We are very enamored by intelligence and knowledge, but what about ignorance?  If we compare knowledge to matter than why are we only fixated on the smallest fraction of reality? Were you aware that ordinary matter comprises only about 5% of the universe while dark matter & energy make up 95%.

Firestein has written a great book about this subject.  I invite you read the introductory chapter of this book (Firestein (2012) IGNORANCE-How-It-Drives-Science. Introduction).  Additionally, you could LISTEN TO or READ: NPR blurb on Firestein (2012) IGNORANCE: How it Drive Science as well as READ: Review of IGNORANCE: How it drives science, and WATCH: TED Talk by Firestein.

I am interested in how this issue informs the The Qualitative/Quantitative Debate (Trochim).  Anthropology is typically relegated to the social sciences, which is further relegated to the insulting epithet “qualitative methods”.

The Military Industrial Complex

We Must Guard against the Hegemo-Deductive Complex

A second comparison I am making is between Eisenhower’s Military Industrial Complex and what I am calling the Hegemo-Deductive Complex.


Military Industrial Complex:  A concept used to refer to policy and  monetary relationships between legislators, armed forces, and the industrial sector that supports them. (Wikipedia)

Hegemo-Deductive Complex:  A concept used to refer to policy and methodological relationships between scientists, journal editors, and the public sector that supports them. (Jimipedia)


The Yin and Yang of Methodology 

Qualitative and quantitative techniques have their origins in inductive and deductive epistemologies.  Aside from their differences, what is most essential and often forgotten is that BOTH components are needed.


How do these issues apply to our research in anthropology?

How can ethnography be considered a truly inductive research endeavor?


7 thoughts on “IGNORANCE

  1. 1. How do these issues apply to our research in anthropology?
    These issues apply to our research because we are not looking for absolute answers in our research, just something that could grasp at the concept we are looking at or trying to answer or even look for an answer we have not considered. Another issues with our research is whether we should be empirical or interpretive with our data collection and analysis. The way we analyze our data could change dramatically if we base it on quantitative methods, like the number of people that respond to a certain answer, or on qualitative methods, like what would the people who answer that question be thinking of.

    2. How can ethnography be considered a truly inductive research endeavor?
    Ethnography can be considered a truly inductive research endeavor by using qualitative methods to explain your data in a way to form new knowledge. The knowledge could be a formed from a questions used to guide the research or by analyzing the data and forming a conclusion with what you found.

  2. Firestein’s definition of ignorance is not the typical idea that comes to mind with the word, instead he refers to ignorance as “a communal gap in knowledge” (7). He states that this is a necessary driving force behind scientists and their ability to make progressive inclinations as to what the best answer for a certain question may be. His theory can be applied to research in anthropology because often things are thought to be concrete concepts but Firestein is calling for questions when we do not have all the information or when information doesn’t quite make sense. Also, I think that it is important for researchers to realize that they never truly know all the answers. There is always something to be learned and the ability to acknowledge this and continue to seek out information is what leads to true results in regards to answering the questions that were originally being posed. As for the qualitative / quantitative debate the author bests ends this argument by stating that the two forms of data are inseparable and to ask which is better distracts from the connection of the two. It seems that this issue over which type of data is “the best” does truly distract from being able to clearly decipher what is present in data that is being collected. Ethnography can be seen as an inductive endeavor by stressing the symbiotic relationship of quantitative and qualitative data which allows for us to understand in and turn explain our findings to others. In order for ethnography to be considered truly inductive, the facts which we think we know must be pushed aside in order to make room for the answers to things we do not understand. The importance of the connection between the two forms (qual/quan) of data must also be acknowledged in order to reach this goal.

  3. How do these issues apply to our research in anthropology?
    These issues apply to our research in anthropology because we use a scientific method to make decisions regarding further research, based on communal ignorance. Firestein explains, “ignorance is a bigger subject than knowledge”. Firestein focuses on ignorance with a positive perspective. Rather than thinking of ignorance as negative position, it is a mastery of knowing better questions to ask. As what we know about a topic/culture/way of living increases, how much we know about it decreases. Essentially, an esteemed scientist will search for an endless amount of questions on any given topic to deepen a global understanding.
    According to Jimipedia, also known as Dr. Mullooly, the argument over the level of worth or higher numeric value between qualitative and quantitative is really about scientist biases over one method or the other. Both data collection and analyses types are necessary for identifying the areas of ignorance begging to be explored. Both data lead to the continuing search for better questions that bring expanded ignorance and a little bit of knowledge. Quantitative or survey researchers seek differences between two group variable with varying continuous variables whereas, qualitative or field workers are seeking to explore the complexities that influence phenomena (Beck, 1996). The tension is really about the philosophical biases. Firestein states, “you always get what you screen for”. Quantitative narrows to the question of “How?” and qualitative narrows to the question of “Why”. An integrated synthesis will explore both the how and why questions. It is imperative that researcher combine the use of quantitative and qualitative methods so as not to become overly efficient at building little knowledge without multiplying the number of questions.

    How can ethnography be considered a truly inductive research endeavor?
    Ethnography can be considered a truly inductive research endeavor because it is designed to build general theories (Angrosino, 2005). Ethnography begins with a general questions and the data collected includes as many perspectives as possible. Ethnographers use a holistic approach to nonjudgmental fieldwork which includes personal interaction with the participants in the study (Angrosino, 2005). The advantage for ethnographers is that they can better understand the participant’s point of view and adapt questions to the context in real time.

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