Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge - The Social Sciences Summary & Analysis

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The Social Sciences Summary and Analysis

Social sciences are to deliver knowledge about lives and the way to control future. Social scientists lack unity and vision, and instead rely on precision in words. The complexity of social science exceeds that of physics or chemistry despite apparent familiarity. Due to errors of social scientists, Muslim fundamentalists are misjudged, there is a failure to foresee the collapse of the welfare state in America, while paying little attention to the foundation of human nature. They isolate social sciences from other sciences such as biology or psychology, denying evolution and hereditary differences. Cultures are claimed to be equal with equal rights in a society. Cultural relativism gains support, opposing unified human nature, biology creating a question on what really unites humanity.

There are two branches of anthropology that explain culture either as having a genetic background, a view held by biological anthropologists, or as a higher order phenomenon that has no genetic influence and evolves without limit from one society to the next, held by cultural anthropologists. Their views conflict and both fail to answer the question of diversity. Even the analysis of various cultures as unique entities failed to resolve these conflicting views.

Contemporary sociology can be called the anthropology of complex societies while anthropology the sociology of simpler, remote societies. Modern sociology involves measurement and statistical analysis. It avoids an analysis used in biology that traces causations across many levels of organization and is removed from natural sciences. According to the Standard Social Science Model, human minds are the product of culture, a view that denies the existence of the biological aspect of human nature.

Social sciences can benefit from other disciplines, such as natural sciences, anthropology, primatology, and sociobiology. The patterns established through natural selection are the same for animals and humans, such as that families are unstable unless they control high-quality resources, or the higher cooperation between certain relatives, such as father and son rather than uncle and nephew. Such instincts are part of instinctive responses assure survival.

Economics is best equipped to bridge the gap between social and natural sciences. There have been three periods in economics. The first is the Classical Era in the eighteenth and nineteenth century, where economy controls the resources through supply and demand. Then the Marginalist Era, around 1830, involves the breaking down of the inner working of the economy into individual decisions by examining activities through mathematical models of persons, firms, and governments. Economy could be treated as a virtual world with shifts either towards or away from steady states of supply and demand through rises and falls in prices of various units of production, such as gold, oil, or housing. In this way, microeonomics was founded. Economic change would involve marginal cost, total cost increase through additional units of production, marginal product, and the growth in output. Marginalist economic models change variables, keeping the remainder constant.

When the Classical Era is macro-analyzed and combined with the micro-analysis of the Marginalist Era, neoclassical economics emerge, called the Era of Model Building. The new era features linear programming, game theory, and mathematical techniques to stimulate economy through detail, equilibria, and impulses in supply and demand. The weaknesses of these systems involve inability to predict all human behavior through simple principles. Hermetic sealing off from the environment that imposes constraints on human behavior also renders economic theories to fail in predicting the economic future. Some of their successes involve partially stabilized economies, regulation of the flow of money, and preventing from inflation and depressions. The key questions remain unanswered. Mathematical models that work need to have parsimony, few units, and processes that account for phenomenon, generality or a wide range of phenomena covered by the model, as well as consilience, where processes conform with other disciplines. No account of biological evolution is investigated, where needs and opportunities in one category strengthen the needs in other categories. There is a wide number of psychological models that fail to be applied in modern economics.

This section contains 672 words
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