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The Substantive Contributions Of Worldwide Cross-Cultural Studies Using Secondary Data

C. R. Ember, D. Levinson
Published 1991 · Sociology

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Humans seem to want to make sense of their world, to explain why things happen. Without minimizing the creative contribution of theorists, a major problem for social science is to recognize those well-meaning but incorrect theories that pass for knowledge. As Peter Caws (1969: 1378) put it: &dquo;Just as mutations arise naturally but are not all beneficial, so hypotheses [theories] emerge naturally but are not all correct. If progress is to occur, therefore, we require a superfluity of hypotheses and also a mechanism of selection.&dquo; The cross-cultural research strategy provides us with one systematic and objective way of eliminating theories that presumably should, but in fact do not, predict cultural variation. We are obliged to be skeptical about those theories that (when appropriately tested) fail to be supported, and we
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