What is it about theories in natural and human sciences that make them so convincing? During the course of my Biology HL syllabus, I came across the theory of the fluid mosaic model. I instantly considered this theory to be absolute and accurate. This level of certainty was created with the first reading of the theory, and evoked the question as to what makes the theories formulated in natural and human sciences as convincing as they are.
Both Natural and Human scientists take pride in the fact that their work is the result of long, precise and experimental research and the fact that their theories are able to overcome the skeptical approach of human nature and produce enough certainty in people to accept their work without further questioning. I will attempt to state and explain the reasons for this creation of such certainty by incorporating three areas of knowledge. Firstly, natural sciences and how they are so convincing despite the lack of certainty.
Then I will elaborate on the human sciences and how its theories are debatable and the difference between the two sciences. Lastly I will intrude into the ethical aspect of the knowledge issue, as conflicting emotions and reason are essential in creating the faith and belief in the theories formulated by these explicit and evidence rich areas of knowledge. We as humans are generally skeptical about various sources of information, but this skeptic approach does not apply to science as we consider all scientific information to be true and from a reliable source.
This approach reveals the fact that evidence and understanding of the concept is a key factor assisting the reasoning of the mind. While studying Taxation in microeconomics, I realized that theories that are said to produce a certain effect are not realistically proven or implemented in the real world. For example, a theory in taxation states that, if a tax is imposed on a producer with inelastic supply then the entire tax incidence is borne by the producers themselves.
But, in reality such a situation does not exist, the producers generally raise prices to higher levels where the revenue is more than sufficient to pay the tax imposed on them, which means that the consumers actually bear the brunt of the new taxation policy. We accept such theories at first as they are said to be formulate by a reliable source and seem to be probable. So why do the theories from these areas of knowledge appear so convincing to us despite the uncertainties that are presented by them? Why are they accepted as the truth even before they are completely evaluated?
It is evident that the reason we trust science as a reliable and infallible source of information is because we believe in science. This belief has led to the creation of faith towards science, which has compelled us to accept all that science offers without a doubt of reason. The psychology behind this belief exclaims that we believe in science the same way as we believe that our new car is not going to explode on its first travel. Cars stay safe more often than not and science in the same way has proven itself accurate many more times than it has been proved wrong.
The belief and faith induced by scientific theories has been developed over time through constant provision of proof and evidence, which are the basic requirements for human beings to trust in something. While studying and understanding theories regarding sub-atomic particles, which are practically invisible, such as the VSEPR theory or the theory of hybridization, I don’t question the strength of the theory itself as it is a result of extensive research and has overcome the challenges posed by many to prove them wrong.
Thus, the efforts to prove the theory wrong and the failure to do so have actually strengthened the belief in science, thus providing a logical and universal explanation justifying the theory formulated. Also, human nature suggests that we need to believe in something, and more often than not people choose the logical, experimental and evidence rich path provided by science. We tend to believe in the ideals a majority believes, be it a country, a city, a community or even our immediate family.
For example, if your family believes that the economic crisis will eventually affect your future, even you tend to follow “convention” and believe in the same thing. Taking the example of the cure for cancer, people at first did not believe that cancer was ever curable due the number of deaths that had amounted. Their belief that the drug developed, actually cured cancer was eventually strengthened as the positive evidences kept increasing.
Today if a scientist says that he has developed a new cure for cancer, people would believe in the drug as they know science has accomplished it before, and hence can probably achieve the same feat again. In the natural sciences, research begins with a hypothesis which is followed by experiments and later proof of whether the hypothesis is accurate or is invalid. In contrast to this, we observe that in many experiments conducted, the results vary marginally and hence hamper the certainty of the research, which means that scientists have o rely on various degrees of certainty based on their recorded values to establish the overall certainty of a research project.
This implies that many of the theories being applied today are not of absolute certainty, thus the use of such theories can be attributed to our belief and faith in science as a reliable source of information. Shifting the focus to my second area of knowledge which is human sciences, I’d like to state its primary objectives to help understand the formulation of the theories more effectively.
The aims of virtually all human sciences are the same: to explain human behavior, formulate theories to predict it, and then develop remedies for the problems identified by those predictions. They use the same scientific method as natural sciences but cannot hypothesize the reactions of the human beings, as each of them respond to the research questions in different ways and depict different and forms of emotion and reasoning depending upon the kind of questions asked.
Most research in human sciences begins with intuition which then leads to proof. Here, the scientists believe that a particular stimulus would produce a certain behavioral effect on a person or a community that is being experimented upon and the statistics collected are processed to analyze the change in behavior. These theories regarding human behavior are accurate for a majority of the trials but often there are exceptions which destabilize the foundation of the theory, which again affect the belief people have in the theories in human sciences.
Taking an example from economics; the Keynesian and the Monetarist views are contrasting market development methods which argue the role of the government in regulating the market function in the economy. One proposes intense government intervention whereas the other proposes minimal intrusion by it respectively. Till the 2007 global recession the markets followed the monetarist model but the immense financial problems caused and market failures recorded called for a reform which turned the governments towards the Keynesian model.
This signifies that more often than not the theories in human sciences stand, but they can be overcome and felled with the inclusion of a strong stimulus. And if the theories prove ineffective there would always be another theory formulated as backup which could be applied and the same expected results could be yielded. The economic example presented here stresses on the fairly large margin for error present in the human sciences, which primarily differentiates it from natural science which are purely dependent on proofs and evidence.
Also the common element prevalent in both these sciences is that of research period. Theories of both sciences require a long and strenuous research period to incorporate all the hypothesis, observations, experiments, and data collection, which are required to prove the theory. These similarities and dissimilarities introduce us to the ethical concept of certainty which plays a vital role in balancing out the conflict between emotion and reason. We perceive science to be a reliable and an accurate source of information due to its extensively experimental, research dependent and foolproof nature, i. . we are emotionally inclined towards the sciences as they have the proof to back up their theories. But as we see from the examples, they do not offer complete certainty as there is always an exception to a particular theory and hence by reason, our belief in science should be far less than it actually is. The simple explanation to this would be that reason favors science as it has proven itself more often than not and as we have observed, failure to prove theories wrong increases and strengthens our belief in its relevance and accuracy.
Thus we can conclude by answering the primary question staged in the introduction as to what makes theories formulated by the sciences so convincing. The extensive research involved and the proof presented in favor of the theory play a major role in developing the certainty, this is well complimented by the belief and faith science has cultivated in human beings and the strong the emotional and reasonable backing that has been made available by this belief in them.