I call myself a social scientist. Such designation might be vague when not further specified. So what I mean by that? I understand it as a study of human thought and behaviour in general, especially informed by up-to-date evolutionary theory, brain research and the study of complex systems.
I was excited to find similar approach in introductin to Pascal Boyer’s forthcoming book Minds Make Societies. It leads me to realize how much I’m actually influenced by the way of thinking introduced by Boyer and others during the 90s. Here are openning words of the introduction:
Why should society be a mystery? There is no good reason why human societies should not be described and explained with the same precision and success as the rest of nature. And there is every reason to hope that we can understand social processes, as their impact on our lives are so great. Since there is no better way than science to understand the world, surely a science of what happens in human societies is devoutly to be wished.
But, until recently, we had nothing of the kind. This was not for lack of effort. For centuries, students of societies had collected and compared facts about human groups. They had tried to compare places and times and make sense of it all, often desultorily groping for principles of society or history that would emulate the clarity of natural laws. In many cases this effort proved fascinating and illuminating. But there was little sense of cumulative progress.
All this is changing, mostly because evolutionary biology, genetics, psychology, economics and other fields are converging to propose a unified understanding of human behavior that is based on evidence. Over the last few decades, a variety of scientific fields have made great progress in explaining some crucial parts of what makes humans special, and in particular, how humans build and organize societies. […]
What Boyer further does. in the introduction echoes his 10 years old unpublsihed manuscript article “Ten Problems In Search Of A Research Program: Towards Integrated Naturalistic Explanations of Human Culture”, in which (p. 3) he made one intersting point about interdisciplinary I really like:
In practice, what we mean by “cross-disciplinarity” often reduces to a dialogue between people who manage their research programmes from within disciplinary boundaries yet are open-minded enough to sit at the same table and consider each other’s models. What I envisage here is that the models themselves, the empirical theories, mix elements from different traditions to such an extent that they belong to no specific discipline in particular. In my view, the most constructive “cross-disciplinary” research happens when the disciplines meet within one head rather than across a table.