Talk:Exact sciences

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Problems with definition[edit]

The content of thiis article has no widely agreed acceptance as to any scholarly uses. Therefore I have tagged it to warn the unwary reader, unless and until scholarly citations can be provided along with justification for using "exact science" to apply to anything as broad as, say, the natural sciences and formal science...Kenosis 21:40, 8 June 2006 (UTC)

to me the term reads like "scientific science". bah.. --Fs 23:25, 12 July 2006 (UTC)

This article needs to be removed, or fixed on account of a couple points: Science is never (so far) exact, as per uncertianty principle. Fields with "better approximations" do not count as exact in virtue of thier better approximations. I do not think mathematics counts as a science as it is primarily deductive in nature as opposed to the inductive methods characteristic of science. Nor is mathematics what many would call "emperical". JTM Aug 10, 2006

it's a widely used term, it doesn't have to be accurate... 15:34, 24 August 2006 (UTC)

Indeed, and you seldom, if ever, hear a professional scientist use the term. But it has a well-established use in the common namespace. There are, in fact, specific reasons for it, and the article expains the most important ones quite clearly. There is no need to dispute this.

And, by the way, the uncertainty in quantum mechanics does not make it any more or any less "exact". Neither does experimental variance. In fact, these are the very signs of "exactness" in the natural sciences. To know, and recognize the limitations of current knowledge. Ulcph 21:10, 26 August 2006 (UTC)

Tried to make sense of it, given that the term is widely used (outside of science), and that the dictionary definitions, to the effect of "using mathematics", have long been considered inadequate. Ulcph 00:42, 9 September 2006 (UTC)
Despite Ulcph's hard work on this page, I think readers are much better served with a brief, hopefully even-handed discussion of the term and its usage, and a link to the real article on the topic (Demarcation problem). Discussion welcome, of course. —Yours in good faith, Jorend 15:25, 8 November 2006 (UTC)

User: deleted a few sentences. I reverted them because I think the user is pushing a point of view. See the user's contributions to hard science. --Jorend 20:38, 7 January 2007 (UTC)

The sentence "Today the distinction is widely considered old-fashioned" needs references. Who regards the distinction between the rigour of (say) physics and the lack of rigour of (say) economy as old fashioned? Has economy suddenly become as rigorous as physics? --- Peter, 12:32, 26 April 2007 (BST)

Astronomy seems "exact" but then someone finds out something new and the theory has to be bent to accommodate it. Evolution is a science, but, worse and more often than astronomy, someone discovers something new and says, "Well, since it is this (new) way, therefore the new way must be more survivable than the old." On one hand, practitioners are pragmatic. On the other, there is only a high level principal that survives (survival of the fittest). The lower ones are changed every year. Worse than economics! Student7 (talk) 02:16, 28 January 2009 (UTC)
An editor has placed "astronomy" as "exact." With branes, and dark matter and dark energy clouding the field, astronomy seems anything but "exact." It doesn't even seem approximate!
While astrology seems exacting, horoscopes cast by different people are often dissimilar, therefore the science is only "partly exact" IMO. Also the phrase "astrology is an exact science" seems a bit oxymoronic. Oh well! Student7 (talk) 23:03, 5 May 2009 (UTC)

Social sciences?[edit]

Someone has removed astrology which is a relief. They are supposed have "exact" rules for prediction, but then all arrive at different conclusions! We probably need some WP:RELY footnotes for what goes in here. Doing it off the top of our heads seems to be a "bit" sloppy, WP:POV and more than just a little WP:OR.

Ad editor added "social sciences" although some took umbrage to the original definition as a cheap shot at social science! Maybe we should be defining the "part" of social science and psychology that is "exact." I guess Pavlovian response is more or less "exact", right? Maybe subsections can list the "exact" portion? Student7 (talk) 10:49, 24 May 2009 (UTC)

Time to resurrect this article?[edit]

I recently noted that a Wikilink to Exact science, a fairly well-defined topic, was transformed to a link to Hard and soft science (reflecting the demotion of this article from a stub to a redirect). I did a Google ngram check and found that although the term "exact science" has undergone something of a decline from 1930 to 1990, three factors remain significant:

  1. Its use has seen a small uptick since 1990.
  2. "Exact science" is well-attested since 1820, while "hard science" or "soft science" are comparative newcomers, arising around 1960.
  3. "Exact science" was always at least twice as popular as either "hard science" or "soft science".

It seems that the term is sufficiently notable that it deserves an article in its own right. I will begin rewriting it on a user page. --SteveMcCluskey (talk) 02:41, 30 August 2016 (UTC)

I'm happy with this, and it does seem like the term has been used as a classification. My main input is that I'd distinguish it from its use in the colloquial sense (more commonly used in the negation, as in "it's not an exact science"), which AFAIK is generally used without reference to any particular definition, or even without referring to a field of science at all. Sunrise (talk) 03:38, 30 August 2016 (UTC)
Thanks for the comment; I like your definition of the scope to focus on its use as a classification.
If I may argue with myself, further digging indicates an extensive discussion of the exact sciences in the German Wikipdia. Checking the Library of Congress catalog I found a number of books with that phrase in their titles were translations of German originals (or by Germans writing in English). The German Wikipedia contrasts the exact sciences to the social sciences, pedagogy, and such scholarly disciplines as the study of literature (Literaturwissenschaft) and of law (Rechtswissenschaften). It seems the German distinction of the exact sciences stems from the broader meaning of the German term Wissenschaften, which encompasses the examples mentioned above and is a more important distinction in those languages that have a broader concept of science. This could even explain the decline of "exact science" in the NGram data, since it fairly nicely tracks the decline of German as the leading scientific language. It leads me to ask whether the distinction of the exact sciences is really that important in English? --SteveMcCluskey (talk) 03:56, 30 August 2016 (UTC)
That's a good point, and not something I would have caught. I can just offer my own data point, that this article is the only place I've seen "exact science" used as a classification myself. I'm not sure if this should change anything, although if it's an important concept in German then it could still be relevant, perhaps as a matter of historical influence. Sunrise (talk) 04:39, 30 August 2016 (UTC)
The OED has a definition for Exact sciences as a subhead under Exact:
exact, adj.1….
II. Precise, rigorous, accurate.…
8. Of methods, instruments of research, language, etc.: Characterized by precision, not admitting of vagueness or uncertainty. exact sciences n. those which admit of absolute precision in their results; esp. the mathematical sciences.
Looks like a plausible starting point.--SteveMcCluskey (talk) 04:50, 30 August 2016 (UTC)
Sounds good. :-) Sunrise (talk) 04:56, 30 August 2016 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── @Sunrise: OK, I've drafted a stub with citations that begins to say what the article should be about. The citations answer the concern expressed from 2007 to its deletion that the article was entirely unsourced. As I wrote it I came to the view that the appropriate title is Exact Sciences, rather than the current Exact Science. Would you please look at it and make any changes you feel appropriate. Once it's OK I propose the following procedure:

  • Replace the current article Exact Science with the draft by a cut and paste on both the main and talk pages (this will retain the existing histories and talk page comments).
  • Rename the article Exact Sciences (which will replace the current redirect at Exact Sciences).
  • Revise the redirects so Exact Science redirects to Exact Sciences.

--SteveMcCluskey (talk) 15:42, 31 August 2016 (UTC)

I've looked at the draft and gone through some sources, and I have two main thoughts.
  • Even with the sources, the article still feels like it's primarily a definition. There isn't much context that would indicate the term's importance, what it's used for, etc. The only claim of importance for the category (as opposed to the individual fields) is the "paradigms" statement, except in that case there should be a lot more sources discussing the philosophers' use of the category.
  • As a potential red flag - I wasn't able to find any sources that analyze the concept of exact sciences in general, or even describe their characteristics beyond a definition (the statement in the draft on characteristics is still unsourced). This seems to come close, except it appears to be referring to a different concept. There are a number of sources that discuss exact sciences in relation to other concepts, but they never seem to discuss the category itself, which seems unusual to me.
That said, I don't feel strongly on the degree to which these points should affect things, so if you'd like to go ahead I won't oppose if the draft is transferred in its current form. Sunrise (talk) 17:38, 2 September 2016 (UTC)
Thanks for the ref to Ed Grant's book. I think he's making a good claim for the significance of the ancient exact sciences for the development of the new science that emerged in the Seventeenth Century. Grant has been talking around those issues for a long time so it looks like I have to get his book from the library to see how he frames and supports this argument. It could provide another perspective on the importance of the category. The third perspective that needs to be looked at are the various claims that science x is an exact science, but I don't see how to work that into the article without crossing the boundary to WP:OR. --SteveMcCluskey (talk) 04:00, 3 September 2016 (UTC)
The new stub is now in place as Exact sciences; additions welcome, esp. on the developments of the category after the 17th century. --SteveMcCluskey (talk) 16:52, 3 September 2016 (UTC)

The later exact sciences, article needs more history[edit]

I've removed chemistry from the list of exact sciences in the first paragraph because it is not in the source. However, as science developed, more and more of the sciences took on the characteristics of exact sciences. So far the article does not develop this history. See for example the journal Archive for History of Exact Sciences. StarryGrandma (talk) 17:39, 25 June 2017 (UTC)