The determinations of social sciences are less objective than physical sciences

February 17, 2015, 1:54 pm

Agree27 Disagree13

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The debate "The determinations of social sciences are less objective than physical sciences" was started by I_Voyager on February 17, 2015, 1:54 pm. 27 people are on the agree side of this discussion, while 13 people are on the disagree side. That might be enough to see the common perception. It looks like most of the people in this community are on the agreeing side of this statement.

I_Voyager posted 4 arguments to the agreers part.
PsychDave posted 4 arguments to the disagreers part.

I_Voyager, S2Sethi, liamjosephcash, Razzakel, LeaderOfDiscussion, BloodyCarousel, ameliajane, TmlxIss2cool, llthslvtr, priyanshukedia, Mrcolaman, castor and 15 visitors agree.
rubellum, PsychDave, Haelaeif, kennamarlaina1214 and 9 visitors disagree.

I_Voyager
replied to...

I guess it depends on whether we want to think of social events themselves as inherently social, or physical in nature. If we cannot come up with a way to explain a thing in a physical way, we have to rely on a more abstract system of thought to interpret what's happening. Consider quantum mechanics. It's definitely a physical science because we can come up with any number of physical tests to study the phenomenon there-in, but at the end of the day there's an observational barrier we haven't been able to cross for decades and in order to try and wrap our heads about the spooky action going on there we interpret the results of the study, which is not necessarily a physical method.

When we were studying people in the past we lacked good measurement tools to understand the physical phenomenon of social events. So we had to interpret studies of social phenomenon using social studies. But the reality around is is probably entirely physical, so one would say all those events are physical events just waiting to be classified. Since the physical reality is a priori to the social reality we perceive, when we are studying that a priori truth, we are conducting the study of events prior to the social event, so we are explaining the physical mechanism behind a social event.

But I agree with you that even if we were to look at it this way, the science is in it's infancy. We can study the mind physically, but we don't have a theory of mind yet. So the object of the mind is like that quantum unknown. Are we crossing that observational barrier though? Certainly, if only with baby steps. And every step more into physical objectiveness makes the science more objective. Thus when it is objective, it is behaving like a physical science. The fact of it being social science is not what is making it objective, so the social science itself is not objective - only in so far as it behaves like a physical science.

4 years, 2 months ago

That argument breaks down a bit in the crossover though. Is a physical study of a social situation a physical science or social? If a researcher is using a functional MRI to look at what happens when someone is embarrassed, it is using an objective measure to investigate a social event.

I do agree that eventually social science will get folded into physical science since it is all part of the same spectrum, but until we have a better understanding of the processes involved, I don't think it cam be reclassified yet. Right now, even when we are using objective measurements, we are still investigating how the mind works. Until we can explain how and predict the way we can with physical sciences, it is not ready.

4 years, 2 months ago
I_Voyager
replied to...

That depends on how you view the whole idea of reclassification or redefinition. But the fact of the modern age is a product of that continuous redefinition. I can summon a hundred words which are better defined today than previously, but science itself is the best word to look at. Science was once natural philosophy. We don't call it philosophy any more because it's method is more objective than that. I've heard non-scientists who are philosophers try to equate science to a philosophy still, though, as if they are all part of the same family. But things evolve and change.

Social sciences use social methods to study social objects. Physical sciences use physical methods to study physical objects. When psychology looks at your face and evaluates your words and compares it against your life experience and the body of psychological research to come up with a set pattern, it is purely social. Once a science starts using a physical method to come up with physical statements it deserves to be reclassified as a physical science.

At the moment, the language convention of society calls psychology a social science. But I guarantee you when psychology and neuroscience are indistinguishable, we won't relate with psychology any more. The study of the human psyche will be biological in nature, it'll be a subset of biology. It'll be neuromedicine or neuropsychology, but it won't be a social science anymore. When we can combine this data with big-data across society, the same will happen to sociology, and when we can compare that data across nations anthropology - in so far as it is the kind which looks at the present - will do the same.

4 years, 2 months ago

I was not making a semantic argument, I was demonstrating that there are times that social scientists use objective measurements to do their research. This is in direct opposition to a claim that they are less objective than physical sciences.

I may be misunderstanding, but it seems like you are arguing that social sciences are less objective than physical sciences because when they become objective they should be reclassified as physical sciences. If that is accurate, then this does seem like a semantic argument since you are essentially saying that your argument is valid, as long as we reclassify everything that would refute it. By definition under this new classification system social sciences would be less objective, but at the moment, whether a psychologist is using self assessment surveys or an MRI, they are still in the social sciences.

4 years, 2 months ago

This seems like a very semantic argument which doesn't undermine my claim. I think when psychology becomes a science that can study the physical object and form conclusions, it is no longer a social science before it is a physical science. Or perhaps it's a physically social science. Either way, it's no longer purely a social science. If it's at mostly or foundationally a physical science, it is objective. If it is entirely a social science, it is not.

4 years, 2 months ago

Depends on what he is looking into. If it is purely electrical stimulation of the brain that he is investigating, the neuroscience. If it is what parts of the brain is active when someone is exposed to something they are phobic about and how is that different from someone who does not have the phobia being exposed to the same stimulus then I would say it still falls under psychology. (I use that as an example since that is one I was a participant in when I was at university) They blend together the same way physics blends into chemistry, which in turn blends into biology. They are separate fields, but there are areas of crossover between them.

4 years, 2 months ago

But when a psychologist uses a neuroscientific method, is he still conducting psychology and social science? Or is he conducting neuroscience and thus physical science?

4 years, 2 months ago

It depends on which determinations you look at. Some certainly will, others will be exactly as objective. Psychologists using imaging to see what parts of the brain activate under different circumstances has precise, measurable data that is objective.

4 years, 2 months ago
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