The study of invisible forces also requires a discussion of the method that successful teams use to work together as they cross disciplinary boundaries. Over the past few decades, there has been a demonstrable shift from the individual genius as the source of scientific and scholarly breakthroughs to interdisciplinary teams. This shift in the production of cutting-edge knowledge has been documented in all fields of scholarly activity, ranging from mathematics and theoretical physics to the humanities. This shift has both made possible and been necessitated by a need to understand complex behaviors. Although this project is primarily about the ways that scientists seek to study the impact of invisible forces, it also reflects the methodologies that these researchers use so that their work is not constrained by common knowledge.
The philosophy of science also looks different when dealing with simple causality (one-to-one relations) than with complex causality. Affirmation of the consequent, a logical error in which a given cause for an effect is inferred based on the observation of the effect, does not lead to a scientific error when there is but a single cause for the observed effect. However, as scientific inquiry addresses increasingly complex phenomena, and increasingly complexly determined phenomena, the philosophy of science needs to become more nuanced.
A core challenge is to develop a “science” of identification and aggregation of these invisible forces at different levels. Related research questions include why they exist and measures of robustness. One of our central goals is to demonstrate not only that considerations of these forces matter, but also that they can matter a lot.
Questions of value and ethics also could be implicated: Descriptive knowledge, models, awareness of causal relationships, and so on might not be enough to answer some kinds of questions, especially those related to value and purpose, which are the very energies that animate and invigorate real human systems. Economics comes close, with its proxy measure of value based on the distribution of scarce resources and people’s varying need for these resources. But this theory comes up short in many instances where other values are at play that are beyond markets, such as in assessing the value of a human life or debating whether all lives are of equal value. It is an especially poor model for helping us understand something as simple as the value of sentimental articles, such as family photographs, which may have little or no market value. Thus, how do we best understand the “sentiments” that are important in the real world?
The members of the Network have worked beyond the boundaries of disciplinary borders, geographical precincts, and epistemological comfort zones to develop a rigorous but innovative approach to the study of the human mind, sociality, spirituality, health, and well-being. The Network members represented in this book are Gary Berntson from Ohio State University, Don Browning from the University of Chicago, John Cacioppo (Network Director) from the University of Chicago, Farr Curlin from the University of Chicago Medical Center, Jean Decety from the University of Chicago, Nick Epley from the University of Chicago Booth School, Clark Gilpin from the University of Chicago, Louise Hawkley from the University of Chicago, Tanya Luhrmann from Stanford University, Chris Masi from the University of Chicago Medical Center, Howard Nusbaum from the University of Chicago, Gün Semin from the University of Utrecht, Steve Small from the University of Chicago Medical Center, Kathryn Tanner from the University of Chicago, and Ron Thisted from the University of Chicago Medical Center. The biography of each member, along with an explanation for the essay each presents, is provided at the beginning of each of their essays on invisible forces.