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What is it about theories in the human sciences and natural sciences that makes them convincing?

A theory is a set of statements or principles devised to explain a group of facts or phenomena.1 A staggering thought is that, anybody, you or I can have a personal special explanation or theory on how the universe came about: which is largely the holy grail of knowledge for mankind. For all we know, I could say something like, The entire universe is all a long dream in my sleep and everyone in it isnt really real, except for me of course,, I could publish a novel and call it A brief history of my dream, let it sell in the bookshelves alongside Stephen Hawkings, A brief history of time, and I assure you one thing; 99 times out of a hundred the latter one will be picked. Why is this the case? Well, the answer is quite simple actually. Readers probably find the theories presented in the other book more appealing and convincing than those presented in mine. It is this nature of theories that I am going to explore in this essay. The word convincing will be a key word throughout the essay and its definition is; causing one to feel sure or to believe or agree; persuading as by evidence.2 Theories exist in both the natural sciences as well as the human sciences. A natural science is a science, such as biology, chemistry, or physics that deals with the objects, phenomena, or laws of nature and the physical world3. A human science is the study and interpretation of the experiences, activities, constructs, and artefacts associated with human beings3. The study of this branch of science aims to understand our existence which encompasses basically our relationships with other species and systems as well as our general behaviour. Natural sciences rely on objective data and quantitative methods4 whereas the human sciences rely more on qualitative evaluations. Human sciences include; economics, psychology, anthropology among others. Forming strong theories in the human sciences is very difficult because, since it is the study of human behaviour which is very erratic and at many times unpredictable. In this essay I am going to investigate the different theories in the two branches of science independently to find out what it is in them which makes them convincing to the majority. Sir Isaac Newton once said Truth is ever to be found in simplicity, and not in the multiplicity and confusion of things.6 The Newtonian laws of motion have been praised for the sheer simplicity of their ideas. In other words the three laws of motion are very intuitively appealing and hence quite convincing. Take the first law; Every body continues in its state of rest, or of uniform motion in a right line, unless it is compelled to change that state by forces impressed upon it.7 If you apply this law to everyday life you will realize how accurate this law is. Suppose theres a soccer ball on the ground and there is absolutely no wind, it will obviously remain fixed on the ground unless you go and kick it. If or when you go and kick it, there will be some motion, however, after a certain distance the ball will start to decelerate due to friction and/or other forces. See how absolutely logical this theory proposed by Sir Isaac Newton is? What makes it so logical is the fact that we are using our

sense perception and reason as a way of knowing the accuracy of the theory. People subconsciously link the essence of the theory to their experience and instantaneously accept the theory. It is this nature of the theory that makes it so convincing to whoever perceives it. Contrast this to the theories presented by certain scientists suggesting the possibility of time travel. When most people hear ideas like time is relative in that it has different rates in different places in the universe they find it almost ridiculous. It is outside what they perceive through experience as being the realm of the world around them. So, generally, the more we can relate to a theory the more we are convinced of its validity. In economics, there is a very interesting theory proposed by Alfred Marshall in 1920 which was known as the Efficiency wage hypotheses8. The theory states that an increase in wages given out to employees translates to an increase in efficiency and productivity. The theory had some very strong qualitative evaluations as well as strong evidence from experiments carried out. Sense perception and emotion being the ways of knowing in this case, many people feel convinced by this theory. The next step is trying to find out what makes this theory so convincing to us. There is a concept in psychology known as cognitive distortion9 which is something which happens very commonly in human beings. What happens in such a short time in your brain is that you put yourself in the position of the worker and imagine how you would feel if you were given a pay raise. This is also called emotional reasoning and whatever you feel; you believe it to be true. However, what you believe to be true may not be entirely true in reality. This is the convincing factor in some of the theories in the human sciences. Some theories in natural sciences are convincing due to the mere fact that the scientific process was used. The scientific process is a set of techniques used for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. This involves forming a research question, observation, hypothesizing, analysing the data, identifying trends and interpretation. An example of a theory in a natural science which has undergone the scientific method was Boyles law. Boyles law states that at a constant temperature, the volume of a gas is inversely proportional to its pressure. If you carried out the scientific method and conduced the experiment testing the variables listed; volume and pressure; keeping the temperature constant youd be sure to see the exact same trend occurring. Thanks to the tremendous amount of data collected it makes believing the accuracy of the theory even more. This, though, is a very simplistic experiment to carry out and its outcome is quite convincing justifiably because it is the truth. Many other theories in the fields of biology, chemistry and physics have arisen as a result of the extensive use of the scientific method. The scientific method depends mostly on reason and logic as a way of knowing. The scientific method involves the use of inductive reasoning which is great because it lets you go wrong and possibly discover new ideas or concepts. However, a lot of the times people, while doing the experiments get certain data because of lack of resources or the simple case of us subconsciously overlooking the data which is denying the hypothesis. These are the main limitations to this way of knowing.

A lot of times when you read in magazines about a certain concept in psychology, you get convinced the moment you see a colourful little picture of the brain on the side. The inclusion of the image seems to have an effect on a lot of people. In fact, in a study by Weisberg, it was developed that the inclusion of this meaningless picture of a brain seemed to make whatever the writer had written more convincing to people. In these situations your emotions sets in as your way of knowing. I believe this as one of the convincing factors in the human sciences. In this essay, I have been able o explore different theories from both the natural sciences as well as the human sciences and analyse what it is which makes them so compelling and convincing to us. However, pinpointing that convincing factor is not an easy task because the different theories were presented in completely different circumstances. 1. "Theory - definition of theory by the Free Online Dictionary, Thesaurus and Encyclopaedia... Dictionary, Encyclopaedia and Thesaurus - The Free Dictionary. N.p., n.d. Web. 2 Mar. 2012. < 2. "Convincing." yourdictionary. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Mar. 2012. <>. 3. "Natural sciences." N.p., n.d. Web. 2 Mar. 2012. <>. 4. Researcher, the researcher. The, and having experienced spiritual insight. "What Is Human Science?" Lutz-San Filippo - Home. N.p., n.d. Web. 2 Mar. 2012. <>. 5. "What are the Natural Sciences?." wiseGEEK: clear answers for common questions. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 Mar. 2012. <>. 6. me, always thinking unto them. ... I keep the subject constantly before. "Isaac Newton - Wikiquote." Wikiquote. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 Mar. 2012. <>. 7. me, always thinking unto them. ... I keep the subject constantly before. "Isaac Newton - Wikiquote." Wikiquote. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 Mar. 2012.>. 8. "Efficiency wage - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 Mar. 2012. 9. "Cognitive distortion - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 Mar. 2012.>.