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Sociology is NOT a viable science.
in Science

By piloteerpiloteer 748 Pts
Sociology can be useful, but I would stop short of considering a viable science like psychology is. Sociology and psychology are often grouped together which seems to drain some of the validity of psychology, because sociology is just the study of social attitudes, which are relative. On the other hand, psychology is the study of brain function and how it affects us, which is not relative.



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  • MayCaesarMayCaesar 3245 Pts
    edited February 2019
    I think there are two conflating issues here that should be mentioned.

    First of all, let me note that, as someone with a strongly mathematics-inclined mind, I always have a certain degree of disbelief for sciences that lack the mathematical level of rigor. Even physics, where I am working currently, is not strict enough for me to truly believe into my own research. I would like all sciences to be based strictly on formal logic, where "if A, then B" is a statement proven beyond doubt, rather than taken as plausible based on the data without an absolute proof.
    On the other hand, when dealing with the real data, our research will always have a certain degree of uncertainty. In math we deal with abstract constructs that are what they are with a 100% confidence; in many other sciences, we deal with things that we do not understand very well, and we have to base our findings on rough correlations, otherwise there is no science to be had.
    So, the level of rigor a given scientific field allows is somewhat limited inherently.

    Now, sociology itself is a serious science. The research conducted in the leading universities and labs, say, in early 20th century shed a lot of light on who we are as individuals and how we can harness our sociological knowledge to take control over our lives. Sociology also inherently has to be a somewhat flexible science in terms of data interpretation, because of the factor mentioned above. It is a bit like history: we uncover some object, theorise what its source could be, match our hypotheses with the known data and conclude whether they are likely or not - and over time, the whole picture becomes pretty clear.

    At the same time, sociology is one of those scientific fields that is going through the cultural crisis nowadays (other such fields are climatology and, to an extent, economics). The politicization of the field led to an influx of people without a formal scientific education, and as a result the quality of research and the scientific rigor expectation have dropped significantly. You will see peer-reviewed papers that are so obviously fallacious that any bachelor's student in physics will be able to dismantle them with several arguments, and yet their authors receive massive research grants and are called "professors", with tenure.
    A paper that looks at the sample of people, notices that both the majority of people have had limb aches in the last 10 years and the majority of people drink coffee, and concludes that drinking coffee leads to limb aches - would not be accepted as a valid scientific research in a field with strong culture of following the scientific method. But in sociology a paper with a claim based on this type of broken logic very well may go through the peer-reviewing process.

    Regarding your point on the separation of sociology from psychology, you are correct that sociology features a somewhat relative subject - but "relative" does not mean "scientifically invalid". There are pretty strict ways of describing various aspects of the social attitudes, and very strong conclusions applicable to the humanity as a whole can be drawn from studying the available sociological data. Unfortunately, not many people today do the research properly - but that is a failure of the people, not of sociology itself.
    piloteerZombieguy1987Plaffelvohfen
  • @MayCaesar

    Geology does not require complex calculus, but it is a viable science. It does demonstrate a cause and effect, and it can do it without the aid of math. The same is true for psychology, which can demonstrate a cause and effect without using math. Sociology cannot show a cause and effect, even with the aid of math. All sociology can do is document what social norms were in the past, and maybe give us some insight into what drives social attitudes today, but it is absolutely useless in predicting where social norms will go. It's overglorified journalism, not science.
  • piloteer said:
    Sociology can be useful, but I would stop short of considering a viable science like psychology is. Sociology and psychology are often grouped together which seems to drain some of the validity of psychology, because sociology is just the study of social attitudes, which are relative. On the other hand, psychology is the study of brain function and how it affects us, which is not relative.
    They're both social sciences. Sociology can draw upon the same research of how the brain functions to explain how individuals act in a society and then how society as a whole acts. Likewise some areas of psychology touch on very wooly and non-physical areas like emotion which are certainly very relative. Ultimately neither of them can delineate clear and unequivocal predictions - only tendencies - so they can't qualify as natural sciences.
    piloteer
  • @piloteer

    I have a bit of a problem with this interpretation. Strictly speaking, geology, psychology, and even physics does not quite demonstrate a cause and effect. What they demonstrate is a strong correlation between the hypothesised causal connection, and the observed data. We cannot say, "This rock slice demonstrates the Magnum enrichment because of X, Y and Z" without leaving quite a bit of room for error. We can, however, say that our theory describing the effect leading to a given Magnum enrichment value under given circumstances matches well with the observable data.

    In this regard, while sociology might have much higher uncertainties than, say, geology, in its predictions - it still is able to predict some trends. I would compare it to weather forecasts: we cannot say that "Tomorrow there will definitely be rain", but we can say that "Tomorrow there will probably be rain", and we can even roughly describe how much territory that rain will cover. And these forecasts are based on pretty rigorous science, even though their precision is far from perfect.

    Sociology cannot predict how a given individual will behave in the specific circumstances, or even how the society overall behaves in the specific circumstances - but it shows certain trends. We cannot say that the individual who likes alcohol will necessarily become an alcoholic - but, obviously, between two individuals at the equal age, one of which drinks alcohol regularly and another does not drink at all, on average the former will become an alcoholic much more often, than the latter.

    Psychology has a slightly different domain. Psychology is concerned with how the individual's brain reacts to various external stimuli. Psychology with relation to sociology is like quantum mechanics with relation to thermodynamics: it describes much finer effects, while thermodynamics deals with large systems and averaged trends. You could say that thermodynamics is not quite science, and there is a compelling argument to be made here - but combine thermodynamics with mathematical statistics, and you can follow the scientific method just fine and build up a very coherent theory with a fairly good predictive power. You cannot calculate the individual speed of each atom by using thermodynamics, but you can calculate some averaged properties such as temperature or entropy that describe the system as a whole.
    piloteer
  • @Ampersand

    Your argument left me a tad bit confused. Do you consider psychology a viable science, or no? Plus, I have to point out that emotions are entirely a physical state which is driven by chemical reactions and electric impulses which can be demonstrated by psychology, and it can be done in a fashion that shows cause and effect. The idea that emotions originated outside of the body, and so they hold some sort of spiritual value is just an illusion, and psychology can explain why. I can't deny that some psychologists apply sociology in an attempt to explain certain social actions, and this can be a useful endeavor, but as soon as the psychologist steps into the field of sociology, they step out of their lab coats and into the realm of philosophy. I would agree with what you say in your last sentence, but only regarding sociology. Psychology absolutely "can delineate clear and unequivocal predictions". Psychologists can explain chemical or electric systems from start to finish, and they can conclude that, so long as the action is properly completed, and it is not disrupted by outside forces, a determined outcome will occur. Sociology cannot do that. 
  • @MayCaesar

    Your argument is flirting with a David Hume attitude of science. He claimed that science can only demonstrate a correlation, but cannot prove anything. He went on to argue that since we (the royal we) cannot personally experience every instance where science claims there's proof of a determined outcome, we can't conclude that any of it is proven. It's basically an argument that claims you can't prove a negative, but to hold any consistency with that point of view, you'll need to step outside any logical conclusions, and even purposely ignore conclusive data. I don't think David Humes arguments were made to convince anyone of anything. It was pretty much a big pamphlet on how to be consistently empirical. I mean, if Emmanuel Kant can properly discredit your argument, then there must be something really wrong with your argument, because Kant was notorious for philosophically chasing his own tail, and when his arguments were shown to be incomplete, he just claimed that it was an act of God, yet he was able to kick David Humes argument to the curb. 

    It's worth noting that your attempt to question the reliability of science as a whole does nothing as far as proving sociology can be categorized as a viable science. I also pointed out to Ampersand that psychology can indeed demonstrate a cause and effect, but sociology cannot. Sociology is less reliable at predictions than meteorology. 
  • Hi! read the post in politics and just posted to say. I'm reading and not participating most people are happy when that happens...…….
  • @John_C_87

    I certainly am not happy to hear you aren't participating. You should. That being said, you didn't have to post on this debate just to disprove what I said in the other debate. 
  • I honestly don't see how a subject being relative renders it non-scientific. As a social science, sociology still involves the process of observation and experiment, and while societies are very different from one another, I don't see how acknowledging that tells us sociology shouldn't be considered a science. I guess I can see how you might characterize it as a softer science, in that it lacks the ability to give us hard and fast rules about how societies function, but setting that as the standard for what makes a science at all seems to push against the basic definition we use to establish what a science is. 
    piloteer
  • piloteerpiloteer 748 Pts
    edited February 2019
    @whiteflame

    Experimentation and observation is used in baking, it's used in advertising, in art, construction, fabrics, craft making, in fact, it can be argued that in some way shape or form, experiments are used in any profession or hobby that we do. Experimentation and observation is scientific in and of itself, but that doesn't always mean the thing it's being applied to is now science. I personally can't think how or why sociology being relative does NOT bar it from being a science. Science is trying to limit, and ideally, get rid of any uncertainty. That's not to say that it always happens that way, or ever, but sociology does not have that specific goal in mind. I'm not arguing that it's not a useful endeavor, and I do understand why people spend 12years of their life obtaining  a doctorate in sociology, but the findings of any experiments used in sociology are subject to interpretation more so than in other sciences. But the difference between sociology and other sciences is the fact that sociology isn't necessarily trying to limit the relativity in it's findings, whereas the other sciences are absolutely trying to do that. Yes, sociology does use a scientific method, and in a very meticulous fashion, but that doesn't legitimize it's candidacy for being a science.
  • @piloteer

     The post was simply saying I was reading. The impulse was created by etiquette and honor in someway I was being rude for not showing my participation once questioned. It sometimes takes a moment to get a bearing on what someone is saying, or trying to say, this often mean reading several times. Proving wrong and simple giving attention when attention due is not the same thing.
  • Scientology and science are thinking tools.
    Scientology is not science. It's a religion.

    Religion is based on "faith".

    And faith means belief without proof.

    faith: belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence.

    whiteflame
  • MayCaesarMayCaesar 3245 Pts
    edited February 2019
    @piloteer

    You make a compelling argument. I suppose the crux of the issue is that the definition of "science" is somewhat subjective. As you mentioned, culinary, for example, is, to an extent, based on the scientific method (observation -> theory -> experiment), and we could even go as far as to say that almost everything we do in life is based on it. After all, scientific method in the first place was made what it is because this is how we have always learned about the world in a systematic way.

    As a scientist myself, here is how I would separate science from non-science. In my eyes, science has to be based on a certain meta-language, that describes the world outside of the specific cases. Let me illustrate what I mean on two examples.

    In music, we use the musical notation, and there is quite a bit of theory related to it. The musical theory covers such things as scales, chord sequences, improvisation patterns that have proven to work and sound good. 
    However, music does not offer any abstract language that would allow us to, let us say, logically "create" a new song. There have been attempts to put a lot of rules into a computer and have it produce music based on them, but those have had a very limited success, and the resulting tracks always sounded mechanical and unrealistic. Recently neural network techniques have achieved limited success in writing music through self-learning - but they learn on human-written tracks, not on some abstract theories.

    On the other hand, take physics. In physics, we predicted the existence of black holes long before they were first experimentally observed. Equations alone allowed us to derive certain consequences of extreme mass densities. We did not need to play around, trying different things, to realise that something is a black hole; it was derived from the mathematical meta-language of physics.
    In music, we cannot do that (not yet, at the very least). We cannot just "derive" a good musical track (there have been attempts; again, they never worked well), we have to actually sit down and start writing/playing until we come across something that sounds good.

    Can you "derive" a good recipe in culinary? Not really. We do not have any meta-language, any system that would allow us to assess the "quality" of a certain recipe. We know what recipes work, and we often know why they work - but this is all purely empirical, and we hardly have a system that allows us, outside of experimentation, make any predictions. Sure, we can say, "In many popular recipes radishes and potatoes come together, so this combination must be good overall" - but why it is so, we do not know.

    I do not know enough about sociology to assess the quality and reliability of its meta-language, but I do know that the language exists, and in general it allows us to consider the "spherical cow in vacuum" examples and derive some likely consequences from them. This, in my eyes, qualifies sociology to be science.

    ---

    Based on this, you may ask, "Does it mean that there is an untapped market of sciences that have never been created, but can be in the future?" And, indeed, this is a good question. Culinary is not a science nowadays; can we develop a "culinary science" in the future, when we learn more about the underlying physics of taste, healthiness of food, etc.? It is very likely to happen at some point.

    There is also a certain danger in it. Imagine if, say, sculpture becomes science eventually. Does it mean that the artistic side of sculpture will fade away, when we learn to create mathematically aesthetically perfect sculptures by pure knowledge, without investing our emotions and soul into our creations? Possibly. We can become more robotic as a species, focusing more on raw logic and less on the artistic side of everything.

    But then, there is also an art in science. Perhaps simply the focus of our artistic side will shift, and we will find more beauty in the equations than in the raw looks of the creation.
  • piloteerpiloteer 748 Pts
    edited February 2019
    @John_C_87

    You're not being rude if you're not participating, you're just being silent. And the worst kind of silence I can think of, is the self imposed kind. 
  • @sear

    I agree with some of what you have to say. Like for instance, science is a thinking tool.
  • @sear ;

    Religion is based on "faith".

    No religion is based on shared belief. Science does not like that truth as it is an admission to the basic connection between science and religion.

    And faith means belief without proof.
    faith: belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence.
    Do you understand this definition is not saying, or is explaining as fact faith cannot ever rest on logic, proof, or material evidence?


  • @John_C_87

    I disagree what you said in your first sentence. I don't think science concerns itself with faith at all. I think what you've said in your second sentence only reinforces what sear said. 
  • @piloteer ;
    I wrote belief not faith. All religion as a united state share belief. 
  • @John_C_87

    Sear made it clear that he/she was talking about faith, not belief.
  • @whiteflame

    I agree with you, but at the same time I would like to see more rigor, more precision in modern sciences. This could be a result of me having a very abstract mathematical thinking, but it is hard to argue with the claim that precision is one of the most important things in our lives. So many mistakes have been made by people and entire societies simply because they were not precise enough in their words and actions and ended up going in a very wrong direction.

    I have always viewed all non-math sciences with a certain degree of skepticism. Even in physics, which has a reputation of being a very rigorous science, I see people pushing the boundaries of formal logic all the time. It is not uncommon for a physicist to say something like this, "This part of the equation is likely much smaller than that part, so let us neglect it. We cannot be completely sure that it is small enough to do so, but we need to simplify our calculations, so let us do that". We even have invented the term "physicist's math", describing this kind of careless dealing with formal mathematical equations.

    In mathematics, you absolutely cannot get away with anything like this. You always have to precisely define what assumptions you make. You cannot just say, "This term is likely negligibly small". You have to say something like, "If we take the limit of this variable to infinity, then we can show that this term goes to zero, hence it by definition can be denoted as o(x)". I wish other sciences were more like this, with people precisely describing the framework of assumptions they are operating in.

    If you think about it, almost every conflict in our lives is based on imprecision. All the political arguments that rarely go anywhere arise from what? From different people having different assumptions. If people first explained their assumptions and then derived an argument from them, then we could either challenge their assumptions, or challenge their logic. But they do not, hence we talk about completely different things, while believing we talk about the same thing - and that makes us unable to ever agree on anything with our opponents.

    I understand that there are certain limitations imposed by the specific scientific fields. Obviously we cannot prove mathematically, say, that Caesar existed, and our evidence of his existence is very indirect. And if we are to start listing all the assumptions on which our judgment is based, we would spend our entire lives listing them. Hence there is a certain generally accepted historical framework of assumptions with which every historian must familiarize themselves.
    Still, it would not hurt them to sometimes clarify exactly what they have uncovered. Rather than "We have demonstrated that Caesar existed", it would be more accurate to say, "We have demonstrated that the hypothesis of Caesar's existence is strongly correlated with the combination of our evidence and theories". Especially when talking to non-historians who do not necessarily share the same framework of assumptions and who will wonder how it is possible to prove that someone existed 2050 years ago without time-traveling there and collecting samples.
  • @piloteer ;

    Faith is not a description of a principle all religions apply. When forming a group as the basic focal point it is best to have a category that actually applies to the whole group of religion. This as a way to identify this group, again not all religion is based on faith so this idea is inaccurate and requires a faith to be true. So why the creating of faith on separation of religion? Is it for the application of Taxation in general maybe?  

    It is more practical, and less risk for any new religion to pay taxation as it does not openly admit to being a religion, and this principle then can share the public liberty of judicial separation equally, as long as it is maintained. A freedom of religion by 1st Amendment describes a shared belief that is carried out without cost, or without self-value placed in the society network. A religion can hold a grievance to ill treatment as others can take advantage of a no, or low self-value by adding cost in general to the common welfare.
  • @MayCaesar ;

    Don't mathematics set the blue print for faith with the use of algebra. A fixed equation requires faith as the answers is assigned to the problem by a single rule or group of rules which fabricate a reply that is desired. this so the outcome is fixed, and not a whole truth, as truth crates many, or multiple answers making the math process uncertain, doubtful, and unreliable.
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