Herbert Spencer was interested in establishing the universality of natural law. He firmly believed that it was possible to show that everything in existence – including human culture, language, and morality – could be explained by laws of universal validity. Spencer was convinced that it was possible to discover a single law of universal application which he identified with progressive development and was to be called the principle of evolution. His philosophical vision was formed by a combination of deism and positivism: natural laws were the statutes of a well governed universe that had been decreed by the Creator with the intention of promoting human happiness. The emphasis on evolution in Spencer’s study of human society culminated in social Darwinism, and a thesis that, in the struggle for survival, society picks the fittest members, and by implication, those are the ones to lead and steer it. Therefore, completely opposite to Marx’s revolutionary intervention of the oppressed classes, Spencer’s social Darwinism affixes a stamp of approval on the ruling class as the leaders of society chosen by the social selection of the fittest.
All these disagreements aside, let’s see how sociology stands up to the test of the characteristics of science.
Sociology can possess this characteristic if we agree that it studies the material (in the sense of being made of matter) human beings.
2. Building Blocks
These have to be individual human beings. If so, then one has to consider the sociological building blocks being made of physiological/biological building blocks like organ, tissues, cells, etc., which means that sociology has to borrow from biology and physiology to be a science. It doesn’t!
3. Observation, Theory, and Prediction
The only kind of observation in sociology is of the survey type; that is, the same kind of observation that traffic regulators make to determine if a new signal is needed at an intersection, or marketing firms make to feel the pulse of a segment of the population targeted for the sale of a product, or pollsters make to predict the outcome of an election. These are not scientific observations. Moreover, there are no “instruments” in sociological observations, and even if there are, they have no commonality with scientific instruments.