is a good tag when used properly, providing very high quality answers. I notice, though, that it is typically used with respect to physics and other hard sciences. Physics definitely is my favorite branch of science, but world building could benefit from social sciences as well.

As an example, I could ask "how would people react to super powered people", and expect answers with citations to psychology articles referencing how people respond to societal changes and apparently supernatural phenomena. This follows the usage of "asking about a plausible scenario, and extrapolate from current science" that the hard science tag has a history of here.

Other useful social sciences would be sociology and economics.

This stretching it a bit, but does it also extend to other academic fields, such as law, history, philosophy, mathematics, etc...?

Also, should the OP specify with respect to which science they want to be hard?

Note: The answer seemed to be yes, so I did a test run, which is failing. I'm scared that a nonanswer will get a lot of upvotes. HELP! Aren't there any social scientists on world building?

How would humans and society react to a superhero existing and saving the earth?

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    $\begingroup$ I don't think law and history are really sciences, and philosophy is dubious. The others seems okay. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868 Mod
    Commented Jul 26, 2015 at 21:38
  • $\begingroup$ @HDE226868 I totally disagree. You might have a narrow definition for science. Not sure about law and with philosophy I guess it depends but not history. It's not just a collection of facts. $\endgroup$
    – Vincent
    Commented Jul 26, 2015 at 22:33
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    $\begingroup$ @Vincent Not every academic field is a science. There are plenty of completely valid academic fields that don't fall under the definition of science, which isn't a bad thing. (In fact, much of math proudly has stayed out of the umbrella of science, despite science trying to suck it in.) $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 26, 2015 at 22:39
  • $\begingroup$ @PyRulez What definition of science are you referring to? $\endgroup$
    – Vincent
    Commented Jul 26, 2015 at 23:55
  • $\begingroup$ @Vincent Just look up the scientific method, or empiricism. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 27, 2015 at 0:29
  • $\begingroup$ @PyRulez but history usually uses the scientific method. They certainly don't invent the facts just to make a good story, they take them from their researches. $\endgroup$
    – Vincent
    Commented Jul 27, 2015 at 0:46
  • $\begingroup$ @Vincent Science uses experiment to determine fact. History uses records to determine fact. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 27, 2015 at 1:05
  • $\begingroup$ @PyRulez yes they use records but material evidences are also common in archeology for example. Before using records they need to determine whether it's a real document, the date of production, the author and will also try to find other evidences to back the writings. $\endgroup$
    – Vincent
    Commented Jul 27, 2015 at 2:07
  • $\begingroup$ @Vincent Yes, but not experiment, which is where differs from history. There's nothing wrong with it, its just a different academic field than science. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 27, 2015 at 2:09
  • $\begingroup$ @Vincent I highly doubt that many historians would call history a science. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868 Mod
    Commented Jul 27, 2015 at 13:17
  • $\begingroup$ @Whatever, I don't want to have a debate on the definition of science or about history. $\endgroup$
    – Vincent
    Commented Jul 27, 2015 at 15:54

3 Answers 3


Yes of course. As long as they follow the same rules as natural sciences questions/answers as mentioned in the tag description:

question should be backed up by equations, empirical evidence, scientific papers, other citations, etc.

How far can we stretch it? It depend on the specific question. Philosophy is based on logic, much like mathematics. A specific reasoning can be demonstrated and explained just like an equation. Therefore, it could be classified as hard-science, but it really needs to be solid.


As was pointed out in the comments, it really depends howw you define . Typically hard sciences is often limited to physics and mathematics. But it is often extended to natural sciences, by adding, chemistry and biology. Which such definitions, we should then restrict ourselves to those.

However, the tag is a meta tag. As explained in a few other posts here on meta, as well as in its own wiki, the tag isn't used to really categorised the question, and rather to indicate some expectations on the answers.

From that "definition", I think we can include all the fields which have a peer-reviewed publication system. It might be tricky for philosophy, as, to my (limited) knowledge, philosophy usually takes the form of essays, rather than publications, sociology is based on statistical studies with polls, following a significant number of people, etc. Economics can include very advance mathematical models, and heck, I have seen economics studies more sound than some medecine ones (if one is not from the fields, it is often better to stay away from medecine studies). So yes, one could include them.

So this would be my limitation: if there are specialised peer-reviewed publications on that field, then it can be covered by the tag.

Which point to a question, if such a definition is adopted, then maybe a renaming of the tag might be considered.

  • $\begingroup$ The only exception in philosophy I can think of would be logic. $\endgroup$
    – James
    Commented Jul 27, 2015 at 15:32
  • $\begingroup$ -1 You obviously have no idea how peer review works or what function it serves. Peer review is a mechanism to protect the market value of journals and it has nothing to do with the integrity of science. Anyone can start a peer reviewed journal. Creationist have peer reviewed journals, Stalinist have peer reviewed journals. Peer review is has no relationship to scientific integrity of predictive value. You obviously think science is about established, anointed authority. It is not. Science is about producing testable predictive models and nothing else. $\endgroup$
    – TechZen
    Commented Jul 29, 2015 at 2:01
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    $\begingroup$ @TechZen, thank you for being so condescending. Just so you know, I have articles published in peer-reviewed journals. In Physics, I might add. But now, back to the case, yes I fully admit that the criteria is imperfect. I was merely trying to propose an objective definition about the use of the tag, and not point blank the meaning of the words. Which, incidentally, you might have understood, reading the last sentence. But if you aren't satisfied with it, by all means, bring the almighty -1 on that post. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 29, 2015 at 5:06
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    $\begingroup$ @bilbo_pingouin has it right. Peer review includes not only the process but also the readership and trust entailed. There are crap journals and good ones, but you will rarely if ever find a good journal in any discipline that is /not/ peer reviewed. Thus it can serve as a minimum criterion, just not the /only/ criterion. (BTW in /Physics/? Eek! Congrats.) $\endgroup$
    – CAgrippa
    Commented Jul 30, 2015 at 22:52

Hard sciences are those sciences in which precise accurate and repeatable measurements are possible. Such high quality measurements in turn allow the creation of testable hypothesis which in turn create highly predictive models of the measured phenomena. Physics is the "hardest" science because it has the easiest to measure phenomena. As you move away from physics, the measurements get harder, less precise, less accurate, they hypothesis less and less testable and the resulting models less and less predictive.

It's probably better to think of mature predictive science verses immature non-predictive science. Each scientific field starts out unable to measure, test or predict anything. It spends a lot of time simply observing and labeling things kind of making a basic inventory of phenomena. Then it starts developing measuring methods, then methods of testing hypothesis and eventually producing useful predictive models.

Astronomy was the first science because the heavens where the easist phenomena to accurately measure. Long before people understood what celestial objects were they could measure their motions and predict their paths. Physics followed soon after, and chemistry shifted from the taxonomy stage or naming stage to the measuring stage in circa 1800 and then generated testable hypothesis by they 1820s and predictive models by the 1850s. That's when chemist started really being able to synthesize things.

Biology started out in the early 1800s naming things, started measuring populations in the 1830s and by 1860 Darwin had created testable predictions. A lot of subfields like biochemistry and cellular biology, zoology etc split off. Some being more mature than others. By 1947, synthetic Darwinism could make testable predictions about populations and genetic relationships subsequently proven by DNA assay.

Psychology and Social Science are even today only at the basic observation and labeling stage. The phenomena they seek study really can't be measured at all. How does none reliably measure love, hate, anger, pride etc? Even with FMRIs, such measurements are dubious. Psychologist make few testable hypothesis and have no predictive models of human behavior.

Social Scientist are not even really though the labeling stage yet. How do you measure "Social Justice" even assuming anyone has bother to actually define the phrase. Sociologist have in the past century or more produced no testable hypothesis and have produced no predictive models.

Frankly, as a student of science history, the pretense of the Social scientist to be considered a hard science is simply revolting, considering all the damage they've done in the arrogance, Anyone remember eugenics? Say, how did those inter city housing project turn out? Or my favorite, explain to us again how you spent 50 years calling anyone who said homosexuality was innate and based in biology a Nazi fascist and then suddenly, in the early 90s just did a 180 turn about based on no new evidence whatsoever? Social scientist have never produced a single testable prediction nor a single predictive model, yet they still con us into basing social policy on the fatuous pronouncements usually using the most poor and vulnerable members of our society as their guinea pigs.

If a group of claimants cannot offer up testable hypothesis it is not a hard science. Their statements have no predictive value, and their assertion are merely personal opinion with no more weight than anyone else's.

I would thing that when someone ask a world building question under the label of "hard science" they expect an answer based on solid measurement, testable hypothesis and proven predictive models, not idil fad driven guesses of the secular version of a self-appointed priest class.

Try this out, can you think of several classic science fiction stories based on physics that still stand the test of time? I can, stories from 1920s, 30s, 40's, 50s etc years still retain the validity of their physics.

Now, how about classic science fiction stories based on the social sciences of the 1920s and 30s, you know when scientific racism and eugenics where the big rage in the social sciences? Brave New World is still a good read, but it was supposed to be a satire of many of the idea of the time, particularly the idea of social scientist that they could engineer society. Or how about stories influenced by the utterly fictional, completely made up Freudian psychology? back in the 50s, 60s and 70s various forms of Marxism, behavioralism and social engineering were all the rage. How do those stories stand the the test time? Any classics you can think off? Any stories you can read and say, wow this based social sciences fads back in the sixties still rings true even nearly 50 years later?

No you can't because their ideas are gibberish and get turned over and tossed down the memory hole every generation. Social science can't offer a writer any help at all. A writer has just as good an idea about society as as any "social scientist" because the writer has just done just as much science on the matter i.e. none.

Stories based on the social science fads du jour will likely ring hollow in their own day and certainly won't be classics remembered decades from now.

If you want the hard science tag to mean anything other than "some guy who managed to get tenure said so," then restrict it to the predictive sciences.

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    $\begingroup$ This answer sounds awfully personal for being about science. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 29, 2015 at 20:11

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