Re: Anthropology and science

Nick Corduan (nickc@IQUEST.NET)
Tue, 5 Sep 1995 18:08:57 -0500


> defined. I think this is agreeable with the sentiments in your previous
> message.

Just about anything would be since I tried to cover as many bases as I could.

Seriously, though, your point is quite valid. "Science" can mean something
different to different people on the gut level -- largely dependent, I
suppose, on their own view of this problem. Or, more properly, I should say,
the two are caused by the same blind-spot/point-of-enlightenment (i.e., the
same thing that causes one to look at science one way, causes one to hold one
position or the other in regard to anthropology as a science).

I will get to my own beliefs about what science is in a moment . . .

> Certainly, human behavior is unpredictable. Individual choice

This is something I am undecided about. In one mood, I think you're right on
with that, but in other moods, I begin to wonder if we are so unpredictable,
after all. In some sense, don't we all tend to do the same thing, to have
the same goals? Of course, right now my mood says that that's balderdash --
of course we don't. I'm open to advice. <g>

> 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

This could get interesting. <G> A few months back -- Spring? Has it been that
long? -- I got into a little debacle with a few other members of this list
over single-theory versus multiple-cause.

> 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

And in some sense I think this is necessary. Whether or not anthropology is a
"science" int eh sense we generally use the term, it seems clear to me that
*some* degree of methodological rigor is required if anything is to be
gained. If we do not hold ourselves to strict guidelines of behaviour and
approach, *of course* different anthropologists' findings are going to differ
from one another and *of course* there will be inconsistency in the field.
And, if everybody is merely following their whim, anthropologizing from the
seat of the pants, as it were, chances are everybody is wrong.

> 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

The way I was taught -- and this is the way I use it myself -- is that
something is a scientific law if it succesfully predicts. Now, on that basis
does anyone have anything further to add? Is it possible -- ever -- for
there to be discovered formulas which allow anthropologists to predict human
behaviour and develpopment?


Nick Corduan "...there is as much dignity in tilling
at a field as in writing a poem."
( --Booker T. Washington