Essay On Science And Social Application

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The scientific spirit remains unaltered whether it is contemplating a nebula or a baby, a field of wheat or a trade union.

But the methodology of social science is inevitably different from that of natural science.

The triumphs of natural science both in discovering radically new knowledge and in applying it practically to satisfy human needs have been so spectacular and so fruitful that it would seem natural and obvious to extend the same methods to the field of social phenomena.

The answer is a very simple one: the methods are not the same.

It was almost entirely divorced from industry and practical application; it was exceedingly speculative and did not lay the stress on experimental verification that we do; and, correlated with this, it had not invented the modern methodology of publication of data and methods as well as conclusions.

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A few centuries later the combination of Greek intellect and ingenuity with the practical spirit of the Roman im-perium made Alexandrian science something much more like modern science in outlook and methods of working.Many, I am sure, would put Herbert Spencer in this position; but I believe that the true John the Baptist of social science is Karl Marx.Herbert Spencer, for all his academic knowledge—or perhaps because of it—was more in the position of an Old Testament prophet. He demonstrated that social science was an inevitable development, but his notions of what form it would actually take and what methods it should employ were vague and essentially erroneous.Science, in the more restricted sense in which it is normally employed in English-speaking countries, is that activity by which today we attain the great bulk of our knowledge of and control over the facts of nature.This activity, like other human activities, has developed and evolved, and by no means all the stages in its evolution have merited the title of scientific.It too passed through the stage of trial and error, in which social organization shaped itself under the influence of unconscious adjustment together with non-rational rules of conduct and non-scientific interpretations of human destiny.It also had its traditional phases, often tightly bound up with philosophical and theological interpretative principles, as witness, for example, the climax of the Middle Ages.But at least Marx, like Bacon, gave expression to a new outlook and a new method of attack, and helped to alter materially the intellectual climate so as to make it propitious for scientific work in his field.The question immediately poses itself as to why the emergence of social science into large-scale and efficient operation has been so long delayed.But science in this phase was still, to our modern view, unscientific in two major respects—it was traditional and it was esoteric.Scientific knowledge was confined to a limited group among the priesthood and it was cast in a mold of tradition which rendered change and progress slow.

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