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Why sociology is not a science

Why Sociology Is Not A Science 4860360
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.

1. Materiality

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.

I pointed out above how contradictory the “theories” proposed by Comte, Marx, and Spencer were! This contradiction persists among the “theories” even today. And the prediction is absolutely non-existent. Otherwise, sociologists would be in high demand to predict the outcome of the conflict in regions like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Middle East, and Africa.

4. Historical Continuity

The forced application of scientific methodology in “social physics”, in stark contrast to science itself, leads to a hodgepodge of disciplines: philosophy, linguistics, humanities, even morality. Historical continuity of ideas, so crucial to the development of science, is inevitably lacking in this forced application: sociology pops into existence in the nineteenth century by essentially a single person. Since the application of scientific method has not come from nature’s dictum, i.e., quantifiable observation, there are opposing viewpoints from the very beginning, which are never resolved.

5. Mathematics

There is a branch of sociology called “Mathematical Sociology,” which is another forced application of what is used in (fundamental) science. The mathematics is not any statement of a “sociological” law as it is the statement of physical laws like gravity, electricity, fluid dynamics, relativity, quantum mechanics, …

6. Communication is Sociology

While there are a multitude of journals devoted to sociology, they don’t – can’t – have the rigor of the scientific journals. The Sokal hoax is a good example of the “rigor” of journals such as Social Text, which is one of the main venues of the dissemination of sociological knowledge.

7. Lack of Controversy

I don’t have to say anything here. I just refer you to Sociological Theories to see how many contradictory ideas are afloat – and actively pursued – in sociology.

8. Sensitivity to the Removal of Statistics

If you take away statistics from sociology, there will be nothing left. Statistical sample taking and its analysis is the only “scientific” method available in sociology, just as it is the only “scientific” method available in polls, gambling, traffic patterns, insurance, marketing, etc.

9. Relation to Technology

There is not a single invention, device, gadget, gizmo, … which is based on sociology.

10. It IS “Too Complicated”

This phrase is constantly used in sociological debates, in which both sides justify their claims by admitting that the problem at hand is “too complicated” to be explained or resolved by any theory. Actually, in a typical situation there is a claimer and a refuter. The refuter reminds the claimer that sociological problems are “too complicated” to be explained. Therefore, “your claim is too simple-minded and does not take into account all the complications.”

The claim that sociology is a science has failed to satisfy any of the characteristics of science. Add to this the fact that many sociologists themselves oppose the characterization of their discipline as scientific, and you have to conclude that despite the -ology at its end, sociology is NOT a science.

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