true and non-trivial social scientific propositions
A tangent from Teppo’s post… A well-known, true story goes like this. Nobel-winning economist Paul Samuelson, arguably the single biggest influence behind the mathematization of economics in the 20th century, was once challenged by the mathematician Stanislaw Ulam, who was skeptical of the value of social science, to name a single social scientific proposition which is both true and non-trivial. Samuelson couldn’t think of anything on the spot, but years later he realized what, in his mind, is the correct response: comparative advantage (see wikipedia).
Regarding comparative advantage, Samuelson said:
That it is logically true need not be argued before a mathematician; that it is not trivial is attested by the thousands of important and intelligent men who have never been able to grasp the doctrine for themselves or to believe it after it was explained to them.
I think Samuelson’s choice of comparative advantage is an excellent one and probably the best choice from economics.
But what would be other good answers to Ulam’s question? Is there an obvious answer from sociology? From political science?