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Taboo Subjects and Taboo Viewpoints in Criminology (From Taboos in Criminology, P 7-21, 1980, Edward Sagarin, ed. - See NCJ-76968)

NCJ Number
E Sagarin
Date Published
15 pages
The limits imposed on criminology's scientific studies by moral standards and potential social consequences emanating from various studies are identifed and discussed.
Science and society, through intellectual and political perspectives, set limits on the propriety of certain scientific research. While this may bother those who believe that science should be unfettered in its search for truth, the real world is governed by prevalent social values, ideologies, and political policies which determine acceptable scientific enterprises and findings. In criminology, examples of unpopular orientations are many. Foremost is the link of crime to the factors of genes, biology, race, ethnicity, and religion. Those who contend, for example, that a link exists between race or ethnicity and crime, irrespecitve of social oppression, must be willing to withstand charges of racism, antisemitism, and bigotry. Such findings also challenge social policy orientations that attack poverty, unemployment, and social oppression as the roots of a high percentage of certain types of crime. The taboos imposed by a given society upon criminological research must be taken into account when proceeding into research areas where the taboos apply. While such taboos should not intimidate scientists to avoid research in certain areas, researchers should be aware of the volatile nature of the material with which they are dealing, such that findings are offered with special care and circumspection. It is inexcuseable for a scientist to publish findings that challenge prevalent social values without providing reliable, valid, and extensive empirical support. On the other hand, to avoid certain research because of its volatile nature or to suppress certain scientific findings because they might be unpopular is to allow the perpetuation of social myths that undermine the development of a more rational social system. A few notes and 21 references are provided.


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