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Dark Ages: The Case for a Science of Human Behavior (MIT Press) Paperback – February 13, 2009
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At a time when many social scientists have allowed themselves to be cowed by political and religious ideology, Dark Ages reminds us that we have a moral and intellectual obligation to seek the fullest possible understanding of the roots of human behavior. McIntyre has written a beautiful and timely ode to scientific rationality.(Sam Harris, author of The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation)
Dark Ages is a compact, urgent, and brutally frank challenge to ideologues left and right to drop their resistance to learning scientific truths about human behavior and apply the scientific method to social science. Given current signs of deterioration in the human race's ability to assure its own survival, the long-standing hostility to sometimes unwelcome knowledge must end, and Lee McIntyre"s powerful voice is timely and welcome. It will be instructive to see how his bold message is received, especially on university campuses, where the politicization of social science is in full flower and where some questions remain too hot to ask, much less answer.(Harvey A. Silverglate, civil liberties lawyer and writer, and coauthor of The Shadow University: The Betrayal of Liberty on America"s Campuses)
It takes a lot of nerve to insist that a scientific understand of human behavior should guide our approach to social problems -- especially when the alternatives are religion, politics left and right, gut instinct, and every other values guidepost around. Lee McIntyre has that nerve, and makes a clear case for the value of value-free science. This book will make waves.(Daniel M. Wegner, Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and author of The Illusion of Conscious Will)
About the Author
Lee McIntyre is a Research Fellow at the Center for Philosophy and History of Science at Boston University and an Instructor in Ethics at Harvard Extension School. He is the author of Dark Ages: The Case for a Science of Human Behavior (MIT Press).
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As for the rest of the book, there are some areas that I felt that needed to be addressed more and less point-repeating, and this book feels limited to certain understandings, I think. Nevertheless, it's a great book on the subject and challenge one's thinking about our behaviors and attitudes.
Whilst the scientific method has been applied with vigor and determination to the rest of the natural world, it has been used in a very odd way to explain social behavior. Instead of the application of falsifiable hypotheses, the explanations for human behaviors are rooted more in ideology than science. Lee McIntyre contends that the majority of philosophers and social scientists do not have the courage to make an empirical inquiry into the causes of human action. They often cite a number of reasons why the scientific method cannot be applied to understanding such tragedies as terrorism and starvation. Lee expertly demolishes each of these major objections.
Obviously tens of thousands of social scientists have not been sitting on their hands. But Lee suggest that their work needs to be sharpened, the focus changed, and above all, the assumptions of their work need to be challenged. This is always hard. However hard-nosed we may think that we are, every time that we do an experiment or responds to something in the news, we bring a lot of baggage with us. There are many practical problems with any attempt to challenge or change the status quo. Not the least of which is grant support. Stories abound of people failing to get grant support because their work flew in the face of "received wisdom."
This is a highly readable book of only 144 pages, excluding an eight-page introduction. And those 144 pages include some notes, a short bibliography and an index. I am no speed-reader, but I still finished the book in an hour or so, and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
After the introduction, there are five chapters:
1. Diagnosing the human condition
2. A science of human behavior
3. Resistance to knowledge
4. A lesson from the history of science
5. What is to be done?
Although polemic in style, it is also an optimistic book with some highly practical suggestions for applying scientific rigor to the understanding of some of the most fundamental problems facing us today.
As he says in closing, "A science of human behavior can lead the way out of the current mess of unreason and tragedy that hangs over human affairs. The application of our highest form of reason, science, to the study of our social problems is our best hope for salvation. Even in a dark age, our reason can see us through. Our future may well be brighter that we have imagined it, for scientific inquiry is well equipped to answer the questions that have been put by human misery. The word awaits our response."
I am quite certain that science is not the only road to understanding, but it is an extraordinarily powerful one.
This is an important book that deserves a wide readership. We have to try and understand some of the apparently illogical things happening in our world, or we are all going to be submerged by them.
Dark Ages: The Case for a Science of Human Behavior is a wonderful, clearly written book that argues we should not give up on these causes. The problem, argues author Lee McIntrye, is that social scientists, who are theoretically equipped to solve these problems, are too invested in their own ideologies to do good science. McIntyre says we need to transform the social sciences by subjecting them up to the same standards of rigor that we have come to expect in the natural sciences.
This book is a provocative call to action to change our attitude about the goals of the social sciences. Although the title suggests something ominous, McIntyre is optimistic that we have the know-how to improve our world.
But this book is not just a polemic. It is also quite entertaining. The field of the philosophy of science is plagued by jargon, but McIntyre writes with the elegance of a popular writer. The author uses numerous examples throughout the text that leap off the page. McIntyre's rich sense of science and subtle arguments come across effortlessly.
If you have ever wondered why there is still war and suffering, then I highly recommend this book, which offers a provocative answer written in refreshingly down-to-earth prose.
did that for me and, to a lesser extent, Maslow's Toward a Psychology of Being and E. O. Wilson's Consilience. Another is Lee McIntyre's
Dark Ages. His thesis that we are never going to solve the social problems that continue to plague us unless we discover their "ultimate causes" through "a science of human behavior" now strikes me as being so true it seems obvious. But the book was first published in 2006. What then, I ask myself, have we been waiting for?
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I loved it. We are living in a time when political correctness has overtaken everything.Read more