Example: Science in the Social Sciences
The textbook begins with a quote from Albert Einstein: “Science is the attempt to make the chaotic diversity of our sense-experience correspond to a logically uniform system of thought” (p. 5).
– Truth is not created. It is discovered. Science is an organized attempt to discover truth.
The book clarifies the 3 main categories of science:
1) Natural: study of natural phenomena (cosmological, geological, chemical, biological, etc.)
2) Formal: study of math and logic that use an a priori, rather than factual, methodology (basically, a priori is knowledge that we have and can apply , rather than needing to measure something to gain knowledge about it)
3) Social: study of human behavior and sciences
Einstein was a theoretical physicist; this falls under formal sciences. He did not like things that were unpredictable an he was bothered by chaos. He tried to find ways to predict the unpredictable.
In this class:
We are interested in social sciences, and in particular how that knowledge can be applied to help systems of all sizes. Human services apply methods and findings from social science to improve the lives of people (individuals, groups – such as families, and larger social context – communities).
At the same time, all sciences have a lot in common. The textbook discusses the example of chaos theory. Chaos theory is a branch of mathematics (which is a science itself). Chaos theory deals with conditions where prediction is not possible.
– Chaotic diversity describes things on the quantum level and the human condition
– Chaos theory has implications when working with people; this was recently realized
– Human Services dislike chaos; we want to explain, possibly predict, and prevent human misery
* We can take another look at Einstein’s quote: “Science is the attempt to make the chaotic diversity of our sense-experience correspond to a logically uniform system of thought” (p. 5).
He is telling us:
– we have a rich and imaginative sensory capacity that provides us with a vast way of experiencing and interpreting our world
– at the same time (from an evolutionary standpoint) our sensory capacity is built for survival in the heat of the moment, rather than cool calculation of empirical analysis
– Things like intuition and instinct are useful, but we can add science to our toolbox. Through science, we can explore our world in a way to test our assumption and theories. Science helps us increase our rational understanding of the world.
Who talks more?
Knowledge through theories/assumptions vs Knowledge through Science
Many people believe that women tend to talk more than men.
– Some have suggested the difference has a biological basis
– One estimated that’s often cited is that women spoke 20,000 words p/day and men spoke 7,000 words p/day.
– The claim seemed plausible, and a group of psychologists decided to find out if it was true. What did they do?
1) Checked the literature to see if anyone had actually counted (no one had). Instead, they just found theories and assumptions that were often based on cultural stereotypes
2) Conducted a research study with 369 men and women. They concluded men and women speak roughly the same amount.
* This study is used as an example to show that research can show us that sometimes what we think is true, really isn’t.
* Why is this important in the field of Human Services?
– Because what we believe about people, and how they behave, is fundamental to effectively work with clients. What we believe can sometimes be wrong, inaccurate, or incomplete.
– We should keep in mind as professionals, whenever possible, to act according to the best information that we have on hand. This means we need to be informed as to what science has empirically indicated.
Science and Human Services
Human Services is a profession, rather than a science. It draws on our profession’s research, as well as the research of colleagues in other disciplines such as social work, anthropology, sociology, education, etc. So, Human Services is interdisciplinary.
– Some disciplines are considered social science (like psychology) and some are considered professions (like Human Services)
– We are all engaged in research to find the best methods for helping the human condition
– Human Service professionals engage in the research process; human services practice should be based on empirical research whenever possible.
Empirically Based Research
This is considered a best practice, and Human Service practitioners should try to only use techniques, methods, and approaches that are empirically derived.
Empirically based practice means using quality research from peer reviewed sources in your professional practice. How?
– professional journals
– online databases
– continuing education
– assessing the results of your practice in an ethical way
The Emergence of Science and the Scientific Method
The scientific method is “a method or procedure that has characterized natural science since the 17th century, consisting in systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses.”
– The method has expanded from the natural sciences into social sciences to include disciplines such as anthropology, sociology, psychology, social work, and Human Services.
A few important people in the emergence of science. Throughout history, people have struggled to make this unpredictable and sometimes dangerous place more tolerable and predictable.
– Francis Bacon (1561 – 1626): considered first person to conceptualize scientific method
– Galileo (1564 – 1642)
– Copernicus (1473 – 1543)
– Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle
– Knowledge has been gained slowly, but it accumulates over the years.
– The scientific method was just one innovation, but it forms the foundation for all modern research.
We have a legal, moral, and ethical responsibility to our profession, ourselves, society, and our clients to use science.
* while not all Human Service practitioners are engages in research, all practitioners are consumers of research in their personal and professional lives.
What are the Modern Features of Science?
1) Systematic Empiricism
2) Scientific Approach
3) Public Knowledge
1) Systematic Empiricism: learning based on observation.
– Scientists learn about the world by carefully planning observations, making observations, recording observations, and analyzing those observations
– A lot of what we know (which may or may not be true) is acquired haphazardly
– Within science, logical reasoning and creativity play important roles. Scientists are unique in their insistence on checking ideas about the way the world seems to be.
– Instead of knowledge through tradition, superstition, guessing, etc., science uses systematic observation to gain knowledge. Look at the “Who Talks More” example; the researchers did not trust other people’s stereotypes or their own informal observations. Instead, they systematically recorded, counted, and compared the number of words spoken by a large sample of women and men.
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