Sociology is the only discipline that investigates social relationships and society. Neither any social science has the same ‘focus’ as sociology. Social science’s main distinguishing feature is its subject of concern.
Studying social phenomena scientifically is not without difficulties. Social sciences cannot be as precise as natural and physical sciences by their very nature. However, it is not fair to claim that sociology will never be a science. Is sociology a science? Perhaps as a result of this, sociologists became separated into two opposite groups. So we have two opposing viewpoints on the nature of Sociology.
Sociology as a Scientific Discipline
There is a major debate in sociological theory about whether or not sociology is a science. Like Auguste Comte and Emile Durkheim, the first academic sociologists certainly viewed sociology as a science. Positive sociologists held that the scientific method could be applied to social science to produce social facts and universal principles. Humans have freedom and will not simply adhere to universal rules and changes like natural phenomena, according to interpretivist sociologists. Sociologists apply multiple study methodologies, and whether or not sociology is considered a science can be determined in part by the definition of science that has been agreed upon.
The Development of Sociology as a Science
To establish sociology as a science of society, the first step was to view society as a component of reality, as a distinct entity in and of itself. Cultural reality should be an emerging quality for sociology to emerge as a science. Society must have its reality and act in a predictable, law-abiding manner.
Nature of Sociology
True, studying social phenomena scientifically is not without challenges. Unlike natural and physical sciences, the study of society is inherently uncertain. However, it is not true that sociology cannot become a science.
If a discipline’s methodologies, tools, and approaches are scientific, the subject might be considered a science. For example, sociology researches its subject area using scientific methods. As a result, it is entitled to be referred to as a science.
Reasons in favour of Sociology as a Science
Those who support sociology’s scientific status say that sociology aims for clear and systematic information of social reality. To explain sociology as science, they commonly use the following explanations.
Application of Scientific Methods in the Data Collection Process: While sociology does not have a laboratory and cannot conduct direct experiments on men, (human) social interaction is accessible to scientific research. On the other hand, sociologists frequently apply fundamental scientific procedures like investigation, comparisons, questionnaires, discussions, and case studies to analyse or examine social phenomena.
Prediction: There is a wealth of knowledge about family connections and children’s personal lives. With sociology’s development and maturity, it will be important to understand different principles that govern human behaviour more comprehensively and make accurate predictions. Natural sciences can forecast natural occurrences that will occur in the future. A sociologist can also anticipate future social conduct based on social problems and existence.
Observation: There is no way to observe human beings in a laboratory. However, the entire social world serves as a laboratory for it. Experiments in the lab assess the link between two variables while controlling additional variables. We perform the same thing in sociology, but not in a laboratory setting. We accomplish this using statistical analysis. Astronomy is one of the few physical sciences that does not conduct experiments in a laboratory. Although heavenly objects cannot be studied in the laboratory, everyone knows that astronomy is a branch of science. Thus, some social scientists consider sociology as a science. Sociology uses society as a laboratory.
Using a Scientific Methodology: Sociology conducts scientific research on its subject topic. It attempts to analyse social connections and ascertain the relationship between various aspects of social life.
Cause and Effect Relationship: Sociology, like physical science, is concerned with the investigation of cause-and-effect relationships. As an example, it examines the link between divorce and family disintegration and other factors like westernisation and divorce.
Possible Investigation: Sociology conducts several indirect experiments and employs scientific procedures, including sociometer scales, schedules, questions, interviews, and case studies. These strategies utilise quantitative measures to assess social phenomena. Sociologists do their research using statistical techniques.
Generalisation: The conclusion drawn at the end of a scientific inquiry is one of the most significant accomplishments in natural sciences research. Similarly, once the investigation is complete, results about social factors might be generalised.
Limitations of Sociology as a Scientific Discipline
Some argue that sociology is not a science for the following reasons:
The open laboratory approach lacks consistency.
Because of ethical considerations, experimental methods cannot be implemented with the same discipline in human society.
Social relationships lack objectivity.
Human conduct is less predictable due to the external influences on their social lives.
Sociology lacks precise, clear, and specific terminology.
The principle of generalisation is completely irrelevant to social science.
As sociology is a science of society, sociologists conduct research according to scientific theories. Using a methodical approach, the scientific method is used in the physical, biological, and social sciences to obtain precise and accurate results. Like other social science studies, sociological analysis uses scientific approaches to achieve accurate and consistent results.