Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Higher Superstition Posing as Science

Natural scientists Paul Gross and Norman Levitt (1994) are authors of a biting critique of the claptrap that many postmodernist social scientists have published on science. Yet, like so many writers on the so called academic Right they have paid scant regard to the claptrap published from those claiming to be among their own ranks. Here I refer to the self-proclaimed crime scientists, who claim to be natural scientists, and yet seem to understand nothing of the lessons that science teaches of:
1.       The need to seek disconfirming evidence for your own hypothesis,
2.       the meaning of causality,
3.       the need to keep scientific explanations separate from the data you are seeking to explain and
4.       the need for explanations that are both refutable and difficult to vary.

Crime Science, Crime Opportunity Theory, Routine Activity Theory (RAT) and Situational Crime Prevention (SCP) each breach the 4 points above because all of them are founded upon the RAT ‘Crime Opportunity’ (ratortunity) premise that the three essential components of a successful crime in commission (which can only be known to exist after the crime has been successfully completed (Sutton 2012) combine to create an essential causal opportunity for the commission of any crime.

For those unfamiliar with Crime Opportunity Theory (ratortunity): the three components of a so called crime opportunity are: (a) a capable offender in the presence of (b) a suitable target and (c) an incapable/absent guardian, which are said to jointly comprise the most important cause of crime. The logic of such a claim that these three elements represent an ‘opportunity’ can only rest on the irrational premise that every successfully completed crime and every failed attempt somehow caused itself to happen (see Sutton 2012    for an exhaustive explanation of the complete irrationality of this claim).
As a useful critical exercise let us consider a powerful and valid criticism of postmodernist criticism of science from Gross and Levitt (1994: p.104) - with the word postmodernism adjoined by [ratortunity]. Readers familiar with the prolific work of the ratortunists and ratortunity's significant, yet weird, impact upon credulously supportive and unquestioning academic publications, policing and policymaking may find this exercise particularly intriguing:
‘…such solecisms as we find in these writings are confidently put forth as scholarly discoveries, with every assurance that something profound is being uttered, one must wonder about the system – and the ideology – that nurtures and rewards them. Whence we must ask, does such grossly misplaced intellectual self-confidence come? The smug hermetic, self referential atmosphere of politicized academic postmodernism [and ratortunity] obviously has a great deal to do with it. In this milieu, there is not much thought given to simple scientific accuracy. The caution and scrupulousness that working scientists are conditioned to expect are swept aside, because in the final analysis, postmodernism [and ratortunity] is in great measure prophetic and hortatory, rather than analytic; it announces and cheers on a sweeping “paradigm shift” within our civilization, a change that is supposed to liberate us all.’
Readers may wish to draw their own conclusions. Those who are credulously teaching ratortunity principles to students, publishing them in student text books and the wider peer reviewed academic press, government policymakers and police services might wish to question the implications of what they are doing for both knowledge progression and the moral obligation to at least seek to spend scarce public resources on crime reduction measures that are most likely to be most effective at reducing crime rather than nurturing and rewarding pseudoscientific claptrap and those who propagate it.
Gross, P.R. and Levitt, N (1994) Higher Superstition: The Academic Left and Its Quarrels with Science. The John Hopkins University Press. Baltimore.
Sutton, M (2012) On Opportunity and Crime. Dysology.org: http://dysology.org/page8.html   

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