A wanton act of social science

Peter Jackson
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“This is not the time to commit sociology.”

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, April 11, 2013

Hank checked his watch again. Only five minutes had passed. That watch seems slow, he thought.

But does it only seem slow? Psychological time is just as real as time in and for itself. That’s what Karl Dimitrov told him before Hank arrested him. Dimitrov was arraigned on two charges of epistemological relativism. He pled down to speculating without a licence, a misdemeanour.

Guys like Karl are a dime a dozen. They all want to be part of the big leagues. “Physics envy,” they call it. Dressing up raw opinion to look like science. Reckless posers, they are — a danger to society and to themselves.

The radio crackled to life.

“We’ve got another 10-87 at the university,” said the dispatcher. “Male, caucasian, elbow patches and sandals. Witnesses say he has a classroom full of freshmen that he won’t dismiss. One of them managed to text a note to a friend.”

Not again, thought Hank. That’s the second 10-87 this week — attempted sociology. Will they ever learn?

Hank raced to the campus, light flashing. A group of economics students had congregated outside, yelling insults. Uniformed police parted the crowd and led Hank to the classroom door.

“Professor? Are you in there?”

Hank always felt it was a good idea to humour them. Give them a title. Let them think they hold some degree of distinction.

“Hello?” came a voice from inside. “Who’s out there? We’re holding a class in here. Could you keep it down, please.”

“Now, professor. You know I can’t do that. Why don’t you let those students out now, and then come out yourself. We’ll let you keep the textbooks.”

“What is going on out there?” the voice said, a little louder. “We’re having a class on extended transition. We’ll be done in about 10 minutes. Please go away.”

Extended transition. Hank knew the term — just a fancy-pants way of talking about lazy adult children still living with their parents. Pathetic.

“Don’t make me come in there,” Hank warned. He didn’t want to go in. He’d seen it before, and it wasn’t pretty. Sleepy students drooling on notepads, illegible pen scrawls all over the pages. Chalkboard splattered with words like “deviancy amplification” and “hegemonic masculinity.”

It’s a scene that never leaves you.

“Professor? Let’s do this the easy way.”

Silence, then the voice again.

“Sir, I am not doing anything illegal. I am a firm adherent of methodological plurality. Please go away.”

“You’re not helping yourself, professor,” Hank said. “Just put the chalk down and come out with your hands up.”

“This is just not right,” said the professor. “I am a victim of cultural relativity here. We must address the root causes of this misguided phenomenology.”

Hank turned to the uniforms behind him.

“That’s it, boys. He said the magic words. Break it down.”

As the door burst off its hinges, Hank could see the professor frantically trying to distribute handouts. He tackled him to the ground, letting loose a hail of photocopies. Fortunately, no one read them.

Hank didn’t like to think of himself as a hero. Just a lonely soldier on the fringes of society, helping to keep the public safe from the vile underbelly of behavioural determinism.

“I’m just a God-fearing dogmatist like all of you,” he said as he made his way through the cheering crowd. “But I will say this: no one will ever weasel out of criminal culpability on my watch.”

A world free of bleeding hearts, he thought. Pipe dream? Maybe. But worth pursuing — one social scientist scum at a time.

Peter Jackson is The Telegram’s

commentary editor. Email: pjackson@thetelegram.com.

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