Editor’s Note: Let’s face it–there was an awful lot to chew on in the recent roundtable on David Courtwright’s essay. A private exchange between Ron Roizen and David Courtwright has led, with David’s encouragement, to Ron organizing his thoughts as a follow up to David’s reply to our series of commenters.
In a series of recent papers historian David Courtwright has managed to put together some excellent sociology-of-drug-science analyses.(1) For this he well deserves our congratulations and thanks. Yet, I have reservations about the reply David recently offered to his Points’ commenters.
There’s an echo of Kuhn’s concept of “normal science” in David’s reply – particularly in his optimistic view that future research focused by the “NIDA paradigm” will serve to invite new studies at increasingly complex and interesting levels of inquiry, thus giving rise to new knowledge that might not otherwise have seen the light of day. The main thrust of David’s reply is that a happy co-existence is possible between NIDA’s reductionist paradigm and the anti-reductionist inclinations of many historians and social scientists. We in the “softer sciences,” David suggests, should, where appropriate, make use of the brain disease paradigm’s benefits and then turn to our own disciplinary tool kits when our inquiries require them.
I balk at this position for a number of reasons. First, there is the question of consistency in David’s argument. I was so taken by the following passage in David’s Addiction article that I fired off the full quotation, via email, to Stanton Peele: