10 Examples of Hard Science and Soft Science

The science It is a system of knowledge that has been obtained through observations and experimentation. This system has a structure that relates the different fields of science to each other, in specific ways. In it there are general laws that have been developed in a rational and experimental way.

The scientific knowledge They allow you to generate questions and develop reasoning to tentatively answer those questions. The possible answers to these questions (formulated from logical reasoning) are called hypotheses.

Science has a specific method of problem solving and knowledge construction called scientific method. It takes place in various stages:

  • Observation. An event is observed that causes a question or a problem.
  • Hypothesis formulation. A rational and possible answer is developed to that question or problem.
  • Experimentation. It allows to verify that the hypothesis is correct.
  • Analysis. The results of the experimentation are analyzed to confirm or reject the hypothesis and draw conclusions.

The scientific method depends on two fundamental characteristics:

  • Reproducibility. All scientific experimentation must be able to be reproduced to verify the results.
  • Refutability. Every scientific claim must be constructed in such a way that it can be refuted.

The distinction between hard and soft sciences is not a formal division but is used to indicate:

Hard sciences

The hard sciences are those that use the scientific method with the most rigorous and exact results and verification possibilities.

  • They are capable of producing predictions.
  • Empirical. In general (but not in all cases) the hard sciences are not theoretical but empirical, that is, they are based on the observation of phenomena. Although there is a widespread belief that only the so-called hard sciences are empirical, we will see that so are the soft sciences.
  • Experimental. Its object of study facilitates the realization of experiments.
  • Quantifiable. The experimental results are not only qualitative but also quantitative.
  • Objectivity. Due to the characteristics already mentioned, the hard sciences are usually considered more objective than the soft ones.

Hard Science Examples

  1. Chemistry. He studies matter both in its composition, its structure and its properties as well as in the changes it undergoes. Chemistry considers that one substance becomes another when the chemical bonds between the atoms change. The atom is the basic (though not indivisible) unit of chemistry. It is composed of a nucleus made up of protons and neutrons around which a group of electrons rotate in specific orbits. Chemistry is divided into organic chemistry (when you study the chemistry of living things) and inorganic chemistry (when you study the chemistry of inert matter).
  2. Math. Formal science, that is, it validates its theory based on propositions, definitions, axioms, and rules of reference. Study the properties and relationships between certain abstract entities (numbers, geometric figures or symbols) following logical reasoning. It is used by all other hard sciences.
  3. Astronomy. Study the objects and phenomena originating outside the Earth’s atmosphere, that is, stars, planets, comets and more complex structures such as galaxies and the universe itself. Uses physics and chemistry to be able to interpret observations of remote objects and events.
  4. Physical. Study the behavior of matter, energy, time and space, and the changes and interactions between these elements. The physical quantities are: energy (and its various forms), momentum, mass, electric charge, entropy. Physical entities can be: matter, particle, field, wave, space-time, observer, position.
  5. biology. It studies living beings in all their characteristics, from their nutrition, reproduction and behavior to their origin, evolution and relationship with other living beings. It studies large ensembles such as species, populations, and ecosystems, but also small units, such as cells and genetics. This is why it has a wide variety of specialties.
  6. Medicine. Study the human body in its healthy functioning as well as in pathological situations (diseases). In other words, it studies its interaction with microorganisms and other substances that can benefit or harm it. It is a science that is directly associated with its technical application, that is, promoting human health.

Soft sciences

The soft sciences can use the scientific method but in some cases they reach theoretical conclusions only through reasoning, without experimentation being possible.

  • Their predictions are not that accurate and in some cases they cannot produce them.
  • While they may include experimentation, they can reach theoretical conclusions without conducting experiments.
  • They are considered less empirical because they can study phenomena that cannot be reproduced under laboratory conditions. However, they also observe concrete facts (that is, they are actually empirical).
  • Not quantifiable: the results cannot be measured or are not as valuable for their quantitative aspects as for their qualitative aspects
  • Subjectivity: soft sciences reflect on the intervention of the observer in the observed phenomenon and do not deny the subjectivity of the researcher. That is why they are believed to be more subjective than the hard sciences.

The distinction between hard and soft sciences is based on the presupposition that a more experimental type of science can arrive more directly at the truth and avoid ambiguities. However, currently in one of the hard sciences, physics, there are controversies that are currently impossible to resolve, such as the contradiction between quantum physics and classical physics.

Soft Science Examples

  1. Sociology. Study the structure and functioning of societies, and any collective human phenomenon. Human beings live in groups and specific relationships are established between them. Sociology studies, classifies and analyzes these relationships. All analysis is based on specific theories and paradigms, which the sociologist must specify when presenting the results of their research. Their study methods can be qualitative (case studies, interviews, observation, action research), quantitative (randomized experiments, questionnaires, surveys and other sampling techniques) or comparative (those that compare similar phenomena with the aim of drawing general conclusions. ).
  2. History. Study the past of humanity. It is an interpretive science that establishes relationships between different events, actors, and circumstances. Since he refers to past events, he cannot sustain his theories in experimentation. However, his objectivity is based on the evidence he uses to justify these relationships, as well as on the logic of his reasoning.
  3. Anthropology. It studies the human being from the criteria of both the soft sciences (such as sociology and psychology) and the hard sciences (such as biology). However, due to its limited possibility of experimentation, it is considered a soft science. Study basic human behaviors, looking for common characteristics between different cultures.
  4. Psychology. It studies human behavior and the mental processes of both individuals and human groups. There are different orientations of psychology that pose contradictory conceptions about the functioning of the human mind. For this reason, scientific research in psychology must always make explicit the theories and assumptions on which it bases its hypotheses and interpretation of observations.