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What are we doing here?

January 14, 2011

Welcome to my blog.  If for no other reason than my own emotional benefit, allow me to acknowledge the obvious.  Unless you are being paid for it or making money through it, starting your own blog is an exercise in self-importance.  At some level you are assuming you have something to say worth saying and that others are going to agree by actually reading it.   I think the answer to those questions are yes, no and we’ll see, in no particular order.

There will be a guiding principle  that I will try to stick to however.  The raison d’être of this blog is to offer an informed perspective on news or events that catch my attention. And by “informed’ I mean something very specific.  My opinions will always be informed, when possible, by empirical research from the social sciences.  That’s it.  I am perplexed and sometimes angered by the opinions of smart people on important topics that bear no relationship to or even acknowledge the fact that many people, across many studies over many years have conducted methodologically rigorous examinations of the very questions being pondered.  And due to that there are pretty good answers to these questions.   The disconnect between what the research tells us and what passes as “knowledge” among the chattering classes is bewildering to me, especially in this day and age when almost any study from any journal is available to read with a few clicks of a  mouse.

I am, of course, painting with a broad brush.  There are public intellectuals and radio/TV hosts and news reporters who take informing the public seriously and do their due diligence, as it were.  But we still have far too much of the “how do you feel?” and “what’s your opinion?” bullshit that fills the airwaves and the internet.  The reason we have computers, the reason we no longer have a 50 % infant mortality rate, the reason we can heat our homes, and can live in the desert, the reason our teeth don’t fall out, the reason we have wrinkle-free clothes, the reasons we have the lives we have and the comforts and safety we enjoy, from the ridiculous to the sublime are that we created, supported, and valued  as an evolving human society, a class of people called scientists.  A class of people who figured out a way to rigorously and systematically pose questions and produce answers that build upon one-another in an ever-progressive, cumulative manner. In the physical sciences, our reliance upon them is unquestioning.  I would argue we need to head more in that direction with the social sciences as well. We need to further dessiminate and leverage the good work being done in thsoe allied fields to live better lives.

My little corner of “expertise” is research psychology, focusing primarily on child development, and so it is on stories or events that touch this field that I will comment on most often. My expertise comes by way of my Ph.D. in the field and my research and teaching at the university level as a professor.   However, just as important is the fact that I have the statistical and methdological expertise used in social science in general (sociology, political science, behavioral economics, behavioral genetics, anthropology, educational psychology, etc…) to be able to evaluate the research literature in those fields as well, allowing me to find and present that work when it is relevant to the day’s news.   Sounds ambitious? It’s not.  There are a million people who could do it and thousands who do.  I’ll link to them as well. And when I don’t know something (more often than I’d like), that will be very clear as well.

Oh, and I’m of Greek descent, a Greek-American, a  child to immmigrant Greek parents, hence the blog’s title (the Latinized phrase somehow sounded better to the ear).  So expect Greek things to wander in as well.


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