In Reply to: Re: Bad Social Science & TF posted by Perry on June 20, 2005 at 17:56:50:
As far as I know, the position that cult apologists take on not interviewing former members (who may or may not be apostates) is peculiar to their field. Contemporary cultural anthropologists take a very different position toward understanding tribal customs & history--they go out of their way to interview the half-castes and tribal members who have left the group and adopted different lifestyles.
The methodological caution against relying solely on current members of a culture for information goes back to Margaret Mead's famous study of childhood sexuality in Polynesia. It seems out some of the tribal elders got to telling her some tall tales about their "secrets" of initiation into adulthood. Tribal members who left their island culture to live in western societies later recognized and revealed the hoax.
You wrote: "The suggestion is that what I experienced and what I remember experiencing are two different things, and therefore my account should be rejected."
Here's the fallacy in the cult apologist's argument: What the current, active Family member actually experienced and remembers experiencing are also two different things. It makes absolutely no difference what someone's membership status is---the fundamental facts of an experience and the interpretation of that experience are two different things. Cult apologists don't necessarily need to be interested in the ex-member's interpretation of his or her experience in the cult, but they SHOULD be interested in what the ex-member can contribute toward documenting the basic facts of a shared social history. Case in point: In 1975 when the Richardson study concluded the COG supported the "sanctity of marriage," the cult apologist based his conclusions on erroneous facts. He would have avoided this problem if he had interviewed former members and examined evidence such as One Wife.
Cult apologists are not interested in establishing and validating the basic facts of their subject area. They are engaged in proving that their opinions about their pet NRMs are correct. Because of this, they are doing bad social science.