What is it about theories in the human sciences and natural sciences that makes them convincing?

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What is it about theories in the human sciences and natural sciences that makes them convincing?

Our lives are becoming more reliant on scientific theories and we have placed scientist leaders above many other business and political leaders. We take scientific theories as ‘the dominant cognitive paradigm’ of knowledge’ and we see an idea to be ‘definitely true’ should it be ‘scientifically proven’. This raises the knowledge issue: to what extent is scientific theories held in a higher regard in relation to others? And to what extent do these areas of knowledge - natural and social sciences - use observation, evidence and the scientific method - in establishing scientific theories? Finally, we ought to ask to what extent can we depend on scientific method for true, reliable, and ‘convincing’ theories?

I define a ‘convincing’ theory as one that is capable of overriding opposition and effectively earning the trust of others. As Feynman defines, the premise of science is based on inductivism, where the scientific method of observations, reasons and experiments ensures controllability, measurability and repeatability. Deductive logic is key to the theories in the natural sciences, its apparently watertight syllogism allows a claim to be undermined and disputed; hence, a scientific claim is characterized to "lend itself to scrutiny and rigorous testing… [which] accounts for the enormous and rapid progress made by science” (Alchin, 2006, 17). Therefore, there exists no absolute proof to irrefutably neither verify nor falsify scientific theory; thus, it is claimed that all theories can only be assumed to be closer to ‘truth’ but can never be truly proven to be totally correct.

The assumption that scientific theories are completely reliable can be counterclaimed; then why are some scientific theories so convincing that humans perceive to be real knowledge? This is best known to be ‘knowledge-by-authority’, as we are becoming increasingly trusting in the scientific method used in deducing scientific theories. It is claimed that scientific methods test hypothesis and produce, what we believe to be, dependable and repeatable results. This is also known as inductive fallacy, which believes that if the results of an experiment occur the first time, it should happen again. In chemistry, one of the first theories I learnt is the collision theory; this is fundamental to my understanding of all chemical reactions and rates of reactions. For example, my chemistry classmates have all arrived at the same results in proving that the rate of reaction increases as the concentration of reactants rise; thus, I was able to predict that I would most probably produce similar, if not identical results. It is evident the claim that the strength of reason as a way of knowing and the assumption that repeats will produce identical results in the natural sciences is the core strength of the scientific method in arriving at ‘convincing’ theories. Yet, Thomas Kuhn counterclaims science “from its objective, value-free status” (Alchin, 2006, 22) and sees the natural sciences as a flawed human activity (this will be discussed later in the essay).

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In contrast to the natural sciences, it is claimed that human sciences cannot rely on consistency and repeatability to render its theories ‘convincing’. As evident in my economics’ internal assessments, I was unable to use an adequate experiment to prove and to justify an economic hypothesis on how a population might react in a financial crisis. For example, I would react differently compared to my Indian friend because the Chinese culture has shaped my beliefs and distorted "intellectual default settings" (Van de Lagemaat, 2005, 92). Hence, experiments of social sciences are largely based on assumptions and predictions rather than laws; ...

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