Hard science

Hard science is a term used to describe natural sciences and physical sciences as distinct from social science.Fact|date=October 2007 The hard sciences are believed to rely on experimental, empirical, quantifiable data or the scientific method and focus on accuracy and objectivity.

The hard versus soft distinction is controversial in some circles. Although associated with notions of scientific realism, this distinction is drawn more from commonsense than a deep immersion in the philosophy of science. Much work by modern historians of science, starting with the work done by Thomas Kuhn, has focused on the ways in which the "hard sciences" have functioned in ways which were less "hard" than previously assumed, emphasizing that decisions over the veracity of a given theory owed much more to "subjective" influences than the "hard" label would emphasize (and begin to question whether there are any real distinctions between "hard" and "soft" science). Some, such as those who subscribe to the "strong program" of the sociology of scientific knowledge, would go even further, and remove the barrier between "hard science" and "nonscience" completely.

Despite these objections, hard versus soft distinction is popular and widely used. One perceived difference supporting the distinction is the degree to which conclusions in different fields are controversial within those fields. Some believe that conclusions from physics or chemistry tend to be less controversial among physicists and chemists, versus how much of political science is controversial among political scientists. However, in most physical sciences there has been extensive debate about issues like whether atoms exist and whether randomness is inherent in subatomic particles. Russ Roberts from George Mason University claims that although many people romanticize about the objectivity of the so-called hard scientists, many physical scientists constantly engage in controversies and arguments [ [http://www.econtalk.org/archives/2007/07/henderson_on_di.html Henderson on Disagreeable Economists, EconTalk Permanent Podcast Link: Library of Economics and Liberty ] ] .

There is much difficulty distinguishing between soft and hard sciences because many social sciences, like economics and psychology, use the scientific process to formulate hypotheses and test them using empirical data. Furthermore, many social scientists engage in experimental work within the field of experimental economics. In most cases the methodology used by practitioners of the so-called soft scientist are the same as those used by practitioners of the hard sciences and the only difference is the object studied. Physical scientists tend to look at atoms, energy, waves, etc while social scientists tend to look at societies, individuals, firms, etc. Societies, nations, and so on tend to display behavior that is more unpredictable than the behavior of atoms, waves, and so on. However there is a counter-argument that the behavior of small units aggregated can yield behavior that is more predictable than the behavior of the small units themselves. This is due to aggregation canceling out randomness.

In all experimental or empirical sciences there is a need to set up experiments. One necessary feature of experiments is the need to control all factors. It may be hard to control all factors in an experiment because the experimenter may not account for all factors. This problem exists in the social sciences and the physical sciences. To establish causation the experimenter needs to have a control group where only one variable, the variable of interest, is changed, and all other variables held constant. The difficulty is in how to control for all other variables when there could potentially be infinite variables.

The graphism thesis maintains that hard sciences such as natural sciences make heavier use of graphs than soft sciences such as sociology. However, Bill Mann claims that an example of a discipline that uses graphs heavily but is not at all scientific is technical analysis. [ [http://www.fool.com/news/foth/2001/foth010105.htm Fool.com: Is Technical Analysis Voodoo? [Fool on the Hill January 5, 2001 ] ]

ee also

*Soft science
*Demarcation problem
*Exact science
*Paradigm shift
*Science wars
*Scientific reductionism
*Native science
*The central science
*Hard science fiction

References


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Hard science — fiction La hard science fiction (dite aussi hard science, hard SF, SF dure) est un genre de science fiction dans lequel les technologies décrites, les formes sociétales présentes dans l histoire et les découvertes ou évolutions ne sont pas en… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • hard science — n. NATURAL SCIENCE, as opposed to behavioral science, called SOFT (adj. 15) …   English World dictionary

  • hard science — hard′ sci′ence n. bio any of the natural or physical sciences, in which hypotheses are rigorously tested through observation and experimentation …   From formal English to slang

  • hard science — any of the natural or physical sciences, as chemistry, biology, physics, or astronomy, in which aspects of the universe are investigated by means of hypotheses and experiments. Cf. soft science. [1965 70] * * * …   Universalium

  • hard science — any of the natural or physical sciences, as chemistry, biology, physics, or astronomy, in which aspects of the universe are investigated by means of hypotheses and experiments. Cf. soft science. [1965 70] …   Useful english dictionary

  • hard science — noun The natural and physical sciences that use the scientific method and experiments to test theories. Examples include mathematics, biology, physics, chemistry and geology …   Wiktionary

  • Hard science fiction — is a category of science fiction characterized by an emphasis on scientific or technical detail, or on scientific accuracy, or on both.[1][2] The term was first used in print in 1957 by P. Schuyler Miller in a review of John W. Campbell, Jr. s… …   Wikipedia

  • Hard Science-Fiction — La hard science fiction (dite aussi hard science, hard SF, SF dure) est un genre de science fiction dans lequel les technologies décrites, les formes sociétales présentes dans l histoire et les découvertes ou évolutions ne sont pas en… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Hard science fiction — La hard science fiction (dite aussi hard science, hard SF, SF dure) est un genre de science fiction dans lequel les technologies décrites, les formes sociétales présentes dans l histoire et les découvertes ou évolutions ne sont pas en… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Hard science-fiction — La hard science fiction (dite aussi hard science, hard SF, SF dure) est un genre de science fiction dans lequel les technologies décrites, les formes sociétales présentes dans l histoire et les découvertes ou évolutions ne sont pas en… …   Wikipédia en Français

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”