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psychlotron. org. uk What makes science different from propaganda?
Today’s session You are learning to. . . • Distinguish between different epistemologies • Consider the epistemological status of psychology psychlotron. org. uk You are learning about. . . • Epistemology: realism, positivism & objectivism • The scientific method
• ‘Classical’ science is based on three overlapping ideas: • These ideas lead to a particular view of how ‘knowable’ the world is. psychlotron. org. uk – Realism – Positivism – Objectivism
Realism psychlotron. org. uk • Realism suggests that there is a real world independent of our thoughts and it has its own inherent order.
Positivism psychlotron. org. uk • Positivism maintains that it is possible to know how the world is through systematic collection of empirical data in an objective way.
Objectivism psychlotron. org. uk • Objectivism states that there is a distinction between our thoughts and what our thoughts are about. We are being objective if our thoughts correspond to what is actually the case.
psychlotron. org. uk • “When the pre-existing order of reality is discovered, one’s beliefs replicate this preexisting order. That is, what one claims to be the case corresponds to what is actually the case. ” (Fay, 1996) • In the classical view of science, our knowledge of the world moves ever closer to the ‘ultimate truth’.
psychlotron. org. uk • Will science tell us the ‘ultimate truth’ about the word?
Falliblism psychlotron. org. uk “No amount of experimentation can ever prove me right; a single experiment can prove me wrong. ” (Einstein, in Calaprice, 2005)
Falliblism • Evidence cannot show that theories are true, but it can show that they are not false. psychlotron. org. uk – Science is an evolutionary process wherein theories become less bad – Popper (1959) - a theory that cannot be falsified is ‘immune’ from this process and therefore unscientific
• Is the scientific method the right way to study people? – Is it possible to study people scientifically? – Is it desirable to study people scientifically? psychlotron. org. uk • What objections can you think of?
psychlotron. org. uk “If we accept that a human being is an entirely natural phenomenon (i. e. no aspect of the human being is nonmaterial, spiritual or supernatural). . . then the primary use of the scientific method. . . seems to be justified. ” Huitt (1998)
Problem in principle Serious problem Problem in practice psychlotron. org. uk Trivial problem
Some objections psychlotron. org. uk • Psychological methods cannot provide the valid measurements of human behaviour that science requires. Either experimenter bias or participant reactivity will always contaminate the data.
Some objections psychlotron. org. uk • Our moral obligations as human beings place ethical restrictions on how research can be conducted. There are therefore aspects of human behaviour that cannot be scientifically investigated.
Some objections psychlotron. org. uk • The most important parts of psychology concern subjective experience, and this cannot be studied using the objective methods of science.
Some objections psychlotron. org. uk • The aims of science are to describe, explain, predict and control. A scientific psychology will lead to a technology of behaviour and thereby to the exploitation of human beings.
• People’s behaviour is determined by the information they process. Psychological knowledge is part of that information. Therefore, by doing psychology, we change the nature of the thing we are trying to study. This makes normal scientific activity impossible. In other sciences, the research process does not change the subject matter. psychlotron. org. uk Some objections
Some objections psychlotron. org. uk • Science deals with predictable, deterministic systems, but people have free will. Consequently, people cannot be studied scientifically because freedom of choice is, by definition, not determined by antecedent factors.
Some objections psychlotron. org. uk • Science deals with underlying structures that are common to all the elements it studies, but the important thing about people is their uniqueness. Because science is primarily concerned with similarities, it is unsuitable for understanding the behaviour of individuals.
• People have minds/souls that are of a fundamentally different nature from their material, physical bodies. Science can explain how the physical body works, but cannot explain the workings of the mind because it is only suitable for investigating the physical world. psychlotron. org. uk Some objections