SOCIOL 2JJ3 Lecture Notes - Lecture 1: Scientific Revolution, Scientific Method, Lightning

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Introduction to research methods Jan 7, 9,
What is science?
Systematic study of the structure and behaviour of physical and natural phenomena
through observation and experiment
o Systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable
explanations and predictions
Testable = theories that lead to hypothesis and predictions
o Systematic = clear, following steps, to study something
Key element of science is empiricism
o Science is a focused, organized and systematic version of how we know the world
by experience
Science also involves deduction (not always)
o Theory creation and hypotheses testing
o From the theory it brings a prediction based on that theory
2. brief history of science
Pre-Socratic Science
For most of human history, questions about the nature of the world were answered by
religious authorities
o But mathematics, astronomy emerge in ancient Greece and Egypt
Thales of Miletus in the (624 B.C.) often considered ‘father of Science’
o First to suggest non-supernatural explanations for earthquakes, lightning
Eratosthenes (276 B.C.) measured size of the earth… using two sticks
The Renaissance (1400-1700) (revitalization or rebirth)
St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274): natural theology
o Knowing God, by studying his creation.
Renaissance = rebirth
o Greek Humanism
the world is knowable by humans through rational thought
Focus on human reason and goodness rather supernatural forces
Francis Bacon (1561-1626): The Scientific Method
o Challenged the reliance on geniuses and authority figures
o Geniuses need not apply what science really needs is careful observation and
measurement + rational analysis (don’t need to be a genius to be a scientist)
The Scientific Revolution (16-18th century)
Many scientists flock to astronomy
o Copernicus (1473-1543): Earth is not at the center of the universe
o Galileo (1564-1642): father of modern physics
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o Isaac Newton (1642-1726): laws of motion and universal gravitation
Biology and Darwinism
o Charles Darwin (1809-1882) saw patterns in organisms and their environments:
developed a theory of evolution
The social sciences: application of the scientific method to human behaviour and society
o Anthropology, economics, political science, psychology and social psychology….
Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim, Max Weber
3. looking for reality
The question of what is real has been addressed since the time of the Greek philosophers
in the 4th century BC.
o And…. The Matrix
Epistemology: The science of knowing
o Methodology, a subset of epistemology: The science of finding out
How do we know what we know?
o Personal experience know that something is hot in the kitchen due to personal
experience…. You have burned yourself before
o Second-hand knowledge
Tradition: values and practices that are passed down in society
Authority Figures:
Tradition (second-hand knowledge)
Information passed on through socialization.
o Passed down through things (culture etc.)
Acquired from culture, social institutions, common knowledge
Cumulative knowledge
Problems:
o Can limit inquiry, as we rarely want to see things in a different light than
perceived by everybody
o Can lead to prejudice, close-mindedness, and cultural relativism
Authority (second-hand knowledge)
Comes from those who hold some status and expertise
Pros:
o Trusting the judgment of experts in a field can help human inquiry.
Cons:
o Authority figures can make mistakes and misuse their position of authority.
o Ex: People questioning the medical field
o The advertising industry misuses authority.
e.g. Dr. Oz and weight loss pills
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Errors in inquiry and some solutions
1. Inaccurate observations
1. We are NOT error free individuals, we make mistakes, eyewitness accounts are
very unreliable
2. We are easily swayed in our memory (how tall was he?... how does one already
know it was a he?... messes with the memory)
2. Overgeneralization
1. Generalize something based on a couple of observations
2. Ex: saying Scottish people are all nice…not true… just been to a few Scottish
places
3. Selective observation
1. Ignore other things
2. See things that conform our existing beliefs = conformation bias and don’t want
to see things that don’t go with our beliefs … basically ignore them
4. Illogical reasoning
What is really real?
1. The Premodern View
2. The Modern View
3. The Postmodern View
The premodern view:
The view that has guided most of human history:
o Early ancestors assumed that they saw things as they really were
If did a dance to bring rain…and it ended up raining, then the “rain dance”
would have caused the rain
No challenge of the ideas and views
o As humans evolved, they came to realize that others did not always share their
view of things.
They may have disregarded the others’ experience or adjusted theirs.
The modern view:
Accepts diversity as legitimate.
o Different individuals may view things differently and there is not necessarily a
right or wrong
o Different people have different perspectives and that’s okay
There is, however, an external objective reality:
Although it may be observed differently by various individuals, it exists
independently of them still exists but might have a different
interpretation of it
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Document Summary

Introduction to research methods jan 7, 9, You have burned yourself before: second-hand knowledge, tradition: values and practices that are passed down in society, authority figures: The premodern view: the view that has guided most of human history, early ancestors assumed that they saw things as they really were. If did a dance to bring rain and it ended up raining, then the rain dance would have caused the rain: no challenge of the ideas and views. As humans evolved, they came to realize that others did not always share their view of things: they may have disregarded the others" experience or adjusted theirs. Social regularities: what about exceptions, c. aggregates, not individuals, d. a variable language. Yet, a vast number of social norms in canadian society create a considerable degree of regularity (we act similar and have patterns: traffic patterns, gender wage gap, voter turnout.

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