Title

Everything we don't know about people: An argument for a justifiable, useful, and respectable social science, with illustrations from a small, Central Asian country

Date of Completion

January 2008

Keywords

Anthropology, Cultural|Sociology, Theory and Methods

Degree

Ph.D.

Abstract

Social science can claim no authority because it relies on unjustified theoretical foundations. If the natural sciences are any guide, a successful scientific theory justifies belief that (1) specific domains actually exist; (2) those domains interact in specific ways; and (3) those interactions occur by means of specific mechanisms. The natural sciences all made these justifications before making their most impressive discoveries, while social science have yet make these justifications at all. This dissertation proposes a fully-justified theory: it rests only on universally-accepted assumptions, logical argumentation, and findings from the natural sciences. The Central Asian republic of Kyrgyzstan provides one promising testing ground for predictions extrapolated from the theory. Findings from 11 months of interviews and participant observation in Kyrgyzstan show the theory can combine a wide variety of disparate social issues into a single, plausible, coherent narrative. Statistical findings from a country-wide survey distribution show that both the theory and its alternatives can be empirically tested, and offer support for the theory's validity. The main point: social scientists cannot make advances in areas like methodology or practical application until they fix their theory. Social science has the potential to become an actual science, but it is not a science yet. The theory proposed in this dissertation is a first step toward changing that. ^