SOC200H1 Chapter Notes - Chapter 1: Juvenile Delinquency, Logical Reasoning, Correlation Does Not Imply Causation

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16 Nov 2012
Chapter 1: Human Inquiry and Science
Looking For Reality
- How can you really know what’s real?
- Answer: science
- A scientific assertion must have both logical and empirical support
- It must make sense, and it must not contradict actual observation
- Epistemology is the science of knowing
- Methodology (a subfield of epistemology) might be called the science of finding out
Ordinary Human Inquiry
- In looking at ordinary human inquiry, we need to distinguish between prediction and
- Cause and effect are probabilistic in nature effects occur more often when the
causes occur than when the causes are absent but not always
- Tradition offers some clear advantages to human inquiry
- By accepting what everybody knows, we are spared the overwhelming task of
starting from scratch in our search for regularities and understanding
- Tradition many hinder human inquiry
- It rarely occurs to most of us to seek a different understanding of something we all
“know” to be true
- Like tradition, authority can both assist and hinder human inquiry
- Inquiry can be greatly hindered by the legitimate authorities that err within their own
- Inquiry is also hindered when we depend on the authority of experts speaking
outside their realm of expertise
- Both tradition and authority are double-edged swords in the search for knowledge
about the world
- They both provide us with a starting point for our own inquiry, but can lead us to start
at the wrong point and push us off in the wrong direction
Errors in Inquiry and Some Solutions
1. Inaccurate Observations
Most of our daily observations are casual and semi-conscious
Scientific observation is a conscious activity
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Both simple and complex measurement devices help guard against inaccurate
They add a degree of precision well beyond the capacity of the unassisted human
2. Overgeneralization
We overgeneralize on the basis of limited observations
Tendency to overgeneralize is the greatest when the pressure to arrive at a general
understanding is high
When overgeneralization occurs, it can misdirect or impede inquiry
Scientists guard against generalization by committing themselves in advance to a
sufficiently large and representative sample of observations
The replication of inquiry provides another safeguard
Replication means repeating a study and checking to see whether the same results
are produced each time
3. Selective Observation
One danger of overgeneralization is that it may lead to selective observation
Racial and ethnic prejudices depend heavily on selective observation for their
Sometimes a research design will specify in advance the # and kind of observations
to be made, as a basis for reaching a conclusion
4. Illogical Reasoning
What statisticians have called the gambler’s fallacy is an illustration of illogic in day-
to-day reasoning
Often we assume that a consistent run of either good or back luck foreshadows its
Scientists try to avoid illogical reasoning by using systems of logic consciously and
Logical reasoning is a conscious activity for scientists
Science attempts to protect its inquiries from the common pitfalls in ordinary
Accurately observing and understanding reality is not an obvious or trivial matter
What’s Really Real?
- “naïve realism” is to describe the way most of us operate in our daily lives
- 3 views on reality:
1. The Pre-modern View
This view of reality has guided most of human history
Early ancestors all assumed that they saw things as they really were
This assumption was so fundamental that they didn’t even see it as an assumption
2. The Modern View
This view accepts such diversity as legitimate
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