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Other essays deal with various types of interaction since the Scientific Revolution. In his general introductory chapter, Cohen sets some general themes concerning analogies and homologies and the use of metaphors, drawing specific examples from the use of concepts of physics by marginalist economists and of developments in the life sciences by organismic sociologists.

The remaining chapters, which explore the different ways in which the social sciences and the natural sciences have actually interacted, are written by leaders in the field of history of science, drawn from a wide range of countries and disciplines.

Social sciences - New World Encyclopedia

The book will be of great interest to all historians of science, philosophers interested in questions of methodology, economists and sociologists, and all social scientists concerned with the history of their subject and its foundations. Visit Seller's Storefront. Prices are net. Shipping extra. Priority mail or Global Priority available. Contact address: Jef Shipping costs are based on books weighing 2.

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Payment Methods accepted by seller. AbeBooks Bookseller Since: March 3, Bernard ed. The Natural Sciences and the Social Sciences; some critical and Stock Image. The Natural Sciences and the Social Sciences; some critical and historical perspectives. The nineteenth century was an era of widespread concern over the climatic consequences of human activities like deforestation, swamp drainage, and urbanization. Many ordinary people worried that these forms of economic development were taking an environmental toll, robbing the atmosphere, in particular, of the moisture necessary for agriculture and human health to flourish.

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Making Social Science Relevant: Policy Inquiry in Critical Perspective

The modern science of climate grew up, in part, around these practical concerns. To study these impacts, scientists proceeded by calibrating the dimensions of human existence against geological time scales and planetary distances.


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They peered into the climate of the past by weighing the records of human memory against the evidence of fossils and strandlines. Botanists, for instance, used maps of the distribution of vegetation as evidence of a changing climate. An island of Alpine plants surrounded by Mediterranean flora, for example, could be a sign that the climate of the region had once been colder and moister. Could it be that the clear-cutting of forests had led to desiccation? Scientists even created experimental forests to test this hypothesis. They measured evaporation leaf by leaf and studied the wind patterns that might distribute this moisture to surrounding fields.

Differences natural and social sciences

As puny as humans might appear in comparison to the vastness of the atmosphere, their actions could have an appreciable impact over time and in the aggregate. Bringing climate change back down to the human scale in this sense was not a post hoc intervention; it was constitutive of the science itself. The study of these manmade problems taught the lesson that natural processes could not be measured according to the spatial and temporal framework of a human life.

The American historian and diplomat George Perkins Marsh encountered climatology through his exchanges with European foresters in the s and s. He borrows his inch from the breadth of his thumb…his foot from the length of the organ so named…. To a being who instinctively finds all standard of all magnitudes in his own material frame, all objects exceeding his own dimensions are absolutely great, all falling short of them absolutely small.

Social science perspectives on drivers of and responses to global climate change

By relying on such ready-to-hand norms, humans had blinded themselves to natural phenomena unfolding over vast expanses of space and time. There was no all-purpose yardstick for gauging the significance of a phenomenon in nature. What counted as trivial, as a mere detail, was always a matter of perspective—in natural history as much as in human history. Likewise, democracies today are confronting a process of climate change that is not only exceedingly complex, but also characterized by scales of space and time that far exceed those of ordinary human experience.

Science and Ideology

That is, climate change presents a problem of scale for democratic politics. This means, for instance, that when policymakers initiate efforts to mitigate the build-up of atmospheric carbon dioxide, the beneficial effects will not be felt before the next election cycle. The dimensions of the climate system are utterly incongruent with those of the electoral system.

More generally, climate change demands that citizens think about their place in history in a new way. Modern democracies typically instruct their citizens in national histories. For example, many such stories have a clear beginning at a celebrated moment of independence. They unfold in an era comfortably defined as modern. Monuments, festivals, and anthems all train citizens to think of themselves as actors in this story. Climate change, in contrast, proposes a planetary history, stretching back to the formation of the earth four and a half billion years ago, and encompassing the accumulated geophysical impact of humanity as a species in its , years of existence.


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To paraphrase the historian Dipesh Chakrabarty, how might people learn to recognize themselves as agents of such a planetary history? How should the humanities address this imaginative challenge? To contemplate this question, it is illuminating to turn back to an era before Dilthey and Windelband, before the divorce of the human from the natural sciences.

In , Marsh eloquently articulated the problem of scale. He did not distinguish between humanistic and naturalistic ways of knowing. And thinking men and women read him avidly, buying up over 1, copies within a few months. His example may hold a lesson for the challenge of reconciling science and democracy.

The practical contexts in which climate science took root in the nineteenth century remind us that this has always been a science that has mediated between abstract, planetary physics and everyday human needs. This was an enterprise in which the tasks of explanation and understanding were inseparable. If we can resist the age-old impulse to define binary oppositions between ways of knowing—scientific versus humanistic, expert versus popular—we will be in a better position to join forces across those divides towards understanding and action.