Alternative Approaches to the Study of Sexual Behavior

By Donn Byrne; Kathryn Kelley | Go to book overview

1
Introduction: The Study of Sexual Behavior As a Multidisciplinary Venture

Donn Byrne

State University of New York at Albany

Over the centuries, science has evolved as a process combining simple curiosity, the satisfaction provided by being able to make accurate predictions about events, and the power that resides in the ability to manipulate and control any aspect of our universe. Altogether, the assumptions and procedures of scientific activity have proved to be the most successful of all human enterprises in terms of providing understanding, prediction, and control.

It is tempting to describe scientific activity as an objective and selfless search for truth. Successful scientists often express a less grandiose view of their endeavors, however. Edward Teller has suggested that research "is a game, is play, led by curiosity, by taste, style, judgment, intangibles," and Albert Einstein proposed that the goal of science is "to keep the scientist amused" ( Byrne, 1971). Scientists are humans first, and individuals involved in even the most glorious of quests may also be motivated by such mundane factors as greed, desire for fame, and envy of fellow scientists. Watson's ( 1968) description of the race for the discovery of the structure of DNA is an insider's view of the way in which this intellectual game may also be seen as a hard-driving competitive undertaking with resultant honors and sinecures that are every bit as alluring as an Olympic medal, political office, or monetary gain.

Individual scientists are also guided, held back, enlightened, and/or misled by what they have learned as citizens influenced by cultural beliefs, societal norms, religious dogma, political ideology, familial bonds, and so forth. Newton thought of the calculus as a way to demonstrate God's existence in that He obviously must have produced an orderly world. Some of Darwin's greatest difficulties involved an internal struggle to reconcile the empirical evidence he examined first-hand with what his religion taught about creation, the age of the

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