This is a work in progress, and today is a busy day. This is just for fun and for you to play with.
The more complex the field of study, the more likely that any result, finding, or theory in that field is wrong. I am only considering science, i.e. that which explains and is subject to empirical verification. I exclude fields such as ethics, morality, philosophy which are fields that tell us “that empirical verification is a good”, and other statements which are not subject to verification.
There are three broad areas, or groupings, of complexity in science. Not uncoincidentally, this laddering also correlates with the fields’ dependence on statistics for evidence, from most to least. The groups are also, from least to most, though somewhat more loosely, ordered by connections with observation via prediction.
- Behavioral: Education, Sociology, Politics, Psychology.
- Biological: Economics, Evolutionary Psychology, Psychiatry, Neurology, Medicine (doctoring), Genetics
- Physical: Climatology, Meteorology, Chemistry, Physics, Engineering, Mathematics
The demarcations between these areas are not abrupt, nor is the ordering within each group anything more than a crude, but still somewhat useful, guide.
Some explanation is needed. Why is Physics, the mother of all sciences, the field requiring the biggest brains, listed near the end and is therefore one of the least complex fields? Because Physics is not complicated in the sense I mean complex.
Physicists study the fundamental properties of the universe, it’s true, but it’s also so that these basics are not complex. They are amazingly difficult to comprehend, yes, but not convoluted. If under your consideration is just the interaction between two electrons, themselves encased in forces that are as precisely defined as possible, then your world view is narrow, constrained, and quite simple. It might be true, and usually is, that this simplicity is difficult to express and to understand, and that to reach this bare pinnacle requires years dedicated to its singular purpose, but that does not render the process under consideration complex in the sense we use that word here. We are only talking about what electron A and electron B will do in strikingly limited terms.
Too, the physicist has ample opportunity to verify his theories. If, under the circumstances he explicated, electron A goes where he predicted it to go, and electron B behaves as he expected, then the physicist has learned that the theory he entertained is probably right—but only probably. But if the particles go their own way, then the physicist must also venture down a new path and toss out or modify his theory. This deep, lasting, and intimate connection with observation is what keep physics honest.
Engineering tops physics because this field is defined as all sciences exposed completely and continuously to reality. It is less complex in the sense that the rules which govern the field are more worked out in advance, but it is also more complex in that engineering implies building something for human use, and human behavior is the most difficult thing of all to predict. More on that in a moment.
I cheated by putting Mathematics as the field which gives us our most certain beliefs, because math is not a science. Mathematics more properly belongs to philosophy. If you think not, and since science is that which is testable, try empirically verifying that, say, a triangle’s interior angles sum to 180o or that, in reality, (if I may abuse the notation) alpeh0 < aleph1, which is to say one kind of infinity is larger than another kind of infinity. Report back to me when you reach aleph0. Math is used in science and openly, but so are the other areas of philosophy and ethics, etc. It is just that these other branches more typically remain unacknowledged.
Now, a chemist can tell us with great precision what will happen when Na hits H2O, but his, or any other scientist’s, ability to predict what John Smith (43) of Cleveland, OH will have for lunch next week Thursday is no better than any unschooled layman. The conceit of the sociologist is to abandon the question and substitute for it one which he believes he can answer: what will the “average person” will eat for lunch in OH. Enter statistics, through which, perhaps (but only perhaps), the sociologist can build a model which will do slightly better than just guessing. And only do better if the prediction is not too far out into the future. Or where the circumstances do not change, it being more of less a mystery what those circumstances are.
Plus the sociologist probably won’t bother to verify his model: won’t use it to make actual predictions. And neither will most of the educationists, psychologists, and so forth. Of course I do not mean all sociologists etc. nor do I claim the fields are sterile.
It is just that the probability of speaking nonsense is greater the more complex the field and the further that field is from empirical verification. Which is why climatology, which is simpler than meteorology, ranks below that field because climatology is further from empirical verification.
Note: I tried everything I could think of to get the HTML to properly render the Hebrew letter aleph: render it it would, but it would put it in strange places, nowhere near where I put it, and super- or sub-scripted at random.