Human Science Notes - Theory of Knowledge

Human Sciences Quotes 

  • "The social sciences are good at accounting for disasters once they have taken place"  (Claude T Bissell)
  • "If it cannot be expressed in figures, its not science; it is opinion." Lazarus Long
  • "Life is heredity plus environment." (Luther Burbank)
  • "An economist is an expert who will know tomorrow why the things he predicted yesterday did happen today." (Laurence J Peter)
  • "Human behaviour makes most sense when it is explained in terms of beliefs and desires, not in terms of volts and grams." (Steven Pinker)
  • "We need more understanding of human nature, because the only real danger that exists is man himself." (Carl Jung)
  • According to Eric Schmidt of Google, every two days now the human race

    creates as much information as we did from the dawn of civilisation until 2003.

Human Sciences Definitions 

  • "A branch of study which deals with people or their actions, including the social sciences and the humanities, as contrasted with the natural sciences or physical sciences" (Oxford).

  • The study of the reality of being human--the social, cultural, biological and behavioural aspects of human existence. (Adapted from the 2015 ToK Guide, Page 37).

Insights from Human Sciences 

  • Human sciences teaches us about people. For example, it gives us insights into how people react to things, which is often not what might be expected. One example is the bystander effect. Researchers have shown that individuals are less likely to offer help to a victim when other people are around. The more people who witness someone needing help, the less likely people are to help.
  • It helps us understand how humans are manipulated, what types of weaknesses we have a species. These include logical fallacies (see Reason Notes). Understanding these better can help us make better decisions. 
  • The lessons learned through Human Science also help us improve society, through improved public policy. A great example of this is the UK's "Nudge Unit." In this government department, the insights of economists, such as Chicago's Richard Thaler, are being used to make changes to how to the government works. These changes are intended to "nudge" citizens toward choosing actions which are best for themselves and society (Guardian). The techniques are fascinating. For example, simply informing late-taxpayers that that most of their neighbours pay their taxes on time, improves the likelihood that they will pay theirs (Sunstein).  

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