In order for sociology to become a respected science, it is necessary to have not only qualitative distinctions but also quantitative measurements. Description itself often implies, at least, enumeration, as when we describe population according to sex, age, and conjugal condition. Classification, again, is a method of description by enumeration, as when we arrange societies according to form of religious belief, fetishism, polytheism, and monotheism, or classify the members of a given community, as Protestants, Catholics, and Jews. Mere description may, indeed, suffice to prove the co-existence of social phenomena, as we find more primitive societies accompanied by fetishism, a rude economic organization, little government, and low standards of conduct. But co-existences may be defined more sharply by enumeration, as when we compare the number of illegitimate births in a Catholic population with those in a Protestant similarly situated. And when we come to sequences in time which seem to bear the relation of cause and effect, we need quantitative measurements. A scarcity of food slows the natural increase of population. This may be demonstrated more conclusively by comparing the increasing price of food with the increased death-rate and the diminished marriage and birth rate. Wherever it is possible, we seek to supplement our qualitative descriptions with quantitative measurements.
It is the science of statistics that serves the purpose described above. It gives us the quantitative measurements of social phenomena which are required for the analysis of social organization, i.e., for sociology. Statistics consists in the observation of phenomena which can be counted or expressed in figures. It always finds a quantitative expression for phenomena or their relations. It must be observed that the method of statistical observation is not of universal application. In some cases it is unnecessary, in others it is inadequate. In order to perceive the connection between aboriginal religions and fetishism, it is not necessary for us to have statistics either of economic condition or of religious confession. The fact stands out of itself simply by the consensus of observation of travelers and historians. On the other hand, it is difficult to express the relation between economic condition or religious feeling and aesthetic development, in a civilized state, because music, painting, and sculpture cannot in any way be measured statistically. This is a question of quality, and not in any sense one of quantity.
But there are many phenomena which allow of quantitative measurement, or at least of comparison of greater or less. In mentioning these, we shall follow the order indicated above. All classification of population, whether on demographic, social, or ethnographic lines, is on the basis of statistics. Demographic distinctions (age, sex, and conjugal condition) are fundamental for any society, and their influence pervades the whole social organization. The distinctions seem to be very simple, being given either by nature (sex and age) or by well-established social institutions (conjugal condition). But behind the mere classifications lie the great social factors, birth, marriage, and death, what make up and control the life both of the individual and of society. Vital statistics not only measure the growth or decay of population but reveal to us normal and abnormal conditions, the working of great social influences or the presence of anti-social forces. Take a decreasing marriage rate, is it a sign of forethought and prudence or an indication of luxury and vice, and what will be the result in terms of population and social morality? Any analysis of humankind according to these various forms of association depends on statistics, for the only quantitative measurement we have for these relations is enumeration of the number of individuals in a group.
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