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Why is sociology considered a science as well as why is it not considered a science?

can someone explain why sociology is considered a science as well as why is it not considered a science. Since some people argue it is a science while some argue it's not.

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Angel Paudel • Edited on

Hi @raye, welcome to TyroCity community. We're glad to have you here and contribute to the mission.

Sociology is a branch of science.
Sociology is not a branch of science.

Both these statements contradict themselves but are something we hear from two separate groups of sociologists themselves.

Founding fathers of sociology Auguste Comte, Emile Durkheim, and others consider sociology to be science. The following group says that as sociology adapts and applies the scientific method in the procedure it should be considered as science.

While the other group including popular German sociologist Max-weber does not accept sociology as a science.


Sociology is science

The founding fathers of sociology Auguste Comte and Durkheim, argues that sociology, in it's study of subject matter does adopt & apply scientific method. As sociology do it, it is science. Below are few more pointers in relation to the argument they present:

1. Use of scientific method for data collection
Even if its true that no labs exist or experimentations with men and women directly in a labs, but the study of social behavior of it's specified study subject in society makes it comparable to scientific investigation.

Further, to measure social phenomenon, it makes use of scientific methods including case study, questionnaire, sociometry schedule, and interviews.

2. Accurate observation
Society is one giant study subject of sociology which does act like a laboratory even if no actual lab is processed in the field of sociology.

Legend has it that a young Isaac Newton was sitting under an apple tree when he was bonked on the head by a falling piece of fruit, a 17th-century “aha moment” that helped inspired him to eventually develop his law of universal gravitation.

This was not done in a lab.

Even if Sociology do not have a lab and given that lab experience is not the only requirement of science - it can still make accurate observation thus, sociology is science.

3. With sociology objectivity is possible
Objective study is done by sociology as well like the natural sciences. Statements on chhaupadi, discriminations of dalits and based on caste, dowry where these are categorized as social evil is an objective statement. This, as they're based on facts that the sociologists collected. Further study proves this to be true as there's no backing the social evil did any good.

With the introduction of new methods and techniques, sociology can make objective study or social phenomena. Thus, sociology is science.

4. Cause and Effect Relationship
Sociology, like physical science traces out cause-effect relationships.

An example of this can be the study to trace out the relationship between divorce and family disorganization; nuclear family and extended family; and others.

5. Prediction
Just like natural science predicting the natural phenomena that might occur in future, sociologist with the understanding of social life and social problems can predict the future social behavior or an individual or a community.

6. Generalization
One of the bigger achievement is generalizations by natural science. The fact that it can't universally said to be incorrect/wrong. This is true with the conclusions drawn after the completion of study by sociologist as well. They can be generalized after the completion of the research. This is another reason presented to tell sociology is science.

Above are some of the pointers to suggest, arguments presented to suggest that sociology is science. However, there are pointers on the other direction as well to suggest it is not. And, those are as detailed below:

Sociology is not a science

1. Unreliable open laboratory concept
Experimentation & prediction are two processes closely related to physical science. For sociology on the other hand it involves subject matter like society, institutions, human behavior, and human relationships - all of which are dynamic, every changing. These are less likely to create universality for the study. Thus, the concept of open lab is less reliable.

2. Lacks experimentation
The field of study of sociology means that the experimentation with the same is not possible and/or not ethically correct either. Society, human relationships, human behavior are something that can't be put to a lab test either.

3. Unpredictability
Social life can be influenced by individual judgements and also externally - which makes it even less predictable. It does not obey the fixed rules & regulation set forth by the natural science. Also, why sociology is not a science.

4. Lack of generalization
The concept of generalization as is in cause of natural science can't be applied to the same scale with sociology. As the findings of sociology would vary from time to time and also society to society.

Like a finding by a natural science can be generalized everywhere for the topic while for the social science this would be limited to certain societies and for certain time period only. The finding that urban residents are wealthy may not hold true for every such areas around the world.

5. Inadequate Terminology
Sociology has not developed a set of scientific words. The ones used are confusing and debatable. Some words like "class" and "caste" are interchanged based on who is presenting the study. Words in use like caste, class, customs, religion and others are used in vague sense. There's no uniformity with regards to the use and definition of such keywords - thus, sociology is not a science.

6. Lack of Objectivity
As with natural science, it is not possible to maintain complete objectivity with the objects of the experimentation. This, as the subjects are natural individuals whose opinions and feelings change based on events or other external influences.

The above argument on the other hand presented by Max-weber and other sociologist deny that sociology is science.