Re: Anthropology and science

Marc W.D. Tyrrell (mwtyrrel@CCS.CARLETON.CA)
Thu, 7 Sep 1995 13:40:07 GMT

In article <Pine.SV4.3.91.950905110140.24077F-100000@uhunix3> Michael Thomas Carson <mcarson@HAWAII.EDU> writes:
>From: Michael Thomas Carson <mcarson@HAWAII.EDU>
>Subject: Anthropology and science
>Date: Tue, 5 Sep 1995 21:10:24 GMT

>regarding Nick Corduan's previous message about anthropology and science ...

>My opinion is that anthropology as science depends on how "science' is
>defined. I think this is agreeable with the sentiments in your previous
>Then what can we do? Well, as has been suggested, we can develop a
>rigorous methodology to relate theory with observations. This, to me, is
>the bvasis of science. What is a scientific law, anyway? Is it proof of
>a theory or is it the lack of a theory's rejection in multiple cases?

An excellent point, Mike. I prefer to assume that a scientific "law" can never
be proved, only disproved. Okay, this is a natural science model and I will
probably be attacked for it and truthfully I don't care <grin>.

>As I've stated, these issues cannot be easily resolved. There are many case
>studies in which particular models have worked very well if not
>flawlessly. Meanwhile, there have been famous failures of attempts to
>make models work.

I suspect that social sciences, as a whole, have tended to confuse workable
theories and technologies of inquiry with "truth" (in some transcendant
sense). As an analogy, I don't think that a carpenter would throw out a hammer
because it didn't act as a screwdriver. So why do we tend to throw out
theoretical models that work well in limited areas?

>But I do think that anthropologists are capable of working
>towards a solution, at least with developing an explicit and rigorous

I agree <grin>.


Marc W.D. Tyrrell
Department of Sociology and Anthropology,
7th Floor, Loeb Building,
Carleton University, Vox: (613) 746-2924
1125 Colonel By Drive, Fax: (613) 788-4062
Ottawa, Ontario email: