Hard and Soft Serve

“Why do Legitimate Academics get Sucked into these Debates?”

I must admit my terrible bias against the soft sciences. I find the experiments, and the conclusions that follow from them, alarmingly insufficient at times. I have often felt that for every piece of hard evidence produced by the soft sciences, there are one thousand unfounded opinions.

My biases could be cured, perhaps, if people would stop conflating the hard sciences and the soft sciences. Soft science does not produce the same kind of truth that hard science does. It is hard science that is intended to establish facts—statements of truth that can be verified by replicable experiments. Hard science does not provide philosophical interpretations of these truths. Hard science does not “say” anything, even though the scientists are in the habit of saying a great many things. While I find this troubling, it does not trouble me nearly as much as the converse.

The soft sciences do, in fact, “say” things. If they were not permitted to say anything, they would not exist. The things that these soft sciences say, however, are rarely the same type of things that hard science discovers. On this point, I have no reservations about my bias: purveyors of soft science who speak of their conclusions as “science,” in the hard sense of the word, have equals only in conniving politicians. Their conclusions are not facts, they are opinions about facts, which themselves are not nearly so interesting (and not always derived from hard science).

Small leaps must be made in order for us to make conclusions at all, and I grant that we must always, to some extent, interpret the facts. What I cannot personally grant, however, is the license to cross chasms under false pretenses.

Carl Sagan reportedly said “An atheist has to know a lot more than I know.” It would appear that a great many people know a great deal more than him—remarkably, they have accomplished this while utterly bypassing the body of knowledge that he was familiar with.


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