Is Sociology a science?

The debate can be focused on 3 positions




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  • Comte (Founding father of positivism). Uses quantitative data.
  • You can apply methods used by natural scientists to study the natural world and apply them to the social world.
  • In sociology there is a cause and effect relationship. For instance, whats behind crime or racism or underachivement in education.
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Interpretivists (Social Action Theory)

  • Weber (Founding father of Interpretivism).
  • Rejects the view that human beings can be studied scientifically.
  • Human beings differ from the inanimate objects of the physical world. They are concious choosing agents.
  • It is difficult to study humans in a positivistic way.
  • Sociology uses unobservable contructs which contravenes (conflicts with) the requirements of positivists to have observable contructs which can be directly measured.
  • Interpretivists critique - they want meanings and see social reality as a human construction.
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Realists say that sociology does use observable constructs in explaining reality but so does natural sciences.However, this should not be a barrier to sociology attempting to explain the meanings behind actions which are the basis of social reality.

Steve Taylor: Sciences build theories using unobservable constructs. Although scociology is not directly observable, ideas are created from which an understanding and knowledge on real issues is gained. Sociology is still trying to deal with real social issues.

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Measureable constructs


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Replication x Objectivity

Comes up with other scientific findings.

Open to replication to be classed as scientifc truth.


Doesnt involve opinions or feelings, shouldn't be subjective.

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Measureable concepts x Empirical

Uses things and observe to measure


Based on evidence. It must be available to the sense. You must be able to observe it.

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Popper - A philosopher of science

Sociology does not use observable concepts, therefore it is not scientific.Popper disagrees with Marx who predicted a revolution that did not happen.

Popper used swans as an example. The statement 'All swans are white' was assumed to be a fact until it was obeserved that there were also black swans. By trying to prove his argument, it opens the door of selectivity and subectivity. What we should be doing is falsifying our statements or trying to disprove them.

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Kuhn - Paradigms and Scientific revolution

Paradigm - Theory or model - All due to the revoulution of science

Scientists arent always objective, they sometimes resist evidence which challenges their paradigms . It is only when the evidence becomes too strong do they shift their allegiance to the new paradigms.

Challenges and critique could potentially result in loss of funding, reputations being affected or limiting career development

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Science is full of values. It shouldn't have more status and funding than other belife systems such as religion, magic and supersition.

When it comes to producing knowledge, anything goes. 

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In postmodern worlds individuals experience a loss of faith in meta-narratives (big stories) such as science.

Science has created many threats and issue such as pollution.

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