In an essay on her late husband’s work, Bernice Martin, also a sociologist, wrote:
To David, sociology was an art rather than a science, not simply because he loved and was steeped in the arts, most of all music and poetry, but because, with Weber, he was convinced that to treat it as a science on all fours with the ‘natural sciences’ fails to take proper account of the importance and complexity of meaning in society. Equally, it underestimates the nature of language as the medium through which the discipline operates. Both meaning and language are saturated with multi-layered usages, implications and images and cannot easily be confined to unambiguously representing empirical objects, facts or ideas. David believed in the importance of evidence as much as any historian and did not discount quantitative data but interrogated it as closely for the dimensions it elided or ‘defined out’ as for its obvious ‘findings’. Not all significant ‘social facts’ can be quantified. He did not believe, either, that truth is purely subjective or relative but rather something scholars should pursue as rigorously as their methods allow: some claims and generalisations are demonstrably wrong though others are subject to legitimately competing interpretations. He also argued consistently, and from long before it was an accepted view in the discipline, that all sociology is situated in a perspective that is inescapably rooted in values and inflected by the context out of which the writer works. That made him dubious, for example, about ‘methodological agnosticism’ as a route to ‘objectivity’ in the sociology of religion. His criticism of much of the discipline, particularly theories of secularisation on which he worked for decades, was not that it is ideological so much as that it does not recognise its own ideological nature when claiming objective status. It is too often prophecy, wishful thinking or dogma masquerading as science.