From International Viewpoints (IVy) Issue 13 - August 1993
See Home Page at http://www.ivymag.org
Scientific Methodology Applied to the Humanities
By Frank Gordon, USA
To develop a science of the humanities, a standard unit is
required - one that can be sensed, measured or experienced.
Selecting a Unit of Measure
To illustrate this, let us see if we can apply the scientific
method to love. Love has many meanings, so, as scientists do,
let's narrow it.
Love is that which produces or accompanies an increased
sense of aliveness.
Does this working definition describe an effect that can be
detected? Very likely. Just as a force causes a change in the motion
of a body, we can assume, for the purpose of experiment, that love
produces a detectable change.
If we were to rush to a laboratory and be extremely exact,
we would need a 'standard love-source' (like a neutron-source)
and a 'love-detector' (like a Geiger counter), which we
could then calibrate.
Joe, Sam or Bill, as love-detectors, could be hooked up
to various instruments, including an EEG(1)
(perhaps the love-source would increase alpha-waves(2),
and we could get an objective correlation
with Joe's, Sam's or Bill's report of feeling more alive.
There is a problem here with finding a standard love-source.
Joe could say that Susie makes him feel more alive; Sam, that Julie
does this; and Bill, that Mary does 'something' to him. But
when we hook them up and run the experiment with different
of love-sources and love-detectors, we might get odd results.
For example, Mary increases Joe's alpha-waves, but Susie does
not! And so on.
What has happened? We have tried to be too exact too soon,
and have made some assumptions - first, that the X-factor,
love as we have defined it, is sex-linked; and, second, that
equipment can tell us more than the individuals involved.
Clarifying the Unit of Measure
Back to square one to clarify the unit we have chosen. How
can we do this? By getting more information from those who can note
when they felt more alive and what was happening.
A chess player might notice that, at a certain point in the
game, he really got involved. Why? A student might note that, in a
rather dull lecture on atomic physics, his interest was suddenly
by the fact that neutron capture by nuclei peaked when the neutron
energy was 25 Mev. Why? A shy girl might realize that she felt more
alive when she was free to say exactly what she felt. Why?
By comparing these 'more alive' experiences, important
factors could be isolated and the unit refined. Love might
be similar to resonance phenomena, and models be developed from what
is known about resonance.
Application of the Unit of Measure and Its Associated
The next step is the application of this theory to current
problems. Does it help to explain anything? Is the use of drugs and
alcohol a way of overcoming 'love-anxiety'? Is rape actually
a symptom of an inability to tolerate the sense of aliveness that
goes with sexual pleasure? These are questions that scientific
applied to the humanities should be expected to answer.
According to The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language,
'the most common waveform found in electroencephalograms of the
adult cerebral cortex, 8-12 smooth, regular oscillations/second
in subjects at rest'.
Thu Jul 13 18:26:01 EDT 2006