The Lure of Hard Science

Can research in Humanities and Social Sciences be quantified? Is something lost in the effort to make our data into tidy, quantifiable measures? A recent post on Scientific American‘s blog argued that too often scholarship in the Humanities and Social Sciences moves towards the quantifiable to gain legitimacy from the hard sciences. The author writes, “Every softer discipline these days seems to feel inadequate unless it becomes harder, more quantifiable, more scientific, more precise. That, it seems, would confer some sort of missing legitimacy in our computerized, digitized, number-happy world. But does it really? Or is it actually undermining the very heart of each discipline that falls into the trap of data, numbers, statistics, and charts?”

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About Steven Ramey

Steven Ramey is Professor in the Department of Religious Studies and Director of Asian Studies at the University of Alabama. His research focuses on groups who contest dominant understandings of the religions of India, both in India and beyond. His newest project addresses the assumptions in the language of religious labels and the ways those assumptions determine research and valorize particular constructions of religions. Through this project, he wants to consider alternative paradigms for describing these collections of practices and ways those alternative paradigms can influence research and pedagogy.

1 thought on “The Lure of Hard Science

  1. I can’t read your alluring title without thinking of Ann Baranowski, a fellow doctoral student at the University of Toronto and co-founder of the journal, Method & Theory in the Study of Religion, who would routinely rename the tradition divide between the natural (i.e., hard) and the social sciences (i.e., soft) as the dry and the wet sciences. Thank you feminist theory for pointing this out. (Though “pointing” makes me think of an episode of the TV show “Portlandia,” so I’ll just drop it at that.)

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