Methodological Fallacies in Anthony's Critique of Exit Cost Analysis - 2002-01-01
Brainwashing has been by far the most controversial topic among scholars studying new religious movements. It is not my purpose here today to convince you that brainwashing happens in New Religious Movements but merely that there exists a theory that we can use to determine empirically whether or not it does.
In a recent book called Misunderstanding Cults (Zablocki & Robbins, 2001), I attempted to lay out such a clearly stated, well-formed, empirically testable, and epistemologically falsifiable sociological theory that would locate the concept within the field of social psychology as an ordinary (albeit extremely powerful) process of social influence. Dick Anthony (2001) replied, in the same book, with a massive 103-page critique of this effort, arguing that I had failed miserably in the attempt. He argued that what I thought of as my little theory was not merely empirically false but bogus science, as well—that is, it was not really a theory at all, but a bunch of double-talk masquerading as a theory.
The purpose of this paper is to evaluate the validity of Anthony's critique. My method of evaluation has been to identify all of the propositional statements in Anthony's chapter and to determine which, if any, of them constitute valid scholarly criticisms of my theory as I stated it. After I isolate only those propositions that meet the test of credibility, it should then be possible to determine whether these propositions constitute a complete refutation of my theory, a partial refutation, or no refutation at all.