In this article we will try to find out the answer to the much debated question – Is Sociology a Science?
Is Sociology a Science?
The exact nature of Sociology is a subject of much debate. It is not clear whether sociology can be considered a science. This debate and confusion of sociologists has been going on for a long time. This has led to the division of Sociologists into two groups or school of thoughts. Two different views can be found about Sociology. Sociology is considered a science by one group of Sociologists because it adopts and applies scientific methods. Emile Durkheim, Auguste Comte and other founding fathers of Sociology support this view. However others have a different opinion and believe that Sociology is not science.
Max-weber, a German Sociologist, does not consider sociology a Science, while Auguste Comte believes that sociology is like other natural sciences.
It is also governed by natural laws. Sociology can be described as a Science. Some others also believe that Sociology is a science just like economics, political science, and psychology. Before we can form an opinion or subscribe to any view, however, we need to know what a science is. Sociology is a science, but how far does it conform to science?
What is Science and its Meaning
Below mentioned important values accurately explain the meaning of science –
- Science is a system of systematic knowledge. It is founded on evidences and reason.
- Science is “a branch or study that deals with a body or truths organized and showing the operation general laws.”
- Science gathers facts and links them in casual order to draw valid inferences.
- Science uses scientific methods to come to any conclusion.
- Science is based on observation, experimentation and generalization.
- These characteristics are the foundation of science: objectivity, observation and accuracy in prediction, experimentation, generalization, and cause-and-effect relationships.
With this, now we can discuss about Sociology.
So, Is Sociology is a Science?
Durkheim and Auguste Comte both claim that Sociology is a science since it uses the scientific method. Since, Sociology uses scientific methods to study its subject matter, it can be described as a science. This can be further explained with the help of below mentioned points –
1. Sociology adopts a scientific method
Sociology uses scientific methods to study social phenomena. Although it is unable to experiment with men in a lab, sociology can study the social behavior of man as natural phenomena. It uses scientific methods such as the scales of Sociometry schedule and interview, which are used to quantify social phenomena.
2. Sociology allows for accurate observation
Even if a field does not have a laboratory, observation is possible. Exact observation can also be done outside of a laboratory. Sociology is the entire social world. “Newton didn’t invent their laws within a laboratory. Sociology allows for observation of tribal marriages at the time they occur. It is a stream of study that doesn’t have a laboratory, but it can still observe accurately. Sociology can be described as a science. Laboratory experiment isn’t the only criteria for science.
3. Sociology allows for objectivity
As with natural sciences, sociology also conducts objective research. Sociologists have collected facts to support the statement that dowry causes social evil. Further survey and revivification confirm this. Sociology is also able to objectively study social phenomena. To make social phenomena more objective, new techniques and methods have been developed. This leads to the belief that Sociology can be described as a science.
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4. Sociology describes cause and effect relationship
As with natural sciences, Sociology also studies the causes and finds the answers. Sociology studies the relationships between population growth or family disorganisation. Family disorganisation leads to divorce, while population growth causes poverty. Sociology describes the cause-effect relationship between social disorganisation and population growth. Sociology is therefore a science.
5. Sociology provides accurate measurement
Like natural sciences, sociology also measures and analyzes social phenomena and relationships. The statistical method, sociometric scale, and scales of measurement sociology accurately measure social relationships. This makes us believe that Sociology can be considered as a science.
6. Sociology can accurately predict the future
Just like natural sciences, Sociology attempts to predict the future more accurately by constructing laws. It can accurately predict the future based on cause-effect relationships.
If society has dowry, it will eventually lead to poverty and suicide. Cuvier believes that Sociology’s predictive ability is improving day by day. Sociology is becoming more accurate as it matures each day.
7. Sociology makes generalization
Social sciences have proven to be unable to draw generalizations that are universal. As with natural sciences, Sociology was able to draw universal generalization. It is a universal truth that incest-prohibited sex relationships among blood relatives are prohibited.
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What if we Say that Sociology is not a Science?
Max-weber is not the only one who doubts Sociology’s status as science. Max-weber stated that Sociology cannot be considered an objective Science. However, Sociology is not science. They have the following arguments.
1. Inadequacy of objectivity
Sociology can’t be considered a science since it is unable to observe social phenomena objectively. Sociologists are subject to their own biases and prejudices, so they cannot observe their subjects with total detachment. Sociology cannot be objective in studying human behaviour. It deals with social relationships that can’t be studied as physical objects. Sociology cannot be objective.
2. There is no experimentation
Sociology cannot be considered a science since it doesn’t allow experimentation. Sociology is concerned with human relationships that cannot be tested in a laboratory. Because human relationships are abstract in nature, we can’t measure or see them. It is impossible to experiment with abstract things.
3. Prediction is not possible
Sociology is not able to accurately predict like natural sciences. Natural Sciences can make predictions based on certain data. Sociology, however, deals with human behaviour and social relations. It is difficult to make an accurate prediction. It is impossible to predict the future behaviour of an individual or predict how social change will unfold. Sociology is therefore not a science.
4. Inaccurate measurement
Sociology cannot measure accurately like the natural sciences. There are certain standards for measuring like k.g. It is possible to measure things by the meter. However, Sociology does not have such measurement instruments. Sociology is qualitative in nature and cannot be measured hence it deals with social relations. Therefor, it can not be considered as a science.
5. No generalization
Sociology is not able to make generalizations like the natural sciences, which are universally applicable. Sociology is concerned with human behavior and each individual is unique. Sociology’s conclusions are not universally applicable or uniform. Social phenomena are so complex and intricate and are influenced by so many factors, it’s really hard to draw a universal conclusion.
6. Terminological Inefficiency
Sociology is plagued by terminological inefficiency. It is still struggling to create a sufficient set of scientific terms and uses many terms that are vague and have different meanings for different people. The meaning of caste and class, for example, is still unclear. Sociology is therefore not a science.
This argument proves that Sociology does not exist as a science. Robert Bierstedt, a famous Sociologist, explains the nature of Sociology in “The social order”, his book:
(1) Sociology can be described as a social science, but not a natural one.
(2) Sociology can be viewed as a positive, but not a normative, science.
(3) Sociology can be described as a pure science, not an applied science.
(4) Sociology can be described as an abstract science, not a concrete science.
(5) Sociology can be described as a generalizing science, not a particularizing science.
(6) Sociology can be both an empirical and rational science.
Hope this article has helped you understand whether to consider Sociology as a Science or not. Please let us know your views in the comments section. Also please share this article in the social media to help spread the knowledge.