Dark Age science

October 27, 2006

Why does Lee McIntyre speak of the need for a "scientific attitude" in the social sciences as if it were some new life-saving idea? (Features, October 13).

In the 19th century, the "founding fathers" of sociology appropriated the methods of natural science to construct a science of society. For thinkers such as Comte and Durkheim, society was understood to be made up of "social facts" that expressed the laws of cause and effect.

They claimed these could be investigated free from bias and prejudice if scientific methods were adhered to. Since then, social sciences have become more sophisticated. The scientific approach McIntyre thinks will bring social science out of its Dark Age is, if anything, old-fashioned.

Jason Nicholls
St Cross College, Oxford

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