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04 April 2008


Alan E. Dunne

Thanks to Michael Heise and his cited author for pointing out that we should recognise that those who bomb and burn churches are simply taking practical measures to reduce the crime rate and mourn those denied the benefits of the portacaval shunt merely because the randomly controlled studies showed no benefit.

But it might be considered a kind of evidence that better evidence does so often give different results from the casual kind.

In the law of evidence followed by the courts, it is recognised that some evidence is just not worth the time and effort of considering. Again, so many different things can be proved by casual evidence.

The post "empiricism gone astray" quotes from its underlying criticism that "Counterintuitive empirical results are almost always wrong if not based on an appropriate empirical methodology.


Part of the discounting of data seems, in my opinion, to relate to excessive mathematisation (which is a wonderful device for reification through mystification).

I came to empirical legal studies as a reaction to the formalistic modelling of much law and economics. A colleague of mine, who is much more anthropological than I am, attended the last ELS conference and wrote the following report: http://www.paclii.org/journals/fJSPL/vol11no2/pdf/forsyth2.pdf The excessive mathematisation decreased accessibility of papers, and the gap between quantitative an qualitative, and the general absence of qualitative data were things she found the conference missed. That said, I find anthropologists very dimissive of anything quantitative.

Maybe the point is that the true methodological challenge for ELS, if it wants to avoid the pitfalls of inaccessibility and irrelevance to the majority of the world that does not 'speak math' is to build space for methodology that allows for explanation of data in plain English and the bringing together of the qualitative or anecdotal with the quantitative. This will allow it to act as a true bridge between a number of disciplines and not just law and statistics.

I keep an eye on the methodology section of this blog in the hope that this is discussed further by people wiser than me!

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