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    Hank's picture
    Joined: Oct 28 2006
    Psychologists spend an alarming amount of time trying to justify that they are scientists. The psychology of that isn't the focus of this forum post, though other social sciences don't seem caught up in it: Anthropology gave up calling itself science and sociologists only make a half-hearted effort, archaeologists don't much care what you call them.

    But psychologists are really in a tizzy about being in the science buildings rather than the humanities ones (though they are most often in the humanities buildings, quite literally). 

    A year or so ago, Alex Berezow at Real Clear Science wrote a piece responding to a psychologist who laid out the case that psychology was science and noting that the psychologist's definition of science was so broad that the word science was bordering on meaningless - everyone who analyzes data is therefore a scientist, Berezow said.  The knives came out for Alex - psychologists even called him a 'conservative' over his USA Today article, and you know psychologists mean business when that happens - in the social sciences, calling someone a conservative is along the lines of an 'I slept with your mother' insult.

    A blogger on the Scientific American network dredged it up again recently - and the piece was earnest and indignant and well-written and it completely missed the point. 

    Discover blogger Neuroskeptic takes a more rational approach, writing:
    Whether psychology is true, that’s the big question – and one best broken down into chunks, because it’s a big field. I am concerned that much of psychology (and other fields) is not true. My blog is full of criticisms of particular claims in psychology.

    But I’m not concerned – or interested – in whether it’s ‘science’.
    He makes the point that astrology can call itself science using the really broad definition of 'we analyze statistics' - but it isn't true.

    And maybe the time of psychologists would be better spent being methodical and rigorous and, well, true, rather than agonizing over whether or not they can fit under the science umbrella. 

    What do people here think?  Is being true more important than being called science?


    KRA5H's picture
    Joined: Mar 1 2013
    The social sciences ought to be offloaded on the humanities (that is, if the humanities will take them). Postmodern literary criticism is more rigorous than the social sciences.
    All the social sciences ought to to do as Anthropology has done and stop calling themselves sciences. Instead they can call themselves "arts" such as "anthropological arts," "psychological arts," "evolutionary psychological arts," and so on.

    If they refuse to drop the word science from their respective disciplines, then maybe a massive public education process can be implemented so that average people can recognize the difference between the hard sciences and the soft sciences like the difference between  physicians and chiropractors.

    "This page intentionally left blank." --Gödel
    Anonymous's picture

    Look at any APS publication or any psychological article in a recent issue of Science and tell me how those articles differ from the ones on physics, chemistry or biology.

    When I was in training forty years ago, psychology was little more than another mode of discourse, not much more sophisticated than literary criticism, but look how the variables are measured today with brain scans.

    Hank's picture
    Joined: Oct 28 2006
    Biologists and physicists know what they are looking at. Another scientist would come to the same conclusion. fMRI is the problem in the credibility of social science, not the solution. The interpretation is entirely subjective, they are not measuring variables, they are assigning variables to pictures.