Skip to main content

Full text of "Man In The Modern World"

See other formats

stance, or by adopting a new form of education—the results would
have only a limited application. The smallness of the group, the
compulsion involved, the inevitable limitations on the contacts and
full social activity of the group, would make it impossible to apply
the results directly to an entire normal society, however regimented.
And the difficulties are of course enormously greater in any free
A second, more technical difficulty is in a sense a consequence of
the first. Causation in social science is never simple and single as in
physics or biology, but always multiple and complex. It is of course
true that one-to-one causation is an artificial affair, only to be un-
earthed by isolating phenomena from their total background. None
the less, this method is the most powerful weapon in the armoury of
natural science: it disentangles the chaotic field of influence and
reduces it to a series of single causes, each of which can then be given
due weight when the isolates are put back into their natural inter-
relatcdness, or when they are deliberately combined into new com-
plexes unknown in nature.
This method of analysis is impossible in social science. Multiple
causation here is irreducible. The difficulty is a twofold one. In the
first place, the human mind is always looking for single causes for
phenomena. The very idea of multiple causation is not only difficult.,
but definitely antipathetic. And secondly, even when the social
scientist has overcome this resistance, extreme practical difficulties
remain. Somehow he must disentangle the single causes from the
multiple field of which they form an inseparable part. And for this
a new technique is necessary.
Next, and in many ways even more important than the first two
together, comes the question of bias. Under this head I include any-
thing appertaining to the investigator which may deflect his scientific
judgment. It is the equivalent of experimental and observational
error in natural science. In natural science, there are statistical
methods for discounting both sampling error and personal error; the
limits of accurate measurement are determined for different types of
instrument; the procedure of controlled experimentation has been
reduced to a fine art. The procedure of the discounting of error in
natural science by these methods has proved difficult enough. But
to discover how to discount bias in social science is proving very much
Then there is the inherent genetic bias imposed by his own tem-
perament. For certain purposes, investigators in social science are
their own instruments to a very great extent, and in a way unknown