Debate as old as the world: are social sciences worthy of the title “science”?
If you ask any photonics graduates and researchers, they would laugh. Photonics is essential for many technologies and activities we couldn’t live without. And social sciences? Well, I’d be okay living in the world where there is no telemarketing, surveys about my habits or studies about how our society interacts.
People critiquing social sciences as a lesser form of study in part are implying that questioning the systems we have in place is pointless/we are in a naturalistic best of all possible systems. Do not trust people who believe ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ sciences aren’t inseparable.
— Nicholas Donohoue 🌹 (@NicholasDonohou) December 8, 2017
What are Social Studies?
In short, social studies are analysing everything related but not limited to society, how people interact, what’s affecting those interactions. Like any other science field, it uses deduction or induction methods for its research. And they love surveys and measuring statistics.
Remember history classes at high school? Well, that’s one of the social science fields. Another one is politics. Economics. Sociology. Marketing. And many other.
Are they pointless? Well, no. But let’s be honest, researching someone’s shopping habits won’t help to heal cancer or some fatal diseases. And knowing history and politics by heart didn’t help us to avoid presidents like Trump or corrupted governments.
It can help some companies to build their brands. It can help society to understand how it’s working out or aim for something better. But having a vision of Utopia won’t magically create it. While a lot of other science fields create what they’re envisioning.
Is it Science?
According to Wikipedia, “science is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe.” Social studies fit all that. It organizes all the knowledge related to its fields, creates hypothesis, test them in various ways. Also, offers predictions. They might not change the world. Even if they have intention to.
After all, some people consider casino games as sports. Poker is not only considered but even officially confirmed in some countries, for example, Lithuania. So, the next time you take a break from your photonics research and play some gambling game on your casino app, you can proudly say you’re engaging in sport activities.
To sum up, don’t cringe when you hear “science” referred to some social studies field. It is not comparable to what we do in Photonics or how we change the world with our work. But in a way, our work would never be known without some social sciences involvement. Even this blog, promoting our field, in a way is form of social studies – content marketing to be exact. And technologies we invent and sell, wouldn’t see the daylight without involvement from business or even government. And those guys are deep in social sciences even if they don’t know it themselves.