The NY Times has a lengthy story today about health care, modern medicine and the influence of the scientific method vs. the influence of intuition, which some believe modern-day doctors have started to rely on too heavily in diagnosis and treatment.
Our newly elected mayor has inherited a sick city. It’s been declining in most measures of urban health for a long time. There’s some disagreement as to whether it is really sick, or just old. Over the past few years, my concern about the various plans and pushes to heal Syracuse have had to do with the Richard Florida stuff that is highly theoretical – the whole “creative classism worked in Pittsburgh, so it should work everywhere, except in those cities which ought to go into the dustbin because they don’t respond to our theory.” While some would say that the Richard Florida view is “scientific method” based (hey, they’ve used other cities as laboratories), I wonder if it’s not just a big hunk of intuition that is off the rails, masquerading as scientific urban-renewal practice.
Syracuse stubbornly refuses to respond to grand, intricately and intuitively plotted plans for its recovery. Who could have expected that the new football coach would also suck, and that LeMoyne would beat the Orange basketball team on top of it? Who could have predicted that artists buying rundown houses for $1 in the Near West Side colonization effort would have their doors kicked in by well-meaning policemen with a healthy regard for ferocious Pomeranians? Who could have imagined that every time we resolve to hold a winter festival in the snowiest city in America, it doesn’t actually snow?
Yet we seem surprised by Syracuse’s complexity, every time. (Never mind being surprised by the complexity of the larger world of which it is part. Hoocoodanode that the housing-bubble-fueled economy would someday tank, leaving Citi reluctant to lend more money to a dodgy supermall?)
I am not sure if we need more intuition, or more scientific method, in our treatment of a uniquely sick city.