Re: JP Barlow, Ph.D, Social Engineering

Robin Hanson (
Wed, 18 Sep 96 16:25:06 PDT

Ira Brodsky writes:
>Actually, people doing "careful" computer research often don't agree.

Sure. But of course "careful" doesn't imply "agree".

>The difference is that in computer science, you can design objective
>and repeatable experiments. Most social science I have encountered
>focuses, by necessity, on observation. While experimentation is
>sometimes employed, it's extremely difficult to limit the number of

I and other folks around here have run lots of experiments with human
subjects. I'm not sure what you mean by "objective and repeatable" or
"limit the number of variables", so I can't yet compare them to your
criteria. It is easy to limit the number of things you vary within
your experiment. Bad experiments often vary too few things. And
experiments are commonly repeated to see if the same phenomena is observed.

I'll also note that many "sciences" such as astronomy and geology rely
almost entirely on observation. Others, such as evolutionary biology,
find it very difficult to eliminate variance within the samples they
experiment on.

Robin D. Hanson