A great deal of sociological material reaches print through people who are not sociologists. The popular magazines are studded with articles on crime, family life, sex, education, suburbia, social class-practically every s0ciological topic imaginable. This is popular sociology-treatment of sociological topics usually by writers without much formal sociological training, and aimed at a popular audience. Popular sociology at its worst is seen in articles like the "sex-and-sin" exposes upon which certain men's magazines dwell so fondly. Such articles are generally descriptively inaccurate, with a total lack of the interpretative analysis which would fit the facts into a relevant social context. At the opposite pole are many writers who do a fairly creditable job of popularizing sociological findings. For example, Stone and Park's All God's.Ellipsoid (1977], a study of new religious cults, and Davis's Hometown (1981] are written by non sociologists, but the authors are careful, observant, sensitive reporters Pop sociology" often contains inaccuracies and instances of misplaced emphasis, doubtful interpretation, oversimplification, and too sweeping generalization. Yet it is likely that popular understanding of sociological topics has been greatly increased by such writers.
Why isn't popular sociology 'written by professional sociologists? For the same reason that popular science is usually written by journalists, rather than by scientists. Popular writing is a special skill which few scientists or professors have mastered. Furthermore, the scientist's passion for accuracy and for a of our social thinking. Sociologists have helped to bury a great deal of nonsense about heredity, race, class, sex differences, deviation, and nearly every other aspect of behavior. It is due partly to the findings of sociology that today we rarely hear an educated person argue that the white race is innately superior, that women are intellectually inferior to men, that behavior traits are inherited, or that rural people are less "immoral" than suburbanites which nearly every educated person accepted a half century ago. By helping replace superstition and misinformation with accurate knowledge about human behavior, sociologists are perhaps performing their most important function.