Social Sciences Questions and Answers

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How would social sciences help natural science, and in what way?

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Understanding the distinction between social sciences and natural science provides a partial clue to the question. The social sciences involve the study of human relationships. Along with Sociology and Psychology, the social sciences include diverse fields as Political Science, Economics, Anthropology, Geography, and Linguistics (as well as many others). Some refer to the fields as part of the humanities, which consists of the fields of Religious Studies, Philosophy, Literature, Art, and History, to name a few.

The natural sciences deal with understanding the physical world through observation and the collection or interpretation of empirical data. Some of the more common fields under natural science are Chemistry, Physics, Biology, Engineering, and Geology. Some members of the scientific community refer to these fields as the hard sciences and refer to the social sciences as the soft sciences.

Practitioners of fields in the area of natural science believe empirical data and experimentation that is replicable and produces the same results during replication is the critical distinguishing factor between the sciences. When they refer to social science as a soft science, this is a derogatory comment meant to highlight the essential components of natural science: experimentation and results from empirical data.

It is not the case that social scientists do not derive their results or observations from empirical data. They do. It is the case because social sciences are human-based, social scientists are ethically bound and unable to conduct certain types of empirical inquiries, and therein lies the central issue natural scientists have with social scientists. Human behavior and human relationships are ostensibly somewhat unpredictable. Experiments involving humans are not always as clear cut as to the meaning as an experiment involving a chemical reaction.

All science has a human element. How social science is critical to natural science is the social sciences act as the social conscience to the work of the natural scientist. The natural sciences produce incredible amounts of valuable and useful products that better humankind in general. It is as much of a fallacy to believe that natural scientists have no ethical code or inherent responsibility to society, as it is to call the social sciences as soft and non-scientific. It is the social sciences that question the impacts of scientific discovery, the efficacy of its use, and value to society.

Bioethical issues in genetic testing is an example of where a social scientist might assist a natural scientist in how best to apply genetic discoveries to better society as a whole. Social science is valuable to natural science as a moderating force. Unrestrained science is detrimental to society.

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