By Don Crewe (auth.)
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Extra resources for Becoming Criminal: The Socio-Cultural Origins of Law, Transgression, and Deviance
This is further illustrated by Salmon when he uses the example of juvenile delinquency. The occurrence of delinquency in a population of juveniles is a low probability event, nonetheless, statistically relevant things can be said concerning explanations of the occurrence of delinquency, such as gang membership, socio economic deprivation and so on, none of which predict individual delinquents or delinquent events, but contribute to an explanation in virtue of their statistically assessed relevance: not their high or low absolute probability.
These may be termed problems of asymmetry and problems of irrelevance. One counterexample concerning asymmetry involves the explanation of the length of a shadow. If we know the length of the pole casting a shadow and the height of the sun, we can explain and predict the length of the shadow cast by the pole. However, while knowledge of the laws involved allows us to explain why the shadow has a particular length, the same knowledge of laws and measurements in no way explains the length of the pole.
For example, if the likelihood of John contracting ovarian cancer is measured both with and without him having taken the anti-cancer drug, it will be seen that his probability of getting ovarian cancer does not change. Consequently, in the SR model, it is deduced that the taking of the drug is statistically irrelevant and thus explanatorily irrelevant. When criminologists measure the frequency of criminal events at an office building both in the presence of capable guardians, and in their absence, it can be ascertained that the likelihood of criminal events increases in the absence of guards.