Re: Anthropological items

From: Dr. Blake Nelson (
Date: Sun Jul 07 2002 - 12:12:52 EDT

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    > I think scientists en masse are more concerned with
    > evidence than lawyers
    > who at times only want to win the case. This is
    > because if they win the case
    > then they get more money.

    Why the attack on lawyers?

    Like any profession, one can choose to do things in a
    way to maximize personal gain at the expense of other
    goals. For reasons discussed below, I am not as
    sanguine about scientists being more interested in
    evidence per se than lawyers.

    As to winning to get more money, this applies only to
    a small percentage of lawyers who take contingency fee
    cases for personal injury and the like. The vast
    majority of lawyers do not work on contingency fees
    and thus get no more money for "winning" or "losing"
    -- I am hard pressed to figure out how lawyers who
    write wills, do real estate deals, draft and review
    securities before they are issued, etc. "win" since
    they never see the inside of a courtroom, but that is
    beside the point.

    > There is far more rhetoric from lawyers than
    > scientists.

    It depends. Being involved with lawyers and social
    scientists for two decades, I can tell you that in my
    experience social scientists are the far more
    rhetorical group. Of course, your mileage may vary,
    but especially in the social sciences Jay's points
    have some validity. Lots of things happen that are
    not supposed to happen in the sciences -- the
    ideological presuppositions of the researcher drive
    the research questions, researchers look for
    "evidence" of what they ideologically believe to be
    true, people generate theories based on which model
    fits the data best and come up with a theory after the
    fact, epistemological differences deeply divide the
    conduct of science and the interpretation of results,
    people attack existing theories with new ad hoc
    theories mainly to drive their number of citations up
    to get tenure, etc. Perhaps the hard scientists are
    paragons of virtue in these regards, social scientists
    are not. I would be surprised if the hard sciences
    are that much more virtuous.

    > One ought to realise that hominoid anatomy etc is
    > one of the more
    > contentious areas of science and thus more
    > "subjective" in contrast to most
    > geology and the so-called exact sciences

    And I think this is part of the point that ties into
    what I am saying about social scientists. The more
    complex the phenomena, the greater the role for
    interpretation of the data, the more personal
    preferences come into what problems you analyze, how
    you go about doing that and what your results mean.

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