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The 7 differences between social sciences and natural sciences

The 7 differences between social sciences and natural sciences

April 5, 2024

Currently the natural and social sciences, which are distinguished mainly by their object of study, are integrated into different disciplines, as is the case of psychology or environmental sciences. This is mainly due to the primacy of the study methods of the natural sciences, which have been adopted by the social sciences.

However, these two aspects of science are distinguished by several very significant aspects, or at least that was the case at the beginning. In this article we will describe the 7 main differences between natural and social sciences ; In any case, we must bear in mind that it is not possible to generalize these statements to all scientific manifestations.

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Science and its ramifications

Science is defined as the set of systematic activities that aim to obtain and organize knowledge on different types of phenomena to explain and predict aspects of reality. We speak of natural sciences when the object of study are natural phenomena and social sciences if human activity is analyzed.

Physics, which is considered the basic natural science, relies heavily on mathematics; however, the latter is a formal science. Other natural sciences particularly prominent are chemistry, geology, oceanography, astronomy, meteorology and biology, which in turn includes medicine, zoology or botany.

In contrast, among the social sciences we find disciplines such as history, economics, anthropology, archeology, sociology, geography, education, law, demography, linguistics, political science or communication.

The border between social and natural sciences it diffuses with great frequency in many disciplines; a good example of this is psychology, in which a philosophical-humanist tradition coexists with another closer to biology. After all, the scientific method is the same regardless of whether it applies to one or another type of phenomenon.

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Differences between social and natural sciences

Next we will describe 7 of the most important differences between social and natural sciences , at least from its classical definition; In recent decades, scientific progress has favored the integration of different disciplines, prioritizing the choice of different fields of knowledge based on the objectives of each investigation.

1. Object of study

While the natural sciences deal with physical and natural phenomena, the social sciences have as their object human acts. Thus, economics, politics or social psychology refer to products of the activity of social groups; instead, chemistry, astronomy and neuroscience analyze more tangible aspects of reality.

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2. History and development

The birth of social sciences is often identified with the Enlightenment , which took place in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, but its consolidation did not take place until the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In contrast, the natural sciences are much older: human beings have studied the forces of nature since the beginning of our collective history.

3. Theoretical basis

The natural sciences support more than the social sciences in formal sciences, mainly mathematics, in order to structure reality in a rigorous way. In the social sciences positivism reflects a similar tendency , although the interpretative current is also relevant, which tries to give a concrete meaning to the phenomena studied.

4. Research methods

Many of the most popular research methods of current science come from the natural sciences; In this sense, mathematics and the experimental method are very important. Although the social sciences have adopted these tools, they also prioritize observation, surveys or case studies because of the complexity of the social fact.

5. Degree of subjectivity

The social sciences have been criticized for a supposed lack of rigor associated with the use of the scientific method for the analysis of abstract facts. In the case of natural sciences, the degree of apparent objectivity tends to be greater because they study observable and physical phenomena; However, every scientific task reduces the reality in a certain way .

6. Generalization capacity

Given that the natural sciences seek to limit the role of subjectivity, the ability to generalize the results of their research is greater than in the case of the social sciences, in which it is often inevitable to resort to hypothetical constructs that can not be proven objectively and unrepeatable phenomena are analyzed.

7. Perspective of the scientist

Social scientists can never be completely oblivious to the phenomenon they study, since they actively participate in social reality. Instead, from the natural sciences it is more feasible to adopt an external perspective ; thus, the neurophysiology expert who studies the nervous system does so from outside, although his beliefs influence research.

Philosophy of Research (Social Sciences v Natural Sciences) (April 2024).

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