Whenever investigators in the humanities discover new knowledge it turns out that they have been using a scientific approach. They've been thinking like a scientist. What else could they be doing?
Maria Konnikova is a graduate student in psychology at Columbia University. She writes in Scientific American that Humanities aren’t a science. Stop treating them like one.
Well, it's certainly true that many disciplines in the humanities are very unscientific—evolutionary psychology comes to mind—but this is one of the first times I've ever heard someone be proud of the fact that they don't think scientifically. Why in the world would she say that?
Turns out she's confused about what science is and what it isn't. She thinks that science requires lots of quantitative data and lots of mathematics and statistics.
Sometimes, there is no easy approach to studying the intricate vagaries that are the human mind and human behavior. Sometimes, we have to be okay with qualitative questions and approaches that, while reliable and valid and experimentally sound, do not lend themselves to an easy linear narrative—or a narrative that has a base in hard science or concrete math and statistics. Psychology is not a natural science. It’s a social science. And it shouldn’t try to be what it’s not.Hmmmm ... that might explain a lot. I guess if you are seeking knowledge in the social sciences it's okay to use a non-scientific approach to gain knowledge. I wonder what approach they follow? Do they pray for guidance? Use a Ouija board? Or do they just make stuff up?
Maybe Konnikova is just saying that humanities disciplines are not chemistry, physics, biology or geology? Nah, that's too obvious. It doesn't merit an article in "Scientific" American. Maybe we'll find out what she really means when her book comes out in January. It's title is: Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes. Did Sherlock Holmes think like a scientist or did he think like someone in the humanities?
[Hat Tip: Mike the Mad Biologist]