Another take on science

Do the social sciences deserve the word “science” connected to them?


Critics argue no because of many flaws, yet they fail to make critical connections that prove otherwise. There are indeed many connections between the so-called natural sciences (biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, etc.) and the social sciences linking these two disciplines together.


The Merriam-Webster definition of the word science allocates much grey between the black and the white. Science is defined as "the state of knowing; knowledge as distinguished from ignorance or misunderstanding" and "a department of systematized knowledge as an object of study… something that may be studied or learned like systematized knowledge."


This is a far cry from the definition of science many of us are familiar with from our grade school days. Back then, the blacks and the whites were apparent, but as we continued with our schooling, those solid boundaries faded significantly.


All science is based on theories. While the theories and the laws of the natural sciences are apparent (like the Theory of Relativity) the theories of the social sciences are more specific in each sub-field, each theory with endless possibilities in terms of connections.


For example, political science theories of social organization, like capitalism, socialism and Marxism, are applicable to other sub-fields like international relations, or even entire social science fields like economics. In turn, other social science sub-fields contribute to political science with their theories and research.


The major difference between the natural sciences and the social sciences is simply the fact that "natural" sciences study the world and everything in it while "social" sciences study humans and their environment.


Psychology is a prime example of a field bridging both disciplines.


While psychology looks at what makes humans tick at a microscopic level, it also looks at how this affects humans in their environment. In a way, other fields of social sciences also employ the scientific method in their research, but its not the lone quality that makes social sciences worthy of the title "science."


Experiments in the social sciences follow the procedures of the scientific method meticulously. Case studies and critical research analyses begin with hypotheses, data is gathered through a strict set of procedures derived from ethical and practical concerns, verified with tests of validity and reliability consistent with fields in the natural sciences. The analysis is merely the part where the data is torn apart and observed. This applies to every social science field, and every sub-field associated with it.


Of course, we all know numbers do not always tell the whole truth, and unknowns are everywhere. However, simply because one small part of a field does not meet logic (in the scientific sense) or fulfil the definition of the sciences, it does not mean the entire field is not a science.


Some fields of the social sciences are known to be related to the unpredictable or the unknown, but this does not diminish the value of the social sciences, for there are other fields to make up for that.


In the social sciences, the name science is not tossed around in vain, there is a reason why it is placed where it is. One simply needs to look closer and to let go of their previous assumptions.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.