Ben SmithSenior Seminar p.4December 5, 2011 Natural and Human SciencesNatural Sciences: Science has allowed humans to achieve a number of great things Many people see the sciences as the dominant cognitive paradigm or model of knowledge o Some people also argue that science is only “road to knowledge” and that if it cannot be proven scientifically, then you can’t claim to know it Although science has been successful, humans should not believe everything that has been said to have been “proved by science” because it has its weaknesses and limitations o Scientific beliefs change over time, so “we might wonder how far the natural sciences really do give us certainty” Many people have begun to question the benefits of science o A “backlash against ‘science worship’” Some people even believe that scientists are playing god and messing with things they don’t understand such as nuclear war or cloning Do the benefits outweigh the costs of scientific experimentations? The Scientific Method: o To distinguish between science and non-science, there is a specific method This view suggests that science is not a fixed body of knowledge, but more of a way of thinking of the world o Inductivism: Otherwise known as the scientific method Five key steps Observation Hypothesis Experiment Law Theory Scientists begin by observing and classifying relevant data, then look for a pattern and formulate a hypothesis Then make a prediction which can be tested through experimentation Controllability o Change one variable at a time to observe its affects Measurability o Measure relevant variables to add precision and objectivity Repeatability o Able to be repeated by others to confirm the results If the results confirm the hypothesis, then it is perhaps a scientific law
After that, a theory can be applied to relate more than one law to another in order to provide further research EX: The Copernican Revolution The model of the solar system Important points: Scientific progress need a background of careful observation Technology can extend our powers of observation making it easier to test new ideas Imagination plays an important role in the development of new ideas Mathematics also plays a central role in the development of scientific ideas Many scientific discoveries are counterintuitiveProblems With Observation: o Science is based on straightforward observation, but observation is not straightforward Relevance We always begin with an idea of what is relevant or not o If we didn’t, we would drown in a flood of observations However, we may overlook an important factor if we have closed minds to begin with Expectations Our expectations can influence what we see Expert Seeing Using scientific devices to make observations complicates things o Sometimes the instruments are not exact or made well The Observer Effect The act of observation can sometimes affect what we observe o Measuring the human affect with the actual thing you are measuringTesting Hypotheses o Confirmation Bias People tend to look for evidence that confirms their beliefs and overlook evidence against them A good scientist is aware of confirmation bias and actively seeks to combat it Scientists sometimes take only the data that follows their hypothesis and exclude the data that refutes it o Background Assumptions We make background assumptions when testing a hypothesis Some could be wrong Ex: Copernicus and the parallax o Many Different Hypotheses
It is possible to prove that a number of hypotheses could fit a certain set of data, therefore it is impossible to prove that any are true The Principle of Simplicity states that for two competing arguments, the more simple one is usually preferredScience and Society o Neither inductivism nor falsificationism can give an adequate account of the nature of science A paradigm is an overarching theory shared by a community of scientists in order to make sense of some aspect of reality o Normal Science Popper vs. Kuhn Many scientists were solving problems within a paradigm, while others were taking the paradigm for granted Science cannot progress if the scientists are always questioning their assumption o Scientific Revolutions Takes place when scientists become unsatisfied with the prevailing paradigm and put forward a completely new way of looking at things If the new ideas are successful, then they become the new paradigm and then another period of normal science occurs If the current paradigm can resolve widespread questions, then a revolution is not likely, however if the amount of widespread questions grows, then it is likely that a new paradigm will be found to answer most of those questions o How Rational is Science? During periods of scientific crisis, there is no definite point at which to say that it is irrational or unscientific to adhere to the old paradigm Kuhn compared switching paradigms to converting religions – which can be influenced by non-scientific factors such as personal ambition and social pressure The social context plays a big role in the development of science and may influence what scientists choose to research o Assessment of Kuhn’s Position Normal Science There is some truth in Kuhn’s theory that most scientists work within the current paradigm o However, in order to make proper investigations and know as much as we can about the world, we must question our assumptions from time to time Scientific Revolutions Even though it may seem like it, one new paradigm does not completely take over and make the other one disappear.
it is reasonable to assume that science will progress in a cumulative way in the future Choosing Between Rival Paradigms Kuhn claims that there is no way to decide between rival paradigms, that a scientists beliefs will be influenced by their societyHuman Sciences: Human sciences are an attempt to reduce the mystery of the human body by studying human behavior in a systematic way It is hard to say that we can be studied purely through science, because we are more than just animals or a bunch of chemicals – we are self conscious animals Humans also have the ability to use language, reason, free-will, and creativity o Observation Although behavior can be observed, peoples minds cannot be o May be able to make an educated guess, but never entirely sure Loaded Questions It isn’t easy to frame questions in a unbiased way There is often a difference between what people say they would do in a hypothetical situation and what they actually do in reality The Observer Effect The effect which occurs when the person being observed is conscious that they are being observed and may change their behavior as a result A possible fix for the observer effect is to ‘go native’ or spend an extended period of time observing the subject so that they don’t mind the presence and act normally Another fix may be to use hidden cameras, but that raises ethical questions Psychology o The two groups of students performed differently based on the teachers expectations Economics o If people expect prices to rise, they will buy now and try to sell later, but if they expect prices to fall, they will sell now and try to buy later. When people expect the market to rise, it will, and when people expect the market to fall, it will Anthropology o If a voodoo sorcerer casts a death spell on a person in his tribe, then they will die not from the ‘spell’, but from their expectations that the spell will kill them, altering they lifestyle o Laws The main goal of science is to develop laws and theories in order to explain the phenomena that it studies – however, the human sciences
believe in human free-will, which seems to conflict with the idea that there are laws for human behavior The Law of Large Numbers Although human behavior might be unpredictable, we can make supprisingly accurate predictions about short term large scale things The Law of Large Numbers says that in a large population, random variations tend to cancel out Human nature is can be predicted with probabilities because of large group measurement Trends and Laws The human sciences do not have a very good record of predictions A trend only shows the direction in which a variable is moving o Phillips curve – post hoc ergo propter hoc The Complexity of Real World Situations Another problem in dealing with human sciences laws is the complexity of the problems