Social Sciences

How should the skeptic look at the social sciences? How are they like the natural sciences? How are they different?

The natural sciences, such as physics, chemistry, biology and medicine, have been colloquially termed the "hard" sciences, as they are perceived as being more scientific, rigid and accurate. The social sciences, such as anthropology, archaeology, history, sociology, economics and political science, may use methods resembling those of the natural sciences (quantitative techniques) as tools for understanding society and they may use social critique or symbolic interpretation as well (qualitative techniques). Thus, the social sciences have been colloquially termed the "soft" sciences, as they are perceived as being less scientific, rigid and accurate.

From an analysis of the differences in acceptance of results from these two broad branches of science, a case can be made that there is a greater consensus of expert opinion regarding the issues addressed by the natural sciences as compared to the amount of consensus within the social sciences.

What does the above mean? The less scientifically "hard" the field of study, the greater the chance of a difference of opinion and, thus, the greater the chance that non-evidence based ideology will play a role. Thus, it is reasonable to conclude that an individual with an economic or political point of view, for example, would be wise to avoid being too dogmatic, rigid and/or extreme in that view.

It is this blogger's opinion that society would be more peaceful and respectful if individuals would take the above to heart and be more skeptical about their certainty in the areas addressed by the social sciences. Humility, which includes self-understanding and awareness, openness, and perspective taking, can be a virtue.

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