Medical Analogies in the Social Sciences

Andrew Gelman writes:

Social scientists who use medical analogies to explain causal inference are, I think, implicitly trying to borrow some of the scientific and cultural authority of that field for [their] own purposes.

Social scientists are often tempted to illustrate their ideas with examples from medical research. When it comes to medicine, though, we are, with rare exceptions, at best ignorant laypersons (in my case, not even reaching that level), and it is my impression that by reaching for medical analogies we are implicitly trying to borrow some of the scientific and cultural authority of that field for our own purposes. Evidence-based medicine is the subject of a large literature of its own.

Gelman’s post is a contender for the Post with the Longest Title 2012 award (the title of the post is indeed “Social scientists who use medical analogies to explain causal inference are, I think, implicitly trying to borrow some of the scientific and cultural authority of that field for our own purposes.”)

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I wonder if he got his inspiration from the Red Sparowes, whose song titles are known for being long (“the great leap forward poured down upon us one day like a mighty storm, suddenly and furiously blinding our senses,” off of their album Every Red Heart Shines Toward the Red Sun.)

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