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Lumifer comments on Fact Posts: How and Why - LessWrong

76 Post author: sarahconstantin 02 December 2016 06:55PM

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Comment author: Lumifer 01 December 2016 07:05:10PM 6 points [-]

finding an undergraduate textbook (or sometimes a handbook) is much more efficient

For hard sciences, yes. For soft sciences, no.

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 01 December 2016 09:00:05PM *  0 points [-]

In what way (how does the difference work)? My experience is almost exclusively with hard sciences.

Comment author: Lumifer 02 December 2016 04:22:38PM *  5 points [-]

Well, the discussion of the differences between the hard and the soft sciences is a complicated topic.

But very crudely, the soft sciences have to deal with situations which never exactly repeat, so their theories and laws are always approximate and apply "more or less". In particular, this makes it hard to falsify theories which leads to proliferation of just plain bullshit and idiosyncratic ideas which cannot be proven wrong and so continue their existence. Basically you cannot expect that a social science will reliably converge on truth the way a hard science will.

So if you pick, say, an undergraduate textbook in economics, what it tells you will depend on which particular textbook did you pick. Two people who read two different econ textbooks might well end up with very different ideas of how economics work and there is no guarantee that either of them will explain the real-world data well.

Comment author: alex_zag_al 23 February 2017 07:39:32AM 0 points [-]

the soft sciences have to deal with situations which never exactly repeat

This is also true of evolutionary biology--I think it's not widely recognized that evolutionary biology is like the soft sciences in this way.

Comment author: AnnaSalamon 03 December 2016 02:50:07AM 2 points [-]

You can basically believe the contents of an intro chemistry textbook; you have to be much more careful with the contents of an intro psychology or sociology textbook.

Comment author: NatashaRostova 03 December 2016 12:26:04AM 1 point [-]

Check out Yvain's sequence on Game Theory. I've actually studied game theory at a grad level, and had nothing to learn from what he wrote. But he opened it up in a fun/interesting/well-written way, which was specifically written for this audience, and addressed relevant interests here more than a textbook.

It's challenging to imagine a sequence on introductory chemistry that would have the same appeal. Having said that, I'm sure a sufficiently educated/talented writer could do one on intro chem.

Comment author: johnlawrenceaspden 20 April 2017 09:20:18PM 1 point [-]

"Asimov on Chemistry" was a childhood favourite of mine.