Postman: Scientific Method

Postman states in his essay that he does not believe sociologists “do science”. That the attempt to study human behavior “can in no sense but the most trivial be called science”. This is at complete cross purposes with Kornblum who believes (and more than adequately explains within the text this point) that it is the responsibility and primary purpose of sociology to bring the scientific method(s) to social debate.

To Postman’s claim that; while scientists use math to help uncover and describe the nature of nature, sociologists use quantification to give precision to their ideas, Kornblum would more than likely argue that Postman is essentially describing the same thing and that what he calls “quantification” is a lot more involved than he gives credit for. Quantification in social science constitutes extensive research and various methods of observation, experimentation and data analysis. With the anecdote about the communications professor and Postman’s criticism of her methodology I would think Kornblum would have several things to say.

First of all, that he may be inferring causality to a study he acknowledges to be correlational. From what can be gathered from the sparse information about the actual study that he gives us the purpose was to gather information on “television viewing” and “aggressive behavior in children” in that specific area and once finished what relationship the information produced from these two variables (if any) may have. The “whys” that he asks for do not figure into her study, that was not its purpose.

To Postman’s criticism of the legitimacy of the experimentation done in the Milgram study, that because the observations were made in a laboratory and not in a natural life situation the study can not technically be called empirical, the author of the text would say he misses the point by making assumptions. Social science study’s and observes people in all social situations including the social situation that is taking part in an experiment. Also, that in that particular example the experiment is once again essentially an observational one and not meant to confirm or deny “any theory that might be said to postulate a law of human nature”.

And lastly, Kornblum would find Postman’s final statements about the purposes of research in sociology not having to do with contribution to the field but contribution to the understanding of human nature and decency, completely wrong. Understanding our nature is a definite part of it all but on this subject morality plays no part and “contribution to the field” is everything. Scientific method at the ready research’s purpose is to lead us to new findings and new theories and (even more) new research that adds to the field and our overall understanding of ourselves.