In an article entitled “The Expansion of the Scope of Science” (J. Washington Acad. Sci., 37, No. 6; June 15, 1947), Leslie A. White attempts to assess the ages and degrees of maturity of the sciences. The following ‘law’ is stated: “Scientific interpretation will appear to grow fastest in those areas where the determinants of human behaviour are the weakest and least significant”. These determinants are least effective where the identification of the self with the external world is weakest, that is, in relation to the heavenly bodies and other inanimate objects; hence the success of astronomy, physics and chemistry. The new interpretation has then spread to the biological sciences: anatomy, physiology, psychology and sociology, in that temporal order. Dr. White regards the latest science, culturology, as in a sense superior to all the others. Many sociologists and anthropologists, for example, Ralph Linton, Robert S. Lynd and Margaret Mead, agree that the study of culture is often neglected, and approve a present tendency to study personality in its cultural background or context. But Dr. White disapproves strongly of what he calls “the exponents of ‘free will’ in anthropology”, yet when he writes “present day anthropology is both anti-evolutionist and anti-culturological” the reader may wonder what he means by free will, evolution and culturology.
Rights and permissions
About this article
Cite this article
A Study of Cultural Phenomena. Nature 160, 743–744 (1947). https://doi.org/10.1038/160743e0