chapter  1
16 Pages

Criminological Theories: The Truth as Told by Mark Twain

WithDon M. Gottfredson

This chapter offers a set of concerns that may be useful in evaluation of any theory. The nature of scientific theories has long since been described by Mark Twain, an astute philosopher of science, now deceased and hence incapable of complaint. Criminologists should pay increased attention to some fundamental tenets of scientific theory building. In criminological theories, as well as other psychological or sociological ones, what may begin as an intervening variable often becomes transformed, much in the manner of Twain’s presumption-tadpole to frog of fact, into hypothetical constructs. When the requirements of an adequate theory have been met, it remains also to attend to the concepts of reliability and validity. Theories consist of postulates, theoretical constructs, logically derived hypotheses, and definitions. Classifications of persons and of events are central components of most criminological theories. Predictive classifications also often occupy fundamental positions in the theories, whether these seek to explain individual or group criminal propensities or crime events.