I’ve been thinking about evidence and how we know things (dare I say it – epistemology) a lot lately as I write my thesis. The statistics, the articles… the citations. My God, the citations. Science is tedious, and I don’t even have the possibility of turning into a mad scientist – who ever heard of a mad sociologist?
All this methodical, painstaking construction of knowledge has made me sharply aware of how often people make claims in society without scientific backing. I know non-scientific prognosticators often make ridiculous claims – the “social science” section at most bookstores makes me want to retch – but, damn, I really envy non-scientists’ ability to make sweeping, dramatic True Statements, as well as their ability to make lovely suggestive graphics (see here and here, too) without having to build on, destroy, modify, or even acknowledge any kind of theory.
It’s interesting, though, when scientists and non-scientists can arrive at the same sorts of ideas through different routes. For example, I am kind of in love with the idea of differential association, despite never having studied it in-depth. I am kind of totally in love with Neko Case. But I had never heard her sing about differential association before:
There was nothing to put me in love with the good life
I’m in league with the the gangs guns, and the crime
There was no hollow promise that life would reward you
There was nowhere to hide in Tacoma
It’s cool. But it also makes me wonder just how much of science – even the pure ones – is just formalization of what people already know, and how much of what people know is a common-sensification of things they learned in high school.
Bah. I swear I’ll write some decent posts someday.