Kicking off a three-day conference addressing the future of the social sciences, a California professor predicted that the fields will flourish in the coming decades. Addressing roughly 80 graduate students and scholars from around the nation at the Bodeck Lounge, University of California at Berkeley Sociology Professor Neil Smelser spent much of his 70-minute speech outlining twelve trends in the social sciences for the coming decades. The speech, which was the keynote address for the conference sponsored by the University's Program for Assessing and Revitalizing the Social Sciences. In outlining his 12 trends, Smelser gave a conflicting view of the future saying that although world wealth will increase, severe social problems -- such as divorce and pollution -- may arise. "As always, nations will vary in the degree of success they can and will achieve," he said. "But on the whole, the level of world productivity and wealth will increase, along with its many concomitants, such as leisure." "The various environmental crises that the world is facing -- exhaustion of resources, spoilage, toxicity, and pollution -- will grow worse before they grow better," the professor added. As a net result of the increase in world problems and the growing need to understand them, Smelser predicted that the social sciences will prosper. Many people said they were disappointed with the speech saying he did not leave the audience with many conclusions. "I felt that he detailed the problems, but as a social scientist one is supposed to put forward a solution," said Temple graduate student Monica Brandmaer. "There was no critical moment calling for responsibility and a course of action." Administrative Coordinator of PARSS Amy Cohen, who helped to organize the evening, said the three-day conference -- which concludes tomorrow -- will address more of the issues that social scientists face. "Our first purpose is to assess the current state of the social sciences," Cohen said. "Our second purpose is to look and see in this vastly changing world, where the social sciences can take us." The conference will continue today with discussions throughout the day at Bodek Lounge. Harvard University Economics Professor Amartya Sen will speak at 9 a.m., followed by George Washington University professor Amitai Etzioni at 1 p.m. UC-Berkeley professor Ann Swidler will conclude the day speaking at 3:30 p.m. All the panel discussions are free and open to University students.Comments powered by Disqus
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.