Science and Social Science: An Introduction

By Malcolm Williams | Go to book overview
GlossaryThe following philosophical and natural science terms are those used in the text with no, or minimal, explanation. The suggestions below, for further reading, are those I have found helpful and are not necessarily definitive writings on the subject. A number of very good dictionaries of science are published. Particularly recommended is that published by Penguin.
a
Algorithm

A set of instructions to solve a particular problem, or achieve a particular task in a finite number of stages. Algorithms are particularly important in computer programming which requires precise instructions without any fuzziness or vagueness. (See Casti 1991.)

Atomism

The belief that matter consists ultimately of discrete particles that have measurable properties, such as mass, size and position, similar to objects in the visible world. Since the discovery of the electron by J.J. Thomson in 1887, atomism gradually fell from favour as a doctrine in science, though it is often the intuitive view held by lay persons. Though modern physicists search for smaller and smaller particles, their properties are described in terms of energy and interaction with other particles. Particle classification is complex and over 200 elementary particles are known. (See Gribben 1984.)


b
Bayesian Probability/Inference

Derives from Bayes’ Theorem, a method for evaluating the conditional probability of an event. The method of inference involves working backwards from an effect to a cause by estimating the conditional probability of a cause given the occurrence of certain events. Though Bayes’ Theorem itself is not controversial the method of inference derived from it is, in that it requires the scientist to assign degrees of belief to a proposition. These are then amended in light of new evidence. Bayesian probability is gaining in popularity in several areas, for example socio-medical research, and though open to philosophical and mathematical objection it has practical value. The Bayesian programme in the philosophy of science arose, in particular, from the post-Popperian school and can be seen as an attempt to resolve the problems posed by falsification and discussed here in Chapter 4. (See Howson and Urbach 1989.)

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Science and Social Science: An Introduction
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Where Did Science Come From? 8
  • Suggested Further Reading 27
  • 2 - Science and Its Method 28
  • Suggested Further Reading 48
  • 3 - Social Science as Science 49
  • Suggested Further Reading 69
  • 4 - Against Science 70
  • Suggested Further Reading 86
  • 5 - Against Science in Social Science 87
  • Suggested Further Reading 103
  • 6 - Science, Objectivity and Ethics 104
  • Suggested Further Reading 121
  • 7 - New Science and New Social Science 122
  • Suggested Further Reading 141
  • 8 - Conclusion: The Science of Social Science 142
  • Glossary 150
  • References 154
  • Name Index 168
  • Subject Index 172
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