Q: Within Genesis and Philippians there is a phrase “for I have learned”—how would you complete that sentence?
A: One of the things I have learned is, although you might not know it from some of the events on planet earth, God deeply cares about what is going on with the women of the world, and in God’s sight, men and women are equal.
Q: Political science professor hardly seems to cover the diversity of your professional career. How would you describe your professional scope?
A: As an undergraduate at BYU, my reflection paper in the honors program was on the virtues of eclecticism, so I suppose it is no surprise my work has spanned everything from biochemistry to artificial intelligence techniques and from understanding social events to national security and foreign policy, demography, women, and international affairs. . . . It has been a wonderful career in that sense, because I got to see how it is that all truth may be circumscribed into one great whole.
Q: What is this new social science project you are involved with?
A: The “New Kind of Social Science Project” (nkss.byu.edu/about.html) is an attempt to move beyond what’s referred to as the “quantitative-qualitative divide” in the social sciences that has been a distraction for way too long. Quantitative researchers see qualitative research as soft and nonrigorous. Qualitative researchers suggest those who do quantitative research have no real idea of the nuances of their subject matter. My co-principal investigator on the project, Philip A. Schrodt, who is now at Penn State University, and I had been doing what is called computational modeling for over twenty years. We took artificial intelligence techniques and used them to eliminate the false divide between quantitative and qualitative social science methods. Information, such as that encoded in events data, can be combined or recognized in patterns by using those tools. The project is an attempt to make a working online tool that will search for patterns and strategies and learning within the time stream of events data.