Recent quote on doing agendaless science

Vaclav Smil’s How The World Really Works offers an analysis of foundational materials and processes behind life in 2022 and what these portend for the near future. It also includes this as the second to last paragraph of the book:

Is it possible to have no agenda in carrying out analysis and writing such an overview?

Much of what Smil describes and then extrapolates from could be viewed as having an agenda. This agenda could be scientism. On one hand, he reveals some of the key forces at work in our world and on the other hand he provides interpretation of what these mean now and at other times. The writing suggests he knows this; he makes similar points to that quoted above throughout the book to address the issue.

I feel this tension when teaching Research Methods in Sociology. Sociology has a stream of positivism and scientific analysis from its early days, wanting to apply a more dispassionate method to the social world. It has also has early strands of a different approach less beholden to the scientific method and allowing for additional forms of social analysis. These strands continue today and make for an interesting challenge and opportunity in teaching a plurality of methods within a single discipline.

I learned multiple things from the book. I also will need time to ponder the implications and the approach.

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