"I love your "Malaysian Accent", can you say it again?"
"几够力一下有没有"

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

"Anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job." - Douglas Adams

***



"For 9 years I taught at the Political Science department of MIT, teaching the quantitative courses. Those were the days of mathematical models and statistics, those were the days, I think it still is true, when Social Science was trying very hard to justify the word 'Science'.

One way you do that is by introducing jargon which nobody can understands (sic). This young man expresses himself in terms too deep for me, then what is he *something* what a deep young man he must be.

The other is to use mathematics, and that's what they were trying to do, and I think there are some people who are still labouring under this delusion in Social Sciences. Any way that you can make it into a science.

However, so I wrote this song, this parody called 'Sociology'. Now, MIT did not have a Sociology department, they hadn't sunk *that* low, but they - Sociology was included in Political Science and that was a better title for a song, so, this is a song about that phenomenon of trying to mathematicise Social Science. It's called 'Sociology'"


Lyrics:

Sociology
Tom Lehrer

Strange
Is the change
They're trying to arrange
Today in sociology

Fanatics
In their attics
Are learning mathematics
Just for sociology

Persuasion
By equation
They all feel it's much more satisfactory
They, in an ivory steeple
Far away from all people
They do research in sociology

Guys
Who wrote lies
Now present them in disguise
A cinch in sociology

A tract
Quite abstract
Without one single fact
Disblended sociology

Birds
Who used words
Now all talk in terms of X and Y and Z
They can take one small matrix
And really do great tricks
All in the name of sociology

Joes
Who wrote prose
Now write algebra, who knows
It may be sociology

They're
Everywhere
Full of Sigma and Chi squared
And full of sociology

They consult
Sounding occult
Talking like a Mathematics PhD
They can snow all their clients
By calling it science
Although it's only sociology


Hal Varian Answers Your Questions

"Q: Do you feel that more traditional economic models do an adequate job of representing what economists would like them to? Do you think that emerging fields of study, like behavioral economics, will become increasingly important and/or potentially integrated into the core of economic focus? Given the assumptions we make in economics with respect to human rationality, optimal decision making, and large-scale generalizations, how can anyone in the field feel confident that a theoretical conclusion/result/finding is truly significant?

A: I think that the “traditional model” is a good starting point for economic analysis, but I don’t think that it is necessarily the ending point. You have to explore different alternatives to see which model seems to explain the data best. However, I will say that I think that formulating a model mathematically is quite important, as it serves as a check for internal consistency. Furthermore, a mathematical model allows you to draw out the consequences of an assumption that often allows for better understanding."
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