Alexa Turczynski, Contributing Writer
Dr. Nancy Cartwright will give a lecture titled “Systems, Mechanisms and the Modeling of Society” on Thursday, Feb. 28 in Lynch Auditorium at 7:30 p.m.
A professor of philosophy at both Durham University and the University of California, San Diego, Cartwright will address the value and reliability of scientific data as the basis for public policy.
Dr. Christopher Mirus, assistant professor of philosophy and director of the History of Philosophy and Science concentration, expects Cartwright to challenge the prevailing view among many public-policy experts that data gathered from other societies can and should be used to shape the actions of our own society.
“Cartwright will argue that just because you have a certain correlation doesn’t mean it will be the same in different circumstances,” Mirus said.
Cartwright makes the case that while we should look at causation rather than correlation – what causes what and why – we also need to recognize that many causal connections are local.
“Hard data tells you only what was the case in the certain time and place and circumstances where the study was done,” Mirus said.
“It doesn’t necessarily tell you what’s going to work in your case because societies differ from one to another. We need to think in a different and deeper way how to investigate scientifically what public policies are likely to be effective.”
Mirus believes Cartwright’s lecture will help motivate the audience toward that end.
The lecture is the second to be sponsored by the History of Philosophy and Science concentration. It is open to all audiences and, according to Mirus, presents an issue that should be of concern to everyone.
“We ought to be thinking about science relative to dimensions of human life,” Mirus said.
“The goal is to craft public policy for our society based on the best possible understanding.”