HERBERT SIMON, PAUL THAGARD, PAT LANGLEY AND OTHERS ON DISCOVERY SYSTEMS
APPENDIX II- Page 15
Form’s rejection letter
Hickey submitted his rejoinders to Form on 6 May 1981. On 14 May 1981 Hickey received a petulant drop-dead rejection letter exhibiting Form’s hubris and saying: “Apparently you do not understand the folkways of our profession. I sent your manuscript out for review and wrote you that your article was rejected for publication. Then I received a revision of your article with the stated expectation that it should be published.” Form then added that it is not “normative” for an article to be resubmitted once it is rejected, and that if this were not the practice, he would spend the rest of his life re-reviewing the same manuscript. Hickey had not revised his paper for Form.
Sociology’s peer-reviewed literature actually operates as a filter to remove original theses and to disseminate hackwork. Hickey can only view Form’s letter as contemptuous, and doubts that Form gave Hickey’s rejoinders even a passing glance, if any consideration at all. Form’s dismissive practice is neither “normative” nor normal. In fact Hickey regards Form’s comment as cynically disingenuous, because in the interest of their readerships editors of scholarly journals routinely consider authors’ rejoinders to referees. Hickey believes that consideration of a resubmitted paper with a view to the author’s rejoinders is in practice “normative”, if the editor wishes to judge a paper on its intrinsic merits, because no referee criticisms are above or beyond criticism. Form’s editorial practice due to his rôle concept as an editor effectively operate as a filter to suppress original work and to disseminate hackwork.
Hickey does not believe Form’s claim about any such alleged “folkways”. Just three years earlier in “Editorial Policies and Practices among Leading Journals in Four Scientific Fields” in the journal Sociological Quarterly Janice M. Beyer reports her findings from a survey of the editors of a representative sample of academic journals serving several sciences. She found that forty-three percent of all the papers accepted by sociology journals have been resubmitted. Furthermore the American Sociological Association rents mailing lists to booksellers, and its web site offers a list of over a thousand members’ names and addresses that identify themselves as “quantitative sociologists”. Are all these sociologists so incompetent that finding an adequate referee for Hickey’s paper would take a lifelong search? But perhaps they are incompetent, because the above referee criticisms strongly suggest they are, if the criticisms are not merely fatuous. Hickey gives Form’s rejection letter ten out of ten points for sheer chutzpah.
Form concluded his rejection letter by saying that he hoped that Hickey would submit his revised manuscript to another journal and profit by the suggestions of their referees. Hickey believes this comment is buck-passing by an editor who had failed (either by ignorance or by intent) to obtain patronage for the submitted paper. Hickey in turn hopes that Form and his chosen referees may profit from Hickey’s rejoinders published herein, which Form had contemptuously dismissed. Form titled his autobiography Work and Academic Politics. Hickey views Form as a politician plying his “work and academic politics” as an editor.
A librarian at the United States Library of Congress once told Hickey that journal editors choose to publish papers they like, and that their likes and dislikes can be quite biased. Therefore Hickey was not altogether surprised to discover later that Form has his own alternative approach to institutional analysis that Form described using a 1950’s-vintage approach, in which Hickey found no modeling analysis. Form described his approach in “Institutional Analysis: An Organizational Approach” in a book titled Change in Societal Institutions (1990), which he also summarized later in his autobiography, Work and Academic Politics (2002). In the 1990 book Form references his earlier Industry, Labor and Community (1960) as an illustration of his organizational approach, which is a repeat of his still earlier Industrial Sociology (1951). His “organizational approach” to institutional change was Form’s style of sociology long before he received Hickey’s submission with the dynamic modeling approach. Such is the politics of Form’s “work and academic politics”.
In his autobiographical Work and Academic Politics Form wrote that as the editor of the American Sociological Review he read every manuscript submitted to his journal and wrote his own internal review for every manuscript submission. But Hickey has found no evidence in Form’s literary corpus that Form has even the minimal technical competence for critiquing Hickey’s paper, much less the requisite sophistication in contemporary philosophy of science. Given Form’s statement in his autobiography Hickey suspects that the first of the two critiques he received from Form, the one affirming traditionalism, was actually written by Form, and that it expresses Form’s personal preferences in sociology.
Hickey thought that with Form he had reached the nadir, and that the contemptuousness of sociology editors could not be worse. But no, read on.
Social Indicators Research
Hickey lastly submitted his paper to a journal called Social Indicators Research edited by an Alex C. Michalos. Michalos has been a co-author with Kenneth Land, and Land is listed as a member of the editorial board, i.e., a referee, for Michalos’ journal. Michalos was identified on the journal’s stationery as Director of the Social Indicators Research Programme at the University of Geulph in Ontario, Canada. The journal’s publisher is identified as D. Reidel Publishing Company, Dordrecht, Holland, and Boston, U.S.A. The 1995 edition of the National Faculty Directory listed Michalos as a faculty member of the Department of Philosophy at the University at Guelph.
Michalos’ rejection letter
This journal also rejected Hickey’s paper, but it cannot be treated as the others discussed above, because Michalos refused to inform Hickey of his reasons for rejection. Michalos acknowledged receipt of Hickey’s manuscript in a letter dated 19 January 1982. In a letter to Hickey dated 4 February 1982 Michalos said that he had received a very unfavorable review of the manuscript and would “not be able” to publish it. He added that usually he has specific comments from a reviewer to send to authors, but that in Hickey’s case the reviewer “pretty well threw up his hands”. Hickey just threw up, and then wrote a letter dated 12 February demanding two written referee comments for the opportunity to submit rejoinders.
Michalos responded with a letter dated 22 February 1982 replying that sometimes his reviewers are “brutal”, and that when the first reviewer is exceptionally critical, he does not go to a second reviewer. Michalos concluded his letter by saying that he had sent Hickey “all he had”. This is outrageous chutzpah – like the man who murders both of his parents, and then demands the court’s mercy claiming that he is an orphan. What is manifestly “brutal” is the mugging by this referee who made this editor his fawning client. If, as is said, the peer-reviewed literature is the “court of science”, Michalos’ journal is truly a kangaroo court, because the reader may well wonder what referee has so enthralled this editor as to motivate such a dismissively cavalier editorial practice of secret criticism. No referee is above criticism, and that Hickey should be allowed his replies.
In “Positivism versus the Hermeneutic-Dialectic School” in Theoria (1969), which is a critique of Continental Schools of Metascience by Gerard Radnitzky, Michalos identifies himself as a positivist. There he states that the aim of science is to be a coherent and well organized corpus of scientific knowledge, which he also describes as systematization of scientific knowledge. A more recent book titled Handbook of Social Indicators and Quality of Life edited by Land, Michalos and Sirgy contains a “Prologue” co-authored by Land and Michalos, in which “theory” is described explicitly as an axiomatic system. Michalos’ positivistic definition of scientific theory as an axiom system is anachronistic philosophy of science.
Academic philosophers have long recognized that the philosophy profession is in the postpositivist era, a fact that has escaped the notice of Michalos and Land. In the “Introduction” to his Patterns of Discovery: An Inquiry into the Conceptual Foundations of Science Yale University pragmatist philosopher Norwood Russell Hanson calls the positivist taxonomic understanding of science “catalogue-science”. “Catalogue science” contrasts with “research science”, the contemporary pragmatist functional view, which defines “theory” as transitional language at the cusp of continuing evolutionary and sometimes revolutionary change that yields new laws and explanations. And in his Observation and Explanation Hanson ridicules positivists as “axiomatizers”, who aim to formalize an explanation for exposition.
The axiomatizers deliver the seductive psychological satisfaction that comes with a coherent description of the world, or at least of some domain. Such is the metaphysician’s stock in trade. But unlike metaphysics science is empirical. So, it is no wonder that a new finding such as the quantum of action that shattered the old Newtonian system of thought may be so disorienting to the complacent professionals that it took a later generation to adjust. It is only recently that philosophers of science have recognized that – contrary to positivists – progress in science does not consist in new axiom systems, but rather consists in new empirical findings. Thus Hickey agrees with Hanson; he views axiomitizers as idlers who prefer entertaining puzzle solving to consequential problem solving. Hickey believes it is unlikely that these ersatz philosophizing sociologists recognize they are atavistic dinosaurs, whose isolation in academic sociology has enabled them to survive the extinction of positivism.
However, it may be added incidentally that in Hickey’s macrosociological model none of his equations can be logically derived from any others, because each has its unique dependent variable. Therefore each of his equations is an axiom in the equation system that constitutes his model. Furthermore implicit relations among any of the variables in the monotonic linear equations may be derived mathematically as theorems by simple substitution.
Consider Land’s approach to using demographic data for modeling: Land proposed his modeling approach in “A General Framework for Building Dynamic Social Indicator Models: Including an Analysis of Changes in Crime Rates and Police Expenditures” in American Journal of Sociology (1976), and also later in his “Modeling Macro Social Change” in Sociological Methodology (1980). Land uses ideas from a 1971 monograph titled Demographic Accounting and Model Building by Richard Stone and published by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Conceptually Stone’s demographic accounting system is an inventory accounting system as might be found in a retail business enterprise. The demographic inventory has beginning and ending population stocks, and has population inflows and outflows determining the net change in the stocks over an accounting period.
Stone proposes that the data flows may be structured analogously to Wassily Leontief’s economic input-output tableaus. Land calls the calculated coefficients in the demographic input-output tableau “transition” coefficients. Since these transition coefficients will change from period to period, Land proposes using the econometric type of longitudinal model estimated over the time series of transition coefficients, which he furthermore says in the 1976 paper could be interpreted as measures of opportunities for social benefits. He therefore calls this his “opportunity-structure” approach based on ideas originally proposed by the early twentieth-century sociologist William F. Ogburn.
On the other hand Hickey’s construction of national per capita rates as measures of macrosocial consensus exhibits sociological relevance and access to the watershed of demographic data collected and released by the several cognizant Federal government agencies. The sociological relevance of these demographic time series gives data more than just demographic significance, because it enables distinctively macrosociological modeling describing interinstitutional interactions propagating changes in degrees of consensus affecting macrosocial stability through time as revealed by the model’s iterations.
Having an academic philosopher for its editor might have been singularly fortunate for Michalos’ Social Indicators Research journal as well as for the journal’s readers. But Michalos is a self-confessed positivist and no pragmatist. Given that Michalos refused to inform Hickey of the reasons for rejection aside from “brutality”, what Hickey encountered in his correspondences with Michalos is an editorial practice comparable to Franz Kafka’s absurdist story The Trial, in which an accused man is arrested, tried, condemned and executed without ever having been informed of the accusations made against him. Kafka wrote stories that Webster’s Dictionary of the English Language describes as “sordidly unreal”. Hickey found the editorial practices of Michalos’ Social Indicators Research Kafkaesque, i.e., sordidly unreal.
The Internet shows Michalos has since moved to the University of Northern British Columbia’s political science faculty, which is probably a beneficial transition for Geulph’s philosophy students. And he is probably uniquely qualified to teach political science given his experience in academic politics as an editor.
A Critique of Sociology’s Literature
Hickey’s responses to the above attempted referee criticisms of his paper have been strategically naïve: he has somewhat fatuously assumed that the criticisms were in fact the operative motivations for rejecting his paper. In fact this affected naïveté is not altogether without validity, because there are indeed fundamental differences between the contemporary pragmatist philosophy used by Hickey in his paper and both the romantic and positivist philosophies used in the criticisms, which the editors chose to enforce. And there are also manifest differences in levels of technical competence between Hickey and both the editors and their chosen referees. Sociology is truly a backward academic occupation. But sociologists in their bubble of delusion are such useful pariahs for contemporary philosophers that if sociologists did not exist, philosophers would have to create them.
Sociologists fail to distinguish between contrary evidence and contrary opinion, because they adhere to irrelevant criteria for scientific criticism. The referees of Hickey’s paper believe that mere recitation of their contrary personal preferences (often with ridicule) constitutes criticism of the author’s valid empirical findings, and the complicit editors accepted such rhetoric as criticism. This failure enables irrelevant considerations to operate as criteria in the decisions of editors. Ostensibly any submission to a peer-reviewed science journal is evaluated only on its intrinsic merits. But there are stated reasons and there are operative motives, and the stated reasons are not necessarily the same as the operative motives. As 2002 Nobel laureate economist Daniel Kahneman says in his Thinking Fast and Slow, even if the stated reasons were refuted the motives would still remain and produce the same decisions. With rare exception referees always aggressively criticize submitted papers; in fact “vandalize” might be a better word, since many criticisms are bogus. This referee practice gives an editor license to use his personal preferences in his decision to publish or reject a paper, while pretentiously citing the referee criticisms as the reasons for his rejection of submissions he personally dislikes. This bias creates a systemic dysfunctionality in sociology’s peer-reviewed literature that disables the ability of the occupation to function as an empirical science.
In addition to referees’ and editors’ disabling personal preferences there are other more institutionalized operative motives. Sociologists refuse to distinguish between contrary evidence and contrary opinion, because academic sociology is an exclusive guild. The guild in academic sociology is a structural perversion that operates as a surreptitious double standard, which filters out work by outsiders, and especially work that is threatening to the guild membership. Sociology journals are for academic sociologists, i.e., the “experts”, and presumably everyone else should be dismissed as a meddling “laymen” having nothing of value to tell the ostensibly superior “professionals”. But Hickey had identified himself as an econometrician on the letterhead of his submission correspondence to each of the four sociology journals, thus displaying the self-accusing scarlet letter “E” for “economist”, which made him anathema to sociologists. And as a nonacademic, he was furthermore doomed to Dante’s ninth circle. Hickey’s submission was thus viewed with narrow and suspicious eyes that recognized a paper not to be legitimated by acceptance in their peer-reviewed sociology literature. His impudent outsider status is implied in the American Sociological Review’s rejection letter, in which the editor, William H. Form, referred to the “folkways of our profession”. Hickey found Form’s language as effectively saying that Hickey is “not one of us sociologists”. And his self-disclosure made him not only an outsider to sociologists, but also a threatening outsider, because – as the referee criticisms revealed – sociologists are not educationally prepared for the econometrician’s modeling and simulation techniques, much less the mechanized discovery systems and the contemporary philosophy of science that the referees had explicitly rejected as nontraditional and even “silly”.
In his autobiographical Work and Academic Politics William H. Form explicitly compared sociology to a guild and referred to himself as a guild “journeyman”. Historically a guild was a type of trade association that originated in late mediaeval Europe. Its function was to enforce an exclusive monopoly to protect its members from threatening nontraditional ideas and new technologies practiced by competing outsiders. Clearly a journal editor like Form who thinks of sociology in terms of a mediaeval guild has a very different understanding of his rôle than an editor whose understanding is defined by the aim of science. Every guild feared the destabilizing effects of innovation’s “creative destruction”, to use Schumpeter’s famous phrase. In the era of the industrial revolution the threatening innovation was mechanization of the crafts, which spawned the Luddites. The criticisms of Hickey’s paper by the referees portray sociology’s literature as a latter-day guild that protects its members from threatening nontraditional ideas and new technologies of competing outsiders. Specifically the referees and editors are latter-day Luddites seeking to protect their academic fiefdom’s turf from threatening work by heretics practicing mechanized theory construction.
The peer-reviewed literature of sociology is flawed with corruption and manipulation. Ensconced academic sociologists have a vested interest in their obstructionist guild politics that enforces their reductionist classical sociological “theory”, their retarding romanticist and positivist philosophies of science, and their rejection of mechanized data-driven theorizing. These are properly called ideologies that they either naïvely or cynically enforce to defend their backwater enclaves within otherwise reputable universities. Sociologists’ academic status, access to resources, budgets, privileges, paychecks and perks depend upon their academic pretensions, and they defensively seek to protect their occupational sinecures. To many scientists in other university academic departments the title “social scientist” is pretentious panjandrum, when applied to sociologists. And even some securely established academic sociologists share this disdain. For example in his “Ideology, Foundationalism and Sociological Theory” in Sociological Quarterly (1993) University of Buffalo’s sociologist Mark Gottdiener critically examined sociological theory, and reported that it is merely about verbose language and power-games among theorists seeking to construct grand narratives to sustain their status within an intellectual community. The criticisms of Hickey’s paper show that the referees persuaded the complicit editors that he should write what the referees can understand – and what thus protects their incomes and occupational status.
William H. Form is not the only sociologist to describe sociology as a guild, although he is the only one known to Hickey to have employed the comparison approvingly. But Form’s approval is not surprising, since his American Sociological Review is the flagship journal of the American Sociological Association – the guild’s embodiment. In the “Introduction” to their Sociology on Trial sociologists Arthur Stein and Maurice Vidich say sociologists perform the classical functions of a guild so that the task of sociology as a profession “gets lost”. Hickey maintains that sociology is not only “lost” but has never found itself as a real science. The reason is that sociologists have made sociology’s guild politics control science instead of letting science’s empirical criterion control sociology.
The result is that sociology is a caricature of a scientific profession. The editors of its peer-reviewed literature are guild politicians, who care less about empirical validity and more about the reputations of their journals with the guild patronage that is their readership and sponsorship; as Form said, “academic politics”. Thus the peer-review process operates as prepublication small-sample market research with the referees operating like focus groups for marketability testing. Instead of pragmatic quality controls as practiced in real science, sociology’s editorial practices are defensive social controls as explicitly described in The Scientific Community by sociologist Warren Hagstrom. Academic sociologists have good reason to be intimidated by the sociology guild’s social controls. As Hagstrom observes, any sociologist who deviates would have to pay the price of ostracism – denial of tenure and rejection of publication in the peer-reviewed literature – and accept a dead-ended academic career. Consequently the academic sociologist would find it safer to plagiarize Hickey rather than reference him approvingly. Guild exclusiveness has made sociology so intellectually inbred that its information pool is as degenerate as the gene pool of an incestuous hereditary dynasty. Consequently sociology is slowly becoming sterile. Margaret Wente reported in the Globe and Mail (15 May 2012) that there are currently three sociology graduates for every sociology job opening. And in 2015 she lamented sociology professors who are fooled into believing that they might have a shot at the ever-shrinking tenure track.
Sociology’s corrupt editorial practices fully justify the cynicism expressed by some of its members. For example an atypically candid sociology professor once confidentially told Hickey how to game the system with obsequious rituals to succeed in getting published in the peer-reviewed sociology literature. Compose a paper developing some idea that had previously been published by a living and recognized author, especially if the recognized sociologist is listed by the journal as an “editorial consultant”, i.e., referee. Then include in the submitted paper copious footnotes referencing the pedigree-conferring referee, and make flattering and obsequiously laudatory comments about the conferring referee and his ideas. This sycophancy nearly guarantees that the editor of the journal will select that referenced pedigree-conferring sociologist to be a referee for the submitted paper, who in turn finds himself the beneficiary of a submitting author who is an unsolicited but invariably welcomed de facto public relations agent, because published authors like favorable citations to their papers. The referee will then be motivated to approve the submitted paper for publication and extend his patronage to the submitting author. The same cynical sociology professor also stated that the peer-reviewed literature is the last place to propose any new much less threatening idea. This sociology professor was not joking; she was expressing profound disillusionment with the peer-reviewed literature of her academic occupation.
It would be fatuous to suppose that sociology’s editors are clueless about this dance of editors, referees and authors. Its banality minimizes risk to the reputation of the journals, maximizes marketing potential, and makes the peer-reviewed literature a safe social ritual projecting the appearances of a valid and reputable scientific profession. Of course authors and editors who are adroit at gaming this system of guild politics, especially if they have the right affiliations, will self-righteously gush rhetoric that disguises or denies the operative patronage. But the latent dysfunction of this patronage system is that any original finding or “ambitious” idea – especially if it criticizes the conventional wisdom in which a referee or editor has a vested interest – will not get published. Thus exclusive guild politics has made the peer-reviewed literature a self-promoting patronage game that invites, welcomes and promotes academic hacks. A presumed benefit of peer review is establishing readership trust in the quality of an academic journal’s published articles for advancing a science. But both the incompetence in the criticisms by the referees and the guild politics in the decisions by the editors such as Hickey found confronting him, are corrosive trust once the practices are disclosed. And the real tragedy is that until empirical adequacy becomes the sole criterion for publishing, this dance will never stop.
There have been unsuccessful internal proposals to reform academic sociology. For example in the “Appendix” to his Coming Crisis in Western Sociology Alvin Gouldner proposed establishing a critical sociology of sociology that he christens “Reflexive Sociology”. He wrote that he aims to transform the sociologist and thereby to raise the sociologist’s self-awareness. But Gouldner adds that such transformation would be difficult, because “guild interests” frown upon the “washing of dirty linen in public”. Unsurprisingly therefore Gouldner’s “Reflexive Sociology” proposal has not been recognized much less implemented in academic sociology in the nearly half century since the publication of his book.
There have also been external proposals to reform academic sociology’s peer-reviewed literature. Critical examination of the peer-reviewed literatures of the sciences falls within the purview of information science. In the January 1978 issue of the Journal of the American Society of Information Science (JASIS) the editor wrote that referees sometimes use the peer review process as a means to attack a point of view and to suppress the content of a submitted paper, i.e., they attempt censorship. This censorship due to their practice of guild politics is egregious in sociology. Hickey found that the point of view in his paper was attacked by no less than three suppressing agendas, which are the ideology of sociology. They are (1) romantic philosophy of social science, which often included verstehen criticism, i.e., folk sociology, (2) social-psychological reductionism requiring motivational explanations, and (3) so-called “formal theory”, which is the nonfunctional almanac view of scientific theory taken from the positivists. The editor of JASIS proposed that rather than reject a paper so treated, an editor should publish the submitted paper together with the referee criticisms – and Hickey adds – with the author’s rejoinders. Implementation of that recommendation would promote a badly needed reform of sociology’s peer-reviewed literature. Sociology editors and academicians either fail to understand or are in obdurate denial that their guild censorship is a damaging disservice to sociology’s standing.
But academic sociology still operates under the gleeful delusion that the referee system exercises effective and honest quality control. Only recently have publishers belatedly recognized the chronic distortion in the peer-reviewed academic literature. In “Quality Control in Science is Evolving, with a Code of Ethics in Hot Pursuit”, the Economist (digital edition, 6 February 2015) reports that the information asymmetry due to the anonymity of referees causes distortions, such as referees’ “shooting down a rival’s work, pinching ideas, or just plain dragging their feet”. Ironically sociologists practice what they teach, because they know quite well that the anonymity afforded crowds promotes irresponsibility often seen in riot, vandalism and looting. The Economist article also reports that one proposed solution is “open peer review”, i.e., carrying out peer review publicly online, which is essentially the proposal made by the editor of JASIS back in 1978.
Another proposal mentioned is an explicit code of ethics. The same Economist article reports that Faculty of 1000, an online biology and medicine publisher, has taken this tack with F1000 Research, its flagship journal. The Economist article reports that Mr. Michael Markie, an associate publisher for F1000 Research, has proposed a required “oath”, which is a set of ethical guidelines to encourage “even-handed and helpful behavior for reviewers”. The “oath” is: (1) I will sign my name to my review. (2) I will review with integrity. (3) I will treat the review as a discourse with you; in particular, I will provide constructive criticism. (4) I will be an ambassador for the practice of open science. The Economist article notes that already Pensoft Publishers and Journal of Open Research Software are following suit. The article also laments that there is no peer-review training, and reports that Marcia McNutt, the editor-in-chief of Science, proposes that every journal editor should agree to respect the author’s intellectual property and disclose all conflicts of interest. Conflict of interest includes a referee’s or an editor’s having previously published his alternative views or used an alternative methodology to that expressed in a submitting author’s paper. Such a referee is not an “expert” critic; he is a competitor.
The newly emergent electronic media are singularly promising today, because they have the same circumventing effect on the sociology guild’s academic censorship that they have had on petty tyrants’ political censorship. Those media include Internet web sites and more recently inexpensive e-books. Self-publishing authors of e-books have negligible production costs, no inventory or delivery costs, and instant international distribution through online booksellers. And their e-books are never pulped, worm eaten or burned. The New York Times has called this phenomenon the “digital disruption” of print publishing. Most importantly the author has complete control over his published content, because the author’s research findings are unfiltered and unobstructed by the guild’s “gate guards”. Furthermore e-books render sociology’s guild incapable of shielding traditionalists by its suppression of new ideas, new techniques, and contemporary philosophy, which are advanced by competing and outperforming outsiders. Disingenuous lip service professing academic freedom is replaced by irrepressibly effective publishing freedom to distribute and access information including contributions that circumvent guild obstructionism.
Hickey’s issue with sociologists is wider than simply an issue between a single writer and his critics and their complicit editors, or it might well be allowed simply to drop. But his issues are relevant to philosophy of science: is academic sociology truly real science or merely pseudoscience? Presently sociologists’ so-called “theory” is just dogmatic imaginative narrative, a complacent self-deception chronically retarding academic sociology’s institutional maturation into a real empirical science. Sociologists perform survey research, and to that extent they exhibit empiricism. In fact survey research is effectively the only empiricism that sociologists know, which explains why they rejected Hickey’s empirical modeling, which demands a level of sophistication in mathematics and systems analysis exceeding their technical competence. So, if sociology is neither truly real science nor merely pseudo science, call it “parascience”, an embryonic science still in an incipient stage of development with the potential eventually to become real science.
But Hickey emphasizes that any reforming transformation of academic sociology must be more fundamental than the post-classical revolution in sociological theory advocated in 1998 by Donald Black in his “Purification of Sociology” address to the assembled American Sociological Association. Hickey’s correspondence with the journal editors and their chosen referees reveals that any effective maturation of sociology into a real science requires an institutional revolution in its philosophy of science. Presently sociology’s peer-reviewed literature is institutionally dysfunctional. Sociologists should not accept narratives because familiarity makes them seem “intuitive”, “convincing” or “to make substantive sense”. Nor should sociologists reject theories, because they are “surprising”, “bizarre” or “nontraditional”. Rather they must adopt the functional concept of scientific theory and recognize the exclusively controlling rôle for the empirical criterion. In other words sociologists must implement the contemporary pragmatist philosophy of science.
Contemporary pragmatism will legitimate sociologists’ escape from the psychological-reductionist dogmatism that blinds them to the sociologically relevant information in the watershed of social data available from Federal government agencies. It will legitimate their use of the variables in empirical equations made from such data, and it will thereby facilitate sociology’s advancement to the status of a real empirical science. And it will liberate them from the incestuous editorial practices of guild politics. Only such institutional maturation can put science in control of sociology instead of putting sociology in control of science. BOOK I in this web site could serve as an introductory primer for the retarded sociologists’ remedial instruction in philosophy of science.
A change in personnel is needed to produce a change in performance. In disregard of political correctness in sociology Hickey believes that what Donald Black called a “purification” can only be accomplished by a purge of sociology’s intolerant obstructionist ancien régime, the professors and editors with their anachronistic philosophies and their guild politics. However Hickey is not optimistic about the prospects for any transforming pragmatist institutional revolution in sclerotic academic sociology. The realpolitik is that there is no likelihood of any such purifying purge by the universities. Too many sociologists have a vested interest in the decrepit status quo. Sociology is static because established sociologists are paid to teach what they have been taught, and so continue to practice the only sociology they know.
Hickey is reminded of the dismal observation made by the historic 1918 Nobel-laureate physicist Max Planck, the initiator of the revolutionary twentieth-century quantum physics, who wrote in his Scientific Autobiography that a new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents, but rather succeeds because its opponents eventually die off. The reactionary obstructionists such as the referees together with the complicit editors who select them and accept their attempted criticisms, will inevitably be pushing up daisies. Inexorable attrition must eventually do the purging, if change is to occur. Hickey predicts that any future maturation of sociology as real science must progress, as Planck also said, “funeral by funeral”.
This entire web site, BOOKs I through VIII, is also an ebook