The downside of validity
Earlier in this Part I, it was stated that:
“statements, in order to be valid and scientific, have to approximate social reality as closely as possible. This means that the words and sentences of scientific text have to accurately reflect what is going on in the actual world (reality).”
Werner Erhard (2009) refers to this as using a word-to-world fit approach to writing statements. Social scientists attempt to get their words to accurately reflect social reality. This is why I call scientific knowledge descriptive at best, it describes what has happened up to now in reality. There is an alternative way of writing statements and it is this way that will make it very obvious why UNI did not bring me what I was looking for. (I originally started an University education in Psychology in the hopes of learning more about this [changing how I was being]).
This way is basically defying what is and declaring how I want to be. Werner Erhard (2009) refers to this as a world-to-word fit. In this scenario, I declare how it’s going to be and the world will bend and conform to the words of how I want it.
The first describes how the world is, accepts it, explains it and resigns itself to it FO’ LIFE. The latter acknowledges what is, declares how it’s going to be and sets out to create action steps to turn what is into how it’s going to be.
The first reacts to Life, the second influences Life.
When examining how social sciences research fits into all of this, I find that it fits the first step in both ways (word-to-world fit & world-to-word fit). Both describe and acknowledge reality as it is now, which is what social sciences research does. The difference is in how they proceed from this. One is driven by my need for security and to be in control, the other is driven by a desire to be how I want to be. That first motivational drive is primitive and roots back to a basic survival mechanism, the second motivational drive is what the world is yearning for nowadays. To put it in other words: if I stay the same as I am now, it’s because I know that the way I am now is safe and predictable. It may not be the best way I can possibly be, but my current way of being is effective at ensuring my survival, so I’d better cling on to it, as changing it involves taking a risk. And if someone suggests I should change, I’ve got my reasons for not changing ready. After all, Social Sciences research tells us that identity and personality is determined by factors beyond our control (genetics, upbringing and environment conditions).
In reality, studies that bring us these explanations for personality are just correlational. All they reveal is an image of how human beings have developed in these studies up to now.
It is not an accurate reflection of what is actually possible.
Scientific data are past-based
Social Science provides valid knowledge about what has happened; researchers examine what has happened up to now.
All science happens in the analysis of data gathered in the past; and in that sense it is reflective. If you and I talk about scientific data, the words and concepts we use are ALWAYS referring to things in the past. If we use words and concepts that refer to Now or future, it is not possible that we are talking about ACTUAL scientific data. No science is experienced in the present moment and no science can give an accurate estimation of what is possible in the future. The only thing science can do is make predictions about the future, which happens to also be its major role in LIMITING people’s futures. Yet, scientists (and the masses) take scientific findings like some sort of religion. It is just an inventory of what has happened and how things have worked up until now.
It provides no guarantees that things will always be like that.
What was possible before now ≠ what is possible Now.
The future is always up for grabs.
But, in a world with an uncertain future, we like for our worries to be calmed by the explanations that Social Science gives us.
Excluding outliers is missing the gems
Social Sciences study populations. This means that a group of people is studied and conclusions are drawn on the basis of how certain traits and characteristics of the studied subjects seem to be related. Sometimes one (or more) subjects deviate from the rest to the group to a great degree. Scientist do not like this, because it messes up the pattern of the rest of the group. Social Science suggests that in some cases, it is okay to exclude such outliers from the study, as it might have been a erroneous measurement or a subject that is not representable for the entire population.
Let’s think up an example of this:
Social Scientists are interested in how personality changes over a lifetime. They take a 100 people and measure how their personality evolves over their lifetimes. They find that 99 of the people have a personality that remains fairly constant, but they find that one person’s personality changes dramatically.
In this case, the Social Scientists would consider excluding this person from the study as an outlier and conclude and write to scientific journals about their finding that personality is fairly static over a lifetime.
My approach would be different. If I would get back such results, I would forget about the 99 people that stayed the same and I would get in touch with that one person and study how he had brought about the change in personality.
I would not take the results of the masses and draw definite conclusions about reality from it. I would view the results as a reflection of the current state of affairs. If I am not studying the unique individuals I am missing out on what is possible.
Range restriction is a term used in scientific research to mark the degree to which findings can be generalized to the total population. Range restriction means you only have a certain group of people in your study and that not ‘all people’ that exist in the total population are represented in the group of tested individuals. For example, if you do a study and only include females as subjects, you have a gender range restriction and the findings should be interpreted accordingly. One could take this concept to an extreme and call that uniqueness restriction. It’s what happens when outliers are allowed to be excluded.
If one takes a group of people and generalizes findings to one unique outlying subject, that means you get a lot of regression to averages (this person is very different from the average person). If you create this idea of one population with a normal distribution, it means the outliers disconfirm the rule that works for that population and is thus ignored, considered irrelevant. By excluding the outliers and focus on the ‘normal’, you miss all the value that could be gained by learning from ALL people. And what is ‘normal’ nowadays, just the agreed up-on consensus (which is filled with its self-defeating mindsets and behavioral habits). The assumption seems to be:
As long as the theory fits the masses, we are creating valuable scientific contributions. What if the masses are taking actions that are not producing the results they want? Are we successful scientists just because we can describe how they are fucking shit up? Or should we explore possibilities and provide those people with valuable tools and information to teach them to get what they want?
On a side-note: it’s true that people do qualitative research on ‘gifted/talented’ people, but this receives very little attention and it’s seldom used to facilitate other people in learning what their strategies are, rather they keep focusing on explaining their ‘talents’ (which is a word better reserved for fairytales, since it is a superstition). Furthermore, even qualitative research is still past-derived, it does not deal with that which does not exist yet, the potential that human beings have.
What is a normal population anyway?
Doing research on large populations is simply taking an inventory of the current state of the world. Doing research on outliers gives one insight into what is currently possible. If you do research on a static society, you conclude that people are static. If you do research on how one person has managed to change himself drastically, you can find out how he did that and then develop communication and education programs to teach others what he/she has done.
The challenge is, Social Scientists are focused on having the most valid and predicable model about the world. This need for predictability I talked about earlier is rooted in fear:
“I need to know exactly what’s going on and be in control.”
Social scientists are using language as a way to explain and predict social and psychological phenomena in reality. They are ‘trying to get it right’, using a word-meets-world fit, language that represents, rather then transforms’ (Erhard, 2009).
It holds the assumption that social and psychological phenomena are predictable and static, not dynamic and evolving in nature.
I will state it again, because it is so fucking important:
THE CURRENT PARADIGM IN WHICH SOCIAL SCIENCE IS BEING PRACTICED IS A METHODOLOGY OF TAKING AN INVENTORY OF HOW THE WORLD IS AT THIS MOMENT, IT IS IN NO WAY, SHAPE OR FORM AN ACCURATE REFLECTION OF WHAT IS ACTUALLY POSSIBLE, NOR IS IT A BODY OF KNOWLEDGE ONE CAN DERIVE CAUSAL INTERPRETATIONS FROM.
ANY PERSON TELLING YOU ‘WHAT’S POSSIBLE AND WHAT IS NOT’ ON THE BASIS OF SCIENCE IS IN A STATE OF IGNORANCE ABOUT THIS AND IS BEING DRIVEN BY THEIR NEED FOR PREDICTABILITY, RATHER THAN BEING ROOTED IN THEIR PRESENT EXPERIENCE (which is open to opportunity).
The challenge is that science has quite the status in society. People look up to scientists and expect them to teach us about Life, to be our educators and provide us with information that will help us in Life. Unfortunately, due to the way Social Science is currently practice, we receive a lot of self-limiting ideas from the scientific community. These ideas reinforce the beliefs that people cannot change who they are, because science attributes individual traits and characteristics to explaining factors that are (mostly) beyond the control of the individual.
The beliefs that people hold are rooted in language and with science being one of the major influences on people beliefs, people explain away their behaviours on the basis of the factors science tells them are responsible. They also predict their future behaviour to be consistent with their past behaviour, which serves as further support for their belief in a static identity. As a result, most people do not change. And since social science mostly practices research on populations, their theories of predictability and static identity get confirmed in the research once more. As a result, most people hold little belief in being able to change their identity. They never use language as a tool for growth and personal transformation, unless they happen to be in relationships with rare individuals that have changed their identity and have the know-how to communicate this to other people.
The scoffing off of Self-Help
In the meantime, Social Science disses self-help, saying it’s non-scientific, while self-help has benefitted many people. Sure, there is a lot of garbage material out there, but there are true gems out there as well. There are educational programs and methodologies that facilitate personal growth that deserve a lot more attention. Science institutions would do well to open up to these and start including them in their curriculum.
But this will not happen before Social Scientists start to realize that the way they practice science is not appropriate. Social scientists need to realize that it is not appropriate to infer causality and come to concrete conclusions about the results they encounter in studies.
Results are just reflective of the current status quo and doing scientific research is taking an inventory of what is. The inventory of what is should not be used as a limiter of what is possible. We don’t know what is possible, but Nature always seems to surprise us with new creations. Evolution has shown us that. New things emerge.
We would do well to remain open to new possibilities and embrace change if it is possible, rather than cling to what is familiar. Clinging to the familiar is not a rational motive, but comes from fear and our need for predictability.
Redefining Social Sciences Research
Let us look back at the definition of Social Sciences research this part started off with:
“Social sciences research is a collaborative human activity in which social reality is studied objectively with the aim of gaining a valid understanding of it.”
After taking the considerations in this Part I will rewrite the definition of Social Sciences research as follows:
“Social sciences research is a collaborative human activity in which social reality is studied thru Raw Perception with the aims of (1) taking an inventory of what is, (2) gaining an understanding that will empower us in accepting reality as it is, and (3) pro-actively creating reality the way we want it.”
The next book piece will drop on Monday January 9th 2012 and will be the beginning of Part 2: Carefree Child
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