The Dysology Hypothesis

Letting scholars get away with publishing fallacies and myths signals to others the existence of topics where guardians of good scholarship might be less capable than elsewhere. Such dysology then serves as an allurement to poor scholars to disseminate existing myths and fallacies and to create and publish their own in these topic areas, which leads to a downward spiral of diminishing veracity on particular topics.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

The Ratortunity Myth: Criminology 101

Introduction to causality and explanations for crime: for Crime Opportunity Theory, Routine Activities Theory and Situational Crime Prevention

The Crime Opportunity Theory (Routine Activities Theory, Situational Crime Prevention and Crime Science) notion of opportunity (ratortunity) as a cause of crime is 100 per cent wrong because, unlike ratortunity, good scientific explanations of the physical world are (1) easy to refute (2) difficult to vary. And (3) the ratortunity explanation for crime is a mere truism. I have demonstrated point (3) in my peer-to-peer paper Opportunity Does Not Make the Thief

Crime Scientists, having abandoned social science and criminology, claim now to be natural scientists. I think, therefore, they should perhaps take a look at what scientific reasoning actually is. Oxford scientist and expert in quantum computing, David Deutsch, has recorded a superb video lecture where he explains that easy to vary and impossible to refute thinking such as ratortunity is no better than saying about crime "a wizard did it" because it does not tell us how crime happens with a theory that is either true or false. Ratorunity, therefore, is a hopeless post-hoc explanation that tells us nothing more than that crimes happen because they can    and the classic RAT crime triangle, which is a description of the essential elements of a successful crime in commission, amounts to a useless causal explanation that every crime caused itself to happen. Crime opportunity theory (ratortunity), which underpins Crime Science, is not about opportunity, it is not a theory, it cannot rationally be a cause of anything - never mind a cause of crime - and it certainly is not scientific.
Combined with Karl Popper's definition of pseudoscience as being something underpinned by theories and hypotheses that are irrefutable, Deutsch's own unique reasoning about good explanations being those that are difficult to vary allows us to demonstrate quite clearly that ratortunity (Crime Opportunity Theory) most certainly cannot be a cause of crime. Because the only way that ratortunity could be refuted for crimes in everyday life    is if guardians could be both present and capable of preventing crimes that, somehow, happened anyway.
Criminology students, criminal justice students, crime science students, policy makers   and police officers - this video is essential viewing for you, your professors, and those pseudoscientists that you are paying to play around with inefficient rule-of-thumb crime reduction and policing models    based upon demonstrably irrational premises.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Is the Home Office Facilitating a Myth about fear of Crime?

Counter-intuitively, it is not a myth that earwigs enter human ears   , or that ants may get into your pants   , but it is very unlikely to happen to you inside your home or while walking about outside. Hence, we tend to say that the risk of either of these events happening to anyone is extremely low. If however you were to fall asleep in a flower bed of dahlias or beside a nest of ants then the risks of personal earwig or ant infestation would be significantly increased. And so it is with crime. The chances of being robbed, burgled or murdered may be relatively low – across the board - at a national level. But the risks faced by individuals living or working in high crime areas will be significantly higher.

For those living in high crime areas, the orthodox view that fear of crime is greater than the reality of crime    could well turn out to be another super myth that affects thinking and diverts attention away from tackling real problems and from identifying effective crime reduction and policing practice. Muddled academic and official thinking can occur in this area because at a national level, at least in the industrialized western world, the overall level of fear of crime, or incidences of specific anxiety of crime is greater than the actual risk. That said, people living in particularly notorious high crime areas may have an overall level of anxiety    or individual incidences of fear of crime that are more commensurate with their actual risk    of being victimised.

The problem is that the British Crime Survey (BCS) does not sample real high crime areas – it takes a proxy sample instead, which in reality involves analysts of the data creating a high crime area sub-sample of respondents according to the housing architectural type they live in. In doing this the BCS high crime sample is created on the basis of two assumptions: (1) that certain housing architectural types are public sector built and (2) when combined with other variables such as low household income and unemployment they are in high crime areas. In fact, they may be neither. By determining what are and are not high crime areas in this way, the BCS proxy sampling most probably waters down its sample of respondents in real high crime areas with a sample of respondents from low or medium crime areas.

In order to seek to know whether those living in real – geographically defined – high crime areas fear crime more than those in lower crime areas the Home office should conduct a regular booster sample of respondents living in real high crime neighbourhoods. Until this is done, policy making    and policing that is based on the belief that fear of crime is greater than the reality of crime    is likely to lead to practice based on dubious information.    The need for a booster sample of notorious high crime neighbourhoods is something that I and my colleague Machi Tseloni call for in our recently published paper:

Sutton, M. and Tseloni, A. (2011). Area Crime and Fear of Crime Levels: Has analysis of the British Crime Survey diluted crime concentration and homogenised risk?' Criminology [εγκληματολογία ](Special Issue): Fear of Crime: A Comparative Approach in the European Context. pp. 32-39. In. C. Zarafonitou. (Guest Editor) October 2011 Athens: Law Library.