I was seeing the doctor yesterday for my occasional headaches. Before going to the doctor, I suspected that I had slight migraine. Yet to avoid “self-fulfilling prophecy”, I refrained from googling the symptoms of migraine before talking to the doctor. It turns out that my self-reported symptoms (hopefully uncontaminated by any medical knowledge) was consistent with the doctor’s knowledge about symptoms of migraine. So I willingly took her diagnosis as relatively “scientific” and decides to store some pain-killers.

Talking about “symptoms”, this experience triggers some thoughts in me on the philosophy of scientific inquiries. My suspicion (or in fact a well-argued point) is that for the 20th and 21th century, the paradigms of physical and social science is under transformation from deductive-driven to inductive-driven. By this I mean that descriptions about how the physical and social world works is shifting from “explaining the underlying generating mechanism” to “describing the observed symptoms”. The word “symptom” is used here as a neutral word. For example, astronomy that used to work out a “perfectly predictable orbit of planets” in the universe has now paused, and recognized that the motion of planets in outer space is in fact much less predictable and more complex than textbooks used to teach us. Since the turn of last century, Newtonian theory has been realized as merely a mental short cut (which may even lead us to the wrong destination) to understand the physical world.

Same with social science. I take the economic approach as an extreme case of mental short cut at best. It is time that social scientist acknowledge to the world that what appeared to be “noise” may now turn out to be “symptoms of truth”.

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  • yxysamurai  On March 1, 2012 at 10:39 am

    Again, funny pic.

    Symptom Declaration: “It is time that social scientist acknowledge to the world that what appeared to be ‘noise’ may now turn out to be ‘symptoms of truth’.”

  • Crossfit in Syracuse  On March 31, 2014 at 10:47 am

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