Sunday, July 06, 2008

Why are social sciences not scientific?

To begin to appreciate the plausibility (if not the truth) of my claim, ask yourselves the following question: why are the so-called ‘social sciences’ different from the natural sciences? I mean to say, why have the social sciences not developed the way natural sciences have? There must have been many geniuses in the social sciences; the mathematical and logical sophistication in some of the social sciences is simply mind-bending; we have computers and we can simulate almost any thing. Comparatively speaking, it is not as though the social sciences are starved of funding or personnel. Despite all this, the social sciences are not progressing. Why is this? (When you have, say, a problem in a love-relationship, you do not open a text book on psychology; you look for a w ise friend or an understanding uncle.) There are many answers provided in the history of philosophy and many of you may have your own ‘favourite’ explanation. Here is my answer: you cannot build a scientific theory based on theological assumptions. What you will get then is not a scientific theory, but an embroidering of theology. -- Balagangadhara.


Via RK.


2 comments:

Ranjeeth said...

Consider, to begin with, the very notion ‘the west’ or ‘the western culture’. During the first 800 years (after the year 300 C.E. - ‘Common Era’, which replaces AD that meant the year of the Lord, Anno Domini), it was ‘Eastern Christianity’ (i.e. the Christianity of the Byzantine Empire with its centre in Constantinople) that dominated the Christian communities. The Church in Rome was merely one of the churches within Christianity. The ‘evangelization’ of Europe really begins in earnest after 900 C.E. This was a pro cess launched by the Church in Rome, and it occurred in areas to ‘the west’ of Rome. For this reason, this Christianity came to be called ‘Western Christianity’ and the emergence of this Christendom to the west of Rome is the emergence of ‘the West"

Balagangadhara

Ranjeeth said...

"as another kind of an example, the issue of ‘freedom’. This issue is a central one in Philosophy, in moral theories, in political theories (about Stat e and society), in legal theories, and psychological theories, etc. If you were to blandly state this issue in a single sentence: it is a good thing that people are ‘free’ and that every one ‘ought’ to be ‘free’. In ethical theories, for instance, a moral action is an action of choice, made freely without coercion. In fact, in the absence of ‘freedom’ morality is not possible. Let me just draw a contrast between this way of thinking (which appears to be true on the basis of ‘universal consent’) and our ideas about ‘karma’ and ‘rebirth’. (You need not assume the ‘truth’ of *punarjanma* in order to follow my point.) If the fruits of one’s action do not track (very strictly) the agent across several lives, the idea of both ‘Karma’ and ‘rebirth’ become senseless. Somehow or the other, these notions are parts of our (i.e. Indian) understanding of morality. That means to say, if there was no binding and strict *determinism*, ethics is impossible. Here, then, the contrast: according to the western culture , moral action is impossible if it is not ‘free’; according to us, without strict determinism, moral action is impossible. Yet, how many of us do not act as though ‘freedom’ is a ‘self-explanatory’ concept? Do you know what the origins (it has multiple theological loci) of this problem are? God created Man and gave him the ‘freedom’ to choose between God and the Devil. (In secularised terms, between ‘good’ and ‘evil’.) The possibility of ‘salvation’ (i.e. of being ‘saved’ from the clutches of the Devil) depended on this ‘free choice’. Therefore, theological issues arose: What then does ‘human freedom’ mean? Why did God give ‘freedom’ to man? Are we ‘condemned’ to be ‘free’? etc. etc. Our *svatantra* does not mean ‘freedom’ as its contrast term *paratantra* indicates. Our ‘gods’ are *sarva tantra svatantara*, i.e. beings for whom all *tantras* are their ‘own’ (sva). What exactly are we doing then, when we discuss about a ‘free society’, ‘freedom’ of individuals, etc, etc? " Balagangadhara