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Ryan Lanham wrote:
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> Nisbit (1980) argued that a key characteristic of modernism was an idea of a
> progressive science.  Progressive is a normative word.  It implies either
> (1) a positive expansion of scope or (2) a scope that is increasingly
> correct or "true".
> Does any social scientist with broad-based training really fear physicist's
> contribution on (2)?   I can't imagine.

Is there really some purpose to this sort of jingoistic rhetoric, other
than collective ego-stroking?  The empirical fact of the matter is that
various scientists from outside the social sciences have taken an
interest in social networks.  Putting aside the occasionally thorny
institutional issues (which have been nicely outlined by John Scott and
others), it seems to me that our concern should be with advancing the
science.  Where physicists (or anyone else) can be helpful in this
regard, we should make the most of what they have to offer; where they
are in error, we should attempt to correct them.  In the long haul, the
best way to ensure that the field survives is to establish a consistent
record of scientific success (strong predictive theories, refined and
deployable measurement tools, etc.).  Complaining about the current
state of affairs (while a fun pastime) does little to bring this about.

I would welcome a shift in this discussion towards some more practical
topic.  Although I share many of the concerns voiced here (as some of
you know), I find a lot of the rhetoric a tad parochial (and faintly
embarrassing).  There's no magic solution to the (very real) challenge
of interdisciplinary collaboration, but I expect that results will prove
a harder currency than complaints in the grand scheme of things.


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