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.

 

Story Time: Animal Sperm

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Stories are ways of playing in our behavior sandbox.  This one’s risque, but based on natural fact.  Humans are built to have sex for fun.  Most humans.

They always get their egg.

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Two men sat at the bar, very late.  They’re strangers, but Carol, the friendly young bartender chatted with them and served them the same drink on the house.  So they talk.

Alan was an older doctor, with insane work hours.  His much younger second wife must have missed him terribly, because he’d discovered her in bed with two other men.

Ben was younger, rugged, larger, and reluctant.  Alan insisted, looking for anything amusing, refusing to believe that Ben’s story was sadder than his.

Ben glanced at the bartender.  She smiled back from the other end of the bar.  “I have to move again,” he said sadly, “because of her.”

“I knew you knew her.  Girlfriend?”

“No, and I don’t know her,” said Ben.  “I only see her here, for months.  But I know women, and she wants to take me home tonight.”

“Why is that a bad thing?”

“Because I want to go with her.  I haven’t been with a woman since the last city.  Months.”

“That’s crazy.  Why should you have to move?”

“I know it’s crazy, but it’s the way it is.  Look, I’m not smart like you.  I get a grunt job where I can make a half-decent living and settle in.  Eventually I need a woman, I just do.  I find one, or she finds me, we hit it off, and we end up in bed.”

“Still not a problem.”

“She gets pregnant.  Carol will get pregnant tonight.”

“Now you’re crazy.”

“Maybe.” Ben downed his whiskey.  “But it happens every time.  Seems most animals have sperm that works, first time, every time.  People don’t, so they can have sex a lot.  I got animal sperm.”

“What about contraceptives, birth control, diaphragms, off-period?”

“Doesn’t matter.  My sperm even figures out how to break through a condom.”

“Vasectomy?”

“Done twice already.  Somehow the tubes fix themselves.  Doc wanted to write it up but I bugged out.”

“Pulling out?”

“Can’t do it fast enough.  Somehow the sperm knows.”

Alan sipped, thinking.  Carol chatted them up, poured Ben another, stroked his hand, and went to work the other side.  Alan looked up at Ben.

“Have you thought about going gay?  I mean, it’s kind of fashionable nowadays.”

“Yeah, thought about it, but not my style.  No, I love women, but I can’t have em.  I go as long as I can and then, wham, bam, here’s your baby ma’am, moving on.”

Alan slapped down a c-note, told Ben the drinking was on him, and that he appreciated the story.  He left, found a hotel room, and slept well.

He kept visiting that bar for several months afterwards, and Carol did indeed get larger in the tummy.  He never saw Ben again.

 

 

Story Time: Small Wives Tales

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Studying behavior is fun.  We can do thought experiments based on real-life observations of fact.

and a short story.

Consider this fact: women are smaller than men.  This is sexual dimorphism, the genders are splitting apart.  Most species have males and females about the same size.  When they are different, it means something’s going on.  Something having to do with natural selection.  Here’s a thought experiment story that takes the phenomenon to the extreme.

=====  A booth in a shabby diner, late morning.  =====

Yo, Joh, why so late?

The third wife was upset, and the other two said I had to help calm her down.  She’s got some bug up her butt about the kid, so I had to listen to her whine before I could leave.

You’re such a nice hubby.  Why don’t you get another one?

Are you kidding?  Three’s the limit for me.  What about you, you stopping at two?

No, I could use a third one.  Having two means they fight among themselves, and I have to break it up all the time.  I hear having a third, and maybe even a fourth keeps them mixed up enough so it takes a lot of pressure off.

You’re both crazy.  Why not just stick with the one and train her the way you want?

Like in the olden times?  What are you, a Neanderthal?  You know how many of those marriages went bust?  No, what those biologists figured out was perfect.  This way each wife has less of a man to make her crazy, she has more women friends to hang with keeping the pressure off him, and he ends up with more sex, while each of them ends up with less.  Win win win win win.

Still, I’m pretty happy with my one.  She’s got everything I need, and we seem to work well together.

Sure, youngster, keep telling yourself that.  It’s also a heck of a lot cheaper, isn’t it?  But it takes all types.

Why do you think women were smaller than men anyway?  There was a time they were only 10% smaller, now they are 25% smaller.

Perfect for carrying under your arm.

Or stuffing in your pants!  (Everyone laughs.)

Look, a long time ago the women were almost the same as men.  About the same size, about the same brain, small breasts, just as hairy.

Then something changed.

Yeah, we don’t know what.  Some eggheads think it was the women that did it to themselves, but maybe the men did it.  Anyway, the women got smaller, got boobs, and started painting themselves all over.

Don’t forget the sex part.

Right, then something happened to both genders so that having sex hardly ever makes a baby.  So it’s fun to do.

Very fun.

How much fun you having with the one?

Well…

I thought so.

C’mon.  After breakfast, we’ll do some shopping for you.  Then we’ll fix that ancient Camaro of yours.

Thanks.  So how about that game last night?

Short Story Time: Talking Heads

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Studying behavior can be fun!  We can do thought experiments, like hard-assed physicists when they bend the universe to fit the speed of light, or put their heads inside a proton in order to get to know quarks and gluons better.

Our thought experiments take the form of short stories, generally known as science fiction.  Enjoy!

 

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Walter looked upon two graceful women in shimmering, semi-transparent robes.  They revealed enough to excite.

“He’s reacting well, like an alpha male of his time,” the older one said.  “Welcome to the future, Walter.  Not many heads made it from your era.  Yvette will be your guide for now.  I’ll be going.”  She gave instructions to the young woman and left.

Walter winced in pain.  The young lady stroked his temple and neck so gently he immediately felt at peace.

“Walter, go slowly.”  She continued stroking, and he looked her over.  She was twenty, curvaceous, and perfectly formed.  She was tall, and nothing about her calmed him.

He had a body!  He had signed up for freezing his head for centuries, until the future could cure his disease.  Now here he was!  Could he talk?

Talk he did.  As he warmed up, he asked Yvette many questions, and she answered him patiently, lovingly.

The body was built of his own cells.  They made improvements, and he would live a normal life.  His former profession was making “movies,” but there was still a need for storytellers.  He would have to learn new techniques.

He could walk now.  There were no cities, no tall building, no monorails.  These had all been deemed dangerous to the environment, Yvette explained.  Terrans lived in harmony with nature.  Machines were only found on Luna and Mars.

We colonized space? Walter asked.

“Of course.  We have also perfected our bodies and our society.  We learned how to alter DNA directly, no need for random pairings.  Every child is carefully engineered, and improved.”

No falling in love, no husband and wife?

“Wife?” she laughed.  “A concept males used to subjugate females for a million years.  No, the husband is history.”

I’m a man, I have deep feelings.  You are someone that I could easily fall in love with.

“You will find that we are all, as you would say, desirable.  Humanity is all female.  How old am I?” she demanded.  Walter shared his thoughts.  “I’m 50, my mentor over 90.”

I’m surrounded by millions of beautiful women?

“Yes, you are.  And according to history, you were quite randy, weren’t you?”

Walter confessed the truth.  But he remembered the 1960’s well, and hoped this future was as sexually enlightened.  He was looking forward to making many new friends.  Yvette laughed.

“I’m sure you are.  But the only way you can experience sexual stimulation will be through a deep brain stimulator we have implanted.  Here is your special button that only you can access,” pointing to his groin.  “We also removed your sex organs.”

Walter held onto a tree, looking at his lap.  The world spun, even as Yvette continued.  “Now, let me show you where you’ll be living for the rest of your life.”

 

Buying Babies

No black market discussion about desperate couples buying Chinese or Russian babies here.  Nor about desperate mothers having their child under conditions too horrible to consider, such that their only recourse is to give up that newborn.  No, we’re going to consider a behavioral future in which our government pays us to have kids.

We know this; as women become more educated and empowered, they choose to have fewer children later in life.  This is a behavioral trend that has been repeated in every nation, every culture, and in every possible combination of factors we can measure.  In retrospect this makes sense; why would a perfectly normal person want to have a parasite growing within them, by choice?  We know this parasite will endanger the mother’s health, shorten her life, and make her life miserable in many other ways.

The good news for our species is that these parasites can also give us great joy.  They also represent the future of our species, and can support us in our old age.  And because they are closely related to us, raised by us, educated by us, we know that they will be our close ally in times of danger.

It’s for these reasons and more that governments also like to have ‘future taxpayers’ filling the pipeline.  However, governments also know that their well educated and empowered baby-makers are having fewer babies.  What to do?

As a behavioral scientist, we can make this prediction.  The government will start to pay us for babies.  As much as they can afford.  They need these babies because they will rely on them for future work, and future taxes.

“What?” you say, Gentle Reader?  “No way!” you say?  Ah ha!  I have you now!

Our government, and many others, already do this.  In the US we get a dependency credit on our taxes.  It’s not much, but it’s still a payment.  In France you get extra bonuses and vacation time if you have 3 kids or more.  And if you look closely, every Western country has some kind of ‘incentive’ program in place.  And as fecundity rates continue to drop (look at Italy!) the payments will only increase.

So, thinking of having a baby?  How much should I make the check out for?