What is it about the theories in the human sciences and the natural sciences that make them convincing?
A theory is defined as “an idea or set of ideas that is intended to explain facts or events that is suggested or presented as possibly true but that is not know or proven to be true.”i Theories in the human and natural sciences are intended to give an explanation of various facets of our reality, although it is not possible for a theory to be completely proven, they give an explanation for the otherwise unknown; one reason for their convincing nature. The areas of study of the two fields are different and so are the methodologies used to construct theories within them; as a result the way that they are convincing also differs. However, these theories are open to dispute and are often adjusted, but are often taken for granted as factual. For one to be convinced by a theory it must be deemed valid for us to consider it as the truth. We measure validity in different ways in both these sciences, but what is it about the way that we measure validity in the human and natural sciences that make them convincing? In order to address what makes science convincing, the key terms, ’Human and natural sciences’ and ‘convincing’ have to be defined in order to narrow down the scope of the question. Natural science is defined as “a science (such as Physics, chemistry or biology) that studies the physical and natural world or the events that happen in nature”ii. Human science is defined as “the study and interpretation of the experiences, activities, constructs, and artifacts associated with human beings.”iii For something to be convincing it needs to be able to “cause someone to believe that something is true or certain”iv
The theories in the natural sciences are convincing because we regard them as the truth, we are convinced that they are true because science is valid and it is valid because of the methodology that it adopts: the scientific method. A method that is reliant on inductive reasoning to function, that involves the systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypothesis.v This method ensures that Scientists
are able to further their theories by providing a framework to test their observations to obtain valid and uniform results in order to predict occurrences in nature. It is due to this nature of the scientific method that has made many theories convincing. Theories with the ability to be repeatedly tested, allowing for checks and balances, further their ability to be convincing; if the results from various experiments turn out the same, the theory will be further validated. An example of such a theory is the germ theory, which I personally regarded as truth without knowing it was simply a theory. The theory states that numerous diseases are the result of the presence and actions or microorganisms in bodies. This theory is deemed valid and hence convincing due to several reasons: it provides a rational explanation for disease transmission, it has been tested and confirmed in various experiments, confirming its validity, and wide spread acceptance of the theory has turned it into a paradigm that is advocated and confirmed by authorities in society.vi
The nature of the human sciences does not allow in most cases for the methodologies that make the natural sciences convincing. Although theories are formulated in a similar fashion where a hypothesis about an observation is made and later tested to discover trends, unlike in the natural sciences, in which experiments may be conducted in a consistent manner, the area of study in human sciences: human beings, does not allow for this consistency. For instance, one can rely on and expect for ice to melt at 0°C if experimental conditions are consistent. In contrast, human behavior does not possess such qualities; even under consistent circumstances the result may be varied. Even though the way in which the theory is...
Bibliography: Stanford UP, 1962. Print.
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