Oooooh, science!

That’s what I say whenever I come across articles that purport to offer scientific explanations for cultural or social phenomena. I’m never quite sure why these get any traction. There seems to be a built-in bias (at least in some audiences) for “scientific” explanations – and the harder the science, the more convincing the explanation.

It seems some psychologists at Yale decided to test if this were true. Their paper, as best I can gloss it, argues that the inclusion of explanations in the language of neuroscience made even bad psychological arguments appear more plausible to an audience of readers. While I’m sure the authors of the article would not appreciate me expanding beyond their specific analysis – they are scientists, after all – I think there is much here that supports what humanists have long contend. Namely, we should ‘beware the broadly applied metric‘ or theory on which the sciences rest.

Scientific explanations are only ever partial. So are humanistic ones. The difference is we acknowledge this. Some of our empiricist colleagues do not.

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