Started by Sure, July 20, 2010, 08:32:07 PM
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QuoteAh, psychology. It's caught in the middle between science and pure discipline. We learned a lot from the original Stanford Prison Experiment, and we confirmed a lot of those lessons when the BBC repeated the SPE in 2000. We learned a lot from Milgram. Putting ethics aside for the moment, those were experiments in the human mind that were controlled, that were designed to prove or disprove an hypothesis. Milgram's experiment especially seems to embody the scientific method beautifully. But what did Jung learn from experimentation and not speculation? Psychology could perhaps be used in a more scientific fashion, but it seems like more often it's used in the fashion of a discipline, based on speculation and 'gut feelings'.
QuoteSociology and anthropology (at least on the cultural side, as stated above) overlap in a lot of places, and they have a lot of the same problems when it comes to defining them as a science. The scientific method is very simple: hypothesis, experiment, data, conclusion. It's not just something for 5th-grade science teachers to torment students with. While sociology and anthropology are both very good at forming hypotheses - it is, after all, the easy part - they aren't so good at the rest of the scientific method. Sociology might, as a completely stereotypical example, form the hypothesis that youths in inner cities have a higher dropout rate because of external pressures such as gangs, family, and peers. Specifically (the hypothesis might continue), it's because academics are sorely undervalued in this environment, while the characteristics of a street-smart 'tough guy/gal' are far more valued. Ergo, the higher dropout rate in inner cities is due to societal pressure and not necessarily due to lack of academic ability. But how does one prove that? By observation? Where is the control? One can certainly deal with statistics, but statistics are raw data, without a lot of context behind them, and the methods of gathering them can sometimes be questionable. (For instance, I have yet to run across a formal survey that didn't seem to be putting words in my mouth, at least a little, in how the questions are formed.)
QuoteScience is supposed to be the ordered search for knowledge and answers. It is not about the tools so much as the methods. Science is exacting, and as precise as possible. Scientists have developed many tools to facilitate this, but the tools are not actually the trade. Using your example of the Stress-o-meter, there isn't one and there probably is not one in development because it's not needed. We don't need psychology; we can isolate stress hormones to determine if someone is under stress, and compare it to a baseline in order to determine how stressed they are.If we really want to get frisky, we could note down physical characteristics of stress and record them against levels of stress hormones. At 10 mg/mL of 'stressitol' (my made up stress hormone), the subject's pupils start contracting. At 20 mg/mL of stressitol, the subject will start visibly sweating and fidgeting will be more pronounced. Etc. Do this enough times across enough people and you start to get a baseline of how humans react to being stressed out. Most chemicals cause physical reactions in the body (such as narcotics causing the pupils to dilate) and this theoretical stressitol would be no different. If we pay attention, we can document the physical signs… and all without psychology or to much guesswork, and without trying to read the person's mind. Since stressitol is an alcohol, by the way, it obviously would be degraded into sugar, explaining the burst of energy during and directly after stress, followed by a sudden crash similar to the one experienced after a 'sugar high'. This is just one example of the things that can be explained with chemistry alone, without involving anything from a soft science.
QuoteI would venture to say that the soft sciences deal more with relatives, while hard sciences deal more with absolutes. The temperature of absolute zero IS 0 Kelvin. The rate of reactions, how much heat they produce, even the amount of energy required to overcome entropy and kick off a reaction - these are all quantifiable, measurable, definitive save for perhaps a little room for instrument or operator error. They are thus because past scientists have worked through the scientific method and placed values as accurately as possible on those things. In contrast, a lot of research has been done for soft sciences, but they deal more with "Is Jan feeling more stressed by this pressure than Jim?" and similar questions. It isn't that they are not valid, but the answers are not pursued in a scientific manner.
QuoteThe application of the scientific method relates to the manner in which a subject is employed. Certainly, chemistry and physics textbooks don't utilize the scientific method when they teach; that would be a little silly when you're trying to explain the basics of an atom to someone. So, the subject itself is not expected to apply the scientific method. However, once one leaves the realm of basics and moves into applied territory, the scientific method becomes important. Saying that lack of application of the scientific method is the fault of the discipline and not the subject is like saying that rain is the fault of the water but not the clouds. Unless I am misunderstanding your meaning with that, which I may be.
QuoteThe study of humans is governed by its own rules in all areas; hard science and soft science alike have their rules for what is ethical to to do other people. We do learn a lot when those rules are disregarded, also, but neither makes it easier to control. However, there are some very clever psychology experiments out there that control for things pretty well. Like I said, psych seems to ride the line. Less so with sociology and anthropology. With these, either you're just watching what happens without actually actively testing anything, or you're putting a city full of unsuspecting subjects through an experiment with no control. This could be considered the human experiment, but that seems to be more tongue in cheek than anything.
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