The demand for bad social science

By David Hugh-Jones

Why did nobody recognize that Lacour’s research was quite implausible? One factor: people wanted to believe it. It told a good story.

Nobody much cares how, say, a Barium atom behaves. But we care very much how humans do. This may be one of social science’s big problems. Theories of society, from primitive myths up to the latest carefully-identified natural experiment, are asked to play multiple roles, only some of which involve factual correctness.

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