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Lv 4
Robert asked in Arts & HumanitiesPhilosophy · 1 decade ago

Should archaeology be considered a natural science or a social science?

Science is the search for "universals", archaeology presupposes the existence of universals in human culture. Although there are definitely universals within the study of paleontology, which is a very biologically based science, archaeology makes its claim as a "natural science" through interpreting artifacts (a bit of an oversimplification). Ironically, it falls under the discipline of anthropology, in which contemporary cultural anthropology rejects the idea of "progress" or "universalism".

Certainly the dating methods, cataloging of artifacts and the biological facts stated are indeed scientific, but the other claims that it makes are merely "educated guesses" at best, how could this be concrete, falsifiable "science" when hypothesis have limited tests they can undergo? I'm sure often times archeology makes predictions and finds them to be correct, but nothing like the predictive and testable nature of chemistry, physics, biology etc.

Especially when applying game theory to the archeological record, archaeologists presuppose behavior like ours in the past, and believe elements of their culture will result accordingly. When applying this method, the predictive nature is biased by the ad hoc fixes to it, because if it doesn't predict the right thing then they will adjust it so it does.

Maybe I am just biased against archaeology because I myself am a physicist, but as a philosopher of science I think that the whole of archaeology is less of a natural science and more of a glorified "social science". Maybe it lies somewhere in between.

I would like to hear from people only who are familiar with both archaeology and philosophy.

3 Answers

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    Its not even a science.

    And it depends on the type of archeology. Im not too sure where it fits in, but you do have paleoecology, paleoclimatology, paleontology, paleobotony... etc. I see no reason why our archeologists cannot study the natural sciences as they were a century ago or five centuries ago.

    Archeology need not focus on human development

    I say its not a science because its not. Its not testable, its not replicable, its not falsifiable, it holds no real theories... just hypotheses... not unlike psychology, religion, or cosmology. They are hypotheses backed by an enumeration of observations, with a pattern extrapolated by human reasoning and prejudice.

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  • Said
    Lv 4
    1 decade ago

    Given that a social science is by definition the study of human society and social relationships, archeology must be a social science. A natural science is the branch of knowledge that deals with the natural or physical world.

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  • 3 years ago

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