Trevor BarnesIn hmolscience, Trevor Barnes (1956-) is an English-born Canadian geographer noted for his 2014 “Big Data: Social Physics, and Spatial Analysis: the Early Years”, co-authored with American geographer Matthew Wilson, wherein in they attempt to stitch out a historical red thread from the 1858 social gravitation theories of American sociologist Henry Carey to the 1950s sociophysical geography collaborations of American physicist John Q. Stewart and geographer William Warntz, which they argue went into modern “spatial analysis” (Ѻ), the punchline being that “big data” (Ѻ), supposedly, has roots in social physics. [1]

Monism | Terminology
A subtle issue in Barnes and Wilson's article, is their seeming overuse of term “monism”, employed 15-times, in ways that do not match the attribution, e.g. that John Q. Stewart had a bullish “faith in monism”, that William Warntz was “uncompromisingly monistic”, that Henry Carey “unabashedly believed in monism”, etc., whereas correctly, as seems to be the case, none of these authors ever used the term monism. The term “monism” is not found in Carey’s Principles of Social Science, and there does not seem to be any established Google Books citation connections between either Stewart, Warntz, and George Zipf and monism.

The term “monism”, clarify, is a very baggage-loaded term, that tends to bring to mind an association to Gottfried Leibniz’ deistic “monad” theory, i.e. that everything is in the universe is composed of thinking soul-filled god-infused particles, or something along these lines.

The variation of “monism” promoted by Ernst Haeckel and later by his cohort Wilhelm Ostwald, e.g. in his "Monistic Sunday Sermons", however, is in the same neighborhood as what Stewart and Carey were promoting.

Ludwig Buchner, to note, was classified as a “materialistic monism” theorist. Whatever the case, Barnes term usage seems to be a case of two cultures namesakes issue.

Barnes may have adopted Pitirim Sorokin’s derogative usage of the term monism—Sorokin harboring some type of unstated spiritual dualism underpinnings, as his later decade’s writings would show—and sell, classificationally, Carey, Stewart, Zipf, and Warntz as monists. This supposition seems to corroborate with their note 16:

“The issue here is the relation of monism to big data. The most immediate invocation of monism by big data is its assumption that the social world can be mathematized in the same way as the natural world. Without the supposition that the social world can be fully made over as numbers, big data would have no purchase. We also suggest that monism is invoked by big data in a second form, at least implicitly. When big data deploys models of spatial analysis monism is presumed, because those models partly rest on a social physics that makes monism foundational.”

Here, accordingly, as it seems to be the case, the aim they are after is to position the view that Carey-Stewart based macrogeographical “big data” science, infused into the Alex Pentland: “the engine that drives social physics is big data” (2014) variety, in some way—can be mathematized, and that the patterns found therein will find foundation in the “natural sciences, physics in particular”, and that this is their selling point. A science vs religion tensional issue debate, in short.

Stewart | Weaver fallout
The over-selling of “monism”, summarized above, in short, seems to be a coated way of discussing the so-called Stewart-Weaver fallout, namely the fact that Warren Weaver, in 1953, stopped funding John Q. Stewart’s social physics program, after four years of funding, which had been originally seeded with $160,000 level (modern terms), when he came to arrive at the stated belief that physical energy and theories could not be applicable to things such as feelings, meaning, values, decision making (which gets into questions of soul), etc., as he told Stewart, amid, it seems, his soon-to-make “Remarks on the Current State of Social Physics” AAAS meeting paper, wherein Stewart began to assert isomorphisms between thermal, electromagnetic, and chemical energy and, respectively, human meaning, feeling, and authority, as well as an isomorphism between mechanical work (kinetic, elastic, and gravitational energy) and decision-making. [2]

In 1953, Weaver wrote to Stewart that he was going to cancel his social physics funding per the following logic: [3]

“To search for isomorphisms between social phenomena and physical phenomena is indeed an interesting idea. The real question, however, is whether or not it is a rewarding idea. It is interesting to suppose that there may be entities, social values, which play in social experience the same roles played by different forms of physical energy … But it is hard for me to sense how one can usefully assign quantitative measures to any significantly wide range of “values” in the social field. And when you link together such things as meaning, feeling, authority, and decision-making, this sounds to me like a very heterogeneous mixture.”

Similar examples of such reasoning are found explicitly stated in the Proxmire affair (1975), Rossini debate (2007), the Galem effect:

“To suggest that humans could behave like atoms was looked upon as a blasphemy to both hard science and human complexity, a total nonsense, something to be condemned. And it has been indeed condemned during the last fifteen years.”
Serge Galam (2004), “Sociophysics: a Personal Testimony”

the Prausnitz-Thims derision (2013) (Ѻ), etc., and likely found in earlier collision efforts, e.g. the Nightingale Chair of Social Physics, which is a spit that dates back to the 1809 with the separation of people as either "admirers" and "enemies" of Goethe's physical chemistry based Elective Affinities, which before that dates to the atomic theory vs. standard model vs. being theory debates of the Greek philosophers (see: atheism timeline)

Social physics | Etymology
Barnes and Wilson, in their big data and social physics article, to note, mis-attribute the coining of the term “social physics” to Adolphe Quetelet, and his 1835 Essay on Social Physics: Man and the Development of his Faculties, whereas correctly Auguste Comte was already using the term in print in 1825, which he coined, and or derived from his interactions with his mentor Henri de Saint-Simon, who may have used the term possibly as early as 1803.

1. (a) Barnes, Trevor J. and Wilson, Matthew W. (2014). “Big Data, Social Physics, and Spatial Analysis: the Early Years” (pre, pdf) (abs) (pdf), Big Data & Society, Apr-Jun:1-14.
(b) Matthew W. Wilson (faculty) – Harvard University.
2. Stewart, John Q. (1953). “Remarks on the Current State of Social Physics” (pdf) (pg. 2; grant, pg. 8), Paper presented at the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference, Boston, Dec 30; in: Box 58, Miscellaneous Writing, John Q. Stewart Papers, Rare Books Special Collections, Princeton University.
3. Weaver, Warren. (1953). “Letter to John Q. Stewart”, Dec 22, in: Box 36, Weaver, W., John Q. Stewart Papers, Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University.

External links
Trevor J. Barnes – Wikipedia.
Trevor J. Barnes (faculty) – University of British Columbia.

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