Are social Sciences useful?

  1. Are social "Sciences" useful?

    Now I myself don't consider "social sciences" as a type of science... but do you think it's useful or not? I don't think it's as useful as say: nature science or computer science.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. lisab

    Staff: Mentor

    IMO, social sciences are tools. Whether a tool is useful or not depends on what you're trying to fix. If the problem you're trying to fix needs a tool in the social science toolbox, then yes social sciences are extremely useful.
     
  4. Evo

    Staff: Mentor

    Good answer.
     
  5. Sometimes though, there are no problems and only sculptures to sculpt (ok, well unearth...)
    And don't tell me that there even needs to be an utility for things like:
    http://www.smithsonianmag.com/scien...was-once-symbol-louis-xiv-sun-king-180949482/
     
  6. Wiki again
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_sciences

    lists the following as being social sciences:
    Environmental Studies
    Anthropology
    Area studies
    Business studies
    Communication studies
    Criminology
    Demography
    Development studies
    Economics
    Education
    Geography
    History
    Industrial relations
    Information science
    Law
    Library science
    Linguistics
    Media studies
    Political science
    Psychology
    Public administration
    Sociology
    Social work

    I am not sure if you are asking if it is useful in calling them "social sciences" or if "social sciences" are useful.
    In any case, regardless of the term used, from the list, I would say they do have a profound impact, some of them directly, upon your life.
     
    RabbitWho likes this.
  7. Computers are useless. They can only give you answers.

    -- Pablo Picasso
     
  8. StatGuy2000

    StatGuy2000 843
    Education Advisor

    It's interesting that history is included as a social science, as I would personally consider history to be part of the humanities. And "area studies" (e.g. East Asian studies, Latin American studies, etc.), depending on the nature of the program, can encompass both the social sciences (with a focus on research in political science, economics, anthropology, law, sociology, geography, etc.) and the humanities (with a focus on the language, literature, and arts of the given area of focus).

    As far as the OP is concerned, the very question is non-sensical. What makes any particular field of study "useful"? Are we to imply that if one cannot directly apply the knowledge gleaned from the field, then the field is not "useful"?

    Perhaps this is expressing my bias, but the pursuit of knowledge in of itself is valuable and thus "useful", whether that be in the humanities, social sciences, physical sciences, biological sciences, or mathematical sciences.
     
  9. You might have a point in arguing over the usage of the word science. But asking if social sciences are useful is like asking if statistics is useful.
     
  10. The question might make sense if the OP had just learned that, for example, evolutionary theory is chock-full of just-so stories and racist junk science. Perhaps s/he was suddenly filled with doubt about the credibility of ANY discipline that attempts to analyze society and its many thingings.

    OP, were you asking something more like "in social sciences, is it possible for the truth to rise to the surface when it's so incredibly easy to assume your conclusion then work backward and contort datasets to fit whatever you like since human psychology and thus society is so complex that it resists complete analysis?"? I would say probably, but it's bleak, but we should try anyway!
     
  11. This line of thought is merely affirming the consequent.
     
  12. arildno

    arildno 12,015
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

    As long as money comes streaming in, "social sciences" is a useful structure for feeding people within that profession.
     
  13. No. And because my answer is too short, I need to write this message, I also don't think that business school is useful, but they may call me radical.
     
    bozone likes this.
  14. I don't get it. Creating a workable welfare program is literally impossible without sociology, which I assume has to be a social science, given the name an' all. Welfare helps prevent poor people from starving, which is a Good Thing. Which social sciences do you have beef with, exactly?

    Economics is useful. Business school is not.
     
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2014
  15. Pythagorean

    Pythagorean 4,632
    Gold Member

    Of course social sciences are useful. At the very least, there is a lot of useful stamp collecting going on in the social sciences. Data that we can analyze to see what programs and policies are most effective (or ineffective as it may be). And from there, we can make predictions about a culture (or demograph's) nature:

    incentive X tend to lead to outcome Y

    Then when several different cultures have collected such data, we can see how often X and Y are similar across cultures. And then we can look at biologists and anthropologist data on primates and other mammals and see how X and Y vary as you become more genetically disparate from humans. Then we can look to evolutionary neuroscience and see if structures in the brain associated with the X/Y behaviors have homologies that compare well to the varying X and Y across species and posit some behavior as an evolved adaptation.

    The trick now is just making the qualities X and Y quantifiable without leaving too much wiggle room.
     
  16. ty1

    ty1 7

    I think its a question of pseudoscience vs science.
     
  17. The worst thing I ever saw in my intelectual journey was a bunch of engineers, physicists and medical practitioners trying to think about society, humanities and art... A really awfull spectacle...
    Life, I mean "we", are not a technology...
     
  18. micromass

    micromass 19,675
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    Parts of natural sciences and computer science are completely useless too!

    Now, I don't think social sciences are sciences. But you can't deny that they are very useful. Many of these social sciences have very important applications. Where would our society be without psychologists for example?

    Sure, there are things like history too which tend to have much less practical applications. But then again, practical applications are everything! The pursuit of knowledge is the most important thing that humanity can do. We are born to pursue knowledge, even if it's just for the knowledge.

    Nowadays, there is this trend that everything must be applicable and immediately useful. If it's not, then it's immediately seen as a waste of time. I much prefer the ancient Greeks were knowledge was seen as something sacred and where the pursuit of knowledge was the most important thing one could do.
     
    Amrator likes this.
  19. ZapperZ

    ZapperZ 30,450
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    It is quite interesting about having this debate here, considering the assault put on by the Republican members in the US congress to severely cut funding for the social science section of the National Science Foundation.

    http://www.insidehighered.com/news/...es-bill-would-cut-nsf-social-science-research

    Certainly, there are many members of the US congress who also do not see the importance of social science research.

    There are many societal issues that face us every day, and politicians often make claims of such-and-such a thing will cause this-and-that. There are people who say that violent, explicit music will cause disruptive kids, there are people claiming that providing condoms to high school kids promote promiscuity, etc.. etc. You will notice that many of these are statements uttered by politicians and talking heads are seldom backed by any kind of valid, careful research. It is as of just simply stating these things make them true!

    Social scientists are intimately involved in these types of studies. They look at societal behavior, the changes in human interactions, and what factors are not only correlated with these changes, but also the cause-and-effect of these changes. In other words, many of these talking heads simply do not like these types of studies because they could easily falsify many of the fallacies that these people have been spewing, or at the very least, reveal the glaring fact that these claims have no solid evidence to back them.

    Many of our policies, regulations, and laws are put into place because of human behavior and the consequences of those behavior. I would think that you'd want something to be decided not just because some politician said so, or some TV personality said so.

    Or maybe you don't care about any kind of valid evidence......

    Zz.
     
    1 person likes this.
  20. StatGuy2000

    StatGuy2000 843
    Education Advisor

    Currently, the Republican party of the US are increasingly dominated by right-wing extremists, many of whom are also Christian fundamentalists who believe in the Bible in the absolute literal sense and reject the theory and fact of evolution. So therefore, it should not be surprising that many Republicans don't care about any kind of valid evidence.
     
  21. Pythagorean

    Pythagorean 4,632
    Gold Member

    We could say the same about extreme liberals and curing cancer with diet and vaccination causing autism and holistic medicine... but why do we need to make this about political ideology rather than sticking to the merits?
     
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