Goodbye Soft Science

Makes as much sense as most soft science.What’s in a word?

Quite a bit, in fact.

There’s this “news” organization that calls itself “X News.”  Because it says “news” everyone gives it the same credibility as other organizations that deliver true news.

What is news?  We’ll talk about that some other day.

The fact of the matter is that when you are trying to sell something, and that something is not worth much, it’s to your benefit to disguise it.  Ask any fast-talking salesman.

So if your program is a bunch of talking heads talking nonsense, call it “news” so it has more credibility.

What about if your academic discipline is rather “funny” in itself?  What if your discipline has failed to advance our knowledge of its purported subject by any measurable amount during its entire existence?

Simple.  Call it a science.

If you’re a “real” scientist, like in chemistry, or physics, you’re not going to enjoy eating at the same table as an sociologist, or economist.

So you call yourself a “hard” scientist.  Your facts are hard.  Your experiments are hard.  Your conclusions stand the test of time and replication.  They are also hard.

What are the other guys?

So far we’ve been calling them “soft” scientists.

I suggest an improvement.

It’s time to give them a label that gives us a better idea as to what they truly are in the great scheme of things.

Squishy.

They are quite squishy.

You push them, and they move out of the way.

You can pinch, pull, stretch and fold them as much as you want, and they come back exactly the same.

That’s what economics, sociology, and a whole host of other such “sciences” can do.

So it’s time we call an ultra conservative talk show what it is.

And it’s time we call squishy sciences exactly what they are.

Squishy.

Now we need to drop the whole “science” bit from them.  But one step at a time.

 

Titillating Camera Angles

My kindergarten was tough.  We had a professional artist teach us how to handle crayons.

Kindergarten wasn’t easy, back in my day.  In fact, if you couldn’t cut the mustard, literally, you had to repeat the year.  Mustard cutting was taught scientifically.

During my second year of kindergarten, with the same art teacher, I learned the laws of perspective.  That law is that all the walls of your room disappear into a point far away.

Of course, that’s the rule of perspective.  But we didn’t know that word.

What’s cool about the law is that it works in reverse.  Look at a picture, any picture, and figure out where the artist is standing when they drew it, or photographed it.

Well, you can do that for most artists.  Picasso and Escher left us standing on our heads.  Or is that scratching our heads?  Sorry, I’m digressing.

So there I was, at the gym, watching the “news” shows, and there are several that present us with beautiful ladies.  For fun, I traced back to see where the camera was sitting.  For one show, it was about at the level of the ladies eyes.  Very nice.

For another show, it was just about the level of their hips.

Their what?

Yes, their hips.  I looked again, and realized that if someone’s legs forgot where they were, for only a second, the camera would see a bit more than the lady.  Maybe more than the viewer wanted.

Hold on, I thought.  I checked to see what program was being presented.  Yes, it was a “news” show.  Guess what else?  It also happened to be the network that has all sorts of sexual harrassment claims going on against it.

Hmmm, thought I.  Is there a connection?

I, for one, don’t intend to watch to find out.  I’ve seen enough.

 

Putin and Murdoch

Hello Friend,

A few days ago I threw out the idea that maybe there was a conspiracy about the Zika virus.  It was all in fun, because the chances of nefarious governments trying to decrease world population seems far-fetched.

Like you, I pay too much attention to the news.  The happenings around Trump’s white house are getting more ridiculous.  I even read where a House committee wants to reopen investigations into Hillary Clinton instead of digging into Trump’s Russian connections.  Of course, this sort of slant is loved by everyone’s favorite hateful news network – Fox.

And that got me thinking.

The Russians have always dealt with the cold war difgerently than Americans.  We spent money on technology and armies.  They spent money on spy networks and prostitutes.  Putin was one of their best.

We now have ample evidence that Russian hacking rings have been responsible for massive influences around the globe.  Facebook has admitted that there were 70,000 fake profiles set up in France in order to both destabilize the Macron campaign and bolster his radical opponent, La Pen (she’s a Trump clone).

Here’s the conspiracy.  The single greatest force that has been effectively destabilizing our democratic process since 1996 is Fox “News.” (Sorry, I can’t say this with a straight face, or without putting it into quotes.  Forgive me, Gentle Reader.)  That date is important, because that’s when Clinton (Bill) won his second term, and the Republicans were already preparing to put another Bush in power.

What if Rupert Murdoch got help from Putin?  What if they helped him in terms of supporting the network, making sure he got ad money, maybe even helping fake how well it was doing in the ratings?  All of these things are done on computers now, and we know how good the Russian hacking rings are.

Just think of the possibilities.  Putin hardly has to raise a finger.  Murdoch is doing the dirty work for him!  Creating whole new categories of “fact” and “alternative reality.”  Putting pretty women in front of lots of old white men, and then groping them behind the scenes.  That is pure Russian mentality.

Need some evidence?, besides this pretty darn good crazy thread of a theory?  Here it is.

If Fox “News” is so dang conservative and old-fashioned, where is the pure outrage against all the Russian influence we’ve uncovered since before the election?  Hacking into voting systems, spreading viruses, and leaking sensitive emails of Hillary and others.  What about the outrage we should be hearing even now?  Don Junior’s meeting with Russian agents?  Don Senior’s business dealing with Russians?  Perhaps that’s the real reason why he refuses to reveal his tax returns.

You can take it from here.  As far as I am now concerned, the conspiracy theory has hit its peak.  Fox “News” is a front for Putin and Russian influence in our society.  I know we’ll prevail, because we are far tougher than they are.  But now knowing there’s a Russian handler sitting behind every pretty Fox face gives the channel a whole new look.

Dasvedanya Tvarisch.

Yes, that’s Russian for goodbye comrade.  If you like Fox “News,” you should start learning the language.

 

 

 

Story time; report!

Saturday is generally a home day, relax day, get lots of personal work done day.  Many people enjoy listening to the radio or video feeds at this time, some of which are news or public interest stories.  My wife enjoys NPR, whereas my old men breakfast bunch prefers FOX.  I enjoy silence.

What they forget, and what we as students of behavior must never forget, is that these “reporters” are telling a story.  They do not “report” anything, in the sense that they are reading a list of facts.  No listener would be able to stand that.  So they relate the facts within a greater context, told from their particular perspective.  The old men can’t stand the perspective of NPR, and my wife can’t stand the perspective of FOX.  We’ll talk about quality another day.

We, noble student of behavior, must remember that their perspective is one of many.  The facts are always questionable and should be verified.  Any overlay of emotion upon the story only serves to make it a tastier dish, but does not add digestible content.

Reporters are a relatively new profession in our society, and as such they represent progress of our civilization.  However, unless we understand how “news” is published, and what the limitations are within their profession, such stories can serve to make our jobs harder than they need to be.

As scientists, we need to remember one thing – it’s only the facts that count.

Report that.