Anthropology and science

Michael Thomas Carson (mcarson@HAWAII.EDU)
Tue, 5 Sep 1995 11:10:24 -1000

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

Certainly, human behavior is unpredictable. Individual choice
(innovation, invention, self-expression) cannot be fit into any definite
models of predicatable patterns. In fact, diversity and variation is
most likely the foundation of our contin ued existence.

So when we study human behavior, how can we make this sort of study fit
into our expectations of what science is? Hmmm ... well, this is what
people have been trying to do for a very long time. If we've learned
anything, then we've learned that there are no quick and easy answers.
Most definitely, no single theoretical model can be applied to all of
human behavior.

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? 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 don't pretend to have the answers to all of these
questions. But I do think that anthropologists are capable of working
towards a solution, at least with developing an explicit and rigorous

I look forward to hearing any comments.

- Mike Carson