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Time to Ditch the Scientific Method


In a speech discussing the future of liberal education, delivered on the occasion of his retirement as Sterling Professor of Classics and History at Yale, Donald Kagan struck a Rothbardian note:  

But hasn’t the scientific method made its way into other disciplines, and can’t its benefits be obtained through them? Where the attempt has been made most seriously, in the social sciences, it has been a failure. It is increasingly obvious that trying to deal with human beings, creatures of independent will and purpose, as if they were objects like atoms, molecules, cells, and tissues, produces unsatisfactory results. The social sciences, far from producing a progressive narrowing of differences and a growing agreement on a common body of knowledge and of principles capable of explanation and prediction, like the natural sciences, has seen each generation undermine the beliefs of its predecessors rather than building on and refining them. What we see is a war of methodologies within and between fields. In fact, the fundamental idea of the whole enterprise, the attempt to remove values from the consideration of human behavior and simply to apply the scientific method, now seems most implausible.

Jeffrey Herbener teaches economics at Grove City College and is chairman of the economics department. He is assistant editor of the Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics.

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