I patiently disciplined myself as i scanned the posted review to avoid reacting to Prof. Tetlock's vitae:
"By avocation?"  How does he make his living?

Then i came upon the disciplines covered :  "[advanced ]
Upon which i concluded that the book's thesis is trivial.  None of these disciplines is a natural science, that is, a category of knowledge concerned with uncovering the natural laws that govern the relationship among elements of the category and their evolution in time and space (in the general sense).  They may use scientific method (they should) in evaluating the category, but without natural laws no long-term prediction is possible and short-term predictions generally have large uncertainties.  Do not assume that i am denigrating the usefulness of any of these disciplines under appropriate circumstances.  Not at all, i am simply pointing out that to say that "experts" in these field have no success in predicting is a no-brainer.

In addition the content of these disciplines is about social entities, groups of people, the rules they make or which appear to guide their actions and interactions, their interaction with natural events, and the outcomes and impacts of these.  Consequently the content is culturally determined and its evaluation strongly influenced by the existing power structures.  Most practitioners in these disciplines are biased toward the hegemonic institutions of necessity (if they wish to remain employed).  Prof Tetlock may be a maverick, but his employment at a school of business "in the relatively young field of political psychology" does lead me to be interested in what he teaches the students, how it fits into the mission of the business school and if he is for hire to suggest to political candidates how they can psych out the electorate in order to manipulate them into supporting their candidacy.  I do know that psychologists in business schools generally teach marketing, how to con people into believing they need a second family car for example, or a medication with potentially life-threatening contra-indications, etc.

As for Science's book reviews editor, she should have recognized that Jost's review is poor.  One seeks in a book review some insight into the content and the context of the writing.  This review is a bit weak on the critical perception side, i'd say.  But then Jost is no neutral (no one is), to wit "
Ah, salvation!  scientific psychology of judgment and decision making is going to correct for the many failings of rabbits and cows!

As for Balter's rule,  I am confident, that had Prof Tetlock interviewed scientists (practitioners in disciplines for which there are objective laws with reasonable stability over time and space) his statistics would have been quite different.  I do not deny that generalizations by scientists do not offer a stellar record of successful predictions especially when they speak out of their disciplines or try to make technological predictions that invariably depend on socio-economic conditions (Recall how Dyson recently soiled himself and how that skilled ant collector invented Sociobiology).  Maybe Michael you could modify Balter's rule slightly:   The moment that an expert scientist says that something outside the core body of her discipline or a non-science expert says anything cannot or will not happen, it becomes, at that very instant, absolutely inevitable that it actually will happen. Since the tongue was firmly in your cheek in the first place, it is absolutely inevitable that both this version and the original are wrong!

Regarding the merit of the post.  I believe that had you posted a critical view and offered this as a further manifestation of the trend to new disciplines which  de facto (note no conspiracy, no agent) serve to rationalize capitalism, a vibrant discussion may have resulted.  This brings to mind a generalization that may be true: a reasonable indicator of the value of posting an article is how extensive a thread results.  Maybe my blah blah here will provoke commentary and thereby validate the post.  Maybe, maybe not.  Only the email god knows how many on this list-serve have already filtered out our blah-blahs.


PS  Now that you've cleared off your desk, would you come by my house and clear off mine.  It's a mess.

Michael Balter wrote:
[log in to unmask]" type="cite">Shortly after George's most recent post, while cleaning off my work desk, I came across the attached book review in Science which I had saved. Although the book reviewed deals mostly with alleged expertise in the social sciences, I think it applies to the sciences as well, which is why I had saved it. It is also yet another illustration of Balter's Rule, which is usually formulated as follows: The moment that an expert on any subject says that something cannot or will not happen, it becomes, at that very instant, absolutely inevitable that it actually will happen.

cheers, Michael


Michael Balter
Contributing Correspondent, Science
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