Skip to main content

BA with Honors, 1969; Ph.D. 1975

I was born in Asheville NC in 1946 — to a rigid Presbyterian father and fun-loving extremely kind and empathetic mother. (The famous child psychologist Jean Piaget had a similar experience of parents and he was to later say that’s why he studied social sciences — to try to figure out which parent had it “right!”) I could probably say the same thing. I have been “semi-retired” (except for online courses) for about 5 years now. For details of my academic publications and presentations you can go to University of Texas at Arlington’s “Mentis” page and search for my name.

Now for a bit of longitudinal information: In the 60s we young people were all supposed to be serving in Vietnam or trying to go to the moon — if not in college continuously (the Draft, you know) — we each had to maintain a high GPA or be drafted into the military. Later the Government would go to a “lottery system” based on random birthdays, but that was only near the end of the “conflict” — Note: it never was officially a “war.”

Like most freshmen, I had no real idea of what I wanted to major in but I had always loved tinkering with exotic cars so I chose North Carolina State University in Mechanical Engineering (Aerospace option). I chose the later submajor because I wanted to be the first man on Mars, and Arthur C Clark’s famous novel 2001 implied it would be possible much sooner than reality proved Mars to be. And I had joined the Air Force ROTC. However, the Vietnam conflict came along and I was quick to realize if you washed out of test pilot school you would soon be flying missions over “Nam.” I had no interest in “going to interesting places, meet interesting people, and killing them.” (common saying at the time).

I had taken one sociology course and one anthro course, which I found very appealing, In my fourth year at State, I was able to transfer to UNC-CH as a junior majoring in Sociology. I went and took the special area exam of the GRE in Sociology and scored the 98th percentile! — I had found my life’s work. The following summer I participated in an NSF-funded project for undergrads headed by Richard Cramer.  We constructed and carried out a door-to-door survey of residents of Durham.   I think I learned more sociology per hour on that project than during any other time in my life.   Dr. Cramer also supervised my Honors undergraduate thesis in a friendly and hugely competent manner.

But there was a catch, and it was in my brain. One day back at State I had been sitting in the Mechanical Engineering Library and thinking how many times in my courses I had been told science should be “value-free.” It seemed to me this was very convenient for the politicians who would use the knowledge for their own ends without having to worry about annoying objections from those who created the knowledge in the first place. And besides, completely value-free science was impossible! (Even the questions we ask in science are value judgements, why didn’t we ask some other! question/s?). The tools we choose to study phenomena imply we think we already have some idea of what we will find. We will perhaps miss the most important finding if our values lead us to choose the wrong tools of investigation. So I realized that I needed, and wanted, to study the social and political uses of scientific knowledge. (It would be years in the future before there were programs in “Science, Knowledge, and Technology Studies”).

These concerns were not really reflected in either my undergraduate Honors work or in my engagement as a sort of protégée to the Head of the Developmental Psychology Program who headed up the very rightfully famous Frank Porter Graham Center for Child Development Studies unit at UNC-CH. When Prof. Hal Robinson left UNC-CH and took over as Head of Child Psych at the University of Washington he invited me to go with him after I graduated at mid-year. I could not resist this offer even though I had also been provisionally accepted to Harvard. But both programs would begin in the fall, which would leave me out of school and draftable for 6 months. (Also, I was promised at U of W to be one of the first people behind the Iron Curtain to study Soviet child socialization — a promise that was never fulfilled).

I received a “1-A” invitation to Vietnam at this time and had to decide whether to go to Canada (just up the road) or to federal prison. Fortunately, at the last moment I received a medical deferment, but it was too late to go back to grad school. Fortunately, since I had graduated from UNC-CH with Honors — and the first person to be allowed to skip the Master’s degree in Sociology (based on my undergraduate research thesis — funded by NSF) — I was invited back to UNC’s graduate sociology program in the spring term (and it was now that I finally learned it was the third ranked such program in the U. S.; so much for researching my career ahead of time!). Besides, I had just met my gorgeous and super-intelligent future wife, Susan, in the Sociology PhD program and it appealed to me to hang around her for a while longer.

When I finished my graduate coursework at UNC, I taught for one year in the Department while waiting for my wife to finish her own PhD. Unusually, I did not teach Intro, but Criminology. This is because the very excellent criminologist Gary Jensen had become my friend and a mentor. When Gary left for U of Arizona, they had no criminologist in the Department and I was allowed to take over this role long before it should have been the case. So the first half of my career was focused on crime and delinquency. (There were not yet any Criminal Justice PhD programs in the U.S., but I chose to focus anyway not on law and punishment, but instead on how defective or alternate socialization led to crime and delinquency).

In any case, after finishing at Chapel Hill, Susan and I went off to Texas, where I became a tenured faculty member at UT-Arlington for many years until I recently phased into part-time Adjunct status. For many years I was frustrated to a degree by not seeing the development of the social study of science and technology. When that field began to open up about half way through my career I did something only a tenured university academician can routinely do: I changed my career without changing my office.

In phase II of my career I began to study what people knew about science and technology (not much) and could cognitive development theories and education do anything to improve the situation. This is also about the time I wrote my first e-text instead of another research article. It was written in HTML using Macromedia’s Dreamweaver software because Blackboard did not yet exist. Later this course would become a Blackboard course, and still later Great River Learning (a love of my life) would pick it up as a true electronic book with its own ISBN number and funds to greatly improve the content and offer features otherwise impossible in the early versions of Blackboard. It was also based on “mastery learning” (thank you Jim Wiggins at UNC).

Mastery learning requires the student to get the right answer every time for a block of material before moving on. And with Great River’s help we provided both automated and real-person 24/7 tutoring if the student still could not get the answer right. I’d like to argue this book is the first true example of artificial intelligence at work in an Intro book. (Makes the student happy because they almost always get a high grade and makes the University happy because there is almost no dropout, plus there is increased enrollment). This would eventually lead to a second book with Great River Learning: “Introduction to Criminology” — which also uses mastery learning.

Meantime I became interested in social psychology research of attitudes. In particular I became fascinated with why people believed in the wildest kinds of pseudoscientific ideas and beliefs: ghosts, psycho kinesis, UFOs and aliens, etc. I was warned by colleagues that studying these topics would ruin my career. But I wanted to show that weird beliefs did not require weird explanations. That mainstream ideas from the social sciences could account for weird beliefs as readily as for “normal” beliefs.

Unexpectedly and eventually, I began to realize that a lot of social “science” wasn’t! (Science that is). Even more controversially I began to debunk the science behind a lot of the work of colleagues (racial theories, quack psychotherapies, the DSM manuals used to diagnose mental “illnesses” and the medical model that was inevitably and often incorrectly used, for all types of mental aberrations). This of course implies all mental disturbance comes from within instead of often from external social forces. So I began teaching and writing about deviant behavior and beliefs in general.

One unanticipated consequence was that I suddenly found myself the chosen head for a social science team by lawyers defending the Branch Davidian cult — that was to eventually meet a fiery death in Waco, Texas (about 100 miles south of my office). That experience led later to being asked to be on a small committee that organized research for the national network of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, and that led to doing some really interesting work with the Arlington, Texas, Police Department on the new field of “community-oriented” policing — where the police, community leaders, and community organizations act as coordinating partners in crime prevention.

However, during this time I had also begun to work with the National Center for Science Education (on the edge of the Berkeley, CA campus) on how to get pseudoscience out of, and good science education into, the classroom. I was able to show with data in print that a lot of pseudoscience was not merely ignorance but was subject to social pressures in the family and community. I began to specialize for a while in trying to protect evolution from removal from the science (not other) classrooms. An example of this work I did would be a survey of all the high school biology and life science teachers in Texas. The analysis of which showed only a very small percentage rejecting evolution. This result, in turn, meant lots of TV appearances and arguments in front of state legislators that evolution should not be removed from the nation’s science classrooms.

I had by now also realized, as a result of teaching PhD level statistics and methods, that a lot of studies in the top journals of sociology were themselves examples of pseudoscience. This is because, sadly, most social science faculty do not get higher order training in statistics. As a result their impressive looking path models are typically dependent on linear regression techniques. This, however, ultimately means they can’t really handle interaction terms very well, and certainly cannot deal with feedback loops in their models. (When is the last time you saw a social dynamic that was not non-linear?) So I edited and partially wrote a book for Sage Press entitled: “Chaos, Complexity, and Sociology Myths, Models, and Theories,” Raymond A. Eve with Sara Horsfall, Mary E. Lee (editors) Published: June 1997.

I expected only social scientists to read this book, but it appears that it has leaked over into the physical sciences. I often receive solicitations now from physicists, particle scientists, artificial intelligence researchers to give talks or submit writings re using the information and models presented in the book just mentioned.

I wish to close with a strong word of thanks for my friends and partners at Great River Publishing. I have about 1,000 students per year currently using two ebooks (with integrated coursework) that are partnered by me with Great River Learning (and Academic Partnerships, and UTA’s Center for Distance Learning). Without Great River there is no way this 24/7 learning and feedback would be possible for a lot of people, so I will be eternally grateful for their help and feedback in making it all possible.

Submitted December 2018