Conclusions In Search Of Evidence


This statement by Paul Krugman applies to a whole bunch of theories and arguments:
More on the structural unemployment thing. As Mike Konczal points out, there’s something clearly obsessive about the desire to tell a structural story. It’s not just that people keep coming up with new arguments after each successive argument is shot down by the data; it’s the fact that it’s the same people who keep coming up with new arguments, strongly suggesting that they really want to believe it’s structural, and won’t take no for an answer.

Read about the history of the attempts to prove women intellectually inferior in various ways, and you face the same thing.  The conclusions remain, even if specific theories are proven false.  New theories just take their place right away. 

Thus, we move from women's smaller brains (though not all have moved away from that one!) to which half of the brain each sex might use more  to gray matter or white matter to blood flow in the brain to PET scan images and on and on.  Whenever a particular theory has been shown false another theory takes its place and the game continues.  Because it is the game which matters, not the particular theories.

Or rather, those who pursue that game are firmly convinced of the correctness of their conclusions.  All that remains to be found is that missing evidence.  If this piece won't do, then keep searching!

You might argue that these games are to some extent symmetrical, and in Krugman's example they might be among some economists.  But in my example they are not.  One side always plays attack,  the other side plays defense.



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