Social Scientists Need to Articulate their Moral Frameworks

When I see what young adults believe about cohabitation (chart below) I am saddened by how misled they are.  On cohabitation we have plenty of robust data and strong conclusions — multiple deficits for many adults and most children. This is the very opposite to what most young adults think they know.  We also know that young people are more likely to put their trust in science than in other sources of wisdom. Therefore, that they hold these beliefs about cohabitation is damning evidence on the present practical effects of the social sciences.   Social science education has failed — worse— has misled young adults in one of the most important areas of their lives and in the most important area of their future children’s lives: sexual partnerings. Sociology has failed students and most especially their yet-unborn children. A bit of fantasy hyperbole will help get the point across:  If geography presently taught that the world is flat, or physics that gravity is magic, the bad effects would be much less than the damaged lives this chart predicts for the respondents. However, there is a great role for sociology and the other social sciences: They can increase our insights on the operations of human nature, or the laws and principles of human behavior, if these behavioral principles (moral principles) are first articulated.  Social sciences, without a moral philosophy to anchor the interpretation of data, can be destructive. This chart is major evidence that one of the biggest challenges of the social sciences is to establish the parameters of an effective moral framework, to “duke out” in the data which moral philosophy comports most with the data; which predicts the thriving of man, woman and child.  More citizens need to demand that practicing social scientists declare their moral philosophical framework!   Then students can judge which framework makes the most sense of the data.  All robust data point towards behaviors that help people thrive or wilt. It would be fun to hold professors accountable to both the data and their moral philosophies, to insist they reconcile both.  This would lead to greater fun — the greater learning in the classroom.

For the good of the child, especially the child born to cohabiting couples,

Pat Fagan, Ph.D. 

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