In the domain of academia, two tropes share an antagonist relationship more than the others. These two fields are science on one end and social science on the other. Students of various disciplines often butt heads together and get into debates about which subject is more worthy and which is not. Similarly, within fields as well, there are heated debates regarding its own credibility. In the realm of sociology, one such popular question for deliberation has been- “Is Sociology a science?”. In this article, we will discuss how sociology can be termed a scientific discipline. We will also see how it cannot be called a science. We will apply the example of Suicide by Emile Durkheim to agree or disagree with the question posed in the article and its title.
- What is Science?
Let us look at how “science” or “scientific” is defined
- Science is systematic, organized, and objective.
- It is based on reason and evidence.
- The aim is to produce general laws based on facts.
- It collects facts and links them together as causal relations.
- Scientific knowledge is acquired through observation, experimentation, and generalization.
Science is defined as “a branch of knowledge or study dealing with a body of facts or truths systematically arranged and showing the operation of general laws.”
Can we call Sociology a science?
Let us see if sociology can be categorized as “science” based on the characteristics mentioned above
According to a few Sociologists…
According to Auguste Comte, sociology, like other scientific sciences, is regulated by some natural laws. As a result, sociology is a science. Others argue that sociology, like political science, economics, and psychology, is a science.
“Sociology is a science since it adopts and utilizes the scientific method,” according to Emile Durkheim. Scientific approaches are used in the research of sociology’s subject matter. As a result, sociology is a science.
Is Sociology a science or not…? It is a Science
Scientific method- Systematic, Organized, and Objectivity
Sociology follows a method that is scientific in nature. It is a systematic study with fixed methods of inquiry that are organized and planned. Sociologists try to remain as objective as possible in their research by not letting their biases enter the field with them. Even if it is impossible to conduct experiments on men in a laboratory, man’s social behavior is subject to scientific research in the same way natural phenomena are. It employs scientific methods such as sociometry schedule scales, case studies, interviews, and questionnaires to quantify social phenomena.
Suicide by Durkheim
This well-known work of Durkheim is a systematic study of suicide across various societies. It is systematic because it follows a pattern to derive answers. It is organized because a reader can categorize all the different nuances of suicide. Lastly, it is objective as Durkehim’s personal biases do not impact the end result of this research.
Based on reason and evidence
Everybody of knowledge produced in the discipline of sociology is based on evidence and reason. Every study is backed up by evidence gathered in the field or via the experiments performed. Social facts are established, and reasons are found for all that happens in a society. All the arguments are backed up via reality found through case studies, interviews, questionnaires, etc.
Suicide by Durkheim
The entire research is based on empirical reason and evidence. It is based on data gathered by various researchers and formal bodies like the State statistical data. It is quantitative in nature and can be measured. In the end, it is established that suicide is a social fact present in all societies.
The idea that social science generalizations aren’t universal was disproved. Sociology, like scientific disciplines, has developed the ability to make universally applicable generalizations. It aims to provide general laws, not particular. It studies various societies and then formulates a general consensus. General laws are produced so that certain guidelines will be followed by every society irrespective of their variations.
Suicide by Durkheim
The extensive study on suicide by Emile Durkheim created a generalized theory that proved that suicide is present everywhere, even if it varies in its type and methods. Suicide is generalized when Durkheim divided it into four types and gave conditions that were somewhere or other met by societies.
Cause and effect relationships form the core of sociology. Sociology, like scientific sciences, seeks to understand and solve problems. Social research relies on theories of causality to deduce causal linkages between structural phenomena and individuals and explain these interactions through the application and development of theory. This method is also used to create generalizations.
Suicide by Durkheim
Cause and effect is the basis of this study. Durkheim correlated different causes with different effects when he categorized the four types of society.
Cause → Effect
Too much integration → Altruistic Suicide
Too less integration → Egoistic Suicide
Too much regualtion → Fatalistic Suicide
Too less regulation → Anomic Suicide
Observation and Experimentation
Even if a laboratory is not available, observation and experimentation are possible in the discipline of sociology. Precise observation is possible even outside a laboratory with four walls and humans in white coats. The entire social universe serves as a sociological laboratory. Even if sociology lacks a laboratory, it is capable of accurate observation. As a result, sociology is a science.
Suicide by Durkheim
Durkheim saw the societies that he studied as being a laboratory. The people in this laboratory were all the subjects to understand the phenomena of suicide. Observation and experimentation were done to know how the stability of society and the number of suicides correlated with each other.
It is not a Science
Cannot give exact predictions
Sociology cannot always provide accurate predictions like natural sciences can. Natural sciences create forecasts based on specific information. However, sociology deals with social dynamics and human behavior that are so unpredictable and unusual that no precise predictions can be made. Sociologists can’t forecast a person’s behavior at a given point in time, nor can they predict trends or the rate of social change.
No universal tool of measurement
Like scientific sciences, sociology is incapable of precise measurement. Things can be measured using specific measuring standards such as the k.g., meter, etc. No comparable instruments exist in sociology. Aside from that, sociology is concerned with qualitative social relationships that are difficult to quantify. As a result, sociology isn’t regarded as a scientific discipline.
Similar to measurement tools, sociology lacks in terminological stability and universality. Sociology has yet to create a comprehensive set of scientific words. Many concepts in sociology are ambiguous and have diverse meanings for different people. The terms caste and class, for example, do not yet have a clear definition.
Also Read: Why it’s important to study sociology?
Sociology in the end is therefore finalized to be a SOCIAL SCIENCE discipline
A famous sociologist named Robert Bierstedt, in his book The Social Order thus, concluded that the discipline of sociology is a “social science,” not natural science. It is mostly abstract science, not concrete. Finally, it is both a rational and an empirical science as well.
Thus, we conclude that we define Sociology as “the science of society, social institutions, and social relationships. Specifically, the systematic study of the development, structure, interaction, and collective behaviour of organized groups of human beings.”