The humanities are “disciplines [that] concern the study of distinctively human actions and works; for example history, philology (language, literature, linguistics), philosophy, theology and studies of Antiquity” (Cosgrove, 2009, para. 3). You can see that the humanities cover a wide range of subjects and disciplines, but remember that they focus in on our actions and works as human beings. What does listening to a Beethoven symphony tell us about the time period? How did people value and experience his work at that time and what does that tell us about their culture?
The social science lens looks at how humans act in their social environment. While the humanities also studies human action, social sciences more specifically look at our social relations, our relationships and our societies. Specific disciplines within the social sciences may sound familiar to you such as: political science, psychology, sociology and anthropology (Social Science, 2017). When thinking about the social sciences, think of all the ways we interact with the people around us.
The natural sciences are best described as “a modern method of understanding the physical universe based on observation, hypothesis formation, and experimental verification” (Haught, 2011, para 1). Understanding our natural world through testable hypotheses gets at the root of this lens. Common disciplines within the natural sciences are: astronomy, geology, chemistry, physics, and biology, and some cross-disciplines like oceanography, environmental science, and computer science (Haught, 2011). Researchers in these fields are concerned with making hypotheses, testing and proving results through direct data driven evidence.
History may perhaps be the most familiar lens, where it is simply put, the story of humanity’s past. Historians use materials such as books, newspapers, magazines, diaries, photographs, art, artifacts, oral testimonies and more to trace events and look at patterns. They are “concerned with causality, that is, why certain outcomes happened as they did, and how they are linked to earlier events” (History, 2017, para 1). History can inform the future by analyzing what happened and why.
Cosgrove, D. (2009). Humanities. In D. Gregory, The dictionary of human geography (5th ed.). Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishers.
Haught, J. F. (2011). Natural science. In I. A. McFarland, D. A. S. Fergusson, K. Kilby, & et. al. (Eds.), Cambridge dictionary of Christian theology. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
History. (2017). In P. Lagasse, & Columbia University, The Columbia encyclopedia (7th ed.). New York, NY: Columbia University Press.
Social Science. (2017). In P. Lagasse, & Columbia University, The Columbia encyclopedia (7th ed.). New York, NY: Columbia University Press.