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George Becker

Associate Professor of Sociology

To what extent can scholarly knowledge claims be trusted?

My primary research interest involves a critical examination of several taken-for-granted knowledge claims in the fields of sociology and psychiatry. My intent is to refine our understanding of such claims and, where the evidence merits, put these claims into question.

My efforts in this regard have focused on two celebrated theses from Weber and Merton. My findings challenge a central argument of Weber’s thesis, one that links the historically larger number of Protestant to Catholic scientists to differences in the denomination’s core religious values. I argue, by reference to Germany, that denominational differences in the number of scientists are linked to the historical impact of households with Catholic celibate and Protestant noncelibate clergy. In psychiatry, my research interest focuses on the Western belief that there is a close connection between creativity and psychopathology. I challenge the dominant clinical and scholarly position which views this connection as a pervasive phenomenon with decided biological roots, independent of such factors as time, place or cultural difference.