Department of Sociology

Science and Sociology: Predictive Power is the Name of the Game by Sheldon Ekland-Olson and Jack P. Gibbs

Mon, September 11, 2017
Science and Sociology: Predictive Power is the Name of the Game by Sheldon Ekland-Olson and Jack P. Gibbs
Science and Sociology: Predictive Power is the Name of the Game (Routledge, 2018)

Science and Sociology

Predictive Power is the Name of the Game

By Sheldon Ekland-Olson and Jack P. Gibbs

Routledge, 2018

Science and Sociology is from beginning to end an exploration of what this implies for the social sciences, and sociology in particular. The authors argue that over the last several decades, sociology has become less a science and more a quest for isolated assessments of situations, whether they come from demographic analyses, survey research, or ethnographic studies. Above all else, this book is an attempt to promote and advance scientific sociology, and we write at length specifying the how and why of this objective. With this objective in mind, the question becomes: What would a scientific sociology look like?

Reviews

What does a scientific sociology look like? What role does uncertainty play in the search for truth? Do the social sciences have something unique to teach us about science in general? More than a breath of fresh air, this book is a breath of life for a field that's been suffocating increasingly in the grip of special interests and identity politics. Ekland-Olson and Gibbs are at the top of their "game" (their term) here: in clear, precise, and cheerful manner they demonstrate what is called for in that highest and rarest act of predictive theory-building.

HC Hsu, PhD and Fellow, Europäische Universität für Interdisziplinäre Studien

Olsen’s and Gibb’s Science and Sociology promises to reinvigorate attention to classical issues in sociological theory and methods, including basic concepts. They begin with a discussion of the centrality of "assertions" to science and end with advocacy of "predictive power" as the criterion for defending theories. Olsen and Gibbs cover a multitude of definitions of science and convincingly defend their preferences. In addition, we are coached in the fundamentals of formal theory construction, including the works of a wide range of sociological scholars in the process. The work should generate lively discussions of sociological epistemology.

Gary F Jensen, Professor Emeritus of Sociology, Vanderbilt University

In an era when public trust of science has eroded, Ekland-Olson and Gibbs provide a much-needed renewal of the scientific foundations of sociology. They relish in the importance of uncertainty as the key ingredient in the scientific enterprise of sociology, and persuasively place theory testing at the heart of the advancement of scientific sociology. Their goal is to elevate sociology’s scientific status, and this book provides an essential roadmap for doing so.

David Kirk, Associate Professor of Sociology, Professorial Fellow of Nuffield College, University of Oxford

Authors

Sheldon Ekland-Olson joined The University of Texas at Austin after completing his graduate work at the University of Washington in Seattle and Yale Law School. He is currently the Bernard and Audre Rapoport Centennial Professor of Liberal Arts and serving as the Director of the School of Human Ecology. For five years he served as Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and then for eight years as Executive Vice President and Provost of the university. He has authored or co-authored several books and numerous articles on criminal justice, prison reform, and capital punishment. Widely recognized for his commitment to teaching undergraduates, he is the recipient of numerous teaching awards. His current interests are reflected in the book, Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Decides?; an exploration of how communities have gone about justifying the violation of universally held moral imperatives.

Jack P. Gibbs graduated with his PhD from University of Oregon in 1957. In addition to holding a faculty position at Vanderbilt, Gibbs also held taught at the University of California, Berkeley, the University of Texas, Austin, Washington State University, and the University of Arizona. At Vanderbilt, he was the Centennial Professor of Sociology, as well as chaired the Department of Sociology and Anthropology. Dr. Gibbs has well over 170 publications, including scholarly articles in referred academic journals and books. He has received numerous scholarly honors, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, election as a fellow of the American Society of Criminology, and recipient of the 1983 Edwin Sutherland Award from the American Society of Criminology. His research areas included suicide, status integration, research methods, urbanization and technology, sociology of law, criminal deterrence, conceptions of deviant behavior, capital punishment, social control, and terrorism. He is author of highly influential books Sociological Theory Construction; Crime, Punishment, and Deterrence; and Norms, Deviance, and Social Control:Sociology's Central Notion; A Theory About Control; and Colossal Control Failures.

Routledge website

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