I forgot. Campbell’s Law is as follows:
“The more any quantitative social indicator (or even some qualitative indicator) is used for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor.”
Read the Wikipedia entry here. Andreski nails it:
Most of the intellectual difficulties besetting the study of society stem from the disparity in size, longevity, and power between the object and the investigator. True, geologists and astronomers study objects which are vaster, more enduring, and even less accessible for purposes of experimentation; but at least they are simpler, as there is nothing in the known cosmos that equals the complexity of a human brain. Understanding is sometimes described as the building of models of external reality in one’s brain. This should not, perhaps, be taken too literally; but if we accept the view that conceptual understanding has some physiological counterpart, and bear in mind that the number of configurations of neurons and synapses is finite, though astronomically large, then it follows that whereas the mind might be able to make a perfect model of things simpler than itself, its ability to work out models of objects which are equally or more complex must be subject to severe limitations. It seems possible therefore that our understanding of other minds and their aggregates could ever reach the degree of adequacy of physics and chemistry, made possible by the simplicity and invariance of their objects.
Reasoning along those lines, we might also inferred that it is logically impossible that anyone could ever acquire an understanding of his own mind which would enable him to make exact predictions about it’s future states; because, even apart from the question of the knowledge of the future impacts of the environment, the mind would have to contain a model as complex as itself as well as an agency which would draw inferences. In other words, such a faculty would require a part to be as large as the whole and still remain only a part.
Another source of tremendous difficulty in making generalizations about the networks of human relations (known as groups, societies, states, economies, etc.) is there ubiquitous fluidity. In his ABC of relativity, Bertrand Russell discusses the relationship between the consistency of the phenomena and the possibility of scientific theorizing:
“Circumstances on the surface of the earth, for various more or less accidental reasons, suggest conceptions which turn out to be inaccurate, although they have come to seem like necessities of thought. The most important of these circumstances is that most objects on the earth’s surface are fairly persistent and nearly stationary from a terrestrial point of view. If this were not the case, the idea of going on a journey would not seem so definite as it does. If you want to travel from King’s Cross to Edinburgh, you know that you will find King’s Cross where it has always been, that the railway line will take the course that it did when you last made the journey, and that Waverley Station in Edinburgh will not have walked up to the Castle. You therefore say and think that you have traveled to Edinburgh, not that Edinburgh has traveled to you, though the latter statement would be just as accurate. The success of this common-sense point of view depends upon a number of things which are really of the nature of luck. Suppose all the houses in London were perpetually moving about, like a swarm of bees; suppose railways moved and changed their shapes like avalanches; and finally suppose that material objects were perpetually being formed and dissolved like clouds. There is nothing impossible in these suppositions. But obviously what we call a journey to Edinburgh would have no meaning in such a world. You would begin, no doubt, by asking the taxi-driver: ‘Where is King’s Cross this morning?’ At the station you would have to ask a similar question about Edinburgh, but the booking-office clerk would reply: ‘What part of Edinburgh do you mean? Prince’s Street has gone to Glasgow, the Castle has moved up into the Highlands, and Waverley Station is under water in the middle of the Firth of Forth.’ And on the journey the stations would not be staying quiet, but some would be travelling north, some south, some east or west, perhaps much faster than the train. Under these conditions you could not say where you were at any moment. Indeed the whole notion that one is always in some definite ‘place’ is due to the fortunate immobility of most of the large objects on the earth’s surface. The idea of ‘place’ is only a rough practical approximation: there is nothing logically necessary about it, and it cannot be made precise. If we were not much larger than an electron, we should not have this impression of stability, which is only due to the grossness of our senses. King’s Cross, which to us looks solid, would be too vast to be conceived except by a few eccentric mathematicians. The bits of it that we could see would consist of little tiny points of matter, never coming into contact with each other, but perpetually whizzing round each other in an inconceivably rapid ballet-dance. The world of our experience would be quite as mad as the one in which the different parts of Edinburgh go for walks in different directions. If – to take the opposite extreme – you were as large as the sun and lived as long, with a corresponding slowness of perception, you would again find a higgledy-piggledy universe without permanence – stars and planets would come and go like morning mists, and nothing would remain in a fixed position relatively to anything else. The notion of comparative stability which forms part of our ordinary outlook is thus due to the fact that we are about the size we are, and live on a planet of which the surface is not very hot. If this were not the case, we should not find pre-relativity physics intellectually satisfying. Indeed we should never have invented such theories. We should have had to arrive at relativity physics at one bound, or remain ignorant of scientific laws. We should have had to arrive at relativity physics at one bound, or remain ignorant of scientific laws. It is fortunate for us that we were not faced with this alternative, since it is almost inconceivable that one person could have done the work of Euclid, Galileo, Newton and Einstein. Yet without such an incredible genius physics could hardly have been discovered in a world where the universal flux was obvious to non-scientific observation.”
The foregoing passage fits very well what we have to deal with in the study of society and culture, indicates its purely intellectual difficulties, and shows how much easier our physics, chemistry or even biology. Even this, however, is not the whole story: for imagine how sorry would be the plight of the natural scientist if the objects of his inquiry were in a habit of reacting to what he says about them: if the substances could read or hear what the chemist writes or says about them, and were likely to jump out of their containers and burn him if they did not like what they saw on the blackboard or in his notebook. And imagine the difficulty of testing the validity of chemical formulae if, by repeating them long enough or persuasively enough, the chemist could induce to substances to behave in accordance with them – with the danger, however, that they might decide to spite him by doing exactly the opposite. Under such circumstances are chemist would not only have a hard time trying to discover firm regularities in his objects’ behavior but would have to be very guarded in what he said lest the substances take offense and attack him. His task would be even more hopeless if the chemicals could see through his tactics, organize themselves to guard their secrets, and devise countermeasures to his maneuvers – which would be parallel to what the student of human affairs has to face.