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be more comfortable with a plurality of sources of funding. If someone will tell us what those sources are, where we can go, I am sure many of us would explore them very vigorously. We should acknowledge the important role of the private foundations. They are not able to support the sciences on the scale that the Federal Government can but—to cite one example—in the area of cognitive science which was mentioned this morning, the Sloan Foundation is doing, at present, a very useful and important job of supporting pioneering efforts.
So, probably the answer, as in so many things, has to be that we want to have a mixed system of support here. For the health of American science, for a rate of progress that will support the continuing advance in productivity of our society, we are going to need to rely on heavy funding from the Federal Government. But we certainly will look to other sources and explore those sources vigorously in order to preserve pluralism in the support of science.
That relates to another issue that was raised here this morning: the very direct impingement of the social and behavioral sciences on our social values. The natural sciences do that, too. We just have to think back a little bit to the controversies about Darwinism and the theory of evolution in this country, and the impact that theory had on some fundamental religious values in our society.
To give you a more recent example, the matter of experimentation with DNA and recombination of DNA, and the possibilities of changing the whole genetic character of organisms. This touches on basic values in somewhat the same nerve-tingling way that many topics in the behavioral and social sciences do.
Of course, our task and the task of any science is not to tell society what values it ought to have. I think Dr. Friedl made that point very effectively a few months ago. Our job is to achieve an understanding of social phenomena on the faith—and I suppose it is basically just a faith—that if a society understands itself, if it understands the human behavior of its own members, it will make, in the light of its values, better judgments about how to implement those values and how to go ahead.
We have had some excellent examples of social science research presented to us this morning. The agenda committee for the National Science Foundation was quite mindful of representing a number of different approaches that the social sciences employ in carrying out research. I don't want to elaborate on the topics they have surveyed, but would like to point to a few examples of kinds of research that illustrate the relation between basic knowledge about our society and applications of this knowledge, and thereby touch very directly on the value question.
I spoke of our society's concern today with energy problems. One of the methods we are using to help us deal with those problems is to model our energy and environmental systems and to look at alternative scenarios, to try to understand what would happen if we followed one policy or another. The modeling research, some of which has been supported by the Foundation, I think of the work of Nordhaus and Jorgenson-provided a basis for building large models of energy systems to study their environmental and economic impacts.
Now, here it is quite clear that the applications is. We have some direct policy concerns. We can model our situation, and we can draw from the modeling knowledge that is directly relevant to the policy choices that we have to make. I think that is, perhaps, not the typical case in the social sciences.
Let me turn to a rather different area: the area of opinion and attitude polling which, again, has been supported to a substantial extent by NSF through such organizations as the Survey Research Center at the University of Michigan, the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, and others.
With respect to such research, the crucial point is that when we have to make decisions in our society and don't have facts, we make those decisions on the basis of folklore. In Lordstown, Ohio, there was a series of labor disputes involving an automobile assembly plant which went on for a number of years, and these disputes were reported quite frequently in the media as some kind of crisis of our whole industrial system. It was alleged that the mechanized, automated industrial system was building up something called worker alienation, that workers were alienated not only from their jobs, which were not very satisfying, but were alienated from the institutions of our whole society:
Well, I think it is terribly important that we know whether this is the case, and one way we can find out is by careful and scientific exploration of the attitudes of people to see whether there does exist this kind of alienation, and equally important, to see whether there are any trends in it—whether people are less satisfied with their working lives today than they were some time back.
We can only find that out if we have scientific institutions that are gathering and analyzing such data over a period of time on a comparable basis. We have, today, 25 or 30 years of experience with public opinion polls, including polls about workers' attitudes and, as a result, we know enough to know that there has been no major trend. There have been no major increases in our society in people's satisfactions or dissatisfactions with their jobs. Roughly speaking, people derive about the same pleasures and the same gripes from their jobs as they did 30 years ago.
So, we learn from these polling data that we can't generalize to the whole society from a single, dramatic incident like the Lordstown troubles, that we have to have a wider information base to understand the important trends that are going on in our society or aren't going
I am deliberately using examples that are sometimes thought to be a little controversial, example of research that do raise questions of the values of our society. But I think that the social sciences aren't, in most cases, dealing with the most basic phenomena of human behavior unless they do get rather close to some of these issues of purpose and value.
We are very much concerned with our educational system, one of the largest public programs that we maintain. We are interested in knowing whether Johnny is really learning to read and add. Each of us, at one time or another in our lives, have had our own "Johnnies” in our families, and we perhaps formed our judgments about the educational process by comparing Johnny's progress with our own progress at school-as we remembered it. That's the only way we had in the past to make such judgments; but today, we have quite good longitudinal data from systematic testing programs, that tell us what is happening in our schools. The data measure at least the basic trends, showing whether there is improvement or deterioration in the cognitive skills that children are acquiring in society.
Now, that is a long way from knowing the reasons behind the trends. It requires other kinds of social science research to disclose what the reasons might be if Johnny isn't reading as well as he did 10 years ago. Who is the culprit? Is it the schools ? Is it television? Is it Johnny, or whom shall we blame? Here is a prime area for social science research.
One of the remarkable things in our society over the past 20 years has been a vast change in our treatment of minorities and of groups that have been underprivileged. I don't mean that we have solved all these problems. In a society, such problems are never fully solved. I mean that most of us would feel that there has been a great change in our society and, on the whole, we have made substantial progress in these matters, although different ones among us would evaluate that progress differently. Here is as sensitive a topic as we have. What is the role of social science in a topic of this kind ?
Early in the postwar period, a distinguished Swedish economist and social scientist, Gunnar Myrdal, came to this country to organize and head up a study of the American race problem, and out of that study came a very thick book which many of us are familiar with. The book was called "An American Dilemma." I think the title, itself, is instructive because the book did two things.
First, it made a very careful factual examination of our racial institutions and problems, with suggestions of possible steps that we might take to extricate ourselves from a dilemma of values which we ourselves felt. That is, if there was one thing we Americans were agreed about, in an area where there was immense conflict and disagreement about specific policies, it was that we were faced with a dilemma, a conflict between some of our basic values and the social practices in our society.
The Myrdal report, "An American Dilemma," is an excellent example, I think, of how the social sciences work, not by proposing specific solutions, specific measures, but by providing us with a mirrorin that case a rather accurate mirror—for ourselves. It is an excellent example of the doctrine of knowing ourselves, and with all of the progress and steps forward and backward we have taken on the problems of race and minorities, we have undoubtedly handled them with a great deal more skill over the past 20 years as a result of having some facts about where we were, some facts about what the problem was and is.
Today, we can monitor our progress toward solving these problems because we do have statistics in our society-economic statistics, for example, about the relative progress of blacks, of women and of other underprivileged groups in the job market, and statistics about their occupational status today. We don't have to debate about it. Well, we do have to debate it, but we don't have to guess about the basic facts. We did get some facts and analyzed them carefully. We did debate the controversial aspects of the statistics, but we are not just proceeding on pure imagination, pure conjecture, or our own personal experiences which may be very atypical of the experiences of the society as a whole.
I would like to add a footnote to what was said this morning about the area which is my particular area of interest and concern in research now, and has been for some years, the area called cognitive science.
We are making enormous progress today, and have been for perhaps 20 years, in our understanding of the mechanisms of human thinking, in understanding what goes on in the human head when a human being solves a problem. We don't know much in terms of neurology yet. We are still a little far from the squid's nervous system in this kind of research, but we have a growing understanding of the information processes that have to go on in the human brain when it thinks. We hope ultimately, maybe in my lifetime or the lifetime of my children, this knowledge can be linked up with the neurological research that was described earlier.
But even before that linkage takes place, we have now reached a point where we can, for example, characterize rather specifically and accurately the differences between the behavior of an expert and the behavior of a novice in solving a physics problem. I mean, we can say something more about it than that the expert will solve the problem while the novice scratches his head. We are able to characterize rather specifically the strategies in the programs that the expert uses and the contrast between these and the strategies that the novice uses. And although we are talking about basic research here—understanding the phenomena—yet there is a rather direct and obvious set of steps that need to be taken as our knowledge develops, in order to apply our understanding of the differences between expert and novice behavior for practical ends.
As we understand the basic phenomena, we should be able to improve our methods of teaching physics. We should be able to pinpoint very much better the kinds of difficulties students are having in learning We should be able to analyze, in detail, the chapters of a textbook and to say with some assurance on the basis of our understanding of the process, what parts of a chapter are satisfactory for facilitating students' learning and what parts need to be revised or expanded.
That gets me back to my opening theme: that the social and behavioral sciences can and must make important contributions to the productivity of our society by making contributions to the efficiency of our most valuable resource, our own human behavior and human thinking, and problem solving processes.
I tried to emphasize in my remarks here the processes of application of the social sciences which, I think, are rather different than the processes of application of engineering and medical science. The social sciences don't invent pills, by and large. We don't invent wonder drugs. We invent basic knowledge—no, I guess invent is the wrong word, isn't it? We discover basic knowledge about ourselves, about our society. The most important channel of application of that new knowledge is its broad diffusion through public channels, until it becomes part of the knowledge of almost all of us.
Several times it has been mentioned this morning that the social sciences are often discounted because much of what they learn seems to be common sense. Well, it is common sense today to sav that if you drop a feather and a rock together in a vacuum, they will fall at the same pace. It wasn't commonsense before Galileo. In a democratic society, which has to make its own decisions about what it wants to be, one of the basic aims of the social sciences must be to take knowledge that comes out of the laboratory—knowledge that may be stated in language that is hard to understand—and make that part of the commonsense of our society. That is the most important goal of application in the social sciences.
Finally, we need to remind ourselves as social scientists, and remind others who are involved in the venture, that we should not over-claim what the social sciences can do because, in any society there are built-in deeply many sources of conflict of interests. There are many issues in which we have different values among us and we want to go in different directions. Different public policies will affect us quite distinct ways, and we should not expect the social sciences, somehow or another to lead the lion and the lamb to lie down together. We should not expect the social sciences to resolve the many conflicts of interest that must exist in any society.
But, I think we can expect the social sciences to help in understanding what those interests are and what the range of
of possible directions for the society are that can partially accommodate that whole collection of interests. For that reason, the social sciences simply should not—I won't say cannot, obviously, they can-stay away from important issues in our society simply because those issues might be sensitive issues, might involve a conflict of values.
Moreover, we need to remind ourselves that social science research cannot repeal the laws of nature. Engineers don't try to design bridges by inventing a gravity shield so that the bridge won't be pulled down by gravitational forces. They work with the system. They accommodate themselves to the laws of nature. Social science research, too, does not have, as its goal, changing human beings into some other kind of species with quite different characteristics than we have now.
Social science research is concerned with understanding ourselves with all of the warts on, with all of the quirks of our behavior, understanding why those quirks aren't really quirks but are part of us, and understanding how societies can operate with human beings as they really are.
Well, let me stop, at this point so that before hunger overcomes us all, we have time for questions.
Mr. Brown. Thank you very much.
You raised an interesting parallel in your mention of physical scientists working with the laws of nature and not trying to overcome them. It leads me to the thought that there are, in the social sciences, certain fundamental strictures with very high importance governing the ways in which human societies operate. These are long ingrained cultural attitudes. They are religious or have other very strong bases and, in effect, they become sort of the laws of gravity for those who are bound by them and, yet, they are very special kinds of laws of gravity. They vary from culture to culture.
Of course, part of the problems of social science research is that it presumably becomes aware that the cultural laws of gravity are situational, that they vary from culture to culture. Yet, this doesn't solve the fact that it creates political problems to do research in these areas.
The point that Dr. Atkinson made in his editorial was that social science is either considered to be irrelevant, in which case we ought not