Are the social sciences challenging because of fundamental difficulties or because of imposed ones?

There's an inherent difficulty you don't list. You might file it under "political agendas," but the big problem isn't the external constraint of conscious agendas, but of people fooling themselves.

Covid 11/12: The Winds of Winter

Press releases about defined endpoints of phase 3 trials are the ones that move the stock price the most, next to mergers. Probably across all companies, not just pharma. The SEC would come calling if they were lies.

Douglas_Knight's Shortform

It's pretty common for there to be coverups with no crime protected. People just close ranks and reflexively lie. So coverups are rarely good evidence of the primary crime. But they are evidence of a sick culture.

Covid 11/12: The Winds of Winter

But 10% of the entire population developing a new mental illness every three months is much worse! 

That's not what the paper says. It says that 10% of people with the flu or a broken bone in 2020 are getting diagnosed. It doesn't say how many people with the flu or a broken bone were diagnosed in 2019, nor how many people without any other reason to go to the doctor in 2020.

Covid Covid Covid Covid Covid 10/29: All We Ever Talk About

So what? There are individuals that have reached 100% infection. I'm talking about America, which is currently undergoing an epidemic. I'm predicting that the past 2 weeks of behavior will continue for the next two weeks. To predict otherwise on the grounds of herd immunity is to claim that it has been achieved just this week. Whereas, Qatar has steady levels, suggesting herd immunity in the current environment.

Covid Covid Covid Covid Covid 10/29: All We Ever Talk About

I'm talking about people infected in the next 2 weeks. I don't see how that is an answer unless we have already achieved herd immunity. And I'm skeptical that you can call the peak that precisely.

Covid Covid Covid Covid Covid 10/29: All We Ever Talk About

But on the question of whether the worst is behind us, the answer is probably yes.

This is underspecified. There are lots of ways that things could be bad.

In March and April, the hospital system broke down. Supply lines were hanging by a thread and we were having trouble finding ways to put literal food on our literal table, especially meat. Thousands were dying each day. Supply chains and the whole economy and the market on the verge of collapse. It’s easy to forget how bad things were at first.

OK, the disruption probably isn't coming back. But the deaths? You're predicting deaths shooting up; from current cases, I predict 1500/day. And how much higher will cases go? It's easy to imagine that they go up another 50% and deaths exceed previous rates. That's only about 2 weeks of growth at current rates. Why would they stop here?

Douglas_Knight's Shortform

A common historical paradox is that centralizing forces can break apart large organizations. Usually what happens is that the large organization was fake, nominally claiming wide domain while actually being weak. When real power centralizes enough to defy the fake power, it secedes, producing the appearance of decentralization.

At least, my cached thought is that it's common. I can't remember what examples lead me to it. The only example I can think of right now is the Holy Roman Empire. A less paradoxical situation is that rapidly changing power produces uncertainty and civil war. Maybe my previous examples were things like the English Bill of Rights, where the King makes an explicit concession, but this is only necessary because the centralizing forces made the king powerful enough to need to clarify how powerful. (And Parliament is almost as centralized as the King, so this hardly even has the appearance of decentralization.)

I was reminded of this by people pushing back on Samo Burja's claim on the centralizing effects of the printing press. I think that this is a logical error. Just because the press broke the Western Church, doesn't mean that it did so for decentralizing reasons. On the other hand, a false argument doesn't mean a false conclusion. You have to look at the details to decide whether the mechanism was centralizing or decentralizing, which is a lot to ask for a tweet. FWIW, Burja only claimed a net centralizing effect, classifying the effect on the Church as decentralizing:

The printing press reduced the Catholic Church’s control over intellectual institutions. But it also paved the way for the standardization of language and for more direct control by state bureaucracies. Society was vastly more centralized in 1750 than it was in 1400.

Added: So, of course, I wrote this because my first thought on seeing the tweets was that Reformation was an example of this, but then I became uncertain about the example. Now I'm wondering if it was actually the motivating example when I first cached this thought. Anyhow, I do think that the nominal power and organization of the Church are misleading. Added: Yes, I think the Western Schism was my original example. I still think that's right, that it was caused by centralizing forces. I'm just not sure how the printing press fits in.

What Does "Signalling" Mean?

But we already have a term for signalling desirable properties about yourself: virtue signalling!

That's not what "virtue signalling" means.

Covid 9/17: It’s Worse

For those worried, yes, the halted vaccine trial from last week has resumed

I don't believe that this is true. All the articles from last week say that it's only the British trial resuming, not the American. I believe that British trial is almost full, so it's irrelevant that it resume, whereas the American trial, the biggest, has barely begun. I'm not sure how far Brazil and India have gotten. I guess India resumed on Tuesday. Here is an article about FDA not resuming.

Load More