I’ve been using this idea a lot recently, but he got there (7 years) before me!
I haven’t extensively read other blog posts, but this one at least left out one extra point that I think is interesting/important: the traditionally termed “hard” sciences (physics et al.) are also called in some cultures “exact sciences.” In other words, “hard” sciences get their extra science-y sheen in significant part because they *are* easier [to get exact answers/confirmation/disconfirmation] for. In other words, the snottiness some evince is really a way of saying “This science is more rigorous *because it is easier*.”
Ok, two things: the other one is that insofar as critiques of social science are of the “but you can’t make generalizations” type, the person who says this is essentially saying *it is better or equally valid for us to use our own often uninformed instincts and gut to understand social dynamics over systematic, if challenging, study.” Not only is this a silly point of view for a scientist, it is also something that SOCIAL SCIENCE has shown is demonstrably untrue: our instincts are *not* the best possible indicators of real social dynamics….
The talk was in a training symposium for people starting out in academic psychology. People at various stages of their careers were invited to talk about how we approach research. I titled my talk “Making Progress in the Hardest Science,” and the first third of the talk was a half-serious, half joking explanation of the title.
The idea is that you often hear people arrange the sciences on a continuum from “hard” to “soft,” with physics at the hard end and psychology at the soft end. The implicit message is that the “hard” sciences are more scientific. But that’s not based on anything fundamental or substantive. As best as I can tell, it’s about scienciness. We have these preconceptions and stereotypes about what science is supposed to be about — big fancy equipment…
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