying Him except through divinely given success therein and mercy, and no strength to obey Him save through His choice and decree. If all mankind, jinn, angels, and devils combined their efforts to move or to still a single particle of the universe without His will and choice, they would be unable to." —Ghazali (The Jerusalem Treatise)

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