Dr V Basil Hans, Associate Professor of Economics and Dean, Faculty of Arts, St Aloysius Evening College, Mangaluru
Scientific theories should make observable predictions and we should discard a theory if we find only one discrepancy between a prediction of the theory and observation. Because even physics cannot meet such strong criteria.
According to Auguste Comte and Durkheim, Sociology is a science because it adopts and applies the scientific method. Sociology does make use of scientific methods in the study of its subject matter. Hence Sociology is a science.
Others hold a different view and opine Sociology is not a science. German Sociologist Max-weber does not accept sociology as a Science.
It is a science because of the following reasons:
(1) Sociology adopts scientific method:
Sociology studies social events by adopting a scientific method. Though it cannot do experiment with men in a laboratory still man’s social behaviour is subject to scientific investigation like a natural phenomenon. It employs scientific methods as scales of Sociometry schedule, case study, interview and questionnaire which is used to quantitatively measure social phenomenon.
(2) Sociology makes accurate observation:
Observation is possible in the field of sociology even if it does not possess a laboratory. Accurate observation is also possible outside the laboratory. The whole social world is the laboratory of sociology. ‘Newton did not invent their laws inside a laboratory. Sociology makes observation of tribal marriage at the time of occurrence. Even if Sociology does not possess a laboratory still it makes an accurate observation. Hence Sociology is a science. Besides the laboratory experiment is not the only criteria of science.
(3) Objectivity is possible in Sociology:
Like natural sciences Sociology also makes an objective study. The statement that dowry is a social evil is an objective statement which is based on facts collected by sociologists. Further Survey and revivification prove this. Sociology can also make an objective study of social phenomena. New techniques and methods are also introduced to make social phenomena more objective. Hence Sociology is a science.
(4) Sociology describes cause-effect relationship:
Like natural sciences Sociology also traces the cause and find the answers. While studying family or population growth Sociology has traced the relationship between family disorganisation and divorce and population growth and poverty. Family disorganisation is the cause of divorce and population growth is the cause of poverty. Thus sociology describes a cause-effect relationship in social disorganisation and population explosion. Hence sociology is a science.
(5) Sociology makes accurate measurement:
Sociology, like natural sciences also accurately measures social phenomena or relationships. By using the statistical method, socio-metric scale, scales of measurement sociology effectively and accurately measures social relationships. Hence Sociology is a science.
(6) Sociology makes accurate Prediction:
Like natural sciences, sociology does frame laws and attempts to predict more accurately. On the basis of the cause-effect relationship, sociology can accurately predict the future.
If there will be dowry in society then it will lead to suicide, poverty. Cuvier opines this predictive value of Sociology is improved day by day. As Sociology matures day by day it predicts more accurately.
(7) Sociology makes generalisation:
The notion that generalisation drawn by social sciences are not universal proved wrong. Like natural sciences, Sociology became able to draw generalisation which is universally applicable. The concept of incest taboo-prohibited sex relationship among blood relatives is a universal truth.
However, those who deny the status of science to Sociology they put forth the following arguments:
(1) Lack of objectivity:
Sociology cannot be called a science because it cannot maintain complete objectivity with social phenomena. Sociologist has his own prejudice and bias hence he cannot observe his subject with complete detachment. Complete objectivity in the study of human behaviour is impossible Sociology deals with social relationships which cannot be studied like physical objects. Hence objectivity is not possible in Sociology.
(2) Lack of Experimentation:
Sociology is not a science because it can’t make experimentation. Sociology deals with human relationships which cannot be put to a laboratory test. We can’t see or weigh human relationship because it is abstract in nature. We can’t do experiment with abstract things.
(3) Lack of Prediction:
Like natural sciences, Sociology can’t accurately make a prediction. Natural Sciences make a prediction on the basis of certain data. But Sociology deals with social relationships and human behaviour which are so uncertain and peculiar that we can’t make an accurate prediction about it. We can’t predict what will be one’s behaviour at a certain point of time nor can we predict the trends or speed of social change. Hence sociology is not a science.
(4) Lack of accurate measurement:
Sociology can’t make accurate measurement like natural sciences. There are definite standards of measurement like k.g. Meter by which it is possible to measure things. But in Sociology, we have no such measuring instruments. Besides, sociology deals with social relationships which are qualitative in nature which can’t be measured. Hence Sociology is not a science.
(5) Lack of Generalisation:
Sociology can’t make generalisations like natural sciences which is universally applicable. Sociology deals with human behaviour and no two individual are alike. Hence the conclusions drawn by Sociology can’t be uniform or universally applicable. Social Phenomena is so complex and complicated and is governed by so many factors that it is really difficult to draw a conclusion which will be universally applicable.
(6) Terminological Inefficiency:
Sociology suffers from terminological inefficiency. Sociology has not yet become able to develop an adequate set of scientific terms. Many terms used in Sociology is vague and carry a different meaning to different persons. For example, the term caste and class has not yet acquired clear meaning. Hence Sociology is not a science.
The above argument shows that Sociology is not a science. But famous Sociologist Robert Bierstedt in his book “The social order” clearly explains the nature of Sociology in the following way:
(1) Sociology is a social and not a natural science.
(2) Sociology is a positive and not a normative science.
(3) Sociology is a pure science and not an applied science.
(4) Sociology is an abstract science and not a concrete science.
(5) Sociology is a generalising science and not a particularising science.
(6) Sociology is both a rational and an empirical science.
About the author:
Dr V Basil Hans has been teaching at St Aloysius College institutions for the past three decades. He has produced six MPhils and three PhDs. He has written more than 200 articles in journals, books and newspapers in English and Kannada. He is serving as honorary editor in more than 30 journals. He has presented papers in more than 75 conferences. He has written more than 20 books. His book on Digital Banking will be translated into eight foreign languages.
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